Horse boots can be confusing. How do you know which sort of boots to use for what type of work? Our all-you-need-to-know guide will help sort things out for you!
What Are Horse Boots Used For?
It's a good idea to put boots on your horse for protection if you are jumping or doing fast work. Not all horses need to wear boots for general schooling or hacking but it's not a bad idea.
Boots are an absolute must for lungeing because it becomes much easier for your horse to knock himself on the lunge as you are asking him to work on a continuous circle.
If your horse brushes (strikes one fore or hind leg with the other when he moves) he'll need to wear brushing boots all the time, including in the field, to reduce the risk of him hurting himself. Likewise, if your horse over reaches (strikes the heel of a front foot with the toe of a hind foot) he'll need to wear over reach boots all the time.
Fleece Lined Horse Boots - Yes or No?
The majority of boots are made from neoprene but you can also get leather and specially developed materials which allow the skin to breathe.
Lots of people opt for fleece-lined boots for extra comfort but these aren't really advisable for cross-country as the fleece absorbs water and can make the boots heavy. Leather boots need to be kept really supple so they don't rub and all boots need to be kept clean and dry for your pony's comfort.
Horse Boots Or Exercise Bandages? - Pros & Cons
Boots and exercise bandages are both used to protect against concussion and penetration injuries during exercise and competition. Bandages were the traditional choice for leg protection before boots were available, but there are potential risks incurred when using either.
For example, they can increase temperature retention, which may cause long-term tendon damage, restrict flexibility and alter movement, trap moisture and material, and restrict the blood supply to superficial structures if the boot or bandage is applied too tightly.
Elasticated & Fleece Horse Bandages
These have the advantage of being extremely flexible, causing little restriction to the horse's movement as they can be evenly wrapped around the contours of the leg - free from excess bulk.
They should be applied with the correct tension, neither too tight nor too loose, to avoid injury. Ensure they are wrinkle-free, with fastenings - always on the outside and never over the joint - not tighter than the actual bandage.
Apply bandages to the area between the bottom of the horse's knee and the centre of the fetlock joint. Remove them, however, after exercise to help cool down the leg, and dislodge mud and material that's worked up underneath, as this could cause friction and lead to infection.
Exercise bandages should always be sewn or taped for extra security when going cross-country and washed after every use to keep them soft and flexible. There are various new types of reinforced linings on the market that offer competition horses protection from injury.
Many high quality boots, some backed up by scientific research, are available. They are built to help protect against two types of injury - blunt wounds with superficial bruising to the skin surface, or deeper internal damage and cutting of the skin and other soft tissue. Boots dissipate shock caused by concussion and feature highly resistant materials in vulnerable areas.
Because heat retention is a major problem, it is important for riders to select boots that allow high levels of heat loss and use them only during exercise.
When legs get hot, they sweat, so boots - or bandages - should allow plenty of ventilation to help keep the legs cool and dry.
Care must be taken to ensure the boots are a correct fit to prevent them reducing flexion and potentially affecting the horse's gait. Heavy boots should also be avoided, as weight on the end of a fast moving leg can cause hyper-extension through increased momentum. And as with bandages, they should be removed after exercise.