Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Quest for the Perfect Boot

Splint boot, that is.

It's too early in the morning to get into the hoof boot debate.  (Besides, we already know my answer to that one.)  Edit: I started this post at 7:00 this morning.  It's been a rough morning for my computer.

Hello, my name is Ashley, and I have a slight obsession with splint boots.

I've been questing after the "perfect" (if there's such a thing) splint boot since I started in endurance.  Mimi doesn't interfere in her normal, everyday movement, so I don't need something that is heavy-duty enough to withstand artillery fire-style abuse.

So why even use boots, then?

Well, I'm paranoid about having some kind of leg protection.  It's a holdover from my show days and an instructor who was superstitious about running horses in the gymkhana games without some kind of protection.  The time you don't use them is the time something will happen.  I know, I know...I did NATRC for five years and didn't have any problems.  But I was also going at a slower pace and fewer miles.

It's just my personal opinion, but I'm going for the extra insurance provided by a well-fitting boot.  It only takes one misplaced hoof or an ill-timed rock kicking up to potentially end your ride for the day.  If I have a chance at preventing that, I'm going to take it.

Granted, if I had a horse that rubbed easily, and boots were more of a hassle than they were a benefit, I might rethink my stance.

Another one of those contested issues with boots is whether they help or harm when it comes to  collecting desert debris.  There are a lot of sharp, prickly, pokey things out in the desert, and I have to say, I prefer those pieces of cactus getting stuck in the outer layer of the boot fabric versus in my horse's leg.  Would they have picked up the cactus piece if they brushed against it without boots on?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it takes a pretty hard hit to get a cactus spine through even a quarter inch of neoprene.  So even if it clings to the surface of the boot, chances are that it hasn't broken through the entire boot to poke into the horse.

There are a couple of rides around Arizona that I have been very glad for leg protection.  Man Against Horse in Prescott is one such ride.  Every year, without fail, I have came back from that ridfe with a new rip in either the splint boots or the hind ankle boots.  Sometimes both.  There is a lot of manzanita at that ride, and a lot of it is trimmed right at the edge of the trail.  One errant step, and that manzanita is poking at their leg.  And that stuff is like ramming into rebar lined with steel leaves.  A couple of years ago, a stick of manzanita ripped the entire way through the neoprene of the hind ankle boots, down to the very inside fabric covering.  I cringe at what that might have potentially done to her leg if it gouged her in the right area.  The rock-pile scramble up the backside of Mingus Mountain in the 50 at that ride also warrants the use of boots all around.

The extra protection is also nice for those trail-exploration rides that inevitably result in at least some bushwacking and rock scrambling.

Also, this is farfetched...but we have rattlesnakes.  If one happens to strike at us, maybe they'll glance off the boot instead of biting the horse's leg?  I know...unlikely.  The skin is so tight around their legs that a snake would probably have a hard time biting it.  But humor me?

Another issue is the collection of sand and debris.  I really haven't experienced this problem.  I don't really have any particular resoning or explaination for why that is, but at the moment, I'm not going to question it.

My requirements: Easy to put on/take off; doesn't trap too much heat; doesn't accumulate too much dirt and sand; well-placed seams that don't rub; won't slide down the leg; doesn't need to be overtight to prevent slipping; does not wrap around to the back of the fetlock (short cannons means that too bulky of a boot will crowd up agaist her Renegades and bump the captivator strap); isn't too long (see previous explaination about shortcannons); and I prefer a single later velcro that does not double back on itself.  Double-lock would be an acceptable secondary option.  Oh, and preferably a material that won't drag half of the prickly desert back with us.

Let's examine my history of boots, shall we?

Toklat Splint

These were my first pair of splint boots -- ever.  I got them from my trainer the Christmas after I got Mimi.  They're almost 14 years old now, and showing thier age.  They still wash up nicely, but they're definitely tattered.  Overall, they're my favorite boots yet.

What I Like:
- Easy maintenance.  Dunk, wipe, and they're clean.
- Lots of pretty colors available.
- Have not had rubbing or slipping problems.
- Easy to remove at checks.
- Durable.
- Don't attract a ton of stickers and brush

What I Don't Like:
- The Velcro that doubles back on itself.  It's too easy to overtighten them if you're not paying attention.  For that reason alone, I'd be paranoid about letting someone else who is not familiar with the exact tightness I prefer put them on.
- More time-consuming to put back on because of having to feed the Velcro back through the loop.
- The new style.  Notice behind the old boots, the rolled up pair with tags still attached.  Those are the new pair I got to replace these.  I don't like them as well.  They have to be tightened more than I like to keep them from slipping.  I used them at Wickenburg in February, and I had to adjust them several times just during the first loop beforeI finally finally left them behind at camp during the lunch hold.  I don't know if they need more break-in time, but I wasn't as impressed with this pair.  (As a note, the old ones now reside in my crew box as a back-up pair.)

Griffin's Short Splint/Brush Boots

I haven't used these on a regular basis until recently.  I would use them for competitions, and enough training rides to know they wouldn't rub, but Mimi does little to no interfering on her hind legs.  Just recently, I've noticed some scuffed hair on the inside front of her fetlocks, and have started using them more regularly as a precaution.  I don't know if her fused hocks have changed her movement enough to where she's brushing against herself at times, or if she's just scuffing her hair when she's getting up from either rolling of laying down.

What I Like:
- Good protection.  These boots have taken the brunt of the abuse from rides, and have several chunks/gouges/rips in them.
- Flat leather covering.  Not a fan of heavily padded boots, or ones that have really rigid wear patches on the inside "strike zone."
- Easy clean.
- Colors!
- Single wrap-around Velcro.
- Really easy to take off.  Putting on just takes a moment to make sure placement is correct to minimize rubbing,
- Don't attract a ton of stickers and brush.

What I Don't Like:
- I've had off-and-on rubbing problems with these.  Originally, they would rub on the top edge.  That's gone away, but the inside seam where it fathers at the fetlock has been known to start rubbing on her fetlocks.  Desitin has held it off from being a serious problem at rides, but that's just one more step to fuss with that I'd like to avoid if possible.  It could be that it's time for new ones...I think these are close to six years old, so the seams might just be getting rough and worn.

(Edit: Going to try lining the seam area with a small piece of moleskin to cover the stitching.)

Equipedic OxyFlow Splint Boots

What I Liked:
- Single wrap-around Velcro.  Really easy on/off.
- Low-profile strike zone.
- Tough Cordura covering really repels brush and stickers.  Also difficult for cactus to pierce compared to softer neoprenes with thin fabric coverings.
- Really did seem to be more breathable and stay cooler.

What I Didn't Like:
- Very tall.  Either interfered with her knees, or had a lot of material hanging below the fetlock.
- Detail seaming was very rough and sloppy.
- Stiff fabric that didn't conform to her leg very nicely.  Potential for rubbing from stiff-seamed edges.  They didn't ever rub, but I also never got to the point of using them for rides.
- Wish they came in one size smaller.  That might take care of the extra height, and make them conform to her leg better.

(Note: I ended up selling these a couple years ago.  That alone should tell me what I need to know, if I didn't even feel justified in keeping them around as "just incase" extras.)

Pro Equine Simple Splint Boots

Used these for the vast majority of my distance training.  They're probably about six or seven years old.

What I Liked:
- Double-lock Velcro.  Not as convenient as single wrap, but better than the wrap back on itself kind.
- Low profile strike zone.
- Pretty easy on/off.  The double-lock Velcro made it harder to just whip them off on-the-go.

What I Didn't Like:
- Outer Velcro layer wore out fast, and would never lay totally flat.  Would tend to get caught on loose brush and completely undo the top Velcro layer.
- Debris tended to stick inside of them and you had to really scrub to get them clean.

Woof Wear Club Brushing Boots

What I Liked:
- Single wrap-around Velcro.
- Very easy on/off.

What I Didn't Like:
- Stiff PVC strike zone.  Strike plate was not contoured enough, and very flat.  Gave the boots an odd shape.
- Weird overlap on the edges, which caused the start of a weird rub.
- Gaped weird at the top -- same problem as the Griffin's Short Boots.  Neither boot had as much front leg contouring and relied too much on Velcro and overlapping material to achieve a good fit.

Professional's Choice Competitor Splint Boots

What I Like:
- Single wrap-sround Velcro.
- Super-easy on/off.  Probably the easiest of the boots I own.
- Overlap is even, and I've not had rubbing problems from it.
- Wash-n-go.
- Stay in place very well, due to waffle-neoprene against the horse.
- Impossible to overtighten.
- Neoprene has a lot of give.
- Can trim excess edges without fabric unraveling.
- Lightweight.
- Nicely contoured around the leg -- probably the most flexible boot I've ever used.

What I Don't Like:
- Potentially hold a lot of heat due to neoprene.
- Outer covering is essentially fuzzy Velcro.  The same thing that makes them easy to put on without having to perfectly line up Velcro strips also means it attracts every little stray leaf and prickly piece of brush.
- Waffle neoprene needs to be scrubbed when washing, otherwise dirt gets trapped in the waffle pattern and doesn't eadily come out with just a quick dunk in water.  That said, they actually seem to accumulate the least amount of dirt on the inside.  I think the lack of fabric keeps dirt from clinging as much.
- Strike zone has more padding than most of my boots.  This can be both a good and bad thing.  Not a problem for a horse that doesn't interfere, but a horse that is on the verge of interfering might catch it.  On the other hand, if they do interfere, there's some good protection there.  Yet, it does have more give than the shell-like strike plates on some of the boots.

Professional's Choice Easy-Fit Splint Boots

They started out life as mine, but Dad inherited them for his Foxtrotter mare, Kelly, who interfered a lot.  Same boot as above, only with more coverage around the fetlock.  See my easlier remarks about too much fetlock coverage for little-legs Pony.  And with these...even more neoprene to trap heat.  Plus, they're pretty large, bulky boots.  Worked well for a 15.1hh mare with tree trunk legs, but I think they'd be overkill on Mimi.  Kelly definitely put them to the test, though...they're really scuffed at the bottom, right where they curve around the fetlock.  Despite all of that, the worst she did was rub the sude covering to a smoother finish.  Didn't even rip the strike zone.

Toklat Splint Boot with Elastic

Again, Dad's boots, not mine.  He has the kind that are lined with felt, because Beamer hates neoprene.  It makes him sweaty, which then makes him itchy, so he has to stop and attempt to yank the boots off in his annoyance.  Not fun to be trotting along and have him slam to a stop, duck his head, and start teething on his leg wraps.  So he has the felt-lined ones, which are kind of a pain to clean, and tend to build up grime...but they're the only thing he's comfortable in.  And he has just enough of a tendency to interfere when he's not paying attention, or being clumsy, that it's not worth not using them.  The double-lock Velcro is better than the loop-back offering of mine, and they're probably the second-easiest to put on/take off, after the Pro's Choice Competitors.  However, not a fan of the extensive coverage of them -- they're another one that has more fetlock coverage.

After examining what I've written, I've decided that of all the boots I currently own, the Pro's Choice Competitor meets my needs the best at the moment.  It has the best balance of what I like versus what I dislike.  I may have ti pick little bits of desert prickles out of them during the dry weed season, but at least it's not any money out of pocket at the immediate moment.

But the elusive quest continues on for future purchase considerations, which means...'s your turn!  Tell me what splint boots you prefer, and your experiences with using them!

And, some specific questions for everyone:

Does anyone use the HAF Splint Boots
I'm curious about them...I like the idea of air flow.  However, I'm not convinced on what looks like a fairly hard shell as a strike plate.  I'd like to see them in person.  Feedback, anyone?

I'm also curious about the Thinline Splint Boots
But the $100 price tag is enough to make me shy away.  They'd have to be perfect for me to pay that much.

Finally, has anyone tried the Griffin's Tall Brush Boots for front boots?
I tried the short ones on her fronts, but wasn't pleased. I couldn't get them to line up well without gaping at the top, or creating an uneven overlap. Mimi wasn't impressed when I rode her in them, and stopped several times to try to yank them off. Looking at the picture of the Tall boots, I see they wrap around the fetlock some, which is enough to make me wonder if it'll be a case of too much "stuff" around her fetlock area and if the leg boot and Renegade captivator will start interfering with each other.


  1. I'm very picky about my splint boots, and after a lot of investigation and a reccomendation by the Ribley's, I chose Griffins. She rides with shorts onthe back, and talls on the front. One advantage to them you did not list is that they are customizable - Mr. Griffin encourages you to take a pair of sissors and make them fit perfectly. I cut down the talls so that they fit her front legs better, and I cut down the lenght to eliminate any "overlap" so now's there's no bulk under the velcro.

    I have noticed that they tend to rub as they get older, or in the summer time as her coat gets shorter. At tevis I applied show sheen around her fetlocks and that seemed to do the trick.

  2. I feel a bit silly now, not having thought about cutting them. Makes sense...there's no stitching around the edges to unravel. I'm leaning towards the Griffin's as my next pair of front boots, but I think I want to see a pair of the tall ones in person first.

  3. Griffins.... and after hosing off, dunk in a bucket with some fabric softner. REALLY helps on all the boots.

    Easiest to clean velcro with one of those dog / cat slicker brushes.

    But, Hank wore a pair like your top pair at Tevis on the front. I knew they worked for him. Tevis is the only ride I use boots.

    Imagine of the rattlesnake got his fangs hung up in your leg boot. (teehee)

  4. txtrigger officially gets the award for funniest comment EVER. The image of the rattle snake caught in a boot is making me giggle at work.

    I only wear front boots during 100's like Tevis. That being said, I did use them at 20MT 100 this year because of the awful conditions, and I did use them at AR 50 this year to make sure that they would work for Tevis. But it's not my "normal" tack that I put on for every ride. I don't condition with the rears, but do use them for all rides since she will scuff up her fetlocks over the course of 50 miles.

  5. I just about passed out from laughing at the mental image of a "rattlesnake anklet. I *really* need someone do do a cartoon drawing of that!!!

  6. I like the felt lined ones best, tho I only use *one* boot on Chief's hind ankle. I don't know if he really needs it, now it is more of a good luck thing than anything. It's not because I enjoy having people at every ride tell me "hey do you know you are missing a boot?".

    The felt doesn't cause the neoprene reaction in the heat on multidays that I've experienced with the other boots. I haven't ever had a rub or issue from the felt lined ones, though I have two pairs (four boots total) so will use a clean boot each day giving the dirty one plenty of time to dry out after being washed.

    On Tevis I used the felt lined boots on Bo's hinds, and regular Toklat splint boots on his fronts. I think the felt lined boots with the leather on the outside do a better job of shock absorption and therefore are more protective than the single layer neoprene boots are. I figured it was worth it on that ride with all of the opportunities there are for a horse to get dinged or cut. I have never used splint boots on Chief but Bo sometimes gets ADD, tho he didn't at Tevis so maybe he's out-growing that phase?

    One good way to tell if you really want to use a boot on your horse, esp. in the summer is to get a heat gun and measure the temps of horses legs and the boots. You may at least discover if a certain material or color is cooler than another. For some horses the difference of 20 degrees could mean having the hair melt off. I've had that happen ain't pretty. Especially when the ride vet refers to your horse as Kojak. You are probably too young to get that. :~)

  7. Those are some good thoughts, Karen...thank you! I think it might be worth getting a heat gun to play with some of the boots I have. I think I might have put a bit more emphasis than I meant to on *my* convenience for dealing with boots. Yeah, I want something that isn't too much of a hassle to deal with regularly, but above all, I want something that is comfortable for the horse. At this point, I've just used the oh-so-scientific method of "which boot generates the sweatiest legs when used under similar conditions -- heat, mileage, intensity of workout, time of day."

  8. Ashley-

    I use the Haf splint boots and really like them. Like you, I only boot for competition as Jasper doesn't really interfere. I love the breathability and the fact the interference pad is a tough plastic that's molded to the leg. I don't like the idea of using anything that may retain heat on their legs, especially in the desert. The material the rest of the boot is made out of is not terribly tough, which is ok since it doens't get abused. I'd buy them again.

    I have a friend that swears by the Moxie boots. I literally know nothing about them, except that I've heard they're very breathable and come in pretty colors.


  9. Elly, do you have the kind that are lined with the sympanova material, or just the air-flo material the entire way through?

  10. Any brand reccomendations on felt lined boots?

    BTW - I forwarded the cartoon idea to my cousin (the rattlesnake thing) and she has a cartoon for it! I'll forward it along when I get the final copy :)