How to Keep a Mule Shod – or Not
Barefoot in Montana
Bell Tower Community, Montana
“How do you keep mule Polly shod?”
It’s one of the questions I get most.
On the road, with my faithful mule standing by my side, it’s just a matter of pointing at her feet and saying:
A) “I don’t.” (if she’s barefoot)
B) “Hoof boots.” (if she’s wearing her boots)
In reality, though, it’s way more complicated, part of a hoof-care system I developed on my last 3,500 mile journey with mule Woody across America. So in the next few RiverEarth installment, we’ll talk barefoot trims, boots for barefoot horses/mules, and of course, my new book “Too Proud to Ride a Cow” (a copy of which you can still pre-order, and have shipped direct from the Lost Sea mule wagon).
Okay, let’s start with Polly’s boots.
Here’s the problem.
Mules have narrower hooves than horses. You could describe a horse’s hoof as “C” shaped whereas a mule’s hoof is “U” shaped.
Mule Polly’s hoof
That means the rubber hoof boots, because they’re designed for horses, tend to fall off a mule’s feet. (Sure, some of them come with garters. But I found these stretchy neoprene sleeves that wrap around the horse/mule’s pastern soon chafed when worn for 40 to 50 hours per week – no matter how much Gold Bond or vet wrap I applied.)
To adapt the Easyboot (my brand if choice), I made shims that screwed into the side of the boot.
Step 1) Round up a 2-degree rubber wedge pad (found at the local farrier’s supply). Lay it next to the boot’s flat side and trace out the boot shape. Make sure the fat part of the wedge pad is at the top. This makes the shim grip better, like the tapered collet on a drill chuck.
Step 2)Cut out the wedge. Drill holes to match the existing boot hardware.
Step 3)Using the screws and hardware found on your EasyBoot, screw the shims to the inside of the boot. You can use the existing hardware, though you’ll have to use longer machine screws. You can purchase them at your local hardware store. Remember to use stainless steel.
Boot with shims in place
That’s all there is to it.
Well, that’s not really true. Now that you’ve added the shims, your boots will be crazy-hard to get on your horse/mule’s feet. Which is exactly what you want, after all. You’re going for that tight, ride-from-Canada-to-Mexico fit.
That’s where the 3-pound hammer comes in.
We’ll talk about that next…
(Right, I was supposed to talk about the “Too Proud” book, the account of our last journey across America. For the tons of folks who’ve pre-ordered a copy, a hearty “Thank You!” Your copy will ship the first week of November – complete with a stamp to certify your book came off the Lost Sea wagon. For those of you who’d still like to order a copy, have a look at “Too Proud”.