What's on their feet?
Shoes of silver? Nails of solid gold? Pads of velvet and brocade? It's quite hard to see the feet of the Spanish Riding School horses as they glide by; the footing clings to their hoof walls and you can't see much.
Most of the horses have similarly shaped (oval) feet and short upright pasterns. For that reason, the feet look like the heels are quite high and the coronet (hairline) is almost ground-parallel.
Well...it works for them! And the fact that many of the stallions are over 20 years old and sound with this type of conformation, hoof balance, and shoeing is testimony to the variables of hoofcare.
All the horses I saw in Washington were shod in front with simple plain shoes with toe clips front and hind, although most were only shod in front and were barefoot behind. one horse had side clips, though I couldn't really see any difference in his feet, and still another was shod with quite a bit of length and expansion, or else the shoe had spread (I didn't want to be a noodge and ask to see the bottom of his foot on show day.)
I took these photos of Siglavy Allegra's feet in Vienna in June. He has some small drive-in calks in his front shoes, probably to help with traction and shoe wear on all the cobblestones and pavement that he walks on at home in Vienna.
The SRS stallions didn't always have such neat, trim feet; in the 1980s, they were afflicted with a hoof-crumbling disorder that was studied by our friend Dr Hans Geyer at the University of Vienna vet school. He was able to use the SRS horses for a controlled study of the effects of biotin supplementation on hoof horn growth. One of his students even earned a PhD by studying the Lipizzan feet.
That is just one of many small ways that the Spanish Riding School has allowed the horses to help in research that has benefited all our horses. Other studies on genetics, gait/locomotion, and saddle fit have been conducted in the hallowed Vienna stables.
Photos courtesy of Hoofcare & Lameness Journal's "Hocks of Steel" article, issue #79, October 2005.