Easy BootsThis Verdict is Easy - We Love 'Em!!
Have you ever had to take care of a horse with an abcess? How about laminitis? Or a horse that had tender feet and kept losing his shoes? These conditions can be awfully painful for horses and ponies, and often as owners we may feel helpless to do anything but administer bute and change the dressings.
Now I feel like I have an answer. We recently started working with a farrier who is a huge advocate of boots for horses, and ever since we've started using them, I find I can’t say enough good things about the effects I've seen.
To give you some background info – we "tested" the crap out of these boots. We used two models (both manufactured by EasyCare Inc. ), the Old Mac's G2 and the EasyBoot Epic. Since June, I’ve been rehabilitating an eight-year-old off-track Thoroughbred with very soft feet. For various reasons, we decided not to continue shoeing him and to wean him back to a point where he could comfortably go barefoot for light riding duties.
My awesome barefoot farrier was not even sure we could accomplish this. As a result of being in shoes for so long, the TB's feet were lacking in proper internal development. His soles were very thin, and you could flex his heel bulbs quite easily with your thumbs – a major sign that the cartilage underneath had not been allowed to perform its proper function as support for the sole (not to mention the rest of the horse). (For more information on barefoot trimming, see www.peteramey.com).
The goal was to have the TB become comfortable enough that he would a) not be in pain, but also b) could start walking with a heel-first impact, which encourages the hoof to grow properly from the hairline (as opposed to a toe-first impact, typical of horses with heel pain). I would also think this method described below with the boots (with proper trimming and farrier support) could also be used successfully for a horse recovering from laminitis.
First, a caveat. At certain points, especially after a fresh trim, we used these boots on the TB 24-7 for days at a time. EasyCare (the makers of EasyBoot) do not advocate leaving these particular models on the horse all the time. One of the reasons for this is because the frog needs to breathe (and we all know what happens to frogs when they're kept in a moist environment for extended periods of time). Another reason is because the horse’s heel bulbs and ankles can chafe and rub (similar to a person wearing sneakers). To combat this, and to keep my horse comfortable, I took two square gauze vet pads, folded them up, placed them against the heel bulbs, and vet-wrapped around the gauze to hold it in place. We jokingly call them his "socks". Then, similar to what you would do for a horse with an abcess, I used a thick, cottony maxi-pad, cut it in half, and used the two halves to approximately cover the bottom of the foot. I squirted a bit of Listerine on the pads for anti-bacterial purposes, then created a "duct tape boot" and taped the pads to the bottom of the foot. His left foot was prone to rubbing on the heel bulbs (since his feet are slightly different sizes, the boots didn’t fit equally on each foot), but an additional gauze-padding “sock” over top of the duct tape fixed that problem. With the extra padding, we found that his frog and heels stayed very healthy and dry through the entire boot-wearing process (even in some pretty mucky conditions), and after some experimentation, we went from changing the padding every day to changing it every second day.
I started out using a borrowed pair of Old Macs' G2 boots. If you are new to boots, the Velcro and buckle attachments on these boots are very user-friendly and allow you (and the horse) to get used to the motion of taking the boots on and off. Even though the outer shell is made of a heavy nylon-type covering (as compared to the Epics, which are a solid rubber), these boots held up very well over a period of two weeks' continual use in mucky conditions. They just needed a good scrubbing after! This particular pair of boots is already a year old – they need a new pair of gaitors (my friend uses the Boa boot gaitors), and have a bit of “break-over” wear on the toe (not necessarily a bad thing), but other than that they are in stellar condition.
When I started my TB on long hand walks, however, I noticed that because he has a big over-step, he was catching the back of the G2’s with his hind feet. Obviously this would not do when the time came to ride him. (My friend does not have this problem with her horse). So, I decided to switch to the Epics, which are a bit trickier to get on, but are more streamlined and sit closer to the hoof. I also chose the Epics because you can purchase them singly (the other boots come in pairs) – because his feet are different sizes due to an old injury, he wears a #3 on his left and a #2 on his right. I should also mention that, before purchasing, I called the EasyCare 1-800 number with some questions and they were more than helpful. If you have questions about the boots, don't hesitate to call.
We used the Epics continually for about 7-10 days after a fresh trim. We also used them continually for about 10-15 days to treat an abcess that appeared on his left sole. In the beginning, I was a bit worried about whether or not the clamp on the front of the Epics could potentially get caught on anything in his paddock. However, this hasn’t yet been a problem. The clamp is designed to be very smooth and rounded in front, so barring any bad luck (because anything’s possible with horses!), the design does minimize this possibility. There are pins available to keep the clamping mechanism down but so far I haven’t had the need to use them.
In my opinion, the boots were absolutely stellar for helping with the abcess. I've tried to treat abcesses previously with just the medicated padding (and soaking etc) and a good wrapping of duct tape, but in my experience that never lasts – the duct tape would wear through, and that would allow dirt and other stuff to potentially contaminate the abcess. In addition, the boots provide some significant padding which helps alleviate the pain in the foot. We could easily see this by simply walking the horse on the cement barn floor with and without the boots.
With the support of proper trimming, his feet have shown continual (and at times fantastic) improvement. He is mostly barefoot these days, although he does wear his boots for a few days after a fresh trim. We’ve started his re-education under saddle, and will always use the boots when he’s being ridden, both for extra insurance and because he may always be tender over hard or rocky surfaces. I don't use the sole wrap or even the heel padding when I put the boots on for riding, although I might put his socks on if I was doing a long trail ride or an all-day clinic, for instance.
If you are new to boots and don't have anyone around to show you the ropes, the Epics are going to be a bit tricky to get on until you get the hang of things. The best way I found is to make sure the wires are loosened, and to pull open the sides, then slide the boot on like you’re pulling from toe to heel (rather than pushing it on from the bottom to the top). The Epics come with a nylon pull strap that's supposed to help you pull them on (and is then removed), but I'm not keen on it and I found it didn’t help much. Once you get practiced, they are just as easy (and actually faster) than the G2's.
We do get a lot of questions about the boots. It seems that because shoes are the norm, and boots are new and unusual, a lot of people don’t realize how beneficial they can be. If you are considering switching to boots, all I can say is Go For It!! And find a great farrier that will support you in your decision.
Click to visit sponsor website