The first time I saw a hoof boot was nearly 30 years ago,
back when my mom was a competitive endurance rider who starting keeping one on hand in case her horse threw a shoe out on the trail. Today, however, many people are choosing to forgo shoes all together in favor of barefoot, and if they need hoof protection when riding on rougher terrain, many choose to use hoof boots. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see hoof boots used in endurance racing, competitive trail, and many other equine disciplines these days.
For anyone transitioning their horse from shoes to barefoot, hoof boots are an important tool to use as needed. Fortunately, there are dozens of styles available, and you can also purchase (or make your own) hoof pads for added cushioning if your horse needs that extra support. The good news is that most horses only need front hoof boots, and if well taken care of, a good pair of boots can last you quite a long time. Boots designed for riding have tough soles which can handle most types of terrain and are often fairly lightweight. Some come as one piece, similar to a shoe, while others have a gaiter which attaches to the main boot and fastens just above the hoof.
Several companies also make therapeutic boots for horses which often have added built-in padding. These are ideal for horses with laminitis, navicular, or other debilitating hoof conditions and can provide quite a bit of comfort as the horse is healing. If leaving hoof boots on long term, however, you’ll need to check them daily and ensure they aren’t rubbing or chaffing and make sure they stay dry and clean on the inside as well.
Measuring for Hoof Boots
When purchasing a pair of hoof boots, make sure to measure your horse’s hoof precisely and according to the manufacturer’s directions. It’s best to take your horse’s hoof measurements after a trim and also keep your horse trimmed on a frequent basis, as an overgrown hoof may not fit into the same boot. Additionally, make sure to measure each hoof you are planning to use a boot for, as some horses may need a different sized boot for each hoof.
There are many advantages to using hoof boots instead of nailed-on shoes, but in the end, you’ll have to decide if they are right for your horse. If you have experience using hoof boots, feel free to share about it in the comments section!