If you had to ration protective gear, you’d probably opt to ride without your boots before riding your horse without his. That’s because anyone who’s been around horses for a reasonable amount of time knows that horses legs are the most common site of injury, the lower legs being prime. This is true across all riding disciplines, and even if you’ve never had a horse with a leg injury, chances are you know someone who has.
Equine physiology expert Dr. David Marlin notes the irony of the situation: the athleticism and fleet movement of horses is possible only because of the lack of muscle, bone and soft tissue at the end of the legs, “but this ‘streamlining’ means there is little to cushion any impacts…”. Thus boots and wraps make sense.
We’ve all seen horses get immediate wounds from a fall, hitting a fence, overreach, a trailer ride, etc. Boots & Wraps Protect. Other injuries occur from chronic strain, such as repetitive movement, carrying weight, and the demands of flexion and framing. Boots & Wraps Support. So I’ll say it again…boots and wraps make sense…right? Well it’s not that simple. They actually can create as many problems as they solve.
Thermal Imaging Following the Removal of Eventing Boots
LEFT FRONT #1
224 Equestrian Dri-Cool Air Boot in place after removal of eventing boot
RIGHT FRONT #2
Bare leg after removal of eventing boot
Dr Marlin summarizes the hard facts:
- Protection & Support: There’s no proof boots designed to protect actually provide support, and visa versa—those made to support don’t necessarily protect. Moreover, he notes that most are applied too tightly. They can limit blood flow, create pressure points, reduce range of motion, and simply transfer strain and load from one area to another. Changing load, altering movement and restricting blood flow can increase risk of injury and tissue damage.
- Weight: Boots and wraps can be heavy. Added weight, especially far down the leg, changes the energy and force required to move AND the movement itself. Wet bandages and boots can weigh twice as much as dry ones. And moisture is not just heavy, it’s wet.
- Wetness: Hyper-hydrated skin (like when you “stay in the bath too long”) cannot breathe and is more susceptible to trauma. Clipped legs are even more vulnerable in this situation, and debris can get also caught under boots and wraps, adding to the risk of rubs, abrasions and infections.
- Heat: It seems that heat hurts. Multiple studies demonstrate that legs with boots and wraps get significantly hotter than bare legs, reaching temperatures that kill the majority of tendon cells in the lab. As early as 1994, research questioned whether the accumulated heat under boots and wraps might contribute to tendon injury and the research on damage from heat is growing. Recovery from tendon injury can take months and months--f it is possible at all--so prevention is definitely better than cure. Prevailing wisdom cautions riders to apply boots and wraps more carefully and monitor duration of use, especially during rigorous exercise in hot climates.
224 Equestrian Dri-Cool Air Boot under wrap
Keeping your horse’s legs cooler, drier and cushioned is a good strategy. When worn under your horse’s boots or wraps, 224Equestrian Dri-Cool Air Boots increase airflow by 100% when compared to boots and wraps worn alone. This makes for a cooler, drier and healthier leg. 224Equestrian Dri-Cool Air Boots can also be used on their own for turnout to keep legs drier and healthier while still protected—all this without the issues and concerns associated with the use of traditional boots worn for extended periods of time.
STAY COOL! STAY DRY! ENJOY THE RIDE!
1. Chapman, Stella. (2018). Tendon boots or bandages and the competition horse. Equine Health. 2018. 38-39. 10.12968/eqhe.2018.42.38.
2. Hopegood L, Sander L, Ellis AD. (2013). The influence of boot design on exercise associated surface temperature of tendons on horses. Exercise Physiology, 9(3/4): 147-1152.
3. Marlin D, (2015). Protective boots for horses – The Pros and Cons! http://davidmarlin.co.uk/portfolio/protective-boots-for-horses-the-pros-and-cons/