In the world of equestrianism, the right equipment can make all the difference. As a rider, you need to have a pair of riding boots that are comfortable, sleek, and absolutely perfect.
But what about your horse? For all the thought and care you put into picking out the right pair of riding boots for yourself, horse boots are just as important for your trusted mount. With all the pressure being placed on their hooves, your horse needs boots that are up to the task of protecting and keeping them in the best shape possible.
With that in mind, here are five quick things every rider should consider when buying horse boots.
Why Boots Matter
The forces involved while riding, jumping, doing dressage, or any number of other equestrian activities can put a lot of stress on your horse’s lower body. Horse boots are designed to protect your horse’s legs and hooves against the stress of these forces as well as rough terrain and self-inflicted injuries.
Many top horse boots offer added protection for your horse’s hooves. While they may seem sturdy to the naked eye, the underside of your horse’s hooves can be quite sensitive. Rocks can become lodged in the soft part of your horse’s hooves, or the toes can become strained or separated, or any number of other maladies may afflict them. Horse boots can help ensure that they are as well-protected as possible.
What’s more, the best horse boots are light and breathable so as to keep the hooves and lower leg muscles from becoming overheated. An increasing number of boots also make use of antibacterial features to try and protect against infection and inflammation.
Horse boots can be made from a wide range of materials, from hard, yet flexible, plastics to soft, yet durable, leather and sheepskin to special composite materials.
Types of Boots
First and foremost, you need to make sure you are getting the right type of boots for your horse. Not all horses or equestrian sports are the same, and as such, different horse boots are suited for different events and horse health issues.
There are six basic types of horse boots:
- Open Front Jumping Boots: When running, it is important your horse is aware of obstacles in its path. While padding is important, it must not obstruct a horse’s ability to feel its way forward. Open front jumping boots are perfect for striking that balance, protecting your horse’s legs while keeping the front open so they can feel and avoid oncoming obstacles.
- Cross Country Jumping Boots: These boots are designed to protect horses for long, sustained cross country rides. They are, thus, more lightweight than other boots so as to avoid weighting your horse down. Most cross country jumping boots attach via hook and loop closures. When horses are at a gallop preparing to jump, with their eyes trained on the jumping area, they may miss closer obstacles near their legs. That’s why strike padding along the interior of your horse’s leg is essential.
- Dressage Flat Work Boots: Dressage is among the most elegant of equestrian events, and these boots are made to accentuate that elegance while protecting your horse’s legs. Dressage boots are traditionally black, white, or brown so as to blend into your horse’s natural hair while giving off an air of subtlety and sophistication. The boots are lined with neoprene or fleece so as to give your horse a nice, soft fit while protecting the area between your horse’s knee and hoof. Additionally, some riders elect to go with a more traditional choice in polo wraps, which protect this same area as a wrap-around material rather than a horse boot.
- Splint and Support Boots: These boots are worn on the front of your horse’s leg and wrap around to provide protection to their cannon bone.
- Hind Leg Boots: These are often paired with open front boots to provide your horse’s cannon bone and hind legs with extra protection.
- Bell Boots: Designed to fit snugly around your horse’s hooves, bell boots protect their heels. They are usually easy to put on with a pull-on style with buckled closures and easy-to-use hook and loop fasteners. The inside is usually lined with fleece so as to prevent rubbing.
Estimating Your Horse’s Size and Finding the Right Fit
Imagine trying to walk or ride a horse with your feet shoved into riding boots two sizes too small. By the time you’re done, they’ll likely be red, irritated, horribly sore, and worse off than before. The same holds true for your horse. When buying horse boots, therefore, you want to make sure you find options that are the right fit, which means learning how to fit them in the first place.
You need to make sure the boots are not attached too tightly to your horse’s leg, which can cause severe discomfort and damage your horse’s tendons or other parts of its leg. If the boot is too loose, dirt and rocks can get inside, which can lead to abrasions, irritation, and all the problems that come with them. As a general rule, you should be able to put at least one finger between the protective boot and your horse’s leg.
Most horse boots are clearly demarcated with their size. Check the packaging to make sure you know what sizes correspond to a manufacturer’s Small, Medium, and Large sizes, as well as any others they include. Your horse’s height, weight, breed, and the circumference of their leg are all relevant information that can help you estimate their boot size.
Smaller horses with more refined bones, for example, such as ponies, will likely need smaller-sized boots, while many adult thoroughbreds will require large boots, and some sports horses may require extra-large ones.
Your horse’s boot should not be so long as to extend to the back of your horse’s knee, as this can interfere with their ability to move freely. They should ideally cover the cannon bone, fetlock and, in the case of bell boots, part of your horse’s hooves.
By keeping these factors in mind when buying horse boots for your trusted steed, you can make sure they have the protection they need while riding, while ensuring they can move freely and unrestrained in your equestrian adventures.