In the performance horse industry, people go through a lot of things to prepare their horses before a show, but very few of them, when comparing the entire industry, go as far as sanding the horses hooves. Unless of course they are buying into the main ring BS of their breed associations and clubs.
So why is anyone even sanding hooves to begin with? Good question! Why are people doing a lot of questionable, cruel and otherwise unethical things to the horses before they go into the ring? They are trying to stand out in a way that catches the judges eye in hopes of winning. Otherwise they are trying to fit in by following the trend instead of starting their own, if you will.
As I have stated, Horsepoor has stated and many have never experienced at a show, the judge does NOT walk by, reach down to touch or otherwise feel the hoof to judge it's texture, let alone dock you points for them not being sanded. The judge(s) also cannot see it from their position at the side or center of the ring as you travel down the rail, complete your test or pattern, clear the jumps or work the cow.
*I will note here, the ONE place I did not see sanded hooves at the Scottsdale Arabian show, was the arena where cutting and working cow classes were being held.*
The only place I can imagine sanding holding any form of relevance though, is the In Hand classes. Halter & showmanship. That's it. But let's question it's "justification" even there, shall we?
Halter and Sport Horse In Hand classes are often viewed as the "Breeding Classes". These horses are a representation of the best the breeder has produced when trying to achieve their goal of creating a horse who fits the breed standard to the letter and is structurally as close as they can get. Not every foal a breeder produces is good enough to be shown halter and even within the breeds, the halter only vs. performance barns, the horses vary in their build and what is expected from them.
Some may consider sanding the hoof to a glassy smooth finish as a way of "enhancing to the look of the hoof". Yes it certainly adds to a "finished" look, but this can be viewed a couple of different ways. Are you using methods & products to improve the hoof or just enhance the looks of it? If the hoof is in good shape to begin with, why does it need 'improving'? Are the hooves in poor enough shape that they require sanding to make them look better than what they really are? If that is the case, the horse should not be at the show. After all, you are putting your "best horse" out there as the standard to which your breeding program will be judged by.
In showmanship classes, the handler is judged on their ability to control the horse and how well they have presented them. Again, is sanding, something that could be considered as a step taken to hide a flaw? Does sanding present you as someone who is thorough in their work and sees to the smallest of details? Or does it instead show you as willing to do whatever it takes to hide things in order to win?
Another person spoke about sanding and mentioned using alcohol to stop bleeding that may occur from sanding the hoof. Bottom line- if they are bleeding, there is a problem! Blood does not look good on your resume`. Never has, never will.
While alcohol does stop the bleeding by shrinking the capillaries, it stings! I have had it poured on a cut before. I didn't like the feel of it and won't do it to a horse to fix a problem I created.
The only use for alcohol in concerns to show preparation, is to remove all conditioners or coat enhancing bath products, before attempting to apply hoof polish. These things keep the polish from sticking to the hoof. Pour the alcohol on a rag, wipe the hoof down, then apply the polish. It goes much easier this way without wasting your hoof polish and wondering why it isn't doing what it is supposed to.
Many claim the hoof polish dries out their horses hooves. Do they ever consider the polish to be a chemical replacement for the hoof's natural moisture barrier they just sanded off? Alcohol used to remove the coat conditioning products, doesn't exactly moisturize the hoof before the polish goes on, and if I knew of another product to recommend, I would with no qualms. Do they consider that maybe the polish remover is also drying out the hoof? That could very well be part of the issue in a nutshell.
While the hooves do need to be attended to before a class at your next show, many times it starts long before you even mailed off your entries. Better breeding and better feeding is the beginning of nice hooves on a horse. Your choice of a farrier also makes a huge difference in the horses appearance and how they travel. That is what you want to get noticed for in the ring. Doing things right, just as it should be.