Does my horse REALLY need boots?

This study surprised me a bit – especially the bit about polo wraps.  A good reminder to ask WHY do we do what we do with horses? Sometimes the evidence bumps into our traditions!

Researchers tested adult horses wearing:

  • A traditional neoprene boot;
  • A perforated neoprene boot;
  • An plant-based neoprene boot made of Stomatex;
  • A cross-country boot;
  • An elastic track bandage; and
  • A fleece polo wrap.

The horses rotated through each leg protection method over six exercise bouts. They wore the boot or wrap on one forelimb, and the other forelimb served as the control.  Researchers used a special device to measure limb temperature and humidity every minute throughout. They found that:

  • The bare limb’s temperature was lowest.
  • All treatment temperatures were greater than the bare limb across all time points.
  • The fleece polo wrap had the highest temperature and humidity.
  • None of the treated limbs returned to baseline temperature and humidity after the 180-minute recovery period.
  • All treated limbs reached temperatures that negatively affect tendon cells.

“The results support the hypothesis that convection cooling is impaired by boots and wraps during exercise. The hyperthermic effect boots and bandages create causes chronic microdamage to the tendon.”

Big idea:  applying leg protection during exercise remains a risk vs. reward situation. When making leg protection decisions,  researchers said to consider:

  • The ambient conditions.
  • The intensity of the workload.
  • Your horse’s locomotion tendencies (e.g., whether his feet and legs tend to interfere with each other).
  • Boot and bandage design and materials.

“The bare limb is highly efficient and aerodynamic, and there’s a lack of muscle below the knee or hock. It cools itself similarly to how a fan cools our skin, taking that heat away from the skin’s surface….“The best way to protect your horses is to remove that leg protection as soon as possible, then cold hose those limbs…”

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