How to choose the correct hoof boots for your barefoot horse.
The first thing you need to do is to measure your horses hooves as accurately as possible. Ideally this is done just after a fresh trim, and all hoof boots are designed with a growth tolerance built in. If you are between trims, you need to allow a little leeway, expect them to be a tighter fit than you expect at first when new and be prepared that they may not fit after the next trim if it is more or less radical than you expect, hence it is worth speaking to your trimmer to see what they are aiming for long term. The width is taken at the widest point of the horses hoof (normally approximately ½ way or slightly over ½ way towards the heel from the toe). The length is taken to be the weight bearing surface of the hoof, do not include the frog/fleshy part of the heel. It is helpful to hold a straight edge across the back of the heel buttresses and the measure from the toe, bisecting the frog to the line you have formed. If you horse has very upright or under run heels, you will need to envisage where the heel should be if the hoof was normal, and take your measurements to that point (usually the widest part of the back of the frog), and not the actual termination of the horny heel.
Once you have determined the width and length of the hooves you wish to boot, have a look at them and decide using the information below which shape most closely describes them. From the information given, you will find recommendations for your horses hoof shape, but if your horse is between shapes, or has one hoof one shape and one the other, look at as many recommended hoof boots as possible and choose the hoof boots that most closely fit the hooves. You are aiming for a close as fit as possible with both the width and length of the hooves. If the feet are very different and not a pair, try to choose boots that accommodate both hooves adequately, and not one that fits one hoof perfectly to the detriment of the other.
1. The round hoof or nearly round hoof (less than 5mm shorter or longer than width measurement)
The round hoof, of hoof that is very slightly (approx 5mm) longer than it is wide is the most common front hoof shape. Front feet are designed to bear 60-70% of the horses weight, which produces a slightly larger rounder bearing surface than hind feet which tend to be more concave and shovel shaped in appearance. Hoof boots tend to favour the hoof that is longer than it is wide to some degree, and this hoof shape is normally best suited to an old mac G2, or a boa. It is important to try and get a close width fitting and the shortest break over possible which often means an old mac G2 will be the most suitable as they are sized every 5mm allowing fairly precise fitting. A hoof measuring 140mm width x 140mmlengh for example would fit nicely into an old mac G2 size 7 as the width would be a close fit with only 5mm excess toe length. For hooves that are nearer the 5mm longer shape, the cavallo hoof boot can also be considered.
2. The wider than long hoof (more than 5mm wider than long)
The wider than long hoof is another common front foot shape, particularly in draught and TB horses. The most modern hoof boots do not fit ths shape well, and if your horse has measurements where the width is more than 5mm more than the length, the original old mac (G1) is the only suitable hoof boot. The original old mac is made to fit this shape foot, all other hoof boots will have excessive toe length which slows the horses break over, and causes a high incidence of boot loss through overreaching and treading the boot off. If your horse had hoof measurements of 139mm width x 128mm length a size 6 in an old mac G1 would offer the best fit. If the horses feet are too big to fit an original G1 old mac, booting can be a problem. Other than getting a pair of hoof boots custom made from a US company, the only other solution at the moment is to adapt an easy boot epic as best as possible. Select the size epic as tight as possible to the width, and replace the heel strap with one a size smaller than the boots in order to push the foot forward into the boot. Use a 12mm comfort pad to cut a cresent shape and insert it into the toe to keep the foot from jamming into the end of the hoof boot. By doing this you should find the hoof stays more central in the hoof boot and works reasonably well. However, if your horse has a tendancy to overreach, this method will not work as the length of break over will slow the path of the front foot and leave it more prone to being caught by a hind hoof.
3. The longer than wide hoof (approx upto 15mm longer than width measurement)
This hoof shape is common in hind feet, where the hoof is more concave and shovel shaped. The diamond shaped hind foot tends to be longer than wide, and will normaly fit a wider variety of hoof boots depending on the degree of length compared to width. For example a hoof that is 130mm width x 139 mmlength would fit a size 2 in an epic/bare/grip well, or an old mac G2 size 6. Cavallo hoof boots also will often suit this hoof shape nicely. Again it is important to get as tight a width fitting as possible, and can be especially important with hind feet as a lot of horse have a tendancy to twist their hind feet which can cause the boots to twist in use if the boot is not gripping the boot.
4. The excessively longer than wide hoof (approx over 15mm longer than width measurement)
The front feet of a navicular or lamanitic horse can often be very much long than wide, which can limit the boots available, once the measurements become more extreme, the old mac G2 becomes the best option when used with the inserts to take up the width. For example, a hoof width 129mm x 154mm length would need a size 9 G2 probably with inserts, even though the width is really better suited to a size 5. The only time this will not work successfully is a narrow chested pony or small horse as the boots will be too wide for the horse to cope with and will catch them on each other.
If you are at all unsure if the boot is right for your horse, or you are between sizes we always recommend hiring a pair first to see if they suit the horses hooves. It is much more economical that ending up with a cupboard full of nearly new hoof boots!
- Choose a hoof boot that fit’s the shape of your horses feet, this is the most important rule for successful booting of barefoot horses.
- If you have to compromise with sizes, try to make sure the width is as tight as possible (but within the measurement guide) to grip the hoof, and keep the break over as short as possible.
- Don’t choose a boot that is just too short and hope it will be OK, it is almost certain to give your horse sore heels!
- If your horses foot is really too extreme for any of the boots, you may have to consider having a pair made- there are places in the US that will make to measure (at a price!). If your horse is sore and you need something, we have found the hoofeeze boot very useful as a short term measure and especially useful when used with a good pad and an experienced trimmer to help improve the hoof and correct the width/length ratio.
- Every hoof boot has its merits, but will not perform well if it is the wrong size or incorrectly fitted so if you have problems, recheck sizes and the settings it is being used on to make sure it really is the best one for your horses foot shape and size.