Winter horse shoeing needs differ greatly from summer’s counterparts.
I have my horses’ shoes pulled before the first snowfall if possible. The reason to do this was brought home very painfully several years ago when a good friend’s shod mare slipped on the ice, broke her leg and had to be put down. Metal shoes slip much more easily on ice or snow than do bare hooves.
My choice is to have my horses go shoeless in the winter because I won’t be trail riding in the cold. The arenas have soft footing and no shoes are needed.
I also don’t want to have to pick the snow and ice that collects in the horse’s feet if they are shod. Snow balls up and alters the angle of the horse’s hooves, potentially damaging tendons and muscles. So, shod horses should have their hooves picked out regularly daily, if the hooves collect snowballs.
There are plastic pads that can be put on under the shoes and next to the horse’s frog. They will keep snow from collecting in the hoof. There are full-foot pads and rim pads that both repel snow and make footing more secure.
Rim shoes are more stable on ice and snow than flat shoes. And, aluminum shoes grip better than rim shoes because aluminum is softer.
A substance called Borium can be put in the horse’s shoes to increase their grip and help prevent slipping and sliding, too. Borium is the brand name for tungsten carbide. It’s also called tube rod or tube metal. The farrier adds the substance to the front and both ends of the shoes.
There also are premade shoes with metals that add to grip and stability because traction enhancing materials are already included on the shoes.
Your veterinarian and farrier can offer valuable information about what types of shoes, if any, are best for your horse in winter.