March 14, 2014

How To Make Your Own "Soft Ride" Boots

Remember when I posted useful articles on this blog?  Me neither.  However, today, I actually do have something useful to offer you!  Do try & hide your shock.

soft ride boots
Soft Ride Boots:  the hottest trend in trailering when they hit the market two or three years ago (or less.  or more.  I lose track of time generally.).  "Reducing fatigue, enhancing performance, & helping treat & prevent injuries," these boots promise to pretty much eliminate the need for a vet, trainer, & sleep all at once!

Ok, perhaps I exaggerate a bit for effect, but while the concept of absorbing concussive shock traveling through the trailer frame to the floor & your horse's feet is a good one, marketing, as often occurs, goes a wee smidge over the top.

Note:  This post does not apply to use of any kind of boot for veterinary or therapeutic hoof issues which require daily wear.  I speak only in the context of booting a trailered horse for comfort.  Hopefully, those are obviously different scenarios to be addressed on a case by case basis.  

Not to mention, as with all normal things (human shoe inserts or foam cut-outs, anyone), give it a special horsey name & hint that it might knock a few points off your dressage score all while keeping Dobbin sounder, & you can mark up the price by approximately 4000%.  So, a gel pad that you stick on your horse's hoof which he will promptly stomp in his own poop can be yours, in a pair even, for around $200.

*pause for personal need to repeat hysterical choking sounds*

The Epics: great for non-forgers
Now, Soft Ride folks, my apologies if you are miffed at my badgering, but it does not carry any ill will nor even am I suggesting you have an unhelpful product.  I own a pair of both EasyBoot Epics (they did work when they stayed on...) & Cavallo Sport Boots, the latter of which I adore & are worn by Solo every time he is ridden off grass.

Both have had foam inserts for cushioning while riding as well.  Although both paid for themselves by replacing horseshoes.  And EasyCare has done the same thing as Soft Ride with the EasyBoot Rx hitting you up around $150 a pair, though they avoided some of the grandiose verbage.

I am simply offering an alternative solution for those of us who live down here in the real world (or even worse, my poverty world) where we have to actually CHOOSE which things we spend money on instead of just buy them all.  There certainly is value in convenience sometimes, but it doesn't have to be unreachable. 

If you are anything like me, every time you feel & hear that 'clunk' of your trailer coming down after a lump or hole, you murmur an apology to your horse that he is never going to get Air-Ride (unless HE comes up with $6,500).  But given what I ask my horses to do, I do want to lessen that series of a gazillion impact waves (particularly on VA cheese-grater roads) traveling up through the joints of his fetlocks, hocks, stifles, & back.  I just did not have & was not going to throw $200 at it.

Straight out of the bag
Enter the Hoof Wrap:  a step above buying a foam pad alone or cutting one out of insulation board & duct taping it on (duct tape tends to be single use only).  These are basically reusable (& extremely durable, it turns out) ballistic nylon foot napkins with a lot of velcro.

They also come with their own 1.5" thick EVA foam pad (replaceable for only $7 or you can double up) for cushion & if you want more (I do in VA!), you can add a gel pad (which even smells like odd incense thanks to an infusion of tea tree oil).

All components are reusable; I don't use the gel every time I use the wrap, but it's been on at least four long trips.  Want to go hog wild?  Mix & match all kinds of thickness & density pads for $14 & just cut to a fit you like.

And at $20 per foot for wrap & foam pad, you can instead spend $80 & come out with TWO pairs (I only outfitted his hind feet for a mere $40).  Like any type of hoof boot or wrap, they take a few applications to get used to.  But the straps are numbered in the order in which you should attach them (THANK YOU!).

If you make sure the foot is centered & you pull the velcro tight, they even stay put in the trailer.  If you like, add a strip of tape (hello, colour coordination!) around the foot for backup.
With gel pad added.  It had an odd aromatherapy...

Encore models
I would say it takes me a total of about four minutes to apply both hind wraps & I only use them for trips of two hours or more (or if I'm entering VA, period).  But effectively, it creates the same device at 1/4 of the price (1/2 if you add gel pads, but still...and hey, that rhymed).

And yes, I did observe a marked reduction of stiffness & let-down time coming off the trailer when I use them vs. prior long trips in just horseshoes.

You're welcome.


  1. Hmmm..interesting! I wasn't even aware that people bought these for trailering. I bought a pair of soft rides, with special therapeutic inserts, and had them overnighted to me when my horse had a bout of laminitis over the summer. They were completely life saving for him.

    1. Marissa, hence my disclaimer. :) I just picked on the Soft Rides a bit because of the "my marketing team had too much coffee" approach, but there has been an undercurrent of chatter for a while that one must have them to trailer thy sporthorses. So I just wanted to share a more affordable approach to that particular application. And yes, my increasing crankiness about skyrocketing prices over the last couple of years in even the simplest of equine products slips out from time to time, LOL.

      As stated, obviously, therapeutic padding for veterinary care, such as laminitis, needs to stay on longer and while the horse is moving, so you need a tougher rubber outsole; the Hoof Wrap would not be appropriate at all there. There are choices in that market too at several price points, along with a nearly endless catalogue of pads, and all of them are great to have -- because as I'm sure you know, when laminitis strikes your horse and you now have the tools to save his life, well, who can put a price on that??! So glad to hear your boy enjoyed those benefits!!! :D

    2. I totally got where you were going! I definitely think its crazy that people would pay that sort of money for a therapeutic boot simply for trailering!!! I like your take on the boot :)

  2. Somehow I have completely missed this undercurrent of "one must have them to trailer they sporthorse." Seriously ignorance really is bliss... sometimes I miss being ignorant.

    But thanks for the info, very helpful!

  3. Yeahhh I used to work for a lady that bought them for her poopsies when they trailered.... right.
    In all honesty I've used them a lot in rehabbing foundered horses and a lot of horses just hate them, especially the chronic horses. The lip in the front of the pad hurts them, the frog support is stupid (because who leaves heels on a foundered horse anymore, honestly? Get with the times people), they're HEAVY and exhausting to wear all the time, etc etc etc. At this point I can't stand the sight of them!

  4. For trailering, etc., I do think the SRs are pricey and you've' come up with a good alternative.

    However, for a laminitic horse, I think they're worth their weight in gold. You do have to play around with the inserts and maybe try different types, and we totally shaved down the frog supports on Tiff's pair so they were non-existent. And they took her from lying down 97% of the time to contentedly ambling around the farm. I did try jerry-rigging and making my own out of a pair of the inserts and Tiff's Cavallo boots (I even tried some sort of hoof slipper thingy) and it just did not work. We broke down and bought the boots, thank goodness, because they made Tiff so much more comfortable!

  5. Btw, the pads are completely different than any others I've seen. They are MUCH thicker, and have a whole range of different types, hardnesses, squishinesses, etc.
    And, given that some people pay several hundred dollars per shoeing, I don't find the price astronomical. Tiff wore hers 24/7 for around 5 months and then we ended up giving them to our trimmer as a loaner pair.

  6. I wondered about the frog part sticking up, Andrea and Frizzle. It seemed like it would put constant pressure on the frog which to my certainly-not-farrier-certified-but-not-completely-stupid brain seems like overcorrecting too far. On the plus side, you can cut it up however you like, but it always hurts me a little to lay down $20 for something and then immediately take a knife to it.

    And again, when it comes to laminitis, that's a completely different cost-benefit ratio. I hope I never have to do so, but if someone suggested using shoes on a laminitic horse that I owned, instead of a padded or completely bare approach, I would not be a happy horse owner; they better have some damn good data!

    But for a little extra padding on rough roads for long trips, I've found the Hoof Wraps to be an economical solution, particularly during a time when Encore was recovering from bone bruising in his hock and stifle.

  7. Yeah, it looks like a nice comfy boot for shipping, especially with the double pad!
    And, absolutely, the first thing we did was shave down those frog supports with a hoof knife! My trimmer took one look at them and was like, "Nope, those frog things are NOT going to work!!"
    We also had several different inserts--the regular pair that came with the boots, the special founder set, and the squishy purple set. I would not hesitate to buy a pair for a laminitic/foundering horse if I needed to!

  8. Yup we shave the frog supports down too! Sometimes we take the lip off too! The dang pads spin around in there anyway, so anything that isn't flat usually ends up under another part of the hoof, which sucks!

  9. I'm interested if y'all have had the opportunity to compare to the EasyCare Rx boot/pads over time. Not that I HOPE-HORSES-ARE-YOU-LISTENING I ever have to use any on my own, but I have picked up just foam pads in the past to tape on or add to a wrap/riding boot (although can only add a little with riding boots for obvious fit reasons) for a blown abscess or bruise, for comfort. And at $14, the EasyCare ones are bit cheaper.

    And Andrea, I've found the same thing about the spinning, LOL. The only I've found to make something stay put when I really want it to is to vetwrap it on the foot before I put the boot on.

  10. Hmm, now I wish I hadn't read this, as I was out of the loop on the new rules for minimum comfortable transport of my horses! Thankfully, Jake has been a BIG help in introducing me to boots and hoof wraps, as I'm familiar with the Hoof Wrap product, EZ boots options and yes, the Cavallo boots. I'm also pretty darn handy at cutting out his hoof traces in different types of foam! Thank you horse that had stone bruises and abscesses every other week! Now I too can cheap out and wrap him with the hoof wrap! I hate to wrestle boots on and the wrap was a serious winner in the past (haven't had many bruises recently). I've got my guys barefoot right now, and the Cavallos are GREAT for riding out off the grass, except of course you are still caught trying to wrestle them on and I struggle with it, so if anyone has the secret trick to easy on boots please let me know!

    1. Yeah, that's why I don't use the Epics anymore. They never stayed on Solo's fronts, b/c he forges no matter what you do. They were ok on his backs and Encore's fronts initially, but they'd still sometimes turn or come off if they stepped on themselves in a fit.

      I do LOVE the Cavallos, now I have the Sports that I use on Solo's fronts. I followed their break-instructions to the letter and have never had a rub and they are super easy to get on. I can put both on and smack the velcro and click the tab in about 30 seconds total. Awesomeness and they never budge, turn, or come off no matter what.

      I just keep the leather collar oiled (ahem, in theory) and have never had issues getting them on -- I line them up, put toe in first, wiggle them as far up the heel as I can, then drop his foot purposefully, letting him step down into the boot and settle it into place. He's stronger than me, ROFL.

    2. I have the Cavallo Simple Boots, which are all leather. I wonder if those are just tougher to get on and off? I shove hard to get the toe as far forward as I can, and like you, then let them step into the boot, but never fails, they aren't quite up in there enough and the boot gets squashed under rather than coming up over their heels...wait, what's that about oiling the collar? Is that the magic potion? Because I was going to joke that I needed to get some Pam cooking spray for them, and now maybe that's exactly what I DO need to do!

    3. I have not used those, since I liked the backup hook tab on the Sports, I went that route. I think they open wider as well, they are only leather across the heel and around the collar, the rest is nylon and huge, great velcro tabs.

      Yeah, at least on the Sport, the instructions said to oil the collar, to prevent rubs by keeping it softer, so I try to do that and have not had any rubs (wasted money on the USELESS pastern wraps, they are ridiculously worthless, can't even put them on). If the heel scrunches under, I'd try oiling the crap out of it, and I also try to make sure the collar roll is finangled over his heel enough that it won't squish. Maybe mine are a bit stiffer with the nylon backing?

    4. I have the Simples (wahoo, free slightly "pre-owned" but in excellent shape pair from trimmer!), and I find them very easy to put on. I love the Sports and have used them on other horses, but they wouldn't work for my guy--the Simples are for a round foot, while the Sports are more oval. And Salem has a very big (size 4 Simple!) round hooves.

  11. >.< Hoof boots for trailering? Yeah, that hasn't hit Idaho yet.

    1. Oh, SB, but no gear whore can let herself go on without them, surely!!!! :o LOLOLOL!

      I have good, thick, textured mats and in NC, honestly, the thought never crossed my mind. But if you ever drive on VA's roads with a horse trailer, I promise you -- that was the first time I was ever like, omg, there has to be something I can do. Especially since we were still in bone bruise stage.

      I still don't use them in NC, even to the mtns. But as soon as we cross the state line north or south (SC doesn't believe in pothole repair), I do at least use the foam. Of course, in poverty, this rarely happens anymore, but a girl can dream...

  12. Nice suggestion - thanks!

    If I ever get the opportunity to trailer Val back up to MD for lessons, (that means through VA - and you ain't lyin about the state that does not give a sh*t about their roads!), I'll try the Hoof Wraps. Seven hours plus is a long time to bounce around. It's a wonder horses continue to enter trailers for us I think. :D

    1. No joke -- coming home from MD w/ Encore in July, what should have been a 4-4.5 hour trip turned into a 6+ hour trip b/c 95 was GRIDLOCKED for 4th of July and I drove Hwy 15 for the entire. length. of. VA. Which is really really really long, I'd never driven the whole thing. It is drop dead gorgeous, but I seriously began to wonder if my horse would ever get in the metal jail again, LOL.

      Their roads are truly, truly awful -- I guess our ridiculous fuel taxes in NC are good for something after all.

  13. The Soft Rides have been a saving grace for my very badly foundered horse. He wears them 24/7 and he is very comfy in them. The pad is closed cell (doesn't absorb water) and an inch thick. They are not suitable for riding. My horse must wear that pad 24/7 and no other boots can be worn 24/7 because they don't breathe enough, or trap water and the soles stay soaked. I tried other boots and you just can't leave them on long term. So, if the purpose is right, these boots are a god send.

    1. Thanks for stopping in! :) And agreed, which is why I added the disclaimer. When your horse hurts, it's wonderful to have practical, effective tools to help him out. I hope your guy gets to feeling better soon - the SoftRides certainly have their place and as noted, I'm an avid user (when needed) of several great hoof boots. Horses keep reminding us that they are just as individual as we are, so I hope the market continues to adapt to offer even more variety of sizes, shapes, and versatility so we can find what we need when we need it! (If only there was a "stifle -fixing boot," sigh)