Turnout boots are a popular tool to protect and help avoid unnecessary injuries that could jeopardise a competition horse’s programme — as well as for horses recovering from injury.
“It’s really a case of horses for courses,” says showjumper Frances Collins. “I went through a phase of turning mine out in boots on advice from a vet, but all they did was rub and cut into their legs. That said, I still believe there is a case for turnout boots on a horse that likes to play hard in the field.”
Rachel Wakefield from Uptown Eventing says: “Boots can be time consuming, but an injury is much more annoying. It has to be a horse-specific personal choice.”
There are many who fear mollycoddling their equines, and believe horses need to instinctively look after where they put their feet when turned out and during exercise.
“I’d rather find out why the horse is injuring itself than put turnout boots on,” says polo player and high-goal manager Nick Evans. “If at all possible, exercise before turnout so your horse is not so fresh when he gets to play.”
The pros and cons
“Turnout boots certainly have their place for horses that are at known risk of injury, providing support and protection to the lower leg if correctly fitted,” says vet Caroline Balfour.
Likewise, if your horse is recovering from an injury, it is advisable to protect and support this part of his leg in some way with boots.
But Caroline also points out: “Using turnout boots in wet and muddy conditions can do more harm than good. Mud from poached ground can work between the boot and skin, causing rubbing.
“Wet material in contact with skin over a prolonged period will damage the skin’s natural barrier, predisposing it to bacterial infections such as mud fever.
“When applying turnout boots it is very important to ensure that both the boots and the skin are clean and dry; this can be difficult to achieve in a wet winter. Owners should carefully consider risk versus benefit to each individual horse.”
Turnout boots can also cause legs to over heat. Warm tendons and ligaments are more susceptible to injury or strain and so, inadvertently, wearing tendon boots in the field could have the opposite effect from what was intended.
Ref: H&H 19 February, 2015