Readers Horses' Go Barefoot in the Winter

More than 910 readers of TheHorse.com responded to a poll asking, "Do you change your horse's shoes during the winter?"

results of poll on winter equine footwear

Results were as follows: 

  • My horse is always barefoot: 51.69% (475)
  • Pull his shoes for the winter: 21.33% (196)
  • My horse keeps his shoes on year-round: 14.58% (134)
  • Put on special shoes or pads to ride in the snow: 9.25% (85)
  • Other: 3.16% (29)

Readers shared what they do for their horses’ winter podiatry needs in the comments below.

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  • She wears easy boots with titanium studs in them.
  • snowball pads & tap-in caulks for traction
  • None of myhorses wear shoes...EVER! There is no substitute for healthy hooves!
  • sharp shods and snowball pads
  • The one horse that gets shod is barefoot on the winter, ,y other three are barefoot year-round.
  • I don't ride as much and the ground is softer too.
  • I have 5 horses on farm-2 are barefoot-2 keep shoes on and 1 is barefoot all year
  • My gaited is ridden mostly on the sandy soil in the area and does very well year-round without shoes
  • Easy boot gloves are used when needed
  • Once the shows are over for the year we replace the aluminum shoes with steel.
  • I live in the NW wheres there is lots of rain.allways wet feet an mud:(
  • Borium & snow pads every winter.
  • always barefoot
  • I live in northern Iowa and we tend to get alot of ice before we get snow, so shoes are probably not
  • gelding has front shoes, mare barefoot all the way around all year
  • My horses (10) are all healthier barefoot.
  • I use shoes year round because my horse has very flat feet. In Winter Ids to keep out the snow
  • we keep horses in the " little karroo" , a mountainous , dry area in South Africa 's Cape region.
  • barefoot in WA. In AK I had borium ice shoes and snowball pads- it depends where you live.
  • I use Boa boots to trail ride when it is rocky.
  • Switch from aluminum show shoes to cheaper, sturdy steel shoes
  • special shoes in winter ,normal shoe althrough the rest of the year
  • We have 20 horses and they are all barefoot
  • I wish he could go barefoot. He is in once it snows and goes out in indoor arena.
  • pull shoes and boot if needed
  • My Foxtrotter has hard black hooves, no need for shoes!
  • Without Ice shoes he would not stay standing during Alaska's harsh winters.
  • Add studs
  • have kept my horse bare foot, due to white line disease (does better with shoes off than on)
  • I pull in the summer, too hot to ride in summer in Florida
  • Only had 1 w/shoes & pulled them. Now all 6 are barefoot.
  • My horse has never been shod. Hopefully won't ever have to.
  • Barefoot naturally,except riding on heavy gravel trails I use renegade hoof boots.They are the best.
  • borium and snow pads on front; pull hind shoes
  • Those that are barefoot stay barefoot. Those with shoes keep them but don't go out when it's icy.
  • OTTB mare has rock-hard bare feet all year long, her traction is astounding!
  • 2 retired 30 year old mares with 40 acre pasture to enjoy
  • No shoes=no problems year round.
  • my horses have VIRGIN feet!!!
  • Those that are working keep them on year around others are barefoot
  • I ride all winter long in snow andslippery conditions so i need studs pads and winter shoes .some of
  • Depends on the horse, I never have a single blanket policy for my horses.
  • I believe that barefoot is the way to go. Barefoot is natural. Horses were not made with shoes on.
  • use to keep on all winter, but pull off now.
  • Each horse is diferent
  • This gives the horses foot time to let their hooves spread naturally.
  • We put borium points on the shoes and rim snow pads for safety during turnout, but ride indoors.
  • Snow? Not so much a problem in South Carolina.
  • I always pull shoes in the winter to let their feet have a break.
  • use boots when riding
  • My horses all wear front shoes and are trimmed behind and re
  • keep shoes on front as mare has issues with rundown heels
  • I put boots on if needed in hard terrain. Otherwise barefoot is perfect for winter riding.
  • I don't shoe unless the horse NEEDS the shoes. If the feet are good, they go barefoot.
  • Removed them when I did use shoes.
  • I don't have an indoor arena so if I want to ride at all in the winter I have to pull them
  • been pulling shoes in the winter for 25 years and horses are always sound
  • We pull the shoes if at all possible during the muddy and snowy season.
  • My horse is barefoot but I use Old Mac G2s with studs to ride in the ice and snow
  • Use boots when necessary otherwise barefoot
  • My gelding's feet break up, but our climate is nice year round for riding
  • My horses are always barefoot-my farrier says if all horses were like mine, he'd be out of business
  • Our horses are turned out in pasture for the winter months.
  • snow pads not always good for turnout so pull shoes
  • We have a lot of ice here and they have no traction with shoes on
  • Homer, AK we put on padded studded winter shoes to keep horses upright in icy pastures and roads
  • if possible I pull them so snow and ice don't cause a problem
  • Horses are kept trimmed on a 4 to 6 week schedule
  • Always been barefoot. 3 ntl' championships. Textbook perfect feet. Morabs!
  • to give the hoof time to expand and holes to grow out
  • Borium on the shoes and sometimes snow pads.
  • Drill tec on ones with shoes
  • borium front shoes for winter
  • Barefoot is best year round, and costs a lot less...here's to happy, healthy feet!
  • In icy New England horses outdoors in winter need something to keep them from slipping.
  • Watch "Hoof Proof 1" on You-Tube. Eye opening!
  • Barefoot is almost always best
  • clean hooves;if nec coat sole with lit oil to release packed snow-ice
  • I have always pulled the shoes on all my horses. We have no cattle here in the high desert.
  • My horse's hooves are much thicker and have increased a size since going barefoot for 3 years.
  • advid proponent of barefoot horses - firmly believe shoes compromise hoof function and cause harm
  • my haflinger has always had great feet,ferrier says no for shoes.even for driving
  • No horse on this planet should ever have to wear shoes again ! They should be exhibits in museums.
  • Better for his feet he is a mustang
  • year round, but borium spots for ice and snow, even in the pasture
  • it don't snow here
  • A Natural Hoof is the best hoof for a horse as they were never meant to wear shoes.
  • I pull the back shoes & keep front shoes with
  • nothing is more difficult to deal with than shoes in snow
  • ALWAYS BAREFOOT & EASYBOOT GLOVES FOR TRAIL RIDING.
  • barefoot year round.
  • I use Easy-boots which are great for traction in th snow.
  • Shoes with two large heel studs,two small toe studs, and "rim pads" to stop snow balling under feet
  • My horses wear shoes all year round. The farrier puts snowpads on from Nov -April
  • we pull or pad depending on work needs
  • Proper barefoot trim not only keeps horses sound but improves traction in all weather.
  • I love trimming my own horses and LEAVING them barefoot forever more! Love Easyboot gloves at times
  • Horse needs shoes for support due to past suspensory problem. Might add rims this winter.
  • My barefoot trimmer, Kaileen St. Antoine of EmpathyEquine.com, is awesome!
  • My horse needs corrective shoes for navicular year round
  • Don't usually ride in the winter here in New England.
  • my horse is barefoot, use cavello boots
  • I have 3 horses, 1 is always barefoot, 1 has them pulled for Winter, and the 3rd wears them all yr.
  • All of my horses are barefoot. Three of our boarders have shoes, two have pads for winter.
  • Use hoofboots add studs to hoof boots for winter riding. B4 Hoofbots
  • My guy has shelly feet so he wears shoes year round
  • No winter riding/no shoes.
  • If my horse needs extra traction, I will use hoofboots.
  • none of my horses have ever had shoes even to work
  • we pull the back shoes and shoe with rim (snow) pads in front
  • In FL we put on "SHOW" shoes, not snow shoes!
  • and gets snowpads
  • Bad hooves and quarter crack - shod all year, pads in winter.
  • I have one that has to stay in shoes due to navicular. The other one gets the shoes pulled.
  • My horse wears the "shoes" God gave him all year round
  • I've not had shoes on my horses for over 15 years now. They don't need them.
  • unless they are in training
  • Trim every five or six weeks
  • My horses go barefoot, except one will be in Sigafoos until her hoof injury grows out.
  • at least one horse has shoes on, but I switch which horse so they get barefoot time
  • only use when needed
  • Thank goodness my horses do well barefoot! Regular trims keep them sound!
  • May pull rear shoes only
  • All 3 of our horses are barefoot year round and use boots on rocky trails.
  • Once I am done riding for the year the shoes come off but feet are kept trimmed
  • I also keep the paddocks and pastures as ice-free as possible
  • Depends on winter. Usually keep a couple shod
  • My navicular horse gets pads-other horse shoes pulled
  • instead of every 6wks we go to every 8-9 weeks then back to 6 when spring and summer come
  • Our Percherons have excellent feet and require no shoes
  • Wears hoof boots on front when I trail ride. Not much snow in SC. No shoes=healthy hooves
  • No need I live in Arizona!
  • I use the rim type pads for snow and have borium put on his shoes for traction - whether/not I ride.
  • All 5 horses are kept barefoot and ridden year round. The do much better WITHOUT shoes.
  • MUCH better traction barefoot on all surfaces!
  • Horses at home are barefoot. Otherwise raceplates shed snow pretty well.
  • Yes, my Arabian fox hunts so he goes barefoot in summer and is shod in early fall and all winter.
  • rim snow pads with reg shoes
  • Pull back shoes for winter
  • Front shoes only for the winter
  • barefoot is safer for both tendons/ligaments and footing
  • We have mustangs & minis. They do perfectly fine barefoot all the time.
  • borium & pads for winter
  • I have the back shoes pulled for the winter. Would do all 4 but she needs the fronts for support
  • The farrier puts on snowball pads and adds borium dots to the rear shoes.
  • Snow is not a problem in this part of Texas
  • on rare occasion, I may put on studded boots.
  • The rubber inserts reduce snow impaction, reduce stress/strain.
  • one bare; one safer w/"studded snow tires"
  • depends on horse and workload plans
  • awesome traction, no snowballing, even the thoroughbreds have no issues
  • We keeps shoes on the reiner all year, but the show horses get their's pulled.
  • Front shoes only in winter for my Clydesdales.
  • Trotter, races, gets shod every 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Appaloosa has wonderful strong feet - no shoes since 12 yrs. Always in blue ribbons

About the Author

Megan Arszman

Megan Arszman received a Bachelor of Science In print journalism and equine science from Murray State University in Murray, Ky., and loves combining her love of horses, photography, and writing. In her “free time,” when she’s not busy working as a horse show secretary or riding her American Quarter Horses on her parents’ Indiana farm, she’s training and competing her Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Swedish Vallhund in dog agility and running.

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