Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Barefoot Horse: Hoofwall Update and "Boot Club"

Doesn't Harley look tall in this picture?

I am happy to report that the hoof wall separation created by reducing the hoof wall bevel (a technique which I have now rejected) is growing out nicely.  I trimmed his front feet at exactly two weeks, so that there was not an opportunity for his hoof wall to reach the ground.  I also trimmed his bars, which I think look quite nice.

Left front: A small crevice at either quarter remains, but should be gone very soon.

Right front: Similar improvements are present due to new hoof wall growth.

Yes!  The separation that extended all the way into his heel is gone!  New heel had replaced the crevice, which he wore away on his own, before I even picked up the rasp.  That is a tremendous relief and it demonstrates how much hoof wall he can produce and that he does do some of the maintenance trimming himself.

Right front comparison: The same heel two weeks ago.

Fresh rolls and straight legs (Where did his hind legs go?)

Close-up #1

Close-up #2

In other hoof news, I have decided to join "Boot Club", as in hoof boots.  As the owner and hoof care provider of a barefoot horse, you may be surprised to learn that I do not own a single pair of hoof boots.  I mostly work Harley in the ring, which has a startling number of rocks amidst the sand, but I also take him out on the trail.  I have done this with him for years without a thought about hoof boots, even though there are other horses on the property that do wear them. 

Last weekend I went on a group trail ride.  It was the first big trail ride since the ticks and chiggers appeared in the woods.  I basically avoid the woods like the plague all summer, because of those nasty arachnids.  It is just about time for them to die off for the year, to I agreed to go out on a trail ride.  Two of the horses in the group were wearing hoof boots and their riders commented that there was a rocky part that bothered their horses.  As usual, I listened but did not worry about it.  Harley walks over gravel without a problem.  But then we got to the rocky part and I understood what they were talking about...

There were a lot of stones.  The water runoff from last spring or during the summer, must have washed away more of the sand uncovering the rounded river stones.  It has a been months since I have been out there, but I think there are more stones in a couple sections of the trail.  I was surprised to find that Harley was "footy" over them, meaning that he was walking carefully and gently.  He even "ducked" a few times, which feels like he stepped on something that hurt.  Needless to say this was upsetting to me.  The horses with the boots walked over the rocks like they were not there.  I was surprised that the rounded stones bothered him so much.  He walks over crushed driveway stone freely when grazing in the stable yard and those are pretty jagged rocks.  There are also tons of rounded stones in the riding ring and we walk, trot, and canter over them.  I guess the sand in the ring allows the rocks to sink away from his foot if he lands on one.  The ground beneath the stones on the trail had no give.

After our ride, I thought about it from a whole-horse perspective.  Diet is usually the culprit for footiness, but hoof conditioning is also a factor.  Since he had not been trimmed for two weeks at the time of the trail ride, I do not think it was my trim (I have never had a problem there.), but he is growing out hoof wall separation, so maybe there is something to that.  Experimenting with his diet is not a small factor, because of his hardkeeper status and boarding limitations (I cannot offer free-choice hay, for example), and I do not see myself trail riding enough to condition  his feet to stony terrain.  After thinking about it, the responsible thing seems to be to purchase hoof boots.  I only trail ride occasionally, and I do not want to risk injuring his feet, whatever the cause of his dislike for the stones may be.  I think that a nice pair of hoof boots is probably something that I should already own for him, so now is the time... join "Boot Club".  There are no rules that say I cannot talk about said club, so here we go!

A popular hoof boot for trail riding at my barn is the Easyboot Glove.  It has been recommended that I purchase pads with the boots, but I am also told that the Easyboot pads wear through too quickly.  Not sure what to do about that.

I think I am going to order a size 2.  I tried a 1.5 and a 2 on him.  I was able to squeeze the 1.5 on without pads.  The 2 fits with or without pads and just looks better to me.  I know the glove is a snug fit, but I think the smaller size looked crooked after he pushed his foot into it.  He also picked his feet up high when he walked in the 1.5.  Is it possible for the boot to be too tight?

Harley walked and trotted with long strides and without a hiccup in the 2.  I am a little worried about getting the size right, because I do not want them to come off, especially when he canters.  I plan on ordering the "power straps" just in case.  I measured his feet and I found both fronts to be 120 mm long and 115 mm wide.  I was surprised that the dimensions were so close.  His feet do not look that round to me.  Looking at the sizing chart, I am pretty sure that I did something wrong.  Ironically, I think the bevel makes measuring difficult.  Do I measure the weight-bearing surface or to the edge of the bevel?  His feet are about 125 mm long if I account for the rounded bevel, but the width doesn't really change.  Do I measure something that I rasped off and if so, how?

Boot advice welcome.


  1. Hello! I am new to the blog. I keep my Haflinger barefoot, too. I am interested in boots, as well, since I know nothing about them and my long term goal is getting my horse on the trails. I look forward to reading more :)

    1. Welcome, Allison!
      There will certainly be a boot update!

      I have a special place in my heart for Haflingers. You can read a little bit about Harry on my blog. He was a cute Haflinger.

  2. You measure after a fresh trim. With gloves, they have to be a tight fit. I measure the weight bearing surface.

    For occasional trail riding I usually recommend the easyboot trail. It is more forgiving at the end of the trim cycle, deals with pads better, doesn't need as close a fit, and is super easy to put on too. It does come up over the coronary band which makes me concerned about rubbing but as yet I haven't had a client complain about it. Some plaster bandage or Vaseline under it usually negates rubbing.

    They now do a hybrid glove/trail boot but I have no experience with it yet.

    Also, beautiful soles Harley!

    1. I will look at the trail boot and the glove hybrid. I wish you could measure Harley's feet for me. :-)

  3. There is a really good video on uTube about how to measure and fit the boots. I have the backcountry glove and really like them. I didn't get pads, just the boot which has a thick sole. Winston doesn't mind them at all and does great crossing ouchy rocks and scrambling over boulders.

    1. I will check out that video and the backcountry boots. Your tips are much appreciated!

  4. Gosh you have made a lovely job of his feet. They look really healthy. I cant say I know anything about the boot situation...I've never used them but all the best in trying them out

  5. Glad Harley's feet are back to normal!

    I got Cavallo boots for Val. They have a measuring template that worked well for us fit-wise. I also bought their little socky things for the breaking in period to avoid rubs.

    1. Neat! Those pastern wraps are new to me. Thanks for sharing. :)

  6. I think Harley's feet look great and he does look taller. Very handsome guy.

    We don't really use boots so I'm no help. Hope you sort it out.

  7. I'm no help on the boots because I've never used them, but what was causing the hoof separation? The bevel or not having the bevel? The wording has me confused I guess. It sounds like you're saying the bevel caused it, but I thought beveling prevented separation. I'm thoroughly confused (and have not had much sleep lately so possibly being totally oblivious).... :D

  8. Grey Horse Matters-Thanks! I am glad for the improvements.

    achieve1dream- Reducing the bevel to the waterline allowed the separation to occur. I saw that you read my earlier post since this comment. My experiment supports a strong bevel up to the white line to prevent separation.

  9. I love hoof boots. I have a pair for Irish as an emergency 'shoe'. He cannot go unshod because his feet break apart. I have tried a few times and it's just not worth it. But he sometimes takes off his shoes so I have a pair of 'old Macs'. They work well but are a pain to put on. I find that sand and grit work their way in so I have to be careful. I'm interested in trying another pair.

    Steele, however, is barefoot and I intend to keep him that way. So I will likely need boots for him on the trail- ours are very rocky and there's a lot of shale.Let me know what you think of the boots you get.

  10. I think my horses have more boots than I do. Because you can never have too many boots, right? ;)

    All mine are Easyboots, but I like the Easyboot Gloves best. My trimmer custom-fit a pair for Cash, by heating the toes a bit and smooshing them back (we joked he was "hot shoeing" that day). I find the Gloves to be easy to put on and get off, and have not had a problem with them rubbing, twisting, or coming off on the ~1 hour WTC trail rides I commonly use them for. I *have* had them fail spectacularly during a long gallop out foxhunting, but they're really not made for that sort of riding. I have also put them on over shoes, to reduce slipping when riding on pavement.

    If you can find an Easyboot dealer near you, I would highly recommend having someone come out and do the fitting. We ended up trying on several different pairs (wides and regulars, in two sizes) before finding the closest option, and then custom-fitting them. I've used them with and without pads, and I seem to recall the pads lasting for about 20 rides before I had to replace them. So, not too expensive. Since Harley normally has great feet, he likely doesn't need any additional padding other than what the boot itself provides.

    Good luck! Can't wait to hear how it turns out.

    1. I love details. Thank you for all the info. I will keep you posted!

  11. Oh boots :) Yes, I have two pairs and lust for others. We have the Easy boot Epics but they are NOT easy to put on so fair warning if you go with that. What I DO like is I can adjust the fit a bit with the wires by looping them, etc and they stay PUT. More of a concern for me for when I used to boot for days at a time during his transition. You won't need that for trail riding most likely.
    My fellow boarder has the EB Trail and they seem SO easy and her normally footy X WB goes brilliantly in them. Once you decide on brand/size-visit this group to see if you can get a better deal on some gently used ones. The group is VERY honest and I got an almost brand new pair of in b/w sized boots during Laz's small hoof transition time for uber cheap.
    After riding I usually douse the boot with dry powder No Thrush or even Gold Bond powder to keep it dry and stink free. I do pad my boots too for extra cushion.
    Good luck and boy does Harley's hooves look awesome!

    1. Thanks for all the input and the link. The sizing is halting my progress at the moment, but I am hoping to get that one figured out soon. I like the EB Trail, so thanks for mentioning that one. It does look really easy to put on.

  12. I would not say from your description that Harley was "footy" on those rocks. You were riding in an area with an exceptional amount of rocks so he slowed down and went around carefully to avoid damaging his feet. I would call that smart, not footsore. Even Gwen will jerk her foot in the air to avoid stepping onto a sharp rock.

    Still though, it's not a bad idea to keep a pair of boots in hand just in case. I have some, they're currently gathering dust, but I have them. I've found that Easyboots are hard as heck to fit, make sure you get a fit kit before you buy a set. Cavallos are easy to fit but they are big and clunky. I've heard good things about Renegades but have yet to try them.

    1. That is very good to hear. I was wondering if that counted as "ouchy" or just careful. I agree that a should probably have a pair of boots either way.

      I have ordered said fit kit. I am so done with the ruler!

  13. I'm late to the conversation but, by the sounds of things, you've got great direction already.

    I've used most boots out there. I used Easyboots for 2 years...but when I started to trot and canter more on the trails, flip, they flew off! Or Wa would rip them off! Had a professionafit her, and none of easy boots fit her, its her hoof shape!

    Then I found Delta Cavallos. Clunky, the velcro wouldn't hold, in mud they stretched-but when " newer" they work for us.

    Cavallo has a new boot out called " trail" I believe, no velcro! I've got a boot in my truck right now, to compare it with tomorrow.

    I also have a pair of Renegades for Wa's hinds. They are great !!
    You HAVE to use low profile boot for hinds, or you can damage the pasturns.

    The Gloves would be my first choice, if I could use them. Harley sounds like my mare , excellent hooves. She rides barefoot on our trails but for sharper rocks and abundance of them, I won't risk her bruising.


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