Winter trail rides can be beautiful and fun if you're prepared, but slippery and dangerous if your horse's hooves aren't prepared for ice and snow. Talk with your horse farrier to make sure your horse is prepared to carry you down winter trails. He or she may recommend borium studs for traction and some type of snow pad to keep snow from collecting inside horse's hooves.
Farrier Phil Armitage outfits horses for southern Maine's cold, icy winters. He recommends Castle Plastic's Rim Sno Pads (800/922-7853; www.castleplastics.com) to help keep ice from "snowballing" inside your horse's hooves. The plastic pad has a rounded rim and an opening that keeps snow away from your horse's metal shoes where it can attach and create an ultraslick surface.
"Feet collect snow and ball up with regular shoes without pads, because snow melts from the warmth of the foot and refreezes to the steel," Armitage explains. "The Rim Sno Pad provides a barrier between the ice and steel. Barefoot horses normally lose the stuff that gets trapped in their feet, because there's nothing to freeze to; however I've seen times where the snow balls up in barefoot horses. Shoeing them with snow pads can prevent that."
Armitage recommends planning ahead for winter farrier visits. He says he's often bombarded with calls right after snowstorms. "In mid-November, I inform my clients that we either need to pull their horses' shoes or shoe with a winter package," he explains. "Preparing for winter conditions is the best plan. We never know how icy the winter will be. It's kind of like making sure you have good winter tires on your car. If you suddenly can't turn out you horse because of ice, it may be difficult to schedule your farrier during the holiday season."