How often do I need to put boots on my unshod horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 03:13 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Missouri
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How often do I need to put boots on my unshod horse?

As trail riding season kicks up into high gear I have been wondering what to do to protect my horse's feet. I want to keep her barefoot, for sure. But how neccessary are boots? I trail ride at my boarding stables often and as much of the ride is on dirt of grass and the rides aren't longer then two and a half hours or so I don't think her feet have a problem there. But I plan to haul out to a few places this spring and summer, and I need to know if I should invest in a pair (or two) of boots. They're expensive :P What are your thoughts on boots and what is the best brand to go for?

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post #2 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 06:51 AM
Join Date: Apr 2008
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If your horse is fine barefoot where you've been riding (no soreness or bruising), it's really impossible to know ahead of time if she'll benefit from (or need) boots on a different terrain. In my experience, lots of riding over loose, small, sharp rocks (like driveway gravel) on top of a hard, dry surface (like clay or asphalt) is about the hardest environment for the soles and would be the only time I would consider boots for our mares. The only places I've seen this are driveways, private roads, and a couple parks that only allow horses on their maintenance roads. Well maintained bridle trails (even with packed gravel) and even rocky, natural trails have never been a problem.
I have a couple friends that have used the major boot brands (front only) and they really help their mares on those sharp rocks, but the biggest problem is getting a good fit. Horses with rounder hooves seem to be much harder to fit properly, and one friend had a problem with the boots rubbing right above the hoof. I'm sure other posters with boot experience will give you lots of feedback.

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post #3 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 08:29 AM
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: South Dakota
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You will have to shoe every 6-8 weeks on a normal horse. Some with problems may need to be done more often. My daughter rides every day and the shoes that come off her horse are always much thinner than the shoes pulled from my gelding. I am afraid Sheldon wouldn't have any feet left if he didn't wear shoes. Shunke, my horse wears shoes as he is a tender foot :)
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post #4 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 08:43 AM
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My peeps and I just bought Easy Boot Gloves for our horses. We went riding in a very rocky area and we live where there is sand/dirt. All of the horses are being trimmed with the "mustang barefoot trim" and their back hooves looked great at the end of the ride and they did just fine in the EBG. Biscuit never would go into a canter but I am sure with some more rides with them he will feel more comfortable. I will be riding this weekend barefooted though and most of his rides will be barefooted.

The EBG are about $113 from Valley Vet and are reasonable as opposed to shoeing.

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post #5 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 10:05 AM
Green Broke
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None of our horses are shod but two are flat hooved. We ride down gravel roads and have taken them into the Badlands in North Dakota. None had any problem with rocky areas there. We also ride in the grasslands which has sandy dirt and some rocks. They do get some bruises from time to time, but nothing to cause lameness. I think it would be like us having to walk on gravel. If we wore shoes all the time, or feet would be tender going barefoot. If we get accustomed to walking on it barefoot, our feet would toughen up and it wouldn't be that big of a deal. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to work for our horses. It's not a bad idea to get the boots tho.

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post #6 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 11:50 AM
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I've been keeping my horses barefoot for about 5 years now. My Mustang (who was kept in shoes by his last owner) does awesome on nearly any terrain. In any of my rides off the property, he goes barefoot and never has any issues. He has only had a stone bruise (slight lameness in one front foot after a ride where we did a lot of cantering) ONE time in 5 years. So I think that's a pretty good record.

I do carry Easyboot Epics and often use them if we trailer out, just because there are a lot of trails with lava rock around here, which are really sharp on the feet, and because I never know what kind of trail we will end up on, I feel better carrying the boots and using them (only on the front feet) if I feel we are riding in a super rocky area.

Now my Fox Trotter mare, whom I have only owned for a little over a year, I will definitely carry and use boots on this summer (again, only the front feet seem to need it) because she hasn't been barefoot as long as the Mustang and seems to have more sensitive feet. But she has been doing really well so far this spring.

My feelings are, that if you don't ride in the rocks much and your horse can get away with riding totally barefoot, just do it! If your horse has trouble in the rocks, you will know it, and you can buy a pair of boots just for the fronts. I have had boots last a couple of years, so they are worth the money. You just have to replace worn hardware occasionally. I have had best luck with the Epics. The Gloves don't fit my horse's round hoof shape at all. I know Epics have basically the same shape, but perfect fit doesn't seem as important as the cables hold the boots on even if they aren't a perfect fit.

I have heard a rumor that Easycare will have a new boot for wide hooves at some point, but I don't know that for sure. It's kind of funny, because wide hooves are healthy hooves, but you can only find boots to fit contracted or oval feet. Strange, huh? Oh, we tried the original shape Old Macs, which are made for wider feet, but they started cracking after 2-3 rides. (Easycare was kind enough to exchange them for Epics since the Old Macs where brand new). Now I stick with the Epics. I've never had one crack, just eventually they wear thin after a couple years of hard use.

PS. I have ridden for as much as 5-6 hours on the trails with my horse totally barefoot. I don't think time/distance is an issue. It's more about the terrain and how well adjusted your horse's feet are to traveling on it. But you will know if your horse is sensitive and needs extra protection. If he doesn't, then just go barefoot. And if not, get a pair of boots, they last a good long time. :)

Last edited by trailhorserider; 04-13-2011 at 11:54 AM.
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post #7 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 12:07 PM
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Boots are a reasonible solution if you want to keep your horse barefoot. My horse are barefoot and I can ride ANYWHERE for a day. But I can't ask my horses to ride 2-3-4 days straight over rocky terrain. So if you are just doing 1-2 trail rides a week, with a day or two off between rides. You should be fine.

But if you trailer out and want to ride several days in a row. I strongly suggest you get some boots. At elast for the fronts. Easycare is introducing a new line of more competetively priced trail boots on April 25th. I would wait to see what they are before buying new boots. The Easyboot gloves are a good boot also.

My barefoot horses always walk the edge of the trail. Trying to get off the gravel in the center of the trail. This means that I'm often getting brushed into trees and shrubs. Drives me crazy that they won't walk up the center of the trail. But thats the trade off. With boots or shoes they use the trail. Barefoot they use the edge.

My problem with boots is that I spend more money on the boots than if I just got the horses shod. I am always tearing gaiters, breaking buckles, loosing boots. I've got 4 horses and it seems I buy a new gaiter and spend a half hour rebuilding the boot every few rides.

If you walk and trot along the trails. The boots work well. But if you do much laterial movements, (chasing cows through brush comes to mind ) or faster speeds suck as cantering, the boots seem to come off and I tear the gaiters. Also if you are bushwacking much, you have a higher risk of the boots being pulled off. Crossing dead fall trees can catch a boot and pull it off. I've never lost a boot in mud, but I've lost a lot of boots in tangles of brush.

The other issue with barefoot horses is that you need to keep them trimmed up short. With shoes, your farrier comes out every 6-8 weeks. A barefoot horse will need to be trimmed every 2-3 weeks in the summer and every 4 weeks in the winter to keep the hoof wall short enough to prevent flaring. Not a big deal if you own a rasp and do it yourself. But if you are paying a farrier to come by and trim them, You will probably pay as much for two trim jobs as what one set of shoes would have cost.

In general I do believe in keeping my horses barefoot as much as possible, And boots are a way to keep them barefoot and still ride them in rough conditions. But I've come to the opinion that when the time come that I need to use the horses for a week or ten days straight, I will put shoes on them for that period. My horse are always more willing to move out on rough ground when shod than barefoot. They go right down the middle of the trail instead of trying to get on the softer edge.

These horses are all barefoot

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post #8 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Painted Horse View Post
My barefoot horses always walk the edge of the trail.
We had the same problem with our horses when riding trails like that one. They always seemed to hug the outside edge. We found out afterward that it was from the way we were riding. We were leaning into the hill ourselves (not used to riding high trails) which actually was pushing our horses outward.

Beautiful pics by the way! Would love to ride there

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post #9 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 05:37 PM
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Mr. Big was shod when I got him last fall but the sellers told me he'd done both. We immediately had the shoes pulled and got him trimmed up proper.

All fall and winter I had to boot him for any amount of rocks at all. Dirt wasn't a problem, rocks were.

This spring his feet finally toughened up now he does rocks with no problem. A lot of the old logging access roads that are kept maintained around here the use large chunks of basalt "gravel" on them. I'm talking up to two inch pieces of sharp, angular rock on the roads. I'd expect them to shred tires, let along feet!

He doesn't like those areas and slows down in them and tries to move over to get off the worst of it--but he goes thru them if needed. Last winter, if I left the boots off, he would balk about it and it was obvious it hurt him. Now he acts like it's just uncomfortable, but not painful.

From what I've heard the more we ride them, with or without boots, with or without rocks, the better and stronger their feet will be. Riding a lot on dirt will toughen the feet, no need to find rocks to ride on. That makes their feet toughen up differently than ours: if we only walk on soft stuff we'll never build adequate calluses for rocks. Horses toughen up from walking, regardless of the surface they are walking on--and they toughen up even in boots.

At least, that's what I've heard and it seems to have worked with Mr. Big.

All that being said, boots are in the saddlebags unless I'm just doing a short ride from the farm and know the terrain. Haven't used 'em in a couple months--but they are always along, just in case.

I use Epics. They seem to fit well, stay on well, and hold up well. I'll actually be getting a third one before doing any serious long rides--just in case I lose or wreck one and need to boot him.

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post #10 of 13 Old 04-13-2011, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Painted Horse View Post
Boots are a reasonible solution if you want to keep your horse barefoot. My horse are barefoot and I can ride ANYWHERE for a day. But I can't ask my horses to ride 2-3-4 days straight over rocky terrain. So if you are just doing 1-2 trail rides a week, with a day or two off between rides. You should be fine.

But if you trailer out and want to ride several days in a row. I strongly suggest you get some boots.
I basically agree, except before I got my second riding horse, my Mustang, after he was barefoot for a couple of years, could ride 5 days a week without boots over just about any terrain (and I mean 3-6 hour trail rides in the mountains).

I really doubt him being a Mustang has much to do with it, as he looks like a short, stocky draft/QH cross. I do carry boots if I trailer out though, just for my piece of mind. Maybe he just has really good feet. But I honestly think keeping the feet dry and putting lots of mileage on the horse is what gets them tough. I find wet, muddy pens to be my horse's worst enemy when it comes to going barefoot. If I had bigger pens, the horse's feet would stay drier, and there is no telling how good their feet would be then. They are pretty good even in less than optimal conditions.

Anyway, I think with the right horse and the right conditions, you can ride 7 days a week barefoot. I thought my horse needed some time off, so I didn't ride him 7 days a week, but I have no doubt his feet would hold up to that. I actually worry about his feet getting softer now that I have a back-up trail horse and he will only be doing 1/2 the work.
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