A client I know has recently invested in a pair of hoof boots for her horse. She showed me them upon arrival (unfortunately they were too small) but I thought they looked like a pair of trainers!
Her horse is quite a sensitive soul and has never been shod, but has recently become a bit footsore. The yard she keeps him on is quite flinty, which helps keep the unworked horse`s feet in good shape; however, when worked, the horses usually need shoes.
This owner decided that she didn`t feel her horse would be able to cope with being shod, and she would rather go down the hoof boot path.
I don`t know much about hoof boots, and I think it`s a topic that is hotly debated.
Hoof boots are measured to fit each horse individually, much like a traditional shoe, but a hoof boot is put on prior to working the horse, and is removed after. To me, this is an added chore when preparing to ride; but I can see that it would be less of a chore if you only rode a couple of times a week. Additionally, I think the cost of shoeing a horse who was worked 5 days a week is probably more financially economical than booting a horse in that level of work as the boots would wear out. But again, I can see the financial benefit of just popping on a pair of boots if you ride infrequently.
One of the main reasons that people put metal shoes on horses is because the hoof is wearing down faster than it is growing, so by putting hoof boots on when you ride I don`t really see the benefit to reducing the amount the hoof wears, as it is only on for a short period. I guess this isn`t a problem if your horse has strong feet, or the fields aren`t stoney, and the horse has some foot there already. However, if they have worn away their foot until they are foot sore, surely they need permanent assistance at least to allow the hoof to grow to a decent length.
Can hoof boots be left on permanently? Manufacturers advertise that they do not rub due to the fitting, but it seems to me that a stone could get in and irritate the horse, much like us with a stone in our shoe, and cause some bruising. Some people have said that hoof boots can rub, but I guess it depends on the individual horse`s conformation and the style of the boot; much like us getting our shoes fitted. You can also buy little pop socks, which help prevent chaffing and keeps the inside of the boots clean. You’d need to keep a close eye on it though.
The best use I’ve found for hoof boots is in conjunction with normal shoes. If your horse is prone to losing shoes, pulling them off in the field for example, then having hoof boots would permit you to continue working your horse while you wait for the farrier. If your farrier can’t come out for two days to replace the lost shoe then you don’t lose valuable training sessions with your competition horse. Additionally, it could be useful if you pull a shoe mid competition, particularly on an endurance horse.
Do you remember those pull on over reach boots? I get the impression that putting on hoof boots could be as fiddly as that, but the modern ones have lots of velcro to help, and I’m pretty sure there’s a knack to getting the boots on efficiently.
I’m going to follow this horse’s progress as he gets used to the boots, and see if they are of benefit to him, as I think for horses working every day they could be more of a hindrance than a help, but for those who only ride infrequently, they could be a very useful accessory.