Updated: Sep 28, 2022
Flex Hoof Boots are the softest boots on the market. In order to make the best use of them, the horse owner is required to think holistically and have some understanding of hoof management.
So why did we make soft boots? It was a bit of a no-brainer for us: a soft boot is so much more comfortable and well functioning for a horse than boots made of a harder material. Our boots have great cushioning and therefore make moving more comfortable for the horse. Compare this to you walking with hard boots on, or soft-soled sneakers. It's obvious that footwear with soft soles is better for the joints, for both us humans and our horses.
Isn't it a problem to have hoof boots that are soft?? In order to use soft boots on a horse, we must learn to think deeper than the surface. If the horse's hooves or body are unbalanced, both the horse and the boots will suffer. Choosing the right size boots is also important. If the hooves are not trimmed according to the horse's anatomy, and the maintenance trim isn't done weekly (BACK UP THE TOES AND THE HEELS!) you will not get a well-fitting right-sized boot for your horse.
This guide will help you make the most of your Flex Boots, for the convenience of both you and your horse.
1. THE TRIM: Trim your horse’s hooves regularly
Tidy frogs by removing any loose bits
Trim bars to the level of the healthy sole
Shorten the hoof wall at the toe to the level of the sole. At the heel, leave a few millimeters, if necessary. Be sure to trim the bars so that there are no sharp edges to carry the weight. Trim the shape of the walls to match the shape of the sole. Leaving the wall somewhere wider than elsewhere will affect the horse’s motion and the performance of the boots.
From the top of the hoof, reverse the toe to match the growth line under the coronary band
Finally, trim the sharp edges with the finer side of the rasp
Trim the hooves every week to prevent them from growing out of their proper dimensions and to keep them balanced. Learn how to do the basic trimming yourself so that you can take care of the hooves between visits by a professional trimmer.
Make sure that the hooves don’t have sharp edges, walls aren't too long (wall at the toe area should be at the level of the sole), there are no sharp bars or heels, and that the toe and heels aren't too long, as that also affects the weight balance of the hoof and causes distress to the joints.
Pointy weight bearing at the heels. In addition, the weight-bearing area of the heels is too far forwards. There are sharp edges all over the hoof which may cause the boot to break.
Bars are way too long and laying over the sole.
The shape of the hoof wall doesn't follow the shape of the sole and white line, so the hoof wall is not trimmed according to the horse's anatomy. The hoof wall is carrying most of the weight and causes stress to the laminae.
Toe is too long and causes stress to the joints.
The weight-bearing area of the heels is backed up, making it more comfortable for the horse and not causing too much pressure on the boot.
Bars are taken to the level of the healthy sole.
The shape of the hoof wall follows the shape of the sole and white line (that determines the shape of the coffin bone).
The hoof wall is at the level of the sole at the toe area, so the weight is shared between the hoof wall and the sole ridge, there is no stress on the laminae.
Toe is backed up to an anatomical correct place where it does not cause discomfort for the horse during the break over and also does not cause too much pressure on the boot.
2. BALANCED BODY
Make sure that no matter what discipline you do with your horse, you also provide the horse with alternative exercises:
If your main discipline is dressage, jumping or western riding, also take your horse regularly to a place where he/she can move on varying ground in walk, trot and canter. Walking in the woods on uneven ground is also very beneficial for the horse’s body.
If you are a trail-rider or a happy hacker, also work your horse regularly in a riding arena, both from the ground and from horseback, so that the horse will be able to carry him-/herself and you in the best possible way.
If you are driving a carriage with your horse, exercise your horse also from the ground, and if possible also do occasional trail-riding.
Before the gymnastic work, this horse ran with its head up and back hollow. That affected the use of its feet and hooves negatively: front legs are under the body and the toe will wear out more. Also in movement, horse was over-reaching, causing the boots to come off.
After gymnastic work, the horse’s top line becomes fuller and rounded, and she carries herself and the rider beautifully and in balance.
This affects the movement of the legs as well as the balance of the hooves. Front legs are able to come out from under the hind legs as they should, and front hooves will not wear from the toe area anymore.
Do exercises that support your horse's core, so that the horse learns how to support itself and you as a rider. This has a positive effect on the mind and body of the horse and the hooves too. If the horse’s core muscles are not in good shape, he/she will not be able to support him-/herself and his/her thorax up. This can often be seen in the wintertime if the horse uses boots: the front boot studs break the fronts of the back boots since the forelegs are not able to get out of the way of the hind legs in time. Forging sounds may also be heard. When the horse’s body is being exercised to be more balanced, the movement of the forelegs will be larger, and the forelegs will be better off in front of the hind legs.
Gymnastic work is also useful for other hoof imbalance conditions: excessive toe wear, hind legs wearing askew, etc. Regular exercise of the horse reduces the need for muscle maintenance and bodywork.
The photo above is of a horse before any gymnastic exercises. It has poor muscle condition at the neck, the wither and the pelvis.
Below photo is of the same horse after a few years of gymnastic work and varied exercise. The horse is much more balanced and more muscular. All this also affects the well-being and balance of the hooves.
3. THE RIGHT SIZE
When choosing Flex Boots, measure the hooves after a fresh, balanced trim (see step 1).
If the hoof size is between two sizes, we recommend choosing a larger size and using a FlexPad. If your horse tends to rotate its feet during the step, we do not recommend a very snug boot as they can rotate on the foot and cannot recover during the step. A slightly looser boot allows the boot to recover during the step. However, rotation of the foot should always be investigated and treated if necessary.
As Flex Boots are made from a soft material, their upper edge grins if the hoof is not balanced. The top edge should follow the hoof wall and will do so if the hoof wall is trimmed to follow the shape of the sole.
In the photo above, the hoof does not have the correct trim. The boot is too tight, and the back strap is too tight (see the stretched holes of the strap) and not fitting well. The heels are too high, TPU gaiter and back strap sits too low and the toe wall does not sit perfectly to the toe area. The pastern strap is not adjusted correctly in the neoprene gaiter.
In the above photo, we can see how the boot sits on a foot that has a balanced trim, which is comfortable for the horse. The TPU gaiter and back strap sit correctly and comfortably. Also, the pastern strap is adjusted correctly to the neoprene gaiter.