Pull Shoes for Winter?

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Q: Hi, I have a 7 y/o Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred gelding. My trainer wants me to take his shoes off and leave them off til' May. when spring starts to arrive I start to run him and work him more on barrel racing. I ride at least 6 times a week. Is it safe to leave his shoes off when I start to work him more, or will he get lame easier, etc? Thanks

A: We have already written much about leaving horses barefooted and riding them without shoes on the web site, which you should read if you haven't already done so. The Q&A Index is at http://www.americanblacksmith.com/blacksmithstable/horseshoeing_questions-answers.htm . Scan down the list of questions and read those pertaining to  whether to shoe or not.

Without re-writing everything that is already on the web site, I'll say that the old timers' wisdom always advised to barefoot horses when not riding them and over winter to improve hoof quality. Generally speaking, this was good advice.

I have found that most modern horses, especially those with Thoroughbred blood in them, do not have feet that stand up well without shoes. If these horses go barefoot over the winter, it can take you most of the following summer to get the feet back in good shape. I do not barefoot my horses, which are all Thoroughbred and Thoroughbred crosses, over the winter even if I am not riding them.

Since you are riding your horse, I would be especially leery of taking his shoes off. If you are an experienced horseman you should be able to tell if he feels sore-footed or not. If you only ride in soft pastures or arenas he might not be sore. If you cross gravel roads or ride on hard surfaces he probably will be. Riding a sore-footed horse is not treating him fairly, encourages a poor attitude and teaches him to resist and not give his best response.

Horses without shoes are much more prone to sole bruising and thus abscesses, especially when they are being ridden.

The first of March is pretty late in the winter to start your winter barefooting. In most areas the ground will be hardening up in the next month or so.

My first reaction is to think that I'd probably want to keep the shoes on your horse. In your particular situation, however, you must consider also that you pay your trainer for his/her opinion and first-hand knowledge of your horse. Your horse may have some problem that the trainer thinks will be alleviated by removing the shoes. I'd advise you to get more details from the trainer and then discuss it with your farrier. These professionals should be able to work together as a team to encourage your horse's best health and performance.

Good luck with your barrel horse. Please let me know what you decide and how it works out.  

Mary Bayard Fitzpatrick
American Blacksmith
Murphys, California



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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.