So much rides on your horse’s legs. Why not get serious about protecting them? Without healthy legs, your horse or pony is out of luck—and riding or even driving can be out of the question.
Boots to the rescue! While good nutrition and careful management are key components in leg health, you can do a lot more to safeguard those precious limbs by using the right gear, specifically boots dedicated to protection or support.
Let’s talk first about protective boots. For the average horse owner, this means boots designed primarily to shield splint bones and the soft tissues at the back of the leg during general exercise or trail riding. For more rigorous activities like colt starting, roping, jumping and cutting, look for boots with higher levels of protection according to what you’re doing and where you’re doing it—such as cross-country jumping or trekking through the mountains.
Protective boots are usually made from a durable, non-stretch material that guards against not only interference or overreach (which can happen with any athletic horse, or while jumping) but injuries from rocks and branches. It’s important, too, that the material be tough enough to keep burrs and thorns from penetrating while shedding sticky brush.
If you ride and/or compete primarily in the arena, the boot material can be slightly stretchy, as long as it still protects against hoof strikes and burns from the footing material. Shock absorption becomes more critical in fast, competitive sports and disciplines that involve jumping, so look for reinforcement in the “strike areas,” where protection is most important.
Unfortunately, the same tough, impenetrable material that protects your horse’s legs can cause both heat and moisture to build up against the skin, which can cause irritation. It can also make the boots difficult to dry. When shopping, look for styles fashioned from breathable material or material with plenty of built-in airflow to facilitate air flow and fast drying. Some advanced models even sport perforated foam to help draw heat away.
Shape matters, too. Go for a streamlined style if you compete in speed sports; after all, who wants bulk around their horses’ legs when racing the clock?
The faster and more challenging the work, the more you’ll need to support your horse’s tendons, ligaments and joints. Like sports wraps for human athletes, support boots are especially helpful when your horse is performing strenuous activity that involves repetitive maneuvers such as reining, barrel racing or jumping.
You’ll want some stretch in a support boot—with more firmness and durability than a bandage wrap offers. The best supportive boots enable you to adjust the degree of support, with just enough “give” to allow for a close fit without restricting blood supply.
When considering sizes, check the manufacturer’s sizing charts for your horse’s specific boots. When fitting them, ensure that you can slide one finger between the horse’s leg and the boot. Boots that are too big won’t support the leg well, will allow footing material to get inside the boot and can slide down to trip a moving horse. Boots that are too small not only constrict movement, but cause pain, irritation and even tendon damage. Make sure, too, that the boots are long enough to cover the cannon bone and the inside of the fetlock without interfering with movement.
To complete your protective strategy, consider using bell boots on all four of your horse’s feet. These will shield his sensitive heel bulbs if he overreaches or interferes. (A stepped-on heel is a major “ouch!”). Bell boots can also help guard against abrasion from the ground or arena footing, are affordable and come in a variety of styles and colors, with many closure options. They’re an easy way to boost your peace of mind.
No equine wardrobe is complete without a good set (or two or three) of boots. Your horse’s legs are worth it!
This article is sponsored by: Classic Equine.