We all know – or at least, those that want to know – that horseshoes are a destructive and irrelevant relic of the middle ages. We know that they cause more than just superficial damage to the hoof but that the damage continues right through the bones and joints into the vertebrae causing anything from (crippling) arthritis in the joints to severe lumbar pain or even damaged discs.
Happily for the majority that go down the barefoot path, there are now professionals around to help the transition and thereafter. True, not all are as well versed in either reasoning or technique, or both, and there are still the traditional farriers1 that convince some customers that they too can do a “natural trim”. But there is another worrying trend. More and more trimmers are discovering a way of boosting income – and unfortunately in a rather dubious way. Almost everyone seems to be promoting hoof boots these days. A perfect solution during transition and also for later “when the going gets tough”. In fact, nothing is further from the truth. Hoof boots have one very important advantage over horseshoes – they can be removed easily after use. And that’s all.
The weight of the average hoof is 250g. Just about every hoof boot will double this with ease – just as a horseshoe will. Surprisingly, not one of the best known manufacturers or their distributors appears to publish full specifications. One distributor does make mention of a special version of the Renegade boot with built-in gel pad; this would add ±60g to the weight. **UPDATE The Renegade, size 2W, weighs about 420g…** And this is probably one of the lightest boots on the market. One of the significant points to remember about the horse’s hoof is that it is a “superleggera” construction. It is designed by nature to be tough but at the same time extremely lightweight. This ensures the ease of setting into motion, good acceleration, effective deceleration and accurate placement. The addition of an extra weight at the end of the leg completely disrupts this system and essentially reintroduces a number of the destructive factors found in the use of horseshoes.
Because the hoof is now “protected” by the hoof boot, we also see an immediate reduction in the hoof mechanism and in the ability to facilitate it. There is little or no active stimulation of the sole, frog and heel bulbs and, if not adequately trimmed, the hoof wall becomes the principle load-bearing structure once more.
Additionally, the whole geometry of the hoof is realigned by the shoe since – like the horseshoe – the foot is raised and, to allow fitting room, the external dimensions are larger than the hoof creating an unavoidable lengthening of the roll-over point.
If we look at one or two quotes:
“You can ride over any terrain with compete hoof protection.” But the hoof IS protection. This is like wearing two crash helmets!
“Trail Riding – Under 25 miles per week or per ride √” If your horse cannot manage this without boots, it is probably dead.
“Turnout √” Since when did a horse need to wear boots at turnout???
“…instead of needing shoes, horses can be fitted with boots that honestly protect hooves from excess wear…” …dishonestly… Hoofs do not wear out.
“… allow a horse to heal more quickly and completely from common hoof diseases such as laminitis and founder, navicular syndrome, quarter cracks and contracted heels…” NO NO NO! Laminitis, founder and so-called navicular should not be treated with some sort of artificial structure which alters the geometry of the hoof – it is just this alteration which has contributed to the problem in the first place. As for quarter cracks, a decent trim will get rid of those just a fast and contracted heels only decontract with time, not with boots.
“A hoof fitted comfortably inside a boot made of tough, elastic materials is free to expand and contract…” …and wobble around and not sit comfortably and loose traction because of twisting and…
Q. Do you need horseshoes in addition to Easyboots? Pardon?
A. No. Easyboots provide complete hoof protection and traction. They may also be worn over regular shoes. Would you like to repeat that?
A. No… They may also be worn over regular shoes. I thought that’s what you said. Surely that makes for very heavy feet… and doesn’t it increase wear on the Easyboot?
Q. Does wearing Easyboot over iron shoes increase wear on the Easyboot? Ah yes, I just asked that
A. Yes. Although Easyboots can be worn over steel shoes in a variety of situations, wear of the Easyboot is increased when fitted over shoes and will void the wear warranty. So you can but it does void the warranty
Q. What is the projected useful life of an Easyboot? Good question…
A. Easyboots are fully guaranteed for 90 days…. Wrong answer. The question was “…projected useful life…” And in Europe, at least, a guarantee must be for a minimum of 1 year – and is actually for the reasonable lifetime of the product!
Q. Will Easyboots give good traction on pavement? No better than the horse’s own hoofs
A. Yes. They provide sure footing for the horse and safety for the rider. Shod horses can be dangerous on pavement. Easyboots prevent slipping. They make excellent parade footwear and reduce shock on paved surfaces. If the horse cannot feel where it is putting its feet, that is not exactly increasing the safety of the rider. Shod horses are not dangerous – shoes are. The Easyboots may prevent slipping in a shod horse, but we have just read that booting a shod horse invalidates the warranty.
So, it is clear that not only do the manufacturers try to bluff us with misinformation about the “values” of hoof boots, they are also a little short on being consequent or in some cases on the right side of consumer protection.
The hoof is a specialist design, perfected over 50 million years. Sadly, humans at war added shoes to enable the horse to carry on irrespective of its own desires for self preservation and now, five centuries further, we are still treating the horse as if it is a war animal and not giving due credit to the forces of nature that formed it. By booting our horses rather than shoeing them, we are not helping them transition, rather we are perpetuating a bloody history and loading it with myth.
1 The traditional farrier tends to think the “prairie trim” is the same as a natural trim. It is not. The prairie trim is in fact no more than a precursor to shoeing.