Any time your horse is exposed to rough terrain or asked to do difficult maneuvers, it’s a good idea to provide protection for their legs and feet. Sports boots do a great job of protecting their lower legs and hooves.
Basic splint boots wrap around cannon and splint bones covering that area from the top of the fetlock joint to the knee. These boots have additional padding on the inside of the legs to protect the splint bone, the fetlock joint, and tendon areas. Some splint boots, commonly known as Jumping boots, will leave the front cannon bone area open so that the horse can feel if they rub or bump a jump pole.
Splint boots are usually less expensive than other types of sports boots on the market. They’re a great option if you’re looking for protection and support without hindering movement in the fetlock area.
Another type of sport boot is the Combination Boot, also known as a Sports Medicine Boot. These boots wrap around the cannon bone and the fetlock joint. They’re offered for the front leg and back legs. Combination Boots offer more coverage and additional support for the sensitive suspensory ligaments and tendons. These boots are a good option for high impact sports such as barrel racing, reining, cutting, and roping. They are also a requirement for horses recovering from tendon or ligament injuries.
Skid boots are used on the hind legs only. They provide protection and support of the fetlock joints by protecting them from coming into contact with the ground during sliding stops. Skid boots are used for reining and roping where hard stops often occur.
The terms Bell Boots and Overreach Boots are often used interchangeably. While they are similar, these two boots actually have different purposes. The goal of a Bell Boot is to provide protection of the whole hoof. Because of this, they are somewhat longer and fit lower on the pastern.
The purpose of the Overreach Boot is primarily to provide protection for the bulb of the heel from the hind feet. Because of this, they are generally made somewhat shorter and fit higher on the pastern compared to Bell Boots.
Both types of boots offer a good bit of protection for the front feet during high impact riding. If your horse has a tendency to hit themselves with their front feet, the Bell Boot is a better option as it provides complete coverage of the coronary line and hoof. If your horse has a big stride and tends to overreach -- hit the front feet with the back -- you will want to use the Overreach Boot as it offers better heel protection.
In addition to understanding the types of sports boots on the market and their purposes, be sure to study how your horse works. Knowing the advantages of each boot will help you decide which boot works best with the way your horse moves.