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Boots For Horses: Types And When To Use Them

Last updated: April 16, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

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My friend told me his horse was returning with an injury to the rear of its front foot after every workout. He said the vet told him there wasn’t anything wrong, but I thought it would be best if he invested in a good pair of boots for his horse.

Horse boots are an essential piece of horse equipment that protects a horse’s legs from injuries. They come in various styles, from simple over-reach boots to ones that offer support and protection during high-speed exercise.

If you’ve ever seen a horse wearing boots, you may have wondered why they’re needed. After all, horses are pretty tough animals, and many get along fine without them. So why do some horses need boots? And which type of boot is right for your horse? Keep reading to learn more about boots for horses and when to use them.

Picture of a racehorse with bell boots.
Racehorse wearing bell boots.

What Are The Different Types Of Boots For Horses?

Horse boots come in many different forms and can be distinguished by the other disciplines, with each boot having different structures and providing an extra level of protection.

  • Dressage or flat work boots
  • Jumping boots
  • Cross-country boots
  • Western boots 
  • Racing boots
  • Bell boots

We ask horses to perform complex movements and to jump obstacles that can potentially hurt them, so ensuring they are fitted with the correct equipment is necessary to ensure they are well-protected during that time.

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1. Tendon And Fetlock Boots

Tendon boots are open-fronted boots used in jumping. The open front ensures that the horse still feels the pole when he hits it over an obstacle and encourages them to be more careful over the fences.

The back of the front boot is a padded shell that protects the tendons from the possibility of the back leg striking the front leg tendon. The back boots, or fetlock boots, are shorter and secure around the fetlock to protect it from any knocking from the opposite leg.

2. Brushing Boots

Brushing boots are generally a more affordable and trendy type of boot for flatwork, hackings, or turnout. They protect the horse’s leg against gait irregularities, where the opposite leg may strike the cannon bone or fetlock. These boots can be worn on the front and back to prevent injuries, bruising, and scars on the horse’s leg.

3. Cross Country Boots

Cross-country events can be tough on horses; they need the best protection possible when facing static obstacles and careering through water and mud. Eventing boots wrap around the horse’s leg, with the boots reaching over and under the fetlocks to protect them from a concussion and possible bruising when the horse lands and the fetlock over-extends.

They are made from material that does not retain water to avoid the boot becoming heavy and saturated, possibly slipping down and interfering with the horse’s movement.

4. Skid Boots

Skid boots are often used in western riding events where a sliding stop is performed, such as roping, reigning, and cutting. They can be found in short or long types and protect the back of the hind fetlock joints.

5. Bell Boots

Bell boots or overreach boots go around the horse’s hoof to protect the horse’s heel. Some horses have significant forward movements, and the back leg may over track or overreach, hitting the toes of the rear hoof into the heel of the front hoof.

6. Hoof Boots

Hoof boots have different uses; they can be utilized as shoe replacements for horses that cannot hold shoes or have weak hooves. It’s also great as a hoof protector against rough terrain when on outrides or endurance riding to protect the sole from bruising. They are also used as medical boots to protect the horse’s hoof while recovering from injuries.

Picture of a horse wearing boots for traveling.

7. Travel Boots or Shipping Boots

Travel boots are highly effective padded long boots that cover the leg from the hoof to the knees and over the horse’s hocks to prevent injuries or bruising during their travel time in a horsebox.

8. Fly Boots

Fly boots are generally meshing covers to protect your horse’s legs from flies‘ irritation when turned out in the paddock. They allow air to flow through, keeping the horse’s leg cool but preventing the flies from touching its skin.

Infograph on the when to use ho

When Should You Use Boots On Your Horse?

Vet bills can rack up substantially. If your horse is anything like mine, where the slightest knick sends him into an award-winning Oscar performance for lameness, then it’s vital to give your horse the best protection you can to avoid any drama.

Horse boots help support tendons and protect your horse’s legs against injuries caused by brushing or the interference of the opposite leg due to gait irregularities. Boots also help when your horse has significant movement, with either a highly active gait or a tendency to overreach with the hind hooves.

Your horse’s legs should always be protected when traveling to prevent injuries. In addition, traveling in a horse box can sometimes prove challenging for horses; the bouncing, stop-go, and turning corners does nothing to help keep your horse still. 

Use medicinal and therapeutic boots when your horse is older or suffers from arthritis. Suppose your horse suffers from soft crumbly hooves, like my Thoroughbred called Nimble Jack, although not as elegant as his name suggests.

Keeping shoes on them is a nightmare; hoof-boots are a perfect option to replace a lost shoe, I call it my spare tire, just in case we are out on a pleasure ride and the rough terrains create the perfect environment for my horse to pull a shoe.

Below is a helpful YouTube video showing you how to put on a scoot boot.

YouTube video

How Can I Determine the Proper Size of Boots for My Horse?

Usually, boots come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Some companies also make things for small ponies and extra-large breeds that move exaggeratedly. The good news is that horse boots are more accessible than riding boots. You can get a general idea of what size legs the horse needs based on its height, weight, and breed.

When measuring your horse for boots, 

  • Measure the circumference of the leg to determine how much bone your horse has.
  • Measure the height of the lower leg.
  • Measure the front and back leg, as the measurement will differ slightly. Some horses will have a size bigger boot on the hind leg.

If you don’t know what size your horse is, most manufacturers have a chart to help you determine what size your horse needs.

For hoof boots, you need to measure the length and width of the hoof after a fresh trim from the farrier.

In general, boots come in two different size types that you can choose from,

  • small, medium, large, and extra large
  • Pony, cob, horse, and large horse
Chart with information you can use to order the correct size boots for horses and ponies.
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How To Put Boots On A Horse?

Understanding how to put boots on your horse is vital to the comfort of the horse while he is wearing the boots. Remember these couple of things when putting your horse boots on.

  • There is a difference between front and back boots’ structure and length. 
  • In dressage, the front boots are shorter than the back boots, whereas, in jumping, the front boots are longer than the fetlock boots at the back.
  • Boots will generally have a tab on them telling you which leg it goes on; if you don’t have this, always remember that the straps are on the outside of the leg with the fastening points facing backward.

When booting your horse up, ensure the inside of the boot is clean from the previous rides’ sweat and grimness.

Next, ensure your horse’s leg is clean and that there is no mud or other particles that may cause chafing once the boot is on.

Always place the boot slightly higher, fasten it by applying even pressure on all the straps, and then slide it down gently to securely fit into the right place. This also allows the horse’s coat hairs to lie flat under the boots and prevent chafing.

Once your boots have been strapped onto the horse, you should be able to snuggly fit a finger between the boot and the horse’s leg. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to fit the horse boots to your horse to ensure proper fit and comfort for your equine friend.

Conclusion

From the vast selection of boots, choosing the right boots for your horse is as important as ensuring your riding boots fit you. Ill-fitting boots can create problems, from slipping around on the leg to pinching the horse. Measure your horse to select the right size and ensure the boots fit correctly by feeling the tightness.

If you want to learn more about horse boots, check out the informative YouTube video below. 

YouTube video

References