Hoof Boots vs Shoes

Joined
11 February 2017
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11
Hiya!

Currently looking for opinions and experiences with hoof boots, compared to shoeing a horse, as it’s pretty costly and would save a bunch but in the end it’s down to what’s best for the horse!

I’m a young horse owner so I’m not the most knowledgable person, so despite looking through the internet nothing beats the advice of experienced horse owners!

My mare currently works under 5 hours weekly as I’m finishing off my GCSE’s but in September both me and her are moving off to live on site at Sparsholt College where I’ll be doing equine studies level 3. I’ll be planning to work her more then, including show jumping, XC and schooling. So I was wondering if hoof boots could really size up to what horse shoes do, and if it would be suitable for that type of work, or if it would just cause more issues.

Recommendations of good hoof boots are also Welcome!

Many thanks x
 

Kat

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Of those 5 hours how much is on a school surface? What are the conditions like underfoot when you hack? Does your horse have any soundness or metabolic issues?

Have you thought about taking the back shoes off to see how the horse copes?

Most horses only need boots if they are doing a lot of hacks on rocky terrain unless they have other issues.
 

coss

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Ditto the others - depends on how good her feet are currently and what sort of work you do. all mine are unshod (and all have never seen a shoe in their lives!). For x-country/showjumping on grass you may find that you want studs and this would be when shoeing would help. Mine so far have coped without studs as they are accustomed to charging about their own field and slipping/sliding. Last year I was showjumping 70/80cm on grass and was horrified at how many horses were slipping on turns and started to worry. However, my pony didn't slip once as was very balanced and obedient. The others were losing balance making the turn and then would lose footing on top of that. Obviously height of fences may play a factor in it too - slide a bit into something 50cm and your horse is likely to get out of trouble, slide into a metre parallel and things get ugly!
I use hoof boots for hacking mainly because it's mainly gritty roads (tiny sharp stones make small holes in the feet then infection gets in then holes get bigger or abcesses etc) and/or very mixed terrain, some really nice smooth stuff not needing boots/shoes then onto hardcore with lots of sharp big stones. I actually find the hoof boots better than shoes on that as have had friends have to stop because a stone caught in the shoe and horse went hopping lame as couldn't get it's hoof down properly, removal of stone meant sound horse again.
 

JillA

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Shropshire
The main difference is shoes load all the weight onto the edge of the feet, whereas hoof boots load much more evenly, including the frog which is underneath the pedal bone, which in turn is the bottom level of the column of bone. Horses with fantastically thick soles can support that bony column with them, but I found that peripheral loading was really bad for my horse, with his thin soles and subclinical (and therefore asymptomatic) laminitis.
Hoof boots are great for transitioning to barefoot, once the feet have hardened you should no longer need them unless you are doing something extreme like hacking for hours over stony going.
 

noblesteed

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My 19 year old horse has just started wearing hoof boots after we found shoeing was making him lame - we suspect arthritis somewhere in his front feet. He's doing SO well in them and is back to his old show-off self. Hoof boots have decent grip but I wouldn't wear them for jumping on grass as they can slip. You also need to factor in the fact you will need to have your horse seen by a qualified trimmer as regularly as the farrier. I haven't found I have saved any money yet but my horse was so lame I had no choice other than remove shoes. I have also had hoof boots fly off when out cantering in a field - not great when you're miles from home and have to dismount and find the thing!
 

PoppyAnderson

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My 19 year old horse has just started wearing hoof boots after we found shoeing was making him lame - we suspect arthritis somewhere in his front feet. He's doing SO well in them and is back to his old show-off self. Hoof boots have decent grip but I wouldn't wear them for jumping on grass as they can slip. You also need to factor in the fact you will need to have your horse seen by a qualified trimmer as regularly as the farrier. I haven't found I have saved any money yet but my horse was so lame I had no choice other than remove shoes. I have also had hoof boots fly off when out cantering in a field - not great when you're miles from home and have to dismount and find the thing!
Trimmers are typically half the price of a farrier/new set of shoes. Also, once you're in a good regime, you really don't need to have a trimmer out that often. I have mine out about 4 times a year. Pony self-trims in between.
 

supsup

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From someone who has used boots for years, but has also used shoes at times, I'd say it depends on your circumstances. The first question would be whether your horse will be completely comfortable unshod for all non-ridden situations (turnout, being led to/from field), and preferably also ridden on "easy" surfaces, such as in the school. You may only have limited control over what she is fed and what her routine will be at college, so if she is at all footsore or cautious without shoes for turnout and being led in/out, I think you might be better off with shoes. Being constantly footsore can lead to all sorts of knock-on problems (e.g. tense back). Do you know how your horse normally copes unshod?
If your horse is quite happy barefoot most of the time, then boots become an option. My experience has been that they provide less good grip compared to shoes under certain conditions, particularly if you have a thin, slick layer of mud over firm ground. I have hacked in boots for years (and of course, you can school in them), and popped the odd log in them, but I would always choose shoes over boots for something like XC, purely based on better grip. For example, I'd not be comfortable approaching a jump cantering downslope on wet grass in my boots. You should also be aware that finding the right boot for your horse (which often does involve a certain amount of trial and error) can cost quite a bit of money up front, though in the long term, it is likely to be cheaper. The best model of boot really does depend on the individual. I've had Easyboot Gloves for years, and also like the Scoot boot. In terms of grip, I think most people prefer either Gloves or Renegades. I'm not sure that the Scoots have been around long enough for there to be a consensus on how they compare grip wise. Old Mac G2s are also pretty good. I have tried Cavallos (some of the cheaper entry level boots), but found the grip on them not particularly good.
I think most people who successfully do XC without shoes do so barefoot, but not booted. You can put studs into boots (and I have a pair of hind boots with studs for hacking in very muddy conditions), but I think if you did XC in them, there's a decent chance that when push comes to shove (e.g. cornering hard), the hoof might part company with the boot. Don't know though, I've never tried XC in studded boots.

My advice would be that if you want to give it a go, use the time until September (and while your horse is having a lower work load) to test how she copes without shoes. You can always put them back on if needed, but you'll have a better idea whether she's an easy candidate who copes well barefoot for light work. I'm less positive/convinced that time and conditioning are enough to make virtually every horse capable without shoes. If yours isn't reasonably comfortable within a short amount of time, I think you may well have a candidate that would need very careful management of diet/grass access and workload to make progress, and you're not likely to do so at college. It might also be worth getting in touch with the college to ask what they recommend wrt shoeing. If they strongly recommend/insist your horse be shod you'll at least know that they are not likely to be supportive of the barefoot/booted option, and you might save yourself some hassle by going with the flow.
 
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