I can't decide if I should ride my Icelandic barefoot or use boots (Easyboots). I've had him almost three months and so far he's been fine on the trails, we have to cross a railroad track and he's not refusing (lots of small rocks), and he's not drifting to the side of the trails where the dirt is soft. The farrier said his feet are good, and to continue barefoot and see how he does, if I start using boots his feet will soften and I will have to continue with the boots. My only concern is that he has slipped a couple of times on pavement. He's very spooky and I don't want him to have a huge spoke on the street then fall over because he lost his footing.
So, do boots have better traction? Our trails are mostly hills and exposed rock. I know the boots protect the foot, but they have their own problems such as coming off and rubbing.
I've had mixed suggestions from friends. Any thoughts?
My experience is, barefoot provides better traction than boots and boots designed for trails provides better traction than shoes. I have ridden my horses barefoot on some rather uncertain footing and while other horses were sliding around, mine put one foot down after the other, never had a problem.
Put boots on if you think he will get sore; otherwise, just keep barefooted.
Their feet get used to the terrain that they're most often on. So, if your horse is normally on rather soft soil/grass, it's entirely possible that he will do fine on similar terrain on the trail, fine on pavement, but be a little ouchy on gravel/stone.
If you only come up against gravel/stone when trying to cross RR tracks for example, then I'd just let him approach that gingerly and call it good. If he's fine otherwise, I don't think there's a big need for boots.
But if most of the terrain you ride on seems to make him walk gingerly, then I would consider the boots.
Based on what you've said thus far, I think he's fine barefoot. But only you, your horse and your farrier can make that decision. If he's not getting bruises and isn't acting sore most of the time, I wouldn't mess with a good thing.
As for the slipping on pavement...any horse can slip on pavement if they're screwing around, even more so with shoes on or in wet conditions. I try to avoid riding on pavement and stick to the shoulder but when crossing a paved road, I try to make sure we're doing so unhurried.
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.