What are the factors that best determine whether a hoof boot will work successfully for both the horse and the rider?
In the past, I viewed the fit as the biggest factor in a successful hoof boot experience. I’ve even compared fit in a hoof boot to location in real estate. If a hoof boot doesn’t fit, how can you expect your horse and hoof boot to perform?
Although I still believe a correct fit to be one of the biggest factors in hoof boot success, I now believe that hoof trimming and/or lack of trimming to be an equal contributing factor to success.
If a hoof is measured and a hoof boot is sized for that hoof based on the measurements, the fit and corresponding experience will be positive. Moving forward, unless the hoof is maintained and trimmed, it will quickly change and become a different size/shape than the original measurements. As the hoof changes more and more from the original measurements over time, it is less likely that the hoof boot selected based on the original measurements will continue to fit well and provide a positive experience.
The Easyboot Glove Soft is a great example. A well-maintained and trimmed #1 hoof is 115mm wide and 125mm long. Based on these measurements, this hoof fits snugly into a #1 Easyboot Glove Soft. If this hoof is not maintained and trimmed, though, the hoof will flare and toe will grow. The unwanted flare could add 10%-20% to the width of the hoof and increase the width from 115mm to 125mm or 130mm. The #1 boot will now be quite difficult to apply and won’t fit correctly. The experience will now be less than positive. While a negative experience is understandably frustrating, keep in mind that it’s not a problem with the hoof boot if we’re now asking that same #1 boot to fit a different hoof.
Now let’s look at the problem from the other end. Let’s say that hoof measurements are taken four to five weeks after a trim, and the hoof measures 125mm wide and 130mm long. Hoof boots are ordered and fit like a glove upon arrival. All is well until the barefoot trimmer shows up a week later and does a fabulous job trimming the horse’s hooves. The lack of flare looks great and the toe length looks awesome. You’re excited for a trail ride and take off down the trail. Your hoof boots come off, and you are frustrated with the process, hoof boots, and keeping your horse barefoot. When you return to the barn you take hoof measurements again, and the hoof now measures 115mm wide and 125 long. Frustrating, but it becomes apparent why a boot won’t stay on the hoof now that it’s much smaller.
You ask yourself, “How can I make this work?” The answer is consistent trimming and trying to keep the hoof and hoof shape more uniform throughout a trimming cycle. Sounds easy, but how do you keep a hoof as uniform as possible throughout a trim cycle?
- Hire a good hoof care professional to come every 4 weeks. A 6 week or 8 week cycle is too long for a form-fitting hoof boot style, such as the Easyboot Glove Soft, that relies on a perfect fit.
2. Ask your hoof care professional to show you how to maintain the trim between appointments. Purchase a good rasp and a Hoofjack Hoof Stand and practice the technique they show you.
3. Ask your hoof care professional to evaluate your maintenance trims on the next visit. Ask them what you need to change and do better. The answer may be something like “More in this area, less in this area, and more off the toe.”
4. Continue to perform maintenance trims. As you become more confident and your results improve, move your hoof care professional appointments to every 6 weeks, and then every 8 weeks.
5. Keep the hoof care professional on board and involved. Ask them for feedback and help. Make sure they continue to come at least every 8 weeks. Keeping them involved will give you a good starting point and a well-balanced hoof to maintain every 8 weeks. In the worst case scenario, your horse is only 8 weeks away from balanced trim by your hoof care professional.
Remember that it’s not just about the fit. A good fit is essential for hoof boot success, but to get there and stay there you need to take proper measurements and maintain a consistent hoof shape. Consistent hoof shape is the difference between sometimes-success and all-the-time-success.