Simple Is Key To Safe Splint Boots

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Splint boots protect the inside of the horse’s ankle and splint area from impact. We tested 44 pairs and evaluated them for quality of materials, protection of the horse’s legs, ease of use and price. We also noted if they were easy to keep clean, if they rubbed and if they stayed put. We used the boots for flatwork, show jumping, hunter paces, cross-country, horse trials and turnout.

Some of the boots are designated “splint boots” by the manufacturer and some are “galloping boots.” The difference is the degree of protection. Splint boots protect the splint and ankle on the inside of the horse’s leg; galloping boots protect the back of the ankle and tendons, plus the inside of the splint and ankle area.

Proper Application
Boots can only do their job if they are the right size and put on correctly. The Hippocratic Oath is appropriate here: First, do no harm.Use even pressure. Tighten from the front of the leg toward the back; never from the tendons forward, which may pull a tendon out of place and cause swelling, irritation or a bow.

Several boots required extra thought to determine which belonged on the left leg and which on the right. Most horsemen are taught to put on boots so the straps point toward the hind legs. Some boots, however, have a double-lock system of securing the hook-and-loop straps. For example, the Miller’s Roma ProTek Molded boots’ main straps are elasticized and put on so they tighten from the front of the leg toward the back. The finishing straps secure the bottom straps, and they point toward the front of the horse when the boot is put on correctly.

The Veredus boots also require consideration in telling the left from the right. These boots have large finishing panels that close forward over the hook-and-loop straps underneath.

Classic Equine labeled the insides of their CSB-100 boots “left” and “right.” Ordinarily, we would be grateful. Upon closer inspection, however, we discovered that the labeling would cause us to tighten them from back to front and close the finishing straps toward the back of the horse.

We discussed this with the manufacturer, who said, “When you tighten the straps and then let go, the pressure equalizes around the horse’s leg.” We weren’t so sure. The rate of injury from incorrectly applied boots may be low, but we prefer not to tempt fate. We liked the CSB-100 boots when we put them on our way.

Tendon runners, which fit into the groove formed by the horse’s tendons on the side of the leg, are common features of leather boots. They provide support to the leg, help hold the boot in place and give a closer fit. Bit of Britain’s Leather Cross Country Boots have one tendon runner, and Miller’s Lancer’s Competition Galloping Boots have two. Take extra care when putting the boot on so the runner fits into the groove formed by the tendons on the horse’s leg. If the runner is in the wrong place, it can put pressure on the horse’s tendons.

Similarly, if boots are put on too tightly, with uneven pressure, or if they shift on the leg, the risk of damage to the leg increases. The first step in reducing the chance of harm is to be sure you have the right size boot.

Which Size'
Splint-boot sizes vary as much as human clothes, so determining the correct size can require trial and error. A rough guideline is: a 14- to 15-hand horse is small, 15- to 16.1-hand is medium, 16.2- to 17.2-hand is large and 17.2 and up is XL. Keep in mind size depends more on the width and substance of the cannon bones than on height.

A boot is sized correctly for height if it covers the leg from below the back of the knee to the inside of the horse’s ankle. The boot should not restrict motion by being too tall, nor should it skimp on protection in the ankle area.

Sizing for width depends on style. Leather boots should not overlap on the outside of the horse’s cannon bone. Leather is stiff and bulky, and if the boot is too large it will overlap under the buckle and may cause rubbing, irritation or tendon problems.

Ideally, the edges of the boot should just meet. If you are in doubt as to the proper size of a leather boot, pick the smaller boot; of course, leather straps stretch over time. According to John Nunn at Bit of Britain, the gap can be up to an inch.

Synthetics allow more leeway because the fabric is softer and will conform more readily to the leg. Some synthetics, such as Dover’s Double-Lock Woof Boots, are designed to be overlapped, which allows for a greater range of fit. Any boot that overlaps needs extra attention to ensure that the fabric lies smoothly against the horse. Wrinkles and folds can irritate skin and tendons.

Other styles, such as E-Quest’s Dressage Sport Boot, are made so the edges meet but don’t overlap. If the edges overlap, extra bulk will form under the closures and the horse may experience irritation. Go down a size so the edges will just meet.

D-ring boots, which have reverse-grip hook-and-loop closures, should also just meet at the edges. If there is overlap, the fabric may bunch under the closures. Even if the edges do not overlap, be sure the neoprene fabric lies smoothly under the closures. Bunching causes rubs.

Rod Wade of Fabri-Tech recommends cutting neoprene to size so it doesn’t bunch. This is a great idea, if the neoprene is not stitched. Some manufacturers make the straps extra long so you can cut them down.

Another caveat when putting on D-ring boots is to make sure that you apply pressure evenly over all the straps. If you do not, the D rings may twist and exacerbate uneven pressure. We aren’t fans of D-ring boots because they look simple but are difficult to get just right and can easily be over-tightened.

Dirt, Cleaning And Material
Dirt may cause rubs, so we love the convenience of machine washing (close hook-and-loop straps before dumping them in the machine).

If your neoprene boots need hand washing, use soap and water and a soft brush — a hard brush can damage the fabric. Air drying is best but not in sun because neoprene will deteriorate too quickly.

Fleece-lined and fabric boots collect burrs and debris and absorb water. But these are excellent if your horse has sensitive skin or for arena work. Neoprene and leather are best for cross-country riding, and a few horses are sensitive to neoprene.

We evaluated three pairs of boots that we feel provide maximum protection cross-country: Nunn Finer’s American Style Boots, Dover’s Style Boots, and Farnam’s Equi-Armor boot. These have a tough outer material, a soft synthetic next to the skin and tendon/cannon guards inside.

In our the next section, our comments include field test results, washing and sizing variations, and our concerns.

Leather Lined with Rubber/Neoprene
Miller’s Lancer’s Competition Galloping Boots: Three straps and two tendon runners. Adequate-quality leather. Until broken in, boot shifted sideways when straps were tightened. Use extra care to put tendon runners in correct place. We found no place to tuck excess strap; manufacturer recommends cutting ends to appropriate length.

Bit of Britain Leather Splint Boots (front): Three roller-buckle closures with elastic and a tendon runner. Recommended. Stood up to severe interference on inside of ankle.

Bit of Britain Leather Cross Country Boots (front): Three roller-buckle closures with elastic, tendon runner and extra layer of leather over back of ankle. Nice boots, but we’d like the leather to come down more on inside of ankle. One horse wore into the stitching on the inside after three rides. Another horse that didn’t interfere as severely did well.

Bit of Britain Leather Cross Country Hind Boots: Five roller-buckle closures, tendon runner. Recommended.

Bit of Britain Leather Ultimate Event Hind: Five roller-buckle closures. Protects ankle to inside of hock, includes ten don guard, ankle cushion. Recommended. Maximum protection.

Classic Equine Leather Splint Boots: Elastic over tendons. Leather not reinforced over pressure point on inside of ankle, resulting in a groove where mud and debris lodged. Nitrate lining of boot would not come clean even after scrubbing. Do not oil leather because it will damage the adhesive that binds the lining to the boot. Sizing runs short.

Classic Equine Leather splint boots (buckle): Elastic over tendons. Same comments as above.

Leather Boots With Interchangeable Rubber and Fleece Lining
Libertyville Gold Medal Splint Boot (rubber and fleece lining): Three buckle closures. Fleece liner attaches to boot through leather straps. Lining shifted during use. Recommended with rubber lining. Synthetic washable fleece liner included. New liners available ($13.75).

Walsh Ankle, Splint and Tendon boots: Three roller-buckle closures. Interchangeable 3/16" neoprene/ synthetic fleece liner. Recommended, but switching liners takes practice.

Fleece-Lined Synthetic Boots
E-Quest Dressage Sport Boots: Two hook-and-loop closures with elastic. Recommended. One horse that brushed severely took three months to wear through one stitch on the inside of ankle. E-Quest has the same design boot made with sturdier stitching and a tougher material in the works. Machine wash and dry (cleaning instructions tag attached to product, which we applaud).

Dover Saddlery Euro Pro Heidi Galloping Boots: Two elasticized hook-and-loop closures. Recommended. Machine wash and dry.

Dover Saddlery Euro Pro Askan Hind: Two elasticized hook-and-loop closures. Recommended. Machine wash and dry.

Libertyville New Equine Wear Exercise Boots: Three hook-and-loop closures. Shake-dry fleece. Difficult to put on with even pressure, especially if you have small hands. Fleece is puffy and holds boot away from leg, causing interference. Machine wash at 100?° F.

Libertyville New Equine Wear Maximum Performance Hind Boots: Three hook-and-loop closures. Shake dry fleece. Polyurethane cannon bone guard. Comments same as above.

Libertyville New Equine Wear Dressage Protection Hind: Three hook-and-loop closures. Shake dry fleece. Comments same as above.

KevProTec Fleece-Lined All-Purpose Closed Front: Three hook-and-loop closures that adhere to the fabric of the boot. Recommended. Machine wash; air dry.

Synthetic with Single Hook-and-Loop Straps
Nunn Finer American Style Boot: Recommended. Good cross-country boot. Fit most horses, but universal size may be too large for finer-boned animals.

Dover Saddlery Style Cross-Country Boots: Three hook-and-loop closures. Stiff tendon guard on front boots; cannon bone guard on hind. Recommended. Good cross-country boot. Fit most horses, but universal size may be too large for finer-boned animals.

Professional’s Choice PC SPB200 Quik Wrap Splint Boots: Four single-lock hook-and-loop straps. Padded splint area. Recommended.

Fabri-Tech Pro-Gear Splint Boot XT: Four single-lock hook-and-loop straps. Bottom hook-and-loop strap is shorter than the other three; we want it longer. Machine wash.

Fabri-Tech Fast-Trim Splint Boots: Single strip of hook-and-loop material on outside of horse’s leg. Hook-and-loop material weakened and stitching over ankle frayed after one month. Sizing runs small. Machine wash; air dry.

Miller’s KevProTec Splint Boots: Three hook-and-loop closures adhere to fabric of boot. Stitching wore through on inside of ankle after 2 1/2 months of use by a horse that interferes severely. Machine wash; air dry.

Fortunate Feathers 2011 Outlaw Safe T Wrap Boots: Four single-lock hook-and-loop straps. Recommended. Machine wash; air dry.

Synthetic with Double-Lock Hook-and-Loop Straps
Bar F Double Lock Splint Boots B960: Three double-lock hook-and-loop closures. Double padding over splint area. Recommended.

Bar F Finalist Galloping Boot B702: Two large leather-covered hook-and-loop straps. Reinforced back seam. Double padding over splint and fetlock area. Hook-and-loop material strong — difficult to separate for first week of use. Padding over inside of ankle protruded, causing interference.

Dover Saddlery Double Lock Closure Woof Boots: Three double-lock hook-and-loop closures. Recommended. Machine wash.

Classic Equine CSB-100 Splint Boots: Two double-lock hook-and-loop closures. Recommended. But, we disagree with the left- and right-leg markings.

EPC/Practical Choice PC Splint/Galloping Boots: Two elasticized hook-and-loop straps with one large finishing panel. Thermo- plastic protector over splint area. Hook-and-loop material extremely strong. Direction of hook-and-loop straps and finishing panel counterintuitive.

Libertyville Equi-Prene Splint-Gallop Boots: Elasticized double lock hook-and-loop closure. Felt lining. Difficult to put on with even pressure. Straps direction counterintuitive. Machine wash warm; air dry.

Miller’s Roma ProTek Molded Front Galloping and Hind Boots: Two elasticized double-lock hook-and-loop closures. Water resistant. Honeycomb pattern in lining for air circulation. Recommended. Best Buy.

Thornhill Veredus Pro Gel Splint Boots: Front and side gel protection. Three D-rings with reverse grip hook-and-loop straps. Large hook-and-loop finishing panel. Difficult to thread hook-and-loop straps through small D rings. Direction of straps/finishing panel counterintuitive.

Thornhill Veredus Splint Boots: Two elasticized hook-and-loop straps with a large finishing panel. Recommended. Direction of straps and finishing panel counterintuitive.

FTE (Ferramenta Tecnico Equina) Kelley PVC Splint Boots: Double-lock hook-and-loop straps. Recommended, but runs small. Our large test pair fit a small-boned 15.2-hand mare.

Fortunate Feathers 2010 Outlaw Splint Boots: Two double-lock hook-and-loop closures. Double stitching on hook-and-loop straps and leather strike pads. Rubbed one horse where the fabric overlapped. Did not rub other horses. Manufacturer recommends choosing smaller size so there is no overlap. Machine wash warm; air dry.

Synthetic with D-Ring Attachments
Walsh Splint, Ankle and Tendon Boots: Two D rings with reverse-grip hook-and-loop closures. Thermo plastic shell over splint and ankle. Recommended.

Royal Riders SB-40 Splint Boots: Three D rings with reverse-grip hook-and-loop closures. Sewn-on size and washing instructions, which we applaud. Recommended.

EPC/Practical Choice PC Splint Boots: Three reverse-grip hook-and-loop closures. Padded suede over splint and ankle. Recommended.

Fabri-Tech Fast-Trim Heavy-Duty Splint Boots: Three D rings with self-gripping closures. Padded over splint and ankle area, but it protruded too far from horse’s ankle, causing interference. D rings did not line up on outside of leg. Padding over ankle twisted toward back of leg. Fabric bunched under D, but manufacturer recommended trimming neoprene to fit. Machine wash; air dry.

Libertyville Equi-Prene Hind Leg Interference Boots: Three D rings with reverse-grip hook-and-loop closures. Flex-guard over splint and ankle molds to fit horse’s leg. Small diameter for a hind boot. Recommended. Machine wash; air dry.

Libertyville Equi-Prene Tall Shin and Ankle Boots: Four D rings with reverse-grip hook-and-loop closures. Split leather padding over splint and ankle. Recommended. Machine wash; air dry.

Libertyville Equi-Prene Shin and Ankle: Three D rings with self-gripping hook-and-loop closures. Split leather padding over splint and ankle. Metal D rings twisted slightly. Machine wash and air dry.

Miller’s Airflow NeoProTek Splint Boots: Three D rings with reverse-grip hook-and-loop closures. Padded leather splint area. Neoprene perforated with tiny holes to promote air circulation. Fabric does not absorb sweat. Hook-and-loop material weakened after a month, causing the boot to slip. A fingernail-sized piece of the neoprene fabric was ripped off on the inside of the boot during turnout. Machine wash and air dry.

Libertyville Equi-Guard Shin and Ankle Boot: Two adjustable elastic straps with metal clip closures. Thermoplast strike pad over splint and ankle. Boots slipped down and spun around on horse’s leg. Elastic straps with metal clip closures did not allow adjustment for size. Stitching at top of boot came undone after three weeks. Machine wash.

Bottom Line
Many good-quality boots are available and, overall, if you buy an expensive boot, you get what you pay for. We noted as “recommended” boots that offered good protection, fine materials and workmanship, were easy to use/fit and care for, stayed in place and did not rub any of our test horses.

However, we always have budget in mind, and one boot had everything we were looking for — plus a great price. Miller’s Roma ProTek Molded Galloping Boots offer outstanding protection with a hard plastic outer shell and soft rubber lining. The lining has a honeycomb pattern to promote air circulation. The closure is double-lock with elasticized hook-and-loop straps. The only thing to note is the finishing straps will point toward the front of the horse when they are put on correctly.

The boots are easy to put on and take off, easy to clean and do not absorb water. We had no problems with rubbing, and they stayed in place on the horse’s legs. At $29.95 per pair for both front and hind, these boots are excellent quality, a great value and our first choice.

Also With This Article
Click here to view "Idiot-Proof Splint Boots."
Click here to view "Case History."
Click here to view "Splint/Galloping Boots Materials, Price And Styles."
Click here to view "Pro Equine/Farnam Equi-Armor."

Contact Your Local Tack Store Or:

Bar F
1955 Airport Blvd.
Red Bluff, CA 96080
800/372-8899

EPC/Practical Choice
PO Box T
Hazleton, PA 18201
800/526-6987

Classic Equine
PO Box 2098
Granbury, TX 76048
800/758-2668

Thornhill/Veredus
PO Box 3543
Wilmington, DE 19807
610/444-3998

Farnam/Pro Equine
PO Box 34820
Phoenix, AZ 85067
800/234-2269
www.farnam.com

Professional’s Choice
2709 Via Orange Way
Spring Valley, CA 91978
800/331-9421
www.profchoice.com

Bit of Britain/Nunn Finer
2825 North East Rd.
North East, MD 21901
800/342-1723

Libertyville Saddle Shop
PO Box M
Libertyville, IL 60048
800/872-3353
www.saddleshop.com

Walsh Company
Box 387
Brookfield, WI 53008
800/558-5515

E-Quest
205 Route 541
Medford, NJ 08055
800/235-3865

Dover Saddlery
Box 5837
Holliston, MA 01746
800/989-1500
www.doversaddlery.com

Fabri-Tech
13333 Britton Park Rd.
Fishers, IN 46038
800/332-4797

Fortunate Feathers
5725 Windsor Circle
Meridian, MS 39305
601/681-8496

FTE/Kelley Equestrian Products
PO Box 466
Yellow Springs, OH 45387
937/767-9198
www.kelleyequestrian.com

Royal Riders
120-A Mast Street
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
800/437-6676
www.royalriders.com

Miller’s
235 Murray Hill Parkway
East Rutherford, NJ 07073
800/553-7655
201/460-1200
www.millerharness.com