There are a huge range of equine hoof boots for sale that offer almost every horse a viable alternative to metal horseshoes. They are designed to provide extra protection for your un-shod horse without causing detriment to the hoof. They can be used for all types of riding, including trail, jumping, dressage and endurance as well as for driving, rehabilitation and turnout. They come in a wide range of sizes to fit miniature horses, ponies, horses, and medium-sized drafts.
It may be necessary to use hoof boots for a while when you first start
transitioning your horse to go barefoot. Often a newly de-shod foot is
not able to cope with the varying surfaces you may encounter when trail riding
or during turnout so boots are used to make the horse more comfortable
until the hoof has built up condition. Many horses also need equine hoof pads in the boots for additional support. Some shoeless horses are lucky and don't
need them but for most horses it is something that you do need to invest
in (even if only for occasional use).
They can also be used to make a horse more comfortable when they are suffering from abscesses, laminitis/founder or navicular.
Another scenario where boots are useful is if you keep your horse on a soft terrain but want to ride on hard, abrasive terrain. It is not fair to expect the hoof to cope with the harder terrain when it hasn't been conditioned to it, but by using hoof boots you can overcome this issue and keep your horse comfortable.
Also there are pads available that can be used on sensitive horses or to help stimulate weakened areas of the hoof, such as the frog. By cutting the pad into the shape of the frog and either taping over the frog or attaching it to the boot, extra stimulus is provided to help develop the frog and digital cushion. Pete Ramey has written a great article on the use of boots and pads click here to read it.
In general, they fall in to three groups:
The riding group has been revolutionized by the introduction of the flexible-soled hoof shoes made by Equine Fusion.
Up until 2011, most of my experience had been with the Boa's, Old Macs and Easyboot Epics and out
of those three my preference for riding was the Easyboot Epic. However all of these boots have a rigid sole which whilst is infinitely better than regular horseshoes still does not allow the hoof to function as naturally as it could.
Fusion Jogging Shoe however, has a totally flexible sole which does not impede the hoof in any way. I personally think this is the way forward as recent
research by Dr Bowker indicates that sole stimulation is very important
to the hoof and helps increase blood flow to micro-vessels in the hoof. I like these boots so much that I became a dealer - click here for more info.
The other boots I recommend and sell are the Flex Boots. As the name suggests, they are also flexible and allow the hoof to function naturally. The Flex do require a healthier hoof shape, compared the the Equine Fusions, and the sole is thinner so they are better suited to healthy hooves, whereas the Fusions work for both rehab and riding/driving.
The smallest miniature hoof boots available are the Recovery, Trekking and Active models of the Equine Fusion Jogging Shoes which offer a great alternative to traditional horseshoes for miniature horses. The Flex Boots come in small sizes too.
When measuring for hoof boots, it is important to match the width and length of the hoof to the hoof boot size. The front hooves of most horses tend to be more round in shape and wider than the hind hooves. It can often be a little harder to find hoof boots for hind feet but there some models such as the Ultimate Jogging Shoes, that come in a Slim version for narrow hooves.
Measuring for hoof boots
Be sure to measure each horse foot as sometimes one is larger than it's pair.
These boots for horses are primarily aimed at hooves that need extra protection and padding due to injury or illness. Some are a suitable hoof boot for horse turnout - although this should be in a limited area so as to lessen the chance of the horse loosing the boot. Particularly useful a horse or pony with laminitis and/or abscesses.
This section includes barefoot riding boots for trail riding and arena work. Some of these boots, such as the Equine Fusion Jogging Shoe, can also be used for turnout. Equine hoof pads can be put in the boots to give the horse additional hoof protection.
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