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Equine leg gear does a lot more than just make your horse look good. The right boots can help your horse stay sound and at the top of his game. Some boots offer support, like an athlete taping his ankles before a big game. Other boots offer protection. Think football pads here. And some are designed for specific events and maneuvers. Knowing which boots you need is not always easy, so here's a crash course in leg gear for you.
Leg gear falls into two main categories. Support and Protection. If your horse has been injured or is structurally predisposed to injury you should look for support boots. Events with hard, fast maneuvers also make support boots a good option. Protective boots offer your horse added protection like those football pads we mentioned earlier. If there is a chance the he might be banging his legs on each other or on something else, then protection type boots can add the padding and defend him from injury.
Protection of specific areas of the horse's foot can also be added. Bell boots are also protective gear for your horse that prevent injury from over-reaching. When a horse over-reaches he strikes the front foot with the hind foot. Many things can cause this; conformation, deep ground, pulling a load, and other causes. Severe damage to the coronary band can occur, and if it scars the hooves can grow abnormally for the rest of the horse's life. Bell boots add a layer of protecting and padding around the coronary band so that if the horse does over-reach, injury is unlikely. Another type of protective boot is the skid boot. Reiners, calf ropers, and other equine athletes that stop hard and deep in the ground with their hind end can burn the fetlocks of their rear feet. If this happens often, they will become hesitant to 'get in the ground', or stop deep. Skid boots feature a hard plastic cup that covers and defends that fetlock area.
How can you tell which boots are which? Sports medicine boots help your horse stay strong by offering a little extra support to the tendons and ligaments. These boots have a sling or cradle design that wraps around the fetlock joint (where the cannon bone, sesamoids, and pastern meet. Protective boots usually feature hard plates of leather of plastic with padding underneath. Boot manufacturers have also designed boots for those of us who need a little bit of both protection and support by adding neoprene lining to the support boots to increase the padding.
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