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trot-out terrain

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From: rider 

Input, anyone? 
On the three rides I've done most recently, the trot-out areas for vet check were totally unrepresentative of the terrain on the ride. My horse was unshod because I had called ahead and checked with ride managers who said the rides were all dirt, no rocks or pavement. I had been conditioning the horse unshod all season. To make a long story short, the terrain on the trot out (for initial and intra-ride checks)was on paved or large-gravel drives, and my horse short stepped on the pavement because she's always paranoid of slipping, and gimped on the sharp gravel. Throughout the rides she was fit and smooth under me and to the appearance of other riders, but I always got lameness grades at the checks because of this odd terrain. Is this really fair? Shouldn't the trot-out terrain be representative of the course? It's unfortunate if you've gotta shoe your horse just for the vet area. It's like having a winter ride, making the trot-out area on smooth pure ice and requiring all the riders to equip their horses with ice cleats for the whole ride. 
   I like to use the minimum amount of "gear" neccessary on my horse, including shoes. I call ride managers and other riders to access ride terrain before deciding to shoe or not to shoe. I like to keep my horse barefoot as much as possible to preserve sole toughness, etc. Most farriers I've spoken with agree that for a well conformed horse, barefoot is better, if conditions permit. Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, who won the Tevis and Old Dominion 100s in the same year, also has recommended not to put any extra stuff on your horse that he doesn't need on a ride, including shoes, splint boots etc. I actually heard him say this, face-to-face at Equitana. You shouldn't uneccessarily weigh your horse down with the "better safe than sorry" attitude, but should tailor your gear to the needs of each horse and each ride. 

What do you guys (anyone who reads this) think? 

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