This post was written by Minna Sarkkinen, a seasoned professional barefoot trimmer, who also manages all Flex Boot helpdesk enquiries regarding sizing and fitting of Flex Boots. Minna has helped thousands of horses in-person and online to better hoof health, and is an expert when it comes to trimming barefoot horses and ponies.
Flex Hoof Boots are suitable for many different shapes of hooves. Sometimes you hear people say that our boots only fit perfectly shaped hooves, but that just isn't true (is there such a thing as perfect hooves anyways?). This blog post will help you understand how Flex Boots work for different hoof shapes - we hope you enjoy reading it.
Basics of good hoof trimming
The general requirement with any horse is that the hooves are trimmed well, according to the individual horse's physique. Basic details of what we mean by a good trim can be found on our blog post 3 steps to well functioning Flex Boots.
If you'd like to learn all the core principles regarding barefoot horse care, and how to trim hooves correctly according to the horse's anatomy, our hoof trimming course will teach you all this and more. Details of the course can be found on www.holistichoofcareforhorseowners.com
This photo shows a 130 Flex Boot (with a 120 back strap) on a very round hoof. It’s quite an upright foot, with a really meaty digital cushion. The horse is 19 months old and still growing; the TPU gaiter is just about too small, and should soon be swapped to a larger one, for a better fit.
Notice how the toes are well in the front of the boot shell, even though the feet are very upright? If the toes don't go in, first look at the trim, and then check the boot size.
There is a difference between a naturally upright, steeper hoof conformation, and a hoof that is at an excessively high angle due to trimming issues. Each horse has their own unique conformation which should be acknowledged. Below are more photos of the same hoof.
While the 130 boot shell is a slightly oval shape, it’s not a problem since the material is soft enough and has just the right amount of give to accommodate the rounder hoof shape. If the hoof was very round AND flared on the sides, this would be a problem. The hoof wall should be tightly attached to the pedal bone all the way around. If the wall deviates outwards, you know there is flare that needs to be addressed. If the hooves are not flared, yet the boot bulges out at the sides, the boot is too small.
Is it a round hoof, or a flared hoof?
On the roundness topic: there are some horses whose feet are naturally so much wider than long that the boot won't fit and sizing up leaves too much space at the back of the boot, but they are not nearly as many as is believed - most of the time the feet have a flare at the heel quarters (hello TBs, cobs and draught crosses!). We can help you identify this, and assist with questions about whether Flex Boots might fit your horse, via our helpdesk email. Check out our fit & size page for details about what information we will need from you, then drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. So many of these cases are an easy fix, you might be surprised by how easily you can improve your horse's hoof health with just small tweaks to its trim.
Hoof too wide due to trimming issues
The new 150 boot shell is rounder in shape, since we recognise that the draught type horses usually have a consistently rounder hoof shape.
What about horses with high-low feet?
Below is an example of hooves that were difficult to fit boots on, and the great adaptability of Flex Boots. This horse is severely high-low, and we ended up choosing a 130 boot for the low foot, and a 120 boot for the high foot. In the pictures, the feet are still a work in progress as only two trims had been done, and before that the feet had not been trimmed in a very long time. Unfortunately there was no firm ground to stand on so they're not the best photos, but you get the general idea.
Please note: horses with high-low conformation should be investigated from a body work and straightness perspective since the cause lies higher up in the body. This particular horse's issues cannot be resolved, only managed, and I would not call a horse that presents like this "completely sound", even though she strode off in her boots like a queen. Her job is to only occasionally go for a bit of a short walk on the trail, so she is not in strenuous work.
Below are photos of the high foot without a boot on.
And here the same foot with the boot on. You can see the low foot in the background.
Flex Boots for low angled hooves
Next, let's look at photos of lower angled hooves. This horse has never been shod, yet the digital cushion could be better. If you want to learn why this is so, and how to guard against and prevent poor development like this, check out our hoof trimming course! Also note that this foot is due for a trim!
As you can see, the boot fits nicely here too. This horse has quite big feet that are more oval in shape and he wears a 140 boot, but since the heels are pretty low and his pasterns are thin compared to the hoof size, the TPU gaiter is a size 130. This way the boot hugs the foot better at the back. This is the beauty of Flex Boots: because all parts are replaceable, you can swap and combine different size parts to get the best possible fit for your horse.
Once again, it's worthwhile to emphasise that whilst we don't trim feet in order to fit them into a boot, usually the well trimmed hoof fits into a boot. Flex Boots are amazing in so many ways, the back of the boot is adjustable as a standard, and custom boots are possible if a different sized TPU gaiter is required. I do these regularly and have managed to fit some interesting shapes!
What about other "oddly shaped" hooves?
We get a lot of queries about fitting "odd" feet. A lot of the time the "oddness" is due to trimming issues, diet issues, or poor biomechanics. We offer a completely free service via our helpdesk email and can provide trimming tips and advice on what to do to have a better outcome for the horse, and then be able to use Flex Boots.
Photo quality isn't the best but here is one example of a significant heel bulb injury causing the bulbs to sit at very different heights and they are misshapen- often a cause of rubbing in hoof boots. The horse is owner trimmed (she does a great job) and Flex Boots don't aggravate the injury.
It's particularly nice to achieve positive result for horses that have scars on the heel bulbs; Flex Boots work really nicely for these horses, thanks to the softer, flexible materials and the adjustability of the back strap and TPU gaiter size options. All cases are individual so sending photos to our helpdesk email, to your retailer or to your hoof care professional (if they are knowledgeable about Flex Boots) is a great idea.