By Rachel Braverman of Polyflex Horseshoes
The good news? The answer may be as simple as tapping your feet.
Named after its inventor and longtime farrier Doug Ehrmann, DE Hoof Taps are a product that offers an entirely new approach to hoof care.
DE Hoof Taps were inserted to assist this horse with wall separations.
Created because of his need for a real solution, Doug explains “Up where I shoe, inclement weather and abrasive surfaces like stone dust arenas are commonplace. So many horses were having chronic issues with excessive wear, wall separations and overall loss of hoof integrity. I remember thinking to myself - I have to find a better way to help.”
So after years of research, field trials and evolutionary stages Ehrmann formally introduced DE Hoof Taps to the market in 2018 and since then has produced noticeable and exciting results for the future of farriery.
A zinc coated steel tap measuring approximately 1.25 inches in length, DE Hoof Taps are inserted into the foot just outside of the white line. Left in for the duration of the shoeing cycle, DE Hoof Taps are most commonly used under traditional shoes. However, great success has also been seen utilizing the taps under glue on synthetics, in booted horses and the barefoot horse. “I designed them to be versatile,” Ehrmann clarifies, “horses of all disciplines and shoeing methods can at some point face the challenges these taps are meant to combat. That’s why it was so important for me to create a product that could be used as an accessory for any horse.”
DE Hoof Taps can be a great option for booted or barefoot horses suffering from brittle hooves and wall separations. This horse is shown prepped to ride in an Easyboot Epic.
This versatility is just one feature that’s made DE Hoof Taps a popular choice among industry professionals. Farriers are reporting significantly tighter white lines, healed wall separations and a marked decrease in excessive wear. Simply visit the DE Hoof Taps Facebook page and a plethora of before and after case studies illuminates the screen. While Doug is no newcomer to product innovation, his ultimate standard remains the same. “If I’m going to bring an idea of mine to fruition - it needs to be a product that I reach for and that I use on a daily basis without having to think about because it works. The DE Hoof Tap has become exactly that product for me.” Based on growing product demands, it’s obvious these taps are quickly becoming a go to product for farriers across the U.S.
While the positive feedback and documentation has been consistent - the inevitable question comes up.
How exactly do DE Hoof Taps work?
The answer, is that the answer is still evolving. What we do know for certain is that the zinc coating plays a major role. On a chemical level, zinc is said to attract existing bacteria and repel new bacteria. Ehrmann’s hypothesis is that if the tap is inserted into a compromised foot, then the zinc coating will draw the bacteria towards itself. In turn, it’s believed that the zinc aids in rerouting the bacteria from traveling up the tubules of the hoof wall. As a bonus the steel makeup of the tap aids in reduction of wear on the hoof.
“We’re continually discovering more about how they work,” Ehrmann admits, “but the exciting part is that we’ve seen over and over again the positive impact they make on horses feet. They produce results too good to ignore.”
Mechanically speaking, Ehrmann designed the taps to mimic the natural curvature of the white line and to remain within the foot at a shallow depth. While the taps are not intended to be shaped, they can be easily modified to match the needs of the foot.
Some examples include shortening the taps to be placed in smaller, more specific locations, inserting the taps at the toe and in the heels. “In some cases you may only choose to use part of a tap, while in others you may decide to use multiple. The decision is ultimately up to the discretion and knowledge of the farrier using them,” Ehrmann explains. He continues “The more skilled you are as a farrier the more you’ll be able to utilize the potential of these taps to their full extent.”
To remove, easily pull or trim the taps out at the end of the horses shoeing cycle. The uncomplicated process just makes taps that much more appealing. However, it’s important to understand that the DE Hoof Tap is not a DIY product.
While the simplicity of the DE Hoof Tap makes it a natural addition to any farrier’s shoeing box, Ehrmann cautions that taps should only be inserted by a hoof care professional. “This product is simple to use, and that’s one of the best parts about it - but it still needs to be respected as a tool. If you think your horse could be a good candidate, have the discussion with your farrier. He or she will be able to place the tap where and how it will benefit your horse the most.”
Designed with the good of the horse in mind, it’s exciting to consider what the future holds for the DE Hoof Tap. Many believe this product could be the representative product of a new generation of hoof care technology to come. It certainly defines out of the box thinking - and offers a new platform from which to approach hoof care. Not to mention it offers a creative addition to any farrier’s toolbox.
But if there is one thing we can count on, it’s for Doug Ehrmann to keep innovating. So long as there is a horse in need, whether shod, glued, booted or barefoot they will now have the opportunity to tap their feet.
- Rachel Braverman
By Hoof Care Practitioner David Landreville of Landreville Hoof Care
If you’re struggling with hoof issues, don't fool yourself into thinking that merely trimming more frequently is going to be a magic fix. There’s always a learning curve and there are often kinks in that curve.
The key to lameness prevention, rehabilitation, and continued development is keeping the outer wall off of the ground.
To accomplish this, I believe that optimum weight bearing is when the inner wall is loaded at the Four Pillars. I don’t try to make it happen in one trim. It’s built over years of frequent trims. After trimming to the inside of the inner wall, it takes three weeks for the inside of the outer wall to make it to the ground (with this kind of trim), which is why I try to keep them on no more than a 3-week trim schedule. The second and third weeks are the optimum comfort weeks for the horse. The inner wall, through its attachment to the sole, is set up to support the weight of the horse. The strength of the outer wall is not in its ability to support the weight of the horse, but in its ability to contort while simultaneously resisting the forces of contortion.
Frequency is only part of the equation.
The trim has to unload the outer wall and put the majority of the horse's weight bearing comfortably on the back of the feet. Correct weight bearing and movement is what heals feet. The trim just sets the horse up for healing. 1/16" of vertical error at the ground equates to 2 inches of horizontal displacement at the wither on an average size horse.
Too much weight bearing on the forehand causes excessive toe loading.
When the lateral heel on a left front foot is continually being left 1/8" longer than the medial heel it causes the horse to shift their weight 4" to the right. This places the right front 4" closer to the midline of the horse. This results in the majority of the horse's forehand weight being supported by the right front. Most horses are already too much on their forehand due to the lack of knowledge about the relationship between proper heel shape and caudal soft tissue development. A horse that has natural downhill conformation and who is also naturally right forelimb dominant can be a disaster in the making. The right front becomes the crutch for the horse, resulting in mechanical founder in the right front. The symptom may be wall separation and/or sole penetration but the cause is 1/8" margin of error in the trim. This is not a disease; it’s a breakdown in the mechanical bond from excessive force. Keeping the horse properly squared up over their heels is how you fix them.
Example of improper trimming for founder.
When you're rehabbing founder, you're essentially taking the horse back in time through all the phases of their foundering. Helping a horse get comfortable is only the beginning of restoring them to a point where continual development is sustainable.
This is the right front foot of a right hand dominant horse that foundered due to improper trimming. These photos show 7 months of progress to reverse the damage.
This is a caudal view of the same horse.
Don’t rely on frequent trimming as the magic fix.
Trimming more often may just create a disaster – faster. I’ve found that a good trimmer/owner team is central to the horse’s successful rehab. Choose a trimmer who not only knows how to fix a hoof problem, but who does meticulously correct work and who also knows how to prevent it in the first place. How do you find out? Ask lots of questions! (Tip: Do they have horses of their own with structurally sound bare feet that they’ve been riding for years?)
And finally, be upfront how an issue will be handled. The trimmer should have a couple back up plans and the owner should be clear about how willing they are to go the distance if plan A doesn't work out.
- David Landreville
By Daisy Bicking of Daisy Haven Farm
In the past, I’ve written about the importance of finding common ground with each other. Whether you call yourself a farrier, barefoot trimmer, equine podiatrist or hoof care provider, it doesn't matter because we're all responsible for the same thing:
The care and soundness of the horse’s foot.
I’ve written about how we all have beliefs about what we do with the horse’s foot along the lines of religious conviction. (See blog "One Hoof Church, All Religions") We tend to think in terms of Good and Bad, Right and Wrong. However, I believe we are more than that. I believe that what we can learn from each other about helping a horse overcomes anything that could divide us.
I get to travel all over the world teaching and helping others be successful using glue-on composite shoes like the EasyShoe (Performance, NG, Sport, Compete, and new Flex) Easyboot Glue-On, Easyboot LC, and Easyboot Flip Flop. The diversity of practitioners attending these clinics amazes me: farrier, trimmer, podiatrist and hoof care provider. The glue-on composite shoe clinics attract individuals from a variety of backgrounds and training styles who come together in one place to learn how to help the horse. There are very few places where such a strongly opinionated group of people can come learn together and dare I say, even learn from each other!
Glue-on composite shoes create a common ground that bridges the differences between us, and opens the door to opportunities to help each other help horses more effectively. They're a tool that accommodates not only differences in trim style, and differences in believe about shoe placement and fit, but they cross international differences of language and culture. Regardless of a person's background or location, glue-ons are a tool that anyone can successfully use to help the horse.
I recently traveled to Norway and was excited to see many diverse practitioners come together again. We had participants who called themselves farriers, blacksmiths, and natural balance farriers. We also had barefoot trimmers from multiple schools of training, and several veterinarians. Everyone was open-minded to new ideas and respected each other.
We had fun, learned from each other, and helped a number of horses in the process.
At this clinic in particular we talked a lot about the Four Stages of Learning.
Many of us operate in the first stage of learning, Unconscious Incompetence, meaning you don't know what you don't know. When you realize you need to learn more, you get to the second stage of learning, Conscious Incompetence, which is a very uncomfortable place to be but often motivates you to obtain more education, like coming to a hoof clinic. Then you learn more, and get to Stage 3, Conscious Competence, meaning you can use a new skill but with concentration and effort. Then finally when you've practiced enough, and have proficiency at the task you get to the fourth stage of learning, Unconscious Competence, meaning you can do something competently without conscious thought.
In order for such a diverse group of practitioners to get together, often the participants have to be willing to live in Stage 2, a place of Conscious Incompetence, in front of their peers, many from opposing philosophies. It takes a great deal of mental and emotional toughness to put yourself in that place. The group from Norway excelled at being open-minded and supported each other by sharing new ideas without judgment. They each took away new information and skills to practice, which moved them to Stage 3, Conscious Competence.
I am amazingly proud to share a tool that can create common ground among diverse practitioners. There is so much to gain from coming together and learning from each other, I am grateful that glue-on composite shoes can create a platform for sharing as well as be a valuable tool to help the horse.
For more information on Daisy Haven Farm and Glue-on Composite Shoe clinics please see:
Submitted by EasyCare Dealer, Dawn Willoughby
Original Post June 2, 2011
In most cases, owners can prevent the ravages of laminitis (inflammation of the laminae between hoof wall and coffin bone) and founder (pulling away of wall from coffin bone due to a broken laminae). During my six years as a professional trimmer, I tried to educate owners about preventing this painful situation. Here is a review of what I shared with them every spring.
I live in Delaware where we have a spring that challenges most horses. Beginning in late March, early April, our sugary spring grass starts to grow. Our worst days are cool and sunny. This combination has the effect of creating a surge of sugar in the grass. When the sun goes down, the spring night temperatures are cool, keeping the sugar in the grass, not allowing it to return to the roots. That's a double whammy for the natural herd that is out 24/7. It isn't until July that we reliably dry out and warm up every day and night. When this happens the sugar returns to the roots. I learned about forage growth and pasture management from studying materials and attending clinics by Katy Watts, www.safergrass.org, an agricultural expert and owner of founder-prone horses. She offers wonderful lectures on her site as well.
Submitted by EasyCare Dealer, Timothy Prindle of Barefoot Equine.
Atlas, a mustang came into my care about 7 years ago. His owner, Megan, moved to Los Angeles from Seattle and brought Atlas to an eventing barn. What makes Atlas an interesting case is that even with strong mustang hoof walls and soles, he grows ferociously straight forward with long toe/under run heels if not kept in check. So steady, consistent trimming has always been a vital part of his hoof care.
When I began with him, his heels were fairly contracted with a narrow frog that protruded significantly higher than his hoof wall, which I wasn’t thrilled about because I could not reduce heel height safely without risking sensitivity. An on again off again soundness issue was diagnosed as degenerative joint disease within the coffin joint. To reduce stress on that joint, the veterinarian recommended we use shoes in order to cut back toe and enhance breakover.
These were the days before I had given up steel, so I outfitted him with a set (which, of course, I had to grind the heck out of so as not to create excessive pressure on those protruding frog heights). He still struggled with some lameness even after the metal shoes were put on and we found that by keeping the toe back with 4-6 week shoeings was imperative to keeping him sound. Additionally, since his diagnosis, the vet would come out to give injections to his joint every 6 to 8 months. In time, however, I could tell the steel shoes were doing nothing to help a narrow frog and contracted heels.
As a farrier out of Cornell Farrier School, it seemed natural to progress to the EasyShoe Performance NG for those horses needing a little help beyond barefoot—and to also have another tool in my belt aside from booting. Barefoot was my specialty, so EasyShoes made sense from a natural hoof care prospective and they were slowly beginning to replace steel in my work. Atlas was the last of my horses still in iron.
I mentioned to Megan that the EasyShoe Performance N/G shoes could be a perfect compliment to the veterinarian's prescription, which would allow for better expansion of his foot and provide the freedom for his heels to spread. So we pulled the metal shoes and started with EasyShoes.
That was 3 years ago, and now Atlas is a much happier horse. His heels have spread astonishingly, more than I had anticipated, and he has a wide frog to match his thick, mustang hoof walls and sole. His injections last almost twice as long and he doesn’t miss a step on the jumping course with the EasyShoe’s tread. As his owner says, "Atlas lives for the cross country portion of the eventing discipline. And he’s now becoming proficient in stadium jumping as well—novice level (3’3’’ jumps)."
As for me, I put my last steel shoe on 3 years ago and now use the EasyShoe Performance N/G’s regularly in my craft. They have proven to be an excellent tool for rehabbing as well as providing support within specific equine disciplines that typically require steel shoes.
Submitted by Nichole Kunze an Easyboot customer.
Horse hoof problems can be some of the most difficult to overcome. I worked for a veterinarian who specialized in equine podiatry so I understand the lengthy process of diagnostics, care and the struggles of trying to make an equine sound and comfortable for a pain free life.
Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to have horses over my lifetime with sound feet. I am cautious with purchasing horses because with no hoof, there’s no horse. A trainer and close friend contacted me about a mare being given away that I had put time on years back.
Her name is Miss Camptown Bidder. She is a 19-year-old mare with Pedal Osteitis who has had past laminitis as a result of the condition. It’s basically demineralization of the coffin bone. So needless to say, it is NOT a condition anyone wants to experience, but I just couldn’t say no. I took the older mare with a serious condition that could put her in her grave in November of 2017.
After a lot of research, I determined that blood flow was a key element to helping this condition as well as providing comfort to the sole. How do you provide comfort to the sole while allowing the frog to continually make contact in the natural way to ensure blood flow? I did not feel shoes were the answer to this. I ran across EasyCare, then found out a friend of mine worked for them! If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what was.
After speaking with her, we decided on the Easyboot Cloud. By this point “Willa” wasn’t a happy mare. I had a farrier out to trim her because she was very long in the toe. It was looking like her laminae was compromised. Her radiology from May of 2017 had showed she had for sure struggled with laminitis, her toe wasn’t being kept back and now she would barely walk, laid down frequently, just did enough to get by day to day.
The boots came in and she was walking 75% better immediately! I couldn’t believe it. Our long-term goals with her were to see if she could be a step-up barrel horse for my daughter. Needless to say, I was not optimistic, but more worried after the first couple weeks of having her of just making her comfortable enough to not be euthanized.
Well I am blessed to say I have gotten to know the real Willa! She bucks, she is the dominant mare in her group, and she takes no flak from anyone! She trots around comfortably and is just the sweetest girl to handle. We are now working on measurements for the Easyboot Glove to start riding her this Spring. I couldn’t be more excited!!!! Thank you EasyCare Inc for helping this girl. She more than deserves it!
Blog originally posted November 29, 2009
Easyboot Epic is one of the most successful protective horse boots in the equine industry. Unlike a horses shoe, a hoof boot can be applied to the barefoot hoof by a horse owner and used as a spare or can used when a barefoot horse needs additional hoof protection.
How did the Epic become one of the best natural horse products? The Easyboot Epic evolved from the original Easyboot invented in 1970. After the invention of the first hoof boot in 1970, the Easyboot quickly improved and continued to change under the direction of Dr. Neel Glass. Horse hoof problems are a problem today and were more prevalent in the 70's. Barefoot trimming techniques have helped improve many of the problems.
Take a look at the Easyboot photos and look back at the history of Easyboots for horses.
The first prototype Easyboot. Roofing material and ski buckles were used on the first prototype.
The first Easyboot production model. Neel Glass and his staff hand poured the material into molds. This was the first of the protective horse boots to ever hit the equine market. Neel first made them in what he called "Natural" color.
Neel soon added black to his natural horse products.
Hardware on the side of the Easyboot was soon moved inside the hoof boot. The backstrap on this old boot has since rotted away.
Easyboot buckles improved and became more sturdy over time.
The back of the boots were high and needed to be cut down by the consumer.
All Easyboot molds were later changed to lower profile in the back.
Once a year EasyCare did a small run of red Easyboots.
The current production Easyboot.
The Easyboot then evolved into the Easyboot Epic.
The Epic is the same boot as the Easyboot but adds a gaiter to the back of the Easyboot Shell. The gaiter helps keep the boot in place by locking down the heel of the horse. The Epic was the answer to the barefoot hoof and barefoot trimming. Easy boots for horses were now staying in place much better and were easy to apply.
Blog originally posted November 27, 2009. Updates to this product have occured since that date and are not listed in this content. For more information, please contact us.
Submitted by Pete Ramey
The Industry’s Shift to Synthetic Horseshoes
In my opinion, the increasing popularity of synthetic shoes – both for rehab and for high performance – is a very good step in the right direction. During the time that metal was the only material we had that would hold up under a horse, metal made a lot of sense as a horseshoe material. But these days we have a wide array of materials that will do the job, and most of them are much better for energy dissipation and shock absorption. These materials are also more flexible, which can allow the foot to function more normally, perhaps leading to increased health of internal structures when compared to more rigid shoes.
I do worry that synthetic shoes will become just another thing that people leave on horses’ feet 365 days a year. Healthier than steel, perhaps, but still degrading the foot with their constant presence. I use these tools in my everyday work, but for most situations I remain a “barefoot and boot man,” as I think this combination yields the best hoof health in a majority of situations.
My Love Affair with the Glove Shells
There are times, though, that long-term or even permanent hoof protection is needed. For these horses, I usually turn to the Glove Glue-On Shells, simply a Glove without the gaiter (instead of other synthetic shoe models) for several very specific reasons:
It is equally important to achieve a close fit with the Glue-Ons as it is with the Gloves. We have the same breakover and heel support needs. Large gaps between the wall and shoe will be difficult to fill with glue, and tight areas may push the shoe out of place before (or after) the glue dries.
Better fit can be achieved with the Glue-Ons than the Gloves when large quarter flares are present since the gaiter is not in the way of quarter fitting. During the heating process, you will find that it is better to hold the shell with something besides your hand, particularly if you have opened the sole (discussed below). I use my shoe pull-offs or crease nail pullers.
As an end result, you want a snug but relaxed fit with little-to-no air space, and no pressure attempting to push the shoe out of place. Prior to gluing, you should be able to put it on the foot with no glue, walk the horse around on concrete, and it should stay in place.
All of the modifications I discussed in Part I with the Glove boots can also be done to the Glue-On Shells. Below are additional options I use only when gluing.
Venting the Back of the Shoe
Gluing allows you to cut out the heel section of the boot completely. I almost always do this as it allows the foot to breathe, keeping the back half of the foot relatively free of the black, foul funk. I tend to do this simply with my pocket knife, and then I finish by rounding the top of the cuff with my nippers or shears.
Opened heel of Glove shell, done with knife and nippers. I’m doing this to 90-something % of my glue-on shells.
Venting the Bottom of the Shoe
If there is adequate sole and frog in the center of the foot and if I don’t perceive a need to use impression material or padding, I often vent the bottom of the shoe. Using a jigsaw or Dremel, you can follow the contour of the shoe tread, mimicking the frog support and look of an EasyShoe. The material is strong and difficult to cut. Most tools actually burn their way through it, rather than cutting, and it can be a long process.
So in most cases, I simply use a drill and hole saw (thank you Leslie Carrig!), usually 2 ¼” diameter, occasionally larger, to vent the bottom of the foot. This takes seconds to do, with no burning or clogging, though the end result may not look as cool as other designs, the horses never notice. As with almost any open-bottom shoe, there is some risk of a stone lodging between the shoe and the sole, causing problems. But the access to air can be worth the risk, particularly if the owner routinely picks and checks the area.
Pads and Impression Material
All of the padding methods discussed for the Glove boots will work with the Glue-On version, plus several additional options -- Dental Impression Material (DIM), pour-in pads, and Sikaflex 227 adhesive, to name a few. Generally, when using any type of pad, I leave the shoe’s stock sole intact (forgoing the sole vent). I also fill the collateral sulci and cover the sole with a thin layer of Artimud to keep infection at bay.
Prep and Glue
Gluing instruction is best done in person or at least via DVDs or YouTube (start here) – not in writing – but here is my basic protocol in a nutshell, and in a very specific order:
After 5-6 weeks, Vettec Adhere will become brittle enough that shoe salvage is not terribly difficult (though it is still cheaper to buy a new shoe than it is to pay me to clean an old one up for you). I take a ¼” flathead screwdriver and work it between the shoe and the hoof, separating the bond.
With EasyShoe Glue (Equilox, Equibond…) at 5-6 weeks, the glue will not be brittle – the screwdriver method rarely works. Instead, using my hoof knife, I cut ½”-long slits in the top of the cuff, dividing the cuff into 6 sections around the circumference of the foot. I then use my shoe pull-offs to peel and rip each of the sections down and off the hoof wall individually.
A hybrid between the on-off hoof boot and a glue-on application is the tape-on boot/shoe. Many people trail ride in this setup, and I use it for rehab cases when I need to cover the foot for 24-48 hours and then gain access.
Warning: Results of this vary wildly. If a horse steps on his own shoe, they will pull right off. But I have also seen them stay on for a week and heard of them staying on even longer. I think it really depends on the way the horse moves and perhaps the environment. I have found that I can count on them for 48 hours as well as about anything – so this is how I use them.
If a horse absolutely must have 24/7 protection, use a boot or a glue-on instead. I like to say, “Tape-ons are for when you kind-of need a shoe and only need it for a short period of time.” All that said, this is still a very commonly useful tool, and has the distinct advantage that you can keep re-using the same shell over and over, often for years to come. This can also be the only option (for turnout or riding) when the bulbs or coronet has been injured and permanent shoeing is not desired. This method also works for use similar to a hospital plate when daily access is needed to dress a wound or surgery site.
This method is ideal for post-trim tenderness. A conscientious trimmer (with a stock of glue-on shells) who inadvertently causes post-trim soreness, can do a tape-on application to cover the foot for a few days, then pick up the boots at the next visit, clean them up and sell them to a gluing client. All it costs is the purchase of the tape and the time to clean up the boot.
Mueller Athletic Tape Application. Used alone with Glove Glue-On shells or as extra insurance with Glove hoof boots.
Mueller Athletic Tape
Note: Several years ago, I bought two cases of Mueller Athletic Tape, which I am still using. Apparently, it has since changed, and the material is now thinner (thanks, Amy Diehl), so these instructions may warrant some experimentation with the newer version of tape. I will update as I learn more. And, no, I will not sell you any of my tape.
Here is my method:
Mueller Athletic Tape in Gloves
The above wrapping method is even more useful as “Glove boot first aid.” If you are using Glove boots, carry a roll of Mueller Tape in your trail pack; it doubles as first aid tape, so shouldn’t take up extra precious space. If you rip a gaiter on the trail (or develop any other boot fit/performance issue) you can add the tape to the foot, knock the boot on with a stick, and ride on for the rest of the trip without a gaiter.
I even had one client who was using a #2 Glove when her friend threw a #0 horseshoe. They kept wrapping tape around the #0 foot until the #2 Glove fit and got the horse off the trail without further incident. My client discovered, at the same time, that her horse no longer needed boots for that particular trail anyway. Now, this is not a recommended application by any stretch of the imagination, but it did work.
Smoothing Boot Fit Problems
I like for my booting clients to have a roll on hand in case booting issues pop up mid-cycle. This is particularly common when I am in the process of growing out hoof capsule rotation or wall flares. The boot fit will get sloppy over time. I do try to adjust for this at routine visits, but sometimes I misjudge. Hopefully, when I arrive for my scheduled visit, I can de-bug the boot fit, but having a way to keep my clients riding saves me some unscheduled trips.
I recall two instances where I had to use the tape application with the Gloves as a permanent fix. I didn’t like it, but it was the best I could do. Both were on the hind feet of horses with hip problems that rotated their foot on the ground under load. After several boot-fitting fails, I left both clients applying one wrap of tape prior to booting the hind feet. Sloppy, yes, but better than nothing, I suppose.
This method, combined with adding Vet Wrap to the gaiter is how to make a bombproof Glove application. I don’t like to see clients train this way. I want to work through any booting bugs during normal rides. But on race day, show day, or that big group trail ride – that day when you want to be absolutely sure you don’t have any problems, it is worth the extra 3 minutes to put Mueller Tape on the foot, boot, then wrap the gaiter with Vet Wrap. Optionally, an added bell boot seals the deal.
And the List Goes On…
That’s the best thing about these two platforms (the Glove and Glove Shell). Your own imagination is the limit. While every boot and shoe can be modified to some extent, none other lends itself to so much possibility. In the past, I had to haul around a wide variety of options. Now, I find that I can get by with a full stock of only these two products – well – except that we do need them in larger sizes… and with some different tread options.
For a complete article in PDF format, please follow this link to be redirected to Pete Ramey's website: http://www.hoofrehab.com/Glove%20Mods.pdf
Submitted by Pete Ramey
Easyboot Glove hoof boots with optional Power Straps added to the top of the lower shell.
Since they were only prototypes in 2008, the Easyboot Gloves and Glove Glue-On Shells from EasyCare Inc. have been my primary tools for hoof protection. There are many great boots and gluing options out there and I have tried a majority of them but these have remained my favorites.
These boots are light, compact and durable; but the reason I am so fond of them is that I can modify them in so many ways to suit individual hooves. This is particularly important with flared or rotated hoof capsules or hooves with low heel/long toe syndrome. The toe of the boot can be heat-fitted to expand, allowing the breakover to be placed correctly – critical to correct movement and thus rehabilitation of these hooves.
Glove shell heat-fitted to a rotated hoof capsule. The breakover will also be modified in the sole as shown below. Note the “shiny” areas of the boot – a key part of judging the heating process.
Heat-fitting is useful for more routine fitting on “normal” hooves, as well. The Glove is so light, durable and compact partially because it does not rely on buckles, straps and overlapping layers of materials to keep it on. Instead, it relies on perfect fit. If the boot is touching the foot everywhere, with no excessively tight areas and no areas with air space between the foot and the boot, it will perform like no other. But – and this is a big but – if the boot is tight in some areas and has air space in others, it may be one of the least reliable boots on the market. Fit is everything with this model, and if the foot is changing, the boot will have to change along the way as well.
That means that this boot is not for everyone and not for every hoof; however a well-fit Glove is the highest-performance option, so each owner must decide whether to go this route. I suppose this is similar to a racing engine that must be pulled apart and rebuilt after every race. Is this a good engine? It depends on your perspective.
This is an easy choice for horse owners who are lucky enough to have a hoof professional who does all this modification for them. But for horse owners “on their own,” the Easyboot Glove may not be the best boot choice.
I use the Digital Heat Gun from Ace Hardware that reaches 1100° (Fahrenheit) although any other brand will work, as long as it reaches this temp. Place the boot (or shell) on the foot and then palpate the boot walls. You will usually find that some areas of the boot are tight against the foot, and some are loose – you can press inward to close the air space inside. Mark any areas that are tight with a Sharpie. When heat fitting, you will generally be moving the foot forward into tight areas until the loose areas become tight.
As you close these loose areas, you will simultaneously be optimizing breakover and placing the heels in the perfect spot to be snug (but not overly tight) and sitting all the way down on the boot floor (not standing on the heel portion of the shell or the gaiter).
Remove the boot from the horse for the heating process, and be careful to direct the heat away from the gaiters (and your hands). Only the lower shell is heated. You need to heat the boot gradually, so it heats all the way through. The timing varies daily with the power source, heat gun, ambient temperature, and the temperature the boots endured in the back of your truck the previous night. So each time I heat boots, I must determine a new timing. I do this by seeing how long it takes the area I’m heating to develop a sheen.
On the outside of the boot, hold the heat gun parallel to, and ¾” away from the surface, moving the heat gun small in rapid circles to distribute heat. As soon as you see a slight sheen appear on the surface, move the heat quickly to another area. Keep the heat focused only on the tight areas you previously marked, trying to avoid heating areas that were already loose on the hoof wall. Once you have brought a slight sheen to the desired areas on the outside walls of the boot, switch to the inside of the boot. You will not be able to focus heat as accurately or see the sheen on the inside, but instead, apply heat for the same amount of time as you did on the outside. Repeat one more time inside and out for the same amount of time as it took to develop the sheen in the first lap.
Caution: In used boots, you will not see the sheen develop – the ground-in dirt hides the sheen until the boot is over-heated. Learn today’s timing on a new boot before trying to heat up a used one.
If, at any point in the heating process, you see tiny bubbles emerge on the surface, move on from that spot and don’t return – that area is slightly over-heated (but may still need more heat from the inside of the boot).
After this process is complete, move quickly to the horse and put the boot on. You may need a rubber mallet to drive the boot back far enough. When the heels are in the perfect spot in the boot, put the foot down, let the boot cool for two minutes, and evaluate your fit.
Evaluating Boot Fit
The key to Easyboot Glove success is at the heels. If the heels are too tight, the boot will be constantly trying to “squirt off” the foot (plus heel rubbing is likely, as is gaiter failure). If a mallet is required to put the boot on, the heels are probably too tight. The boot should slide on readily in hand.
If the heels are too loose, the foot can twist in the boot. If it can twist with hand pressure, it will twist when you ride. So to combine these two extremes, the perfectly fitted Glove will slide right into place with firm hand pressure (no percussion), but then “suck” into place with no turning of the boot on the foot.
Secondary to heel fit is the percentage of boot wall touching the foot. Ideally, the boot will be touching the hoof wall everywhere with no air spaces. But this perfection is sometimes impossible to achieve – particularly with wide feet or feet with large quarter flares. The boot can perform well with about 30% airspace, but always strive for “the best you can get.” At this point, I often reheat small, tight areas to close more air spaces, particularly at quarter flares.
I fit hind feet the same way, but it usually looks very different. Hind feet tend to be more pointed than the rounder front feet. The Gloves (and all other hoof boots) were designed to fit the front feet. This is why hind boot fit issues are so common, and this is where the Gloves can really shine. I generally pick a hind boot size by its width.
This usually means the foot is way too long for the selected size. I then heat the center of the boot toe, allowing the horse’s more pointed hind toe to hang over the front of the boot, much like a laminitis case. This, of course, locks the foot in place within the boot, preventing the twisting so common with hind boots.
Sometimes, by the time you get the toe area fitted, the heels have become too loose. This boot will not function well because the heel fit is the most important aspect. You simply need to go down a size (or two) and start over. This is not a big deal for professionals, who can simply sell the other boot to someone else who needs that size, but can be really bad news to a horse owner who has one horse and one set of Gloves. With experience, you can learn to prevent this (usually) by simply thinking things through before you heat. If, during the initial assessment, I see that I have significant changes that need to occur at the toe, but my heels already fit nicely, I automatically know I need to start with a smaller size.
It usually works well to size the boot for the width the foot would be if there were no quarter flares, and then heat-fit to accommodate toe length and any wall flares. At best, with distorted feet, this will take some experimentation, so it is always best to have several different sizes around to simply try on.
One Foot, One Boot
Like your own shoes, horse boots adapt to the foot with use. For best results and performance, designate one boot to one foot (I “earmark” them with nippers and/or a hole punch, as writing on them doesn’t last). While this will help with the performance of any boot model, it is particularly critical with the Gloves. If you need to share boots between horses, I recommend you choose a different model – one with buckles, straps and overlapping layers of materials.
The most common modification I make is the addition of padded insoles to the boots. This puts the sole, bars and frog to work, thus relieving strain on the laminae and provides a cushier ride to the solar corium. A weakness of the Gloves (vs. some other models) is that they generally won’t accommodate pads thicker than 3/8-inch. When I need thicker padding for extreme rehab cases, I use a different model.
But for most horses, 1/4”-3/8-inch pads are all we need, and these work well in the Gloves. A wide array of pad choices are available – your imagination is the limit – but the best pad is the one that makes the horse feel the best. Particularly with lameness cases of any kind, it is wise to experiment with multiple pad choices and pick the one that yields the best movement of the horse.
I am a big fan of the EasyCare Comfort Pads (as I should be, since I originally picked out the materials). They come in two thicknesses and three densities that cover most needs. It can be a big money-saver, though, to find large quantities of raw foam/rubber from other sources. Horses with thin or otherwise painful soles tend to choose this type of padding over other options.
Another favorite of mine is synthetic felt in 1/4" or 3/8” thickness (thanks Sossity and Mario of Wild Hearts Hoof Care). Horses with caudal foot pain tend to prefer these. They are also better for moisture management, so I really like them for boot turnout and in glue-on shells. Sourcing the material has been a bit of a problem. It is readily available online but seems extraordinarily expensive. So far, I have continually found new saddle pads and liners at clearance sales for my own use, and I am always sticking my nose into clients’ tack rooms looking for a deal on an unwanted felt saddle pad. I have also found the thick (1”-1 ½”) felt pads can be easily cut/torn into thinner pads, as the material is put together in layers.
Some horses show no preference between the foam/rubber pads and synthetic wool felt. For these, I tend to use the felt, as it is cheaper and more durable (always a good combination).
Thick leather is another durable pad choice. Go to a leather shop and buy tanned, full thickness cowhide. These pads offer less shock absorption so may not be the best choice for most thin-soled horses. But for sound horses that you simply want to provide more load distribution, leather is a great choice. I also prefer leather when I need to unload an area of the sole by cutting a relief hole in the insole. This comes up with surgery sites on the bottom of the foot, and with “sole penetrations” or other exposure of the solar corium.
Regardless of the material selected, you will need to cut it to shape. With Easyboot Gloves, I place the boot on the pad material with ½” of boot heel tread hanging off the edge of the pad. Then, using a Sharpie, I trace the boot outline onto the pad. I cut the pad with large shears or a razor knife, following the inside of my mark, leaving the mark and 1/8” of extra material on the unused portion of the pad. The desired end result is a pad that fits the inside of the boot well, with no wiggle room, and no lapping up onto the sides in any area.
These are stretchy rubber additions to the top of the Glove boot, available as add-ons from EasyCare. They are very handy for eliminating boot fit/performance issues, but they do make boot application more difficult for the average horse owner. When I first started using the Gloves, I knew nothing about heat fitting them and found I needed Power Straps on about 20% of front feet and 80% of hind feet. As I got better at heat-fitting, I use about two sets per year.
Their best use may be for economy. When you fit Gloves to a flared or rotated foot and then succeed in growing in better-connected walls, the foot size is generally smaller. This means the boot fit will have become loose and sloppy. The correct thing to do at this point is fit a new set in a smaller size but adding the Power Straps can be a cheap alternative that extends the life of the old boot.
Power Straps come with cut and punch marks labeled for each boot size. I have found that, rather than using these marks literally, I do better thinking my way through it and punching the holes where I think they need to be for the individual fitting needs.
Add-On BucklesAs an extension of the Power Strap idea, you can add buckles to the boots to gain even more adjustment. The buckles in the picture below are replacement buckles for O’Neal motorcycle boots I ordered from Amazon. Of course this eliminates some of the compact nature I love about the Gloves, but the result is still more compact than most types of boots.
Replacement buckles for O’Neal motorcycle boots I ordered from Amazon (part #0290-095 and #0290-091) added to the Power Strap attachment points. Apply buckles so that they are on the lateral sides of the boots to avoid interference.
In other models of boots, I usually drill drainage holes in the sole to quickly drain the boots after creek crossings. Due to the close fit of Gloves, particularly if insoles are being used, I find there is no need to do this – there is not really any room for sloshing water in the well-fitted Glove. But opinions (and fitting) vary, so if you feel the need to drill drain holes in your boots, there are certainly no problems with it. I generally like to use a ½” drill bit and place multiple holes in the tread over any open areas inside the boot. This hole size seems to be a good compromise – large enough to resist clogging and small enough to minimize the entry of pebbles.
By nature, Easyboot Gloves are probably more sensitive to a tight trim cycle than other models. This works to some horses’ advantage because boots have been used by many owners as a tool to allow neglect.
The boots should be fitted to a freshly trimmed foot. There is generally enough stretch in the Glove shells to accommodate a six-week trim cycle if there is minimal wall flaring on the hoof. But for horses with significant wall flares, the foot gets much larger in circumference during the trim cycle. By six weeks, you usually will not be able to get the Glove on. These horses will need a shorter trim cycle until most of the flaring is successfully grown out – but again, this is a good idea, anyway. It is worth noting, though, that the bulkier types of boots with buckles and overlapping layers of materials will be more accommodating to long trim cycles on flared hooves. The Gloves aren’t for everyone.
The stock bevel built into the toe of the Glove is generally just right for horses with perfect wall attachment at the toe except that since horses need to turn, I feel that same shape should continue from a 10:00 to 2:00 position around the toe. This modification, I do to almost every pair I fit. I use a brand new Heller Legend hoof rasp that has never trimmed a foot for this (and most other modifications to the boot soles). Many types of sanders and grinders work well, too – your choice.
In horses with separation of the toe wall from the coffin bone, I generally accommodate most of the needed breakover adjustment with heat-fitting of the boot’s toe, but an additional inch of breakover change can be trimmed into the boot sole as well. This is handy for joint, muscular and other problems with locomotion as well.
At 2:00, the typical rounding of the breakover I do to most Gloves and Glue-Ons. Additional breakover adjustment can be added – I often rasp it back to the second traction groove at the toe, taking care not to rasp up to the tiny seam between the boot tread and sidewall.
At 7:00, I have added a typical heel rocker I like for chronic toe walkers, hoof capsule rotations, and some club feet. This shape and size can vary as needed. Center, is a common vent (discussed below) I do, only on Glue-Ons – not Gloves. This is a size #1.5, the hole was made with a 2 ¼” hole saw and drill.
There are countless reasons (I won’t go into here) that rockering of the heels can create an advantage for the horse – club feet, forging issues, chronic toe-walkers, joint problems, caudal foot pain, hoof capsule rotation to name a few. I often do this, both to bare feet and to any appliance I add to the foot, including hoof boots. The Gloves accommodate this very well.
Occasionally, there is a therapeutic need for mediolateral or dorsopalmar wedging of the foot. If no more than 3/8” of deviation is needed, I prefer to simply remove the unwanted material from the boot tread. If more were needed (rare), farrier wedge pads (up to 3/8”-thick) can work in the Gloves.
Traction modification for deep footing. Be sure to leave an adequate “shelf” for the toe to stand on. Because of the increased likelihood of gripping the ground too well or snagging on something, use this with Glue-On applications or with Mueller Tape added to a Glove as discussed below. Also, of course, consider the safety of the horse – this is suitable for loose arenas or tracks but not trail work.
Two types of add-on studs are available from EasyCare – a large nut/bolt type stud and smaller ice studs. I have also experimented with using a hole saw to drill out and open the bottom of the boot, leaving a narrow rim of shoe at ground level and an exposed sole. This gets great traction in muddy and most arena conditions but may have the same disadvantages of a thick metal shoe; clogging and carrying too much weight of dirt, which could limit performance and hasten fatigue.
A better modification for deep or muddy footing is to use an electric router and guide to thin the boot tread to ½” wide. Next, heat up the remaining boot sole and push it up into a dome shape (I press the boot sole onto one of my daughter’s softballs to achieve this shape. The prototype traction sole shown below was simply a computer duplication of a Glove shell I modified in this fashion.
The idea (much like a bare foot) is that the tread will clean out with every stride (spray with WD-40 or Pam for better results). I believe that these get better traction on mud, wet grass, arena surfaces, tracks, etc. than cleat-type treads or a metal perimeter shoe because of this resistance to clogging. An additional advantage from a performance standpoint is not carrying the added weight of the dirt/mud.
Prototype Glove traction sole. You can build one from a standard Glove (except that the outer rim of tread will be slightly more shallow) using a router with a guide and square bit, a heat gun, and a softball.
This boot will, of course, wear out faster on hard terrain but as with human athletic cleats vs. track shoes, I don’t think it will ever be possible to optimize turf traction with the same tread pattern that is perfect for road work. You’ll need to own both.
Boot Turnout Done Right
The Gloves are designed and intended for riding and other work, with the assumption that the boots will be removed when the horse is turned out. In spite of that fact, after trying countless options, I have found Gloves are my favorite turnout option for horses that are temporarily lame in their own turnout environment. Boot turnout is no picnic for the horse owner – there is work involved – but, in my experience, padded boots tend to provide more pain relief and quicker healing than any other shoeing option. If increased movement and a lack of compensative movement are achieved while simultaneously “doing no harm,” the result is healthier growth of every part of the foot. So boot turnout tends to be the quickest path to feet that are healthy enough to be comfortable barefoot in their own turnout environment.
This is most critical with laminitis cases. Only in a padded boot (or sometimes bare on the most perfect terrain) can you hope to get away with unloading the walls (and thus the laminae), carrying the load on the sole while healthy laminae are re-grown. This is beacause only boots offer a full release of pressure to the sole when the hoof is in flight.
The primary reason I like the Gloves best for turnout is that with heat-fitting, I can adjust breakover to the correct area on horses with flared or rotated walls – a key feature of most horses who are unsound at turnout. For caudal foot pain cases, assorted pads can be tried in the boots to achieve flat or heel-first impacts – the key secret to success with these cases. The Glove tread readily accepts modification, as discussed above, often critical to rehab cases. In my experience, a well-fitted Glove is less likely to cause rubbing of the bulbs or hide than any other boot I've used. All this and more can be done in a lightweight, very compact package, which also very important to me.
Turnout is hard on boots. Constant exposure to UV rays break down the nylon and plastics. Generally the same boot that might last an endurance rider 450 miles (or the average trail rider five years) will be destroyed by 2-3 months of turnout. The Gloves are no different except the only part that gets destroyed is the gaiter. Replacing the gaiter is much cheaper than buying a whole boot.
Note: Gaiter life is greatly extended by wrapping the gaiter with Vet Wrap (or other tape) when using the Gloves as turnout boots. It blocks UV rays, and helps prevent horses from nibbling on the Velcro closures.
The Gloves do also have weaknesses as turnout boots, compared to other models. Some cases will need thicker padding than the Glove can accommodate. I use ½”-thick pads in Gloves on lame (lower performance) horses, and it works well. But if you need thicker padding, you will need to select a different boot model.
Another issue already discussed is that with the Gloves, you are more likely to need 2-3 boot sizes as you grow out a 20+ degree rotation than if you were using a boot with buckles and layers of overlapping material. But since you generally can’t get breakover right on a rotated foot with those other types of boots, I feel you are much more likely to grow out a rotation if you use heat-fitted Gloves. The extra money is well-spent.
Regardless of the boot you choose for turnout, the primary problem is the rotten “funk” that quickly builds up inside the boot. This can complicate infections in the white line and frog. It can also get in the way of growing a healthy sole, one of the key features of a horse that can be sound for barefoot turnout. To eliminate these problems, the boot must be removed and washed daily. During this time, clean the horse’s feet and place him in a dry area suitable for whatever problem he has (deep shavings, a deep bed of pea rock, etc.).
During this time, inspect the bulbs and legs for rubbing. If this occurs, it is probably because the boot is too tight at the heels (jamming), or too loose (twisting/movement is occurring). Re-fit your boots and/or bandage or use a man’s tube sock on the horse prior to booting.
After – ideally – two hours of drying time, powder the inside of the boot with Gold Bond Medicated Powder (available from most pharmacies) and replace the boots. Re-wrap the gaiters with Vet Wrap (or other tape).
Yep, this is a lot of work for the horse owner. But for many problems, particularly laminitis and caudal foot pain/navicular syndrome it works better and is way-cheaper than any shoeing option I know of. I expect/demand horse owners with a horse with the above problems to give me 2-3 months of good boot turnout. During this time, my goal is comfortable, non-compensative barefoot turnout. If I cannot achieve this, I let the horse owner off the hook and seek other options.
Some problems are permanent. Others may take years to fix. This is when I reach for glue-on shoes. The healing rate is slower, compared to booting, but the daily maintenance by the owner is more reasonable for the “long haul.”