So, my forever horse, Jax, is barefoot. Not because I don’t like metal shoes, but because he can’t wear metal shoes. His feet are great, they hold metal shoes really well. The problem is he forges when playing out in the pasture, and every time metal shoes are on his feet he gets a splint. Every. Time. He has had a total of six splints since I’ve had him, one was on a back leg from getting kicked, but all the others were from forging. Three of the six came in a six month period, right after I bought him, while wearing metal shoes. The other two were also from forging, but it’s only happened twice without shoes in a 3.5 year period.
So, after finally figuring out where these splints were coming from, I starting looking into metal shoe alternatives. After a lot of research, I found that hoof boots, more specifically Renegade Hoof Boots, looked to be my perfect solution. I’ve been using them on Jax for about three years now, and he is doing great with them. His feet are even tougher than they were, and many trail rides he can do without his boots now. Of course when riding on gravel roads he needs the boots, but many trail rides which consist mostly of woods, grass, and some rocky creek beds, are no problem for Jax completely barefoot.
|Jax ready for a road ride in his Renegade hoof boots|
- 1st on my list, of course, fewer splints
- His feet are beautiful! They seem far healthier now that he doesn’t have nail holes in his hooves
- He is comfortable at any gait on any surface, galloping on gravel is no problem (he is booted on all 4 hooves)
- Pavement is no longer slippery, in fact he has great traction on every surface
- Horses at our boarding facility can’t have back shoes, so now he is protected on all 4 feet during rides
- He used to get quarter cracks in his back feet, now he has no cracks anywhere
- I usually get about 8-10 months out of each front set of boots, a little longer from the back set (I get more time out of them now that he goes barefoot more, and we ride on very rough surfaces)
- If you don’t ride very often, these boots can last for years, allowing you to save money on shoeing for just a couple of rides per farrier visit.
- If they don’t fit just right, they will come off in certain situations such as deep mud or faster gaits
- Some boot styles require hooves to be trimmed about every 3 weeks
- It’s not saddle up and go, hoof boots take time, especially if your horse’s feet are muddy (winter time is the worst)
- If you ride a lot on tough surfaces (such as gravel), you may be spending more money replacing the boots than you would on shoes.
- Not all styles fit all hoof shapes, you need to shop around
So far I’ve tried (or seen in action) three styles of boots:
- Cavallo Simple Hoof Boots - too clunky for the type of work I do with my horse. I didn’t try these, but tried them on a horse for a client. The size was off, but even so, I didn’t care for them.
- EasyCare Easyboot Gloves - tried these on, and tried a couple trail rides in them. The toes stuck out really far and tripped him up. Lost them several times in muddy areas. I think I just bought them a little too big, but like the Cavallos, I didn’t care for them enough to try a different size, and I didn’t like the idea of trimming my horse every three weeks.
- Renegades - I chose Renegades because 1) they were the correct shape, Jax has round feet; 2) they looked easy; 3) he did not need to be trimmed every three weeks; 4) they are extremely adjustable. So far I’ve only tried the classic style, the next set I get will be Vipers. I LOVE these boots. I’ve helped others to purchase some because, after seeing them in action, people are usually impressed. Jax’s feet grew a little and he went a size up in his front boots (from 2W to 2WW), so I tried using his old front boots on his hindlegs (usually wears a 2, tried 2W). The boots were just slightly too big and I ended up losing one, so be aware that they won’t work correctly if you don’t have the right size. That said, I can go a normal 6-8 week trim schedule and the right fitting boots will fit the entire time, getting slightly tight towards the end of the trim cycle. I've had these boots come off a total of three times since owning them: 1) During a pretty bad wreck (see Cheap eBay saddle for more); 2) Some time during the ACTHA trail ride we completely lost the bottom half of a hind boot (see SI Injury for more); and 3) During a trail ride, we sunk into mud up to Jax's belly, and in his struggle to get out the boot came off his hind hoof but stayed attached to his fetlock so we didn't lose it. In all three cases, the front boots (that fit) stayed on and 1 of the hind boots (2W, so too big) came off. When we used the size 2 he never lost a boot.