Barefoot horses are prone to lameness-inducing hoof damage when ridden on rough terrain. For owners who want to maintain them without shoes, hoof boots are the go-to for protecting sensitive soles, particularly on the trail. Research on if they work and over what surfaces, however, is limited.

So Gabriella Lynn, a student at Western Kentucky University, in Bowling Green, hoped to determine Cavallo Trek boots’ effects on hoof pressure distribution using a unique method: pressure-indicating sensor film. She chose to study Cavallo Trek boots because they cover the entire foot and have tread for riding over rough ground. Lynn presented her findings at the 2019 Equine Science Society Symposium, held June 3-6 in Asheville, North Carolina.

In her study, Lynn measured pressure distribution as horses walked over Fujifilm Low Prescale Film barefoot and when wearing boots, on asphalt and over crushed stone. The color film images revealed pressure over the hoof wall and sole, as well as minimum and maximum pressure, mean pressure, size of contact area, and force. After analyzing these, Lynn observed that:

  • Hoof boots created more low-pressure regions on the film than bare feet, “meaning that hoof boot absorbed more force and distributed more pressure upon impact,” she said;
  • Crushed stone created more low-pressure regions than asphalt, regardless of whether the horse was barefoot or wearing boots; and
  • On asphalt, boots reduced the amount of pressure on the foot slightly compared to barefoot.

“Horses used in trail riding on rugged terrain can benefit from hoof boots to prevent hoof damage and excessive concussion,” Lynn said.