Barefoot tracks with the frog making ground contact, in a shod hoof track you only see the imprint of a shoe and no frog.
I always have people asking me “Why do you use boots and not shoe?”
Before EasyCare invented the Gloves I mostly booted over shoes for rock protection on rocky rides like XP and a few others. My shod horses were all successful. Tonka had 1,895 AERC miles plus ride and ties. Sunny completed 4,410 AERC miles, Speedy had 5,515 and Zapped+/ had 6,485 miles. All those miles included 100’s and multi-days and no LD’s. However if there were a few weeks in between rides we would pull shoes and trim to give the hoof a rest. After the last ride at Thanksgiving until the first ride in April, all of our horses were barefoot. We conditioned bare and the horses got shod just before the first ride of the season. That was always our standard procedure for the hooves and our horses were healthy and sound so we were pretty sure that we were doing something right.
So if we had success why switch to all boots? I won’t deny that saving money is not one of the reasons. After all, the boots last for several hundred miles and I do all my own trimming so I do save money. But it isn’t the most important reason.
I suppose the most important reason is hoof health. It really is hard to deny that a bare hoof, when properly cared for on a domestic horse, is a healthy hoof. Why? Because the hoof is allowed to contract and expand with each step. As the frog comes in contact with the ground it pumps blood through the hoof which increases circulation. The old adage of “out with the old and in with the new” applies to blood in the hoof and legs as well. Fresh blood helps keep the horse sound, warding off inflammation as well as possible navicular conditions, contracted heels and other lamenesses. Even when the hoof does sport a boot it is only for a few hours, and that hoof can still work with the boot on.
So besides saving money and improving my horse’s well being what is left? Enter the mighty “Thunder” into the picture. A veritable shoer’s nightmare who at six weeks of age developed a badly turned out foot requiring continual trimming to get it corrected. It turned due to a mineral deficiency. Thunder also grows very fast so he simply continually needed trimmed. In four weeks he needed reshod as his hoof wall would quickly grow over the outside edge of the shoe (yes he was left with plenty of expansion) and he would get a bit unbalanced as the outside of the hoof grew faster than the inside. So it was easier to leave him bare as much as possible, maintain balance through trimming and ride in regular boots.
In 2007 I was introduced to Team Easyboot and a couple new boot designs entered the scene, the Bare and the Epic. Up until that time I had only used Original Easyboots so I could see some new promise of success. He didn’t pull off the front Epics with the gaitor, that was an improvement over regular boots. Only he also over-reaches so the hardware clamp on the hinds would get a bit beat up and it wasn’t the best option. The Easy Up clamp worked better for him but it was best for trail riding and not endurance. So I would have to shoe at the last minute and then pull shoes again between rides to maintain the hooves. The Bare was hard to get on so I wasn’t crazy about it for Thunder. We kept fumbling along though in our practice of alternating shoes and barefoot with boots until the Gloves came along.
The Gloves were wonderful and Amanda Washington helped me secure the fit and gave me a few pointers. Now I believe we are into our third year of using Gloves. I love them and so do the horses and we have had very few problems with rubs or loss. Thunder is a bit hard on the gaiters, but believe me when I say Thunder is simply hard on everything. He has around 2,000 AERC miles in Gloves and Blue has around 700 AERC miles in Gloves.
But besides all of that, I really do like trimming the hooves and doing all this myself. It is more work but so satisfying. If their hoof is unbalanced or I fail I have no safety net – no one else to blame. But I learned to trim as a kid, was married to a farrier and I’m not saying I am an expert, but I know enough to get by. I love it when people ask me, “You horse’s hooves look great, who is your trimmer?” And I get to say ‘Me!” So those are all my great reasons for booting and I have to say thanks EasyCare for great products and for Team Easyboot.
Submitted by Karen Bumgarner, Team Easyboot 2012 Member