When considering winter hoof care for horses, many riders (especially competition riders) may want to give their horses a break and decide to take the shoes off to allow “the hooves to have a break” as well.
This may not always be a beneficial solution for horses which have been shod, as the transition period to allow the feet to recover from the seasonal stress can be too short.
If horses have underlying conditions, such as thin soles or are prone to abscessing, pulling the shoes for a few weeks is not the right way to allow the feet some rehabilitation time.
Horse hoof growth is a slow process, and it can take up to 12 months to grow from the coronary band to the bottom at the toe. If the shoes aren’t pulled early enough and the foot isn’t well maintained with regular trims after the shoes have been taken off, you will likely just make your horse’s feet worse.
Hooves may crumble and break up to the old nail holes, your horse could get abscesses due to sole sensitivity, or any one of many other potential problems.
This being said, there are various options to give your horse a break from shoeing, though each will require a solid trim after pulling the shoes.
Plan your winter horse hoof care in advance. Removing shoes off-season should happen early enough to allow the horse to build up some sole and strength before the winter hits and the ground freezes. A suggestion is to pull shoes at least 6-8 weeks before the winter, while altering the trim schedule to every 3-4 weeks instead of 6-8 weeks.
It is important to keep the hoof round and avoid edges which can lead to horse hoof cracks, the idea is to maintain the foot instead of controlling damage that has happened during a much too long trimming cycle. By maintaining a short, round shape, the durability of the hoof will be increased, which will make it less likely to crack, peel and flare.
It’s also possible that your farrier will be able to use the same shoes he pulled in the fall again in the spring, if the shape of the hoof is maintained through the winter.
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Transitioning horses to barefoot can be a hard task on everyone: the horse, the owner, and last but not least, the farrier.
A rewarding solution to allow horses to transition to barefoot or to use the winter break to rehab various hoof conditions is FormaHoof.
With the encapsulation and 3D support offered by FormaHoof, barefoot transition and short-term hoof rehabilitation can be effectively provided. It also sets no timeframe and limit on your rehab period, if you are looking to give your horse a simple break from nailed-on shoes.
Your horse will remain on its regular cycle as the hoof won’t get brittle or crumble away, which is all too common in a harsh shod-to-barefoot transition.
For those worrying about grip and snow build-ups, winter horse hoof protection is simple with FormaHoof. Neither are an issue.
While we highly recommend using the FormaHoof Traction type reusable Mould for winter months, snowballs and build-ups of snow in the hoof won’t occur with either the Barefoot or Performance type reusable Moulds, as the encapsulated nature of FormaHoof will not allow it to do so.
For those that may want additional ice studs with their FormaHoof application, these can be easily added into the AP material by pre-drilling holes and screwing them in as you would in a regular shoe.
Why do snow balls form in a horse’s hoof?
When snow meets the warmer sole of the horse’s hoof, the snow will melt slightly and can stick to the shoe and/or the sole of the hoof. Snow can then build up and develop into “snowballs” or “ice balls” under the horse’s hoof.
This accumulation will not only makes it difficult for the horse to move comfortably, but can also place extra strain on the supporting structures of the limb such as ligaments, tendons and the joint capsules.
Start your FormaHoof journey now and help your horse’s feet to recover this winter, for a fresh start into the new year and new season.
If you are considering transitioning your horse to barefoot for good, you may be interested in the following articles:
Transitioning Horses To Barefoot: Why And How With FormaHoof
Transitioning Horses To Barefoot
Becoming A Barefoot Trimmer – Providing Natural Hoof Care
Horse Hoof trimming – Can you trim your horse’s hooves yourself?