Achieving comfort in foot sore horses
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
This blog post was written by Minna Sarkkinen of MKS Equine – Flex Hoof Boots Autralia. Minna is our Flex Boot distributor in Australia and New Zealand, and a professional barefoot trimmer with over 10 years’ experience under her belt. Flex Boots can be purchased in Australia and New Zealand from https://www.flexhoofbootsaustralia.com/
My horse has low grade laminitis!!!
He is foot sore on hard ground and on stones, and whilst a lot could be written about how to treat a horse with a sore foot and the importance of a horse’s diet and living habitat to prevent foot soreness in the first place, in this blog post we will focus on how boots and padding can make a positive difference to the horse immediately.
OK, so my horse has been having inflammation for a little while now. It started with an incident where “someone” rubbed their bum on a gate, the chain broke and the herd ran into and spent the night on 10 acres of knee high green grass. And it doesn’t help that this years’ never-ending rain has seen the fence lines remain green all through spring and summer. Although our track is dirt, under the fences is green and our horses can reach it! And it’s of course my main riding horse that suffers the most from all this grass. Next year, I will put in place a management plan to kill the evil grass under the fence line.
Anyhow, here we are with my 17yo TB with a history of extremely poor hoof care before he came to us, and past laminitis. From the photo on the left, you can see how his feet were at his previous home. Before he arrived, no one recognized that the horse had laminitis so he went on like this for years.
Horses this damaged are extremely sensitive;
they can ONLY eat the right stuff,
and they MUST have their feet perfectly trimmed,
and have it done weekly.
At one point I made an experiment of NOT trimming weekly; I left him for three weeks and the hooves flared out terribly. Safe to say that experiment went right out the window and we will never ever visit it again.
This horse has a plethora of issues:
He has contracted heels on all four feet.
He has gigantic side-bone in all four feet.
His soles are like tissue paper, and he has high-low front feet.
To make things even more difficult for booting, he has the typical TB wide foot, but with a narrow caudal foot due to the contraction. He is a tall 16.2hh horse on a very poor foundation.
Using boots and pads in turnout and when riding
Things were tricky with him until we found Flex Boots. Finally, boots that fit, stay put, never come off and give him amazing comfort – yay!
Because of all his issues, I ALWAYS have pads in his boots for riding. He lives in his boots on the track all summer, he doesn’t do hard ground/rocks at all. On the track I take the pads out since he’s ok without a rider on board - it’s amazing how much weight we add on top of them!
Here’s his track boots on his feet. There is a giant amount of empty space at the back of the boots, especially the left one. It’s because it’s a clubby foot. In fact, I can easily twist the boots by hand, yet they never move while he’s wearing them. Not even on a track that is on a hill and with a sideways incline, having a jolly in a herd of seven horses.
How is this achieved?
By having the boot fit correctly at the toe. Note how the toes are properly in the front of the boots? This is important: if there is space at the back and the toes don’t sit inside the boot properly, the boots won’t work properly.
With a pair of any of the three Flex pads in (soft yellow, firm red or Kevlar pads), the boots stay on like they were set in concrete; they do not move no matter how hard I try to twist them. They have never budged under saddle.
What to do when even your normal boot set-up isn’t enough to make your horse comfortable?
Normally his feet are happy in one set of pads, but since we currently have this inflammation issue, he’s extra sensitive. My arena needs more sand, it’s too firm for him at the moment, and the rocks we cross to get there are fist size, sharp awful things. Whilst he’s not lame as such, he could go a bit better. So I thought I’d try to put two pairs of pads in his front boots.
Usually, the thicker the padding, the more it alters the fit of the boot. If the toes don’t sit well in the boot, they may start rubbing and the boot may twist or even come off. Because of the extra padding, the hoof can end up too high inside the boot.
But at the same time,
the thicker the padding,
the more comfortable the horse is.
So I experimented with double padding, to see if it would make my horse more comfortable.
Flex pads are designed to sink into the boot sole and become part of it. They spread out into any gaps and empty spaces like the spray-in insulation that goes into the walls of a house, except the pads stay soft while they do this.
I chose to use the soft yellow EVA pads on this occasion, because I wanted as much “squish” under the walls and heels as possible.
Here are the pre-ride photos. I was keen to see if the toes would “suck” to the front of the boots like they normally do. As mentioned earlier, this is a good thing and a key aspect of achieving a good fit with Flex Boots. (click on images to make them larger)
These post-ride photos below show the toes right at the front of the boots, and all the empty space at the back is taken up by the pads; the fit isn’t altered negatively at all. It’s worth pointing out that if the boots were tight all over to begin with, there might not have been enough room to try this set-up. (click on images to make them larger)
We’ve done four rides like this so far, and he is going amazingly well.
Evolution of the pads during use
Here is a progression of the changes in the soft yellow EVA Flex Boot pads during our experiment. Since they’re the softest pads, they’re the most comfortable too, but I was going through them way too quickly before (read below why!), so had opted for one of the other pads instead for normal, daily use. (click on the arrow to view all photos)
I like all the pads for different applications, but softest it always best to provide the most comfort for the horse, especially if they have thin soles.
Here's a video of the pads as they were after three rides.
Importance of washing the pads after every use
The recommendation from Flex Boots is to wash the EVA pads after each use by rinsing them under running water and making sure you get all the dirt off them. But being perpetually lazy, I doubted how much of a difference that would really make. So I didn’t wash them, and consequently I wore them out within a few rides. When not maintained properly, the red pads tend to go hard, and the yellow pads will squish down into nothing.
I’ve now started washing the pads
and the difference is AMAZING!
The soft yellow EVA is now by far my most favourite pad – I’m in love with them! Thanks to giving them a wash after each ride, they are springing back to normal again and again, and I’ve discovered that extra plumpness can be obtained by drying them in a warm spot such as in the sun/near the fire, or best of all – in a tumble dryer! (And, unlike many other horsey items we all tend to sneak into the washing machine and tumble dryer at home, the pads won’t have any hair in them, so chances are you won’t get caught doing it!)
After putting them in the tumble dryer, even little stone pock marks on one of the pads healed nearly completely. The only worn area after four rides is under the heels of the clubby foot – which is expected. The other three pads are at their original thickness and softness all over.
Here's a video where I show you what the pads look like after four rides, a wash and a spin in the tumble dryer.
So far on our experiment of using double pads in Flex Boots, we have done four rides of arena work in walk, trot and canter, for around 45 minutes each time. The arena is a bit too hard as the sand has compacted down, so it doesn’t really offer any cushioning. (Not that sand is a great comfortable surface anyway, but this one is extra harsh at the moment.) So the boots and pads have been the sole source of cushioning for my horse during the rides. The double pad set-up has worked really well for my horse, because I've made sure that even with the extra cushioning, the boots are a good fit for him.
My horse has been comfortable on every ride.
Here are two videos, first one with single pads in each boot, the second with double pads in the fronts and single pads in the hinds. Notice the difference in the horse's movement in these two videos.
To me this has proved just how effective Flex Boots are at providing extra protection and comfort for a horse when they need it. As always, getting the boot fit right is key, along with maintaining a correct, weekly trimming schedule so your horse’s hooves stay in optimal shape and balance.
Want to know more?
You can read all about Flex Boot products here, and detailed sizing and fitting information can be found here.
If you would like individual Flex Boot fitting advice, please email us on email@example.com with measurement and photos of your horse’s feet
(side, front, sole straight on and sole side angle view).