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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have two mustangs who have never been shod and are being trimmed by a trimmer who specifically follows the more "natural" barefoot approach. They have been doing wonderfully, going about day to day life (living in gravel paddocks, riding in a sand arena) with never a problem. They also do very well on the trails.

Recently we went on a 2 hour trail ride that consisted largely of gravel paths. I was riding our younger gelding. He walked right out during the entire trail ride (in fact when we turned around I had to have a discussion with him about not needing to piaffe/passage back to the trailer). I never felt like he was mincing along or really trying to avoid certain areas. Even so, I counted about 5-6 "ouch" steps where he seemed to falter for one or two strides before carrying on normally.

Here's my dilemma: I want my mustangs' hooves to stay tough (and perhaps even toughen up a bit more) but I also want them to be comfortable. The last thing I want is for either of them to end up with a bruise or anything that might restrict our riding as the weather improves and we start to go on even more trail rides. How should I determine when or if hoof boots are appropriate? I've heard that hoof boots can work out wonderfully for some horses/owners, but are a nightmare for others.
 

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In my experience, I have found that boots work very well for some people, but can be a huge pain to deal with for others. The way I see it, and the way I handle it with my "barefoot" trimmed horses, is usually based on the duration of the ride and the terrain that you'll be facing. When I'm out with groups of people and many of them will have boots on their horses, it has been my experience that at least 1 or 2 people will come home either missing a boot (fell off or got stuck in mud) or come back with a damaged boot, rendering it useless.

My best advice, following what I said before, would be to consult your farrier about the condition of your horse's hooves, and ask yourself: Are you going to be riding for long periods of time? Are you going to be riding on harsh rocky surfaces on a regular basis?

I really like to ride without boots if I'm out just for a couple hours, because I feel like it's not too hard on the horses and it will do nothing but toughen their soles a bit, but if it becomes painful for them, I'll usually slip a pair onto their front feet to make the ride a little more comfortable on those longer trips.
 

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Agree that it comes down to comfort & using protection when necessary & if unsure, would probably at least have some boots handy to use if/when you suspect need. But also remember, they can feel their feet very well & just like us, if they step on a particularly sharp or high rock, they're not necessarily limping or sore footed when they suddenly avoid putting their weight on it - as they can feel it, they're doing what needs doing to *avoid* injury.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the input. I agree that this is probably more of a judgement call thing -- deciding based on where and how long we're riding whether or not hoof boots would be appropriate.

I think that I will have my trimmer help me fit at least some front boots for both of them. I need to get some saddle bags so that if I'm not using them, or if they cause more problems than they're worth, I can just pack them away.
 
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