Have you wondered how to put fly boots on a horse?
Or maybe you clicked his article because you don’t know what they are.
They’re not especially common, but it’s worth knowing that they’re out there.
Either way, let’s talk about the benefits and risks of fly boots and how to safely put them on your horse.
Table of Contents
- Fly boots are horse boots made out of synthetic material, usually a type of mesh, that prevents harmful insect bites on the horse’s lower legs.
- If biting insects are causing problems or you need to protect against an injury during turnout, fly boots can help.
- Make sure the boots fit your horse. Ill-fitting boots can cause sores if too tight, fall off, or fall down if too loose.
What Are Fly Boots?
Fly boots are boots for horses that cover the leg from the coronet band to the cannon bones, protecting them from painful fly bites, UV rays, burrs, spikey plants, and mud.
They look like this:
They are made out of lightweight material such as mesh, either a fabric mesh or a slightly heavier breathable plastic mesh. Think of it like a fly mask for your horse’s legs.
Most of them attach with heavy-duty velcro, but some brands have loop closures.
There are many kinds of boots. Some of them have fleece linings at the top and bottom to prevent rubs. You can find ones that fit loosely, which have a better airflow, and ones that fit snugly, which will be harder for the horse to remove.
They should be light and comfortable, since summer is the fly season, and in most places, it will be warm. The breathable mesh fabric should or lightweight airflow fabric should keep bothersome insects at bay while not overheating your horse.
Pros of Fly Boots
Why would you use fly boots?
If you live in a place with lots of biting insects, they can be a game changer. You’ve seen your horse stomping at flies, looking miserable. The boots will keep the bugs off his lower legs.
They can also prevent botfly eggs, which will be a great relief for your horse.
If your horse has a condition like arthritis, all the kicking and stamping can exacerbate that, so fly boots could really help him feel better.
This might save your shoes too since repeated stamping can loosen shoes and cause hoof cracks and leg fatigue.
Even if you don’t want your horse wearing them all the time, keeping a set in your tack room is a good idea. Should your horse cut himself, fly boots might enable him to spend less time on box rest because they will protect a healing wound from bugs and dirt.
They’re also useful for keeping your horse’s legs clean the day before a show.
Don’t forget to check our horse fly sheet reviews.
Cons of Fly Boots
Any item you turn your horse out in, whether it’s a rug or a fly boot, poses a risk. It’s something he could hang himself up with. Horses will always find new and ingenious ways to get themselves into trouble.
Some fly boots fit loosely and are made out of thin mesh. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how they could get caught in fencing or branches.
Shaped boots require more fitting and careful measuring, but lower this risk.
Horses are also excellent at removing ‘clothing,’ often destroying it in the process. Every horse owner I know who turns their horses out in bell boots or splint boots has had to search large, muddy fields for lost boots.
It is worth noting that some studies have ascertained a correlation between overheating the tendons and tendon injury. (1)
They studied horses being worked, wearing tendon boots or brushing boots which are made out of much heavier materials than fly boots.https://www.wageningenacademic.com/doi/abs/10.3920/CEP13019
Although fly boots are designed to “increase airflow” (or so it says in their promotional materials), you’re still wrapping material around your horse’s lower leg, which will have some effect on the temperature.
If your horse is spending all day outside or on overnight or 24/7 turnout, it’s worth thinking about.
Similarly, any material being worn for a long period of time can rub the skin. If your horse is wearing fly boots all day every day, be sure to carefully check for sores and rubs. Some horses have sensitive skin, so their owners must be especially diligent.
READ MORE: How To Reduce Horse Flies
How to Put Fly Boots On (4 Easy Steps)
First, make sure that you’ve bought a pair that fits your horse. This video (towards the end) shows you how to measure your horse for fly boots:
The boot should cover the pastern and coronary band, and it should sit a finger’s width or two below the knee and hock.
- Wrap it snugly around the leg. It should be tight enough to stay on, but not so tight it impedes circulation.
- Make sure the straps are on the outside of the leg and that you are pulling them toward the back of the horse. If you’re used to splint boots, shipping boots, etc., you’ll find that these are no different.
- Pull the straps from front to back. Make sure that you are applying even pressure to each strap.
- Double-check the tightness by putting two fingers between the boot and the leg. If you can do this, it’s probably about right.
This video looks at one specific brand, but the principles of attaching boots to your horse will be similar no matter what boots you’ve bought:
Can you leave fly boots on a horse?
They are designed to be left on for extended periods of turnout, but they should be removed and the horse inspected daily for rubs and other leg injuries, and the boots should be cleaned of excess dirt and debris.
How do you put a fly sheet on a horse?
Make sure all the buckles are undone and throw them over your horse, same as any other rug or blanket.
Can horse flies bite through jeans?
Can horses overheat in fly rugs?
Generally not, but it depends on your horse and your turn-out or stabling set-up. If it is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and your horse does not have access to plentiful shade, you should think about removing any rugs.
Fly boots are not the most common item of tack. I asked a highly experienced friend today if she’d come across them, and she had not, either.
Nonetheless, it’s worth knowing that they exist and what they do.
They could definitely come in handy if you have a horse who’s injuring himself or exacerbating existing conditions by constant stomping at flies.
They could be very useful indeed if you have a horse with a lower leg injury who hates box rest.
There are many brands and styles. Do a bit of searching to find the one which will best suit you and your horse.
1. Hopegood L, Sander L, Ellis AD. The influence of boot design on exercise associated surface temperature of tendons in horses. Comparative Exercise Physiology. 2013;9:147–52.
Emily is a native of Colorado, currently living in Glasgow, Scotland, working as a freelance writer. She is a long-time horsewoman, having started riding at the age of 6, then competing in dressage around Colorado and Massachusetts, where she finished her undergraduate degree in psychology.
Following a move to the UK and a PhD, she worked for a few years as a freelance horse trainer in Central Scotland. She’s interested in holistic horsemanship, fostering better communication and understanding between horses and humans, riding with lightness and softness, and she’s forever seeking out the newest research into equine behavior and psychology. When not writing, she can be found at the barn with her two equine partners, Foinavon, an ex-feral Highland pony, and Hermosa, a young Andalusian.
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