More of a statement than a question, but one of the most frequently uttered phrases! The real question here is “Why is it that a horse isn’t able to comfortably support its own weight and that of a rider without shoes on, when it appears to be able to do so when it’s shod?” Research has shown that applying a fixed metal object (horse shoe) to a flexible object (horse hoof) will cause a restriction in the natural flexion of the hoof. This reduction in flexion affects the blood flow through the hoof and may be responsible for the slight numbing of the hoof itself. This numbing can often be felt as a cooler lower leg and hoof. (See question 23 for more on blood flow in the hoof.) It is commonly thought that slight loss of feeling in the hooves makes the horse appear more comfortable and less lame when shod with metal horse shoes. If your horse is lame without shoes on you need to have a thorough veterinary diagnosis undertaken to find the cause of the sensitivity.
2 My horse is lame when he loses a shoe. How can I ride without them?
As in question no.1, we can now see that horses with these problems need some form of protection that doesn’t impede hoof function. This is where hoof boots can be of benefit. A horse with compromised hooves that has just recently come out of shoes and started a Natural Hoof Care programme, can often be comfortably ridden in hoof boots (usually only needed on the front feet). Logically, if your horse has been diagnosed by your vet with extreme hoof pathologies you will not force him to be ridden which would no doubt cause more problems. A general rule of thumb is that if a horse is comfortable when ridden in hoof boots and moves without any gait restrictions and no obvious lameness, then it would be permissible to ride the horse. Anything less than this is obviously a veterinary matter and needs to be addressed by an equine health care professional.