Updated: Jul 4
This post is by endurance rider Jaana Päiväranta from Finland, originally written in 2020 and updated in 2023.
I have been doing endurance for over 20 years now. I started with no particular idea about barefoot movement or boots for barefoot horses, I guess there wasn’t any good boots back then. But my horse happened to be barefoot! And I’m on that road still.
My horses today, shagya-arab KP and Laku, have been training endurance in Flex Hoof Boots since 2018. We are privileged to have been part of this amazing Flex Hoof Boots team since the very beginnings. I’ve tested the boots and given feedback on what me and my horses need from boots, and about our special needs in this sport. Flex Boots have helped my horses perform better than ever.
Issue with stones getting into the boot when riding on gravel roads in hoof boots
These boots are very comfortable, they are softer than other brands and they adapt better to the horse's hoof and movement. I can feel the difference under saddle of how my horse moves now compared to before. We cannot decide what kind of terrain we are going to travel while competing. That is why I try to condition my horses on all kinds of terrain at home. And one thing we have a lot of in Finland is gravel roads. And when there is plenty of loose gravel on the road, some of it usually ends up inside the boot, especially on longer rides and in higher speeds. And that is not good, at all.
I brought up this issue with Flex Boot designers Satu and Jiri, and they instantly had a solution to offer: bigger gaiters. So we tried this and it really seems to work! Now the larger gaiter reaches up higher and it sort of hugs the horse's pastern more snugly. And you can see more of those colourful gaiters which is always good in sport of endurance riding.
Below are photos showing what the larger neoprene gaiter looks like when on. Notice that the pastern strap is only looped through to neoprene gaiter at the front of the leg, this allows the gaiter to position higher up at the back of the foot.
Here is a comparison of a standard size gaiter and a gaiter that is one size larger:
Next, a comparison of the standard size neoprene gaiter and one size larger gaiter when viewed from the back of the boot:
When using a larger neoprene gaiter, it's likely that the gaiter is too long at the front of the foot and won't sit flat against the foot. If this is the case, you can simply cut the gaiter shorter, but make sure that the ends still overlap slightly, like shown here:
Competing in Flex Boots
So we had this small class event last weekend, 53kms and both my horses were on the start list. My friend Heidi has been riding with me for some time now and she was on the start list with Laku, and I was on with KP. According to the weather forecast it was supposed to rain a little bit. No problem, these boots are made for every weather! And then it ended up raining a lot – throughout the whole competition, with thunder and lightning. We had no problems with the boots, even when conditions were extremely wet and muddy. The course was on various country roads with a mixture of bigger gravel and smaller pebbles, there were part where we were riding also on some softer ground and slippery grass too.
After the first 34kms there was a mandatory stop and rest for 30 minutes which included a vet check and we did check the boots too, for any rubs or small stones inside the boots but everything looked good and there were no stones inside the boots at all. Both horses pulsed down quickly and got nothing but A's on their vet check card and we were ready to head for last 19kms. In to the rain we went and trotted most of that loop with some light gallop also. So when we were cantering the last kilometers towards finishing line with perky horses with healthy hooves, I felt filled with joy to have happy four-legged athletes with us on this sport. In endurance there is this saying “to finish is to win” and it really felt like that!