The Savvy Station

Hoof Boots for Horses: A Natural Guide

bis Parelli Natural Horsemanship auf Jan 24, 2024

Hoof Boots for Horses: A Natural Guide

Hoof boots are an excellent natural alternative to steel shoes. They provide extra protection and support for barefoot horses without causing damage to the wall. Hoof boots are used for trail riding, jumping, endurance, and for abscess or laminitis rehabilitation. They can also help transition shod horses to barefoot by providing protection and support until the hoof sole and frog become stronger.

Which Horses Can Use Hoof Boots?

Hoof boots can be used in several scenarios to aid in your horse's comfort and protect their hooves.

Barefoot Horses - Many horse owners prefer to keep their horses barefoot. Barefoot trimming encourages enhanced blood flow, superior traction, and better hoof growth. However, there are times when your barefoot horse needs to travel on rougher ground. Hoof boots offer protection, as needed, for barefoot horses. They can be used occasionally on harder surfaces or rough terrain.

Transitioning from Metal Shoes - Shod horses become accustomed to the protection of metal shoes. The hoof wall can become weakened and the sole tender. Hoof boots can help transition shod horses to barefoot, reducing discomfort and the chances of stone bruises on tender soles.

Shod Horses - Some horse owners prefer to keep their horses shod for showing, traveling, or to treat lamenesses. However, there is nothing worse than your horse throwing a shoe in the field when the farrier is on vacation, or worse throwing it on the trail miles from home. If your horse is prone to throwing shoes, hoof boots can act as a "spare tire" until the farrier arrives. Hoof boots can prevent bruising and provide cushioning. This can be especially helpful if your horse throws a shoe on the trail.

Benefits of Hoof Boots

Hoof boots have many benefits, whether your horse is barefoot or shod.

  • Barefoot friendly - If you prefer barefoot trimming, hoof boots do not restrict or weaken the natural hoof.
  • Economical - While some hoof boots do require a higher initial investment, they are more cost-effective over time compared to shoeing your horse.
  • Versatile - Hoof boots can be used for a variety of purposes, including jumping, driving, trail riding, and rehabilitation.

Cushion on Rough Terrain

Metal reverberates when it comes into contact with hard or rough terrain. This reverberation can be harmful to your horse because the natural shock absorption of the hoof cannot function. Hoof boots are designed to allow the natural shock absorption of the hoof, unlike a metal shoe. This feature can be very beneficial for jumpers or horses ridden on rocky terrain.

Relief on Hard Ground

Horses can experience serious hoof and joint discomfort on hard or frozen ground, whether shod or barefoot. Hoof boots provide a cushion to protect against tenderness during these transitionary times of year.

Protection & Comfort While Trailering & Training

As we've mentioned, hoof boots provide additional cushioning and support. When used during long trailer rides, horses often experience less fatigue and muscle strain. This additional support can benefit both shod and barefoot horses. Most hoof boots will fully encase the hoof, protecting it from chipping and cracking while traveling.

Reducing Shock for Jumpers

Hoof boots help with the natural shock absorption of the hoof. For jumpers who experience a repetitive concussive force when landing, with the additional weight of a rider, hoof boots can provide a lot of short and long-term relief.

Types of Hoof Boots

There are three different basic styles of hoof boots: soaking boots, rehabilitation boots, and riding boots. Each is designed specifically for its designated function and cannot be cross-utilized. The best hoof boots for your horse will depend on use and hoof shape.

Soaking boots generally cover the leg up to the knee. These are ideal for soaking hooves for horses with abscesses. Generally made from a rubber material, they cinch around the leg ensuring the water doesn't spill out. These are a much easier option for soaking hooves compared to buckets.

Riding boots slip over the hoof and have good traction for riding in various terrains. Flex boots move with the hoof, allowing the natural expansion of the frog with every step. These are a great option for barefoot horses on rough terrain.

Parelli recommends Scoot Boots from performance to trail to performance riding (use code PARELLI for 20% off!).

Therapy Boots

Rehabilitation or therapy boots are designed for hooves needing additional protection and support due to an injury like sole bruising, cracks, or thrush or illness, such as laminitis or Navicular Disease. These are very useful for horses or ponies with laminitis or abscesses. For horses suffering from laminitis, special pads support the frog, reducing pain. Some of these boots are designed to be worn during turnout, but not all, so make sure to check the recommendation on the specific boots.

Measuring for Hoof Boots

Similar to poorly fitting sneakers, hoof boots can only provide protection and support when fitted properly. It is important to measure the width and length of the hoof before purchasing hoof boots. One size does not fit all with hoof boots. Hoof shape can also play a role, as some horses have rounder, wider, or narrower hooves. Hind hooves are often narrower, making fitting a bit more challenging.

Most boot manufacturers provide a measuring and size guide. To measure your horse's hoof, start with the widest point and measure the width across the bottom of the foot. Second, measure the length of the hoof from the toe to the buttress line (the farthest weight-bearing point on the heel). Use these measurements to determine the correct boot size. Most manufacturers recommend the larger size if the width and length measurements fall under two different sizes.

A few measuring tips:

  • Measure shortly after your horse's hooves have been trimmed to ensure accurate measurements and a good fit
  • Your hoof boots may not fit appropriately if your horse has a lot of hoof growth.

Trying Hoof Boots

If you are trying on a new pair of hoof boots for the first time, make sure to try them on grass or a rubber mat to prevent markings. Most manufacturers will allow you to return or exchange the boots if they are undamaged. Most hoof boots have a rubber, metal or velcro closure around the front of the hoof capsule. Open the straps and slide the boot on, starting with the toe, before moving to the heel bulbs. Once the boot is in place, secure the rubber or velcro straps. 

Friendly Game with your Boots

Even with the best fit possible, horses can get nervous or worried about the process of having their boots put on or the feel of wearing the boots.  Remember, it’s very important to build your horse’s confidence in order to keep you both safe and to grow your relationship!  When you go to try on your horse’s boots, be sure you have plenty of time so you’re not feeling rushed or pressured.  Stay relaxed and friendly with the boots, allowing your horse to sniff them and then try rubbing them up and down the legs first.  Play with the boots in an environment where your horse is comfortable and where it’s easy for him to stand calmly and quietly.  Try to keep your body relaxed and natural; sometimes as humans we get so focused on the task we become direct line and our horses interpret this as pressure.  

Hoof boots can be a great option for you and your horse to optimize movement, comfort and health.  Just remember to take the time it takes so you both have a good experience as you explore these new possibilities together.

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