When you get involved with horses, you will notice that they often have protective gear on their legs but what might be new to you is that there are several different types of horse boots.
I’m here to help you demystify all the different horse boots types, as I know how confusing it can get!
My guide will tell you about each kind you will commonly come across, so you will know which one is the best for you and your horse.
Are you ready? Let’s get started!
What Are Horse Boots Used For?
Before delving into every type of boot, you need to have an understanding of what are horse boots used for. Once you know this, you’ll have no problem picking the right ones.
To put it simply the main purpose of protective boots is to reduce the risk of trauma to the lower leg.
This part of the leg is made up of only bone, tendons, and ligaments. It has no muscle to add an extra layer of protection, which makes it more vulnerable when a horse is moving quickly.
Some horses do not move completely straight.
This means they are more likely to brush or even knock the opposite leg. Horses taking part in high-speed activities, such as jumping, cross country, reining, and cutting can easily hit their front legs with their hind hooves.
A trail rider doesn’t always need to use horse exercise boots. However, there are some exceptions:
- If you are riding through rough paths then boots will help protect the legs from avoidable injuries caused by stones, thorns, or branches.
- Another exception is if your trail horse does not wear shoes, it will need hoof boots to comfortably travel over uneven, rough terrain.
Now that you have the answer to why do horses wear boots, let’s look at all the different types you will see.
10 Types Of Horse Boots
You will come across many different types of horse boots and within these types, there are even more to pick from! This is understandably very confusing if you are new to this part of horse riding.
Here I’ve covered all the main types, so then you just have to pick the style you like the best.
As for the question of what are the best horse boots? This will depend on your riding discipline and each individual horse.
#1 Bell Boots
Bell boots, also called overreach boots, wrap around the top of the hoof. They cover the heel and most of the hoof.
When moving fast or with certain styles of gait, horses can reach too far forward with their hindfoot.
This can result in the horse catching or ‘grabbing’ the back for the front heel. This is called an overreach injury and can cause a pretty nasty injury that takes a long time to heal.
They also give the pastern joint some protection. Bell boots help reduce or completely avoid this type of injury. They also help prevent the horse from catching its front shoe with a rear foot and pulling it off.
They are a good option for horses that tend to pull their shoes off when playing in the paddock. Though this isn’t foolproof! I’ve seen a few horses that are experts at pulling off their front shoes when turnout, bell boots or not!
Make sure to check our list of best bell boots for pulling shoes.
#2 Fetlock Boots
Fetlock boots only go on the hind legs. They are shorter than front boots and only cover the fetlock joint. The main protective area is a soft padded area or hard shell that sits over the inside of the fetlock.
Some people might call these ankle boots, though technically the fetlock isn’t an ankle.
These boots will either have a wide velcro strap or two elastic straps that secure them in place. In showjumping, young horses are only allowed to wear velcro strap fetlock boots.
You will also see tall hind boots, which some people might call fetlock boots. These boots usually cover the entire cannon bone between the hock and the fetlock.
They offer more protection and are commonly used during the cross-country phase of eventing competitions.
MUST READ: 7 Best Soak Boots For Your Horse
#3 Tendon Boots
Tendon support boots for horses only go on the front legs and are open along the front.
Their main purpose is the protect the tendons from strikes that can cause traumatic injuries. They also protect the inside of the front legs, particularly the fetlock.
These boots are the most popular in English showjumping activities. They are open-front as this allows the horse to feel when it hits a pole, which in most cases makes the horse correct its leg position over the next jumps.
For cross-country jumping, horses go in a type of tendon boot that covers all sides of the lower leg as the solid jump poses a higher risk of injury.
Here are some of the best tendon boots for horses:
ALSO READ: Best Ice Boots for Horses
#4 Hoof Boots
Hoof boots go on the foot, covering the entire hoof, including the sole. There are several types of hoof boots.
The majority are for horses that normally don’t wear shoes but need protection when moving on rougher surfaces, such as out on a trail ride.
There are also medicine hoof boots that you can use to make applying a poultice much easier or to provide some cushion to an injured hoof.
ALSO READ: Best Shoes for Navicular Horse
# 5 Stable Boots
You might not see stable boots too often as it is still most popular to use pillow wraps on legs when a horse is in its stable.
Stable boots are soft and padded with velcro closures. They are used to keep an injury clean while in the stable.
These boots also help protect the leg from knocks when a horse rolls in its bedding. Some people like to use these boots in the winter to help keep their legs warm, especially for horses that suffer from arthritis.
#6 Boots For Injuries
Boots for injuries are specialist therapeutic boots that are used for short bursts of time. Another name you will see for these is medical boots. These boots serve a few different purposes.
One of the most popular types is those that apply cold therapy.
These boots allow you to secure specially designed ice packs to the lower leg. A popular brand of this type of boot is Ice Vibe.
You will also see magnetic boots and heating boots, which help the body improve blood flow in the lower leg. Improved circulation will help clear the blood quicker of impurities created by exercise or injury.
#7 Splint Boots
Splint boots are soft and flexible. They cover the cannon bone and tendons of the lower leg between the knee and fetlock. They also protect the splint bone.
Their main purpose is to protect against brush injuries. They do not have hard-strike guards like tendon boots and are best used when riding on the flat and not jumping.
You will also see these called brushing boots. They offer good protection but do not offer as much as tendon boots do against hard strikes. Brushing boots are a popular choice for dressage horses.
Another common use of brush boots is as turnout boots to protect the horse from injury when they are rolling and playing.
Read more about what are splint boots used for.
#8 Shipping Boots
Also called travel boots, these boots are only used when a horse is on the road in a trailer or horse truck.
They are thick, well-padded boots that cover from the knees or hocks to over the hooves.
Regardless of if your horse is a good traveler or not, it is a good idea to always protect its legs, which are very vulnerable in the confined space of a trailer. An alternative to travel boots is shipping bandages.
Shipping bandages are more traditional and use thick bandage pads under leg bandages. They are pretty much the same as standing wraps but some people will use taller pillow wraps to give more protection.
Make sure to check our list of the best horse shipping boots!
#9 Skid Boots
Skids boots are usually short and protect the rear of the fetlock.
You will commonly see these on western reining horses as these horses demonstrate a sliding stop.
There are some long skid boots as well that protect the entire lower leg and have extra padding at the back of the fetlock. Professional’s Choice is one brand that makes this style of skid boot.
#10 Fly Boots
Horse fly boots are the same style as stable boots but they are made with breathable materials such as mesh. They help keep flies from biting and irritating your horse.
Here I’ve answered a few good questions, I commonly get asked.
What are horse boots good for?
They protect the most vulnerable part of the leg from knocks the horse might experience when taking part in all types of riding activities.
How long can a horse wear easy boots?
Easyboots are a type of barefoot boots horses need for traction and protection when doing exercise. A horse should wear Easyboots for the shortest time possible and never for more than 24 hours in a row.
Should my horse wear boots?
As a rule, I always use horse boots. It’s better to be safe than sorry here! However, always remove boots immediately after exercise as they can retain heat which is not good for a horse’s legs.
As you’ve probably seen, there are horse boots for many different purposes. Hopefully, I’ve helped you unravel any mystery about why equestrians put these on their horses, and why they choose a particular type.
If you have any questions, just let me know!
- Drum, Michelle. 2019. “The Rider’s Guide to Horse Boots.” Farm House Tack. Farm House Tack. December 12, 2019. https://www.farmhousetack.com/blogs/barn-blog/riders-guide-to-horse-boots.
- EasyCare. 2010. “Easyboot Bare – Frequently Asked Questions – EasyCare Hoof Boot News.” EasyCare Hoof Boot News. September 11, 2010. https://blog.easycareinc.com/easyboot-bare-frequently-asked-questions/.
- Spalding, Taylor. 2020. “Horse Boots 101 | Which Boots Are Best for Your Horse? – Naylors Blog.” Naylors Blog. February 20, 2020. https://www.naylors.com/blog/horse-boots-101-which-boots-are-best-for-your-horse/.
Do you know about more types of horse boots besides these? Let us know in the comment section below
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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