Over the years, we have seen many trends with horses - from the dos and don'ts of feed, to the method in which we train. The one thing that has stayed consistent is people moving towards doing what is best for their horse, and not what is simply habit passed down. Back in the day, it was not uncommon to get the youngest, craziest guy near the barn and have him hop on and "break" the colts. Obviously, we know there are better ways to skin that cat.
Being married to a ranch raised roper, I am immersed in the "cowboy tough" world. Surprisingly, these same guys that used to "break " horses are now deliberately trying to ride with a nice soft loop to warm up. Given that the mark of a "cowboy" used to mean climbing up on a bronc and surviving, I am happy to see the transition into a more sensible approach. So why the hang up with hoof boots?
My husband specializes in natural hoof care and so most of our clients are open to boots but there are those who still insist on shoes. Of course we try to show the advantages of allowing the horse to have a natural foot. We try to educate on the simplicity and versatility of boots. And yet, most of the time we meet resistance, usually justified by the old thinking that shoes are needed for traction and balance. Really? I beg to differ. I have a theory - it is not that shoes are really needed, it is that boots may be just a little too trendy for the "cowboy" crowd. I pose it in a different way when I talk to these guys. I point out the logical side. Who really is a smarter guy? The one who lights $80+ on fire every 6-8 weeks for shoes or the guy who invests a little chunk up front (far less than repeated shoeings) for the year.
Now I know this seems a bit ornery but the truth is, if you are going to put you foot down about not following the new trends, then put your foot down about not following the old ones and see where you actually end up. I challenged my father-in-law to do this. After almost 60 years of holding his ground on shoes, his horses are now booted in the latest and greatest Easyboots. He even changes them up to meet his needs. He uses the Easyboot Trail for everyday mountain riding and the Easyboot Epic or Easyboot Glove (depending on his mount) for the competitions and his older boys that have special needs. As it turns out, he is no less of a "cowboy" than he was in his shoeing days. As for our performance horses, we too ride with "trendy" hoof boots and yet, my husband is still the big tough guy he has been raised to be. When you are ready to set the bar for your own horse, make sure you have these crucial elements in place:
- A competent practitioner capable of properly trimming the barefoot horse.
- The proper fit, acheived by a simple fitting session.
- The proper boot for the needs you have.
When you have checked that list off, you will be well on your way to optimal performance. Give shoes the boot! Soon you may find you are more of a horseman than the stubborn guy next to you.
Amanda Peterson, Peterson Approach Equine Services