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Protective and Supportive Leg Equipment for Your Horse

Advantages of Bell Boots and Leg Wraps For Horses
Article by ThinLine Performance Saddle Pads and Horse Boots

Horses have no padding from muscle tissue in the lower leg so tender bones, such as the splint bone, as well as tendons and ligaments have no natural protection. Equine boots help protect the delicate structures of the leg from obstacles, or from the horses own hooves. Some boot styles also help support the tendons and ligaments. Often how we need to protect horses is dictated by what we use our horses for and what added stresses we, as riders put upon them.

Some horses, no matter how light their workload is, are prone to over-reaching, forging, or interfering and injuring themselves.  It is generally thought most backyard pleasure horses do not need any type of leg protection.  But, back yard pleasure horses are often ridden only on the weekends. This means their fitness level is not as high as competition horses. It is generally when horses are fatigued they strike themselves more often. So if they are taken out and ridden for many hours on the weekend they frequently need leg protection as much as performance horses. Young horses that are being started may hit themselves because they are unbalanced. And of course, performance horses-hunters, jumping, endurance horses, barrel race, reiners and many others- benefit not only from impact protection but from the soft tissue support found in many horse boots.

Depending on what your horse's specific problem is, or what sport you're competing in, there are many boots to choose from. Manufacturers don't always use the exact same name to describe all boots and different boots serve different functions.

The thicker padding on the inside of all boots protects the delicate splint bone along the inside of the cannon bone. This bone is very easily broken and can lead to several months of lameness as well as permanent cosmetic issues. Once a splint bone breaks it is often difficult to find a product which can accommodate the permanent swelling without causing the horse discomfort.
When putting on any type of boot the elastic strap must be pulled from the front (bone) and wrap towards the back.  Never pull hard on the tendon at the back of the leg.
It's important that leg protection fits well, is kept clean and in the case of bell boots used for stabling or turn out, checked frequently in case the boots are chaffing. Built up sweat, grit and dust can make boots uncomfortable, so cleaning them regularly is essential unless you purchase a boot without these drawbacks. Buying products which do not collect dirt and sweat is always the best option. They are generally more expensive but they last longer. Here are the most commonly used leg protection or horse boots.

1. Bell Boots
These boots encircle the pastern and the bell shape covers the entire hoof. They can be made of rubber, heavy synthetic material or leather lined with fleece at the coronary band. Bell boots are worn in the stall or paddock, or while ridden. Bell boots can be worn on the front or back but are rarely seen on the hind legs.  The two most important functions of the bell boot are to protect the coronary band which can lead to fairly profound soundness issues if damaged repeatedly, and to keep the horse from pulling off front shoes.

2. Leg Wraps
Before there were specialized horse boots, leg wraps were the predominate method of equine leg protection. Polo wraps and track bandages are the most common type used for riding and standing bandages are used in the stable.  Most riders have moved away from polo wraps and track bandages because if wrapped wrong they can easily bow a tendon. Additionally they need to be laundered and rewound after each ride.  Now that more effective boots are on the market polo wraps have taken a back seat to boots.

3. Brush, Brushing Boots, also called Sport Boots
These are closed front boots (they go all the way around the leg) and are usually worn on the front and hind legs and help prevent the horse from hitting itself during hard work.
Brushing boots protect the entire leg.  This boot is preferred by event riders, endurance riders and dressage riders.  Brushing boots are frequently lined with sheepskin or other shock absorbing materials.  The outer shell should be breathable if not lined with a ventilating fabric.  One of the consequences of fully booting or wrapping legs is heat built up.  When soft tissue is over heated strains, pulls and damage to soft tissue occur more frequently. If you chose the wrong product you are actually increasing the probability of leg damage.  Again, the more expensive boots contain more protection and less heat retention.  A few more dollars to stay away from neoprene products is generally advisable. Consider the cost of one veterinary visit. 

Brush boots also called Sport Boots and Galloping Boots are most often used while lunging, breaking young horses, for fast moving sports: such as polo, endurance, barrel racing, cutting and horses who do a good deal of lateral work such as dressage horses.  Any horse in an activity where they might cross and strike their hind legs should be in a brush or sport boot.  These boots are the tallest boot available for the hind legs.

These boots sit at or above the pastern joint and protect the lower bones and soft tissue of the lower leg. These boots offer some support if they contain a product with tensile strength. They are primarily for protection, rather like shin pads used in soccer (football) except that the protection is available around the entire leg, front, back, inside and outside.

Splint boots can be made of synthetic materials or leather. They are an open front boot providing protection only along the inside of the leg. Splint boots are generally the least expensive boot available and primarily lined with neoprene which provides almost no impact protection. Leather and hard plastic as well as shock absorbing technologies are the best materials to purchase if you chose the splint boot. They differ from schooling boots by being generally smaller and made of softer material than open front boots and protect only the inside of the horses leg. Splint boots are more popular with western rather than English riders. Generally a hind ankle boot is used in conjunction with a splint boot.  This is the least expensive boot you can buy.

Open Front Boots, also called Schooling Boots:
Open front boots protect the inside, outside and back of the of the leg (the tendon) and are used only on the front legs.  There is intentionally no protection on the front of the leg (the cannon bone) so horses may feel when they hit a rail in jumping and are therefore encouraged not to do so again  This is the most popular boot for Hunters and Jumpers.  As with all boots, price is generally directly correlated to protection and durability.  This boot is generally made of hard plastic or leather and is lined with neoprene, gel or shock absorbing foams. Generally an ankle boot or hind ankle boot (slightly taller) is used in conjunction with open fronts.

4. Shin Boots
Shin boots are most commonly used by jumpers to prevent injury to the front of the leg when hitting a jump rail.

5. Ankle, Fetlock Boots
Fetlock boots are for protection when a horse hits itself by traveling too close behind. They cover the pastern joint and fetlock areas of the lower hind legs. They are not meant to provide support. They are usually made with leather or synthetic materials and lined with sheep skin or other soft material.  They are the smallest of all boots and do not cover the tendons and ligaments so there is little to no danger of overheating the soft tissue.

6. Knee Boots
Equine knees are hard to protect.  Riders find knee boots very hard to keep in place but sometimes knee protection is needed. Barrel racers and reiners are sometimes seen with knee boots. These boots aren't really supportive, but provide extra padding to horses if they may bump their knees together in spin or make contact with a barrel.

7. Skid Boots
Skid boots protect the back and lower portion of hind fetlocks and pasterns. A good skid boot will provide support along with protection from contact with the riding surface during fast stops and turns. You'll see these boots most commonly on reiners who perform sliding stops, and on cutting horses. They will be made of leather and fleece or a synthetic material that provides cushioning. Skid boots typically wear out quickly so again consider how much you want to pay vs how often you want to replace them and always remember if you boots are damaged just realize how much you have done to protect your horse.

8. Sports Medicine Boots
The Sports Medicine Boot was originally designed by Professionals Choice. It was a radical design and really changed the equine boot market.  Now that their patent has expired there are hundreds of manufacturers who have copied the great design of this boot.  While the design of the boot has provided the equine world with a boot that truly supports soft tissue such as the digital flexor tendon and suspensory ligaments the problems of overheating and dirt and bacteria growth associated with neoprene lined products have led designers to improve this boot further.

Sports medicine boots provide both protection and support. They cover the lower leg, front or back from the pastern to below the knee. Due to the wrapped design these boots provide the greatest support to the tendons and ligaments. They are used in every equine discipline and is a boot that, because of its great function crosses the demands of fashion between English and western riding styles. Because the boot Velcro’s onto itself the outer surface must be made of neoprene.

Neoprene is commonly used as a material for scuba diving suits, fly fishing waders ,etc  as it provides excellent insulation against cold.  Neoprene is less expensive than breathable fabrics.  Some horses  are allergic to neoprene while others can get dermatitis from thioureas residues left from its production. The more spongy foamed neoprene is designed for insulation.  It has very little impact (shock absorbency) and is a culprit of heat retention.  Additionally neoprene breaks down rapidly so its life span is shorter than breathable impact protecting foams.  The cheaper neoprene foams also collect dirt and are difficult to clean. Bacteria is alive and well in many sport medicine boots so we recommend you find a boot which is lined on the inside, against the horses leg, with something other than neoprene.
While the Sports Medicine Boot radically changed the boot world now manufacturers are redesigning this boot with better materials inside to not only provide even better support but also to improve ventilation and cleanliness.

ThinLine, originally famous for their technology in effective saddle pad technology also has a line of horse boots and tack which are made with ThinLine: the most impact protection without historical drawbacks: Ventilates, supports, molds to legs for a custom fit, will not collect dirt and is so anti-fungal and anti -bacterial it actually promotes healthy skin.  Also, ThinLine is extremely thin and flexible while also providing more impact protection than 10 times the thickness of neoprene or other spongy foam products .  ThinLine also molds to the horses leg at every ride (when it hits about 85 degrees F).  It is able to create a custom fit for every horse.  Infused with USDA approved anti-Fungal and anti-bacterial agents (government rated to remain effective for 7 years) ThinLine actually kills rain-rot (also known as mud fever).  Riders in humid climates ride and turnout in these boots to support healthy skin.

ThinLine offers the following boots for your horses health, comfort and safety.
ThinLine Sport Boot: This boot has several features not found in other products: They are thin, lightweight, and mold to the horses leg.  Machine washable (you can even bleach the white ones).  Dirt does not stick to the ThinLine and water is not absorbed so riders can work in wet arenas or cross rivers without the boot becoming heavy, shifting or rubbing.  They ventilate keeping soft tissue cool and reducing potential injuries from overheating or from impact.  They are available in two sizes and riders generally use a tall hind boot but may also couple the front Sport Boot with the Schooling ankle boot.
ThinLine Schooling Boot:  Hard shell plastic in Black, White, Navy or Grey, is lined with ThinLine shock absorbing foam.  Double Velcro closure with an open front.  They have all the features of the sport boot.  Horses love this light weight breathable boot and owners love the protection, easy care and price.
ThinLine Bell Boots and Skid Boots: Custom Fit: When warmed to body temperature ThinLine molds to the horses leg. Protection: Impact protection without bulk. Non Slip: No rub boots stay light even when working in wet conditions. No More Dirt: Arena footing won't stick to ThinLine. Durability: This is the most durable and easy to clean products on the market. Health: ThinLine is Infused with USDA anti -fungal & anti-microbial agents. Bell boots are available with or without sheepskin trim at the coronary band.

ThinLine Cobra Boot: This amazing boot gives you all the support of the Sports Medicine Boot design but has a few added features not available in any other boot.  SMB boots are most frequently used on Quarter Horses, traditionally horses with the smallest and shortest cannon bone.  Other boots add several layers of neoprene or other foams to provide enough impact protection and the boot looks like a big bump on an otherwise dainty leg.  With the Cobra boot you can have the best protection available in a thin boot which looks more like a polo wrap than a boot.  Since it will not accumulate dirt or grow bacteria the boot is also the best choice for healthy skin and horses who feel supported yet liberated to move well (not to mention having a sleek looking boot). Since ThinLine vents laterally it is able to cool tendons beneath neoprene.  Horses love this boot!
For more information on ThinLine Leg Protection please visit thinlineglobal.com

Contact: Our Friendly Staff
2945 South Miami Blvd.Ste. #120
Durham, North Carolina 27703
Phone: 888-401-9101
Email: info@thinlineglobal.com
Website: thinlineglobal.com

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