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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The trouble of it all

AareneX commented about the trouble of boots versus shoes on my LOVE ride recap post. I started to respond, but realized that it was much too lengthy. So here's my take on the trouble of boots, versus the trouble of shoes.

I think the trouble and time I take with the boots and shoes is equal. Here's why:

With shoes I really worried about angles. She was shod every 6 weeks, but her feet grow FAST. I wasn't comfortable cantering, or even speed trotting by the 5th week because of how long her feet were. Boots Win.

I ride a lot of pavement and the AERC rides I do always seem to have pavement in them. Last year in May, Farely actually went down on pavement, even though I was hand walking her. Very scary. The boots seem to have a much better grip. Boots win.

If I wanted to pad for a ride, I had to use pads that stayed in for 6 weeks under the shoes (yes, I could use pour in, but there's a whole story behind what I would have to go through to get it....). Even though no apparent ill effects came of padding her for Tevis, I just didn't like the fact that I couldn't see her soles for 6 weeks. And there was something "off" about her when they were pulled. Nothing I could put my finger on, but my gut told me that it wasn't a great idea. Boots win.


I have missed rides that I wanted to go on because my horse wasn't shod. Unless I have a ride coming up, Farley is barefoot. She doesn't need shoes for riding or conditioning, but most rides require hoof protection, and there are very few rides I would ride a horse 50 miles the entire way without protection. So if my schedule changes and at the last minute I CAN make a ride....there's a good chance Farley won't have shoes on and I won't be able to do it. The farrier comes out to the stable every 3 weeks and it is difficult/impossible to get her shod between these scheduled visits. Boots win.

Lost Shoe or Boot

I have lost a shoe at a ride (first ride - AR 50 - on Minx) and had to have it replaced. It was a pain. It took a while. There happen to be a farrier at the lunch check and I happened to have cash. We didn't get to spend the check relaxing. It took longer to replace that shoe, than it took me to redo the boots on the trail last weekend. The trouble involved in a lost shoe or boot is about equal. So far the score is 1:1. One lost shoe at my first ride, one instance of boot malfunction at my first booted ride. If it continues to happen, I may have to reevaluate the cost/benefit of boots. Time will tell. Equal.


Boots and shoes are about equal in cost, depending on how I often I trim and whether I do it or my farrier does it, how long the boots last, how many rides I do in a year, and how often I would have plain shod her or padded her. I won't know for sure until I get at least 1-2 years of cost analysis of using boots. Status: Unknown


I've broken bones because of shod horses, and I've had unshod horses run over the top of me at the gallop. If I can work around unshod horses, that is my preference. Boots win.


I never even considered boots before I saw the renegades. Easy boots were the only other viable option and they did not look easy. The trouble involved in wrapping, rubbing, gaiters, foaming, and still losing them wasn't worth it. Renegades is what has made this experiment possible.

So far, the "trouble factor" of shoes and boots compare favorably to each other, with several advantages going to boots (and specifically - renegade boots).

Even if the "trouble" factor ends up rising with the boots (if I lose them at a higher rate than shoes, if they end up costing more) there are other factors that still haven't been fully explored that might tip it in favor of boots, even with a higher "trouble" factor:
  • Health of the horse
  • Health of the hoof
  • Soundness of the horse
  • Availability of a good farrier once I move from this area (I have a great farrier - I know not everyone in all areas is so lucky).

The Bottom Line

That being said, if serious boot malfunctions occur at rides and cost me completion after completion the trouble factor will be high enough to cause me to reconsider. However, by then there might be another viable option - competition is making the boot market better and better! I'll do what I can to keep her barefoot, but at least at this point I'm not absolutely committed to keeping her barefoot at all costs.

Please weigh in! Why do you do, what you do?


  1. This is good timing...I was just having a discussion along these lines the other night, and how I find it very interesting how much scrutiny hoof boots get put under, and how such a big deal is made every time someone loses a hoof boot, and yet, the same attention and reaction doesn't seem to apply to shoes.

    Obviously, you know where I stand with boots. :D I fully believe they are the best option out there...for me.

  2. The hardest thing for me to find when I was thinking about going to boots was a forthright honest assessment of how often boots got lost and what the failure was. Which is why on this blog I'm trying to be as honest as possible about when I lose boots, the cause etc.

    I agree that barefoot is healthier, but if performance suffers in boots because I can't keep them on or they are causing bloody raw rubs, then obviously I'm going to chose what works overall. I need to able to USE my horse! :) That's why I was SO HAPPY when renegades came out. Finally something I could use to keep my horse barefoot without compromising performance or level of use!

    One thing that I think people need to keep in mind is that boots do not "fix" issues. If your horse is pulling off shoes because of overreaching, unbalanced trim, etc., you probably aren't going to ahve any more luck in boots. Sometimes I think there is this misconception that boots are magical and there will be no more pain, no more lameness, (feel free to break into your favorite gospel tune!). Underlying issues still need to be managed - even more carefully now that you don't ahve shoes as a crutch to lean on.

    I'm extremely lucky to have a horse with wonderful feet, fairly correct/biomechanically neutral movement, and doesn't seem to care what weird things I'm putting on her feet. LOL.

    What's funny is that even though I've had 3 (count them, THREE) boot failures, I'm still not worried about losing a boot. The first one was perfectly explainable and wasn't a boot failure. The 2 I had during the ride were such a mystery - and they stayed on the rest of the 45 miles - I'm really not worried about it happening again. If it does.....time for some serious research and analysis of boot fit!

  3. I'm reading with fascination!

    As I've said before, boots are an awesome option for some horses. Fiddle isn't one of them, or at least, she isn't right now. Her feet are strong and healthy, and she has very tender soles, despite being barefoot for 6 years, which is a good long time to try something before deciding that it doesn't work! (I only had her for the last 2 of those years).

    I gave it a good try, and will continue to try different boots (I have Easyboot Gloves to try out this winter when her shoes are pulled for the season)but the shoes work best for us so far.

    I'm eager to hear from other people's experience also.

  4. AareneX - If I had a horse I couldn't condition barefoot (no boots) I would probably shoe. What a pain to have to boot for every ride, including little conditioining rides....

  5. I won't ride a shod horse on pavement. It's like riding on ice. :( I personally feel like barefoot horses are more nimble and "know where their feet are" better, as well.

    I'm not trolling; I honestly don't understand how steel shoes without pads can make a horse more comfortable on rocks. It doesn't make sense to me - if the horse is walking on gravel, the gravel is still going to poke the frog/sole. I can see how boots or pads and shoes make riding fast over rocks doable, but I don't understand how shoes alone help with rocks.

  6. Funder - in my limited experience, I think the funciton of shoes in rocks is to keep the integrity of the hoof intact while travelling over the rocks. It's protecting the hoof wall - not the sole. Farley is OK like this - she has an extrememly tough sole and only needs her hoof wall protected - if we trot over rocks barefoot and hit a rock wrong - a huge chunk can chip off and make her sore. I hope that makes sense.

  7. I think it takes a certain personality to want to commit seriously to using hoof boots on endurance rides. It isn't for everybody.

    I have had more problems using boots over the years than I have had using nailed on shoes, and I think anybody who has used boots a lot would agree (if they are being honest, and have a lot of experience riding both shod and booted horses, as I do).

    I love keeping my horses barefoot so I doubt that I'll go back to shoes ever! The benefits for the horse outweigh the human inconvenience factor.

    If somebody is having serious boot issues then I would recommend using plastic shoes (like Ground Control, and there are many others) rather than steel - much better for the horse in the long run. I did that with Chief when he was boot challenged initially.

    This year I've seen more boots on the trail than I've ever seen shoes many times over and heard comments from ride vets such as "there have been a lot of lame booted horses" (at rides) -- so, I think the frustration level is high for some. Some are oblivious to the faults and issues that result from a larger group of not-prepared or educated riders trying to use boots. I get teased a lot, even though I rarely have problems.

    I do have to say though, that riders who are using Renegades on endurance rides seem to have the least amount of trouble and the highest satisfaction rate. :)

    Sorry this got so long! Good luck!

  8. Karen I was hoping you would stop by. Thanks for you insight. That explains why the vet at the finish at LOVE was suprised she looked so good.

    I must say that seeing how fast she recovered after LOVE (no filling!!! first time ever) I'm more commited to keeping her barefoot, then I was when I wrote this post.

  9. I used easyboot epics on JB's fronts... had to.. JB had some serious issues with sole depth and heel bruises.. but he has recovered. He ran in pads and EGSS shoes on the hind. We just took them off last night. He'll go barefoot until January when I am forced to put on pads with Barium for the winter riding. If I have any chance of being ready for a May or June ride, I have to ride in snow and some ice, and that means shoes with barium.. not much choice. I overall have liked the Epics. He only got a small gaiter rub once and that was easily resolved. Over all, the boots saved JB and allowed him to heal and develop better feet.


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