Proper fit and hoof boot style can make or break your barefoot ride. Hoof boots are useful tools when your horse is transitioning out of shoes or being ridden barefoot on tricky terrain. Boots are not a substitute for healthy bare hooves, but they can provide protection, enhance performance, and increase comfort when we are placing demands on the hoof that cannot be met by barefoot alone. If a horse suffers from pain or hoof deformity then it is important to address the causes of the horse’s discomfort. Promoting proper structure restores hoof function so we may achieve optimum performance.
When my clients ask me what type of boots they should buy for their horse, I always tell them “buy the boot that fits the best.” Fit is undoubtedly the most important factor when deciding which type of hoof boot to purchase. An accurate measurement needs to be taken of your horse’s hooves. The fit should be snug and you should not be able to turn or twist the boot once it has been applied. This eliminates the potential for rubbing or bruising.
To ensure that your horse gets a proper fitted boot, it’s important to avoid two common mistakes when measuring:
- Measuring hooves when they are too long. To get the most accurate measurement the hoof should be measured just after it is trimmed.
- Measuring the wrong part of the horse's hoof. Avoid this mistake by reading the manufacturer's measuring instructions very carefully and paying close attention to the diagrams provided.
After you have taken the measurements, see how they correspond to the boot manufacturer’s size chart. Different styles are suitable for different disciplines.
“In my opinion the leader in the realm of hoof boot products is EasyCare Inc . They provide a high level of consumer education and the widest range of styles to meet your needs.”
“During the transition period from shoes to barefoot, the use of a product such as Perfect Hoofwear is helpful. Perfect Hoofwear ( www.perfecthoofwear.com ) provides dynamic stability, reduces excessive distortion of the capsule and allows the internal structures to heal reducing potential inflammation.”
A number of different boot manufacturers have created a variety of different styles and options to suit our needs. After narrowing your search down by fit you will need to choose a style that is best for your intended use.
When choosing a boot, pay attention to:
- proper fit
- your riding discipline
- how many miles you ride
- ease of application
- footing (riding surface, brush, and loose rocks can affect the wear and tear of specific boot buckling systems)
Boots such as the Old Mac, Trail, Cavallo, Delta and Boa accommodate a wide range of hoof shapes. These boots can accommodate pads, poultice wraps or bandages that may be used to treat abscesses or injury. In some cases I have used these boots for turnout. Other boots such as the Glove, Bare, Epic and Renegade require a very close fit to the hoof’s dimensions.
If you are planning to rehabilitate a horse out of shoes, it is best to wait two or three trim cycles before you measure and purchase your boots. As the structures of the horse’s foot become stronger after shoe removal, the hoof will change shape and size.
WORTH THE EFFORT
Finding the right boot to accommodate the shape of your horse’s hooves and your discipline can seem overwhelming. Ask your hoof practitioner to aid you in the process. He or she may have some tips as to what boot works best in your environment and which may fit your personal needs.
Hoof boots are well worth the investment of time, energy and money. After careful measurement and thoughtful selection of a style of hoof boot, they should provide you with many miles of use.
Lisa Markowitz obtained her B.S. Degree in Animal Science at Delaware Valley College. She has 7 years experience in animal research and microbiology and is a certified Animal Technologist who has coauthored numerous scientific publications. She studied at the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry and has been a professional Degreed Applied Equine Podiatrist for 8 years. Her practice mainly consists of barefoot performance horses. She enjoys riding and camping with her family and 3 horses.
Holistic Horse magazine is your guide to natural horse health. www.holistichorse.com