Chapter Six

Fitting Hoof Boots

Chapter Seven

Booting Different Sized Horses

Chapter Eight

Using Hoof Boots for Rehabilitation

History of hoofboots

Hoof boots for barefoot horses are becoming more and more mainstream. But if you thought they were a modern invention, you’d be mistaken!

There’s little published documented material about the use of hoof boots throughout history, however we do know from the book ‘A Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan’, by William E. Deal, that a type of straw hoof boot was widely used by the Japanese military in the 19th Century Orient, to give traction and protect the feet.

In Europe, the Romans are widely acknowledged to have used strap-on, solid-bottomed sandals called ‘hipposandals’ to protect horses’ feet from wear, but the more conventional, covered hoof boot that we know and love seems to have made its first appearance over here in the 19th Century, when European farm workers and draught horse owners tasked saddlers to create leather hoof boots to provide traction for working horses who were farming the land or delivering goods.

The UK’s Museum of Leathercraft in Northampton has some large hoof boots in its collection that “promoted healthy hooves, while allowing for expansion and contraction of the hoof. they were used to increase grip over all types of terrain, and on uneven and slippery surfaces such as cobbled streets.”

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Chichester in the UK also has some leather draught hoof boots in its archives, which have been donated by local land owners, and are said to be 19th century in origin. We have pictured some here - one pair even has beautiful leather detailing for decorative purposes.

Lawn boots for donkeys

The ancient leather boots housed at the Museum of Leathercraft in Northampton and the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Chichester also match the descriptions of so-called 19th and 20th century ‘lawn boots’, that were used by horse and pony owners to protect their lawns from churning hooves, or for donkeys to wear when they pulled a lawn mower (Ruth Brennan wrote a 1991 paper on ancient ‘nurserymen’s catalogues’ for the National Botanical Gardens, entitled ‘Lawn Boots for Donkeys’.) This suggests that after buckled boots found success with heavy horses, they were utilised for smaller riding horses and donkeys as well.

Claire Smith of the University of Reading cites Lawn Boots as being used from around the 1850s, when horse-drawn lawn mowers were introduced. “There are several pairs of lawn shoes in the Museum for English Rural Life, mainly for horses, but also some smaller ones which were probably used for donkeys or ponies. They were commonly made from leather, and padded on the inside with wool. They would have been strapped around the horse’s hooves and fastened with the buckles,” she states in an article on the University of Reading’s website, also noting that turkeys and pigs would also wear leather boots, for their long walks to market!

Technology advances

While leather was a strong, accessible and long-lasting material, it wasn’t until the late 1960’s that nuclear physicist DR Neel Glass invented the first modern hoof boot for barefoot horses as we know it. They became available to the public in 1970s and since then the phenomenon has really taken off, with new brands hitting the shelves frequently.