To Shoe or not to Shoe (in Snow)?
Looking for some collective COTH wisdom-- What is the best plan for shoes in the winter? I've got two horses and we've moved to Colorado relatively recently from the rainy west coast. It hasn't started to snow yet but I've got the farrier coming in a couple of weeks and I'm not sure if I should have the shoes pulled or not.
Both horses live in a large paddock (approx 45' by 70') with a run-in shed, slight incline for drainage, coarse sand footing. They get turnout except in inclement weather (wet or actively snowing) in an 8 acre pasture with other horses. They've been mostly just hanging out this fall since I've been busy with school and, while I might hack around a bit in the snow, anything more intense than light hacking would mostly likely be in the indoor arena.
Currently, both horses are wearing front shoes. The gelding is in aluminum fronts with a slight wedge (1 or 2 degrees). The mare is in aluminum bar shoes with pads with a slight wedge (2 degrees). Both horses have been having problems with hoof growth since they moved to a dryer climate and had begun to develop underrun heels (hence the wedges).
The mare had also gotten pretty footsore from having an abcess drained and a lot of sole dug out in the process. She's been wearing pads since mid-summer because she literally had no sole. I've only recently started using this particular farrier (he has shod them once) and the wedges, aluminum shoes and bar shoes on the mare are all new. The farrier in question is a journeyman farrier who was recommended by my previous farrier when I moved.
So, now that I've practically written a novel, can anyone tell me what you do in the winter? Best case scenario, what you do with horses with remedial feet, etc? I've always pulled my horses shoes and let them go barefoot in the winter but I am not sure if that will be possible with the mare needing pads. Also, the farrier has been working on correcting the heels on both of them and doesn't really seem to want to pull the shoes (doesn't think that will help). Farrier also didn't think snow pads were much help.
I can only get out there about 6 days per week and am concerned that if I keep the shoes on, they will be standing around with snow balls in their shoes 23 hours per day, perhaps affecting tendons and soundness, not to mention whether the shoes will cause slippage on the snow? Is this a realistic fear? They are both pretty active horses and will gallop around in turnout. The barn help is great but not interested in picking hooves multiple times per day.
Any thoughts from experienced arctic horse folk would be welcome! I have very little snow experience with horses and would appreciate any input.