Early in 2019, Colorado horse shoer and 8-heeler Taylor Thompson had a few unsound horses in his rotation that he just couldn’t get right, no matter what he tried. 

“One had signs of ringbone, and another had torn her deep flexor tendon and had early signs of navicular,” Thompson said. “And I had two head horses that had ringbone really bad.” 

Thompson often works with Greeley, Colorado’s Joe Stricklin, DVM, also a roper, who had a new solution for Thompson test.

“Dr. Stricklin showed me the Soft-Riders,” Thompson said. “I put them on those two head horses with bad ringbone, and they were back to heading steers in just three days like nothing was wrong.” 

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WHAT ARE SOFTRIDERS?

Just released to the public in July 2020, SoftRiders spent years in testing at top veterinary hospitals across the country. Made from one layer of semi-rigid polymer simulating a live, healthy hoof wall, as well as a layer of shock-dissipating polymer that mimics the function of the soft frog, the SoftRiders strategically place the load of the horse on the center of the shoe, rather than on the outside wall. Doing so eliminates sole pressure to increase blood flow to the hoof, reduces strain on the coffin bone and pressure on the navicular region, and isolates the concussive force of impact with the ground on the horse’s skeletal system. What’s more, the shock absorption of the shoes adds traction, working like a professional athlete’s turf-training shoes.

The Secrets Behind Soft-Ride Boots

HOW THEY WORK?

• Centering the Load. SoftRiders’ center force puts the horse’s weight in the middle of the hoof, increasing the blood flow to and from the foot—using the same science as deep-gel orthotics in the Soft-Ride Boots themselves.

• Reducing Strain. SoftRiders’ rolling effect—both forward and backward—reduces leverage on all the soft tissues in the leg and lessens strain on the horse’s coffin bone and navicular region. This leverage, created by this rolling effect, helps young horses last longer, decreasing the need for injections early on.

• Isolating the Concussions. Traditional shoes with rims put the impact straight into the horse’s hoof walls and up the leg, pounding shock waves into the soft and hard tissue, inevitably leading to injuries and arthritis. While farriers can place a pad between a metal shoe and the hoof capsule, adding cushion to truly lessen the impact would loosen the nails and be impractical. SoftRiders, though, accomplish this with their shaped gel, designed to absorb the concussive force on the ground.

Adding Traction. The shock-absorbing gel helps the horse stand up in challenging conditions because of the elasticity of the chevron lugs of the SoftRider, enabling each lug to move, so that the shoe itself is unloading like an off-road tire or athletic cleat. Unlike metal tacks shoers put on rope horses to compete on tricky terrain in places like Pendleton, Oregon, these polymer gel lugs provide a more forgiving, less strenuous traction. 

WHAT HORSES WILL THEY WORK FOR?

While Thompson is using them on aging horses with soundness issues like laminitis, navicular and ringbone, creator Monty Ruetenik believes in their long-term use on all performance horses. 

“They’re really the Holy Grail for young horses, especially those being asked to perform at a high level,” Ruetenik said. “Shock can really be an issue for horses performing on all types of ground conditions, and the SoftRiders’ ability to absorb that shock will be a game-changer for increasing longevity in performance horses.” 

HOW DO YOU GET THEM?

To get SoftRiders, call (855) 763-8743, visit softrideboots.com, or order through your local veterinarian. 

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