Tuesdays with Tony
It’s Fall Fashion season. Before you ask, yes, I keep my paw on the pulse of the fashion world. Okay, mostly I watch the models to get new judgey, slightly disdainful, you humans are beneath me looks. Can’t beat the runways for that! A funny thing caught my eye while I was watching:
This got me thinking about boots. The kind for horses, not fashion models. And so, down the rabbit hole of horse boots investigation I went.
Support, but not too much support
Ask any woman, and they will tell you: there is such a thing as too much support. What about boots, though? Number one thing I hear around the Clinic about boots is “Which ones give the most support?” The answer is: it’s complicated. First, what structures do you want to support? In horse boot land, that normally translates to minimizing the drop of the fetlock when the horse is landing on that foot. I hit PubMed looking for scientific articles about this. I’ll save you time by letting you know there aren’t a lot of them. However, the ones that do exist have looked at products like the Professional’s Choice Sports Medicine Boot (SMB). They did find that boots like these reduced fetlock drop at the trot on horses on treadmills. Where the data is lacking is at the lope, and in big maneuvers like jumping, piaffe, sliding or spinning, and the complicated things a horse does to turn a barrel. The authors of all the papers also discuss that reduction of fetlock drop may transfer forces from the tendons and ligaments to areas higher up like the shoulder, SI, back, and neck. All the papers also agree that polo wraps don’t do much of anything. However, this cat feels polos are the go-to for fashion, and sometimes that’s pretty darn important.
Whack a leg
Like Whack-a-mole, but instead of great prizes like a giant stuffed bear, you get a vet bill instead. A much less fun game. Lots of boots work for this! From the expensive Kevlar ones, to the plastic lined with neoprene ones, to the SMB type boots, they all offer decent protection from whacks. This is a super important task for boots!!! I don’t know if you guys have ever watched a horse’s legs while they’re doing some of the crazy stuff you do, but holy cow, I don’t know how they don’t tangle up in a knot of legs and go down every time! This means that unless you’re moseying, or showing in an event where leg attire is not allowed, it’s probably a good idea to at least have boots on the front legs. This video https://youtu.be/WHlqZ6VZvKE has an excellent illustration about why at approximately the 18:30 minute mark. If you have a weak stomach, don’t watch it, but it is a great video about how truly amazing horses are!
Like a Sauna
An often overlooked problem of boot application to the lower leg is heat. It’s summer in Florida. It’s 100 degrees, and the humidity is 98%. Now, put a boot on your horse, and go exercise. Imagine the temperatures in there! Boot manufacturers know about this problem, and have updated many of the designs to help get some air in there. However, no matter what, there will be more heat under a boot than if the leg is naked. Something to think about when selecting your horse’s fashion accessories. Also something to think about when shipping. Those shipping boots that model is wearing can get mighty toasty. Standing wraps and quilts can too! I’m not saying don’t use them, I’m saying think about if they are needed before using them. Free tip from this wise cat: check out Sox for Horses. They offer all the support, and don’t heat the leg up, AND they fight skin funk! I love these things. And, no, they don’t give me catnip to say that. In fact, they don’t give me anything.
There is one case where fetlock support may be a good thing, and that’s rehab of tendons or ligaments like the suspensory or deep digital flexor tendon. The scientists aren’t 100% on this, but they feel like having a horse wear SMB-type boots may help in the early stages of rehab. There’s even a brand of boot out there just for rehab that supports the fetlock even more than SMBs. It doesn’t work for everyday, but may help horses just starting walk and trot work. I can’t overemphasize this enough: talk to one of my wise Docs about this before jumping in with both feet. There’s a process!
I learned a lot in that rabbit hole. Turns out boots were made for more than walking. Now be a good human: scroll down and hit subscribe to get my weekly words of wisdom delivered straight to your Inbox.
Until next week,
P.S. Want more horse info? Check out the podcast the humans do called Straight From the Horse Doctor’s Mouth. It’s loaded with way more information than I can type (without interrupting my nap schedule, which is very important).
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!