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Speak to me of traction, trails and gaited horses

Currently staying at Fort Valley Ranch and discovered just how different gaited horses are in the traction department from trotting horses. At the walk, on a paved road they would slip behind. The trails we did were easy but still had some rock so I’m assuming the rocky trails would be worse than the paved roads so some traction is needed.

Right now they are both flat shod normal angles. I’m not a fan of borium because we turn the horses out in one field and a kick from a borium shot hoof can be messy. I know their are drive in studs but are they enough? Same with screw in would they really work? Any other shoeing options

So then there are boot. Which ones fit well how often do you have to go back and find one that fell off ( I hated when I rode with people who had velcoed bell boots and 3/4th of the ride was searching for a boot). Do the boots provide the level of traction needed for the rocky advanced trails. Can the boots be worn over shoes or do they need too be on barefoot only.

So any advice or information would be extremely welcome.

This might not be helpful… both of my gaited nags are barefoot, have been for the 9 and 10 years I’ve had them. I can’t picture what ‘improved traction’ might be like.

My racking mare showed me once just how well frogs work on dicey footing. Georgia peeps will be familiar with the trails at Hard Labor creek state park. There was one long, scary downhill stretch that was loosely paved with rocks ranging in size from cobbles to boulders, with just enough space in between to neatly trap a hoof. She powered down that hill in gait, flitting from rock to rock and never slipped once. I don’t think I’d try that stunt on a shod horse. it’s true her hoofs had some chipped places after that ride, but the ‘damage’ was purely cosmetic.

I have found that barefoot is best, good boots are pretty equal to shoes with borium or studs, and plain shoes are worse. I think the downside of anything that grips on a shoe is that it transfers the force to the joint, increasing the chance of an injury. Just my experience.

I did 18 miles yesterday, much of it on rock and at a trot, on my barefoot horse. He was frisky and sound again to ride today. A good trimmer is the secret weapon.

Shoe the front and bare behind if they can tolerate it. Adding grip will shred stifles.

Nice place, Fort Valley. We are long time friends with the folks at Secret Passage Ranch at the northern end of the Valley and have been there many times! :slight_smile:

We begin with the principle that some horses need shoes to stay sound and some do not. The horse tells you whether or not they need shoes, not philosophers, advocates, or people who make videos. :wink:

A bare foot will generally have a superior grip over a plain, metal shoe in most circumstances. That does not mean you ought not to use metal shoes but it does mean you have to acknowledged the “science” of how they work. Properly done, the farrier trims the horse to anatomical correctness and then applies a shoe to protect the trim (and, of course, the foot). If the shoe has a fairly plain metal bottom it has the probability of being “slicker” than an unshod hoof.

On a hard surface where “slippage” might be an issue then walk slowly. Isn’t that what people do walking on “slick” surfaces? This is one instance where the horse and the human should behave similarly.

If the horse that requires shoes must work on a hard surface regularly then I’d look at alternative strategies for shoeing. I might use borium or DrillTek or other “grip enhancing materials.” I might use boots (if you’re not going to be dealing with water, mud, sand, debris, etc. they can work quite well). I might use non-metalic shoes that glue on. Or maybe something different altogether. Each of these approaches has plus and minus elements. But if all I’m going to do is cross a road or ride on roads for short distances I’d just slow down.

How about “rocky ground?” This is less an issue than paved roads as the ground is not a single, consistent surface. For that reason the rider has to use some judgement in determining what they will or will not use. Or how they will or will not ride. Or how naturally “sure footed” their horse is or isn’t. IMO there is no “school” answer.


My husband and I both have gaited horses we trail ride and are actually less than an hour from Fort Valley. All three of our guys are TWH’s if that makes a difference. All three just get shoes up front. My one mare rode at Graves Mountain last year the entire end of the summer, including doing some endurance riding. She was fine with just fronts, even riding that hard. I agree, they are not as sure footed as our trotting horses, but I have yet to have one fall or even slip hard with me. We do not ride much on the roads and their shoes are just plain keg shoes, no studs.

What type of shoes are they in? Plain stamped is much slicker than a concave or fully creased around fullered shoe. That crease holds dirt and gives you some dirt on ground friction vs just steel on ground. Drive ins aren’t going to be any better than borium in a kicking injury and likely worse because of the tungsten tip in the center. You can request a flatter borium application instead of having it protrude in a little nub. Drilltex is VERY abrasive but can be applied rather flatly but this is often too much traction for most horses. Screw in studs are a great balance but can be a pain in the behind to apply regularly.

I had my farrier apply drive in pin studs at the heels of all four shoes. I fox hunt and slick, sealed driveways were a worry. Even walking my horse was having issues. The pin studs are no larger than a nail head and don’t stick up higher than the nail head.

So far I have been very happy with them.

I didn’t want to go with borium because I wanted the least amount of traction that could still keep us upright, but not cause a slip and fall.

Before trying the pin studs, I tried the borium tipped nails. These were fine for a few weeks, but the borium would pop off the nail, and then we’d be left without any traction.

I was able to order 100 pin studs (which come with 2 drill bits) shipped for right around $50.

Thanks everyone. Lots of information to chew on. We are planning on pulling shoes over the winter to give the hooves a chance to resume their natural shape. Also it will give us a chance to see if their is slipping in bare feet. It was weird when both horse’s were slipping at a slow walk on a moderate downhill slope.

I like the idea of screw ins. If the traction is sufficient. I know they are a pain in the butt to put in. My daughter events. But it seems the best way to minimize risks. Unless it turns out they have great hooves and enough traction bare foot

The way some walking horses (as in TWH) hind foot meets the ground, they land more like they glide to the ground, like a plane coming in to land glides in, or like the way a human walks into a slipper to put it on, vs the way a normal horse who is walking more firmly ‘plants’ the hoof squarely on the ground, does that make sense? It’s been so long since it rained here that my bare-behind walker slips behind when I ride him at a dog walk down our gravel driveway, he’s slipping on that rock-hard slick base under the thin layer of gravel. he is much more secure in a flat walk or a RW, but in his dog walk he slips a bit behind.

The gaited horses I’ve ridden have been like non-gaited, in that some are more surefooted/non-slippy than others.

I would not use anything that can’t be removed for turnout (drive-in stud, borium) because the grippy stuff is so hard on joints. Barefoot works well on a lot of horses, if they can tolerate it. Or you can do screw-in studs for rides. I do use the shoes favored by eventers and polo players that have a groove up the middle instead of being flat and smooth. They don’t grab like a stud, but aren’t skis like a smooth shoe.

I highly recommend switching from “flat stock” shoes to something like St Croix eventers. They have much more traction because they have a ground surface that is similar to a good tough barefoot hoof. I used them on my endurance and trail horses for years. I had an opportunity to ride and compete a friends horse and was horrified to find that he did a lot of slipping, on grass, pavement, rock. This was on the same trails that I rode my own horses on. It really became obvious when riding the moutains above Graves Mtn. Taking a look at his feet I realized he had very common flat (slick) steel shoes. Later in the year the owners agreed to switch him to the Eventers. What a difference! Like night and day. They never noticed the slipping because they had always used those flat slick shoes so it was the norm for their horses. In the fall of that year I got to compete this horse at the Old Dominion’s Fort Valley ride and the rocky trails and hard blue stone roads are pretty challenging. That was the only ride I have ever won! Excellent traction because of the shoe change.

chicamux appreciat the thoughts. Flat shod in the gaited world means they are not padded up. It actually is eventing shoes that my horses have on. They are fully fullered shoes.

Then try the aluminum St. Croix eventers. That’s what I used for endurance and foxhunting and Carriage driving, and that metal grips pavement like glue. I could blithly gallop on paved roads without even a thought of slipping, and passed hordes of riders who were ironshod, walking, and still scared.

The downside is that aluminum wears like butter in July, so one has to replace the shoes on an accelerated schedule.