Cavallo Hoof Boots Q&A of the Month: Why Don’t Wild Horses Wear Shoes? BONUS: Spring Hoof Boot Contest Now Open

Q: Why don’t wild horses wear shoes?

A: Cavallo Horse & Rider President Carole Herder has studied the horse’s form to function. She says that horses’ hoof and leg movements—as well as their bodies’ natural stress hormones—combine perfectly to keep them up and running.

In the wild, horses run at the first sign of danger,” she says. “When there’s danger, they burst into action, nose to flank, protecting one another. With babies in the center of the herd, all move as one unit. Digestion shuts down. Flight is the only remaining requirement. The sympathetic nervous system performs like a hormonal gas pedal; thousands of pounds thunder across the tundra on small, compact hooves.

“Survival depends on healthy, functioning hooves. Even if some ailment or discomfort exists, to a predator, the prey-animal horse would pretend to be healthy, strong, in fighting form, and ready to run. With adrenalin pumping as a powerful aid, these horses run far and fast. If there is a problem, it is remedied by the will to survive. Whether in survival mode or not, when you see a horse running with complete freedom of movement, it is very different than many of the domestic horses we are accustomed to seeing.

“Our domestication of the horse has resulted in an assortment lameness conditions: Navicular disease, Tendinitis, strained ligaments, arthritis, inflammation, bursitis. When horses don’t move freely and are limited in space, their hooves don’t grow, wear and pump as they would have in the wild. In a natural environment, a simple injury would occur more often than any of these conditions.

“Some say we have bred the “hoof” out of horses, but 50,000,000 years of evolution cannot be ruined so comparatively quickly. The hoof is a perfect feat of engineering. In its natural state, the hoof is a miraculous structure designed with innate intelligence to function as support for the weight of a horse in movement.

“Here’s how the horse’s movement affects his hooves: When a horse's full weight descends, the hoof is sandwiched between that load and the ground. The hoof spreads apart, allowing the coffin bone to drop, like a trampoline. This is the natural shock-absorbing feature of the hoof. The walls spread (up to 6mm from side to side) and the sole draws flat. In addition, the frog spreads the heels apart, drawing the sole flat and inviting the bone structure of the leg to descend into the hoof. This is how shock is absorbed in the hoof capsule. If the frog cannot make ground contact and function as it should, then shock cannot be correctly absorbed, and blood cannot freely flow.

Circulation is imperative to the distribution of oxygen and nutrients throughout the system. Healthy blood flow aids in prevention and facilitates healing. Limited blood flow leads to degeneration.

“Nailing metal onto horses’ feet limits ground contact, which in turn limits blood circulation. The horse appears to be able to move about alright, but it is because he cannot feel his feet. His hoof is numb, and internal damage can develop. Any metal shoe is nailed on when the hoof is in the air, at its smallest, most contracted shape. The hoof is not expanded with weight-bearing or movement, and it is then held firm in this smallest state. There is no spreading out and no room for the coffin bone to properly descend. As the coffin bone pushes down under the horse's weight, it bruises the solar corium because the sole cannot draw flat to get out of the way. Both proper blood circulation and shock absorption are dangerously limited. Without hoof mechanism, problems percolate until, one day, there is some sort of presentation or eruption that cannot be ignored: laminitis, navicular, ring bone, inflammation etc. And so, begins the attempt at rehabilitation, be it stall rest, medication, a new farrier, new exercise, different feed, supplements etc.

“Why not go to the source of the problem and give those feet a rest? Consider keeping your horse barefoot to encourage the blood to circulate through the proper channels. Carrying a host of nutrients, the hoof can flex and expand to allow shock absorption and relieve the strain to extensor tendons and lateral cartilage. Oxygen and nutrients help increase healthy new bone growth. Optimally functioning hooves will naturally show a decrease in symptoms of discomfort. Rehabilitating the hoof to perform its natural function is the only way to get to the cause and cure the condition.

“Barefoot hooves will require proper trimming, hydration and adequate movement on appropriate terrain to emulate nature. It’s not hard to do, and hoof boots are an integral part of the rehabilitation process. They provide comfort, protection and traction. The boots I designed ( have a slightly raised rim to offset the weight of a tender sole, while still maintaining an inner surface functioning as a counter-effect for the expansion of the hoof while weight bearing. Cavallo hoof boots will assist to encourage blood circulation. In transition, gel pads can be used to further stimulate blood flow.

“Understanding the implications of the personal choice you make in the treatment of any diagnosis is your responsibility as a horse owner. You also can choose to accept or reject a prognosis, seek another opinion and do your own research. The important thing is the quality of life your horse enjoys. Soundness is living a pain free life.”

Enter Our Spring Giveaway:

Enter now at for a chance to win a pair of Cavallo Trek Boots for your horse! You pick the size if selected. Enter before the deadline, May 1, 2019. One winner will be notified by email and announced on the Cavallo Horse & Rider Facebook page within one week after the deadline. One entry per person/email address. Delivery to North America only. If the chosen winner does not respond by email within one week, the second choice winner will be notified. No cash value, no returns or exchanges. One entry per person. Void where prohibited.

Find out more about Cavallo Trek Horse Hoof Boots:, MSRP: $179.90 USD for a pair.

Cavallo Horse & Rider’s Trek Hoof Boots are the most flexible, durable, breathable and user friendly addition to the Cavallo Hoof Boot collection. The honeycomb design maximizes strength and minimizes weight for the comfort your horse deserves. Great for the relief of chronic pain or hoof sensitivity; rehabilitation from injuries, abscesses, navicular disease, laminitis/founder, punctures, sole bruising and contracted heels. Trek can easily be adjusted for close contact and snug fit to individual horse’s hooves. Can also be used for protection during trailering and breeding or taken on the trail as a “spare tire” for lost shoes. Trek Hoof Boots are now available in Red, Black and Green on Regular and Slim Sole styles.

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