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Horse Boot Guide

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.



Before putting any type of boot or wrap on your horse, give his legs a thorough curry with a soft mitt and follow that with a good brushing to remove any bits of mud or bedding. Check the inside of the boot or wrap for debris that could rub your horse, and whisk it off with a stiff brush if needed.

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.

Open-front boots are worn in show jumping so the horse can feel if he rubs a pole.

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.

Perfect Polos

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.

Tap here for step-by-step instructions on how to put on polo wraps.


This article originally appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Holly Caccamise

Holly Caccamise has been with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider since 2007, and in August 2019, she took over as head editor. She’s been instrumental in the production of both magazines and helped Horse Illustrated win a 2018 American Horse Publications Media Award in the General Excellence Self-Supported Publication (circulation 15,000 and over) category. Before getting involved in the editorial side of print media, she worked as an award-winning ad copywriter for Thoroughbred Times magazine. Caccamise has her MS in Animal Science from the University of Kentucky, where she studied equine nutrition and exercise physiology, and her Bachelor’s from UCLA in Biology. Caccamise has also worked as a research assistant, horse camp counselor teaching riding and vaulting, and as a top-level show groom in the eventing world, where she continues to compete her horse, Artie, at the lower levels.

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