I’m often asked if burros need shoes. The answer of course, is that it depends on so many things, including the animal’s foot health, training mileage and I think even the weather.
I had my farrier Caleb Oldendorf out today to look at feet on my burros. The first foot he picked up he set back down with a snicker. He was laughing because my burros show more wear on their feet than most of his clients’ horses.
There are many good arguments for keeping equines barefoot. Steel shoes may increase impact shock, decrease the natural action of the foot and frog, and nail holes weaken the hoof walls. For more on this see http://www.barefoothorse.com/.
The debate is not unlike the one currently going on over human running shoes.
I view shoes for my burros as a necessary evil. Since I’m training for a long-distance race (the World Championship Pack-Burro Race is 29 miles and the Leadville race is 22 miles) up and back down a rocky mountain pass, I tend to put some hard miles on these animals in training, and then expect a lot from them in the race.
There’s an old saying: No foot, no horse. It applies to burros as well.
I’ve run burros barefoot in several races, and have even won races with barefoot burros. But the results have been mixed. The compromise I’ve come to, and my farrier agrees, is to put shoes on the front feet only. Equines carry 60-65 percent of their weight on their front quarters, and also tend to get footsore on the front feet more often than the backs.
And so for now, that’s what Caleb did — just fronts. It’s cheaper that way too. You can shoe two burros for the price of one!