Photo: jdj150/flickr.com CC BY 2.0
With so many horses going barefoot, hoof boots are becoming more popular than ever. Barefoot horses sometimes need protection on their feet, such as on long distance rides or on rocky terrain, and hoof boots are the best way to provide it. Hoof boots can protect a barefoot horse from stone bruising and excess wear, and can improve traction on various terrains. They can also improve shock absorption, and be useful in treatment of hoof injuries and other issues.
Horse owners have a variety of different hoof boots to choose from, available from several different manufacturers. But whatever type you choose, getting the right fit is crucial if the boot is going to do its job, and stay on the hoof. Without the right fit, the boot can cause rubs on your horse’s skin. It will also be a lot more likely to fall off too, right in the middle of trail ride. Few things are as aggravating as riding in hoof boots that won’t stay on.
Before you buy a particular hoof boot, study the manufacturer’s instructions on how to measure to get the right size. You’ll be asked to take a length and width measurement of the hoof, but keep in mind that the dimensions you record may not be completely accurate once you apply those measurements to the boot. Your horse’s heel and wall angles may affect the fit. This may mean that one type of boot will fit your horse better than another. Before you make a purchase, it’s a good idea to contact the boot manufacturer to get a sense of what style of boot will be best for your horse.
The best time to see if your boot fits properly is right after a fresh trim. This is when your horse’s hoof is at its smallest and most correct in shape. You want a boot that will fit well right after a visit from your farrier. If it fits at that stage, it will be more likely to stay on your horse during all phases in his normal hoof growth.
When shopping for hoof boots, a barefoot farrier or a local hoof boot manufacturer’s representative can assist you with fitting. Or, if you are interested in hoof boots by EasyCare, you can order a fitting kit, which contains several sizes of boots to help you judge which one is the best fit for your horse.
Some horses can more challenging to fit. Horses with an upright hoof can be harder to fit with a hoof boot. Horses with a clubfoot or a less common foot shape may not fit into the same style boot as most other horses. The best way to deal with this situation is to communicate with the hoof boot manufacturer throughout the process of fitting your horse. Let the representative know about your horse’s unusual hoof shape, and take this person’s advice on which style might best fit your horse.
Audrey Pavia is a freelance writer and the author of Horses for Dummies. She lives with two Spanish Mustangs, Milagro and Rio.