The sole is covered with Hoof boots, and they can be a pain to put on and take off then clean them for the next time. Where Shoes just stay on (well they should). It's a personal preference. Do you want your horse BF most of the time in the pasture?
The renegade boots are supposed to be very easy to put on. Horse is OTTB and may need to always have something on her feet at least in front. Most recent saga was that she was shod all around a few weeks prior to trip to Sierras (rough trail). Lost one hind shoe prior to trip (no time for farrier to replace). Used boot on shoeless hoof. Another shoe came loose on the granite trails and I had to remove it. Put another boot on that one. A few days after we got back, another front shoe was loose (farrier could not make it out for several days)- I pulled that one and rode her with a boot on that foot and bare behind (not so rocky on the local trails). She just got shod on all four but I am wondering if boots would offer just as much protection without the hassle of dealing with loose shoes in the boon docks. She lives in the pasture 24/7.
As Nezzy pointed out, hoof boots protect the sole and frog, whereas shoes generally don't... although you can get pads if you use shoes.
Shoes won't rub pasterns and heel bulbs. But not everyone has problems with hoof boots doing that and usually you can find a brand or a solution that prevents it from happening.
A lost boot on the trail (assuming you can find it) is MUCH easier to deal with than a lost shoe.
You wouldn't use boots 24/7, so you also have to evaluate whether your horse needs protection in her pasture/run-in/paddock/etc. What is the purpose of the protection (i.e., sensitive soles/frogs, chipping/cracking hoof walls...)? And how often does she need the protection?
Will she generally keep shoes on? It sounds like you had a really rough time in the Sierras, but I take it that's not your normal situation. I bet that was a fun ride though!
Normally she keeps shoes on- this last time was a weird situation. It did highlight that you are in a bad situation if you have shoes and one comes loose on the trail- the one that got loose was on by two nails and I had to remove it with no tools (not so fun- but her hoof is OK and she was not lame). I think she really only needs hoof protection when she is being ridden. One reason for my question is that I think I would prefer to get her into boots but wonder if they would be equivalent to shoes when it comes to protecting her feet. IF I can learn to competently trim her feet myself (will seek appropriate training of course), it would also be more economical in the long run to keep her barefoot and in boots.
Hoof boots protect the entire hoof. Even with shoes on the horse is not safe from stone bruises or other injuries. IMHO hoofboots provide superior protection on the trail, provided of course, that they are properly fitted to your horse. Nail on shoes, while they lack the complete sole protection that hoofboots provide, stay on 24/7 while hoof boots are only used while riding.
I've used boots for four years now and all my horses are barefoot. I've never lost a boot or had one come off on the trail. I've been through deep, deep sucking mud, creeks, rocks, up and down inclines and have never had a problem with rubs or lost boots. Proper fit is the key.
"My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."
Agree with the others mostly. I love hoof boots on the trail because the entire sole, heel bulbs, back of the pastern, and most of the hoof wall is protected from damage. Last year at an organized trail ride, a girl's horse landed on a broken off sappling growing out of the bottom of a stump. The stick went through the frog and exited the back of the heel bulb near the coronary band. He had 4 shoes on. Unless they have pads also, the sole is not protected at all. I use boots preventively, even if the horse has great hard feet and doesn't need protection from rocks. Anything can happen and when you're trotting and cantering down trails covered in leaf litter, you just don't know what's under there. My friend's horse got her feet in barbed wire and if she didn't have the Old Mac's on, her coronary bands and heel bulbs would have been cut up. As it was, the boots took the punishment and the horse was unharmed. We're ridden that trail many times and had never seen any barbed wire there before.
And as for the rest of your question, shoes/boots really depends on the nature of the problem you are trying to prevent or fix, the horse, the individual sitaution, and so forth. Every case is different.
My mare has been barefoot most of her life. She's 9 years old, and has only worn shoes on two occasions for one or two shoeing cycles. I had her shod because we were foxhunting, which requires us to move at speed on all kinds of unpredictable terrain. The first time, she had pour in pads (Equipak CS), the second time no pads at all. I definitely noticed the difference in the level of comfort and protection when she had the pads vs the straight shoes.
That being said, she doesn't need shoes for turnout or even daily riding over most types of terrain, but when it comes to the rocks on our New England trails, she has to have something on her feet or we'll be picking our way at a slow walk.
As an owner, I prefer the flexibility of keeping her barefoot and only applying the hoof protection when it is needed. I do my own trimming (and have since 1999) so it's a great feeling to know that I am self sufficient in my horses hoof care.
I have tried the Easyboots, but my mare is a big moving horse, and no matter how well they fit, or how tightly they are applied, the will come off at one point or another.
My latest trial is with a set of Cavallo simple boots. They fit her very well, have not rubbed, do not spin and cannot come off. I'm very excited to think that these boots might be more reliable than the others.
My options for boots are limited because the mare's hooves are 6" wide and 6" long. Not only are they round, but they are big!
If I had a horse that needed 24/7 protection, I'd probably have a farrier out to shoe, but with a horse that only needs protection for riding, or only for riding on rough terrain, then I'd definitely keep them barefoot and boot to ride.
Keeping your horse in the natural barefoot state is the healthier alternative to metal shoes. If you are needing additional hoof protection when you ride I would recommend the Cavallo hoof boots. They have 2 types of boots now, the Simple boot which will fit a rounder hoof and the Sport boot which feets those hooves that are narrower than they are long. I have used both types of Cavallo boots on my horses and we LOVE THEM. Of all the boots I have tried they are the easiest to use, the most durable and have never come off or rubbed my horses. The information for measuring and fitting is on their website http://www.cavallo-inc.com/us/Simple-Hoof-Boots
Is your horse in pasture and you do only trail riding? If so, I would go for boots over shoes. I had my mare barefoot for three years but now that she is in training for eventing, and no longer in pasture, I have to protect her feet with shoes.
I'm not pro or anti barefoot, I just see no reason for shoes if your horse doesn't absolutely need them.
I would agree with the majority of the posts I read. If your mare only needs boots for trail riding over rougher ground, and is just fine barefoot in the pasture or the arena, then by all means do boots. Losing a shoe in the middle of nowhere certainly does suck, especially if the horse isn't sound without them on that terrain.
Just thinking I would rather put the boots on the horse at the start of the ride than carry the boots with me just in case a shoe comes off.
I do have my 2nd level mare shod, so not an anti-shoe person. I just prefer to do what's easiest and still lets the horse stay comfortable. For this case, it sounds like boots might be your best bet.
I'm kind of contemplating this question myself. My guy has very, very thin soles that he abcessed out of and was hardly moving at all when barefoot. Got regular steel shoes on and he moves at will and even trots up sound on grass. Buuuut, after the second shoeing cycle and putting him on a vit/min and SmartHoof Ultra his feet are growing at warp speed (which is good to grow out the laminitic parts) and now his toes are taking off and taking his heels forward with them. Normally I'd just stay on top of something like this myself by keeping the toes backed up and the heels in place, but I can't with shoes. But if I take the shoes off I'm scared to death he's going to be so lame he won't move again. Are there simple boots that would stay on in a grass paddock and just protect the sole? I remember something a long time ago about hoof socks or some such called thing that were like that... Anybody? My farrier is gonna think I'm nuts, but an underrun hoof isn't much better than a sore hoof if you ask me...
I switched from shoes to barefoot for my OTTB this summer and so far I'm delighted. He has basically pretty good feet to begin with (was never shod behind, just plain shoes up front, and I have him on Omega Horseshine which supposedly is good for hooves as well), and since he started throwing shoes left and right with this spring's wet weather and being out on grass 24/7, I said "to heck with it" and had the shoes pulled. At the same time, I bought a pair of Cavallo Simple Boots for riding, expecting that it would take him a few months to toughen up enough to withstand being barefoot over average terrain.
Well, within a month of going barefoot, he got a matching pair of low pastern scrapes from messing with his pasture fence wire, and the scrapes sit right under where the boots cover, so we had to stop using boots while we wait for his ouchies to heal (since the boots rubbed at the scabs pretty badly).
Luckily, the farm where I board isn't very rocky and there are nice grassy areas for us to ride, so he's been 100% barefoot for about a month now, and he's going pretty well. I avoid riding him on gravelly areas as much as possible, but we're W/T/C and jumping on grass, plus going on non-rocky trail rides, and he's been just fine.
With that being said, I love the flexibility of having boots available for when I know we'll need them (maybe 2 or 3 hours a couple of times a month if we ride someplace rocky), but that he's got happy healthy barefoot hoofies for the other 23+ hours a day he gets to just be a horse. Honestly, I don't do enough riding over harsh terrain to make 24/7 shoes worthwhile, and I REALLY love saving $50 every time the farrier pays him a visit. It's a WIN-WIN all around.
*friend of bar.ka
"Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"
I am choosing to keep my horse barefoot at the moment. We currently are training for distance riding, and for long trail rides in rocky areas, I put on his Renegades and down the trail we go!
I have moved at speed, over rocks, water, mucky footing, etc, and the worse that has happened is the velcro came out of the keeper. He trots happily over anything, has decent traction, and doesn't have any sore spots or rubs from the boots.
It takes me about 1 minute to put his boots on, less to get them off.
Whew, I sound like someone who has a vested interest in these boots. Maybe I should call the company and see if they can pay me for my endorsement!