How to Choose the Right Bell Boots for your Horse
Bell boots for horses, also called overreach boots, are one of the most common, and easiest to use forms of protection for your horse’s legs and hooves. They cover a horse’s feet from above the coronary band down to the below the heel and provide protection from the hind feet, which can overreach or clip the front feet during riding or turnout.
Why use bell boots?
Horses that tend to overreach with their hind feet can knick the back of their front hoof and their sensitive bulb, or as the hind feet step on the backs of the front shoes and loosen or pull them off. This is costly in the amount of time off, especially if there was damage to the hoof wall and the actual financial cost of having to reset the lost shoe. Horses most commonly overreach when they are working from behind such as training dressage, jumping, cross country, roping, reining, barrel racing or performing other high-speed tasks. If your horse tends to lose shoes in turnout, or finishes a ride with dirt marks, scrapes or bruises on his heels or pasterns, they may benefit from wearing bell boots.
What Types of Bell Boots are on the market?
There are three basic types of bell boots: rubber pull-on boots, overreach boots, and lined bell boots. Which one you need depends on your horse’s activity while wearing them.
1. Rubber Pull-On Bell Boots
These pull-on boots are usually the ones that you will find horses wearing all day long. They provide full protection of the foot for horses that need it while turned out or during performance. Pull-on bell boots offer full protection because they stay on through wet footing or winter weather, regardless of the environment.
Pull-on bell boots are usually made of rubber and don’t have any type of opening. Although open bell boots are the easiest to apply, pull-on bell boots are more secure as they have less chance of slipping off. They are typically cheaper than an open pair of boots, because of their simple design and lack of closure mechanism. To apply these types of bell boots, it is best to turn them inside out, before slipping them over the toe of the foot. It may also help to place them in warm water so they will expand before trying to put them on.
Because pull-on boots can’t be adjusted, it’s important to get the right size. In general, the sizes for pull-on boots go small, medium, large and extra-large. A correctly sized bell boot should just touch the ground behind the bulbs of the heel while the horse is standing. The mouth of the bell boot should be just loose enough to fit a finger or two between it and the horse’s pastern. If the pull-on boot is too large, they can be easily ripped off. If it is too small, it will leave bad rubs on your horse’s pasterns.
2. Open Bell Boots
If pulling on a rubber bell seems too difficult, using a simple wrap-around boot that closes might be the way to go. Most open bell boots close with a hook-and-loop closure that allows for easy adjustment and easy fit, however that type of closure can have problems with mud, burrs or stickers, which lessens the amount of grip on the fabric closure. While open boots are easier to put on, it comes with a price. They are generally more expensive than pull-on boots, and have to be replaced more often because of the latch system failing.
Another option for open bell boots are ones made of more protective covering for more shock absorption, much like ThinLine’s Bell Boot. These would be beneficial for performance horses because of the shock-absorbing ThinLine material that’s inside a strong synthetic outer shell for more durability. Protective open bell boots such as these are a little shorter than turnout rubber bell boots to ensure they do not interfere with the work of the horse.
ThinLine’s GatorBootz offer a patented on/off fastener that provides durability and reliability with the latching system. With this system, the boot survives any environment like a pull-on, but with a more rigid construction to last. Plus, there is no fabric for stickers or burrs to stick to, which also means easier cleaning.
3. Lined Bell Boots
Other options for the open bell boot are fleece or sheepskin lined boots, which can be on a rubber bell boot or a protective boot. The lining at the top, such as ThinLine’s Sheepskin Trimmed Bell Boot, provides a comfortable fit for the bell boot while avoiding sores or rubbing marks around the coronary band.
Just as with pull-on boots, you want to be sure you can fit a finger’s width between the rim of the bell boot and the pastern. The opening allows for a little more adjustment, so you have more room to play around with the sizes. Small boots are generally for ponies; medium for Arabians and smaller Quarter Horses; large for Thoroughbred; larger stock-horses and warmblood crosses and extra-large for sport horses.
Not sure what size your horse needs? ThinLine’s GatorBootz offers all the benefits of rubber pull-on bell boots with the added adjust-ability that makes fitting the bell boots simple and easy. Getting the right size is important. If you can fit a finger’s width between the rim of the bell boot and the pastern, they are the proper fit and won’t chafe.
Perfect for Any Use
ThinLine’s bell boots are a perfect choice whether you are running a busy training barn or just have that one special partner. Not only do they provide superior protect for your horses, but they are also easy to care for. The latest edition, our GatorBootz, is built tough enough to withstand the rigors of everyday training and turnout, but without the drawbacks of traditional pull-on boots.