Protective boots are a must-have for your horse or pony if you do athletic events like jumping and barrel racing, or if your horse’s conformation makes him interfere (bump his legs together) as he moves.
Boots should fit snugly so that they don’t shift or slide down. Closure straps should fit without tons of overlap and excess strap flapping, or barely reaching with little overlap. If your horse has thick legs (like a draft cross), he may need a larger size. If your pony is small, the boot may be too high and hit the back of his knee. Carefully check fit points before using any boot.
If the boot fits, the closures or Velcro straps should be on the outside of the leg where they are safest to attach. Straps should always point backward so they won’t come undone if your horse brushes against anything while moving.
Types of Horse Boots
The most basic type of protective boot is the splint boot, so named because of the protection they offer to the horse’s splint bones on the inside of the lower leg. Splint boots are made from neoprene or other cushioned material with Velcro straps and are among the most affordable types of leg protection. They go all the way around the leg but not under the fetlock, and are versatile for trail riding, galloping, jumping or riding on the flat.
Open-front boots are used for show jumping, and are made of a hard shell with cushioned material, such as foam or fleece, inside. These boots protect the tendons along the back of the horse’s leg, but let him feel a jump pole in front if he rubs it with his legs, discouraging him from hitting them.
Sport boots are made of a soft, cushioned material that extends under the fetlock. The Velcro straps stick to the outside of the boot, and one goes under the fetlock like a sling. These are most often used by western riders of all disciplines and can be worn on all four legs.
Bell boots are worn on the front pasterns and keep the hind foot from grabbing the heel bulbs of the front foot.
If you prefer the look of traditional leg protection or your horse is sensitive to boot rubs, you might consider using polo wraps. They come in different lengths depending on whether you have a pony, light horse or warmblood. And the best part is that they come in tons of fun colors and patterns!
First you want to make sure they are rolled correctly so the fastener is facing the right way when you finish wrapping. While standing or sitting, take an unrolled wrap and lay it on your thigh with the soft side of the Velcro pointed up. Fasten the tab and start rolling the folded end of the polo tightly toward your knee. Continue rolling the whole wrap, pressing down against your leg as you roll to keep it tight. Now you can start the wrap correctly.
How to Put on Polo Wraps
- With your horse standing squarely while tied, begin your wraps on his left front leg. The rolled up part of the wrap should be on the outside as you wrap.Place the loose end in the groove on the inside of his lower leg, and wrap around the front of the cannon bone in a counter-clockwise direction with medium tension. (On the right legs, you’ll wrap clockwise.)Overlap the previous wrap by about half the width, angling slightly downward as you continue down the leg.
- When you get to the fetlock, sling the wrap underneath it with enough tension to keep the wrap from hanging loose. When you come around to the other side and start wrapping in an upward direction, this creates an upside-down “V” shape at the front of the leg.
- Wrap a second time around the bottom of the fetlock, then continue wrapping up the leg, decreasing the tension at this point.
- If you get to the top of the leg and still have wrap left over, wrap down toward the middle of the leg again and then close the Velcro tab so that it’s smooth and flush. Ideally it will be on the outside of the leg, but sometimes it will fall elsewhere, which is OK.
Polos take a little extra time, but they look great for any job, unless you are riding through wet/muddy footing or puddles. The good news is you can throw them in the washing machine. Make sure to stick the Velcro to itself first so you don’t wind up with a knotted mess at the end of the spin cycle!