Horse Hoof Boots

What are Horse or Hoof Boots?

Type the words “horse boots” into a Google search and you’ll get approximately 50,000 hits. Scanning the list it will quickly become clear that there are many legitimate definitions for “horse boots.” This article will deal only with a select few.

To narrow the scope, one definition of “horse boots” is boots worn by a horse, not by the rider or the owner of the horse. Strangely enough, this simple modifier eliminates a meaningful number of the Google hits.

A second refinement for the term “horse boots” would be boots that encapsulate the horse’s entire hoof. As such, many hoof protection products labeled by those in the equine world as “horse boots” fall from the list. For instance, none of the following meet these new criteria: bell boots, skid boots, knee boots, hock boots, and open fronted boots.

What is meant by “Short Term Protection?”

The final defining factor “for short term protection” eliminates another entire class of boots. These are boots worn by the horse instead of a horseshoe, sometimes called barefoot boots, riding boots or endurance boots. These boots are meant to be used for months at a time and as such their construction is normally much different (and sturdier) than the typical short-term boot, and they generally cost much more.

This article will focus on two types of horse hoof boots. First, boots used when a horse, which regularly wears horseshoes, throws a shoe and some intermittent hoof protection is sought. This protection may be needed because the horse and rider are miles away from the barn, stable or horse trailer, and they need some way to get them back home or simply because the farrier is unavailable for some extended period.  This group of hoof boots has been labeled “spare tire” boots. The idea being that like a spare tire for a car, the owner most likely will have purchased these boots before the horse has thrown the shoe so that once this occurs, the boot immediately can be employed, limiting the potential for serious injury to the horse.

The second type of boots this article focuses on is hoof boots used by a horse during recovery. These are boots used to help protect a hoof that has been bruised or injured and/or boots used when a horse is recovering from a hoof abscess.

Spare Tire Hoof Boots

Let’s examine “spare tire” boots. There are lots of suppliers of “spare tire” hoof boots. Each supplier offers something a bit different with his or her boot. Before you purchase a boot, it is important to determine which properties are important to you.In order to assist the reader in selecting the best boot for your needs, provided below is a list of properties for a ‘spare tire’ hoof boot, the rational for selecting each property and the rating given to each property on a 1 to 5 scale (with 5 being the most important).

Desired properties:

  • Stays on while traveling over different terrains and at various speeds - Just like with your car, if the tire doesn’t stay on the car, it isn’t much use to you and may actually cause more damage than it prevents. Also, if the boot comes off in the mud or is thrown, you may never be able to find it. (importance rating – 5)
  • Provides protection -The boot must be solid enough to provide adequate cushioning and protection for the hoof. (importance rating – 4)
  • Is compact and transportable - The difference between one boot and the next may be a pound or two at most. More important than weight is the fact that the boot can be easily rolled up and carried in your pocket or pack, or on your D ring without using much space. If it is too big, it will just be left behind. (importance rating – 4)
  • Fits properly on the horse – You want a boot that is pliable enough to fit to your horse’s hoof today, and four weeks from now after it grows before your next shoeing. Again following the car analogy, you don’t want to carry around a tire that doesn’t fit the car. However, unlike a car’s wheel, the size of your horse’s hoof changes over time and since you’ll never know when you’ll need it, the boot should be somewhat flexible. (importance rating – 5)
  •  Is easy to put on and take off – This is important for several reasons. First, you may find yourself in a situation where you are alone and you don’t want to spend a lot of time putting on a boot. Second, your horse may have never worn a boot and may be uncomfortable with the concept of wearing a boot. Finally, you may find yourself in a situation where the horse won’t stand still for long or it is dangerous to spend too much time struggling to put on a boot. (importance rating – 3)
  •  Provides solid traction - You don’t what your horse to slip on a wet surface and get injured. Sometimes the morning dew or a shady spot under a tree can be as troublesome traction wise as steady rain. (importance rating – 3)
  • Is durable – For most gear, durability is one of the key properties to consider. If you intend to use your “spare tire” boot as a “spare tire”, then it shouldn’t be on your horse for a long period and durability probably shouldn’t be much of an issue. (importance rating – 3)
  • Is priced reasonably– Price is always a consideration, but this is a relatively inexpensive one time purchase  (importance rating – 2)
  • Is lightweight – Realistically, if the boot is used a “spare tire” trail boot, you’ll probably carry the boot in your pocket 100 hours for every hour that it is on the horse. Why carry extra weight if it isn’t needed? Plus your horse prefers to wear a lighter boot. (importance weight – 2)
  • Does not rub the coronary band or heel bulb - Whether the boot rubs or doesn’t rub sensitive areas around the hoof is dictated by the fit, flexibility of the materials used in construction of the boot and the design of the boot. (importance rating – 2)
  • Is breathable –Boots which allow perspiration to escape and thus prevent a build-up of moisture around the hoof offer a nice bonus feature.  (importance rating – 2)
  • Comes with “Extras” – Do extra items come with the boot such as a bag to carry it? (importance - 1)

The “Spare Tire” Hoof Boot Assessment Table shown below can be used as a tool to evaluate the different hoof boots. The desired properties sought in a “spare tire” boot (itemized above) have been listed down the left column and a weight given to each. Attributes are weighted on a one to five scale, with those attributes considered to be the most important given a five rating and those the least important given a one rating. Obviously there are other properties not shown below, which you may want to include in your assessment, and your weighting factors may differ from those used in this table.  

As an illustration of how this table can be used, the HOOFix ® Comfy Boot sold by Plum Shade Farm (www.HOOFix.com) has been evaluated. Results shown in the column labeled“weighted results” are calculated by multiplying the value for each property times its rating.
SPARE TIRE HOOF BOOT ASSESSMENT TABLE

Example:The HOOFix Comfy Trail Boot

 

VALUES

(1 – 5)

OK

GOOD

EXCELS

Weighted

RESULTS

Attributes

 

1

2

3

 

Stay on

5

   

3

15

Protection

4

   

3

12

Compact/transportable

4

   

3

12

Good fit

5

   

3

12

Easy to put on

3

   

3

9

Solid Traction

3

   

3

9

Durable

3

 

2

 

6

Reasonable price

3

 

2

 

6

Light weight

3

   

3

9

Doesn’t rub

3

   

3

9

Breathable

1

   

3

3

Extras

1

   

3

3

Total

       

105

 

This same process could be used to evaluate other trail boots such as the Castle boot, the Easyboot or the Davis boot.  Information on each of these boots can be found on the web.

Recovery or Therapeutic Boots

Another major grouping of boots is horse recovery or therapeutic boots. For many years the standard in this grouping was not a boot at all. Instead it was a foot covering formed out of diapers, vetwrap and duct tape. Although this old time standard is still used by seasoned farriers to handle abscess cases, most veterinarians and farriers now use horse hoof boots designed to fill this need. They find that the boots stay on the horse’s hoof better than the tape, are much simpler to initially put on, last longer and can easily be taken off to examine the hoof.

Many of the properties considered when selecting a “spare tire” boot are identical to those that should be considered for a recovery boot. However, because the application is different, the weighting given to each factor changes. Listed below are the attributes to look for in a recovery boot.

  • Easy to put on – If the hoof is bruised, infected or sore this now becomes a more compelling need. (importance rating - 5)
  • Protects the hoof – This property should not be a challenge for most boots. However, besides protecting the hoof, the boot should be cushioned to help ease any hoof pain. (importance rating - 5)
  • Stays on– This is very important but considering that the horse probably will not be overly active, all of the boots should be able to meet this need. (importance rating - 4)
  • Provides solid traction - You don’t want your horse to slip on a wet surface and get injured. Since you may be treating the hoof with liquids over a hard floor, this property takes on added importance. (importance rating - 4)
  • Fits properly on the horse – You want a boot that is pliable enough to fit your horse’s hoof. (importance rating - 4)
  • Is durable – If the hoof is truly injured and the horse is going on stall rest, again this shouldn’t be a challenge for any boot. However, if the horse is to be turned out for an extended period, then this could be an important property to consider. (importance rating - 3)
  • Is priced reasonably – Compared to all the other money you’ll spend treating your horse, the boot's cost is a minor cash outlay. (importance rating - 2)
  • Does not rub the coronet or heel bulb – Since areas around the hoof might already be sensitive, it is very important to that the boot not rub the horse. Since every boot and every hoof is different, it is difficult to get a perfect fit with a molded or hard plastic boot. (importance rating - 3)
  • Is breathable – Since the horse may be using the boot for an extended period and your goal is to promote healing, having a breathable boot is important. (importance rating - 3)

Using these criteria and the rankings provided above, another table can be constructed and the ranking of one boot to another compared.  

The treatment or recovery boots we recommend (used by many vets, clinics and veterinary hospitals) is the HOOFix Comfy Boot or the HOOFix Emergency Boot (supplied in the HOOFix Abscess Kit). Both boots are sold sold by Plum Shade Farm and can be found at  – www.plumshadefarm.com.  Other boot options are the Sabre Sneaker, the Davis Boot and the Equine Slipper.

As was stated in the beginning of this article, when selecting a boot it is important to remember that different types of boots are needed (and designed) for different uses and to understand what properties in the boot are desired for each use.

The authors are neither veterinarians nor farriers and as such the reader should rely on and consult with a horse care professional concerning the proper care of a hoof ailment, selection of a boot or general questions pertinent to information provided in this article.