Poll Recap: Barefoot for Winter

Poll Recap: Barefoot for Winter

Of the 413 respondents, 219 (53%) said they have their horses' shoes pulled or their horses remain barefoot during the winter months.

Photo: iStock

Fall is here, which means it’s time to start planning for the upcoming winter months. Will your horse be keeping his shoes this winter, or will he be going (or staying) barefoot?  

In last week’s online poll, we asked our readers if they have their horses’ shoes pulled for the winter months. More than 400 people responded, and we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 413 respondents, 219 (53%) said they have their horses’ shoes pulled or their horses remain barefoot during the winter months. The remaining 194 respondents (47%) keep shoes on their horses.

Additionally, more than 100 people commented about their winter shoeing decisions:

Several people explained why they keep shoes on their horses throughout the winter months:

  • “Mine only have shoes if needed, so they wear them year-round”
  • “She had laminitis really badly, so she has to keep shoes on her front feet all of the time.”
  • “I ride year round on very rocky ground. Fronts are shod, hinds left barefoot all year.”
  • “I keep my mare shod all year because we ride all year and the ground is hard with lots of rocks.”
  • “Mine have shoes and front feet rim pads all year.”
  • “Shoes all year and rubber pads in winter time.”
  • “I have to keep fronts on for support.”
  • “My Thoroughbred’s hoof walls just don't hold up without shoes. I ride all winter.”
  • “I'd love to but she wears her feet off balance if she doesn't have shoes.”
  • “My horse gets better traction on ice and road surfaces with the proper shoes.”
  • “My Thoroughbred mare has such bad feet she would be crippled without her fronts.”
  • “He needs shoes with pads year round for navicular syndrome.”
  • “No, my mare needs hoof support.”

Others shared why they pull their horses’ shoes for winter:

  • “To provide the hooves a break from structured shoeing which allows them to reshape if necessary.”
  • “Shoes off for everyone except those going on rocky trail rides or to schooling shows.”
  • “Ice builds up with shoes on. Also I do not ride in winter. It's a time for all to rest.”
  • “Good for the feet, lets them expand and not riding as much.”
  • “I have the shoes pulled during the winter so their hooves can have a break from shoes.”
  • “Because we're not competing in the winter and to avoid snow build up under his shoes, his shoes are pulled.”
  • “My Arabian is an endurance horse and we don't have races in the winter so his shoes are off.”
  • “I found horses slipped less barefoot and it gives the feet a chance to grow out nail holes and be stronger.”

Some people commented that they still ride often in winter:

  • “We keep riding all winter.”
  • “I live in Arizona. Winter is riding time!”
  • “We ride all year long in all four seasons.”
  • “We ride all winter, and need snow soles and studs.”
  • “I ride all winter on the same rocky trails. I just add snow pads and away we go.”
  • “Heck no! We ride all winter here in Arizona.”
  • “Winter is my favorite riding season. Sometimes I'll pull the back shoes off for a month or two.”

Many respondents said they keep their horses barefoot all the time:

  • “My two go barefoot 24/7. Trimmed every six to seven weeks and his hooves are wonderful.”
  • “Horses go barefoot year-round.”
  • “All of my horses are always barefoot.”
  • “My horses are barefoot year-round so winter doesn't matter.”
  • “Both of ours are barefoot all the time. We don't ride a lot and only in the pasture”
  • “None of my ponies have ever had shoes, all are worked or ridden regularly.”
  • “My four horses are all on a natural barefoot trimming program, so no shoes requiring pulling”
  • “Barefoot year-round and boots only as needed. Works for us!”
  • “I'm a barefoot enthusiast. I use Easyboots as needed.”
  • “No, unless they need shoes for medical reasons, broodmares are barefoot as a rule.”
  • “My horse is and always has been barefoot.”
  • “No shoes any time of the year.”
  • “Mine are all barefoot all the time, including two ex-racers who compete and do around 30 road miles a week.”

And others left general comments:

  • “We ride 40-60 miles per week, sometimes on rocky trails. Why would I remove his ‘protective gear’?”
  • “My farrier says it is not a long enough period to benefit horse.”
  • “Show shoes come off but in Minnesota, winters can be bad so snow shoes, pads, and studs need to be put on.”
  • “I have had a couple of bad experiences with horses slipping and falling on the ice and snow.”
  • “Ice and snow get trapped by the shoes which causes problems. My horses are normally barefoot anyway.”
  • “If we are showing any, they have shoes. The others don't. All shoes are pulled at end of year if outside.”
  • “I only shoe my horses when I jump on grass, or will be riding on lots and lots of rocks.”
  • “We live in a sandy region; don't shoe unless there's a real problem.”

You can find more information about winter hoof care, keeping horses barefoot, how hoof pads can offer support, winter traction devices, and more at TheHorse.com

This week, we want to know: how do you keep your arthritic horses comfortable and active? Vote now and comment at TheHorse.com/polls

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health E-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.

About the Author

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer, is a lifelong horse owner who competes with her Appaloosas in Western performance events. She is a University of Kentucky graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in Community Communications and Leadership Development, and master's degree in Career, Technical, and Leadership Education. She currently lives on a small farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

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