Chapter Six

Fitting Hoof Boots

Chapter Seven

Booting Different Sized Horses

Chapter Eight

Using Hoof Boots for Rehabilitation

Can driving horses work without shoes?

Hoof boots not only give total protection to the sole of the barefoot horse

But with the use of specialist pads inside the boots, replicate the support and feedback that the horse would receive when worked barefoot on good going, such as soft turf, sand or any other surface that offers solar support. Lots of barefoot horses benefit from the use of modern hoof boots, especially through the transitionary phase [after de shoeing] and sometimes beyond.

All working horses can experience the effects of concussive forces that are driven into the limbs and feet from the ground. The heavier the horse, the greater the vertical hoof force distribution; one reason why ponies are notoriously popular driving animals!

Barefoot advocates believe the healthy, bare equine foot horse experiences dramatically less concussion on hard ground than the shod horse, and has improved hoof mechanism; e.g. the hoof naturally contracts and expands with more functionality. But can driving horses work without shoes, and avoid concussive injury? The answer, according to many hoofcare experts, is yes.

Many observers of barefoot driving enthusiasts may wrongly assume that carriage horses and ponies, many of whom trot on hard surfaces for long periods of time, are being subjected to excessive concussion; but this isn’t necessarily so. Driven horses are not subjected to the same stresses as ridden horses, which are constantly adapting to the rider’s balance – especially in the case of an in-experienced rider on a young or spooky horse. There is of course also the additional weight of the rider to consider, in the riding horse – and a heavy, unbalanced rider will compromise the animal’s gait and balance.

American natural hoof care specialist and driving trainer, Heike Bean, says a barefoot horse with healthy hooves can feel the ground better and enjoy dramatically reduced concussion on hard ground. “They are also more sure-footed, usually move more freely, and have better traction on most surfaces,” Bean states. “Driving horses land toe-first going uphill, and heel-first going down. This is caused by a locking mechanism in the knee and cannot be altered, but it can be worsened by poor trimming; since driving horses have increased stress on their hooves when pulling a vehicle uphill, timely breakover of all four hooves is essential to minimise stress. This factor is often overlooked when shoeing, trimming, or booting a horse.”

Heike says driving enthusiasts formerly faced limitations regarding suitable hoof boots on the market. “However, with today’s boot styles, driving can be done barefoot,” she states.

The style of hoof boot is up to you and your horse’s requirements. Easycare’s New Mac hoof boots are the latest generation 'Old Mac' hoof boot. The New Mac has a unique, high-tech performance outer-sole, incorporating the unique 'hoof suspension system'. The upper roll on the New Mac also now features a double neoprene roll for comfort, while the inner roll is a close weave, to help prevent burrs sticking and embedding into the fabric - ideal for people that hack! The new Macs Hoof Boots are recommended for up to 25 miles of driving or riding at a time.

Easycare’s new trail hoof boot is an update on the original trail hoof boot. according to the manufacturers, the upper of the hoof boot had been made more durable with the addition of a wrap-around shield. This front shield has been painted from the reverse, so the boot’s protective covering will not scratch off or lose its colour. The rivets have been made bigger and the upper rim of the boot has been made with neoprene, to make it more comfortable. The New Trail Hoof Boots are recommended for up to 25 miles of riding or driving at a time.

The horse that is driven on surfaces such as tarmac potentially experiences the most concussive forces, so it is important to gradually increase the animal’s workload when fittening or introducing a barefoot regime, in order to let the bones, tendons, and ligaments adapt and ultimately strengthen. These structures are able to absorb concussive forces from the ground, and when gradually strengthened, can protect the driving horse from concussive injury.

We often get asked, can I boot just the fronts or hinds of my horse? It is perfectly acceptable to boot just a pair of feet (but never one hoof of a pair, or one front foot and one back). It is common in approximately 75% of cases that only the front (weight bearing) hooves need protection, although with driving horses, it is often the reverse, as the hinds may need more protection - seek advice from your hoofcare professional.