Here in New England, the winters can be unpredictable. Many horses that have been comfortable most of the year, struggle in the winter. If there isn’t sufficient snow cover, sections of water become frozen in the mud, which can be sharper and harder than rocks. The unforgiving ground is tough on thin-soled horses, those with low-grade laminitis, and those with joint or soft tissue damage who can’t handle the uneven ground.
My hoof care practice focuses on barefoot rehabilitation, with the use of composite glue on shoe packages where the environment, pathology, or owner management calls for it. In the winter, I used to debate what would be best for horses that I see that have done well barefoot most of the year, but cold temperatures lead to vasoconstriction in the foot, causing soreness especially over the frozen ground. Casts alone were too slippery in snow and on ice. Boots and pads can allow for studs, but some owners aren’t able to take them on and off daily as needed.
A composite glue-on shoe with traction is my go-to where a more permanent setup is best. EponaShoes horse shoes with carbide tips have been a life-saver for some of the horses I see. It has been the difference between sedentary life all winter for a horse due to difficult footing and soreness, and happily romping around over frozen, snowy, or hard ground. The tips allow just enough grip over difficult footing, but aren’t a big enough “stud” to tweak joints or soft tissue higher up the limb from what I have seen! To fully utilize the carbide tip traction, I typically cast the foot with DIM packing and glue the shoe to the cast. When the horse is compliant and the application is done well, these shoes stay on until you pull them off.
The horses have been transitioning well out of these packages come spring, usually with better sole depth as well!
by Alicia Harlov, Hoof Care Practitioner & creator of The Humble Hoof Podcast