Q: I like the idea of barefoot horses, but I drive and want to compete. When I tell friends that I want to drive my ponies barefoot, I hear others’ concerns that the boots won’t have traction or might fall off. Have you had success with boots on driving horses?
Cavallo President Carole Herder shares her advice (https://www.cavallo-inc.com).
A: More and more driving horses and ponies, and very small equines (VSE) are wearing boots. While horses that pull need a secure fit and an extra bit of traction, boots can provide both of those requirements. Just recently, The American Driving Society, Inc. board members (http://americandrivingsociety.org) approved the use of hoof boots for driven dressage and combined driving events. As of this year, rule changes allow driving competitors to drive with hoof boots.
We have worked closely with several driving enthusiasts to make sure that the boots are fitting their horses and ponies well and up to the challenge of moving fast over varied terrain. The best advice is to make sure that the boots fit well and to apply our Hoof Boot Stud accessories (https://www.cavallo-inc.com/product-category/hoof-boot-accessories/hoof-boot-studs/) to provide extra traction for when the horses and ponies need to “dig in” and pull.
Here’s more from driver Dan Rosenthal who now has six barefoot Dartmoor Ponies and competes with them while they wear their Cavallos. Rosenthal and his wife, Ann West, keep their horses and ponies at their Green Gallery Farm near Aiken, South Carolina. Rosenthal has been the USEF Preliminary Pair Pony Champion and the American Driving Society North American Pair Pony Champion.
Rosenthal has ridden dressage and cross country horses, but has a passion for driving. “I have never found anything that captured me quite like driving four ponies does.
“About two years ago, I started looking into the idea of boots. I always thought that barefoot was a more natural condition for horses. But when you drive a carriage and go over all different kinds of terrain, you need something to insulate the horse’s foot from the ground. In particular, when you’re going at speed, you need more traction than hooves alone can provide. I also had a pony who was just recovering from a stifle injury. He went through an extensive period of rehab and was barefoot during that time. When I got him home and started working him again, I was looking for a solution for him. I liked the idea of barefoot and I also wanted to help this one pony and give him what he needed.”
Rosenthal reached out to Cavallo and received help to measure and fit the boots—plus tips to place the optional Hoof Boot Studs to the soles for traction. “I found the Cavallo boots which fit him perfectly,” Rosenthal says. “I put the studs on, too. The studs work quite well and aren’t too hard to put on once you learn how. The metal studs screw into the bottom of the boots. Once you get them in correctly, they’re wonderful.”
Once one pony was outfitted with boots, Rosenthal soon put boots on the others, too. “We put Cashew into the boots in 2017,” he says. “I got another pony soon after and took his shoes off, too. He was going to be matched with Cashew. I have those two ponies in boots and have driven them several times a week with the boots and I’m very happy with the boots. I wanted them to match in terms of traction and in terms of how they looked.”
Rosenthal drives his ponies routinely–and times them to help prepare them for competition. “The boots are easy to put on and take off,” he says. “The ponies don’t care about them after the first time that you put them on. The first time you put them on, they wonder what’s on their feet but that goes away after 20 minutes. I’ve never had trouble with traction.”
Taking time to put the boots on carefully helps ensure that they’ll stay on during long drives. Rosenthal says “I’m very careful when I put the boots on my ponies. You have to make sure that the horse’s heel is deep in the boot. You have to make sure that the Velcro tab on the toe is secured on the toe. All the straps must be on and tight. If it’s on well it’s going to stay on. Fit is everything. They come in a lot of different sizes. I’m lucky that all six of my ponies can wear the same boots. I have been using the Cavallos for 18 months and haven’t worn one out or had one break. It amazes me how long they last.”
The boots help your pocketbook when you have lots of ponies, too. “If you look at the economics of wearing shoes versus boots, it’s a no-brainer,” Rosenthal says. “The boots last longer and are less expensive over time. My farriers have been great about helping the horses with the boots and made sure that they’re trimmed well. I tried to do glue on shoes once and my farrier said no, he wouldn’t do it. It was too complicated. But the boots, my farriers are fine with. They understand that I like the boots and they also understand that if there’s a problem with one of the ponies, I want them to tell me. I told my farrier that if it was a problem for him to trim and not get the price of adding shoes, let me know. I didn’t want it to be about his economics, it was about my horse’s feet.”
With COVID 19 restrictions eased, Rosenthal is eager to attend more shows with his pony team. “I have had the ponies wear the boots for all three phases of combined driving—for dressage, cross country, and for cones. I have driven with boots in competition now, too. There is a lot of interest in the driving community about horses being barefoot. I really like the boots. We’re happy with how it’s going.”
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Cavallo President Carole Herder wrote the #1 International Bestseller, There Are No Horseshoes in Heaven, and the newly released Hoofprints on The Journey. She has been involved in horse health since 1993. Her company, Cavallo Horse & Rider Inc., develops, manufactures, and distributes horse products in 26 countries. Herder designed and developed Cavallo Hoof Boots and Total Comfort System Saddle Pads. She presents training sessions around the world to teach the benefits of keeping horses in a natural state. Herder is an honored recipient of the Royal Bank of Canada Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She was named top Innovator in the 2021 BCBusinessWomen of the Year Awards. She is also a member of the Women’s Presidents Organization, supporting female entrepreneurs in every industry.
Visit https://www.cavallo-inc.com to learn about the full line of Cavallo Hoof Boots. Call (877) 818-0037 from the USA or Canada or call direct, (604) 740-0037.
Cavallo Horse & Rider