Over the course of an average day of training, riding lessons, show jumping and competitive practice, your horse will encounter a huge amount of strain on their legs.
It’s only natural that four legs, which support between 400 – 1000 Kg, will receive their fair share of physical pressure and, in some cases, be prone to certain tendon and ligament injuries. To reduce the potential risk of tissue damage, your horse will need that extra legwear support to absorb shock and impact during exercise.
At Country & Stable, we have sifted through a wide range of boots and bandages to bring together an easy guide to help you find the most comfortable leg support for your horse.
Why do horses need boots and bandages?
Essentially boots and bandages are there to protect your horse’s front and hind lower legs from any undue stress, wear-and-tear or injury. They work to prevent common tendon fatigue problems as well as any unnecessary ‘brushing’ or friction as sections of the lower limbs rub together.
Imagine the legs in motion for a second, as they travel over different terrains, and you can start to see what potential problems lie ahead: the hoofs will receive some trauma from pounding the hard ground or knocking against horse poles; as a horse lands during gallops the fetlock joints absorb the full crashing weight; hind legs will strike against front heels at fast paces.
All of these potential traumas can add up and will require some attention.
However, if you spot signs of lameness in your horse’s legs – like noticeable changes in gait, unwillingness to stand or any joint swellings – then you should also consult a veterinarian who will decide whether the weakness needs treatment.
What are the different types of horse boots?
It’s fair to say all horses are different, from their individual biology and conformation right down to the activities of their eventing life. All of these factors – medical history, regularity of exercise etc. – will make their way into your decision process.
Similarly, different disciplines will need to know the advantages of deploying either boot or bandage. For example, bandages are best used in stables as they can be more comfortable over long periods; whereas brushing boots are best used in the field as they do not soak up moisture and are easier to clean and reuse.
To get back to basics and help you purchase the right legwear, here is a handy breakdown.
Used to keep legs warm and actively prevent swelling after intense activity – they are ideal for quieter stable-based equestrian activities or for long travel. Our John Whitaker Training Bandages, feature a fleece inner padding to keep muscles warm and elasticated stretch for additional give and comfort. The only precautions to be mindful of are not to wrap the bandages too tight as this could lead to pressure sores.
Bell Boots / Overreach Boots
Bell boots, or overreach boots, are worn on the forelegs over the coronet and heel to reduce any problems involved with ‘overreaching’ – a process where the hind foot scrapes the front heel causing abrasions. Our unique Woof Wear Kevlar Overreach Boot, for example, has a special deep design which fits exactly to this delicate part and ensures any knocks are kept to a minimum.
These are the general multi-use miracle boots that minimise ‘brushing’, which occurs when legs happen to knock together. Brushing boots are very adaptable to all forms of equestrian activity; the essential form is made of comfortable inner padding and a durable outer casing, like our Woof Wear Double Lock Brushing Boots.
Tendon & Fetlock Boots
All owners and riders will be well aware of the unfortunate joint wear-and-tear of the tendons and fetlocks. Designed for a closely-contoured fit, tendon boots have padding that protects back and side ligaments from being struck by back hooves. Best of all, you can marry this together with a pair of fetlock boots (which defend the fetlocks on the hind legs) to provide overall dual support. Luckily, our EQuick EUp Fetlock Boots also include a special gel bubble front compartment that will absorb shock.
As the name suggests, travel boots are worn to protect against bangs, scrapes and falls when the horse is travelling in a horse box or trailer. They usually have some kind of foam or fleece lining to help keep the horse comfortable, as knocking their legs against the sides of the trailer can be quite painful. When travelling with another horse, travel boots can also prevent knocks against each other, which can lead to distress and injury. There are different size travel boots available, including short boots that just cover the lower part of the leg, and longer boots that cover the entire lower leg including the knee and hock. Our Horseware Mio travel boots are an excellent choice.
How do I decide on appropriate size and fit?
You’ll be pleased to know that sizing the ideal boot is relatively easy. Generally the Small or pony size is for 10hh – 13hh; the Medium or cob size are for 13hh – 15hh; and the Large or horse sizes are best suited for horses in the 15 – 16.2hh bracket.
As a general catch-all rule, Practical Horseman suggests that “boots should fit snug with enough room to press a finger between the horse’s leg and the boot. Too tight and you’ll pinch a tendon or restrict the blood flow that is essential during exercise. Too loose, and dirt or footing material can sneak inside the boot and become an irritant. Or worse, the boot slips off.”
They also make a point of noting how relative height should affect the style of the horse boot: depending on how tall your horse is “the boot needs to cover the length of the cannon bone and inner fetlock without impeding the movement of the horse’s knee or hock”.
Does the breed of my horse affect the choice of boot?
In many ways, breeding should not sway your choice too much. Some horse breeds, like the cob or shire breeds, have hairy legs and therefore tend not to require boots as their natural feathering protects from small collisions.
When would my horse need more specialised boots like therapeutic or medical boots?
Occasionally you may need to go above and beyond this general range of boots and buy something with targeted medical properties. If your horse has suffered an injury, for instance, therapeutic boots can increase blood flow and aid in healing. They can also help by keeping an injured area dry and clean from infection.
Tips on maintaining your boots and bandages:
Last but not least, checking up on these products is very important. The great outdoors and repeated use can wear-down their effectiveness, so here are some final tips to remember:
- Regularly replace bandages when they become soggy and heavy with rain
- Keep all boots clean so they don’t gather dirt and grime and ideally wash after training
- Check you’re applying the boots and bandages with factored-in comfortability – incorrect use can restrict air circulation and lead to inflammation
- Every now and then test the velcro boot straps to be reassured they’re still providing a firm fit
Check out our full range of horse boots & bandages, and if you have any questions about choosing the right boots for your horse, please get in touch.