As barefoot horses become more active in warmer months, it is important to consider the impact of different terrains on a horse’s hooves. With the summer season here, horses are out on the trail more, and it’s crucial to be cautious of their soles and hooves in order to maintain good overall hoof health. To do this, there are a couple of options.
The Benefits of Boots for Barefoot Horses
A rough, rocky trail can be a major change for horses compared to the softer terrain in a stall. To avoid soreness or discomfort on rough ground surfaces, unshod horses may need extra protection in order to keep them riding comfortably all summer long. Slip-on or glue-on boots provide barefoot horses with the added protection that they need to keep their feet comfortable and protected.
Horse owners can choose which kind of boot to use depending on the duration of their ride. For a short day-long trail ride, slip-on boots are easy to apply and remove, and they yield the necessary support to get horses through the day comfortably. For longer durations, such as weeks, glue-on boots provide hooves with lasting protection during frequent contact with dry, abrasive ground surfaces. Horse owners can apply slip-on and glue-on boots to help protect the soles or avoid hoof wall chipping while riding on rough terrain.
Pour-in Pad Protection for Barefoot Horses
An example of a pour-in pad for barefoot horses.
If boots are too costly, a horse is uncomfortable in boots or if horse owners prefer alternative methods, pour-in pad materials also offer added protection. When the soles are filled with pour-in pad materials, they have a better chance of retaining thickness and also act as a “fake sole” for the horse, which prevent abrasive ground surfaces from wearing down a horse’s actual sole.
For thin-soled and barefoot horses, a long-lasting, durable pour-in pad material, preferably one that lasts up to three weeks, will help to increase sole depth and add protection on the trail, while a fast- and hard- setting urethane product is ideal for creating custom shoes directly on the foot when nailing is not an option. This type of fast-setting product can be applied to help provide more support and acts as a “temporary shoe.” Both longer-lasting and fast-setting products allow hoof care professionals to make hoof repairs quickly and easily.
With different options available to protect barefoot horses, hoof care method preferences vary among horse owners. Horse owners who prefer to protect the internal hoof cavity, similar to protecting the nailbed of a human, can use the longer-lasting and durable pour-in pad materials. For horse owners that are more concerned about chipping the hoof wall, similar to breaking a fingernail on a human, the fast-setting urethane product acts as a glue-on shoe. Both products can be removed immediately after rides or can wear off the hoof naturally.
A fast-setting urethane product serving as a glue-on shoe.
Horses that are susceptible or have laminitis, founder or thrush can also benefit from pour-in pad materials. The materials support the boney column of the hoof and position the weight-bearing load over the entire ground surface as opposed to just the hoof wall, reducing the “pull” on the lamina and resulting in a faster recovery. Some are also fast-setting, soft pad materials that are infused with copper sulfate to manage moderate to mild cases of thrush. These products provide extra protection and support, and bond to the soles to protect them from abrasion so that they can continue to grow.
Although barefoot horses need extra attention in the summer, it is important for horses to be on a regular trimming schedule year-round in order to maintain optimal hoof health. Ongoing maintenance on horses’ hooves is vital to their comfort and wellbeing.
Talk with your farrier or veterinarian about your barefoot horse’s needs, and how pour-in pad materials can be a helpful tool to maintain healthy hooves throughout the season.
About the Author
Tab Pigg is the Central Regional Sales Manager for Vettec, and oversees states ranging from Canada to Mexico, between the Rockies and the Mississippi River. He travels frequently educating dealers and farriers at hands-on workshops and represents Vettec at tradeshow events. Tab assisted Vettec for three years leading clinics and helping with regional work before joining the company full-time in 2003.
Tab was raised around horses and became genuinely interested in the equine industry in 1982. With the skills he learned through hands-on experience and multiple apprenticeships, Tab started a shoeing practice of his own in 1984. In 1992, Tab successfully took the Certified Journeyman Farrier exam and has been practicing as a farrier ever since. Tab has presented at the International Hoof Care Summit several times, and served as the Marketing Chairman on the Farrier Industry Association (FIA) board of directors for two years. Tab is a spokesperson for Vettec and is published in many equine industry publications.
Outside of work, Tab enjoys fishing and golfing, although the rain and heat in Texas keep him busy mowing his lawn. Tab also enjoys visiting his father nearby to help on their family farm.