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Fetlock Boots: Why You Should Use Them on Your Horses

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Horses have more boots than me and most of their owners. There are bell boots to protect heels from overreaching back legs. There are boots for traveling and others for hanging out in their stall. There are turnout boots for horses that play exuberant games in the paddock, or some just wear brushing boots. Then there are fetlock boots, which are like tendon boots, but not. It’s confusing.

Fetlock boots are worn on a horses rear lower legs to protect the fetlock joint (ankle) from brushing injuries which is caused by one foot striking the other. They are paired with tendon boots, placed on the front legs. Fetlock boots are primarily worn by showjumpers.

If you’re a horse owner, you know that keeping your horse healthy and safe is always a top priority. One way to help protect your horse’s legs is to use fetlock boots. In this post, I discuss the benefits of using fetlock boots and provide some tips on how to choose the right pair.

Picture of a person fitting fetlock boots on a horse.

What Are Fetlock Boots And What Do They Do For Horses?

The fetlock joint is an important part of a horse’s anatomy. The fetlock is the joint where the cannon bone and pastern bone meet. This joint allows for a wide range of motion, which is necessary for horse’s to walk, trot, and run.

The fetlock also cushions the horse’s foot and helps to absorb shock. Without a healthy fetlock joint, a horse would be unable to move properly and would be at risk for injuries.

Fetlock boots provide protection for the fetlock joint, the “ankles,” on the horse’s rear legs during showjumping. They are open at the front so the horse can sense brushing a pole and prevent nicking or bruising on the inside of their legs if they strike, which could potentially lead to lameness. 

They come in a variety of materials and styles, so it’s important to select the right pair for your horse. Here we’ll explore the different types of fetlock boots available and how to choose the right pair for your horse.

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Open front fetlock boots

Types of fetlock boots

There are two main designs of fetlock boots: all-purpose and open-front. All-purpose fetlock boots have a hard outer shell and extra padding inside the boot to protect the horse’s fetlock joint. Open-front fetlock boots wrap around the back of the joint and leave the front of the boot open, they too have a hard outer shell.

This design is usually used for horse’s who are competing in show jumping, as it allows for more flexibility and movement. Both designs of fetlock boots are made to protect the horse’s fetlock joint from bumps and scrapes.

Fetlock boots are made of various materials. Leather fetlock boots are a classic look that many equestrians love. They’re popular for use at competitions and clinics and lessons and it’s a durable material that will last for years with proper care.

Neoprene or synthetic fetlock boots are another popular choice they are most often used during training because they are easy to care for and durable. Whether you choose leather or synthetic, fetlock boots are a great way to protect your horse’s legs during riding.

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General fetlock boots

How to choose the right size fetlock boots?

In general most horse owners use the cowboy sizing system for all leg boots. It’s based on the horse’s size which is divided into three categories: light, medium, and heavy. Each category corresponds to a certain range of boot sizes.

For example, a light horse, one under 900 pounds would wear a small size boot, while a medium horse would wear a medium boot and a heavy horse would wear a large size.

This system ensures that the boots fit properly and provide the horse with the necessary protectiont. In addition, it helps to prevent chafing and other problems that can occur when the boots are too tight or too loose. While this system may seem arbitrary, it is actually quite simple and effective.

Picture of a horses lower legs including its fetlock joints.

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Needs Fetlock Boots?

Most horse riders put them on if jumping as a matter of caution, just like riders put on their safety hat. However, if you’re unsure whether your horse needs fetlock boots check to see their lower legs for swelling or other signs of injury.

Mine are experts at inventing new and unique ways to injure themselves, so I prefer to head off the obvious methods of getting themselves into trouble. I suggest using fetlock boots if you’re planning on doing any jumping to provide protection for your horse’s legs.

How To Put On And Take Off Fetlock Boots Properly?

Fetlock boots are one of the easier boots to take on and off. Nonetheless, you want to put the boots on correctly, so they help the horse rather than cause complications.

1.        Secure The Horse: Fetlock Boots

First, you want to secure your horse to limit frustration to all involved. This is typically done by tying them up. You could also have a friend hold the horse for you.

Also, for a horse new to boots, it helps keep them calmer and prevent spooking. Fetlock boots do not hurt the horse, but some horses are startled by new sensations.

2.        Brush: Fetlock Boots

The second step is to brush the horse’s rear legs, paying close attention to the area around the fetlock (ankles). Dirt trapped between the boot and horse could lead to a sore, much like you running with a rock in your shoes. Also, look at your boots and ensure there is no dirt or grit left in them. Always wise to wipe them down with your hand or cloth.

3.        Slide: Fetlock Boots

Open the first boot and ensure the “teardrop” is rear-facing, and the straps will be facing the front. Next, settle the boot under the knee and “slide” it down the leg until it “fits” like a puzzle piece finding its home.

If you “miss,” don’t slide it back up. No horse wants its fur being brushed up and then held that way by a boot. So instead, just take the boot back to the knee and slide it down again.

4.        Secure The Straps: Fetlock Boots

Wrap the straps firmly, starting with the top. You are not trying to tighten it so much that the leg snaps off. But these things are not supposed to jingle and jangle as the horse moves. They need to be firmly secured.

5.        Check The Tension: Fetlock Boots

Lastly, check the boot’s tension. You want to be able to just slip a finger in at the top, between boot and leg. It should feel snug but not hurting.

Best Fetlock Boots for Your Horse

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Conclusion

There are always people who are eager to point out that horses in the wild survive without fancy equipment or even a brush. But wild horses don’t piaffe or hurdle themselves over a series of oxers.

Also, Mother Nature’s harsh touch has ensured that wild horses are hearty. Whereas horses bred for competition can be delicate in places. Which is why you need to pamper and support their sensitive joints.

Fetlock boots are excellent for preventing injury to the fetlock joint when showjumping. They are typically worn with tendon boots. It is best to wear them before your horse shows signs of needing them, as then you’ll avoid periods of lameness and swelling.

Below is a YouTube video that explains fetlock boots purposes, features, and shows you how to fit them.

FAQs

When Should horses wear tendon boots?

If your horse regularly strikes the back of its front lower legs with its hind hooves. Tendon boots are made of tough yet flexible material, and they help to deflect blows.

Can you turn horses out with tendon boots?

No, you may want to use tendon boots to protect your horse’s legs during riding sessions, but it is usually a good idea to remove them when you turn out your horse.

Can you ride in hoof boots?

Yes, you can ride your horse in hoof boots, as well as for turnout and stall rest. They can be made of rubber, plastic, or leather and vary in style, depending on the intended use

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