In ancient Egypt the hoof boots, or then called “Hippo sandals” were already in use to spare the hooves for long and far distances. While most boots are made of bast fiber and pure leather, they also used leather laced iron/bronze hoof boots constructions in the old days.
Today, the hoof boots have had a total transformation. Many different manufacturers produce them, and many different models and fits have entered the market by now. There are specific models that match specific hoof types. However what do they actually do?
Hoof boots are designed to be temporary protectors for the horse’s hoof. They can be worn whenever needed, so that the horse can walk “bare-hooved” most of the time. However, a horse that is used to wearing iron shoes will need some time to adjust to walking bare hoof. So when you have a horse that is on a shoeing break they will need to adjust to walking bare hoof. For longer rides, sensitive horses or muddy grounds, or snow there is a bigger risk for slipping when the hoof boot has no gripping points or spikes.
“Every horse can walk bare hoof, however not necessarily over long periods of time or for regular purposes. This is because the demand is too high for the hooves,” explains Manuela Volk, who has spent a long time as a hoof care specialist and technician and has tested many types of hoof boots as an hoof boot expert.
Also for carriage rides or distant travels a good hoof protection is highly recommended. Just make sure the hoof boots are always clean before use to avoid chafing.
The main principle is always: just like shoes for humans, the hoof boot needs to fit perfectly. “handling for the rider, the movement of the horse and the fit of the boot are most important criteria that need to be paid attention to,” says Manuela Volk. “Other than that, hoof boots should always be put on freshly trimmed hooves!” Otherwise it may happen that there is a change in the fit.
Every hoof is different, not only the forms of the front and hind hooves, but also different from each individual horse. This way not only round and oval hooves are involved but also tight and wide forms and also other different variations. Off course the basic measurement of length and width of the hoof is easy to measure, however it is better to have experts do it for you.
“Through the adjustment time from iron shoes to bare hoof, the hooves usually change,” explains Manuela Volk. According to the hoof growth, it takes about two to three months, until the nail holes from the iron shoe have grown out. The complete regeneration of the hoof can take up to a year for a hoof growth of 8 to 10 millimeters per month.
If you do not pay attention to these factors and do not notice the change in sizing, your horse might loose a boot during a ride or on unsteady grounds.
Also, if the boots are too tight or not correctly put on, there will be chafing and pressure points. In the worst case, boots that are not fitted correctly could lead to a fall for horse and rider. If the horse boot fits perfectly, horses have almost no problem with the adjustment.