Hoof Boot-Types

Horse Boot Types

The term 'Horse Boot' can be used in two different ways:

  • in the narrow sense of a protective boot which fits on the hoof of a horse,
  • or in the wider sense of a protective covering for either the hoof or part of the leg

This article uses the wider sense, with explanations and photos of the various types of protective coverings.

Boot Type Photo
Hoof Boot - A protective covering for the hoof, often used instead of horseshoes and sometimes in addition to horseshoes. Detailed information at Horse Hoof Boots. Horse Boot Image

Brushing Boot - Protective cover for the lower leg, to prevent a horse injuring itself when the inside of the leg is hit by the opposite foot. Take care not to fit them to high (which can result in rubbing the back of the knee) or too low (which can limit fetlock movement). When fitting, the most thickly padded side faces to the inside. Depending on the horse's requirements, can be fitted to the two front legs or the two back legs or all four legs.

photo horse brushing boots
Fetlock Boot - Similar function as a brushing boot, put protects a smaller area of the inner leg (just the fetlock) photo horse fetlock boot
Fetlock Ring - Similar to a fetlock boot, but consists only of a ring (often made of rubber). Also known as a 'sausage boot'  photo horse fetlock ring

Tendon Boot - Fitted to the front legs, to prevent the back of the legs and in particular the tendons from striking by a hind hoof. Padding should be to the back and some models are left open to the front.

Photo of horse tendon boots

Knee Boot - Covers the front of the knees on the front legs. Typically intended to protect in the event of a fall and sometimes used during transport for this reason. The top strap should be snug enough to prevent it from slipping over the knee while the bottom strap is left loose for freedom of movement.

photo of horse knee boot
Hock Boot - Covers the back of the knees on the back leg. Used to protect against injury from leaning back against a hard surface; sometimes used during transport for this purpose. Like a knee boot, top strap is snug and bottom strap is loose. photo horse hock boot

Over Reach Boot - Used to protect the pastern and hoof. Generally worn only on the front hooves as protection against being struck by the rear hooves (known as over-reach) or being hit by the shoes on the rear hooves. Can be used to protect the hooves from being struck by the opposing hoof or shoe. Also known as 'bell boots' as they are bell-shaped. Should be fitted so that the back just touches the ground.

photo horse over-reach boot
Coronet Boot. Similar to an over-reach boot, but covers the entire hoof and the sensitive coronet area. Intended to protect damage to coronet or hoof resulting from another horse stepping on it. Often used in polo, due to the risk of this injury as horses mill about in close contact. photo horse coronet boot

In addition to the above, there are various medical boots, which come in a number of forms (depending on which part of the leg or hoof is to be treated). Some of the most common are:

  • Poultice Boots - Used to hold a poultice, bandage or medication in place.
  • Magnetic Boots - Contain magnets, for those who believe magnetic therapy can be beneficial.

Does your horse need a horse boot?

Unless your horse has a specific problem or is being injured, then your horse probably does not need a horse boot and will not benefit from being fitted with them. Circumstances in which he may benefit include:

  • If he has a gait or other issue, which is causing a hoof to injure another hoof or another leg.
  • If he might benefit from protection during training or competition (e.g. leg protection for jumpers, to soften impacts with fences being jumped).
  • If you wish to use hoof boots instead of horseshoes (or in addition, for extra protection).
  • If he has an injury and a boot can provide medical assistance.

If the horse boots are being used in response to a problem with the horse itself (such as incorrect gait), one should try to fix the underlying problem and use the protective equipment as an interim rather than a long term solution.

Selecting and using horse boots

Each type of horse boot comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials. It is important to select a size and shape which fits your horse, as a poorly fitted boot may not provide the required protection and may in fact cause injuries (such as rubbing).

The choice of material is a matter of balancing the different needs of being soft and flexible (to minimize rubbing), thick and strong enough to provide the required level of protection, and sufficiently durable for the intended lifetime.

In general, horse boots are intended to be worn for short periods (e.g. hours instead of days). To be effective (and avoid chaffing or other potential injuries), they need to be correctly and securely fastened, without being overly tight. When using them for the first time on a given horse, or when replacing them, one should check frequently during the first few usages to make sure that the new boots are fitting correctly and comfortably, without any wear on the underlying areas. 

In wet or muddy conditions, trapped water and dirt can result in increased rubbing and possible soreness. To avoid this, check the horse more often if using protective gear for prolonged periods in unfavorable conditions. 

Care of Horse Boots

Protective gear should be cleaned and correctly stored between usages. Failure to do so can reduce their effectiveness and shorten the lifespan of the equipment. Small stones or dirt can cause rubbing, so must be removed.