How Hoof Boots Impact a Horse’s Walk

Horses fitted with hoof boots had longer hoof contact time with the ground than barefoot horses, researchers found.
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How Hoof Boots Impact a Horse
Horses fitted with hoof boots had longer hoof contact time with the ground than barefoot horses. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse
Hoof boots, popular among trail riders, provide barefoot horses with hoof protection and traction. These boots also help cushion and protect the sole when used on horses with hoof wall defects, signs of foot pain, or solar puncture wounds.

Some researchers believed hoof boots could also change the locomotor forces applied to the foot, potentially offering therapeutic benefits. So, Santiago D. Gutierrez-Nibeyro, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, and colleagues recently conducted a study on the topic to learn more.

Findings from Gutierrez-Nibeyro’s study did show that horses fitted with hoof boots had longer hoof contact time with the ground than barefoot horses. “We found that the use of the hoof boots prolonged the deceleration period of the limb, which is consistent with a slower deceleration phase during limb impact with the ground,” he explained.

At this point, the clinical significance of this finding can only be speculated, Gutierrez-Nibeyro said. However, the results suggest that hoof boots increase the time of breakover (defined as the moment the heels lift off the ground), slow the gait, and increase limb action. A longer deceleration time could allow the force generated by impact with the ground to dissipate more widely through the hoof and the rest of the leg. As a result, it’s possible that hoof boots might be protective for the limbs if the results are also valid at faster gaits. Thus, Gutierrez-Nibeyro said further investigation is warranted.

“The use of the hoof boots is not detrimental to the lower limb of the horse,” he said. “Additional research is necessary to investigate how these hoof boots impact the gait at faster speeds, such as the trot and canter.”

The study, “Effect of hoof boots and toe-extension shoes on the forelimb kinetics of horses during walking,” was published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

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Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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