Support, splint, leather, neoprene, plastic, sheepskin, gel, buckles, Velcro? YIKES! The number of styles, materials and options available in protective horse boots can be enough to give you a headache. You just want to protect your horse's legs: Why are there so many different choices? Patricia Nesto, hunter competitor and buyer for Dover Saddlery, based in Littleton, Massachusetts, offers the following information to help you find the right match for your needs.
As a starting point, Patricia says, "Higher-priced models typically offer better materials and a better fit." These options may include molded plastic or carbon outer shells for better protection against brushing and strikes, gel or high-tech foam lining for shock absorption, better dressing such as leather, removable liners for easy cleanup or alternative strapping systems such as hook-stud closures.
In the end, Patricia says fit is the most important aspect: "The boots shouldn't be too tight or too loose."
As a rule of thumb, you should be able to fit one finger snugly between the boot and your horse's leg. "If a boot wiggles around too much (from being too big or too loose), dirt could get in and cause rubs," she explains.
If you're not sure if the boots fit correctly, ask your instructor, barn manager or a knowledgeable friend for help.
The following chart explains the five basic types of protective horse boots, tells you what each is best suited for and describes the benefits of each.