I'm new to horse ownership (I've only owned my first horse since February and was pregnant for the majority of that) so I'm not sure what's what when it comes to the necessary gear for trail horses. My boy is barefoot and I would love to keep him that way but I have a few questions about it. His feet are fairly strong but the previous owner had him shoed 24/7. Does he need shoes for trails or will he be fine staying as is? Are horse boots like Cavallo or Easyboot worth looking into or is this just more of a fad? None of the trails he'll be going on are rough or really rocky, mostly just dirt and weeds.
The second half of my question(s): although it's cold right now and isn't a problem, once spring comes around the area where we live has been known to have rattlesnakes. There aren't a crazy amount of them around but they aren't uncommon either. Do I need to provide him with any kind of leg protection just in case or am I just worrying too much about it?
I know these are probably just dumb newbie questions but it's confusing and a bit overwhelming at times trying to figure them out when there are so many options out there...
First, there are no dumb questions (I wish I could say the same was true for answers
) whether you're new to something or have years under your belt.
The short answer to whether you need to have your horse shod is no. Contrary to what some preach horses do not need to be shod. In point of fact being shod is not good for their feet. But that's a lengthy subject and you can likely find excessive amounts of information on it today along with medical tests and results that weren't available to my grandfather (who never had his horses shod 100 years ago)
A horse that has spent it's life shod is likely to have some foot issues when you switch it to being unshod (there's more blood flow, the foot expands naturally when they walk, etc.....these are all things that will not feel right and in some cases can be painful ). Given time and proper care their feet can return to normal, but it can take a year in many cases.
A horse that has been shod or spent it's life on soft, easy ground will not have feet conditioned to hard, unforgiving surfaces. It takes time to get the feet conditioned to hard ground so it's not always as simple as taking the shoes off and going (unless the trails are soft which might be your case). This is a bit over simplified, but think of it as you walking barefoot on the ground. If you have to walk on hard, uncomfortable surfaces after wearing shoes for years it won't feel good and you'll limit the amount you do. But if you continue your feet will start to toughen up (in our case the skin gets harder and becomes a bit thicker......it's not a perfect comparison).
Eventually you can have a horse with feet that will go pretty much anywhere. Certainly will handle pavement and stony trails. Once mine are conditioned the only thing I worry about is a stone being the size needed to bruise the sole (and being shod won't prevent that). My family hasn't had shod horses since long before I was born and I've ridden 100 miles over a few days without any problems.
(also you might hear that dark hooves are harder than light.....don't believe it. Color has nothing to do with it).
Part 2: Snakes.
I've never wrapped the legs of any of mine. None of the family ever did. I've never been on a horse that really worried much about snakes beyond appearing to be curious, but I'm sure that like people, different horses may react differently. My QH from the 70's would almost ride over a rattlesnake if I didn't stop her. I've found that snakes seem to prefer not being in the path of an oncoming horse
(imagine being the size of a snake and only being able to slither along the ground....then have a 1,000+ lb animal with large, hard feet coming at you...if it were me I'd want to be far, far away)
We have quite a variety of snakes here and I ride my horses with the same gear no matter what time of year.