Fly boots for horses aren’t as popular as their face- and body-covering cousins, but they should be. Ask any farrier, and he or she will tell you that stomping at flies damages hooves, whether it chips the hoof wall or simply jarrs the feet and loosens nails in shoes. So, for most horses, wearing fly boots should become as routine as a fly mask. With proper fit and the right design, you’ll find rubs and lost boots are minimal problems.
A fly boot made of a durable PVC mesh, like Textilene, allows air to flow freely, but deters flies from making their way to the horse’s skin. So, fly protection is the No. 1 duty of a good fly boot. But that’s not all.
Because they’re durable and light, a fly boot can also be used over a small leg wound to stop the horse from tearing at the primary bandage.
For horses turned out in an overgrown field, a fly boot can protect the horse’s leg from burrs, sticks and other debris. It can also be used as an added covering over a leg wrap for horses who find traditional shipping boots too heavy or too tall.
If your horse has never worn boots before, use caution introducing them. Place one on his left front foot and walk him around to let him get the feel of it. When he’s quiet, apply the right front one, walk again, then repeat the procedure for the back legs.
Be sure you remove the boots daily and inspect the area for rubs, bumps, swellings and so on. Always clean the boot, brushing away debris and dirt, before reapplying it.
Most fly boots come in a number of sizes, and you’d be wise to measure your horse’s leg length and compare the sizes with the manufacturer. For instance, Cashel Company offers sizes from mini to draft, while Schneiders Saddlery has boots from 9 to 21 inches tall.
Be sure the top of the boot sits below the knee and doesn’t interfere with the knee’s movement. The bottom should be off of the ground or it’s likely that your horse will step on the bottom of the boot.
We like padding in fly boots. We found a soft, thick layer of fleece on the tops and inside of the closure in the boots from Valley Vet and Kensington. The fleece also helps deter flies by filling in any gaps that might occur at these points. These companies wisely didn’t put fleece at the bottom of the boots because it would pick up a lot of debris, making cleaning the boots for the next day’s use a chore.
Cushioning is also nice inside the boot, especially around the fetlock area. Schneiders Saddlery placed two nice strips of fleece in their boots, one just above and one just below the fetlock. Cashel Company has a quilted insert at the back of the fetlock area, nestled into the contour area of the boot, and another quilted piece at the top of the boot.
The Kensington Protective Products, Valley Vet and My Horse Specialties boots all include a vertical stay along the length of the boot to help it remain upright. My Horse Specialties put it at the back of the boot. The Kensington and Valley Vet boots placed theirs inside the fleece located at the closures. While we aren’t convinced a stay is a necessity, we don’t mind it when it’s flexible and comfortable.
All the boots in our trial had hook-and-loop closures, like Velcro. We found that three or four 1 ??” to 2” closures got the job done.
The Schneiders boots had five thinner closures, which meant we had to close them accurately for maximum grip. The My Horse Specialties boots had a long vertical center closure in addition to smaller top and bottom closures. The long closure was challenging to get lined up properly, especially since it was so grippy it stuck before we were finished setting it.
We also like closures to face back and close on the outside of the horse’s leg. This is the best way to fasten galloping boots and leg wraps, as it keeps pressure off the tendons. Fly boots aren’t as binding, of course, so we aren’t going to raise a big ruckus over it, but it bugs us nevertheless.
We had no major problems with any boot in our trial. We did find ourselves a bit partial to bright colors, though, as pink boots were the easiest to find if lost in the pasture.
We like durable, cool mesh. We also want padding. We think a shaped boot gives a more snug and comfortable fit than straight boots. With these criteria in mind, Cashel’s Cool Guard comes out as our No. 1 recommendation. For our Best Buy, the Schneiders Saddlery models offer the best deal, especially the softer Interlock boot at less than $13.