A leading scientist has warned that using weighted boots on show jumpers and young horses could lead to long-term musculoskeletal problems.

Research by Dr Jack Murphy of University College Dublin has highlighted the need to monitor welfare implications of weighted boots.

The study, carried out last year, measured hindlimb elevation while jumping. It found that horses fitted with performance-enhancing (weight and pressure) boots gave fences 30cm more clearance on average than those who were not.

The boots are designed to induce hyper-flexion of the hindlimbs and are widely used in show jumping. In Ireland 70% of horses competing at Nations Cup level and more than 47% of horses contesting national 1.30m young horse classes wear them.

At a vet symposium at Myerscough College on 18 February, Dr Murphy said: “Like all training aids, performance-enhancing boots have their pros and cons. At the moment, it is unclear whether their continued usage leads to damage or overexertion of equine limbs, but the fact that there is such a difference between horses who use them and those who don’t points to the possibility of long-term musculoskeletal problems.”

Show jumper Peter Charles said: “I would like to see weighted boots banned — in fact I’d like to see all back boots banned apart from soft felt ones with a limited degree of fastening. They do more harm than good, and are a total abuse in the wrong hands. There are no short cuts in riding.”

For this story in full, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (5 March, ’09)