In years past, the only two options in horse hoof care were to shoe horses or leave horses barefoot. While the barefoot horse is said to have healthier hooves, some horses aren’t as blessed with good hoof structure. This means that these horses require something in the middle of being shod or being barefoot.
Hoof care is where the hoof boot has made serious inroads. To maintain healthy hooves, a horse needs to have their hoof protected. This also allows the same natural functioning of the hoof structure as a barefoot horse has.
What Are Hoof Boots?
A hoof boot is a specialized slip-on shoe that fits the horse’s hoof with special fittings such as a rear double velcro attachment to hold it in place. The hoof boot covers the entire hoof wall, providing support, and addressing issues such as hoof sensitivity and other hoof ailments.
Hoof boots are not worn permanently 24/7 like other shoes are. Instead, hoof boots are like riding boots to humans. The horse only wears them when they are going to be working over rough terrain or if they have an injury to treat.
Horse owners rely on horse boots to help manage their horse’s hoof structure and integrity. While out trail riding or on slippery terrain the extra grip can be useful.
By respecting and fostering the natural hoof, hoof boots help keep a hoof free from ailment.
How Do Hoof Boots Work?
Hoof boots can also be used to treat an injured hoof by holding a poultice in place to treat an abscess. Or they prevent sole bruising when a horse has an injury or condition such as contracted heels.
With the extra protection of a simple boot, your horse can really enjoy the benefits of having each stride cushioned and protected.
A horse’s hooves are intended to carry them on any terrain without leading to chronic lameness. When a horse pulls their shoes regularly, a hoof boot may be the best way to ensure they don’t end up with a lost shoe. Even the best shoes can easily detach in mud, breaking the entire hoof wall in some instances.
A bare-foot horse has a more frequent trim cycle, which is why fitting a removable shoe such as the Scoot boot and Cavallo boots can be beneficial. Removing the hoof boot helps the hoof to grow normally while your horse is in their paddock or pasture. This also requires no farrier—unlike traditional shoes where the nails need to be removed to take shoes off.
When you are out trail riding or doing endurance riding, your horse has the benefit of the hoof boot protecting their hooves from uneven terrain and stone bruises.
Additionally, a good-quality hoof boot helps provide traction to a horse over uneven terrain. With the abrasion resistance offered by the high-quality soles, the horse really enjoys the best of both worlds.
Hoof Boots vs Traditional Shoes
While traditional shoes are great at remedying many hoof problems such as laminitis and cracks, there are some side effects to long-term wear of shoes. Horses have a very dynamic hoof structure. A horse’s unshod hooves are flexible, giving in response to their movement. This influences the blood circulation in their hooves.
A hoof boot, since it is not made from steel (in most cases), is flexible. It’s shield protects the hoof from environmental damage. Additionally, a hoof boot has a special design that makes them ideally suited to be used as a therapy boot.
Hoof boots are as resilient as traditional shoes. The tough polyurethane sole that most types of hoof boots are made of can cushion the horse’s hoof. With hoof protection all around the hoof, not just at the bottom, the hoof boot is a much more effective option.
The simple slip-on boot design of hoof boots provides for a convenient alternative that really works.
Fitting Hoof Boots Correctly
As with traditional shoes, horse hoof boots are also subject to their accurate fitment for results. An incorrectly fitted hoof boot can also become lost or lead to damage to the hoof. Worse still, an incorrectly measured hoof boot can cause pressure on the horse’s hoof and cause them to be trimmed more frequently.
Steps To Fitting Hoof Boots Accurately
Measure your horse’s hooves according to the manufacturer’s instructions before ordering your hoof boots. Make sure to measure all four of your horse’s hooves as soon as they have had a fresh trim as this is the most natural shape your horse’s hooves will have.
When your new hoof boots arrive, be sure to check the condition of your horse’s hooves at that point in time. Your horse may be due for a trim again, or they may have broken a section of their hoof. This could result in the need for balancing inside the hoof boot. Using a removable internal leather sole that helps with absorbing moisture and balancing the hoof wall inside the boot is a great option.
Ensure your horse’s legs are clean and dry before fitting the hoof boots. The horse’s skin is sensitive, and having some mud or sand inside the hoof boot, chafing them can lead to abrasion and discomfort.
To get the hoof boots on some horses’ hooves may require some basic skills. Hold the boot firmly in one hand, asking your horse to lift their hoof, like they would for the farrier. Slip each of the hoof boots onto your horse’s hooves, one at a time.
The final step is to use the soft strap design of the hoof boot to secure the hoof boots around the horse’s pastern. Your horse may walk like a ballerina for a few steps, but they will soon adjust to walking in hoof boots.
Best Hoof Boots (Our Top 5 Picks)
Cavallo Simple Hoof Boot for Horses (Best Simple Design)
- All-terrain hoof protection for the barefoot horse
- Simple to Size; Simple to put on and stay on
- Rehabilitation from injuries, abscesses, navicular disease, laminitis/founder, punctures, sole bruising and contracted heels
- Genuine Leather upper is comfortable and flexible
- Center of outsole is recessed to minimize pressure.High-performance TPU (Thermo Plastic Urethane) out soles
For a tried and trusted hoof boot design that works, consider the Cavallo hoof boot. This is an uber-simple boot to slip onto your horse’s hoof. It works on the same basic principle that over-reach or brushing boots work on.
Simply choose the correct size, clean your horse’s legs, and fit the hoof boot, securing it with the flexible across-the-hoof wall strap. It’s hard to go wrong with 14 hoof sizes available.
- Deep tread for extra support
- The high-performance TPU outsole guarantees support for thin soles
- Protects the barefoot horse on rough terrain
- Vents at the side of the boot for ventilation to keep hoof cool
- If incorrectly fitted, the straps can lead to rubbing and bruising
- Only sold in sets of two, making replacement of a lost boot difficult
- Air vents can accumulate dirt
EasyCare Easyboot Cloud Hoof Boot (Best Budget)
When you’re on a budget, the EasyCare Easyboot is ideal. At a much lower price point than the Cavallo hoof boots, these hoof boots are perfect.
- At the low price, buy a second set to have a “spare tire”
- Waterproof thread and water-resistant PVC material
- Available in six sizes
- Closed design with small vents can create bacterial infections
- Velcro tab on boots is a weak point and rips easily
TUBBEASE Hoof Soaking Boot (Best Medicinal Hoof Boot)
- WARNING: CHOOSE YOUR SIZE CAREFULLY! -- View our Fitting Video Guide before Selecting Your Size. Tubbease Size Indicates Maximum Internal Diameter of Hoof Sock NOT Hoof Measurement. Ensure Hoof Measurement Fits WITHIN Tubbease Size. Correct Fitting is Crucial to the Success of Tubbease and the Comfort of Your Horse or Pony.
- ESSENTIAL HOOF CARE -- Tubbease is the Ultimate Short-Term Equine Treatment Boot for a Variety of Hoof Problems in Horses & Ponies Including Laminitis, Abscess, Seedy Toe, Thrush, Thin Soles and Compromised or Damaged Hooves. The PVC-Moulded Sock is Perfect for Hoof Soaking but Can Be Used over Hoof Wraps and Dressings for Wound Protection and Cleanliness. The EVA Sole Insert (sold separately) adds an Additional Layer of Comfort for Sensitive Soles.
- A SOLUTION THAT LETS HOOVES BREATHE NATURALLY -- Other Sealed Poultice and Soaking Boots Can Prevent the Hoof from Breathing which in Turn, Softens the Hoof and Inhibits the Healing Process. Tubbease’ PVC-moulded Hoof Sock ‘Breathes’ whilst still Protecting and Soaking the Damaged Hoof and Can be Quickly and Easily Applied Without the Need for Dressings and Tape.
- DESIGNED AND DEVELOPED IN NEW ZEALAND -- The Tubbease Hoof Sock was Designed in New Zealand by a Local Farrier, and Developed by Shoof International Ltd. The Hoof Sock Solves the Problem many Farriers Face of Poulticing Hooves Without ‘Stewing’ them.
- USE IN CONFINED SPACES ONLY -- Tubbease is a Short-Term Treatment Hoof Boot Best Used on Horses in Enclosed Spaces/Stable or Yard (Non Turnout). Don't let Lameness Cripple Your Horses - Keep Tubbease Handy in your Stable's Veterinary Kit to Combat Hoof Problems that May Occur.
When your horse ends up with an abscess, having a better method to apply the poultice (other than a nappy and duct tape) is a great bonus. These boots are also ideal to treat chronic pain, chronic lameness, tendon strain, and sensitive feet.
- The hoof boot has removable socks that are sold individually
- Durable construction for soaking damaged hooves
- Fits most hoof shapes, but correct measurement of size is important
- Can be applied to horses wearing shoes
- Rolled material of sock can rub sensitive skin with prolonged use
- Not suitable for turn out in paddocks or pastures
EasyCare Easyboot Trail (Best Trail Hoof Boot)
When hitting a trail with your trusted steed, having a durable boot that delivers protection and grip is ideal over rough terrain. Without being unduly rough on your budget, the EasyCare Trail boot is a great choice.
- Available in 11 sizes
- High quality exterior made from Condurareg and leather panels
- Suitable for 25 miles riding per day
- Proven tread quality and air vents ensure a cool ride
- Sold individually
- Top of the hoof boot can rub the horse’s pastern raw on the buttress line where the boot cuffs to the leg
SCOOT BOOT HOOF BOOTS (PAIR) (Best Ventilated)
Scoot boots take a very different approach to Cavallo or EasyBoot in that their design is much more skeletal with much more space for ventilation. These hoof boots are also easily rinsed when riding in muddy areas.
- Offers great ventilation to cool hooves
- Easy to clean, fit, and use
- Manufactured in many sizes according to the width and length of boot.
- Horses with longer hooves can have hooves pushing against the ventilation gaps
- Easier to hook the open cage design on surrounding obstacles
- Easier to suffer impact and damage to the horse’s hoof wall with larger sections exposed
Hoof Boots Buyer’s Guide
The materials used to manufacture the hoof boots should be resistant to water, wear and tear, and abrasions. For front shoes, the hoof boots need to fit securely to avoid tripping.
If the boot has buckles or clasps, these should be made from rustproof metal to avoid water tarnishing the boots.
All hoof boots should be fully adjustable. The boots should be secured by an adjustable clamp to ensure the boots fit exactly right. A loose boot will gather rubbish and dirt that can lead to rubbing.
Design features such as having three air vents to cool a hoof boot are required to offer your horse the best from their hoof boots. A heavy, water-absorbing, and non-cooling hoof boot will result in serious damage to the hoof and your horse.
Hoof boots are a great resource for riders, but caution should be taken to follow the manufacturer’s care and fitment instructions to the letter. An overly tight boot can lead to a loss of blood circulation, which can see your horse suffer greatly.
Also remember that most hoof boots are sold individually, which means you will have to order up to four times if you want to have all four of your horse’s feet in hoof boots. A single hoof boot will do more damage than good.
You don’t have to break the bank with the latest Scoot boot or Cavallo to offer your horse the best. Get what is in your budget that will offer the best value for money.