Gaiters (And I Don't Mean The Ones in the Swamps)

I wanted to take a moment to talk about sizing and fit of boots.

In my own shoes, I have hiking boots, riding boots, flip flops, flats and running shoes. I wouldn’t wear my hiking boots running and I wouldn’t wear flip flops hiking. My flats are ok for dancing and everyday stuff, but aren’t that great for any distance of running. You get the idea. There are fit and purpose issues here.

Let’s look at a family of boots that have the same sole: the Glue On, Glove and Glove Back Country.

As a simple Glue On, this boot reminds me of flats.

If you slid a Glue On onto a hoof, with no glue, you would have as much security of that boot staying on during riding as I would have in keeping a flat on while jogging trails. If there was mud, rocks, twists and angles, my flat would slip off of my foot. For the record, I am not volunteering to glue on my flats and see how they manage.

But the first fit of the Glue On, Glove and Back Country have something in common with my flats, so I will keep the comparison.

A hoof is measured in 2 dimensions: length and width. Yet there is a third dimension that gives the hoof its overall shape and height. Same with my feet. This is why I can’t buy shoes on ebay! I can’t tell if a size 9 will actually fit me or not. For our boots, we offer a fit-kit so that you can start with the L & W, but also  get the “fit” from the shape of the hoof and its height.

Back to my flats. The more contact with my foot, the better that puppy is staying on. If the flat is too “short” compared to my foot, it will fall off readily.

You can see the ratio between skin contact and non-contact in the heels image. What I’ve marked in green shows only a sliver of skin connection. The red shows how much of her foot is “out” of her heel. When I have less contact, I get gaps when the shoe flexes and if I am doing anything faster than walking, that causes the heel to slide off. You have to work your toes to keep barely-there flats on.

Horses don’t have toes. They can’t “work” to keep their boots on either. So you have to ensure that you have enough hoof-to-boot contact to start with. Let’s see how my horse’s boots are fitting.

First step, when we are looking at our third dimension: how tall is your hoof, when in the shell? On the left we can see possibly a ½” to ¾” gap between the top of the shell and the hairline. That’s a great ratio of covered hoof to uncovered hoof. You have “most” of the hoof in contact with the inside of that shell. On the right, we can see a horse with a hoof that is too long to fit into the shell (regardless of his length and width measurements being right). We can clearly see an inch of hoof above the shell and it looks more like 1/3 of the hoof is “out” of the boot and 2/3s of it is “in”. Additionally, just like my flats that pucker and don’t fit right, you can see the shell was waves in it, where it is puckering and gapping and not clinging to the hoof.

Here we can see a shell that has the right “height” but the one on the left, the slit has almost no gap showing  no tension between the walls of the shell and the hoof. The one on the right has a “V” in the gap, showing that the hoofwall is sufficiently snug up against the inside of the boot. You want to see a spread in that cut-out so that it looks more like a “V”.

Another part we want to look at is, is the shell too small?

Ooohh baby, you and I got the same issue. Our shoes are too small and our foot “runneth over”. When you get a “muffin top” look to your shell, the hoof is clearly too wide for the size you selected. We can also see a gap between the hoofwall and the shell and clearly, there is more hoofwall OUT of the shell than IN.

Once we get the right size shell and glue it on, we’re good to go.

What if you don’t want to glue? How do they get flats to stay on? They add gaiters.

Don’t think horse people have the exclusivity on gaiter use. Humans know their little shoes can’t stay on and they add straps to them too! They do add an additional point of fit though. If your horse’s heels are quite tall, the gaiter height won’t reach the anatomical position it was designed for.

You can see the height of the shell in relation to the hairline. At the toe, it’s relatively close. But this horse has taller heels. You can see the shell’s topline falling away from the hairline as it heads back towards the heels. This leaves our gaiter “reaching” to be velcroed.

If you put the stress on the gaiter alone, it will strain and likely pull off of the boot. This gal isn’t going to last long in her strappy sandals either. Her gaiter is also running “uphill” and showing the tension she is putting on it. With a correct fit, her strap wouldn’t be the primary pressure point on her shoe.

So if we have Glue On shell fit, and Glove gaiter fit, we just have to look at the Back Country Upper and see how IT fits.

If the Back Country were a shoe, it would be the most secure gaiter they could design.

Or possibly more like a Tom’s, because they are flats that are pretty hard to “accidentally” have coming off.

Just like the Glove gaiter, you want the heel height of the horse to mimic the shape of the boot. If your toes are a good height and the boot gets further away from the hairline as it hits the heels, your horse’s hoof shape is not ideal for this shell family.

Two things that don’t fit in this photo: Although the angle IS parallel to the shell’s topline, there is almost a 50-50 between hoofwall that is in the boot and hoofwall that is above the boot. Not a lot of hoofwall contact in that ratio. We can also see a bulge (muffin top) to the boot at the heel. This horse would go up a size.

 

Just like the gaiter of the Glove, the upper of the Glove Back Country should be as level with the boot as possible. We don’t want it pulling “up”. If you can feel around the bottom of the gaiter and touch Velcro, your gaiter is not wrapped parallel to the shell. Try again!

The Back Country has a Comfort Cup Gaiter inside the wrapping flaps of the upper. In the green example on the left, the upper is wrapped parallel to the shell. You can see the symmetry of the wrap and that the Comfort Cup Gaiter is situated in the center of the back of the boot. When the upper is wrapped incorrectly, it raises too high for the Comfort Cup Gaiter. You can see it’s off-center and listing. The harsh Velcro of the upper is now exposed and can come in contact with the pastern. NO GOOD!

If you are wrapping the upper and it “won’t reach” it’s a sizing issue. Don’t try and wrap it uphill just to get it to reach. Not only will it be too tight, but you will also be exposing the Velcro to your horse’s pastern. Tight, rough Velcro on pasterns is no fun!

Lastly, when you wrap “uphill” the anatomically designed opening of the boot gets distorted. It leaves less room for the pastern, front to back. It widens the boot into pokey corners. This leaves less range of moment in the stride for the boot to contact the pastern and can introduce rubbing.

I hate when my heels get rubbed.

Ultimately, we want the Back Country to fit well and we want to run our hands along them to ensure the upper was wrapped levelly. We want to see that the upper isn’t pinching the pastern or bunching or pulling. We will want to introduce our buddies to their boots over several rides. Like a hiking boot, the rigid upper needs to soften and break in.

All of these have the same sole, but the fit is 3 dimensional and very exact. Get a fit kit so you can try them out on the flesh.

  • Be mindful of the shape of your horse’s hoof so you can see if there is more hoof IN the boot than OUT. Consider that if you want to add comfort pads, it will lift your hoof even higher and cause less hoofwall contact. Stick to thinner or no pads.
  • See if it “V”s at the front. You need that hoofwall contact and tension there for a good fit.
  • Check your hair line and see if it mimics the topline of the shell. Are your heels too tall for this boot? If the shell of the fit kit shows less and less contact as it goes back near the heels, then you KNOW once you put the Glove gaiter on, it will pull “up” and not level around the pastern and will likely wear out faster than the boot. You will also know that the Back Country upper will not wrap levelly around that high heeled horse and will rub or not fasten all the way around.

See our website and blogs for more tips on using Glue Ons, Gloves and Glove Back Country boots.

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!


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