Do you pull shoes for the winter?

Barefoot in the snow
Freedom’s shoes were pulled a week ago. Just in time for our first snow storm!

We had our first big snow storm of the winter this weekend and I was so glad that I’d pulled the horses’ shoes already. No hassle about having the “wrong” shoes on and dealing with snow-packed hooves or slippery conditions. I saw a friend last week who was fretting over the fact that her farrier was coming after the storm, and I thought about how uncomfortable a horse can be with large snowballs accumulating in their shoes.

Long time readers know that I had Freedom barefoot for a couple of years. The past two I’ve put shoes on for hunting, because they protected his feet better for hunting. But I pulled them as soon as the season ended and the weather (and ground) cooperated.

This year, my farrier came right after a good thaw and a rainstorm that left the ground soupy after a week of very cold temperatures and rock hard footing. What a relief! There was no way I was pulling Freedom’s shoes and subjecting him to hard ground. Zelda only had front shoes on, but even then I wanted to make the transition as easy as possible. Plus, I don’t have any hoof boots in her size (huge).

Luckily, we had a week of warmer weather and both of the horses have transitioned well. Freedom was a bit tender footed, but nothing terrible. And now we have about seven inches of snow to cushion his feet.

When I was a kid it was pretty common to pull shoes for the winter. We didn’t ride as much and the winter months were seen as a time to let the hooves recover. I do like to see the nail holes grow out and as long as a horse is comfortable, I think that you end up with healthier feet overall.

I always had a love-hate relationship with Borium — yes, it’s great to have traction on ice, but no, it’s not great to have additional torque on the ligaments and tendons. I don’t ride when it’s really icy, and maybe borium would be better than barefoot for those times, but maybe nothing really keeps you safe.

The other great benefit? Barefoot is oh, so much kinder to my wallet.

How about you? If you live in a part of the country with snow, do you  go for winter shoes? Do you pull them for the winter? Or is your horse always barefoot?

4 thoughts on “Do you pull shoes for the winter?

  1. My mare was barefoot almost her whole life until last year when she injured two ligaments and the vet recommended front shoes, at least for a year until she is fully healed. The snow is making me want to pull them more than ever! Hope your critters’ feet grow nicely this winter.

  2. We reluctantly put shoes on in the summer and happily pull them in the winter. Our horse have always done well. This way we can ride in the snow–and we avoid ice. We still ride in the indoor arena when we can’t get out or if it is way too cold.

  3. I pulled shoes for the first time. We don’t get snow at our elevation. We do get ice and ground freeze, but it usually thaws enough. We have two shoe seasons: deep mud and hard ground, with very little in between. I was worried Hudson would have extra drag from the shoes and twist his bad knee trying to unsuck his shod hoof from the mud. Good decision for us, though our mud season hasn’t hit yet. He’s fairly ouchy on the frozen ground…but that’s a loooong way from re injuring a leg!

  4. I keep shoes year-round. The winter is so short here and there is no snow, that there are only a few months of real downtime so it has never seemed like enough time to let his hooves fully recharge.

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