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Should You Keep Your Horse's Shoes On In Winter?

Thinking of letting your horse go barefoot this winter? It can be a great opportunity to give your horse a break from shoes, especially if they will be taking time off from riding, competing, or working. For some horses, though, it’s best to keep shoes on in the winter. Here’s what you should keep in mind when making this choice for your horse.

Benefits Of Going Barefoot For Winter
Naturally, going without shoes in the winter will help you save a little money. It can also prevent your horse from experiencing a buildup of snow in their hooves. For some horses, going barefoot gives their hooves a chance to grow naturally without support and may even promote the growth of strong hoof walls.

How To Transition Your Horse After Pulling Shoes For Winter
Your horse will need to adjust to going barefoot, so you should go about 30-90 days without work while your horse’s hooves toughen up. This makes sense for those who ride their horse less in the winter, but if your horse’s workload remains the same year-round, they may not be able to go barefoot. Boots can protect your horse’s hooves when they’re barefoot, especially during that transition period.

Hoof Maintenance During A Barefoot Winter
Going barefoot does not mean that you will not need to keep up with hoof care. You should inspect the hooves for signs of bruising or splitting, pick your horse’s hooves daily, and see a farrier every 4-6 weeks.

When You Should Not Let Your Horse Go Barefoot
Going barefoot in the winter is not the best choice for every horse. If your horse has any history of laminitis, orthopedic injuries, or if your horse will be ridden on hard, frozen surfaces, they will likely need shoes in the winter. Different types of shoes can be used for traction and support and to help minimize “hoof snowballs.”

Discuss shoeing your horse in the winter with your farrier and veterinarian. They can help you access the soundness of your horse’s hooves and see you through the transition process to see if your horse is adjusting smoothly or if they may still need shoes after all.