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To wear leg protection/boots or no?

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  • To wear leg protection/boots or no?

    I'm starting out with trailing and hoping to build up to our first 25 miles endurance ride (for fun) by next spring/summer on my arab gelding. He's a previously successfully show hunter but we've acclimated to the trails together quite nicely. I leased him for 2.5 years and his previous owner was insistent on bell boots and leg wraps or boots whenever being worked - ring or out.

    Now, he does have a slight club that has never given him any soundness issues in one foot so the bell boots make sense for his conformation - it's easier for him to step on the back of that shoe with his back foot (though only once - galloping - has he done that with me ever, in 3 years).

    I'm more concerned about the leg boots/wraps. Do endurance people use them much? To be honest I get that in intense repetitive ring work (dressage etc.) support is necessary but other than 'he's always worn them' I don't have a good reason. He doesn't kick himself or anything like that and has never had any tendon issues.

    Anyways, in endurance are leg wraps/boots a good idea? In pictures I don't see them often in use - what is the reasoning? What brands and styles are best/recommended if you do use them - an eventing boot? Any advice/info is appreciated - thanks!

  • #2
    I trail ride quite a bit... and my gelding wears his leg wraps front and back, except in the summer extreme heat. Otherwise, I wear them more for my piece of mind... but guarantee, when I DONT wear them.. that's the day that a stick pokes him in the tendon.. or that he comes back from the trails bleeding... or there's a gash from a fallen tree branch.. ..Some of our trails can be rough, or steep hills, need to "slide" down embankments, etc... so yes, he wears front and back "just in case".
    The Galloping Grape
    Warrenton, VA


    • #3
      ... and they are the professional choice SMB boots.
      The Galloping Grape
      Warrenton, VA


      • #4
        I don't even OWN a pair of wraps or any other type of protection. I started learning about horses as I competed in CTR and leg protection is not allowed. In fact the use of disqualifies you. It was always said that a good trail horse should know how to take care of his legs. Watch the mustangs race across the wilderness, No leg protection on them.

        I put a thousand miles a year on horses on trail rides. We never use bells, splint or leg wraps.
        And we ride some of the roughest country around.





        • #5
          I use cheap neoprene splint boots on my endurance gelding because he interferes. I dont use them on my mare.

          I dont think boots provide much support at all. They can protect against things like overreaching, cactus, sharp rocks, etc. My gelding's legs are warmer and sweatier with the boots on, but its never been a problem.

          So its really just personal choice.


          • #6
            Leg protection is allowed in endurance (but not competitive trail--CTR). The only question would be whether they create rubs when used over a distance or when they get wet.

            It is very common for horses to pull shoes on a foot with a high angle. Bell boots make sense.

            Hopefully more endurance people will chime in.
            "Passion without knowledge is a runaway horse."


            • #7
              Boots offer protection, not support. It is not possible to wrap a horse's leg tight enough to offer support without cutting off their circulation.

              If your horse interferes, they are a good idea. However, as a foxhunter we rarely use boots because when you go through water, they get heavy and I find the neoprene of any kind just makes a horse's leg really hot.

              My TB is quite short backed so I do put fleece lined galloping boots in front after he caught himself quite badly going up a hill.

              I would never ride outside a ring in polos. They absorb water and if they start to unravel are downright dangerous.

              This article discusses some of the issues with boots/polos
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


              • #8
                I don't do endurance, but I do a lot of trail riding and just general riding outside. I only use boots when I'm schooling doing lateral work and turn-arounds (spins), where the horse might catch himself while crossing his legs.

                At one point I religiously used SMBs every ride and my horse was stalled. He ended up with a ligament tear from playing hard during turn out sans-SMBs one day. I have since returned to the wisdom imparted to me in my youth-- get your horse legged up properly without boots, make their legs strong, and only use boots to cushion against possible interference injuries when the work or individual horse dictates.

                I also don't care for the amount of heat that the boots hold in. I have a pair of boots that are supposed to be perforated, breathable neoprene, but they seem just as hot as the other boots. I don't worry about it for an hour or so of schooling, but I think a three to four hour mountain ride is a bit long to have hot legs.

                Hopefully some more endurance folks will add their wisdom. I just thought I'd add my two cents.


                • #9
                  I wouldnt say that there are a lot of endurance people using boots. If they do, its usually the little neoprene hind ankle boots or the front splint boots and I assume their horses interfere. I definitely dont see many, if any, SMB boots or that type of boot.

                  Again, though, I've never had problems with my horse and the heat of the boots. I've completed endurance rides up to 65 miles with him.


                  • #10
                    I used to endurance ride in the 80's. I didn't use leg protection, and neither did many others. I don't know what people are using now.

                    I managed to rub my horse around the pasterns this summer where the fetlock support wrap comes round on the SMB boots. My horse has sensative skin, it was hot, and my riding was mostly on sand. This combo made for quite the friction/heat burn after just 3 days. Trail/endurance could have the same conditions and potentially rub any horse. I have also had bell boots rub. Not on all horses, but some are more sensative. As a rule now I just don't use them unless I am doing quick speed events where they are only on for a short time.

                    My horse has crooked legs and I was trying to help him, and ended up hurting him. So I went back to my basic splint boots where nothing wraps around moving parts that low on the leg. With these plain and simple boots I've never had an issue before, and haven't since. I ride Tennessee Walking horses (arena and trail), and occasionally show. I have to be careful that my horse is not rubbed, sore or scarred or I can't make it through DQP inspection. Sometimes less is better.


                    • #11
                      I don't wrap or boot when I ride - partially because my horse doesn't really need it, but also because the park where I ride most frequently is extremely muddy. Occasionally I've considered getting those Davis splint boots, especially the bright orange, to use during hunting season as an extra bit of color. They'd at least be easy to clean after each ride.
                      Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks everyone for your input.

                        I'm glad to hear what I've always thought about boots as far as support and such. I never thought you could without having even wraps very tight truly support their legs - and that tight you'll bow a tendon.

                        We went out on a trail ride this weekend and I didn't boot. He was fine. A friend of mine told me boots or more for you than them UNLESS they interfere; from the responses it sounds like that's how you guys feel too. I might pop them on in hunting season though - they are bright orange and anything helps with detering hunters from shooting at us!

                        Thanks again!


                        • #13
                          I trail ride exclusively and I didn't used to use any leg protection at all. Recently I found a hard lump on the inside of my horses leg, just above the fetlock joint. I took him to the vet and had it x-rayed and was shocked to discover that he had a broken splint bone! No idea when or how it happened but just to be safe he now wears neoprene and suede splint boots for every ride. The vet said he could bump it again and re-break it and the bone fragments could cause damage to soft structure like tendons sheaths. Here is his x-ray, the cannon bone should be smooth all the way down. That finger looking piece on the left side of it shouldn't be there.
                          "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


                          • Original Poster

                            PRS - If he's young, it's easy for them to 'pop a splint' and usually it causes no more than an asthetic issue on their legs. In fact it's quite common... usually they dont' cause soft tissue damage unless thy're very large and then removing surgically is the only option. They can do it just in turnout or usually if they're interfering.

                            I saw those a lot when I worked at the vet school and even more for the ambulatory vet I worked for. Your boys is pretty large and I see what you're saying.

                            Ack... damned if you do, damned if you don't!


                            • #15
                              I ride endurance and personally do not boot unless the horse interferes. If so, I use neoprene splint and/or ankle boots. Make sure to take them off if you are having issues pulsing down, they can really hold in the heat. If you decide to use them, check them frequently, carry spares in your crew bag and take them off at every vet check to make sure there are no rubs or anything stuck in them that could cause problems. Usually if a horse interferes, there is a foot imbalance or joint issue that should be looked at. Bell boots could be helpful to prevent a pulled shoe but honestly might cause more problems than they would prevent in the course of 25 or 30 miles.


                              • #16
                                PRS-- my 5 year old has a pretty good sized splint high on his cannon bone, just below his knee. He did it playing in the pasture. He lives outside, so it's not like he was goofy from being cooped up, he's just goofy period.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Gatorsgirl View Post
                                  PRS - If he's young, it's easy for them to 'pop a splint' and usually it causes no more than an asthetic issue on their legs. In fact it's quite common... usually they dont' cause soft tissue damage unless thy're very large and then removing surgically is the only option. They can do it just in turnout or usually if they're interfering.

                                  I saw those a lot when I worked at the vet school and even more for the ambulatory vet I worked for. Your boys is pretty large and I see what you're saying.

                                  Ack... damned if you do, damned if you don't!
                                  He is only 7 years old and the vet did say it is very common in younger horses and that I shouldn't worry unless he interferes and breaks it again, then we could have problems with bone fragments floating around. He said it would require surgical intervention to remove them should that occur. Not wanting to spend money on a surgical procedure if I can help it, he now gets splint boots to protect the area while I'm riding him at least.
                                  "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


                                  • Original Poster

                                    PRS - I'm glad it's not a problem for him and you are taking proper precautions for his sake. I'd do the same in your situation!

                                    I think I'm going to play it by ear. We have a good ways to go anyways as far as getting ready for our first distance ride so I can work out what's best while training to some degree hopefully. All the advice has been very helpful though.


                                    • #19
                                      For me, it depends. I have 4 horses, and all of them have different needs. The stallion wears boots on all 4 generally, because he's a newbie and just getting used to knowing where to put his feet. My main riding mare doesn't usually wear anything, but ocassionally I'll use SMB Elites if we're going to be leaving the beaten path and doing some exploring in the heavier brush. The other two mares are only lightly ridden and don't use anything usually. None of my horses interfere with themselves, so if I use boots on the mares, it's only because the terrain will be especially rough.

                                      I boot or wrap always for trailering, and prefer to keep the wraps on while I'm grooming and tacking up. My mare swung around and clocked her hind canon on the trailer door and nicked a tendon. She healed just fine, but I treated it very aggressively but it could have been a really bad deal. After that, I learned to leave boots on until I'm leaving the trailer.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        AT - It's funny you mention trailering... he's never worn boots for trailering even though he's shod on all 4, so I'm told and I was nervous to trailer him without. He was fine.

                                        I appreicate knowing the brands you guys use the most and situations. I'll have to learn to play it by ear a bit it seems - but I do want to get the 'right' boots for when I use them.