Thursday, June 24, 2010

To Boot or Not to Boot

There're boots (FarmWife's, pictured) and and then there're boots (mine, below) and boots (suspensory). And THOSE—suspensory, support or protective boots—are what I want to talk about today. (And yes, I know that there are a million other kinds, too, but a mule has only so much time.)

I love my Easyboot Epics, and I would gladly wear a second pair on my hind hooves if the opportunity presented itself. So far, it hasn't, but it's only a matter of time until a mule of my caliber starts seeing the corporate sponsorship love. All in due time! 
In the meantime, FarmWife wonders about protective or supportive boots. You know, the kind that make a mule look very fancy, ready for anything, and primed for tremendous athletic accomplishment? 

Really, I would love to have some. I think they'd look sassy. The arguments in favor of wearing something like a Sports Medicine Boot are thus:

  • I love to accessorize.
  • FarmWife loves to dress me up.
  • Nothing is too good for Dear Fenway.
  • My legs are worth their weight in gold.
  • I do hard work, surmounting precipitous slopes in challenging footing.
The arguments against my wearing boots are thus:

  • I own no boots.
  • I am on a wicked tight budget.
  • I do not jump, do speed events, or otherwise work in a capacity of extreme athleticism.
  • I have sensitive skin and am prone to rashes.
  • I always know where my hoofies are and I have never managed to hurt my lower legs.
  • I have tendons like rocks.
  • My only symptom of unsoundness is an unsightly (but painless) thoroughpin on my hock, nowhere near and having nothing to do with the area supported by suspensory boots.

So, what's your take? I know people who won't take a horse out of the barn without protective boots on every leg, and then I know folks who feel that booting is an expensive and potentially irritating encumbrance, more likely to cause harm than good. 

I'd love your opinion, even though it's not likely to send me running to the nearest Professionals Choice outlet. After all, there's that budget.

Your barely-booted friend,


  1. Dear Fenway,
    It's slightly off topic, but I was just wondering what your opinion was of Easyboots. Are they worth the expense? Do you use them as an alternative to shoes or simply as a back-up in case you pull a shoe off one of those delicate feet of yours. I'm considering them and was simply wondering what your opinion was.

    Your curiously mulish friend,

  2. Have a retired (now very elderly) racehorse who has recently begun "letting down" his suspensories vet says due to age, I am putting him in suspensory boots because when I had my own ankle ligament problems I wore ankle supports and loved the secure feeling they gave of not being too easy to overtax the ligaments. Oddly enough my vet says they don't help but other horsemen I've networked with are one hundred percent in favor of it not only for prevention of trauma but also support of a chronic condition.

    On the hoof boot question a lot of the endurance people love the Easyboots but they are tough on human hands to put on/take off, there are other (less expensive easier to handle) boots out there that do a great job, check out Gretchen Fathauer's "hoof boot exchange" on her farrier website, google "hoof boot exchange" should get you there, people buy and sell new/used plus lots of info on pricing and fit, sizing and reviews.

  3. Fenway,

    As much as you like to dress up, I think you having Pro's Choice boots would be like me having professional soccer gear. The reality is, I play soccer once a week for six weeks of the year. I do not need fancy gear, and I don't think you do either.

  4. HHM Mr. Blondie never leaves home without his boots. Shipping boots on the bus, bell boots in front & brushing/galloping boots all around when being ridden. (He is currently sporting some mighty stylish PURPLE Woof boots.)

    However... HHM Mr. Blondie has been known to rack up a sizable emergency vet bill by slicing a heel bulb while trailering 20 minutes home from a lesson.

    And there are often nasty sharp poky things lying in wait around here, hoping for the opportunity to attach themselves to a passing palomino leg. One of Mr. Blondie's former barn mates ended up with a punctured tendon sheath after backing into a cactus.

    Given that you always know where your hoofies are and have never injured your legs - and further given that you have sensitive skin, HHM Mr. Blondie and I say: Dare to Be Bare.

  5. Well Fenway - never had boots on my hoofs before - not sure I would like them. I do like that picture of those Hercules looking boots - those are pretty cool - I think I would like some like that and I might even wear them too.

    Your fren,

  6. Dear Fenbar;

    Long time reader first time poster. My name is Turbo and I am a beautiful TB mare.I have been known to go in many stylish boots and polos. My personal favs are splint boots front and rear or pro-choice boots in front for trail riding and western gaming. Altho when I was jumping I was often seen sporting polos that matched my saddle pad. My owner no longer rides me, I am happy to be out to pasture now. My owner would galdy lend you a few types of boots to try if you would like. She is wonderful that way. All my boots are medium size if they will fit your slender legs. :) My owner has worked for many diffrent farms from western pleasure to A show jumpers. She personally thinks that you can never be to careful with my legs. No hoof no horse, no leg no mule :) If you would like to try a few types of boots you can email my owner at

  7. Hi Mr. Fenway-

    I wear bell boots 24/7/365 ever since on my first week with my human when I pulled my shoe part way off (nails sticking out!!).

    She had to remove both my shoes herself. Let's just say there was a high learning curve on that activity - it took two days. I'm barefoot now, and am owie on gravel, which would be a good time to wear boots I guess.

    She did have an easy boot on me while waiting to borrow the farrier tools... it caused a painful rub on my heel. We think the boots are good for temporary. I also wear galloping boots when we do our dressage - black ones which make me look so handsome (my human says).

    That's all we know.

  8. I always tell my kids better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. Given that you trek up a mountain with Farmwife, Fenway, I think it wouldn't hurt to wear something protective on those journeys at least. Polos are cheap and I'm sure the savings account for the harness could be made a little larger and include some used boots, maybe from eBay. Daughter has tons of equine supplies she is trying to get rid of so maybe I could raid that stash..hmmm...

  9. I look at it like this; the racing fraternity looked into boots and found that they were not beneficial to the horses. In fact I think they found them to be detrimental as they stop the horse moving the shock of ground contact up the leg as it should. If they aren't booting million dollar racehorses to race them in case it harms them, then I'm not going to boot my girl to go for trail rides. :)

  10. Fenway,

    I knew a TB that went home with a girl from university for the summer, she TURNED HIM OUT with SMB on... and burned all the hair off his legs and damaged his tendons.

    Now, are the new ones supposedly cooled and more breathable? Yes.
    Have I used SMBs? Yes, on a quite a few horses. In fact, even on that same horse (guess who got him the rest of the summer to help his leg rehab?).

    BUT, if you are sensitive, and it sounds like mighty, strong, and sure footed, you might not really need them. The horse in question was only out in them for 4 hours... how long do some of your trail rides go?

    Oh, and my first event horse looked off in SMBs even if he was sound! It was just SMBs, never in regular galloping boots, although he preferred barelegged best.

    Good luck!

  11. Hi Fenway,

    I'm with the "Dare to go Bare" crowd. My Human and I ride Drill and she boots me up for that (both SMBs and Bell boots - I'm gaited and tend to over-reach.) Mom says she boots me up because we do a lot of quick starts, stops, and turns which are hard on the legs and I need all the support I can get. Plus, I've got several scuffs on my boots where, if I hadn't been wearing them, I would have cut myself with my own feet!

    But for trails, beach rides, and just generally messing around when we aren't doing the real athletic stuff, Mom leaves my boots off. She says that, on the beach, I can get sand in my boots and hurt my skin. On the trails, she want me to be able to feel where my legs are (and where they shouldn't be.)

    I tend to agree with Mom. I'm not all that keen on boots myself. Mom used to put boots on my back legs but then I always looked lame, so she quit doing that 'cause she got tired of people telling her that I was broken!

    Anyhow, I'd say that unless you take up drill, gaming, roping, or some other speed event (at which I am sure you would excel) don't worry about the boots. You're a smart guy and you know how to take care of yourself. Boots? Boots? You don't need no stinking boots!

    Yours in Horseness,


  12. I worked at a really high end dressage stable and we turned out horses with the SMBs on all of the time and it was never a problem!

  13. Many hearty brays to each of you for your thoughtful responses. In answer to a question, I shall give my resounding endorsement of Easy Boots. I do not wear shoes; I have rather wonderful feet, if I do say, but sometimes even a mule needs a layer of protection. I have worn my Epics through the most challenging conditions; fording water, slogging through mud, jumping, and the like. They go on and off in ten seconds. They are the best money FarmWife ever spent (recalling, if you will, that I was a gift).

    As far as boots go, I think I will hold off on adding to my wardrobe for now. If it ain't broke, they say, don't fix it.

    Your thoughts are appreciated!

    Earfully yours,

  14. I am a bit late to the discussion, but I'll just add that I agree with the less is more style of booting, especially for a creature as sturdy as yourself. If FarmWife is concerned with briars and brambles or sharp rocks on your precipitous trails, then I'd say polo wraps are the way to go. I've always been a fan of polos while on the trails, mostly for protecting skin from burrs and sticks and other scrape-y objects.


Thanks in Advance for Your Mulish Opinion!