I bet you can't wait until the trails dry up and I can ride again so my posts become more entertaining, huh?
Shoes. For me this is a last resort. I don't condemn or judge anyone that uses them. I try hard not to be black and white about much in life. For some horses, for some people, and for some circumstances shoe are the best or even only option. And that's fine. For me they are the end of the foot debate road.
Pros of shoes are many. For starters they have been used for pretty much all of the ridden horses existence and really if they were that harmful they would have been abandoned a millennia ago. Or that's how I see it anyway. Shoes are nice because they provide while not true shock absorption per se at least they raise the sole off the ground giving clearance from hurtful footing such as rocks. Being metal you would think they would be slick on rocks and wet surfaces, but for some reason I'm sure physics can explain, but I can not, hey provide nice grip in these situations. Another pro is the fact that once they are on they are minimal maintenance. Baring any unforeseen occurrence, they should stay firmly in place until the farrier removes them and so you can ride whenever you want without taking the time to apply them. Rocks and dirt rarely get underneath the metal part of the shoe and no rubbing on extra parts of the leg occurs.
Cons are also numerous though. I don't like the thought of hammering metal nails through her hoof and keeping metal on there. It doesn't allow the hoof to contract or expand as it should. If a shoe is lost right before or worse during a ride, your only option is to either scratch or pay a large sum for an emergent farrier visit. I have heard that some larger endurance rides have a farrier present for this circumstance and if the shoe fell off without damaging the hoof you can put it back on and continue the ride. But too often this isn't the case and a large chunk of hoof was taken off with the shoe.
After having an internal debate what I would really like to do is keep her barefoot and try to save up for some boots. It is the ideal for me: keeping her barefoot when not needing anything else (pasture, arena, soft trails) and then having the ability to add support and cushion through the boots when needed.
In the meantime (until my saddles sell and I have the $ to get the boots) I am going to continue exposing her feet to various terrain and watch to see if they respond by becoming thicker, stronger and better than ever. Who knows? Maybe I won't need boots eventually.