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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Winter Is Here! So Are Studded Hoof Boots

6 January 2010 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog at
This art is from an ad for ice calks that was in the Horseshoers Journal 100 years ago; courtesy of Cornell University's Flower Sprecher Veterinary Library.

Ten years ago I wrote an article on winter hoofcare. It began:

"Does the sound of sleigh bells set your nerves on edge, because you are anticipating a wreck on the next icy patch down the road? Do you dream of the day next spring when you will be able to see your horse below his knees? Do you lie awake at night designing heating wires that can be implanted in horseshoe pads to melt the ice balls?"

Funny how things don't change much around here. Winter still makes me nervous. The fresh snow is beautiful for a week at the most. Then it either melts or solidifies into an ice field, especially any place the ground is level.

Right about the time that happens for the first time each winter, horse owners start to panic, especially if they haven't had their horses shoes adapted for winter or pulled. Flat shoes on ice induce unanticipated equine acrobatics and an immediate call to the farrier. Sometimes, unfortunately, the call is to the vet clinic.

Today I found out that Cavallo is now offering studs for their hoof boots. Studded hoof boots are becoming a more universally-available traction option for winter riding or driving on horses that are barefoot or seasonally shoeless.

These photos, courtesy of Cavallo, show how simple it is to drill the hole for the stud and then use the drill to insert it. I'm assuming that the same drill is reversible and will remove the stud as well. You'd have to be very careful not to drill through the sole of the boot and you will notice in these photos that they are drilling into a brand new boot. If you are drilling into an older boot that has a lot of wear on the "tread", the placement of the studs would be critical, and the whole process might require more thought and accuracy. As always, check with the manufacturer of the boots for their experiences. Most horse owners would want to leave this drilling task to their farriers. If you make a mistake, you've ruined an expensive piece of equipment.

This is a pretty big difference from the insertion and removal of studs in a horseshoe that is attached to the horse, where a stud wrench is required. I think there would be a danger that horse owners would be tempted to leave the studs in the boots all winter and never take them out, or ride in them when they aren't needed. They'd also need to remember to plug the holes when the studs are removed. Just as with shoe calks, owners or grooms would need to keep the stud holes clean, check the studs for cracks and wear, and make sure the holes aren't fatigued. Horseshoes are replaced periodically, but a hoof boot is built to last for quite a while, so the stud hole will need to be checked to make sure it has a good grip on the neck of the stud.

There must be 101 ways to winter-shoe a horse, with a variety of rim and full pads, hard surfacing puddles, nuggets, pin studs, screw-in studs, ice/frost nails, etc. This draft horse is an extreme example; he is shod to work in the woods and pull a sleigh. Notice how much the special ice nails protrude from the shoe. (Michael Wildenstein photo)

Now, won't someone design a simple velcro strap-on device with pre-installed permanent studs? (One that stays put and doesn't shift under the horse as it walks, please.) Ice-studded strap-ons could be handy for very temporary use, and you would want to be able to put them on one horse, take them off, and put them on the next, so they should be adjustable in size. Another idea: Some sort of super-gritty (on the ground side), anti-slip sole packing material might be a godsend, just the thing for boarding barns that won't allow horses to wear winter shoes or hind shoes if they are turned out.

It's always important to remember that horses can massacre their pasterns and coronets with studs and that horses that interfere when tired can and will cut their legs or bandages. And that you should obviously be consistent in the placement of studs in boots. Logic says don't use the horse with just one studded boot on and be very careful about turning horses out with boots on. And remember that if they step on you with a studded boot on, it will hurt!

The biggest caveat of all in using studded boots would have to be that the boots fit well and the horse moves well in them. An icy day is not the time to try boots on a horse for the first time. Studded boots are not a replacement for shoes but rather safety and traction equipment for an unshod horse. Nothing is more upsetting than seeing a horse slip and slide across a paddock; it's even more upsetting to be on top of a sliding horse.

Even with studded hoof boots, a horse won't turn into one of those tolting Icelandics who race on the ice. They wear special shoes to be able to do that.

It's not too late to get a horse set up for this winter. It's never too late to take the best care you can to prevent injuries and stress. How great it is that horses have so many options these days. It means that people care and that clever-minded companies are recognizing a need and serving up new ideas to try.

Note: Horse owners should check with hoof boot manufacturers for individual recommendations not only of how to install studs, but what studs to install. Some hoof boot manufacturers include Stride Equus (Marquis), Delta-Mustad, Easy Care, Theo, Swiss Horse Boot, and Renegade, in addition to Cavallo, who just started selling their new boot-specific studs today. A little homework goes a long way.

© 2010 Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask.

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Mac said...

Renegades do a studded boot too (permanent studs), and yes! It's velcro based.

Check out their blog site for pictures of winter ski-joring in studded boots.

And no, I don't work for them! I just love their boots.

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