May 27, 2010

Boot Basics

So, as a lot of folks have observed in our forays into the wild, wonderful world of horse boots, the choices are nearly endless. How DO you go about choosing a set for your charge?

A few points to remember:
(1) Boots DO NOT offer support. They are for strike protection only. Neoprene and velcro cannot abate the loading forces on a horse's leg bones, tendons, and ligaments.

(2) Restricting range of motion is BAD (caveat: unless your vet tells you otherwise). The tendons in the lower leg need to stretch to their full extent in order to absorb the shock of the leg hitting the ground. Any reduction of that joint's motion means that shock is transferred directly up the leg (not good) instead of being absorbed farther down (good). This is why I do not like boots with a pastern/fetlock wraparound strap. I want the suspensory ligaments to be able to go to their full extent, unhindered, doing the job they were designed to do.

(3) You do NOT have to spend $150 to have a good, effective boot. Marketing is nothing but marketing -- try to ignore the fluff and pay attention to the hard facts.

(4) Eventers, we all love our colours. But, as one commenter noted, they can be hard to find or can restrict your options unnecessarily. Especially if you have a colour other than royal blue, hunter green, or red, buy black and accent with coloured tape if you want a professional, yet personalized look.

With those points in mind, let's make a list which will help us to choose the best match for our horse.

(a) Does the horse interfere with himself while working? This includes brushing at the fetlock or pastern, overreaching, or forging. If not, then I would not use boots or wraps on the flat -- you are trapping heat for no purpose.

(b) If the horse DOES interfere, where does it happen? For example, Solo is prone to forging and he also can brush behind. A friend has a horse who only nicks his hind pasterns with his hooves.

(c) Take your interference locations and aim to protect those. For Solo, this means bell boots up front all the time (special shoes up front too, so more to grab). Usually nothing else for flatwork or trail riding. For above friend's horse, this means only pastern wraps behind.

What boots protect what leg parts?
In my humble opinion, less is more and I only want to put on as much boot as I absolutely need for the type of ride that day. I especially don't like to use boots while trail riding; it is too easy for dirt/sand/whatever to work its way inside a boot and quickly create a raw spot.

Coronary band, heel, shoe: bell boots, quarter bells, or grab boots

Pastern: pastern wraps

Fetlock: ankle boots (and for you reining people, skid boots protect the bottom of the fetlock against road rash during slides)

Cannon bone and tendon: galloping boots, splint boots (these two are essentially the same in function), polo wraps, brushing boots (generally a little lighter weight/duty than a galloping boot); in this category, choice is mostly personal preference

Tendon only: open front boots

Materials do vary -- neoprene is generally not super breathable, but is easy to clean. Some companies are now making "breathable" (generally perforated) neoprene. Effectiveness may vary widely. A few horses do have neoprene allergies, so just pay attention. I don't like fluffy, fuzzy linings for the cleaning issue. Some companies trumpet that their boots are super tough because they are made of Kevlar -- well, Kevlar was designed to stop an impact from a bullet, so it is good for direct strikes, but holds up poorly to friction, like brushing from a hoof. So unless you plan on shooting your horse in the legs, I fail to see the benefit of paying extra for this.

Beyond that, it is up to you to know the demands and risks of your discipline. For dressage, unless your horse is interfering, you should not need anything (step away from the white polos with your hands up!). For arena jumping, I like to protect the front foot and cannon bone and the fetlocks from brushing on all four. I like that open front boots let the horse feel a pole knock. For XC, I want cannon bones, tendons, ankles and hooves protected so will use the appropriate boots to do so.

The important thing is to be realistic about what you are going to do. If you are only doing dressage, your horse probably doesn't need his legs sheathed in layers from the knee down. If he interferes that badly, there may be other issues that need to be addressed. If you are only working in an arena with collapsable jumps, the hind tendons can probably be left bare to breathe as he certainly can't kick those.

Also, stick to your budget. Sure, you can blow $150 on those Eskadrons because all the other kids have them and you will look oh so trendy like everyone else, but you know what? The $35 Romas perform just as well, last just as long, and you can laugh all the way to the concession stand at your next show that you will actually be able to visit because you were smart so you still have some cash in hand to spend. Shop around and look closely at materials and design, always asking what you are actually paying for and how much of a pain in the butt will it be to clean (ok, the latter is a HUGE one for me because I don't want to waste time scrubbing silly things).  There really is an option out there for almost every price point, the tedious part is just sorting through them.

More questions? Post them in the comments and we can take a stab at it!


  1. I can't even tell you how much i have learned from these last few posts. It has really made me think of the boots I put on Olly. Thank you for all the information. Do you know much about bits? I would like to learn more about bits next. lol

  2. Hahaha, well, I will try! Remember, it's all tempered by my own personal experience, so your mileage may vary, LOL!

  3. Excellent post! I'd never even heard of some of those options.
    I'm still on the hunt for the perfect boots, but I need to see what the owner wants her going in too. I'll keep you updated on what I find.
    Thanks for all the info!

  4. Great post. Beyond galloping (brushing) boots and bells, I'm a complete ignoramus. I learned a lot. I know a trainer who insists every horse have polos on all four for every ride. She's an equitation trainer. No jumps, little overreach. Lots of hot legs. I was taught that also, *always* use polos for support and protection. The new studies coming out about heat breaking down tendons, and polos providing zero support are fantastic. So difficult to break through the "but this is the way we've always done it" including my own. (Back away from the white polos!)

  5. Hahaha, change is always hard! I was raised with "wraps support legs" too! But there's some good science out there now, as you noted, that I just can't ignore. There are plenty of things that the horse community has "always done" that are now, with new knowledge, actually not such a good idea -- even in horsey first aid, we now know that Betadine, furazone, and hydrogen peroxide, old standbys, are actually not such a good idea! But boy, it's hard to move away from the status quo.

  6. This was a great post. I'm going to actually try leaving the boots off for a week with the flat work to see how Bugs does. I was afraid he was hitting himself but my trainer doesn't think so and he doesn't really have any scuff marks on his boots to show otherwise. Why wear boots if you don't need them? If it turns out we do need them I think I'm going to try to find a pair of Moxies like you suggested. They are a lot less expensive and seem to be a lot more breathable than the old wolfs. Thanks for the reviews!

  7. You're welcome! I hope it works out for you!

  8. Have I been living under a rock?
    "Betadine, furazone, and hydrogen peroxide, old standbys, are actually not such a good idea" I didn't know that?! Can you please do a horsey first aid post at some point?

    On the boot topic, Owner doesn't care what she goes in. She trusts me enough to research and buy responsibly. Guess she's right.

  9. No, Lexie, not under a rock -- lots of folks don't know that. Hydrogen peroxide is toxic to cells, all cells, human ones included, and can slow healing. Furazone also retards healing as do most petrolatum based ointments. Betadine is a tissue fixer meant to prepare closed skin by killing bacteria, not to be applied to open wounds, also can kill cells and slow healing.

  10. Can I bug you some more about boots?
    I'm trying to satisfy everyone and still not spend a fortune.
    Coach's opintion: likes hard shell open fronts, even for xc. Likes the strike and brushing protection. And likes the price.
    Owner's opinion: Wants decent protection. Trusts me to find something good. Wants cannon protects - not open fronts.
    My opinion: Want cooling properties, want cannon, tendon and brushing protection. Don't want to spend a fortune. I don't care about colour at all anymore(well, almost). Not as worried about weight and water retention.
    I really like the Equilibrium Tri-Zone boots (,8375.html )
    I did like these boots, but I think they are for reining, so I think they are out ( ). They had the protection areas that I wanted, except maybe not cannon?
    I like the NEW boots you bought, but I can't tell if they are too flexible, as in not enough brushing protection, but lots of tendon protection? I also like the sounds of the Premier Equine boots (not sure what model), but same thing about them.
    I know we want some flexibility, I just can't tell how much is good, or when the boot isn't going to be stable enough.

    Thanks again for all your help. I feel like I'm becoming boot obsessed!

  11. PE's are good, you just have to get them shipped from the UK, which isn't that hard. The only reason I didn't get those is that I thought that the mesh that those and the Dalmars have might be annoying to clean. But they look snazzy and folks who have them really like them. The NEWs have plenty of protection, the special foam looks thin but is super impact resistant. If you get the Tri-Zones, get the softer All-Sports, don't get the vented XC boots, there have been a lot of reports of rubbing and bad fit on the hard shelled ones.

    I agree with you -- I don't think open fronts are appropriate for XC unless you enjoy having a horse with skin scraped off his legs.

  12. Ohhh, interesting. I didn't think those boots looked like they gave enough brushing / splint protection, but I'm not good at trying to figure boots out (I'm a boot novice! I've never bought boots for a horse before, always just used what I was given).
    Do you think they'll be almost as protective as a heard shell boot? Or even more so?
    Has anyone figured out what boots they used in the study?
    Thanks for putting up with me!

  13. No worries! My problem with a hard shell on XC (and why I think they aren't often used) is that a hard material can generally not absorb and dissipate the shock from a blow. Usually, it just transfers that force to whatever is beneath it (your horse's leg). It will keep the skin on (sometimes) but usually it's the force that does more damage. A softer material does that critical absorption of force. Of course, the idea mix is putting layers of soft material above and below the hard material (like embedded tendon guards) so you get the best of both. There are two layers all around on mine -- the super techy foam is next to the leg and the outside is a really tough ballistic nylon weave. I don't think a horseshoe could rub through it.

    TriZone sponsored that British study, so I take all of that with a grain of salt as far as which boots did better. But no, I do not know which was which.

    I know it's hard when it's not your horse, I hope y'all can find a happy compromise!

  14. So I went with the TriZone Allsport boots. She's a Clyde/TB cross, 16.2 ish hh. And the Medium fits her just fine. I'm glad I heard in advance that they fit big. I had checked the measurements they give in the catalog, and I measured her cannon in 3 places (I still don't know where you should measure for boot fit - noone has given me an answer to that one).
    I think they are going to have to be strapped on pretty tightly, and I hope the break in a bit. I also bought Boogaloos for the backs. I keep hearing that Woofs wearout so much faster. My coach doesn't think the Allsports are any better than the Woofs, but I'll like them if they do keep her tendons cooler. I did a boot on arm + broom handle test with her hards shells (not painfull, but couldn't tell if they were sitting down all the way), split boots (not too painful), Wool (Painful!), and the Allsports (felt preassure, but not pain - though the strike plate was equal or more painfil). I haven't tried the Boogaloos yet.

    I'm hoping to go for a gallop on Tuesday, so I'll get to test out all the new boots, and see what I think of everything then.

    Thanks so much for all your help!

  15. Ahahaha, I love your scientific testing process! Do let me know how you like the AllSports. I have not had a problem with the Woofs wearing out. Mine have a few rough edges from hitting things, but I've had them probably 3 years, so to be expected.

    I haven't the foggiest idea on how to measure for boots. I'd guess maybe around the cannon just below the knee?

  16. Ok, so we went for a "gallop" last night, so I used it as an excuse to boot her up. The AllSports go one nice, but I felt like I have to crank them on a bit to get them to stay where I wanted them (they might twist if I hadn't). She's a 16.2 ish tbx clyde, who normal takes large size boots, but I bought mediums, as I’ve heard they run large, and with all my measurements she seemed like she'd fit the mediums fine. Which she does. So I'd warn that they definitely fit big. The Boogaloos were easy to apply. We hacked out over to my favorite field (lots of hills), which means traversing marshlands. We worked pretty hard for awhile, and headed back home. I took the long route home, and made sure to have her cool before we got back to the barn. Once I hopped off, and started untacking, I paid close attention when I took off the boots. Front Legs: everything blow the boot was very wet. Leg, dry! Completely dry. I don't know if water couldn't get to her leg, and just sweat had to dry off or what. And cool! Not warm at all.
    Hind legs: Dry, completely. I don't know if the boot absorbed much (I'm totally weighing the boots at home, then submerging them, and weighing them again...) or just repelled all the water. But her leg was warm. So the Boogaloos did cause heat retention more than the AllSports.
    I'm hoping to take her down to the creek soon, so I'll see how they do completely submerged on her. But so far, I think I like these boots.
    And I wouldn't have made this boot selection without you!
    Thanks again.

  17. Cool, sounds like they performed well! Thanks so much for coming back to post the review, sounds like a thumbs up!!