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Barefoot is a growing trend in the industry with more and more horse owners transitioning their horses to being barefoot for whatever reason. This is also a topic I have discussed multiple times, often dissatisfied with the idea of if you persevere through the pain your horse will get there. But to many people, hoof boots are the solution.
Uncomfortable Transition to Barefoot Living
I personally feel it is wrong to expect your horse to work on ground they are uncomfortable on for an unknown period of time in the hope they are eventually comfortable. I am all for giving them a transitioning period, but if this discomfort is lasting much more than 6 months I start to question what the benefit is for the horse.
For many horse owners, this is where the hoof boot comes in. Many owners use them when the horse will be on ground they are not comfortable on. It could be for going out hacking on the roads and gravel, or it could even be for turnout on hard ground. But they can be a great tool for helping to keep the horse comfortable while they get used to different terrains.
Effects of Hoof Boots Untested
Despite how good a tool they can be, there is virtually no research into the effects and potential risks of using hoof boots. An initial study has looked at how hoof boots effect the biomechanics of the horse at walk. While this study did find small biomechanical differences, it is not possible to say at this time if these differences could be a potential injury factor to the horse or not. This study also didn’t look at faster paces where there could be even more biomechanical changes and if they could affect the horse’s limb.
Not a Long Term Solution
Because of the lack of research into the potential implications of the use of hoof boots, I wouldn’t recommend using them long term. Yes they are great for hacking out in and a steady pace and when a horse first transitions. But for long term or more strenuous work, I wouldn’t want to use them until there is more research into them.
After all, we spend so much time and energy into keeping our horses sound. And one of the biggest reasons owners decide to transition their horses to barefoot is for soundness reasons. So I think it is crazy that hoof boots are used despite there not being any research into the long term effects of using them.