Protective and Supportive Leg Equipment for Your Horse
Horses have muscle tissue for padding in the lower leg. Tender bones, such as the splint bone, as well as tendons and ligaments, have no natural protection. Equine boots help protect the delicate structures of the leg from obstacles, or from the horses own hooves. Some boot styles also help support the tendons and ligaments.
Some horses, no matter how light their workload, are prone to over-reaching, forging, or interfering and injuring themselves. It is generally when horses are fatigued they strike themselves. Young horses may hit themselves because they are unbalanced. And of course, performance horses benefit not only from impact protection but from the soft tissue support found in many horse boots.
Manufacturers don’t always use the same name to describe the same horse boot and different boots serve different functions.
The thicker padding on the inside of all boots protect the delicate splint bone along the inside of the cannon bone. This bone is very easily broken and can lead to several months of lameness as well as permanent cosmetic issues. Once a splint bone breaks it is often difficult to find a product which can accommodate the permanent swelling without causing the horse discomfort.
When putting on any type of boot the elastic strap must be pulled form the front (bone) and wrap towards the back.
It’s important that leg protection fit well and is kept clean. Buying products which do not collect dirt and sweat is always the best option. They are generally more expensive but they last longer. Here are the most commonly used leg protection for horse boots.
These boots encircle the pastern and the bell shape covers the entire hoof. They can be made of rubber, heavy synthetic material or leather lined with fleece at the coronary band. Bell boots are worn in the stall or paddock, or while ridden. Bell boots can be worn on the front or back but are rarely seen on the hind legs. The two most important functions of the bell boot are to protect the coronary band and to keep the horse from pulling off front shoes.
II. Leg Wraps
Before there were specialized horse boots, leg wraps were the predominate method of equine leg protection. Polo wraps and track bandages are the most common type used for riding and standing bandages are used in the stable. Most riders have moved away from polo wraps and track bandages because if wrapped wrong they can easily bow a tendon. They need to be laundered and rewound after each ride. Now that more effective boots are on the market polo wraps have taken a back seat to horse boots.
These are closed front boots (they go all the way around the leg) and are usually worn on the front and hind legs and help prevent the horse from hitting itself during hard work.
Brushing boots protect the entire leg. This boot is preferred by event riders, endurance riders, and dressage riders. Brushing boots are frequently lined with sheepskin or other shock absorbing materials. The outer shell should be breathable if not lined with ventilating fabric. One of the consequences of fully booting or wrapping legs is heat built up. When soft tissue is over heated damage to soft tissue occurs more frequently. If you choose the wrong product you are actually increasing the probability of leg damage. Again, the more expensive boots contain more protection and less heat retention A few more dollars to stay away from neoprene products or gel is generally advisable. Consider the cost of one veterinary visit.
Splint Boots can be made of synthetic materials. They are an open front boot providing protection only along the inside of the leg. Splint boots are generally the least expensive boot available and primarily lined with neoprene which provides almost no impact protection. Leather and hard plastic as well as shock absorbing technologies are the best materials to purchase if you choose the splint boot. They differ from schooling boots by being generally smaller and made of soft material than open front boots and protect only the inside of the horses leg.
Open front boots protect the inside, outside, and back of the leg (the tendon) and are used only on the front legs. There is intentionally no protection on the front of the leg (the cannon bone) so horses may feel when they hit a rail in jumping and are therefore encouraged not to do so again. This is the most popular boot for Hunters and Jumpers. This boot is generally made of hard plastic or leather and is lined with neoprene, gel or shock absorbing foams. Generally an ankle boot or 3/4 hind ankle boot (slightly taller) is used in conjunction with open fronts.
IV. Shin Boots
Shin boots are most commonly used by jumpers to prevent injury to the front of the leg when hitting a jump rail.
Fetlock boots are for protection when a horse hits itself by traveling too close behind. they cover the pastern joint and fetlock areas of the lower hind legs. They are not meant to provide support. They are usually made with leather or synthetic materials and lined with sheepskin or other soft material. They are the smallest of all boots and do not cover the tendons and ligaments so there is little to no danger of overheating the soft tissue.
VI. Knee Boots
Equine knees are hard to protect. Riders find knee boots very hard to keep in place but sometime knee protection is needed. These boots aren’t really supportive, but provide extra padding to horses if they may bump their knees together in spin or make contact with a barrel.
Skid boots protect the back and lower portion of hind fetlocks and pasterns. A good skid boot will provide support along with protection from contact with the riding surface during fast stops and turns. They will be made of leather and fleece or a synthetic material that provides cushioning. Skid boots typically wear out quickly so again consider how much you want to pay vs how often you want to replace them. And always remember if your boots are damaged just realize how much you have done to protect your horse.
The Sports Medicine Boot was originally designed by Professionals Choice. It was a radical design and really changed the equine boot market. Now there are hundreds of manufacturers who incorporate the design to provided the horse with a boot which truly supports soft tissue. The drawbacks: there are problems of overheating, dirt and bacteria growth associated with neoprene lined products.
Because the boot Velcro’s onto itself the outer surface must be made of neoprene.
Neoprene is commonly used as a material for scuba diving suits, fly fishing waders, etc. as it provides excellent insulation against cold. Neoprene is less expensive than breathable fabrics. The more spongy foamed neoprene is designed for insulation. This has very little impact (shock absorbency) and is a culprit of heat retention. Neoprene breaks down rapidly so it’s life span is shorter than breathable impact protecting foams. The cheaper neoprene foams also collect dirt and are difficult to clean. Bacteria is alive and well in many sport medicine boots so we recommend you find a boot which is lined on the inside, against the horse leg, with something other than neoprene.
ThinLine Horseboots impact protection without drawbacks: Ventilates, Supports tendons and ligaments, Molds to legs for a custom fit, No dirt, Thin, Flexible, Easy care.
Infused with USDA approved anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agents (effective for 7 years) ThinLine actually kills rain-rot. Riders in humid climates ride and turnout in these boots to support healthy skin.
This boot has several features not found in other products: They are thin, lightweight, and mold to the horses leg. Machine washable (you can even bleach the white ones). Dirt does not stick to the ThinLine and water is not absorbed so riders can work in wet arenas, or cross rivers without the boot becoming heavy, shifting or rubbing. They ventilate keeping soft tissue cool and reducing potential injuries from overheating or from impact. They are available in two sizes and riders generally use a tall hind boot but may also couple the front sport boot with the schooling ankle boot.
Hard shell plastic in Black, White, Navy, or Grey, is lined with ThinLine shock absorbing foam. Double Velcro closure with an open front. They have all the features of the sport boot. Horses love this light weight breathable boot and owners love the protection easy care and price.
Custom Fit: When warmed to body temperature ThinLine molds to the horses leg. Protection: Impact protection without bulk. Non Slip: No rub boots stay light even when working in wet conditions No More Dirt: Arena footing won’t stick to ThinLine. Durability: This the most durable and easy to clean product on the market. Bell boots are available with or without sheepskin trim at the coronary band.
This amazing boot gives you all the support of the Sports Medicine Boot design but has a few added features not available in any other boot. Other boots add several layers of neoprene or other foams to provide enough impact protection and the boot looks like a big bump on an otherwise dainty leg. With the Cobra boot you can have the best protection available in thin boot which looks more like a polo wrap than a boot. It will not accumulate dirt or grow bacteria the boot is also the best choice for healthy skin and horses who feel supported yet liberated to move well (not to mention having a sleek looking boot). ThinLine vents it cools tendons beneath neoprene.