You might have thought by the title of the post that I am going to discuss the price paid for hoof boots in terms of dollars, but I'm going in a bit of a different direction. If you are an AERC member, you may have read an article in the November 2016 issue of Endurance News entitled, "Ten things you can do better," by Dr. Susan Garlinghouse. The November article is the first of a series of articles (presumably 10) and it focuses on weight. The first part of the article discusses how the weight a horse carries near its center of gravity (e.g. the rider, the saddle) affects its energy requirements. (Spoiler alert: the amount of weight a horse carries in terms of a rider and saddle does have an affect on the energy expenditure by the horse, but not as much as you might think.) The second part discusses how weight carried away from the center of gravity (e.g. shoes, hoof boots) affects energy expenditure.
Dr. Garlinghouse writes, "If the weight is not over the center of gravity, then energy costs increase in a non-linear, disproportionate manner." What does that mean in practical terms? "...for every pound added to the end of the legs in the form of shoes, pads, hoof boots and protective neoprene wraps, the energy required is the same as adding 11 pounds over the center of gravity. One pound of boots per leg x four legs requires the same work effort as carrying an additional 44 pounds in the saddle."
When I read that statement, my eyeballs just about popped out of my head. And note that the conversion is based on a study using a 1,000 pound horse. I have no idea how much the work effort might increase for say, a 1,500 pound horse like Nimo.
Out of curiosity, I dragged 4 different hoof boots into the house to weigh on my kitchen scale (it would have been 5, but I forgot my pair of Renegades out at the barn).
|Because why wouldn't you use your kitchen scale to weigh hoof boots?|
I happened to have on hand a size 4 Easyboot Epic, a size 11 Easyboot Trail, a size 6 Cavallo Simple, and a size 16 Equine Performance Fusion Jogging Shoe. The sizes are pretty close to each other, but they are not a perfect match, so comparing weights is not a completely apples-to-apples approach (and it's possible that a kitchen scale is not as accurate as a laboratory scale would be), but I figured the numbers would at least provide a relative benchmark for comparison as well as give me a ballpark estimate of weight.
Here's what I found:
Equine Performance Fusion Jogging Shoe: 1 lb, 4 oz
Easyboot Epics: 1 lb, 4.5 oz
Cavallo Simple: 1 lb, 7.25 oz
Easyboot Trail: 1 lb, 11 oz.
The results surprised me just a bit because I expected the Jogging Shoe to be significantly lighter than the Epic, but it was about the same. But the real surprise is how much weight Nimo has to carry if he wears 4 hoof boots. The Epics are the boots I use most frequently and if Nimo has to wear 4 of them, he is carrying an extra 5+ pounds, which translates into an extra 55 pounds under saddle if I use the conversion formula from the article. That is incredible. And it explains why Nimo was so tired after the first LD that he did, which was the Fort Valley 30. Not only did he have 4 boots on that day (2 of them were size 5 Epics (presumably heavier than size 4) and 2 were Simples - even heavier than Epics!), I also had pads in all four boots and I noticed that when we went through water, the pads either soaked up some water or prevented it from draining very quickly, so that means he was lugging around even more weight.
Dr. Garlinghouse does not suggest in her article that horses shouldn't wear hoof or leg protection, but she does point out that the weight of the protection should be considered and if something lighter will work, that might be a better choice. I have no idea how much steel shoes would weigh for Nimo, but the idea of using non-metal shoes is starting to appeal to me because they have to be lighter than either steel shoes or hoof boots and they are on 24/7, so Nimo can adjust to the weight in a way that isn't possible when he just wears hoof boots occasionally for rocky rides. I have to imagine that carrying around so much extra weight is even harder when it isn't part of the normal conditioning work.
So more food for thought when it comes to hoof protection!