Ever since I bought the renegade hoof boots for Ben, I have been riding him out in them. I had two boots for his front hooves first and he would still try to protect his back feet by walking on the grass verges where he could, rubbing my legs against the shrubs at the side. Then I bought a further pair and rode out happily enjoying Ben striding out in the centre of the road again, over loose stones and rough patches. Putting those boots on became part of the routine, just as much as putting on his saddle.
Then he got a small rub on his heel bulbs. It appeared as two small blisters high on the heel bulbs of his right front hoof. Now this was a moment of real panic for me. My (disapproving) farrier had warned me that whatever I did, “don’t use those hoof boots” as he had seen very bad rubs. I had liked the design of the renegades and been thankful that Ben’s feet were small enough for them. I e-mailed Gina at Renegade who was very helpful and told me that I was probably putting too much tension on the bottom strap of the boot. As far as I understand it, there are two areas where boots can rub: the coronary band and the heel bulbs. Renegade boots do not come up to the coronary band and the heel captivator is designed to move with the hoof, so rubs should not happen. If the bottom strap was tightened too much, the heel captivator seemed to ride up a bit, at least that’s what I noticed when I played with it. I had been tightening the bottom strap against loss of the boot.
So I gave Ben a break from riding out, which allowed me to spend time on the in-hand work. I am satisfied that the rubs, which have now healed, were caused by too much tension on the bottom (cable) strap of the boot. But I also thought about how I ride Ben and wondered if I really need to always use boots. I consider the roads around us to be quite rough but I started to notice how Ben was striding over rough ground with much more ease than he had done a few months ago.
So today we rode out with four bare feet. And he strode over the loose stones and the rough parts and did not seek the grass verges. My legs were safe and his legs felt very good indeed.
I will keep the renegades for the very sharp forestry roads but I think I can declare that, ten months on, Ben has now transitioned.