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.
Let’s talk pleasure riding!
We have five boots for pleasure riding of different levels. Some pleasure riding is walking for three hours. Some pleasure riding is hopping on your horse bareback and cantering over a jumping course. None of these boots define what style of riding brings you pleasure.
Just like there are millions of horses out there, there are millions of horse feet. Like humans, one size and shape does not fit all. I’d like to break down our selection by use, but also by ease of putting on.
The most common boot that “doesn’t work”, is the one you can’t get on your horse!
In humans, if you want an easy shoe to put on, you want something that opens wide, is “comfy” and doesn’t tighten up. If it can be held on with elastic or Velcro or just slips on, I am all for it! However, with much freedom comes much wiggle. So keep in mind that the easier it is to get your boot on, the less intense you should be riding in it. Would you arrive to a basketball tournament in TOMs? Would you want to run a marathon in flip flops? Noper. Doesn’t mean those shoes aren’t easy as all get out to put on, but it does mean they wiggle a bunch and you limit what types of exercise you might want to do in them. Flip flops don’t inherently rub people, but if you try running 8 miles in them, they probably will. Same thing, your boots, used right, will be comfortable on your horse. Used aggressively or before they’ve broken in, they can rub. Oh no’s!
Easiest to put on in sequence:
Just by their design, the top three easiest to put on, are the ones that we would recommend for people riding less than 25 miles per week. They wiggle. They won’t twist and fall off, but they have shimmy room. That can lead to rubbing if you are an aggressive rider. You have the option of building up the miles and breaking them in, but they all contain an upper that wraps around the pastern, so you can get rubbing there. A key to winning with these boots is to ensure that when you “wrap” the upper into place, make sure it is level. Often time, we are standing up in relation to the horse, and when we wrap, we pull flaps at an angle. If you went eyelevel with your boot, you should see the bottom edge of your flaps run parallel to the boot. If you can see them rising towards the back, you gotta redo it.
Here are your flappy boots: Trail, Old Mac’s G2 and Back Country. They are simple to put on, but just give it a quick peek to make sure velcroed your flaps level with the ground. Win-win!
The Back Country is 4th easiest to put on. There is a comfort up gaiter added to the back, to give a soft surface for the delicate skin of the back of the pastern.
We added a gaiter to the top, so that you wouldn’t have to glue them on.
See? Closer fit, slightly snugger to put on (still really easy!) and you can ride longer distances. The uppers on all of these are very handy if you ride where you usually get cactus quills or thorns in their legs. Some owners I know turn their horses out at night in their boots, as they like to protect them from the quills. Be sure to check for dirt and rubs if you intend to leave boots on for overnight purposes.
The Back Country uses a base common to a couple of our performance boots. It’s really the lovechild of the Glove and the Trail.
Maybe I should call it the Glovechild then ;) This bottom means you have a more precise sizing, less wiggle and slight more difficulty to put on. Again, not “difficult” to put on, but more difficult than the Trail, Old Mac’s G2 or the Transition. You have to measure it in millimeters to get the best fit. It should fit like a glove. Not the hardest to put on, by far, but I think the most precise to measure. It’s how I feel about buying shoes with US sizing. I can be a 9, 9.5 or 10 depending on the brand. If I buy shoes using EU sizing, like bicycling shoes and paddock boots, I feel like my measuring has to be more spot-on, more precise. I think US fit is more forgiving in buying shoes and European sizing is hit or miss. For the Back Country, just measure in millimeters and you will be fine. Don’t measure in inches and wing it; trying to convert to mm. It won’t happen.
Lastly, but not leastly, is the Original EasyBoot. I find this one is quite easy to put on, but I think the buckle is harder, but only because pretty much anything more complicated than Velcro is going to be “harder”.
If you can buckle on ski boots, buckle on roller blades… you can buckle on this boot. It has three tightness notches on the buckle, as well as several ways you can lay the cables through the top wheels to cinch them up a bit more.
I find it’s A LOT easier to wrap the hoof in one to two turns of Mueller Tape and then slide the boot on and buckle. Mueller Tape is a lot like athletic tape in that it has grip. It sticks nicely to even very smooth hooves, and then gives a canvas-type grip for the boot to grab onto. If you have just a slight bit of snugness to cinch up, that tape is the perfect “fit” (no pun intended).
As far as riding distances, again, more wiggle, less distance. Break the boot in, see how your horse feels in it before trying faster speeds and longer distances.
As a general rule, you can ride up to 25 miles a week of varied pace riding, in the Easyboot Trail, Old Mac’s G2 and Easyboot Transition. You can ride up to 50 miles a week in the Back Country, again, as it’s form fitted like a Glove, so it less likely to wiggle or chafe. The Original Easyboot can be ridden unlimited miles.