Give ‘Em the Boot - How and why to use protective leg wear to protect your champion
By Robyn Duplisea
When we talk about a fantastic show horse we often call them great legged and no matter how talented a horse may be the chances of those legs staying perfect through years of training and showing are slim without the right protection.
We may not show our horses in boots or wraps but they provide vital support and protection to ligaments, tendons and those fragile splint bones while training or even turn out.
WHY USE LEG PROTECTION?
You may be thinking that horses have developed over centuries without the benefit of matching polos, and you are correct. The wild horses developed strength in their legs by constant movement which increased circulation. This blood flow allowed minor wear and tear to heal and these horses typically moved on consistent terrain (how ever uneven it my have been).
These horses did not spend more than twelve hours a day in a cushy stall, with food and water within a step or two. They were in constant movement and their muscles and ligaments were warm and ready for action.
Wild horses are not subject to work in different arenas were footing may be inconsistent. They were not worked on circles or arcs and certainly did not perform complex and repetitive movements such as the sliding stop or a western riding pattern.
Our show horse, while descendants of these horses are a totally different creature.
Your horse, probably spends a portion of his day in a 12 x 12 stall, standing around waiting for his next meal. The show horse is often worked 4-6 times a week for a set amount of time before returning to his stall or paddock.
Most show horses can benefit from some well fitted boots. You can provide protection from strains, tears, scrapes and even hyperextension with proper equine leg wear, but the question remains – what is best for my horse.
WHICH TYPE OF LEG WEAR IS BEST FOR MY HORSE?
Choosing the best option for your horse is not a simple decision. You must look at a many factors before spending your hard earned money on boots or wraps.
What type of event do you show in? – If your horse is competing in reining or cutting his needs will differ from those in the pleasure pen. You will need to invest in skid books to protect your horse’s fetlocks from burns and you will want to choose a boot you will show in.
A barrel horse will need extra protection from brushing and hyperextension from galloping and sharp turns and may benefit from a supportive sport boot.
While working your hunter you may prefer to use an open front boot to ensure they remain careful and your pleasure or all-around horse will benefit from a boot that provides support and protection such as a sports boot as they work in circles and in patterns.
DOES MATERIAL MATTER?
From cotton no bows and polo wraps, to leather skid boots and varying qualities of neoprene options the material of your leg protection is as important as it’s design.
Many Sports Boots are made from neoprene, but all are not created equal. Some less expensive options only provide two way stretch which limits their ability to protect and support the tendons. Neoprene also comes in varying qualities, with the best boots on the market such as 5 Star’s Patriot Sport Support Boot being constructed with 4 way stretch orthopedic neoprene, which is the same material used in high end human support products. Higher quality neoprene will breath better and help prevent your horse from overeating – but all equine leg protection needs to be removed after use, so the horse’s leg can cool off to prevent scalding.
Which ever material you choose be sure it is easily machine washable, so you can keep them free of debris and dirt that can cause abrasions on your horse’s legs.
If you are going to invest in a new set of wraps or boots for your horse, lets be honest the details count. Options such as color and the opportunity to showcase your style can be a factor in everything we purchase for our horse.
5 Star Patriot Boots can be customized with any accent leather the company offers for a truly unique look for your horse.
In addition to color and design, you will want to look at the support features in your boot. Many boots offer a traditional single strap sling to protect the fetlock. This design has worked for many years, but there is a new option. The 5 Star Patriot Support boot combines the innovation used in human support wraps to balance the support of the sling with dual straps.
Consider purchasing boots for all four legs as studies have shown the benefits of equal wrapping or booting. The often-skipped rear boots can protect your horse from clipping his hind legs while working on an arc as many pleasure horses do. Equal wrapping or booting can protect your horse from hyperextension while driving his hock deeper under his body to stay soft and slow.
Which ever option you chose to protect your horse please take the time to learn the proper technique for applying the support. If you are unsure of use, please ask a professional to show you for the sake of your horse. Correctly applied equine leg protection can add years to your horse’s career and at the end of the day we all want longevity of soundness for our beloved partners.
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