Give Shoes the Boot!
If you are considering using hoof boots on your horse read on…
Convenient and ready to go whenever you are – Boots are the alternative to shoes.
Nowdays, instead of needing shoes, horses can be fitted with boots that honestly protect hooves from excess wear, bruising and concussion. Current technology has provided us with many choices of hoof boots. Rubber boots have been designed with the performance horse in mind and are a genuine replacement for the metal shoe.
Boots also allow a horse to heal more quickly and completely from common hoof diseases such as laminitis and founder, navicular syndrome, quarter cracks and contracted heels – problems which are often caused and worsened by metal shoes.
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The benefits of the boots
A hoof fitted comfortably inside a boot made of tough, elastic materials is free to expand and contract, pump blood normally and torque side to side with each step. The hoof is meant to spread on weightbearing. It is the natural shock absorbing feature of the hoof. A shod horse on the other hand is unable to flex and thus is at a disadvantage from the impacts of concussion from a steel shoe, it has reduced circulation and loses feeling and traction. Concussion is passed off to joints and ligaments higher in the limbs and body which are not designed to dissipate shock.
Horses can be transitioned successfully barefoot through using boots as the alternative to shoes. Horses can remain usuable/rideable for work by quickly donning a pair of boots. Boots can be slipped on for training rides where the terrain is too tough for the condition of the hooves at any time. If wear exceeds growth on barefoot horse on a long distance ride of 100miles – boots must be fitted to protect the hoof from further wear that will lead to soreness and minching steps.
Boots offer improved traction especially on bituamen roads.
Boots can withstand rocky terrain and miles of abuse. However it is important that the boots fit well.
Easy to use. Quick to fit. A person familiar with the boots can have them fitted in less than one minute.
Boots are cost effective – initial outlay and fitting can appear expensive but when you weigh up the lifespan of the boots compared to shoeing costs over the same time frame, boots are a cheaper alternative. Boots don’t wear like a metal shoe. If you learn to trim yourself and use boots you will save yourself a fortune.
Horses usually only need to have boots on the front hooves as the front hooves bear approximately 70% of a horses body weight.
Photo of endurance rider Marg Richardson competing on Toby in Easy Care Bares.
Toby won the 2006 Tasmanian State Championships 90km event in boots.
Handy tips for successful booting
Just like us wearing in a new pair of shoes it takes time and wear for the shoe to mould to our individual foot/conformation, we might endure a blister or two until our feet turn the new shoe into a favourite “slipper”. A horse too can experience chaffing/rubbing. You can’t aim to prevent chaffing with pastern wraps. Most boot companies provide the pastern wraps which are made from wetsuit fabric, free with your boot purchase. Alternatives to these are cutting the base out of a beer stubby holder and slipping it up the pastern or even slipping on a large woolen sock.
Applying curesh baby powder before donning the boots to the heel bulbs and pastern also helps prevent chaffing.
Wiping metholyated spirits helps to toughen the skin (but not on broken skin)
If you are interested in using boots, get them professionally fitted if you can. Most hoof trimmers carry boots as part of their business, they will measure up the hoof and fit the horse and make the boots available to you there and then, which saves you the stress of measuring up yourself. An incorrectly fitted boot can lead to all sorts of problems including chaffing and even a broken boot. Correct size selection will ensure maximum performance. Hoof boots allow you the opportunity to bridge the gap between conventional horse shoes and high performance barefootedness.
Hoof boots allow you the opportunity to bridge the gap between conventional horse shoes and high performance barefootedness.
Photo of endurance rider Jen Clingly with Imaj Zamir competing in full set of Old Macs during the 2003 endurance year to comply with the Australian requirements of "competing on an adequately shod horse" rules are now amended to allow horses to compete barefoot.
The boot market is only going to improve too – bootmakers will refine and fine tune – the riding public will demand it and the ultimate boot will happen as all supply and demand things do.
Horses that are unshod, trimmed correctly and wear boots when needed, rarely develop any severe hoof lameness in the duration of their lives.
“Only two animals on this earth wear shoes – humans and horses.” (Andrew Delvecchio) We can take ours off and on at will, hoof boots allow horses this luxury and freedom as well.
Ultilizing boots for hoof protection allows the amazing attributes of the hoof to work for the horse, keeping them sound and healthy, allowing us to work with and enjoy them for many more years.
The Equine Reebok