By Holly Jonsson at EasyCare
While most owners keep their horses shod, many are trying out the barefoot and booted approach.
Something to keep in mind is that some of these boots have uses for SHOD horses as well… so don’t tune out yet!
The basic function of a boot is to give the hoof solar protection from rocks, better grip on paved surfaces or to give a capsule around the hoof for therapy uses.
Starting with THERAPY!
There are three boots we make (and many others on the market) for therapy uses.
First we have the EasySoaker. If you have an abscess you are treating, coronet band blow-outs, punctures from “exciting things” your horse has uncovered in your pasture: you are going to want to have a soaker boot. I think it’s the cheapest and smartest thing to keep in your first aid. It’s durable, simple to use and sizing is very general (small, medium, large) so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to fit one. If you are wrapping the foot with a lot of layers of bandages, or a diaper, go up a size. Another handy use is just plain, old-fashioned soaking. When I had Friesians, Gypsies, Shires, Clydesdale crosses and other feathery “kids” I found that the Southern California sands were VERY drying on their boggy-origin hooves. Trimming them was like trimming rocks…and I did my own trimming. I would grab two soakers and soak “fronts” on “horse A”. I would groom, pull foxtails out of feather, condition tails and rebag manes. After about 30 min of loving time, I pull off their “wellies” and nipping and rasping was a piece of cake. When I had 7 horses, I trimmed on rotation so as not to kill myself off in one day (a hat tip to farriers and trimmers and other Hoofcare professionals! Whoo hoo, you guys are amazing!). It got to be a simple habit of pulling out the soakers, putting them on, grooming, quickly trimming and getting on with my day. The kids got used to them really fast too. I had a mare with rock hard feet that was recovering from founder. She couldn’t balance for very long. For her, having her feet “softer” meant I could rasp around much faster and get her back on 4 feet comfortably. The longer her whole trim took, on all 4 feet, the shorter she could hold up any given foot. Speed was of the essence. Even if you don’t have a hard-hooved horse, a farrier or trimmer will appreciate a softer hoof to work with in the middle of Summer; it’s just plain faster.
Secondly we have the Easyboot RX. This boot has a variety of uses, but think “CUSHION”. If you have a horse suffering from chronic lameness, laminitis, founder, navicular, flat soles or other lower limb ailments, this is the livable boot for them. While an EasySoaker is primarily for soaking and liquid hoof treatments, the RX adds the durability and security of leaving the boot on in their paddock, of keeping dirt and debris out and for allowing bandaging and padding for the hoof. It comes with a comfort pad in place, although thicker (and replacement pads) can be purchased.
Additionally, on shod horses, some owners slip them on before longer trailer rides or when they are hitting the show circuit. Taking your horse from a stall, working him in a soft footed arena and then taking him back to his stall is a different lifestyle than spending weeks on the road in a jarring trailer, standing on pavement or packed-dirt fairgrounds or standing on thinner mats on concrete floors in some stadiums. If you’ve ever stepped out of your normal workday and worked a tradeshow, you will know what it’s like to stand on thin carpets over concrete floors, just standing all day with your back and hips aching. No wonder they make gel pads and cushion mats for humans to stand on! While you could line the parking lot with gel mats, buy new mats for your trailer, bed down your stalls with your own mats and double the shavings… you could also just buy 4 boots and give your horse cushion no matter where they are. Just measure the size of the hoof with the shoes on and pick the appropriate size RX.
These boots are not meant for horses with the health and space to RUN. Keep in mind these are therapy boots: Hand walking, small turn out, trailer riding or standing tied to the trailer. If your horse can move out, you are going to need something with a smidge more structure…
Which brings me to the last boot, the Transition. Like its name implies, the Transition was the boot between being shod and barefoot. Some horses get underrun heels and flat soles after being shod for years. Putting them completely barefoot left them with no support. That is why this fits in as a therapy boot, as well as a light riding boot. For horses recovering from their Springtime laminitis, their laminae might still be sensitive and recovering. It’s a bit of a catch 22 because they are too ouchy to walk around, but walking would do them good, to get the blood circulating and tissues revived and stimulate new hoof growth. This boot was designed to give cushion as well as be structurally capable of walk, trot canter, in dry or wet.
If you are an everyday rider, with no hoof ailments, this boot still is unique in that its solar “grip” was designed with cushion. Unlike other boots where the cushion adds height, this boot maintains a low profile while keeping cushion. It was designed to be slightly snug, so be sure to ride short rides and slower speeds before trying longer or faster speeds. Like breaking in a pair of hiking boots, you want to let your horse break in their boots without getting rubs. Keep in mind that the intention of this boot is THERAPY. If you want to ride longer and harder, we have boots for you. If you ride less than 25 miles a week, are a weekend rider only, go on long, leisurely-paced rides with limited spurts of faster speeds just for fun, these boots might be your dream come true. If your horse is so sore and afflicted that it has trouble walking, this boot might be the answer to your prayers to keep your horse moving and speed its recovery.
Transitions can ALSO be applied over shoes for trailer and pavement comfort. Unlike the RX, these can be ridden in as well. You can load up your horse, trailer, tie it up and WARM UP in these boots, before your performance. People have jumped, done barrels and dressage in these boots. So whether shod or not, these boots will stay put and offer support and cushion.