Do You Pull Shoes In the Winter? Even If You're In Training?

This may be boring, but I'd really appreciate knowing what others think, or hearing about your experience. It occurs to me that I should have looked into this a lot more in the past, but I took advice (although not from the farrier come to think about it, who said nothing) and honestly didn't think about it much until yesterday...
We've pulled our horses' shoes for the winter this year and for the previous two years, because we had no access to hacking out and only rode in rings with good, soft footing. The horses get turned out in their bare feet. Spring, summer, fall they are shod.When we had the horses home in the winter I trail rode a lot (on Dan and Savanah) and we kept them shod, with snow dams and studs.
Now I'm wondering about this. To make a long story short, I'm getting their shoes put back on. For one thing, water leaked into the arena and the footing is kind of hard and frozen at one end, and now I'm wondering if it is even a good idea to be taking shoes on and off like that when the horses are being ridden through out. Even with good soft footing, would it be better for them, when they are used to shoes to keep shoes all the time? I know bare foot can work fine for some horses (and promote soundness for some horses) when they are slowly and carefully conditioned and trimmed specifically for it. I'm respectful of that but for various reasons it isn't right for our horses, so maybe that means shoes all the time if they are being ridden?
We started pulling their shoes in the winter at the same time we switched farriers, so she showed up for her first visit and we asked her to take them off and trim only. She didn't offer an opinion, and has been doing it since, because we kept asking and on the surface it seemed to be working. Now I'm wondering...
I think the horses have given us clues and we didn't notice until it became more pronounced. They aren't lame, but Savanah began to not want to canter since her shoes came off, and Rogo's working trot went down hill, among other things. Yesterday I hand raked the 'tracks' out of the arena while they got their trims, and then rode. I think the combination of raking and the farrier being there made me more conscious of the situation all of a sudden a light bulb went off and thus I'm wondering what others think. If you feel like telling me I'm an idiot not to figure it out sooner please be gentle.
Now, for something completely different, here is a link to a write up a friend posted on Facebook today and coincidentally it turns out the horse in question, Rigo, is a half brother to Rogo. They are both sons of Rotspon, a Rubenstein 1 son. I didn't know Rigo existed, but the name similarity is striking. Rigo has a very impressive show record:
  • Regional Championships at First Level in 2007, 
  • Second Level in 2008 and 
  • Fourth Level, as well as Fourth Level Horse of the Year, in 2009
  • In 2010 he won the USEF National Developing Horse Championship and Region 2 Prix St Georges Championships

I started looking and found this about him as well:
  • 2009 USDF Dressage Horse of the Year at Fourth Level
  • 2008 USDF Dressage Horse of the Year (Reserve Champion) at Second Level
  • 2008 American Hanoverian Society Horse of the Year at Second Level
I can't find Rigo's pedigree. Rogo gets the 'go' part of his name from the mare line sires being descended from Gotthard and all starting with 'go'. I wonder if Rigo has a Gotthard link?
Of course Rotspon has lots of offspring, but I think this may be one of the most successful and of course the names make me smile. Another very successful Rotspon son, who's becoming a successful sire on his own is Rascalino. But I'm getting off on a tangent. Maybe pedigrees and discussions of the line would be fun to research for another post. A final forum discussion I just came across, that may explain Rogo's super temperament.
I certainly can't train to be in a league with Rotspon's top offspring, but I sure have a sweet boy who makes me happy every day - that's success.


Jeni said…
Rosie is barefoot, and I hope to always be barefoot! Bonnie get's shoes because as hard as I try I just can't keep her comfortable barefoot =(

I pull shoes in the winter, mainly because I don't ride in the winter, and I board, and it's icy, and I don't trust the people in charge to put studs in when needed etc. I think if I rode in the winter, I'd keep shoes on her.

Thats interesting information about Rogo's brother. When I'm not at work I'll go investigate a bit more.
All my horses are currently barefoot, including Spider. However, you are absolutely right that there is a transition period for going barefoot, it takes several months before they are really comfortable going that way. It is also extremely important to have an actual barefoot riding trim on their feet. Many farriers just do a "pasture trim", this is not appropriate for barefoot riding horses.

The main reasons for people to take off shoes in winter is to save money when they aren't working the horses or to prevent snow balling up for horses that live outside. That's not you. Your horses are being ridden, they are sound with shoes, I would leave the shoes on. When my horses lived in a barn and were ridden in indoor arenas and showed heavily, they all wore shoes all the time. I would never have thought to take them off for winter, since they were in full training all winter.

That's really neat about Rogo's brother! My Vinny has a famous sire, and several famous siblings. Unfortunately, Vinny himself is only infamous! ;)
Carol said…
Great information and just the kind of thing I wanted to know. I feel kind of stunned for pulling the shoes on working horses, even if all the riding was indoors. Even after 5 years of owning horses and keeping them at home much of the time I still have so much to learn.
smazourek said…
I totally agree that whether to shoe or not is completely dependent on you and your situation. Barefoot does not work for everyone. If your horses are sound and working well with shoes on then you should probably leave them that way.

I strongly encourage you to learn as much as you can about hoof function and learn to monitor their hoof health. Know what it looks like when their toes are too long and their heels underrun. These problems are very common in shod horses and can lead to tripping, interference, and horses that don't want to go forward. In worst case scenarios these can cause chronic lameness.

Basically: Learn enough so that you can tell if your farrier is doing a good job.
50+ Horses said…
I keep front shoes on my horse, Poco. I board him and both the indoor and outdoor arena have good footing. He seems to have no issue when I ride him in them or when I ride him around the outside grounds. I have always strived for consistency in my horses feet. So I don't change seasonally. Our Belgians at home don't have shoes but neither is currently being ridden. They are basically (huge) pasture ornaments/pets. :)
My two are barefoot, as are all the others on our farm. Most of the others are not very active, but my two are in steady work, as is my friend's 50-mile endurance horse. As Shannon said, the difference is in doing a "pasture" trim and an actual barefoot trim for performance.

The best part about this trim, aside from not worrying about sprung shoes -- they expand and contract naturally, so ice and snow pops out as the horses walk around!

I do think it's most fair to the horse to be consistent -- changes should be based on what their feet need, not the season.
Hurricanes12 said…
that is awesome about rogo's brother, oscar also has a more successful sibling! but what matters is that they're happy whatever they're doing :)

as for the shoes, i'd say keep them on. if the horses are reluctant to canter etc then they're probably a little uncomfortable. maybe the soles just need to callus (sp?) a little as they get used to being barefoot.

i can take shoes off oscar and he is fine, but my thoroughbred has to have them all year round. it just depends on the horse, but you should go with your instinct. you know your horses so you'll end up making the right choice :)
Oak Creek Ranch said…
I think it varies from horse to horse in terms of needing shoes. My Friesian had hooves like rock and I tried keeping him barefoot. His feet could handle it, easy, and I kept him that way during the winter when riding was sporadic. But, his feet wore unevenly between trims and that affected his balance and ability to work well. Jackson has shoes all the time. His hooves are softer and they can't take the wear. Plus he has no heels to speak of. Even tho the arena footing is soft, it is sand so it's abrasive. Flash has shoes in the front, but not in the back. He has good feet. I like the idea of pulling shoes so the frog gets direct contact with the ground but it doesn't always work out.
juliette said…
I know nothing about working a horse with or without shoes. I only walk my boys, sometimes trot. We do go on all surfaces - grass, dirt, roads, snow, ice - but I don't have sand in our ring - it is grass.

Sovey's shoes were pulled the morning of the day he arrived. There was zero adjustment or lameness at liberty in the field. I started riding him in a month (walking) - again, no problems.

Their feet are perfect now. I am having our new boy's shoes pulled hopefully tomorrow. I don't know how that will go for his transitioning.

Definitely ask your farrier and other farriers about your specifics. I just now found a barefoot trimmer and he is the one coming out tomorrow.

That is so great about finding Rogo's half- brother. I wonder if he is a sweet as your big boy?! I doubt anyone could be that wonderful!
I pulled Val's shoes (literally myself, but that's another story) soon after I got him.

It took us most of a year to make the adjustment, and my farrier was skeptical due to his shelly tb feet, but he looks great now. Still tender working on hard surfaces due to thin soles - we live in sand here - but I've been reading up about how to toughen his feet up gradually.

Barefoot Horse Blog is very informative about barefoot trimming and health of hooves generally. The labels section in the sidebar is especially helpful.

So much depends on your farrier + I feel better studying up a bit on my own so I can ask intelligent questions :)
Barbara said…
I pulled Nina's hind shoes and I am not happy with it. She has thin sensitive soles. I am trying to toughen them up and give it some time. It has only been two months. I didn't pull the front ones only because she blew out a big abscess in August, it is not grown out, it is a big tunnel through her foot and my farrier is afraid the foot is going to fall apart even with shoes. I do like to pull shoes in the winter and my barn has done a great job keeping the footing good in the arena. I think it is good for them to be barefoot if possible. I do shoe spring, summer and fall. Hard ground, high altitude, running and jumping and TB feet do not normally make for happy barefoot horses.
Dom said…
I keep my guy barefoot. We do mostly endurance (50 miles over all kinds of rough terrain) but also dabble in dressage, jumping, cross country, and driving. The key, I've found, is to get a trimmer if you're going to do barefoot and a farrier if you're doing shoes. But not just any trimmer, a certified equine podiatrist. You can find a reputable one using this list:
Lexa said…
My horses are always pretty much always barefoot. Brie hasn't had shoes since she was about 5, and Nina and Harry only get shoes during shoe season, which, by the time we get to it, is about 3 months during the summer. We don't really go trail riding though...if we did, I would definitely put shoes on all of them while the weather is nice.
Scott Gregory said…
Lots of intelligent info here. My only problem is as a farrier, I have run into the problem Dom talks about, but here is a farrier's point of view.

I get called to work on horses that need shoes on "barefoot" horses, but don't get to trim them in the winter. I refuse to do that anymore. I will agree that not every farrier will pay attention to a proper barefoot trim, but most will. A premium quality farrier may be hard to find in many places, but will do the best job and offer the best advice without the "barefoot" agenda.
Everyone has given such good advice. I'll be no help. Some of our horses are barefoot and do well that way. Some have shoes on their fronts and not backs and some are fully shod. So to us it's what the horse needs as to what he gets. It's really your decision in the end.
Lori Skoog said…
None of our horses wear shoes and all have good healthy feet. They are not worked regularly and it has not been an issue. It makes sense to me, to give a horses feet a break from shoes during the winter...particularly if they are able to have turnout. I had an appendix quarter horse that I took when when she was retired as a preliminary event horse. She had had shoes on every minute for over 16 years and her soles were very thin and weak. I had to gradually remove them to get her adjusted to going barefoot. It worked and her feet were much healthier. (She made it to 36). If you do remove shoes, it is quite common to have to go through an adjustment period (footing makes a difference for sure). As GHM said, each horse is different.
TBDancer said…
I have an OTTB (with several successful siblings including Buddy Gil and Swiss Yodeler) and he is always shod. He wears Natural Balance shoes that help with his breakover. The weather is never so bad that shoes are pulled in winter. I know there are barefoot shoeing devotees and they are as passionate about their chosen course as I am about my shoer and the NB shoes. If it ain't broke ... and all that.
Carol said…
I can't thank all of you enough for the feedback. Greatly appreciated. I learned lots and have a good feel for what we should do - it's shoes for us, as long as we're riding regularly.
I'd may try barefoot someday (I'm very impressed with what some people can do barefoot), but I don't want to take the amount of time it would take to acclimatize and their feet are good, so why mess with them.