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 performance riding!
Whether you do dressage on an Andalusian, competitive driving with 4-in-hand Morgans, endurance racing on an Arabian, barrels on a Quarter Horse or eventing on Holsteiner, you are looking to have footwear that gets put on and stays on, despite your twists, turns and footing.
We have 3 performance boot options. Like I mentioned before, the faster and more agile you want to be, the more exactly that boot has to fit. Snug as a bug in a rug. For that reason, these top three have a higher difficulty rating than the Pleasure Boots. Again, not to say they are difficult in themselves, just “harder” than the last.
As these boots fit more exactly, we have seen more often that they are “hard” to use when the hoof is not trimmed frequently. A horse’s hoof is cone shaped.
More exactly, it’s a bit like an angled cone:
Either way, you can see that the closer it is to the “top” the smaller it is. It flares larger and larger as it goes down.
As your horse’s hoof grows, it gets worn down naturally or gets trimmed. Otherwise we might end up with hooves like this:
When horses are trimmed frequently, their hoofs can be “sized” for a performance boot. When horses are trimmed every two months, or every 10-12 weeks even, their feet can grow a bit longer and they will change sizes too often in that trimming schedule. To fit into performance boots, your horse should be trimmed every 4-5 weeks or “monthly”. Just like a track sprinter wouldn’t let his toenails grow for 2 months and then say he was now a “size 10” when he was normally a size 9, on account of his toenails, you wouldn’t allow a horse hoof to grow out for a couple of months and hope to measure a size.
Additionally, if the sprinter then said, “Size 9 is way too small for me!” and he hadn’t trimmed his toenails in 3 months, you would think it silly.
So step one to winning with any boot (and especially with performance boots) is to have your horse on a monthly trimming cycle. Some of the pleasure boots do just fine with an 8-10 week trimming cycle, as they are not slim-fitting and have wiggle room.
The first performance boot I’ll go over is the Easyboot Epic. Like the original Easyboot, it clamps on like a ski boot clamp.
The two top “buttons” route the cable through to the clip. The clip has three main grooves for three degrees of tightening. However, those top buttons can route the cable through in a variety of ways to make minor adjustments to all three buckle settings.
Like I mentioned in the Pleasure Boot Blog, you can wrap the hoof in 1.5 or 2 wraps of Mueller Tape and give a very smooth hoof something for the boot to grip onto. While that helps an Easyboot, the Epic was designed with a gaiter to help keep the boot on.
Of the performance boots, this one is the easiest to put on. The gaiter folds down, well out of the way, the buckle unclips and allows for the “tongue” of the boot to move forward, like our shoes do.
One thing worth mentioning is getting the toe IN the boot. If you’ve ever tried on ski boots, you will know they are a hard material and the person fitting you can’t exactly feel for where your “big toe is”. Instead they ask you. They might have you tap the toe of your ski boot on the ground and snuggle your toes up to the front. Reason being, when you are skiing you ware downhill. Your feet WILL squish forward. That leaves the ankle area “too roomy” and you get too much wiggle. So they pre-squish your toes and then ask if there is room in your ankle. They want your boots tight.
In any boot, you want to ensure you actually have the hoof in the boot before you pull your gaiters up or clamp them on. Have you ever been camping and slid your feet partway into your sneakers to let the dog out in the middle of the night? Sometimes your foot can slide all the way in, but usually, you just end up walking awkwardly or the heels of the shoes fold over. Same with boots, you want to make sure their hoof has slid into the boot and isn’t balancing on the back “heel” of the boot. If you leave it that way and clamp it on and Velcro the gaiter, that boot will pop off as sure as sunshine.
Here is what it could look like from the outside:
You see how it looks like a tennis shoe with the heels being “squished flat”? There is a bulge there. Looking at where the heel is and where the angle of the toe “looks like it might be” it would appear this boot isn’t “on” all the way. If you clamped it on in this state, you might as well be tightening the laces on your half-on sneaker.
The second boot is the Easyboot Glove. This one doesn’t have clamps and pieces to tighten the boot to the hoof. It simply fits like a second skin.
With that expandable V in the front, it does give you a little bit of wiggle room in the close fit. If that V gives you too much wiggle, you can add an optional Power Strap (that come in many fun colors to spice things up!).
Some barns have their sizing assigned in different colors, so when they have a pile of boots, they can quickly pick which ones are the size 1’s or 2’s by finding the green or pink boots. Owners with more than one horse have picked a color for each horse. Hind feet that are often a different size than the fronts, sometimes get different colors, so that riders getting ready in dimly lit settings can easy find which are the front boots and which are the hinds.
Lastly, you have the Glue On shell. There are many application videos for how to glue these on, but they are mainly used just for the span of competition and then removed. As they do fit like a second skin, they couldn’t be left on for 1-2 months while the horse’s hoof is growing, as there would be nowhere for it to grow TO. Many distance riders have raced 5-day long races in them, and then removed them.
If your horse is normally barefoot and you have an event to go to, you could glue them on before you leave, trailer there, compete all weekend or week, then take them off. They are less hassle than constantly putting on and off your boots, however, they are one-time use only, and for a short span of time. For most pleasure and performance riders, the boot option lasts them longer and works well. If you really need that boot to stay on, this will do the job.
Stay tuned! We’ll be looking into each boot, it’s fit and how to fit them and get them on and off your horse.