Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Cost of Hoof Boots

As you probably know, I've been an advocate of leaving a horse barefoot if possible and using hoof boots when the terrain is rocky or hard if needed by the horse.  However, I've had my share of problems with them and have tried quite a few different models over the years.  I'm still searching for just the right boot, but after reading a recent article, I have some more thinking to do.

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?
[Funny story:  My husband walked in the kitchen while I was weighing the hoof boots and he said, "Why are you weighing...(blank stare because he had no idea what was on the scale, except that it clearly wasn't a food product) and why are you taking a picture?  I replied, "It's for my blog."  And my husband grunted and wandered away to watch football, which apparently adds a reality to his world that doesn't exist when I weigh hoof boots in the kitchen.]

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!

13 comments:

  1. That's very interesting! The average steel shoe for a regular size horse weighs about 9oz, but for a horse Nemo's size it would weigh more. So, probably about comparable to your boot sizes. Boots like the Gloves weigh less than all of the boots you measured but I know they don't come in Nimo size/shapes. Synthetic shoes weigh a lot less, about 3-6oz but it varies and the glue/packing plays a factor.

    Have you looked at the Scoot boots? Those look really, really lightweight and they may come in Nimo size.

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    1. Thanks for the info on weight for shoes, Andrea:) As for the Scoot Boots, the largest size may fit Nimo. The width is OK, but his hooves are slightly longer than they are wide, so I think they might not work for length, based on the size chart. At some point, I may order one just to confirm, though.

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  2. I think you said before that the EasyShow NGs don't it Nimo, but maybe they'll come in larger sizes eventually. They're pretty lite, but I haven't weighted them so I can't promise anything.

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  3. My farrier has been "stretching" size 1 steel shoes for Fiddle's front feet so we wouldn't have the extra weight of a size 2 shoe. But now her front feet have gotten bigger (yay!) so she's wearing size 2 steel eventers with the outer rim shaved off (angle grinder). Because size matters, and weight matters, too!

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    1. This just made me squee with happiness...for competition, I use eventers on both horses. It's Dan's favorite shoe for distance over rough terrain. :)

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    2. I've used eventers on-and-off for years. I find they have a nice balance of protection and "grip" on the wide variety of terrain here in the Swamp. We had talked about using aluminum shoes if she nneeded a size 2, but the "shaved" size 2 weighs the same as a 1, with better protection. Probably not the right solution for everyone, but it works well for us!

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  4. This is fascinating, but I have to say I am not surprised. (I laughed so hard over your husband's reaction to the hoof boot weighing...hahaha) I was always worried about moving at speed after going through water bc of the added weight on their legs from the soaked boots. I love that Andrea chimed in with shoe and boot weights.

    With my two, I found that just the *clunkiness* of the boots was a factor in the horses' ability to move efficiently. Especially Lily: she moves so much better, so much more freely, in shoes than boots, and I think in her case it has to do with the fact that shoes, while not significantly lighter (both mares take size 1 eventers; the tiny studs Dan uses are no heavier than a regular shoe nail) are much more streamlined than a boot.

    Food for thought for all of us, for sure! And this is why I love your blog! :) I was so excited to see you're doing the December Daily again this year!

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    1. I agree with the bulkiness of the hoof boots, but the added weight must have been bothering Ashke as well. He just goes so much better in the shoes.

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    2. Yeah, the clunky hoof boots bother me too, but I like that Nimo can wear his hooves naturally because he doesn't wear them all the time. I wish there was a perfect solution but it's always a trade-off!

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  5. Your poor husband lol. Dave is the same way about me doing anything with horses though! So I can relate.

    I love this post. I did think it was gonna be $$$ but then saw the photo preview on my feedly app and was like OH SHE WEIGHED BOOTS! YES! MUST READ IMMEDIATELY. I'm not too surprised re: extra weight at all! And you've got some HUGE boots in comparison to many. It makes me want to weigh mine now, too, to compare.

    I second Nicole re: clunkiness of boots. Q moved most evenly when she had 4 boots vs. 2 boots, but compared with shoes/barefoot, there is no comparison. Barefoot she's light on her feet as long as the footing is kind, but when it gets technical, while she doesn't short stride from obvious pain, she doesn't move as freely as she does with shoes! Shoeing her all the way around introduces a 6th gear I had no idea she had!! If she (or Grif or Stan) didn't come out of shoes with sound bare feet, I would question the shoes more, but they've got healthy feet while they're shod, move amazingly, and come out of them sound (within reason, no gnarly gravel roads, thanks) so I'm happy.

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    1. I would love it if you weighed your boots too, Liz. I'm very curious to know the difference in weight due to size:)

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  6. I've wondered about people who keep horses barefoot, and even do training rides without shoes or boots, and then boot up for a 25 or 50 mile ride for exactly this reason. Wouldn't it be like walking around and training yourself in your usual sneakers, and then adding ankle weights before running a marathon? I understand that steel shoes aren't the right choice for everyone, but they do allow the horse to "train" with the "ankle weights" prior to competition.

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    1. That's a good point, Aerene. I've thought the same but I routinely walk around the house in bare feet or flip flops and will then put on heavy shoes for hiking without feeling any specific effects. I think the big thing is to make sure the horse does work in the boots periodically so that he gets accustomed to the feel of them.

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