The Rider’s Guide to Horse Boots

by Michelle Drum December 12, 2019 6 min read

Horse trotting with front and hind horse boots

Do you need horse boots for your horse? If so, what’s the best way to decide which boots meet your horse’s needs, with so many options to consider? This guide will tell you all you need to know about horse boots, including the different types of horse boots available on the market, and will provide guidance to help you determine if you should use them with your horse.

What Are Horse Boots and Why Use Them?

A horse boot is a protective boot or wrap designed to prevent a horse’s lower leg or hoof from experiencing trauma. These injuries could result from activities like walking on rough terrain or damage from a gait irregularity. Horse boots offer protection and also absorb shock when a horse’s hoof hits the ground. Have you ever noticed scabs on the inside of your horse’s fetlocks? This may be due to brushing or rough play in the field, and your horse may need boots. If your horse regularly injures the inside his fetlock or pastern, has sustained a more significant injury, or is regularly walking on rough terrain, boots will help protect from injury.

Sporting riders should use horse boots during riding, lunging, or turnout since their horses are typically moving at a faster speed, providing a greater opportunity for injury. And of course, jumping can cause injury if a horse nicks or doesn’t clear a fence. In general, pleasure riders don’t need leg protection for their horses, unless they travel on rough terrain or unless the horse has a problem with its walk or their gait.

Horse boots are available in a variety of materials including leather, sheepskin, gel, and neoprene, or plastic. They can have buckles, hook and stud closures, or hook and loop closures. Horse boots generally come in pairs with the closures on the outside of the horse’s leg to ensure that they don’t interfere with each other and come undone, potentially causing injury to the horse.

If you decide to use horse boots, it’s important that they fit well and be kept clean from built-up dirt and sweat. You should also check often to ensure the boots aren’t chafing and inadvertently causing injury.

Types of Horse Boots

There are a number of different types of horse boots that protect different parts of your horse’s lower leg and hooves in different ways.

Bell Boots

The bell shape of these boots circles the entire hoof and protects the heel as well. Bell boots, also called overreach boots, are used to prevent overreaching, where a horse hits his front heels with the toes of his back feet. They can be worn while riding or in the paddock. Bell boots protect the hooves from tough or muddy terrain, and they protect from hitting a hard surface when jumping or negotiating obstacles. They can be worn on the front and the back.

A pull-on style is considered the most secure, but they can be challenging to get off and on. Pull-ons also offer the best protection since they have no opening. Buckle closures or hook-and-loop fasteners are also used as they are easier to put on and take off. However, they can be more prone to get clogged by dirt, depending on the terrain. They also have a greater risk of falling off, so it’s important to put them on properly and regularly ensure that they are latched.

Fetlock Boots

Fetlock boots, also called brushing boots or ankle boots, are worn on a horse’s hind legs. They are designed to protect the inside of a horse’s legs from injuries caused by the opposite hock striking the lower leg and fetlock. They start under the knee and down the inside of the leg and are designed to protect while still enabling a horse to feel a pole while jumping. Fetlock boots are generally used for show jumping with tendon boots to provide protection and can be used for schooling and competition, when allowed.

Fetlock boots generally come in two designs. One is more of an all-purpose boot, where additional padding is provided inside the fetlock. The other wraps around the back of the joint and leaves the front of the boot open.

Tendon Boots

Tendon boots are worn on a horse’s front legs. They are designed to protect the tendon area from strikes from the hind hooves which can occur when landing a jump. Tendon boots also protect the inside of the legs from brushing injuries caused when a hoof catches the leg.

Just like with fetlock boots, open-fronted boots are available that enable a horse to feel a pole during jumping. Closed-tendon boots protect the front of the leg as well as the tendon area and are often recommended when eventing due to the risk of injury from solid fences when they are allowed.

Hoof Boots

These boots protect the horse’s sole and are sometimes used instead of horseshoes. Hoof boots can be used temporarily, during a transition to going shoeless, for medical reasons if a horse cannot wear shoes, or if a horse loses a shoe. They are used for all riding disciplines and protect the sole of the hoof from rough terrain.

Therapeutic Boots

Therapeutic hoof boots help a horse’s hooves heal faster from injuries and are easier to use than wrapping the feet and hooves. These boots can be used with your horse’s medication and they also protect the hoof from dirt and oils.

Travel Boots

Travel boots, also called shipping boots, are used to protect a horse’s lower legs, and sometimes hocks, from injury while traveling in a trailer. They are usually faster to put on than bandages and offer a comfortable fit.

The Best Horse Boots

There are many horse boot options to choose from. Here are several that we recommend, based on performance as well as staff and customer feedback.

Nunn Finer Long Neck Bell Boots ($19)

These bell boots are a staff favorite! They are easy to get on and off with their stretchy rubber neck and their thick rubber bottoms keep them in place to offer great protection.


Nunn Finer Long Neck Bell Boots

EquiFit Essential Bell Boot ($56.95)

The EquiFit Bell Boot is a great option for those who want an option for a pull-on boot. It features a double hook-and-loop closure to ensure a secure fit and has a rolled-top fleece edge to prevent rubbing. It’s made of a lightweight and waterproof foam with synthetic EverLeather covering.

EquiFit Essential Bell Boot

Shires Arma Brushing Boots ($56.95)

These ergonomically-shaped fetlock boots provide a comfortable fit while protecting the fetlock joint from knocks and rubs. These boots are quick-dry and include a breathable cooling system with high-impact protection.


Shires Arma Brushing Boots

Woof Wear Pro Tendon Boots ($76.95)

The Woof-Wear Pro Tendon Boots are a great open-front boot for a good price. They have a polyurethane shell that is sculpted at the top and bottom to provide freedom of movement, and the velcro elastic front closures help to keep the boot in place.


Woof Wear Pro Tendon Boots

Acavello Anatomic No Turn Gel Hoof Boots ($49)

This boot offers complete hoof protection in a tough waterproof boot. It’s elastic and easily stretchable making it easy to put on your horse. This Acavello hoof boot has ready-to-cut edges that are adaptable to the hoof’s shape for a safe and comfortable fit.


Acavello Anatomic No Turn Gel Hoof Boots

Intrepid Hoof Sock ($46.95)

This therapeutic hoof sock has a felt insert that can be used with any hoof medicine to treat your horse. It’s flexible and easy to get on and off and includes velcro reinforced tabs to keep the boots secure. They are also machine washable.


Intrepid Hoof Sock

Saxon Travel Boots ($57.95)

Saxon Travel Boots come in a set of four so your horse can travel safely. They are made of a nylon exterior with a comfortable fleece lining with touch-tape closures that provide a secure fit. We recommend keeping a set of these travel boots with your horse trailer supplies.


Saxon Travel Boots

Final Thoughts

Using horse boots is a good way to help protect your horse from injury. They are not always needed, but considering that it can take weeks or months for an injury to heal, many equestrians believe it’s a good practice to prevent injuries.

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