My horse is barefoot. When should I be using hoof boots on him?
Barefoot hooves often need protection!
Just because your horse is barefoot doesn’t mean he will never need hoof protection. Not every horse is blessed with wonderful and sturdy and survive in the tundra feet, the process of breeding and domestication takes a toll on some of our horse’s hooves. Some horses can be barefoot with some help - like a hoof boot! There are many factors to consider when deciding how to protect your horse’s barefoot feet - and number one is his comfort. Other things to consider in addition to comfort:
- Genetics - are his feet strong and sturdy, or thin walled and easily cracked?
- Footing - Kazillion dollar cloud footing or rocky terrain up some trails?
- Trimming cycle - the day after a trim may not be the day to go hacking on the gravel paths.
- Weather - if torrential rains are keeping the earth and his feet wet, a switch to dry or hard ground/footing may be a reality check! Frozen ground is also horrible for hooves and can be just as unsafe and bruise causing as rocky ground.
- The unknown - better safe than sorry when at a new show venue, new trail, or new rodeo grounds.
These bad boys take some wrangling to get on, but I know they are not going anywhere. The materials are also easy to wash with the hose and drip dry.
As a general rule, I always have my barefoot horse’s boots with me just in case I need them. For days when we are hacking through the hay fields, I will skip the boots. For days we are trail blazing to places we have never been, he wears the boots. If I’m not sure if he needs them, he wears them.
I use them for one big reason - on some of the paths around the barn and farm, he takes shorter steps and is more cautious as there is a lot of larger gravel. When he wears the boots, he strides out and actually has more protection from stone bruises than a shod hoof - the sole of his boot has tread and full coverage. In the arena and fields, it doesn’t matter as the footing is high quality, level, and rock free.
Kung fu grip with directional tread. (AKA traction.)
How do you pick the right boot for your horse?
- Do a LOT of comparison shopping. And make sure if you end up ordering a bunch of boots online that you can have a hassle free return.
- Look for boots that will stay put on the hoof even if the upper straps come undone. A proper and tight fit will keep your horse safer. It’s harder to get the buggers on, but you know they are not going anywhere.
- Look for materials that last, and if possible materials that can be replaced without buying a whole new set of boots.
- Find boots that are easily cleaned. A hose with a spray nozzle is about as complicated as it should be.
- Hoof boots should match your horse’s job and should be used according to their intended function. Don’t use padded up laminitis boots for the horse that is going to be going on the trail.
These boots are great for protection AND keeping packing and diapers in. Be aware of all of the spots that can rub your horse.
- Monitor the soft tissues around your horse’s hooves for signs of wear, sores, irritation, hair loss, etc. The heel bulbs are especially sensitive to sores, as are the coronary bands.
What has your experience with hoof boots been like?