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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

June 30, 2012

Newbie's Corner: Shoes or hoof boots?

If ever there was a firestorm in distance riding circles it is this one.  Shoes are better, no! boots are better! no! bare hooved is better! No! Yes!

Like most things in our equine pursuits it depends on your tolerance level, your budget, and what happens to work out best for your horse.   Just do the best you can for your horse, and make that thing that resonates with you the most.

Farrier care with shoes nailed on:  I'll admit it, I've had my days, and sometimes a few weeks that I'd just like to throw my hands in the air, let someone put shoes on the horse, and ride off into the beautiful sunset.  It is indeed less complicated.  It used to be more expensive to have a shod horse, but now-a-days the pendulum is swinging the other way, or at the very least the cost isn't much different one way or another.  The price of hoof boots continue to rise.  The service of a  natural hoof care practitioner is as expensive as just having the guy out to nail on a shoe.  I won't get into the argument over which is better, since I believe the thing that is better is whatever happens to work well for your horse, and your life style.  So, call a farrier, or call an equine podiatrist (my favorite), and purchase some steel shoes, or aluminum, or get you some Easycare Gloves, or some Renegade Hoof boots (made in the USA).  There is a big following for both brands of boots.  Again, how well you like a hoof boot is going to depend on how well that boot functions once you put it on.  The boot should not cause rubs, the boot should stay on at walk, trot, and canter, uphill, and down.  If it doesn't it is a waste of time, and money.  So beg or borrow a set of hoof boots from someone who uses them successfully for a short tutorial on proper use, and fitting.  Utilize the experts available where the hoof boot is sold/manufactured they can save you some money by pointing you toward the correct hoof boot for your activity.  Hoof booting sounds rather fabulous, but it is in fact more work than going the shod route.   Prep time for my horse and the booting procedure costs me a full roll of vet wrap, and thirty minutes application time, every, single, ride.  I often just want to throw myself onto the ground in despair by the time I actually get to ride.   It doesn't seem to bother me in cool weather, but over the hot months it is a pain in the butt.  My hoof boot of choice currently is the Glove, but that is not to say I would disparage a Renegade hoof boot, as I know people using them quite successfully for 50 and 100 mile rides without issue on their horses.  Research before you purchase, talk with the boot company service representatives, and then use the boot that works best.  If you go the booting route and ride as much as a distance rider will, you will want several spare boots on hand, maybe an entire extra set.  The only boot I've lost in the past year, was when I needed it most, at a competition.   So booting is kind of my choice, but it may not be your's.  Don't let anyone drag you down over it either way.

Running bare hooved, yes some do it very successfully.  My previous ride could.  She never sored over gravel, rocky terrain, dirt track.  If you have horse that can, you will know it.  That horse will grind through gravel like a machine.  If your horse constantly seeks the soft shoulder on the trail, you may want to revert to some form of hoof protection.   A hoof that runs bare will need a proper trim,  mustang roll, the correct diet, and transition to do so.   If you are focused on a bare hooved transition your choice will be a hoof boot.  If bare is not your goal, and you cannot somewhat dedicate yourself to the needs of the bare hooved transition (movement, regular correct trimming, and proper diet), then a shod horse may be your best bet.


No matter what hoof covering you select it is vitally important that it not create interference, wounds, sores, or rubs.  Get that worked out and you are good to go.


  1. There's a lot of boots vs shoes discussion, but not a lot about barefoot. Is that just a total non-option for 25+mile rides?

    I had intended to do the local 25 mile ride this July until it got cancelled, so our endurance debut may be postponed until next July. As a result, we're just doing 2-3 hour rides on our home trails - no serious stretches of rocky footing, and we walk through most of the short graveled sections. Horse is a Haflinger, barefoot with good feet (though not excellent, her sister's feet are definitely better), and has been barefoot for the majority of the seven years her owners have had her, if not longer.

    If she needed hoof protection long-term, I think my answer would be a lot simpler, but as it stands - I have no idea which of the two ends up being ideal 'just' for longer rides or the short time leading up to it, or if I even need to worry about it for rides that don't require hoof protection. (The local ride requires hoof protection on all four feet. Since our trimmer also does shoes and would be at the ride, I had tentatively decided to put shoes on a week or two prior and pull them at the end of the cycle.)

  2. Not at all. Some horses do 50 mile distances completely bare, but those horses are certainly in the minority. My horse Phebes regularly trained at the 25 mile distance completely bare and never had an issue. In competition I'd boot her for my own peace of mind due to long stretches of graveled service roads. But honestly, she'd probably have been fine we'd just have needed to pace a little slower on those. Again it depends on the horse, and it depends on the terrain. You figure out what works the best for you, and you go with it. In the case of a ride that it was mandatory though, what are you going to do? Either skip the ride, or pick a protection.

    My current horse is a no-go without hoof protection. She does not have the front hoof concavity to get over the graveled service roads without being ouchy.