Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do You Use Protective Boots on Your Horse?

One of the things that will drive your heart through stomach is the sight of a bowed tendon or any number of other leg injuries that potentially can make a horse chronically lame.  There are good products such as sports medicine boots and bell boots available that can help reduce these injuries. I think horse owners should consider whether their horse can benefit from protective equipment during the many different types of activities and riding environments they are using their horses in.

While splint boots and sports medicine boots are different,  some people have taken to using either term to describe both. I use what the industry calls sports medicine boots which are basically wraps, with a neoprene liner, and secured with velcro, that cover most of the pastern, cradle the fetlock and wrap around most of the cannon bone to provide support to those tendons and protection from trauma such as the horse clipping his leg with the opposite foot. If the horse is wearing shoes this can result in a pretty significant cut and damage to the flexor tendon.

Bell boots, also called over reach boots, protect the heel bulbs from the back feet over stepping and clipping the heel bulbs. Again, when wearing shoes this can be a pretty bad cut and usually lames up a horse. Sometimes when over reaching, the back feet can step on the back end of the front shoes and spring a shoe. Riding horses long enough and you'll experience one or the other, or both. Bell boots can protect your horse's front feet especially when riding in events or terrain that make over stepping more likely. While there are inexpensive pull on rubber bell boots, I prefer the wrap around bell boots that have a velcro closure in front and a raised guide in the back that fits between the heel bulbs to keep the boot from turning (called "no turn" boots).

Riding, especially in a lope, in deep sand can make over stepping more likely and cause an injury as can events which require direction changes at speed such as cutting or roping. I suppose jumping horses can be prone to heel bulb or tendon/ligament injuries as well, but I can't speak from experience on that as I only jump horses on accident which usually results in the horn of my saddle making contact to my gut, or, worse yet, other vital areas. 

While I didn't always put sports medicine boots and/or bell boots on my horses, now days I err on the side of caution and if I'm exposing or using my horses in certain events I'll usually put one or the other, if not both, to give my horse some protection.   

The other day I went to do some ranch sorting so I put sports medicine boots on my horse. When we got back and took off the boots I notice a tear in the inside left boot which indicated my horse catching his left leg with his right front hoof.   See picture at right.  

So somewhere between trailering him back and forth and sorting cows in the pens, this occurred. I was pretty much glad that I put those sports medicine boots on.

Professional's Choice and Classic Equine are two of the companies making hoof and leg protective gear.  A pair of sports medicine boots starting at around $65 and a pair of decent bell boots for under $30 can make a good addition for a safe ride - just give it a thought for your horse.

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