Monday, December 15, 2014

Initial Hoof Boot Review: Equine Fusion Ultimate Jogging Shoes

I've known for awhile now that I need to buy a smaller size hoof boot for Nimo's front feet.  I've been making the Easyboot Epics (size 5) work by using hoof pads (there will probably be another post about hoof pads at some point in the future), but the size 5s are definitely too big now.  I was hoping that I might be able to fit Nimo in either the Renegades or Cavallos or at least the Easyboot Trails, but his front hooves measure 6.5 inches in length and 6 inches in width, so the Renegades and the Cavallos don't work because they max out at 6" for length and the Easyboot Trails didn't have quite the right ratio of width to length.  I could have just bought a size 4 in the Epics, which would have been the smart thing to do.  The Epics have worked almost without fail for well over a year.  But...I don't like having to have both a special hoof pick and a pair of needle-nosed pliers and a set of spare cotter pins for every single ride.  I'd really love to be able to use a boot that doesn't have any hardware or gaiters, because the cables and the gaiters are the only things that have failed on the Epics for me.

I did try to put the Cavallo boots that I already have on Nimo's front feet, just to see how they fit, because I don't think they are going to be a good solution for his hind feet (interference scrapes).  The width is fine, but I had to wedge them on pretty tight to get them on, and then I had trouble getting them off.  So, no go on those because they are supposed to be easy to get on and off.

Then I came across hoof boots called Equine Jogging Shoes.  They don't have any hardware, like the Cavallos and Easyboot Trails, and are supposed to be lighter in weight and even machine washable.  The biggest size looked like a good fit for Nimo's measurements, and I managed to find them on sale during Cyber Monday (otherwise, they are a little too expensive for my budget).  I ordered them from The Horse's Hoof, although there may be other North American distributors.

They arrived from Canada last week and I decided to try them out on Saturday's trail ride at Andy Guest State Park.  It's a good place to test hoof boots because there are some rocky sections on the trails, a little bit of climbing, and a nice flat section to trot and canter.  Plus, if the boots don't work well, I can pull them and I know Nimo can handle the trail without boots pretty well.

Before I put the boots on, I held Nimo's hoof up to the outside of the boot to make sure it looked close enough in fit to try.  There was a little bit of space around the hoof in terms of width and just a tiny bit of space in length, so things were looking positive.  Then I had to use my rubber mallet to get them on, another good sign.  I should have taken pictures of the process, but essentially there are front flaps on the boots that open and another section on the front of the boot that pulls down.  There is a strap attached to the front section that goes through the toe of the boot and attaches to one of the side flaps.  It's movable, so it can be adjusted to help the boot go on easier and then pulled tight to bring the side flap against the hoof.  It sort of makes sense in terms of physics, but was there was a bit of a learning curve in using it.  It took me awhile to get the boots on and adjusted well enough for the ride.

The side flaps go up a little higher on the pastern than the Cavallos do, which I didn't really like.  On the other hand, the material was lighter-weight, so it seemed more malleable and like it would bend with the horse's movement.  The boot itself felt quite a bit lighter than either the Epics or the Cavallos, which was nice.  Additionally, the sole was lighter too, apparently in an attempt to get around the peripheral loading problem that using hoof boots can create.  If the sole can flex a little with the terrain, it helps alleviate the tendency for hoof boots to cause the same problem that shoes do, which is excessively loading the outer hoof wall.  I think you'd have to be riding on some fairly uneven and hard ground, though, before the additional flexibility of this sole would contribute significantly to solar loading of the hoof.  That's just my initial perception, anyway.  I don't have any way to really test that theory.

So, we did a 7.5 mile ride.  Most of it was walking, but we did do a little trotting and a short canter.  Overall, I felt like Nimo moved as well in these boots as he does in the Epics, which means pretty good, but not quite as well as he would move without hoof boots at all.  I think his knee movement tends to be slightly more exaggerated with hoof boots on, likely due to the extra weight on his hooves (same reason why Tennessee Walker show horses wear weighted shoes) and he is a little more uncomfortable cantering, although he will do it.  There was no rubbing that I could tell from the part of the boot that made contact with his pastern.

But...I think they are too big.  I could hear the tell-tale flapping sound that is associated with a loose boot after a mile or two into the ride.  It wasn't consistent, but it did occur often enough to be annoying.  I think a hoof pad would fix the situation, but my goal was really to get a hoof boot that fit well enough to not need pads.  The boots are too expensive, though, for me to just buy a smaller size, so I think we'll have to use these for awhile and maybe see if I can make some adjustments that will help them fit better.  One reason I suspect there may be a problem even though the length should be pretty close is that the back part of the hoof boot is not a really stiff material.  I wonder if Nimo's hoof is slipping back and out of the base of the boot a little, so I'm going to try to see if I can check that hypothesis and maybe contact the manufacturer or the store I bought them from for advice.  However, because that material is a little less rigid, I think it makes these boots a nicer choice for horses that have slightly higher than ideal heels.  Nimo's hind feet are closer to the ideal than his front feet are, and I know that additionally limits the likelihood that a Renegade hoof boot would work for him, at least up front.  With the less rigid material, a precise fit around the heel is probably not as important.  When I took the boots off after the ride, I felt pretty comfortable that there wouldn't be any rubbing from that material.

So, here are my initial conclusions.  The things I like about the boots:  they are lightweight, they don't need any tools to put them on (with the exception of a rubber mallet probably for the first few times until they are broken in), there is no gaiter to rip off while going down a mountain or during a particularly energetic trot or canter, and there is no hardware to break (although I suppose if you used the boots long enough, the stitching on the velcro could fail).  The things I'm not so crazy about:  the price (a pair of these at full price will set you back $236 plus shipping - if they last for a year, it's still cheaper than shoes, but it's quite a bit more than the main competitors), the height of the boot in relation to the pastern, the fact that there are no drainage holes on the sole of the boot (water can escape at a gap in the side flaps, but that still means about an inch of water could be slugging around in there until the horse's stride works it out), and the learning curve for putting on and adjusting the boot (the Cavallos are the the only boot I've tried that are actually easy to put on the very first time you use them).

I like them enough overall to keep using them for at least a couple of months to see if I can work on the fit issue, but I'm holding off on my final assessment until I can see them in action over more difficult terrain on longer and faster rides.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review, I really appreciate it.

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  2. Great to know! I've been looking at these after Cavallos didn't fit my horse!

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  3. Interesting boot. Tough when your horse has giant feet! If you want to try an easy, cheap test, I've made hoof boot pads with cut-to-size yoga mat.

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