In a previous article, here, I talked about my utter paranoia re: tendons. Here are my thoughts on how best to protect them.
After years of trial and error, purchase and usage, my favourite boots are New Equine Wear (NEW), (both the lightweight and the aircooled – I have used them for literally decades, they are super-lightweight, I’ve never had a pair rub or slip, and they stand up to a lot of use too, never thrown a pair out either!), Ecogold (which do absolutely excellent boots, Coolmax lined, these are my favourites for every day and for competition wear), and Style boots, but fronts only – the hinds always slip on my horses, annoyingly.
I suspect that of the 3, the Styles would be the most heating, so I do not use those for xc now. Nor do I use them on very hot days, but they are fine for hacking and schooling in winter.
I am not a fan of neoprene boots at all – neoprene was developed to INSULATE body heat (for divers). If you spend just 1 minute standing still in a wetsuit on a beach under hot sun, you’ll know what I mean… I nearly passed out from the heat! If the fabric is kept soaking wet and there’s a good breeze, it’s fine, (then the wind chill through the neoprene makes you shiver instantly) but most neoprene boots are not kept wet all the time. The last thing you want is insulated legs – they are supposed to be naturally air-cooled!
I am totally paranoid about the length of the tendon guards in any boots, if they are too long they can rub the tendons as the horse moves, which can be disastrous. I know of someone whose horse’s tendon scans shows damage exactly outlining the tendon guards on some boots she’d purchased very recently. Worth being very vigilant about!
Also, the material of the tendon guards is absolutely crucial – it must be a material which will, at worst, snap cleanly, and absolutely NOT shatter under any circumstances. I’ve seen a snapped Premier Equine tendon guard, from a hind boot hitting a xc fence hard I guess (not my boot or my horse!) – it just snapped cleanly in two, stayed inside the material, did no damage at all to the horse’s leg (and the company replaced the boots without question, all credit to them), but at the other end of the scale I know someone whose good eventer was permanently written off when a carbon-fibre tendon guard shattered into the tendon. This stuff really matters, and don’t assume that just because they are sold to be protective, they always will be – certain materials behave in certain ways under extreme stress, and that cannot be altered.
Dr David Marlin has done a lot of research and testing on boots, his video report is here.
Fascinating stuff, but it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that this research was paid for by Trizone.
His useful-to-know main points are:
Lower forelimbs are the most likely sites of horse injury.
Do NOT fit boots tightly, they can do a LOT of harm. If you have to fit them tightly to stop them slipping, or if you have to tape them, they DO NOT FIT that horse’s legs.
Boots should be lightweight.
They mustn’t restrict.
They mustn’t rub.
Boots need to absorb impact (not increase concussion) as well as deflect a penetrating blow.
They shouldn’t absorb water. Some boots tested actually doubled in weight after going through a water jump. (The effects of this are huge, and explained clearly on the video.)
They should be on for the shortest possible time. Let those susceptible tendons start cooling down as soon as you can after strenuous exercise.
I always take boots off before untacking, washing down, or anything else now. BUT if your horse is one of those who comes back from the XC totally wired on adrenalin and a bit crazy, please ALWAYS take studs out first before taking boots off. I’ve heard a few real horror stories of horses damaging their legs very badly with studs against bare legs. Then get ice or cold water on those legs asap, and keep adding cold water or more ice, as the evaporation is what cools the legs.