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Unshod vs Shod: Why Hoof Boots Are The Better Choice

Hoof Boots for Horses: Protecting Your Horse’s Most Important Asset

The well-being of horses is dependent on many factors, including their diet, exercise, and environment. However, one of the most important aspects is the care given to their hooves.

Hooves are the foundation of a horse’s body, and their proper care is essential to maintaining a healthy and happy horse. Although horseshoes are widely used to protect hooves, more and more horse owners are realizing the benefits of leaving their horses unshod.

In this article, we’ll explore the world of hoof boots for horses, from their benefits and need to the different types available and what to look for in the best hoof boots.

Benefits of Leaving Horses Unshod

  • Shock Absorption

    Horses’ hooves are naturally designed to provide shock absorption when running, jumping or just standing. When a horse is shod, the hard metal of the shoe reduces this natural shock absorption, which can lead to discomfort and even pain for the animal.

    When horses are left barefoot, the hooves can absorb a large portion of the shock that might otherwise be transferred to their joints, reducing the risk of injury, arthritis, and other hoof-related problems.

  • Weight Distribution

    Unshod horses are capable of distributing their weight evenly across their entire hoof, which not only improves their balance and movement but also helps to protect their joints and ligaments.

    Shoes, on the other hand, often cause the weight distribution to be uneven, which can lead to joint and muscle strain and damage.

  • Adaptedness

    Horses are evolved to live and thrive in their natural environment.

    One aspect of this adaptation is the natural strength and resiliency of their hooves. Unfortunately, horseshoes can weaken hooves over time and lead to a loss of natural protection.

    When horses are allowed to go barefoot or wear hoof boots, their hooves are protected from harmful factors such as hard surfaces, which allows them to maintain their resilience and adaptability to their environment.

  • Cost-Effectiveness

    Horseshoeing is expensive and requires regular maintenance.

    With unshod horses, the need for frequent hoof trimming and shoe replacement is eliminated, making it a more cost-effective option for many owners.

  • Overall Horse Health

    The benefits mentioned above help to maintain not only the health of a horse’s hooves but also their overall physical and mental well-being.

    Horses that go barefoot or use hoof boots tend to have fewer medical issues, are often calmer, and are better able to perform at their highest level.

Need for Hoof Boots

While leaving a horse unshod can provide many benefits, hoof boots are often necessary for certain situations. Some of the common reasons for using hoof boots include:

  • Protection on Rocky Terrain

    Horses often encounter rough and rocky surfaces during their daily activities, such as trail riding or playing in a field.

    Hoof boots can help to protect their hooves from cuts, bruises, and other types of injuries that can occur in these environments.

  • Emergency Hoof Boot Replacement

    Horseshoes can become loose or lost while a horse is out in the field.

    In these cases, a temporary emergency hoof boot can be used to protect the hoof until a farrier can replace the shoe.

  • Horseshoe Alternatives

    Some owners may prefer to use hoof boots as an alternative to horseshoes, as they provide similar protection without the negative effects that horseshoes can have on the hoof.

Different Types of Horse Hoof Boots

  • Riding Hoof Boots

    For horses that need protection while riding, many different styles of riding hoof boots are available. Some designs are specifically designed for English or Western riding, while others are more versatile and can be used in a variety of disciplines.

    Some of the most popular brands are Cavallo, Easycare, and Woof wear.

  • Emergency Hoof Boots

    Emergency hoof boots come in a variety of styles, but they all serve the same purpose: to provide temporary protection for a lost or damaged horseshoe.

    Tubbease is one of the top brands that offer emergency hoof boots.

  • Treatment/Medicine Hoof Boots

    Sometimes a horse may need to have a medication or treatment applied to their hooves.

    In these cases, a medicine or treatment hoof boot may be used. These boots help to maintain the medication in place for an extended period, allowing it to have a more effective impact.

Best Hoof Boots

When it comes to choosing the best hoof boots for your horse, there are many factors to consider. Some of the essential points to keep in mind are:

  • Fit

    The fit is critical when selecting hoof boots.

    The boots should be comfortable and secure, with no gaps or looseness that could cause rubbing or irritation to the horse’s skin.

  • Material

    Hoof boots come in a variety of materials, including leather, synthetic materials, and rubber.

    Some horses may be more comfortable with certain materials than others, so it’s essential to experiment to find out which type is best suited to your horse.

  • Durability

    Hoof boots should be durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of daily activities without falling apart or causing discomfort to your horse.

Duration of Horse Wearing Hoof Boots

The appropriate duration of wearing hoof boots will depend on the purpose for which they are being used. For riding, hoof boots should only be worn during the ride, and then removed when the horse is at rest.

In contrast, emergency hoof boots should be worn until a farrier can replace the horseshoe. For general protection while in the field, hoof boots can be left on for more extended periods.

Regardless of the situation, it’s essential to give horses enough time to break in new boots and ensure the boots fit correctly.

Comparison of Hoof Boots and Horseshoes

While hoof boots and horseshoes serve similar purposes, there are several differences that should be considered when choosing between the two. Hoof boots provide natural shock absorption and weight distribution, allowing for more natural movement and flexibility.

Horseshoes can cause more strain on the joints and ligaments, leading to potential injuries or pain. Additionally, hoof boots are more cost-effective than horseshoes in the long run.


In conclusion, hoof boots provide an excellent alternative to horseshoes for horses, offering natural protection, shock absorption, and weight distribution. The different types of hoof boots available make them suitable for many different purposes, from protection while riding to emergency hoof boot replacement.

With the right fit, material, durability, and duration of use in mind, hoof boots can be a valuable tool in promoting and maintaining the overall health and well-being of your horse. In conclusion, hoof boots provide a natural alternative to horseshoes that offer many benefits, such as shock absorption, weight distribution, and cost-effectiveness.

Whether you’re looking to protect your horse’s hooves on rough terrain, provide a temporary emergency hoof boot replacement, or support medication application, hoof boots are a valuable tool in promoting and maintaining the overall health and well-being of your horse. Take the time to find the right fit, material, and durability for your horse, and consider trying one of the best options available, such as Cavallo or Easycare.


  1. Are hoof boots suitable for all horses?

    Hoof boots can be suitable for most horses, but it’s important to consider the horse’s individual needs and circumstances, such as their activities, hoof sensitivity, and overall health.

  2. How long can a horse wear hoof boots?

    The appropriate duration of wearing hoof boots will depend on the purpose for which they are being used, but generally, they should only be worn during the activity and removed at rest.

  3. How do I choose the right fit for my horse’s hoof boots?

    The fit is essential when selecting hoof boots, and you should ensure that they are comfortable and secure, with no gaps or looseness that could cause rubbing or irritation to the horse’s skin.

  4. Are hoof boots better than horseshoes?

    Hoof boots provide natural protection, shock absorption, and weight distribution and are often a better alternative to horseshoes, especially for horses that spend a lot of time on rough or varied terrain.

  5. How do I maintain hoof boots?

    Hoof boots should be cleaned regularly, and you should check for any damage or wear that may cause discomfort to your horse.

    It is also important to ensure that they are properly fitted and adjusted for optimal comfort and effectiveness.

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