Hoof Boots in the Snow
This week we had our first snow of the season. It wasn’t a blizzard. We only got about five inches of snow. Still, it was fun taking Cracker and Pie for a spin in the white stuff. If you’ve ever wondered how hoof boots work in the snow, I think you’ll find this post interesting.
About Hoof Boots and Me
None of my wife Julia’s or my horses or mules wear steel shoes. We ride them all barefoot. When they need a bit of extra protection, we slap on a set of hoof boots. In the past fifteen years, I’ve made the following trips in hoof boots:
- Atlantic to Pacific Ocean saddle trip (13 months – 2,500 miles)
- Canada to Mexico wagon trip (14 months – 2,400 miles)
- Across Newfoundland (5 months – 1,000 miles)
- North Carolina to Idaho (6 months – 2,200 miles)
For the most part, hoof boots work great. I’ve used them in all sorts of conditions, from mud, rocks and rain, to pavement, lava and snow. Snow can be a challenge, though, so I thought you’d be interested in how they worked out on my recent outing.
The Trouble With Riding in Snow
The trouble with riding a horse or mule in the snow is that it can collect as big snowballs on the bottom of a horse’s feet (when I refer to “horse”, I also mean mule). This can be especially trying in wet snow. Some people have had luck smearing the bottom of the hoof with something like petroleum jelly so the snowballs drop off. I never had luck with that approach. The only thing that has worked consistently for me are hoof boots.
The hoof boots keep the snow from packing into the bottom of the animal’s feet.
Heading out With Pie and Cracker
Here are some photos of my ride in the snow with Pie and Cracker.
How it Went: The Pros and Cons of Hoof Boots in the Snow
Over the years, I’ve put in a lot of miles with hoof boots in the snow, from crossing the Rocky Mountains in winter to traveling through Idaho in the snow. Most of my experience has been with Easy Boots and Renegades. For the most part, they work great.
The biggest issue I’ve had with using hoof boots in the snow is that the snow can clog the hooks and loops in the Velcro it doesn’t attach to itself.
The other issue is cold fingers. It’s hard to adjust hoof boots straps with your gloves on so you need to take them off for any serious adjustments.
As bad luck would have it, not too long into my ride, the rubber O-rings that hold the extra Velcro on the toe strap of Pie’s hoof boot broke. This had nothing to do with the snow. The O-rings were just worn out. It takes about thirty seconds to replace them so it’s no big deal.
As good luck would have it, the hoof boot stayed on just fine. I just tucked the toe strap up under the pastern strap, the strap above it, and just kept riding.
Hoof Boot Snow Travel Verdict
I’ve had good luck with hoof boots in the snow. For the most part, they’ve stayed on great. If I was doing any serious long-distance riding in the snow, and by that, I mean hundreds of miles in deep snow, I might consider shoeing my animals with steel shoes. The only reason I’d do that is because, at low temperatures in snowy conditions, hoof boots can be hard to fit and adjust.
Aside from those conditions, I’m fine using hoof boots in the snow.
More on Hoof Boots
For more on the hoof boots Julia and I use, check out this review about three brands of boots Julia and I used on a mule ramble from North Carolina to Virginia and back. We clobbered the hell out of them and you can see how they performed. Click here to read.
Get a Heads up When then “Trash to Triumph” Book Comes out
If you haven’t already, I’d be happy to give you a heads up when my book “Trash to Triumph” comes out. In addition to being about life on the road with two mules, the book goes into how I dealt with hoof boots under a wide range of conditions from mud and snow to rocks and pavement. Just sign up here for the RiverEarth.com newsletter and I’ll holler at you when the book is published.