By Lucy Nicholas
Today I will share with Pegasus readers some more answers to FAQs on hoof boots for barefoot horses.
An increasing number of horse owners here in the UK use hoof boots for barefoot horses and ponies, both during the ‘shod to bare’ transitionary process, and also for every day riding and training. It is vital if you are using a hoof boot that it closely fit the foot’s size and shape; each hoof is measured separately. All hoof boots for horses and ponies have a growth tolerance built in, so the boots need to be fitted at their minimum growth.
How to tell if a hoof boot fits
Once you have selected a hoof boot for your horse or pony, fit the boot as per the manufacturer’s instructions, and see how it fits. Does it go on easily? Does the hoof fill the inside of the boot nicely without bulging or causing any ‘gapping’ in the fixings? Check that the fastenings are not too tight; think of your horse’s footwear as you would your own – ensure that any potential pressure points, such as airbags or clasps, are no tighter than anywhere else. When the boot is on the hoof, you shouldn’t be able to twist it from side to side by any more than around 5 degrees (unless stated differently by the individual manufacturer), as this could indicate that the boot could be too big or the wrong shape for the horse’s hoof.
If it is difficult to get the boot on, it may be too small, so try the next size up. This also applies if you find the fixings are only just doing up, or are at the end of their tolerance. Sometimes a horse will have a small hoof in relation to their pastern, for example, in which case they are usually better with the smaller size. If you are not sure, ask the retailer or manufacturer for guidance, as usually once you have used the boot, you will not be able to return them for an exchange or refund (unless you have hired them or they come with some kind of money back guarantee).
Common booting problems:
Twisting can be a simple indication that the boot is either the wrong shape or too big; if you are able to twist the boot yourself more than around 5 degrees when the horse’s foot is up, this is probably the likely cause, and a smaller size or alternative model should be tried.
If the boot fits well but still twists, you need to try and get the boot, and especially the width, as tight (without causing restriction) as possible. Brushing with the limbs can twist a boot; if your horse’s legs move close together, using thick brushing boots or fetlock boots behind, such as sheepskin lined versions or even a sausage boot, will usually keep the coronet bands far enough apart to prevent the horse from catching the hoof boot.
Rubbing will often occur if the boot is too small, the wrong model or fastened too loose – check your measurements again and try a different model or the next size up to see if that fits better.
Make sure the foot is really on the sole of the boot, and not crushing the heel.
Rubbing is usually more common in horses with under-run heels (see left), where the measurements for length have not been taken into consideration, thus making the bulb of the heel ‘larger’ than anticipated, and the boot too short.
Boots that fit above the coronet band have the potential to rub, as they are making contact with more soft parts of the horse’s hoof and leg.
Some hoof boots have special wraps or gaiters that act as ‘socks’ to help protect sensitive skin.
This info has been extracted and edited especially for Pegasus from my book ‘The Barefoot Horse: An Introductory Guide to Barefoot And Booting’ – please do check it out for more information and advice.