By Lucy Nicholas
I recently wrote an article on this website that was an introduction to barefoot hoof care. In it, I mentioned that I am an advocate of hoof boots. I still get asked many questions about hoof boots, so I thought I would share with Pegasus readers some answers to a couple of FAQs!
What are hoof boots used for?
Barefoot hoof boots for horses and ponies are widely used 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 fits 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.
What tips do you have for long-term hoof boot care?
After use, hoof boots should have the worst of the mud removed from them and the inside should be checked for small stones / gravel, and any lumps of mud or deposits that could cause rubbing to the horse or pony. The boots should be routinely inspected for signs of wear, any screws or fitting checked for tightness, and cables or buckles checked for signs of stress or fraying.
It is also worth measuring your horse or pony’s hooves every couple of months, especially during transitioning, to monitor its foot shape / size, as they can change. If you are using one pair of hoof boots on more than one horse, it is wise to use a disinfectant spray in between horses, to prevent the spread of infection. At least once a week Comfort Pads, used inside the boots, should be removed and the boot and pad should be sprayed liberally, before returning the pad to the boot.
Lost or broken boots
All good hoof boots are made to withstand the weight of a half tonne horse over miles of rugged terrain, but just as a horse or pony can pull off a metal shoe, it is possible to lose a hoof boot. If you loose a boot within the first week, or more than once in the first month, it is most likely the wrong style / shape / size for your horse or pony’s hooves, and you should check the fit with the manufacturer or knowledgeable retailer first, to see if another size of style may be more appropriate.
A common cause for lost hoof boots is for the boot to be too long in the length. This increases the point of break over (the point when the toe leaves the ground), allowing the hind foot to come through and tread on the back of the boot, which can rip it off. If a shorter front boot is not possible (for example, the horse has overly long toes that cannot be shortened at present), booting the back feet can help to even out the break over a little. Over reach boots can also help.
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.