Submitted by Lori Pennell
My preferred riding is "driving" as that is when I use my boots most of the time. Most of the trails I ride on, boots aren’t always needed, but I usually drive on dirt roads, and that’s where the boots are essential.
What started me using boots was of course going barefoot. About seven years ago I was told my horse, a retired Standardbred, might not be able to be ridden again, and she was only five. Pulling shoes solved the lameness issue but finding hoof protection was a problem.
I first used a pair of original 1990’s Easyboots that served for quite a while. I actually used them on a horse this weekend and they still work! I then did some research and switched to Boas. They worked quite well and stayed on in mud. I did have an issue of grass getting caught up in the mechanism from time to time, and as they got older they would pop open, especially at our road trot, and fly off in the ditch. Trying to get out of the carriage and search for my boot became an issue so I only use them occasionaly now.
The trick was finding a boot that didn’t interfere at the Standardbred’s fast trot and kept the dirt and rocks out with no rubbing. I have used Epics with much success the last couple of years and they are wonderful. I have ridden and driven with them at all speeds through grass, mud, rocks, sand, etc. and have never had a problem. They haven’t come off and they do not affect the horse’s gaits in any way.
Two years ago I got caught in a severe thunderstorm at a high elevation in Acadia while carriage driving. My horse trotted at speed several miles down steep hills in a downpour to get away from the lightning striking down around us. She never slipped or faltered while wearing her boots and we made it back safely.
Every year in Acadia my horse is also the subject of tourist pictures and people often ask about her boots as they are always curious. I now have three retired standardbreds that will eventually all ride and drive. I mostly drive and ride for pleasure but do compete in small local shows. I’ve been known to jump and barrel race wearing boots as well. They are quite versatile.
I am happy to report that hoof boots are making quite the scene in the local Maine driving community and many more horses are currently wearing them.