As barefoot horses become more active in warmer months, it is important to consider the impact of different terrains on a horse’s hooves. With the summer season here, horses are out on the trail more, and it’s crucial to be cautious of their soles and hooves in order to maintain good overall hoof health. To do this, there are a couple of options.

The Benefits Of Boots

A rough, rocky trail can be a major change for horses compared to the softer terrain in a stall. To avoid soreness or discomfort on rough ground surfaces, unshod horses may need extra protection in order to keep them riding comfortably all summer long. Slip-on or glue-on boots provide barefoot horses with the added protection that they need to keep their feet comfortable and protected.

Horse owners can choose which kind of boot to use depending on the duration of their ride. For a short day-long trail ride, slip-on boots are easy to apply and remove, and they yield the necessary support to get horses through the day comfortably. For longer durations, such as weeks, glue-on boots provide hooves with lasting protection during frequent contact with dry, abrasive ground surfaces. Horse owners can apply slip-on and glue-on boots to help protect the soles or avoid hoof wall chipping while riding on rough terrain.

Pour-In Pad Protection

If boots are too costly, a horse is uncomfortable in boots or if horse owners prefer alternative methods, pour-in pad materials also offer added protection. When the soles are filled with pour-in pad materials, they have a better chance of retaining thickness and also act as a “fake sole” for the horse, which prevent abrasive ground surfaces from wearing down a horse’s actual sole.

For thin-soled and barefoot horses, materials such as Sole-Guard or Super-Fast help to increase sole depth and add protection on the trail. Sole-Guard is easy to apply, durable and commonly used as a protective layer. It can last up to 3 weeks. Super-Fast is another durable, fast- and hard- setting urethane product that is ideal for creating custom shoes directly on the foot when nailing is not an option. Super-Fast can be applied to help provide more support and acts as a “temporary shoe.” This product also allows hoof care professionals to make small hoof repairs quickly and easily.

With different options available to protect barefoot horses, hoof-care method preferences vary among horse owners. Horse owners who prefer to protect the internal hoof cavity, similar to protecting the nailbed of a human, can use pour-in pad materials such as Sole-Guard. For horse owners that are more concerned about chipping the hoof wall, similar to breaking a fingernail on a human, Super-Fast acts as a glue-on shoe. Both Sole-Guard and Super-Fast can be removed immediately after rides or can wear off the hoof naturally.

Horses that are susceptible or have laminitis, founder or thrush can also benefit from pour-in pad materials. The materials, such as Equi-Pak, support the boney column of the hoof and position the weight-bearing load over the entire ground surface as opposed to just the hoof wall, reducing the “pull” on the lamina and resulting in a faster recovery. Equi-Pak CS is also a fast-setting, soft pad material that is infused with copper sulfate to manage moderate to mild cases of thrush. Both products provide extra protection and support, and bond to the soles to protect them from abrasion so that they can continue to grow. Equi-Pak and Equi-Pak CS can be used on unshod horses that have Super-Fast applied, or used on shod horses to provide extra sole support. The materials can also be applied under a layer of Sole-Guard.

Although barefoot horses need extra attention in the summer, it is important for horses to be on a regular trimming schedule year-round in order to maintain optimal hoof health. Ongoing maintenance on horses’ hooves is vital to their comfort and wellbeing.