Horse Shoe Alternatives
 By Winniefield Park   •   18th Sep 2016   •   1,711 views   •   0 comments
There is a lot of controversy about whether horses should wear shoes. Like many of you, I think there is a time and place for them, and that many horses who wear shoes probably donít need to. Iíve seen horses that have worn shoes their whole lives that have been problem-free and sound. Iíve seen horses go from unsound to sound through the use of proper shoeing. Iíve seen trim jobs that have lamed a horse for weeks. I've seen messes caused by shoeing. Should your horse wear shoes. I think the answer is... maybe.

Now, my girl has been a lady of leisure this summer. A busy schedule and horrifically hot weather have cut my riding time. I have no particular goals in mind right now, so sweating it out under a helmet hasnít been appealing. But, with summer fading, and nice cool mornings and evenings to look forward to, Iím feeling more motivated and even thinking about what I can do next summer - like trying out some training level dressage tests. For us, showing means that we leave the sandy soil of home to encounter goodness knows what. You donít always find the best footing at small shows and I know my horse goes better in shoes.

But it almost seems silly, not to mention expensive, for a horse to wear shoes 24X7 just in case you encounter pebbly ground for a few hours somewhere else. Would some sort of other hoof protection be suitable for us?

Glue on shoes cut down on the damage done to a hoof by nails. But since nail holes arenít really my concern, and they are more pricey than metal shoes, theyíre not a consideration for me. A few years ago, I was sent a trial pack of a product called Hoof Armor. This is supposed by like a paint-on shoe. The liquid is spread on the hoof to protect it from wear. Back when I tried it, it had to be sealed on with a heat gun.

There was no way I was going to take a heat gun to the bottom of my horseís foot, so we tried sealing it with a hairdryer - a recommendation by the manufacturer. Now, youíre probably thinking that a farrier applies really hot shoes to a horse's hoof, so hot they produce stinky smoke. But a heat gun doesnít focus the blast of heat to the narrow band of insensitive hoof wall material. It would hit the mores sensitive sole too. Within a few hours of application, the liquid wore off like cheap dollar store nail polish. Maybe their new and improved product works better. But, I wouldnít try it just before a trail ride over rough ground where you need to absolutely depend on foolproof hoof protection. This stuff just didn't work for me.

It wasnít that long ago that Easy Boots were the only game in town. These are still widely used. They are durable, and dependable. Theyíre also really hard to put on! If you have wimpy fingers like mine, you might not like the ratchet closure system. I know how I struggle to close my ski boots with the same type of closure, so forget it! They do have a new style boot that looks much easier to use. They are advertized as not requiring any strength to open and close, utilizing wide bands of Velcro brand hook and loop fastener to apply.

Many hoof boots use a hook and loop fastener system. There are different qualities of hook and loop fastener. Some are pretty frail, and other types can be very difficult to unfasten once theyíve meshed. Cavallo boots are made with a hook and loop fastener, as are Old Macs which seem to be popular with the endurance riding crowd. My biggest worry would be for a boot to come undone mid-test or even when Iím riding at home and having my horse freak out because a monster is now attached to her leg.

A brand new, not quite on the market hoof protection system I recently noticed is called the Megasus. These boots, or rather horse running shoes, claim to click in place. A band of heavy duty hook and loop type fastener adheres to the hoof. Then, clips that run around the outside of the hoof attach into the fasteners. The very flexible design of the Megasus shoes allows for adjusting and replacing them very easily. When the horse is not actually wearing the shoe, the fastener stays adhered to the hoof wall. Right now, Megasus is in development and will be part of a Kickstarter campaign.

There are so many choices and so many new improvements. Hoof boots and other protection have taken advantage of new technology and knowledge. Clearly, I have a lot of research to do.
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