Horses who spend the majority of their days in pasture usually find little to get excited about in the great outdoors, but when turnout time is only a brief or occasional treat, the freedom is such a thrill that the associated horseplay can get rough. Boots can help protect a horse's legs from knocks and blows during limited periods of turnout, but when choosing leg wear consider the following factors:
Use turnout boots with easy-off closures. A boot that is strapped securely to a leg may loosen and slide, posing a tripping hazard, rather than coming off completely. Select turnout boots that have simple Velcro-type closures, and avoid those with buckles, elaborate fastening systems and heavy-duty hardware.
Go cheap. Since "losability" is a safety factor, you're bound to kiss a few boots goodbye every season. By choosing less expensive turnout boots, you'll suffer less financial frustration.
Remove boots after turn-out. Remove turnout boots once horses are brought back inside. Burrs, dirt and other irritants can become lodged under boots, and cause major discomfort if not discovered.
Clean turnout boots often. Caked-on grime weakens materials, shortens boot life and irritates the horse's skin. At least weekly and more frequently in muddy weather, hose off synthetic boots and clean and condition any leather components.
Avoid bandages. An unwinding leg wrap on a moving horse is an invitation to disaster. Do not turn out a horse in wraps unless he'll be under constant surveillance in a small paddock.
This article first appeared in EQUUS magazine.