When young horses first start work, either on the lunge line or under saddle, their co-ordination is not as good as more mature horses. As they figure out how to balance themselves, and the weight of a rider, they are more inclined to injure themselves by brushing or overreaching.
Overreaching is when a horse strikes the back of his front leg or heel with the toe of his hind leg. Brushing is when the hoof of one leg bangs against the inside of the opposite leg. Both of these can be caused by improper shoeing or conformational faults, but they are commonly seen in young horses who are still finding their balance under a rider or on the lunge.
Horse boots encase the lower leg, providing protection from stray hooves. They come in a variety of materials ranging from the traditional boots made of leather and lined with heavy-duty felt to easy-care neoprene boots which are popular today.
Splint boots are a popular choice for young horses, since they provide added protection on the inside of the leg, where the young horse is more likely to kick himself. They are moulded, to provide a good fit and prevent slipping.
To put splint boots on your horse, position them so the the padded section is to the inside of his leg and the shaped cup fits over the inside of his fetlock. Fasten on the outside, making sure the fit is snug, but not too tight.
Combination boots provide a more complete protection, covering more of the fetlock area. They can be made of leather or neoprene and are a good choice as general exercise boots for young or mature horses. They are applied in the same manner as splint boots.
Bell boots protect the coronet, or coronary band, around the top of the hoof and also the heel from being stepped on by one of the other hooves. They can be made of rubber, fleece-lined leather or neoprene and can be either the pull-on variety or fasten with velcro.
In my humble opinion, the pull-on variety should be avoided at all costs. Putting them on is rather like putting on your jeans when you've already got your boots on - a near impossibility!
Bell-boots have a tendency to turn, and can rub the coronet if they are not fitted correctly. Special no-turn designs are now available to eliminate this problem.