Chapter Six

Fitting Hoof Boots

Chapter Seven

Booting Different Sized Horses

Chapter Eight

Using Hoof Boots for Rehabilitation

Fitting your hoof boots - a guide

Many barefooted horses will benefit from wearing hoof boots

Especially through the transitionary phase after de-shoeing, and sometimes beyond, for example if extra shock absorption is required over challenging surfaces.

Please also read our article - 'Fitting Hoof Boots - Troubleshooting' for more tips.

Once you have selected a boot for your horse, fit the boot as per the manufacturer’s instructions, and see how it fits. Does it go on easily? Does the hoof fill the inside of the boot nicely without bulging or causing any ‘gapping’ in the fixings? Check that the fastenings are not too tight; think of your horse’s footwear as you would your own - ensure that any potential pressure points, such as airbags or clasps, are no tighter than anywhere else. When the boot is on the hoof, you shouldn’t be able to twist it from side to side by any more than around 5 degrees (unless stated differently by the individual manufacturer), as this could indicate that the boot could be too big or the wrong shape for the horse’s hoof.

If it is difficult to get the boot on, it may be too small, so try the next size up. This also applies if you find the fixings are only just doing up, or are at the end of their tolerance. Sometimes a horse will have a small hoof in relation to their pastern, for example, in which case they are usually better with the smaller size - but comparing with the larger size is usually enough to make the decision an easy one. If you are not sure, ask the retailer or manufacturer for guidance, as usually once you have used the boot, you will not be able to return them for an exchange or refund (unless you have hired them or they come with some kind of money back guarantee).

Common booting problems and questions

With all makes and models of boots, you could encounter a problem, but this is usually to do with either the boot not being the best fit, or the horse’s hoof not being in the best condition at the time. Sometimes, especially when going barefoot after a hoof problem or poor shoeing, you will have to compromise with the fit, which will make it more likely to fail. There is often a way to help fit on most occasions with most makes of boot; the manufacturer or retailer will usually be very helpful and able to advise on your horse’s individual needs. (Again, make sure you supply current measurements if seeking help, as well as the type of boot you are using and any gait or conformation abnormalities your horse may have, such as dishing or being pigeon toed.)

Twisting

Twisting can be a simple indication that the boot is either the wrong shape or too big; if you are able to twist the boot yourself more than around 5 degrees when the horse’s foot is up, this is probably the likely cause, and a smaller size or alternative model should be tried. It goes without saying that the better the boot fits, the less likely it is to twist, but if the horse has a natural twist in his gait (common in hind feet, or horses that dish), the correct fit is even more important, as the horse will be exerting unnatural pressure on the boot to force it to move.

If the boot fits well but still twists, you need to try and get the boot, and especially the width, as tight (without causing restriction) as possible. Some boots, such as Old Macs, produce specially designed inserts that fix in the side of the boots to allow a tighter fit on the width at the top of the hoof. Brushing can also twist a boot; if your horse’s legs move close together, using thick brushing boots or fetlock boots behind, such as sheepskin lined versions or even a sausage boot, will usually keep the coronet bands far enough apart to prevent the horse from catching the boot and knocking them off centre.

Rubbing

Rubbing will often occur if the boot is too small, the wrong model or fastened too loose - check your measurements again and try a different model or the next size up to see if that fits better. Make sure the foot is really on the sole of the boot, and not crushing the heel. One way to check the length of the hoof inside the boot is to put the sole of the foot flat on the outside of the sole of the boot; this will show you exactly where the hoof is sitting inside the boot; if there is any overhang it is pretty safe to say that the hoof is not able to comfortably sit flat inside the boot, which will can cause rubbing, as the upper will be under more strain.

Rubbing is usually more common in horses with under-run heels, where the measurements for length have not been taken into consideration, thus making the bulb of the heel ‘larger’ than anticipated, and the boot too short. Boots that fit above the coronet band have the potential to rub, as they are making contact with more soft parts of the horse’s hoof and leg; some boots have special wraps or gaiters that act as ‘socks’ to help protect sensitive skin. Just like humans with new shoes, your horse will need a period of adjustment to wearing boots, to not only break the boots in, but also allow the horses body to become accustomed to them, like our own feet do. For boots that do not have their own ‘socks’, you can experiment with a fine woollen sock, elasticate support bandage (tubi-grip) or cohesive wrap, to find out what works best for your horse. However, you should only try these solutions when you are sure the size and fit is correct, and the only issue is that your horse is particularly sensitive, the boots are new / your horse is not used to wearing them, or you are doing a lot of miles in them.