Even the most careful of horses can accidentally injure themselves when being ridden, and boots and bandages are often required to provide protection. Horses with poor or faulty conformation can be particularly accident-prone, as can young or unfit horses that need to be given more time to develop the strength they need to avoid hitting themselves.
When it comes to buying boots we are spoilt for choice. The shelves of tack shops are groaning with a huge range but brushing boots for the front and back legs are one of the most common. Brushing boots can help protect a horse from knocking the inside of his fetlock with the opposite hoof. However, it is important to buy a set of brushing boots that fit properly to avoid rubbing, and that offer sufficient protection to prevent bruising and laceration.
Brushing boots should be quick and simple to put on and take off again and also easy to keep clean. The outer material is usually leather, neoprene or some other synthetic material. Although leather is strong and provides excellent protection it must be soft and well maintained to avoid rubbing and pressure sores. Whilst neoprene provides a cushioned layer it must be thick enough to provide sufficient protection and ideally have an absorbent lining.
Most boot manufacturers use Velcro or Velcro-style fastenings, which are sometimes referred to as ‘hook and loop’ or ‘touch and close’ fastenings. Double Velcro straps that overlap will be more secure than single straps and it’s probably best to avoid buckles, as they can be very fiddly, particularly on a cold morning when your fingers are stiff.
Look for machine-washable boots and to help the Velcro straps maintain their stickiness it is advisable to stick the straps together before putting them into the machine. This will help to prevent them picking up mud, grit and dirt during the wash cycle. You can also clean the straps afterwards using a special Velcro brush. Some boots can be rinsed off under a tap or in a bucket of water, and others are quick drying, but whichever boots you buy make sure you clean them after each time they are worn.
Select a design and contour of boot that suits your horse’s type and conformation best and that won’t impede his movement in any way. Boots are also available in a material that will mould itself to the shape of the horse’s leg but check that there are no areas that can rub.
It is worth remembering that all boots should only be worn for short periods. If worn for a long time, particularly in muddy or wet conditions, they can cause soreness and irritation. When storing the boots keep them in their pairs to avoid mixing up the front and hind-leg sets and accidentally putting them on the wrong leg. When fitting the boots, fasten the middle strap first and work upwards, then downwards ensuring there is even pressure all the way. When removing boots, unfasten the bottom strap first, and then work upwards.
Author: Andrea McHugh