When preparing your horse for winter, their feet need to be taken into special consideration. Remember to plan ahead of time because farriers go on holidays. It is also important to remember that a horse’s feet grow at a different rate during cold weather than they do in the summer.
One of the most common options for horse foot care in the winter is to have your horse go barefoot. Of whether your horse is usually barefoot or shod, pulling your horses shoes for the winter is a very common option. Many people have their horse go barefoot for the winter. This can prevent slipping, snow build-ups, and to reduce the chances of bruising the horse’s foot. Some horses, however, are not suited to going barefoot for the winter. Some owners prefer to leave their horse wearing shoes all winter. Often the reasons are your horse’s chosen discipline, medical issues, or personal preference. If your horse does go barefoot, you’ll find that your horse will go longer periods between trims. Your farriers should be able to predict the correct schedule for your horse. They will consider the amount of use they will get, your local weather, and your individual horse. Your farrier should also let you know their schedule and who you can contact if there is an emergency while they’re gone. This will help them schedule your horse accordingly.
For people who want to let their horse go barefoot over the winter without losing traction, you can use any easy boot or another removable horseshoe. These removable shoes are often rubber and simply slide over your horse’s foot and snap into place. This is an excellent option for horses that go on hard trails or icy surfaces; they are also well suited for horses that are occasionally used. These boots prevent snow from entering, protect your horse’s frog, and are even suited for feet with bruises or ulcers. Trimming should be on the same schedule as a barefoot horse.
For mild climates, some horses are fine with their regular shoes. Regular shoes should not be used in climates with heavy snowfall, deep mud, or slippery conditions. Without specialty products, extreme caution, and impeccable grooming these conditions can be very dangerous. This is because a horse’s regular shoe is a prime location for moisture build-up. This can result in ice balls, packed snow, or ice crystals around the horses frog and fetlock. This build-up can lead to bruised feet, abscesses, slipping, and lameness. There are specialty products available such as snow poppers and rubber wedges among others. Your farrier will be able to give you options along with the benefits, risks, cost, and practicality of your situation.
Some horses have shoes for medical purposes such as laminitis, navicular disease, or other related conditions. There are often greater risks when changing your horses shoeing options. Therefore, you should maintain your regular schedule unless advised by a veterinarian or farrier to change it. There are often few, if any, specialty products compatible with corrective shoeing. Feel free to discuss this and other options with your farrier at your next trim.
Horses that compete over the winter often have specialty shoeing. Speak to your farrier, riding club, and trainer regarding winter options. Remember that heavy horses, particularly drafts, are not often suited to studs. Remember that careful planning sets you up for the best chances at a safe, stress-free winter.