We all remember those carefree days as a kid when school let out for the summer. After a long winter wearing hard-soled shoes, our toes were finally free to run through the grass and kick up dirt. But, oh how it hurt to go barefoot those first few days until our tender toes toughened up.
it's the same with your horse's feet. If you pull off your horse's shoes ? either because he has some kind of foot issue, or just to give his hooves a chance to flex and rest, his feet may be tender, too.
Most horses? feet will toughen up with time (and you can use Venice turpentine on their soles to help speed that along), but the wait may temporarily keep you from riding. Even for those of us who keep our horses barefoot all the time, a ride over a rocky road or a trot over rough, difficult terrain could sideline your horse with a stone bruise.
So what can you do to keep your shoeless horse sound' Horse boots.
We looked at several styles of horse boots designed specifically for riding (not made for just emergency protection), looking at how hard or easy they were to put on and how well they stayed on.
Some people who do extreme forms of riding/endurance glue their boots on. We didn't go that far ? we tried a half dozen styles of readily-available boots sold as suitable for general riding.
Which boot is right for you
Deciding which boots will work for you and your horse comes down to what type of riding you do.
For normal trail riding, we found the Simple Boot from Cavallo and the Easyboot Trail from EasyCare were suitable. Both had thick soles that provided good traction and both were easy to put on. The Easyboot Trail was slightly less complicated than the Simple Boot to put on, as the Easyboot required only that you flip two flaps over the back of the heel and press.
The Simple Boot had two hook-and-loop straps that threaded through small D-rings. Some of our testers with weak or arthritic hands liked the leverage pulling the straps through D-rings gave them. The keepers provided with the Simple Boot were a bit of a pain to deal with, but if you ride in heavy brush or rough terrain, you might want to use them as extra insurance.
We liked the look of the leather Simple Boot and that all of the tightening parts were on the front and side of the hoof. We did see a minor amount of hair scruffing on the heel, but it never turned into anything to worry about.
The Easyboot Trail Boot was faster to put on and had no metal or moving parts. Both of these boots continued to fit our test horses through a full trim cycle.
We found the thick sole on the Boa Boot good for horses with foot problems. It was also easy to put on (open it, put the hoof in, turn a dial to close it), so no one groaned or avoided using it. However, one complaint we heard about the Boa Boot was the protective cap covering the knob that tightens the internal cable system can pop off.
We asked EasyCare about this and were told that to prevent that from happening, be sure the knob ?clicks? five times as you turn it clockwise to tighten the boot and that the word ?Boa? is straight across when you're done. Once we did that, we never lost a cap.
For more serious riding, Old Mac?s have been a standby for years. These big, cushiony ?sneakers? are made from washable material that can also stand up to a hosing down.
The newer Old Mac?s G2 boot is an improvement over the standard Old Mac?s, as rivet heads in the bottom of the boot have been eliminated and the protective ?gaiters? have been redesigned to go under the hoof, eliminating the hassle of trying to hold the gaiter down while you buckle up the boot.
Old Mac?s G2s are held on by straps that cross over the heel bulb so using the protective gaiter is a must. Old Mac?s G2s have a thick, supportive sole engineered to help horses with navicular or laminitis.
The Easyboot Glove is a whole different design. There are no straps, buckles, rings or cables. The Glove relies on a tight fit and a soft, stretchy gaiter around the pastern to keep it on. This boot is so dependent on a good fit that the width and length measurements must be done in millimeters. But once we got the size right this boot fit our test horses like...well, a glove. The Easyboot Glove comes in 11 regular width sizes and seven wide-width sizes.
If you properly fit the boots, you can expect a struggle to get the boots on and off. We needed a couple of hits with a rubber mallet (aimed at the toe, not the sole)to drive them on. The fit is very snug. In fact, fit is so critical some of our horses grew out of them before their next trim.
But we loved that they only come halfway up the hoof. This pretty much guaranteed no rubbing or chafing.
We had no trouble keeping these boots on during trail rides or hard arena work. If you really ride hard or in rugged terrain, there is a security ?power strap? available that attaches across the front to make them even more secure.
We also liked the style of this boot, as it didn't have a ?clunky? look. Without the strap across the front, they?re not much more noticeable than splint boots.
If you trail ride weekends or several days a week, any of these boots would be good. But we liked the ease of putting on the Simple Boot and the Easyboot Trail Boot. We gave a slight edge to the Simple Boot as we found it was easier to tighten.
If you do a lot of hard riding or your horse has some serious internal hoof issues, we?d suggest that you go with the Old Mac?s G2 or the Boa Boot. You may prefer the Boa boot, if simplicity in putting it on your horse is important to you.
But if you're willing to struggle a little to get a boot on and keep up with your trims, you can't beat our favorite ? the Easyboot Glove. The fact that this boot provides no chance of chafing a pastern or heel makes it our top choice.