Many horses sport leg protection while working or during turnout. Some horse owners also use "support" boots, which are designed to lessen the strain on their horses' lower-limb tendons and ligaments. But David Marlin, BSc (Hons.), PhD, says some boots might be doing little to protect your horse's legs and could even be causing them harm.

Marlin, an equine research consultant from England, was a co-presenter at a March 31 seminar organized by Equilibrium Products Ltd., a British maker of leg boots and other equine accoutrements. Equilibrium had sponsored research into the protective abilities of various makers' leg boots. According to a company press release, "The variations in the results were so extreme that they caused concern for the welfare of the horse." About 50 veterinarians, riders, and officials from various British equestrian organizations attended the seminar held to discuss these results, according to Marlin.

(He noted that such research findings might normally be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for possible publication. Marlin said that while he hasn't ruled this out, the goal of the seminar was to encourage industry collaboration, and "a peer-reviewed paper would involve naming products, and this might be counterproductive.")

Cause for concern?

In tests designed to replicate the blows caused by hitting a fence, overreaching, or encountering a sharp object, Marlin said many boots and bandages provided inadequate protection at best or increased the damage at worst.­

"Some materials offer protection against concussion, but are ineffective against pene