Wondering how to put bell boots on a horse?
In addition to being a piece of protective equipment that wraps around the horse’s front hooves, covering the coronary band, the hoof wall, and the heel bulbs, did you know that bell boots can help improve strength in a weak leg if one is just used? (1)
Also called overreach boots, there are two types – velcro boots and pull-on boots.
I’m going to explain how to put both styles on and when to use them.
Table of Contents
- Bell boots go over the front feet of the horse, protecting the heel bulbs and coronary band from being struck with the hind feet, or overreaching.
- There are two types of boots – velcro and pull-on, and they are made out of a huge variety of materials.
- It’s important to know how to put them on and make sure they fit properly.
- It is easy to learn how to put bell boots on a horse.Others have neoprene lining
5 Steps to Put Bell Boots on a Horse
There are five simple steps for both velcro and pull-on bell boots. Once you get the hang of it, it will take you only a minute or two to do it.
First, let’s take a look at velcro boots.
Velcro overreach boots are simple to use, but it’s still important to do so safely. You don’t want to be kicked or stepped on by your horse!
They can be made of neoprene, rubber, or even carbon fiber. The last has a high level of impact protection and is usually used when jumping.
Some have fleece linings around the top. Others have neoprene linings. These prevent rubs.
The same methods apply to boots with a hook-and-loop closure.
Step 1 – Get Into Position
Stand beside your horse’s front leg, as you would when picking up its foot.
Step 2 – Let Your Horse Know You’re There
Run your hand down the leg, so they know you’re coming.
Step 3 – Place The Bell Boot
Wrap the bell boot around the back of the foot so the velcro closures are at the front.
Step 4 – Attach The Boot
Fasten the velcro strap across the hoof.
Step 5 – Ensure The Boot Is Secure
It should not be too loose around the pastern, but it should not be too tight either. One finger-width is good. The boot should not touch the floor below the horse’s heel.
This video gives an overview of how to fit one to your horse.
Pull-on boots are a little bit trickier. However, they are more useful than velcro as extra protection from turn-out injuries or pulled shoes because horses are unlikely to remove them.
They are usually made out of gum rubber because of their stretchy qualities.
Step 1 – Prep The Boot
Turn the bell boot inside out.
Step 2 – Pick Up The Leg
Lift your horse’s hoof as if you were picking out its feet.
Step 3 – Pull The Boot On
Wrestle the large bell end of the boot over the hoof.
Step 4 – Flip The Boot
Once you’ve achieved this, the boot will be upside down around the horse’s pastern. Flip the bottom end downwards. The boot will no longer be inside out, and it will be sitting in the correct position.
Step 5 – Soak Difficult Boots
If you cannot get it over the foot, soak it in hot, soapy water for about two minutes. This softens the rubber.
This video shows you how to put one on:
Why Are Bell Boots Important for Horses?
There are two main reasons why bell boots are important for horses. Impact protection and preventing pulled shoes.
Of course, using single boots is helpful for rehab, as I touched on earlier, but that is for another article.
So, back on topic, let’s take a closer look at the two main purposes of overreach boots.
A horse can injure its delicate heel bulbs and coronary band by striking the back of its front feet with its hind hooves. This is called overreaching.
It can cause pain, swelling, bleeding, and lameness. Overreach injuries can take a long time to heal.
Overreaching is the result of slightly mistimed movement between the front and back legs of the horse, usually relating to conformation, age, fitness, or improper riding. (2)
Severn Equine vets, a practice based in Wales, says,
“Young and unbalanced horses are more likely to have poor coordination resulting in a higher incidence of self-inflicted injuries such as brushing or overreaching.” (3)
There are also disciplines where overreaching might happen to any horse – anything like barrel racing, reining, or jumping, where a horse is powering from its hind end and making fast, tight turns on soft footing.
Corrective shoeing/trimming or improving the biomechanics of ridden work might prevent overreaching in some horses, but not all.
In the short term, for competitions, or for riding on a wet footing where the horse might lose his balance, bell boots offer the best protection for the heel and coronary band.
Horses who overreach no matter what, due to conformation, may need to wear them throughout their lives.
Many owners also trailer their horses in bell boots, since they can step on themselves if they scramble around in the trailer. Not all shipping boots offer coronary band protection.
You can have a good time with bell boots. They come in a wide variety of fun colors with endless choices of material. Everything from plain black to sparkles and zebra stripes.
However, you can also get anatomically shaped ones, ones designed not to twist around on the foot, ones with extra padding at the heel, and ones made out of breathable material or heavy-duty shock-absorbing neoprene.
Some have fleece trims around the top to prevent rubs, while others have nylon lining.
Expensive pairs made out of high-tech materials can run you over $100.
Keeping Shoes On
Wandering a pasture hunting for a lost shoe is an activity familiar to every horse owner. It can be a nightmare.
If your horse is a serial shoe-thrower, it might be due to catching the backs of his front shoes with his hind feet and ripping off the shoes. Bell boots can help.
If he’s losing hind shoes, however, a pair of boots are unlikely to prevent it.
You will definitely want pull-on style protective boots. Horses can remove velcro fastenings in an instant. No one wants to be hunting for a lost bell boot, either.
Neoprene, faux leather, and other soft materials will be tough to keep clean. Thus gum rubber bell boots make the best turn-out choice.
The rubber can be blasted with the hose, then with a bit of warm water, it’s soft enough to pull over your horse’s foot.
Read our extensive list of the best bell boots.
1. Which way do bell boots go on?
Velcro boots wrap around the pastern to cover the hoof wall and coronary band, while pull-on boots are pulled over the hoof to then cover the same area.
2. Can you leave bell boots on all the time?
If your horse injures himself or pulls shoes in turn-out, he will need to wear them most of the time. However, he should be given breaks to prevent rubs and let his foot and coronary band breathe.
3. How do I put Velcro on my bell boots?
The best way is to just buy bell boots with velcro already on them. If your boots lose or rip their velcro, they can be repaired.
Learning how to put bell boots on a horse is pretty easy, even for beginner riders.
They are another useful tool in the box of protective gear we use for our horses.
Once you know how to put them on, it will become second nature.
1. Paul Pion DVM, Spadafori G. Veterinary Partner. VINcom [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Nov 14]; Available from: https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=10010120
2. Over-reaching | Equimed – Horse Health Matters [Internet]. EquiMed. Available from: https://equimed.com/diseases-and-conditions/reference/over-reaching
3. Keeping Your Horses Legs Healthy [Internet]. Severn Edge Vets. Available from: https://www.severnedgevets.co.uk/equine/advice/keeping-your-horses-legs-healthy
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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