TRUE TRAINING 67 - Hoof Boots... or Let's (Not?) Ride Trails!

Nov 15, 2022 by Janet Jones

Be careful if you ever get into a “discussion” with other horse people about the shod foot/bare foot controversy. Perfect strangers have scolded me in public at horse shows for making what they considered the “wrong” choice, despite complete lack of knowledge about my horse’s feet, health, or use. I don’t cleave to either philosophy. I make my choices in each horse’s best interest. Some horses must wear shoes to avoid bruised soles and various hoof disorders. Others don’t. Some need specific shoes for their discipline. Others don’t.


True is barefoot, with textbook feet so large and strong he doesn’t need shoes. Most of the time we ride on soft footing in an arena, or out on grass. His bare feet accommodate walks on gravel driveways quite well, and he has no problem gaining traction when taking off or landing after low jumps. I love the fact that his feet can open fully to their natural size when unshod, giving him a good base for that big strong body. They’re also easier to keep clean, and my pocketbook is happier with hoof trims than shoes.


But it’s nice to give our horses a break from arena work and teach them to manage easy trails. I can’t ride True on rocks or stones or for long distances on hard gravel roads. Hoof boots would be just the ticket! It’s also nice to have a pair of hoof boots for unexpected emergencies—a hoof abscess, stone bruise, puncture, or close trim. So I set out two months ago to buy some front boots that True could wear occasionally for those purposes.


My former Thoroughbred Cory was 17.1 hands high, 1300 pounds, and wore a size 4 or 5 boot. True is a Dutch Warmblood standing 17 hands high and weighing about 1400 pounds. (Uh, yes, and still growing.) His front dinner plates—excuse me, FEET—measure 6” across, which corresponds to a size 12. TWELVE! True and I have been hearing the nickname “Sasquatch” around the barn aisle a lot lately.


True has tried five different boot sizes so far. Now we are playing with various gaiters, thanks to the very cooperative people at Easycare. If it weren’t for their generosity, I would have given up long ago. We discovered after the first three tries that a Size 10 fits True’s left front foot perfectly, despite what the measurement guide says. That foot is 6” in diameter, same width as length and perfectly round. The Size 10 is solid as can be; I’d ride off into the sunset on that boot with no worries.


But the right front foot. Arrgh. This one flares on the medial side. Yeah, that’s right, 6” wide plus a flare! NASA could build a rocket platform on the sole of that thing. But the real hitch is that True’s right front is wider than it is long. Hoof boots are not made for that shape. The Size 10 twists as soon as True takes a step. We can’t have that! The 8 is too small; no matter how much cussing and huffing I do, it won’t go on that Sasquatch foot.


How about the Size 9, you ask. It twists after 100 steps or so, maybe. Sometimes it twists, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, it twists all the way around 180 degrees. Well, I certainly don’t want a sudden unexpected twist as we’re cantering along out in the middle of nowhere. Can you imagine dismounting to reset the boot then hunting up a fire truck ladder to get back on this big excited boy before trying to mince all the way home?

The size has become such an issue that we don't even glance at the look of the boot any more. Bright green with gold glitter? Bring it on! Complicated to get on and off? Who cares. Painted with leopard spots? Sure. We just want a right front boot that won't twist. 


And did I mention the fact that hooves grow? So a boot that fits True one week post-trim might be too small five weeks later. Are you hearing my frustration yet? This is ridiculous. This week, I am trying a size 9 with two different types of gaiter to prevent it from twisting. I’ll try it pre-trim (six weeks) and post-trim since the farrier is coming soon to work on True. Wish us luck!