Does your horse run barefoot or does it wear horseshoes? Many horses have horseshoes because they otherwise have problems with the hoof abrasion or with the stony ground when riding. Otherwise, they would be fine barefoot. If your horse actually has good hooves and only needs his shoeing because of your joint rides, then hoof boots can be a real alternative.
Fogging: Yes or No?
A healthy horse with good, i.e. healthy hooves can usually get along without hoof protection in everyday life. The hoof adapts ideally to the respective ground thanks to the hoof mechanism. By using the horse on different soils, the abrasion of the hooves can be so strong that the horse needs protection. In addition, there are of course horses whose sole is simply more sensitive, despite being optimally processed, so that they need hoof protection for riding.
What Fittings are There?
The iron shoe has many advantages: It can be worked well, adapted to the hoof, and is long-lasting. But the iron fitting is also rigid and offers no shock absorption, and horses shod with iron pose an increased risk of injury.
In racing, aluminum fittings have established themselves as an alternative, mainly because of their lighter weight. However, aluminum fittings are more difficult to work with and have the same disadvantages as iron fittings.
There are also fittings made of plastic or plastic-metal composite. The latter is more durable than pure plastic fittings and deform less during use. Both the plastic and the composite fittings offer good shock absorption, are light and relatively durable. But the customization options for them are limited and at least a pure plastic shoe is not ideal for wide and soft hooves and poor horn quality.
Hoof Boots and Adhesive Shoeing
In addition, the following applies to all fittings: They are fixed with nails and permanently. So you stay on the hoof even when the horse is not being ridden. But this is often not necessary at all, which is why temporary, i.e. temporary alternatives for hoof protection for horses with unproblematic hooves can be considered. These can be hoof boots or adhesive shoes such as glued hoof boots. You can get advice from your hoof trimmer on the subject of adhesive protection, but these fittings are relatively laborious to attach and then stay on the horse for a few days or weeks. Hoof boots that you can attach yourself are really only used for riding.
Which Hoof Boots?
Hoof boots are now available for different hoof shapes and they can be easily adapted. Unfortunately, hoof boots are usually not suitable for horses that need special fittings or orthopedic fittings and who cannot cope with barefoot for a long time. When choosing hoof boots, you should make sure that you can get on well with the boot. A shoe that fits well, but whose buckles are too “fiddly” for you, will not make you happy in the long run. There are shoes that are buckled open and closed, and others that enclose the hoof so tightly that they do not need buckles. Of course, a little more strength or skill will be required to put them on and take them off. If you like to ride through muddy terrain for a long time, shoes with a Velcro fastener may not be so suitable. If you often ride over damp meadow paths, you have to pay attention to non-slip soles. Some models are attached to the horse’s leg with a kind of gaiter, which not every horse likes and still others are sensitive to the pressure of the shoe on the crown edge. If in doubt, your hoof trimmer, who knows you and your horse, will of course advise you.
Adaptation and Habituation
There is a large selection of shoes and if you don’t happen to be able to try a pair of used shoes, I recommend having the hoof boots fitted by an expert. Numerous hoof trimmers now also offer advice on hoof boots. Once you have found a model, you should first try the shoes carefully on the riding arena and, if possible, on the lunge. This has the advantage that you can watch your horse and the shoes do not fly off somewhere in the area where they cannot be found again. In addition, if your horse loses it, the shoe can still get stuck on the hoof or leg – not every horse thinks this is great and may even acknowledge it with a startled hop. So slowly get your horse used to the new shoes and give him time to get used to the changed sequence of movements. This also helps to avoid chafing. If the shoes really fit in all gaits, then you can of course ride them for hours after getting used to it!