Properly fitted galloping boots offer both vertical and lateral support, and protect the lower leg from stress and impact injuries. All horses risk bumps to their legs, but they differ in the likelihood of a bump and its severity.In choosing a boot, ask yourself:
• Does he hit himself on the inside of his legs while being ridden or step on himself during lateral work' If so, you need a good inside strike pad, but a simple boot may be enough.
• Will you be jumping in the ring or on the trails where the obstacles are less forgiving' If so, you need maximum padding.
• Will you be riding through water or mud' If so, you need a boot that doesn’t become soaked easily.
Water-logged boots are potentially dangerous as they tend to slide and twist on the leg, which can strain tendons. Some boots don’t absorb a lot of water, but the fastening mechanism may come undone when wet. Some Velcro closures lose their grip when extremely wet.
For wet-weather riding, we look for buckles, clips and double-Velcro closures. If you’re concerned about the durability of the closures, duct tape around the straps can help ensure they don’t come loose while galloping cross-country.
Cross-country jumping and trail riding also require more protection from impact to the front of the leg. Choosing a boot with a good amount of padding and shock-absorbing properties will be your best bet.
Most boots are made of leather or neoprene. Leather has been around for centuries, but it requires a lot of care — just like your leather tack — and it has become costly. Leather boots are generally lined with fleece, wool, sheepskin or neoprene.
Leather boots that get wet,??but aren’t then cleaned and conditioned, will dry out in the proverbial “stiff as a board.” You’ll then be strapping those “boards” back on your horse’s legs, making rubs inevitable. And fleece/sheepskin linings are also prone to picking up debris that must be removed meticulously.
Neoprene brings the advantages of easy cleaning and a reduced price to most horse boots, and most neoprene boots are neoprene inside and out. Many of our testers were concerned over the heat and moisture created by using neoprene boots. While neoprene is known to cause heat retension and moisture build-up, we didn’t have any adverse reactions with the boots we tested.
That said, if you’re using neoprene boots during hot weather, be sure that your horse’s legs are free from cuts and abrasions, which may be exacerbated by excess moisture.
Neoprene boots should also be promptly removed after use. so they don’t cause the horse any blistering or rubbing.
Fleece, wool and sheepskin are nice alternatives to neoprene for lining. They’re comfortable around the leg and offer extra padding and protection. Real sheepskin does jack up the price, but it offers the unique advantage of insulating against heat and cold. Real sheepskin will add warmth to the boot in cold weather and help keep the leg cool in hot weather. Yes, warmer in cold weather and cooler in hot weather. It’s a natural attribute of sheepskin.
The drawback to these non-neoprene linings is they tend not to work as well when wet and may cause a good-fitting boot to slide or twist. If your fleece or sheepskin boots do get wet, be sure to leave them open in a well-ventilated place so they may dry thoroughly. Letting the lining stay wet or even damp for long periods may cause bacteria growth. Neoprene, on the other hand, does well under most wet conditions.
Strike pads — that extra protection on the outer portion of the boot where the horse is likely to hit — are generally made of leather, vinyl or rubber. Strike-pads placed on the inside of the horse’s leg protect the sensitive tendon area from being knocked by the other leg and hoof. You can also get added fetlock protection.
In general, the boots we tried functioned well. In fact, we were surprised at the quality of many of the entry-level boots. It wasn’t too long ago that less-expensive boots were virtually guaranteed to fall apart with use. Not anymore.
Entry-level boots aren’t expected to have many bells and whistles, but we did get durability in boots that fit and performed well. Settling on a best buy in the price range was tough, as there wasn’t a bad choice in the lot. Standouts under $40 included the Professional’s Choice Competitor Splint, WoofWear Club Boot, Pro Equine from EasyCare and Fabri-Tech Heavy-Duty.
The midrange boots were equally impressive. In the $40 - $59 range, the Eskadron Splint Boots and the Veredus Aerox Splint Boots offered better support, more protection, and fancier looks. The Eskadron has a molded rubber strike pad with much better protection to the inside of the leg, while the Veredus offers a stretchy, breathable neoprene that fits securely. Both these boots have strong, secure Velcro closures.
The Equibrand Classic Equine E-Z Wrap II boots were a tester favorite. They fit easily, stayed in place, were easy to apply and remove, and barely showed signs of wear.
Western riders will probably be pleased with the Professional’s Choice Wrangler boot. It’s a good choice for turnout that will also perform well in the ring, especially for Western reining and roping. They also come with one of the strongest closures in the trial.
The Valena boots offered the look and feel of sheepskin without the price, as their woolback fleece is luxurious.
Going a step higher to the $60 - $70 range, the Woof Double-Velcro Brushing Boots and the Eskadron Pikosoft Boots caught our attention. The Woof boots continue to be a favorite among event riders due to their sturdy construction and secure Velcro strap system. The Eskadron Pikosoft Boots offer slightly more padding but not quite as much overall coverage as the Woof boot. The Pikosoft material is durable but soft and pliable. These boots also have a strong molded rubber strike pad that we think gives more impact protection than the Woof boots.
Although you’ll pay more, the Veredus Event-Tec Boots from Thornhill offered what we thought was likely the best protection for rigorous cross-country riding, such as three-day eventing.
The Equus Therapeutics Gel-Support boots are also upscale in price, but they could be just the thing for a horse coming off an injury or especially prone to leg stress.
If you want a traditional galloping boot without Velcro, Dover’s Premier is the way to go. With proper care, they should for many years.
The most stylish and luxurious boots were easily the Gygax Boots from Frantisi. Made in Switzerland, these boots are superbly crafted from top-quality materials. They have a leather exterior and are available with either neoprene or sheepskin lining. The elastic straps have a unique hook fastening that provided secure positioning and straps that never came undone for us.
Many good-quality boots are available and, overall, if you buy an expensive boot, you get what you pay for. There wasn’t a bad boot in our trial, and we’ve described best choices for specific needs both in our story and the chart, so you can find the boot that best suits your needs. However, we do have favorites:
If money’s no object, we think you’ll love the $159 Gygax boots with sheepskin lining. While these boots were the most expensive in our trial, our testers agreed they’re worth the price.
For those looking for a solid midrange boot, we’re going to give the nod to the $52 Equibrand Classic Equine E-Z Wrap II. These boots define the word “easy” — easy to fit, easy to use — but they wear like iron.
The Best Buy, our most competitive category, goes to the Professional’s Choice Competitor Splint Boots. For $29.95 this spling boot combines durable construction and adequate protection, making it good for all disciplines.