A Comprehensive Guide To Choosing The Perfect Pair Of Horse Boots

March 11, 2021 6 min read

A Comprehensive Guide To Choosing The Perfect Pair Of Horse Boots

Did you know that horses wear boots, too? Many equestrians use them to protect their horse’s legs and hooves, but how well do we know their true benefits? Read on to learn more about the different types of horse boots, their purposes, as well as the unique perks they provide.

In this article, we will talk about:

  • Quick History: Horse Boots
  • Why Are Horse Boots Essentials In Riding?
  • Types of Horse Boots
  • How To Choose The Right Boots For Your Horse
  • Special Features
  • What To Avoid When Buying Boots
  • Proper Maintenance

A Quick History Of Horse Boots

Horse boots were invented to protect the horse’s legs. In the early days, most of them were made from leather, but they have become quite expensive and a hassle to care for. Nowadays, neoprene is the go-to material for horse boots, as they are cheaper and easier to maintain.

Why Are They Essential In Riding?

Horse boots shine best in competitions when your horse is most prone to all sorts of injuries. The boots absorb impact from your horse’s legs and/or hooves, as well as from obstacles like poles and fences.  

This saves your horse from having to go through long periods of rest and rehabilitation after sustaining an injury. Some types, such as support boots, are specially designed to support your horse’s tendons, which help reduce fatigue. Some also protect your horse’s hooves from rough terrain.

In summary, horse boots protect your equine from many injuries and ensure a longer career by maintaining their performance.

Types of Horse Boots

As mentioned, the main purpose of horse boots is to protect your horse’s legs and hooves. Each type differs in what specific part of your horse’s legs or injuries they protect your horse from, which discipline they are best used for, and the materials they are usually made of.

  • Dressage Boots- These protect your horse from interference when a horse’s hooves hit their own legs during movement. These are best used for flatwork and dressage.
  • Support Boots- These protect your horse from interference and obstacles such as jumps. They also prevent overstretching of the tendon. They are best used for jumping and eventing.
  • Fetlock Boots - As the name suggests, these protect your horse’s hind fetlocks (the lower part of their leg) from interference but still ensure that they can feel a pole during a show when they brush against it. They are used for jumping, show hunting, and eventing. They are usually used with tendon boots, which protect the tendons, as this area is prone to brushing injuries while performing a jump.
  • Bell Boots - These cover the entire hooves and protect your horse’s heels from an injury known as overreaching. This happens when a horse injures itself by hitting its front leg with its hind leg. They are best used for eventing.

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How To Choose The Right Boots For Your Horse

Consider your horse’s needs first and the discipline you will be partaking in. Once you have decided which specific type of boots you want, it’s time to figure out your horse’s boot size.

To get an accurate estimate of their size, you must know the length of their leg (or hoof if you are buying bell boots—make sure to also measure their width), their weight, as well as the circumference of their leg.

The cowboy sizing system indicates that for leg boots, small sizes are fit for horses that are fine-boned or weigh under 900 pounds; medium sizes are for medium-boned horses or those that weigh 900 to 1,100 pounds, while large sizes are for big-boned horses or those that weigh over 1,100 pounds.

To measure the length of your horse’s leg, measure from their knee to the top of their ankle. To measure the width of your horse leg, measure the diameter of the front leg at the cannon bone, midway between the knee, and the fetlock.

If possible, trim your horse’s hoof first before taking their measurements for better accuracy. To measure the length of their hoof, measure from the tip of the toe to the buttress line. Do not include the bulbs. To measure the width of their hoof, measure across the bottom of their hoof at the widest point. Measure the other hoof as well as they may differ in shape. The length and width of their hoof should be the same size for a perfect fit. If the length and width sizes are different by one size, then choose the larger size. If they differ by more than one size, you may want to look for a different type of boot instead.

To measure your horse’s weight, use a weight tape and wrap it around your horse’s girth. Take the measurement after the horse has exhaled.

If you don’t have a weight tape, you can estimate your horse’s weight in kilograms with the formula [(girth measurement in cm)^2 x (length measurement in cm)] ÷ 11,900]. To measure your horse’s girth, wrap the tape across the horse’s back behind the withers and find the result from the other side, under your horse. To measure for length in the above formula, measure from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock. Take note that these measurements are only applicable to adult horses.

To measure the circumference of your horse’s leg, measure both the front and hind fetlocks at the widest point. Choose the next bigger size than your measurement for the best fit.

To check the fit of your horse boots, you should be able to snugly fit one finger between the boot and your horse’s leg. This is crucial, as a tight-fitting boot may hurt your horse’s tendons, while a loose one can slip off, causing your horse to trip and suffer an injury. The bottom of a properly-fitted bell boot should barely touch the ground while the horse is standing on level footing.

Special Features of Horse Boots

Good horse boots should be durable, easy to wear, and have a soft lining to prevent soreness. Look out for boots that have fleece or sheepskin lining—these are great features that will not only ensure extra comfort for your horse but are also removable for easier cleaning.

While you want tough material for types such as support boots to give your horse maximum protection, sometimes the material is so impenetrable that it also traps heat and moisture, which can build up from within and cause skin irritation. That’s why it is important that you choose boots that are micro-perforated or made from breathable material to facilitate airflow.

What To Avoid

Avoid horse boots that don’t have any kind of breathable material or have no soft lining. Not only will it be uncomfortable for your horse to wear, but it will also irritate their skin and cause a rash. Worse, your horse might even suffer an infection from the build-up of trapped moisture and bacteria.

Horse Boots Maintenance

Cleaning methods may differ depending on the material of your horse boots. Check the cleaning instructions that come with your horse boots and follow them accordingly.

For leather boots, clean and condition the leather thoroughly with saddle soap and leather conditioner. Make sure to check the stitching regularly as well; any rotten or loose stitches must be fixed or replaced as soon as possible.

For wool, fleece or sheepskin-lined boots, these can be machine washed with cold water but make sure to never go over 30 and only use mild detergents.

It is recommended that you hand wash neoprene boots with warm water to preserve the material, using very mild soap and a brush to scrub out dirt. If they start to smell, try washing them with a neoprene cleaner or odor remover.

No matter what kind of boots you own, always clean them after use to avoid irritating your horse’s skin with leftover bacteria. Never put horse boots in the dryer or leave them under the sun to dry as this will ruin the material. Instead, dry them under the shade with the insides turned out for better preservation.

If some parts of your boots are starting to wear, some manufacturers offer parts that you can replace them with to prolong their life. If the parts that are damaged cannot be replaced, and/or if the cost of fixing the boots are about the same as buying a new one, then it may be time to invest in a replacement pair.

Do regular visits with farriers to ensure that your horse boots still fit. If you are using hoof or bell boots, trim your horse’s hooves every six to eight weeks. Your horse should not wear these kinds of boots if their hooves are not trimmed as they will not properly fit.

We hope this comprehensive guide has given you an idea about what the best kind of boots will fit your four-legged friend’s needs. Have fun shopping for your very own pair!