Ahhhh, nothing like the wicked winter to wreak havoc on your favorite equine partner. I brought my beloved mare out to ride the other day with a good friend on a pretty afternoon, only to find her just not right. After beating the emotional “upset” out of my mind, I was able to think logically. Winter is horrible for our barefoot horses, and in my case. I was able to identify the cause of my mare’s misery. She was just darn footsore. Three potential causes come to mind, and the first was the nasty, hard, frozen ground.

27 degrees is NOT a fun number!
Our poor horses have been subjected to over four weeks of solid freezing temperatures. While they aren’t cold in temperature, and are knee-deep in good quality hay, the footing is less than desired as this time. My poor girl has been obviously sore for the past week or so. She was mildly stocked up in all four legs the other day and all of the horses have been gingerly making their way to and from the water to the feed tubs. You see, the mud we had for a few weeks has turned to frozen mounds of treacherous footing. The muddy footsteps that once were have made their way into ankle twisting and foot bruising obstacle courses. Unfortunate to be naked and not crusted with a forgiving layer of snow, I glare at it. For once, I beg for mud!!! What? At least it’s soft…

I started wondering how many of people are faced with the same problem? How many people are watching their horses carefully walk through pastures filled with frozen potholes, and what are you doing about it? For me, well I am waiting for the end of the week. We are finally supposed to be getting a break. Temperatures in the upper 30’s will allow the footing to thaw, and give the horses relief from the rock-hard terrain.


This horse is lucky enough to have a layer of snow over the frozen earth. Our pastures are much different than this- footsteps of yesterday’s treks through the mud are now frozen into hundreds of ruts and holes. I won’t ever complain about mud again!!

Frozen ground in the horses’ everyday living environment has to be one of the most common causes of winter footsore ponies than anything else. I know the calls to the equine hospital for similar findings have been plentiful. If it wasn’t supposed to thaw this week, I would be gluing four boots onto my mare at the blink of an eye to offer relief. What will you do to help your footsore pony? Many people turn a blind eye, as I admit to as well. If it were a perfect world, we would have truckloads of pea gravel in to offer them relief, but, it is just not in the cards for us. We have to instead rely on other methods, and I will never be caught without boots in the dead of winter EVER again. They surely would have provided comfort in the midst of serious discomfort.

How have you managed your barefoot horses this winter? Part two to come is talking about the lack of growth in the winter and ways to help with that.

~Amanda Washington
SW Idaho