Is your horse transitioning from shoes to barefoot? Do you need a little more hoof protection while trail riding?

Hoof boots are the modern domestic horse’s answer to hoof protection. Whether you use your horse for high performance or weekend trail rides, are transitioning out of metal shoes to barefoot, or need help rehabbing a lame or foundered horse, booting is a great way to protect any hoof in today’s equine world. In fact, evidence-based case studies by hundreds of natural hoof care practitioners continue to show us how important the hoof boot can be in many situations horse owners are faced with. Let’s look at some of those scenarios in which boots are crucial.

Transitioning Out Of Metal Shoes

Regardless of the pathology your horse may be faced with, the use of boots with pads is a sure way to successfully make the transition out of shoes. After the shoes have been removed and proper blood flow begins to return to the hoof, the nerves come back to life, usually within about 72 hours. At this point, your horse may exhibit signs of tender-footedness or lameness.

Enter the hoof boot with pads. They protect the horse with underdeveloped and usually thin soles so that he can be comfortable, and also prevent crushing to the sole corium. Continued movement is so important to the development and healing of the newly unshod hoof, and booting ensures your horse will be comfortable enough to do this. Pads are a must in the booting equation since they prevent peripheral loading of the hoof by supporting the internal structures and sole corium. The hoof walls were never meant to bear all the horse’s weight and the pads make certain that all parts of the hoof are working together.

Underrun or contracted heels, weak digital cushions and lateral cartilages, and underdeveloped frogs are often seen in a horse that has been shod for a long time. Supporting and protecting the hoof with boots during transition makes the horse comfortable so he can continue to be exercised. He is now able to land on the back of the hoof because of the comfort offered by the pads, and the pressure release as the horse loads and unloads the hoof encourages increased blood flow into the hoof, which is vital to the healing process.

Support For The Laminitic Or Foundered Horse

Boots with pads have been a lifesaver for so many foundered horses under my care. Without boots and pads, I truly feel the success rate would not have been so great. When a horse has foundered or has been suffering from ongoing laminitis, the epidermal and dermal laminae let go of each other. The internal structure begins to sink and/or rotate. After a correct trim, the use of pads helps lift the internal structures up, diminishing the pull of the two laminae against each other and easing the horse’s pain.

In many cases, this gives the horse owner time to put into place the correct diet changes to halt and prevent further insult to the hoof attachment. Once I have the horse in boots with pads, and the diet under control, I always recommend to all owners, regardless of the pathology, to put their horses into a Paddock Paradise (jaimejackson.com) to encourage them to move and relax. Movement brings on increased blood flow, which in turn speeds healing. I had a foundered mare with a 22% rotation come back into normal range in just 11 months, thanks to boots with pads, diet and exercise.

High Performance Horses

Several boots on the market work well for high performance horses. I like the Renegade hoof boot or their glue-ons. Many owners find this boot model effective, safe and cost efficient.

Boots should be fitted by a professional who has been trained to correctly fit them and can give the horse a trim (I follow the wild horse trim) prior to fitting. For sizing, most companies have a website featuring their various models and instructions on how to fit and order your new boot. It is very important to first have your horse trimmed by a certified hoof care practitioner before measuring for boots and ordering them, so that you get the correct size.

My boot of choice is the Canadian-made Cavallo Sport boot. They are easy to get on, very durable and inexpensive. I also find their customer service to be excellent.

For The Weekend Rider

Here is where boots become another important aid and part of the horse’s equipment. If you only ride on the weekends, the use of boots and pads allows your otherwise tender-footed horse to comfortably negotiate any form of terrain. A few years back, I had clients who booked a trip to the Rocky Mountains with their mare and gelding. The mare had signs of sub-clinical laminitis and was tender-footed on gravel. Boots with pads made her very comfortable and they were able to go on their long-anticipated trip.

For the pads, I like to use the ¼” play mats you can buy at Walmart. Not only are they inexpensive, but most horses like and feel very comfortable with the foam’s density. You may have to change them more often, but they easily allow you and your hoof care practitioner to see how your horse is landing and the progress you are making. If you have a foundered or laminitic horse, boots like the Cavallos can be left on 24/7, yet are easily removed to clean or soak the hoof.

Boots are an invaluable asset to any horse owner’s tack box. Whether your horse needs support during his barefoot transition, in the show ring, or out on the trail, boots can provide a great alternative to traditional hoof support.


Anne Riddell is an AHA Certified Natural Hoof Care Practitioner. BareFootHorseCanada.com

Please follow and like us: