Thursday, March 3, 2011

To shoe, or not to shoe?

I have never had shoes on Gabe. I know he wore shoes at the track, but when he came to me, he was barefoot and has the most beautiful feet I think I've ever seen, especially for a Thoroughbred.

His hooves are big, well-shaped and hard as rocks. He is not tenderfooted and does very well barefoot.

Lately I've been thinking about whether I should have him shod this summer or not. A lot of the trails/roads I ride near my farm are gravel. He does get "ouchy" on the gravel, which I'm sure makes the ride not so much fun for him. Then, I think about the damage that shoeing does to an otherwise healthy, hard hoof. I'm not so willing to start doing that and possibly weaken his feet too much, plus, it's an added expense every six weeks that I just can't really justify right now, especially since it's not a necessary expense.

But I need to do something so we can go riding even on the rockiest roads. I've been bouncing the idea of hoof boots around in my head and done a little bit of research on different styles of boots, but can't figure out what I need to look for. I've heard stories about hoof boots just not lasting long enough to justify the cost, boots that won't stay on, boots that rub pasterns raw or allow sand/dirt/rocks down into them and rub/bruise the pastern/hoof.

I've never used hoof boots on my horses before, so I'm a newbie.

Any suggestions as far as style/brand I should be looking for? What should I absolutely avoid? We don't do slow trail rides as often as we do plenty of trotting, cantering and a wee bit of galloping during our rides. The last thing I need is a hoof boot flying off during a gallop and having it whack him in the belly or get tangled up in his legs.


  1. You might want to check in with some of the endurance folks - some of them use boots and have good advice/experience to offer.

  2. since I ride barefoot too, I'm interested in seeing what your commenters come up with. Does your farrier do the barefoot trim on Gabe, or just a "pasture trim"? There is a difference, and the best one to explain it to you is Mrs. Mom over at Oh Horsefeathers blog. She says she welcomes emails! I have finally found someone trained in the barefoot trim, and he'll be visiting us later this month.

  3. He does a pasture trim, which works well for all my critters.

    I've heard some pretty awful horror stories about hooves being mutilated by a barefoot trim, and witnessed one horse at a former barn lamed for over more than two weeks after a barefoot trim. Don't know that I want to subject my babies to having their feet mutilated.

  4. All our 4 are barefoot!!! My cob took years to get uptogether, when we got him he had cheesy feet that wouldn't hold a shoe, dropped soles, seedy toe... the works.
    His feet are now as well shaped and hard as the rest of the ponies.
    A barefoot trim is slightly diffrent from a pasture trim, but if he has great feet and is sound your farrier must be doing soemthing right!
    When we ride on stoney tracks we use front boots. The best we've tried so far are the "easy boots". Easy to fit, put on and they STAY on!! I really would'nt ever shoe again. My sons pony did a 25 miles endurance ride barefoot, we do dressage, jumping on grass and on artificial surfaces and no slipping AND no danger of horse knocking himself with a great heavy shoe on the leg :P

  5. A few of mine need shoes all around, a few just in front, and a few great barefoot.... In the past I used easy boots when needed. Mostly now I just carry one in my saddle bag for emergency need out on trails. I do find they don't stay on or hold up as well, as we do ride some rugged granite mountain trails. A funny story- on a ride, a friend noticed a front Easy Boot missing, bummer since they are expensive. We all looked around a bit... we found the shoe... on the back hoof! Yep, came off the front and must have stepped right back into it with the rear. I swear this is the truth!
    For two years now I have used the Cavallo Boot, it is beyond excellent. We had to use them on Cheyenne when he suffered damage to his front hoof. We have used them in the mountains, in mud, crossing rivers, as sole protection when treating an abscess. They are expensive, but if you just use them once in awhile, in the long run are MUCH cheaper than shoes. Measure his feet and buy the appropriate size, I didn't believe their chart and twice brought home boots too large before I really believed the chart. Highly recommend them.

  6. I personally haven't had much luck with the Easyboot line. Cavallos are much easier to fit but they're big and clunky. Take a look at the B4 Boots,, I personally haven't tried them yet but the owner of the company is very knowledgeable and I've heard about others having very good results with her products.

    If a barefoot trimmer is laming horses that just means that trimmer isn't good at their job and needs to be fired. I've never lamed either one of my horses with a proper barefoot trim.

  7. My guys are finally barefoot. It took a while for Pippin to get there - but hopefully it can last. I do have to be a bit careful of how much I ride on the dirt/gravel roads. The boys aren't ouchy on it, but the roads are like sandpaper and trim them down. Don't want them to self-trim too far!
    I've never tried boots, but have thought about it in case I go for a trail ride in a rocky area.

  8. I think you know what I'm going to say! Shoes haven't been the right solution for any of my horses, and I've seen nothing but benefits from taking them barefoot. Maybe if they didn't come to me with the horrible long-toe crushed-heel "TWH trim", I wouldn't be so down on shoes; I can't say.

    From an endurance perspective - shoes don't protect soles from rocks. Padding on the sole does. If you want to ride on rocky trails at speeds greater than a walk, the safest way to do it is with hoof boots or with shoes and pads. I think shoes/pads have their own problems (thrush under the pads) but I don't really specialize in that so I won't go in to it.

    There is almost certainly a boot that will work with Gabe's feet. If you post / email some pics of his feet, from the sides and looking down at his soles, Mel can tell you if Renegades will work for him. If his feet aren't shaped right for Renegades, Easyboot has a ton of different boots - email them, and they'll ask for some measurements and help you decide which of their boots will work best for his feet. Boots are shockingly expensive, but they last years as opposed to weeks for shoes - they pay for themselves pretty fast.

    I'm not affiliated with either company. I own Renegades, and I've met the owner and think he's cool. I've also met the Easyboot guys and I think they're cool. I'm partial to Renegades because they're made in America, but they don't work for every hoof shape. Let me know if you want to get in touch with Mel and I'll hook you up.

  9. Yeah, they can be clunky (particularly if they aren't fitted properly or are too big) but I still love Cavallo Simple Boots. They literally are "simple". So very easy to put on and off. I use the optional gel inserts, which seem to tighten up the fit, particularly after a trim. I only used them on the front.

    I also was worried about pasterns being rubbed raw, but I've never had any issues with that, ever. If it is a problem, I understand that Cavallo sells gators for that.

    Anyway, just my two cents:) I do really like them for versatility, ease of fit and cost.