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To Shoe or not to Shoe (in Snow)?

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  • 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.

  • #2
    I have had horses in Colorado in shoes for damned near 15 years and have NEVER done anything special in the winter. Snow just doesn't stick around here long enough to worry about it, and it's usually a pretty dry snow, unlike back east.

    Continue on as normal. You won't have any problems.


    • #3
      Depends where in Co. If you are where Simkie is, you should be fine--though personally I'd be inclined to use either rim pads or popper pads to stop the snow from balling up.

      Here in the mountains of Utah, where we get serious snow, my pasture puffs go barefoot in the winter. However, the horse that actually works for his living doesn't do well with that, so I go through this choice every year--last year I did regular shoes and snowball pads all round, only to have my heart in my mouth every time he went up and down the icy driveway to his turnout.

      So this year we are trying something different. He will be barefoot behind (I think--we've started this already and he's not entirely happy with the transition) and have popper pads, and either ice nails or a dab of borium, in front. This would be the ideal, as I don't want him to have icenails or borium on his hinds as he is turned out with a group.


      • #4
        If is necessary they be shod they'll need studs, borium, or some other such traction increasing device. Steel and ice=bad combination. This is why ice skates work so well. On a horse is unnacceptable. Traction is a must. THEY GOTTA HAVE IT!!!! You can have your horseshoer drill and tap the shoes so you can add studs when you need them. Additionally, with use of any traction increasing device the horse MUST have clips.

        As for pads, yes, snow rim pads are best. Not quite sure why your horseshoer would say no to them they work great. I don't like the full pad with popper ball because stuff tends to get under it and apply pressure making the horse uncomfortable. The snow rims are best thing since sliced bread.

        Having said this I'll also say that if your snow gets deep with no ice under it barefoot is usually fine for a horse without issues needing shoes.


        • #5
          I like the rim pads for snowballs, and my farrier puts some tiny little studs in there too. My horse has front shoes only, barefoot behind. She's in New Jersey. I'm going to ask him about the studs he uses because the new barn has comfort stall mats and I don't want anything that will damage them!
          She wasn't running away with me, I just couldn't stop her!


          • #6
            Snow rim pads. I have to keep 4 shoes on my horse year round. We have to use the rim pads to prevent snowballing. they work.


            • #7
              Where do you live? Unless you're up in the mountains, I would not worry about it. I've kept horses shod year-round. I'm on the Palmer Divide, so if we get a deep snow it sticks around longer than it will in lower Front Range elevations.

              Any type of pad will help prevent snowballs. I'm getting rim pads on the fronts on the one horse that will keep shoes over the winter and pulling his hinds to give him more traction. I would not do borium around here. The ground is dry most of the time. If you must have studs, get the shoes drilled as JH advises so you can put them on only when you need them. But you probably won't be needing them.

              It's really hard to think about snow right now - forecast is 72 degrees today. I had to body clip my furry one for the second time this season just so I could ride him without causing a heat stroke!


              • #8
                I grew up in Colorado Springs and on occasion we did have problems with the snow balling up in the shoes but we just put vaseline on them and no problems after that.

                I keep shoes on my two geldings all winter and don't have any trouble here in Washington when it snows either. I wouldn't worry about it.
                RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
                May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
                RIP San Lena Peppy
                May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010


                • #9
                  Farrier books used to recommend giving hooves a break from shoes at least in the winter. Why don't you just give it a try?

                  Problems with hooves, such as underrun heels and frequent abscessing, usually have an underlying cause. Often the cause is a diet too high in sugars and starches, just enough to negatively affect hoof health. The shoes in such cases really only become band -aids, holding an unhealthy hoof together and taking some of the sensation away, making the horse appear to be sound, when deep down it really isn't. A horse is only truly sound if it is also sound without shoes on.


                  • #10
                    If you have ice, you'll need borium on the shoes. Be careful though with borium on hind shoes: if the horse kicks another horse the borium could easily rip a very nasty gash.

                    I'd be concerned about the fact that they're growing underrun heels. I doubt that it has anything to do with the climate being drier. It has to do with the farrier and the trim underneath the shoes.

                    Get a new farrier.
                    "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BornToRide View Post
                      Farrier books used to recommend giving hooves a break from shoes at least in the winter. Why don't you just give it a try?

                      Problems with hooves, such as underrun heels and frequent abscessing, usually have an underlying cause. Often the cause is a diet too high in sugars and starches, just enough to negatively affect hoof health. The shoes in such cases really only become band -aids, holding an unhealthy hoof together and taking some of the sensation away, making the horse appear to be sound, when deep down it really isn't. A horse is only truly sound if it is also sound without shoes on.
                      Just what in the world did any of that have to do with the OPs question? The question was about winter shoeing for snowy and icy conditions. You answered nothing about that. The OP also said the animal has issues requiring shoes. That eliminates the barefoot option. Try to put forth some real knowledge as opposed to propaganda.

                      Originally posted by Posting Trot View Post
                      If you have ice, you'll need borium on the shoes. Be careful though with borium on hind shoes: if the horse kicks another horse the borium could easily rip a very nasty gash.

                      I'd be concerned about the fact that they're growing underrun heels. I doubt that it has anything to do with the climate being drier. It has to do with the farrier and the trim underneath the shoes.

                      Get a new farrier.
                      And what makes you say this? How do you know the guy working on the horse isn't improving the situation with the work he's doing?


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you for the suggestion. Both of these horses are on a balanced, healthy diet that they've done great on for years. Normally I do pull shoes in the winter (they were barefoot last winter) but since we've got issues going on this year, that may not be an appropriate possibility. Rather than blaming the feed, I (and my vet) think it has more to do with a extreme change in climate...we're used to mud, not dryness!

                        Thanks for the information on borium-- since they are on group turnout, I will definitely keep that in mind. I agree with you that underrun heels seem to be caused by conformation and/or trimming but since the current farrier has only worked on these horses once and was adament in wanting to better support the heels, I'd don't think it is fair to blame him. I would suspect past mediocre trimming, harder ground, drier climate and less hoof growth than normal are probably more to blame.

                        I'm in Fort Collins. I had both horses in Denver last winter and didn't have an issue with snowballs but they were barefoot and lived in box stalls overnight (turned out in the snow during the day). Since they'll be out all winter this year and most likely with front shoes (with a beautiful, matted lean-to that they rarely use), I'm trying to make sure I've got all my ducks in a row.

                        Thank you to everyone else for all the ideas and suggestions! I will talk to the farrier about them when he comes out next week!


                        • #13
                          Who's your shoer? I'd honestly be surprised if most guys in this area even carry snow pads. I've never known anyone in Fort Collins to change shoeing for winter


                          • #14
                            I don't know about CO snow vs. our snow---but here's what most people who work their horses through the winter do in our area. Pull the hind shoes and put shoes with snow pads, and small studs for traction on the fronts. I've never had horses that could go completely barefoot because once the ground gets frozen here (when there isn't snow on the ground) it can really be hard on their feet.


                            • #15
                              I live in the mountains of Colorado. So we get snow. Both my boys are shod with pads in front year round, so I don't worry about putting pop out pads or rim pads on, although those are both options.
                              Both my horses are drilled and tapped and wear a small stud for the duration of the winter.
                              Regular pads should be fine, but you might want to add a rim pad on the horse with aluminums.
                              "Half the failures in life result from pulling in one's horse when it is leaping."



                              • #16
                                I haven't had shoes on any of my guys in years, but my farrier recommends snowball pads on all of the boarders that have shoes. They basically have a reverse plunger action and when the horse pulls his foot out of the snow and takes the pressure off of the pad, the pad pops the snowball out. They seem to work very well for our boarders. I'd start there. Hopefully a cycle with the pads on your mare has helped her sole to thicken a little. If you moved from a wet, muddy climate, the mud probably abraded her sole and it should thicken. Luckily snow won't do the same so she shouldn't have any loss of sole with the snowball pads.
                                If you don't want to do the snowball pads, perhaps you could ask someone at the barn to just pick your horses' feets the day or two you aren't there to do it yourself. I'm sure someone wouldnn't mind, for the good of the horses.
                                Good luck!
                                'To do something common, uncommonly well, brings success' -HJH
                                'Shealinator'- My Saratoga/ Finger Lakes Finest


                                • #17
                                  My preferred option is to pull the shoes in late fall. If I have a horse that simply can't do without them (haven't had one yet!) my second choice would be shoes in front with those "popper" pads, barefoot behind. Third choice would be those rim pads--have never, in my observations, been too impressed with them.
                                  Click here before you buy.


                                  • #18
                                    We get snow and ice here in MI, do shoe the working horses over winter. From our experience,

                                    1. Borium does not grip well enough to hold on ice or lumpy ground, icy pavement. Borium is the finer texture of carbide crystals set on a shoe.

                                    2. We use ice studs, driven in, on the shoes. Studs on both front and hind shoes. They give a grip, on all surfaces of ice, snow, rough ground, pavement. I could ride my horse across a frozen pond at some speed, never loose footing with these on the hooves. Slightly larger than drive-in pin studs we use for summer work. Reusable for next set of shoes in most cases. Nothing like the old-time ice caulks of farm or logging horses, standing the animal up in the air.

                                    3. We use the snow tube rim pads for the winter shoes. Tube flexes each step horse makes, breaking any collected snow or ice in hoof come loose. Does not allow snow build up to happen with metal shoes. Much nicer than the bubble snow pads because hoof sole is open for checking, visible, no possible build up underneath that we got with the bubble pads. We usually get two shoeings with a set of snow rim pads. Have the farrier order them from supplier for you, not a huge cost. Would not use the bubble pads again, snow rim pads are progress and worth having. Plain hoof pads will ball up on horse. None of the home remedies I have tried, those mentioned above, work for very long before the snowballs are back. Even our barefoot horses can get snowballs, which I have to whack out with a snowball hammer so they can move in damp snow. Trust me on this, snowballs, buildup in hoof, are a REAL PITA to deal with daily. Might be worse here with humid air, wet snow. Much dryer snow in the western states. You western folks have the people who snow ski in swimwear. They would just never EVEN consider doing that here, the cold is piercing!

                                    4. I would leave the horses winter shod, from the issues described and farrier's advice.

                                    Horses shod with ice studs and snow rim pads are the "Foxhunt Package" requested at the local Waterloo Hunt Club. Those folks go out on all scheduled days. Snow, frozen ground, patchy surfaces get ridden on at speed. Only sheet ice stops them from riding because it cuts up the hounds. They run, jump, run some more and the horses keep the shiny side up, stud side down so everyone is happy when out playing. Have all the grip they need. None ride in borium smears or borium caulks now, that I know of, horses were falling.