The vexed question of hoof boots

Barefoot woes. I remember my old riding instructor telling me she thought I was mad for going barefoot and her farrier boyfriend stating that you need shoes for the roads and “whatever you do, don’t use those awful hoof boots.”

But we have been rock crunching, we really have.

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Last summer we rode flinty forest trails truly barefoot. Sometimes Ben steps out on the very rough and stony roads here quite confidently without any boots. But not right now. Despite a track system, heavy rains have meant a lot of mud. Ben’s frogs are softer than they were a month ago. And the amount of exercise I have time to provide cannot combat this. So I need boots.

But which boots?

We started originally with Renegades and, while they came off a couple of times, I was generally pleased with how they performed and how Ben went in them.

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(A very hairy Ben in his new Renegades in winter time two years ago.)

He started with a size 2w, but after a few months needed a 2ww. I have never been completely happy with the boots since. They can come off in trot and they rub the outside heel bulb on his right hoof. I first discovered this as a small blister and since then I have played with the cable adjustments but with no great success. We have been riding regularly recently and I kept watching for rubs. One day Ben was snatchy with his right hoof after a ride and did not want me to touch his heel bulbs. I felt very bad and that was the end of those boots for me.

Finding a replacement has not been easy.

We have no supplier of hoof boots in this country. I have been in e-mail correspondence with Liz from Hoof Bootique in England who has been incredibly helpful. She suggested a larger sized heel captivator for the Renegades. My husband cast his engineer’s eye on Ben wearing his Renegades. He pointed out a dark patch towards the edge of the heel captivator on the right boot which seemed to correspond with the rubbing spot. He also suggested trying a bigger size heel captivator. But I have lost faith in those boots for Ben. Too many “ifs” and I want to boot I can be sure about.

Cloud wears Ben’s old, size 2w, boots with great success. They also look quite different on him and this has made me think of the different conformation of a cob. The shell of the boot also does not come up as high on Ben’s hoof as it does on Cloud’s.

So I tried Equine Fusions.

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I really like the concept behind design of these boots and, as Sandra is successfully using them on Minnie, I thought it would be worth trying them on Ben. Ben took a size above Minnie and when the boots arrived I went for a short hack. Ben over reached, which is not like him, and over reached so badly that he kept stumbling. I tried again with the same problem. Comparing them with Minnie’s, the size bigger has not just a bigger shell, but is also higher and it is obviously too high for Ben’s pastern. So the fabric bunches out behind. So they were returned.

So next I reached for a rejected pair of Cavallo Simple Boots which I bought in the early days of transitioning Ben. I had not even ridden in these as I really did not like how heavy and clunky they were. They fitted Ben, but I still was not happy with their weight. Liz suggested Easyboot Trails.

These are better, much lighter than the Cavallos but similar in shape. Ben seems happy in walk, trot and canter. But…

I am now quite worried about heel bulb rubs. The boots are soft and flexible around the pastern so I do not think they will rub there. But they have a serious design fault – there is a seam and rough part just where the outside of the heel bulbs would sit.

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It seems a ridiculous fault for these boots to have. So I have tried out the pastern wraps that came with the Cavallo boots. It took a bit of trial and error to get their position right so that they would not ride up on Ben’s hooves. But they seem to be working. Hopefully after a while I will not need them any more. Ben moves well in the Trails however they do not seem very robust and I would wonder how long the stitching will last.  But I aim to use these boots until they either wear out or fall apart.

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The Glove Back Country would be my preferred choice, without having tried them. But they do depend on a very regular trim cycle which I do not have. And do not even want. I am happy to give a tidy up rasp and we have a good farrier now who understands barefoot trimming and who can cast his expert eye over the ponies about every 2 months. That should be all they need.

On a positive note, Cloud is stepping on the loose stones in our yard without a problem now and his thrush seems to be gone. He also strides out well in his Renegades (and looks quite smart too).

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10 Comments

Filed under hoof care

10 responses to “The vexed question of hoof boots

  1. I’ve also come to the conclusion that different makes of boot suit different hoof conformations. I have a pair of Cavallo Sport Boots which I bought as emergency spares for Flurry on the trek, they haven’t yet seen any use, other than as a poulticing boot for Aero!! I may resort to them yet, but hopefully I won’t have to.
    The Renegades definitely don’t fit aero as well as they fitted Flurry, he as a very dainty hoof and they seem to come up too high on him, if anything. It’s also hard to adjust the cables so that they fasten without masses of excess strap – that’s the dainty hoof, again.
    I’ve seen one or two other bloggers who are using Easyboot Gloves and seem to like them, but I was not impressed, I thought they were very difficult to put on.
    It looks like you & your daughter are having fun with the two boys anyway! Hope you have solved your booting issues for the moment.

    • Thanks Martine. I would love a supply of loads of different types to try. It would definitely save some money. Daughter and I are having fun – the general speed of the rides has increased!

  2. You certainly have had trouble with fitting boots to hooves. We don’t really use boots except when we have an injury and use them therapeutically. I believe we have Easy Boots but I’d have to check. It’s so hard finding the right fit even for what we use them for. Good luck with the boys and I hope you have found the right combination for many fun rides.

  3. The only thing I can think of is to use a sock, moleskine, or some lambswool to spot-fit the boots and the heel bulbs… You’ve done so much research and work trying to get the right boot for his feet! I’m so paranoid about rubs I don’t use the boots here – did for Keil Bay to see if it would help his heels in front de-contract – it did help but once he went up a size, I decided to ride him w/o – they were SO hard to get on and off. We’ve had decent luck putting various sizes of stone in the gateways and muddy areas – they have all toughened up quite a bit as a result.

    One other thought – could it be the seasonal rise making him ouchy this time of year? My understanding is that most horses experience some rise in ACTH in the fall and for some this can manifest in ouchy feet. ?? Just pondering out loud here. 🙂

    • Billie, I would so love not to have to use boots. But as almost all of my riding happens on the roads, I do need them as a back-up. I just want a ‘go-to’ pair of boots that I can put on without any worries.

      Re the ouchiness – to both the boys’ disgust, I have not let them at any grass this autumn. Cloud was really quite overweight when he came to us and had some lines on his hooves indicating, I presume, nutritional stress. So I am being very careful indeed. My grass will be used for winter grazing. Hay is disappearing at a quite frightening rate as a result.

  4. How old are the boys? I was thinking seasonal rise in terms of the ACTH hormone – which happens with horses who are pre-PPID and in-process PPID – but if I am understanding my reading correctly, also happens for many horses in general. I totally understand about the road riding and wanting boots for that.

  5. I agree that boots are quite specific to hoof shape and conformation. With big fairly round hooves that have an upright conformation Old Mac G2 boots have done well, whilst Easyboots just wouldn’t stay on. (Their poor quality manufacture which meant that they tended to tear when coming off didn’t help either.) I’ve not had any problem with Old Macs rubbing, even without gaiters.

    What I have found is that the extra weight of boots affects gait to the point that Brena isn’t nearly so keen to canter or gallop with boots on. She can, however it must feel a bit strange. In general we only use boots when doing extensive work on hard surfaces in order to reduce wear on her hooves. Otherwise wear tends to match or exceed growth through the summer.

    • It is interesting that you do find the quality of Easyboots to be poor – this is my first experience of them. Easyboot state that they have based the trails on the Old Mac G2s so possibly they would suit Ben as well. When I look at your blog I suffer much “trail envy” – I have lived and ridden in England (Surrey/Hampshire) and I think the hacking their is fantastic. We are so reliant on roads here.

      I have just written a new post about how Ben, in this last week, is sound on the roads again, so I hope to ride now without boots. It is interesting, also, that you found Brena less keen to go to a faster pace in boots. It does make sense.