Barefoot woes. I remember my old riding instructor telling me she thought I was mad for going barefoot and her farrier boyfriend stating that you need shoes for the roads and “whatever you do, don’t use those awful hoof boots.”
But we have been rock crunching, we really have.
Last summer we rode flinty forest trails truly barefoot. Sometimes Ben steps out on the very rough and stony roads here quite confidently without any boots. But not right now. Despite a track system, heavy rains have meant a lot of mud. Ben’s frogs are softer than they were a month ago. And the amount of exercise I have time to provide cannot combat this. So I need boots.
But which boots?
We started originally with Renegades and, while they came off a couple of times, I was generally pleased with how they performed and how Ben went in them.
(A very hairy Ben in his new Renegades in winter time two years ago.)
He started with a size 2w, but after a few months needed a 2ww. I have never been completely happy with the boots since. They can come off in trot and they rub the outside heel bulb on his right hoof. I first discovered this as a small blister and since then I have played with the cable adjustments but with no great success. We have been riding regularly recently and I kept watching for rubs. One day Ben was snatchy with his right hoof after a ride and did not want me to touch his heel bulbs. I felt very bad and that was the end of those boots for me.
Finding a replacement has not been easy.
We have no supplier of hoof boots in this country. I have been in e-mail correspondence with Liz from Hoof Bootique in England who has been incredibly helpful. She suggested a larger sized heel captivator for the Renegades. My husband cast his engineer’s eye on Ben wearing his Renegades. He pointed out a dark patch towards the edge of the heel captivator on the right boot which seemed to correspond with the rubbing spot. He also suggested trying a bigger size heel captivator. But I have lost faith in those boots for Ben. Too many “ifs” and I want to boot I can be sure about.
Cloud wears Ben’s old, size 2w, boots with great success. They also look quite different on him and this has made me think of the different conformation of a cob. The shell of the boot also does not come up as high on Ben’s hoof as it does on Cloud’s.
So I tried Equine Fusions.
I really like the concept behind design of these boots and, as Sandra is successfully using them on Minnie, I thought it would be worth trying them on Ben. Ben took a size above Minnie and when the boots arrived I went for a short hack. Ben over reached, which is not like him, and over reached so badly that he kept stumbling. I tried again with the same problem. Comparing them with Minnie’s, the size bigger has not just a bigger shell, but is also higher and it is obviously too high for Ben’s pastern. So the fabric bunches out behind. So they were returned.
So next I reached for a rejected pair of Cavallo Simple Boots which I bought in the early days of transitioning Ben. I had not even ridden in these as I really did not like how heavy and clunky they were. They fitted Ben, but I still was not happy with their weight. Liz suggested Easyboot Trails.
These are better, much lighter than the Cavallos but similar in shape. Ben seems happy in walk, trot and canter. But…
I am now quite worried about heel bulb rubs. The boots are soft and flexible around the pastern so I do not think they will rub there. But they have a serious design fault – there is a seam and rough part just where the outside of the heel bulbs would sit.
It seems a ridiculous fault for these boots to have. So I have tried out the pastern wraps that came with the Cavallo boots. It took a bit of trial and error to get their position right so that they would not ride up on Ben’s hooves. But they seem to be working. Hopefully after a while I will not need them any more. Ben moves well in the Trails however they do not seem very robust and I would wonder how long the stitching will last. But I aim to use these boots until they either wear out or fall apart.
The Glove Back Country would be my preferred choice, without having tried them. But they do depend on a very regular trim cycle which I do not have. And do not even want. I am happy to give a tidy up rasp and we have a good farrier now who understands barefoot trimming and who can cast his expert eye over the ponies about every 2 months. That should be all they need.
On a positive note, Cloud is stepping on the loose stones in our yard without a problem now and his thrush seems to be gone. He also strides out well in his Renegades (and looks quite smart too).