In which somebody says something nice and I think that's quite important

I'm mostly unapologetic about putting steel shoes on my horse.

Back at the trailer today after 12.5 miles in 2 hours 15 minutes
on gravel and rock-armored logging roads

After all, I've tried other options.

*  Barefoot = sore feet.  Under saddle, Fee would move out only in the arena.  On trails, no way.  Even our driveway (crushed gravel + mud) was too ouchy.  And she was obviously uncomfortable in the pasture when the ground froze solid (which it does, periodically, from November to May.)

*  Booted = cussing at boots -  Easyboots Would.Not.Stay.On.  They were properly fitted (Garrett Ford himself helped me get the right size.) But either the mare would short-stride to keep the boots on, or she would stretch out into her natural gait and the stupid boots would go zinging off into the bushes.  Argh.   Rengades stay on, but do not provide enough protection for Fee's tender soles, especially when she does her Big Thing trot.

And of course, "booted" still means "barefoot" in the pasture, which is sub-optimal.

This is a logging road that isn't currently in use, so there is a light layer
of fir needles and mud over the top of the roadbed--it's solidly accessible all year round,
and the gravel keeps mud from getting deep.  Still, it's not a forgiving surface.
Fiddle's feet are made of tough tissue -- the farrier has broken a set of nippers while trimming her! -- but her soles are tender, and our trails are often (especially in winter) made of rock and gravel, either with or without mud over the top.

We also, of course, live in a Swamp.  That means her feet are exposed to wetness pretty much all the time, except when I lock her in a stall.  You can find patches of mud on my property about 10 months out of the year.  Wetness isn't optimal for horse feet, but there aren't a lot alternatives when you live in a Swamp.

After years of experimenting, I've returned to a system that works for me and for my horse: steel shoes and plastic pads.

*  Steel shoes + plastic pads = Happy Dragon.  This combination provides the protection and comfort the Dragon requires.  With steel shoes and plastic pads, she can stretch out into her big, free-moving natural gaits no matter how rough the trail tread gets.

Fiddle and I are both happy with this arrangement, but there are still people (not my Gentle Readers, obviously) who wave their self-righteous flags at my steel-shod horse, claiming that if I were a better person I would keep my horse barefoot because it's the right thing to do, (overlooking the obvious point that causing pain to a Dragon is rarely the right thing to do).

Mostly, I grit my teeth and look away.  Mom taught me to be polite, even when other folks are rude.  And I try to always do what my mom tells me.

And then today, somebody brought a nice article to my attention.  An article written by Garrett Ford, actually.  Remember Garrett?  He's the nice guy who helped me try to fit easyboots to the Dragon.  He's also the CEO of Easycare.  He says some nice things about bare feet.  He says some nice things about boots.

And then...

...he says some nice things about steel shoes.  And people who put them on horses.  And farriers.

The link to Garrett's article is HERE.

Because, hey. Sometimes it's nice to be nice.


  1. We're often of the mud and gravel here too and my own mare couldn't keep boots on and not destroyed for anything. We went the way of steel shoes and will go back to that way when we come of our period of recovery from lameness. I think one of my favorite things I've learned from endurance is that every horse and rider team is different and we don't have to do everything the same way for it to be right for us. Do whatever works!

  2. It is a worry when people see the world only in black and white. If only life were that simple!

  3. I'm sorry people give you a hard time about putting shoes on your horse. I wish people would realize what an awesome thing it is to have all these options to keep our horses happy. I don't ride nearly as much as you, so my horses are happy barefoot. I have a set of old mac's to throw on if we get to trailer out somewhere with rocks. And in the summer when we go for a week of camping/riding in a rocky/sandy area they get shoes, sometimes with pads.

  4. My semi-part-time-navicular Thoroughbred Stormy has always worn front shoes, because they work well for him. despite the great pressure I've had from people at times to go barefoot with him (in which case he'd likely go through a while - months? many months??? of pain/soreness adapting to the barefootness) I was not influenced. why fix something that's not broke?
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

    1. Really good point, Merri. I was told that barefooting would be "uncomfortable" for the horse at first...but Fee was more than "uncomfortable." And the pain didn't go away, either.

      Also, she was a mare with a VERY bad attitude towards work, and I've really had to hustle to change that attitude. How could I possibly justify telling her to quit grouching when I knew her feet hurt?

  5. Aarene--I run my current horses barefoot most of the time, but when they have to go on rocky trails I shoe them in front. I have used shoes with pads, as you do on Fiddle, for YEARS on my very tender soled Gunner--and he is now a retired, sound thirty three year old horse, who has been happily barefoot and pasture sound since I retired him at twenty. So I don't think those shoes and pads did him any harm. And yeah, every horse is different, and every rider, too. I am absolutely NOT up for booting and all the hassle involved. But I do run my horses barefoot when possible. Like you, I would shoe if being barefoot caused them to be sore. People can sneer at me all they want. I have been riding/owning/training for thirty years and my methods have worked well for me--and produced a good many sound retired horses after a long working lifetime in which they were either always or sometimes shod. I'm proud of my track record.

  6. There is no need to be apologetic at all about using shoes, unless it's the wrong thing for your horse or you're doing it badly! ;) I somehow suspect neither is the case here. Garrett really sums it up with: "I've personally found a direction that is working for my horses and I will continue to learn and search for answers. I also understand what works for me may not be the best solution for others."

  7. Agree with all who've spoken wise words above me! What works is what it's about. I've tried about every kind of shoe, boot, etc. that has come down the pike & still - for the miles we ride & conditions here - steel seems to work the best!

  8. I've missed out on this issue, at least in direct contact, at my barn. I've had horses that did beautifully when barefoot on practically any surface, and other horses who would chip out if they sneezed. The people around me shoe (or not) to their horse's needs and I have yet to hear anyone criticize another. I now know how lucky I am! We have barefoot horses, horses with steel in front, bare behind, horses with steel and pads on all four, horses with four on the floor, you name it.

    The only thing that drives me nuts is incompetent work. One new horse owner got a barefoot trim from a shoer recommended by a friend...none of her horses feet were the same length, shape or curvature. And I don't mean slight differences. Poor thing was so sore he could hardly walk. But no one thought twice about whether or not he wore shoes...?!?

  9. You have to do what is best for your horse. If she's happiest in shoes and pads, that's what you do! I love barefoot, but it's not right for everyone... especially if you're doing something as intense as endurance.

  10. an easyboot doesn't make as good a memento as a paper-thin metal shoe.

  11. Amen!!!!! In the part of California where I live, we have the opposite problem. It is DRY and HARD. Without shoes (my last mare was barefoot in back but wore Easyboot), there is NOTHING left on the bottom of the horse's foot. The HARD ground simply sands away any hoof that you might start with.

    I wish the barefoot extremists would mind their own business. Not EVERY method works for EVERY horse. Shoe away, I say! :0)


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