I was out of town at Dressage Finals last fall when Johnny texted me that Candy was lame. He noticed a limp when he brought her in for dinner and wanted to know what he should do. I suspected an abscess, and sent him some instructions on how to soak the hoof. Johnny is good-natured and Candy is his favorite horse, so he told me he’d do as I asked. Half an hour later, I received an update: “Candle kept her foot in the tub for a couple of minutes, then she walked out of her stall. Now she is avoiding me. :(“ Johnny fed her dinner, stuck her foot in the tub to soak, and neglected to shut the stall door or halter her. I couldn’t stop laughing.
After I returned home, I checked out Candy’s hoof and found what I thought looked like a blown abscess or old cut on her heel. It seemed to be healing, but recent rain made our paddock a muddy mess. I poulticed the heel, swathed it in diapers and duct tape, and cringed when Candy squelched away through the mud. Duct tape boots are my least favorite thing to construct, and I was afraid the deep mud would suck them right off her hoof.
I bought a Woof Wear medical hoof boot at work the next day. Work had brought in a couple when they became available, but they weren’t great sellers. They languished in the store’s first-aid section, and I’d almost forgotten about them. The boot seemed like the answer to the concerns I had, which were keeping Candy’s wound clean and dry in the mud and keeping the wrap on the hoof. The boot is designed to keep wounds, poultices, and dressings clean. It’s lightweight and flexible and has an asymmetric zipper to ensure a close fit. The boot completely covers the hoof and pastern, which helps keep out debris like bedding.
The size chart for the boot is right on the box and is available online. A snug fit is essential, so I definitely recommend measuring your horse’s hoof before purchasing. Candy is an average sized Thoroughbred whose hooves are very normal in shape. She’s also barefoot. She wears a size 6 in this boot.
The boot is made from flexible neoprene. It’s bright blue, so it should be easy to spot if your horse pulls it off. The bottom of the boot is very tough and the tread on the sole feels substantial. The zipper is heavy and durable; it slides up and down easily and isn’t hard to grip.
Candy cooperated when I removed her duct tape and diaper getup and applied a fresh diaper. I wrapped a strip of Vetwrap around the diaper to make sure it stayed in place, and wrestled the medical boot onto her hoof. This actually wasn’t too difficult; I unzipped it and stuck Candy’s toe in the front and pulled the boot towards the back of her foot. When she put her hoof down, her weight helped the boot slide on all the way. I had to pick up her hoof and swivel the boot a little to straighten it, but no other adjustment was required. I zipped up the boot and turned Candy out.
After I applied the boot, I didn’t touch it until the next day. It stayed in place without any trouble, and Candy’s hoof was clean and dry when I removed the boot and diaper. I rinsed the boot with water to remove the mud and used my glove dryer to dry it off while Candy finished breakfast and grazed in the yard. Reapplying the boot was easy. I continued to keep Candy booted for about a week until the mud dried up. I removed the boot once a day to inspect the wound and apply topical ointments.
Toward the end of the week, I noticed a tear in the boot. It was only in the boot’s outer neoprene layer; the inside layer of Kevlar was still intact. I left it on for another day, then removed it for good. Candy’s wound was closed and the mud was dry, so she didn’t need it any more. I haven’t needed to use the boot since, and I’m not sure how much longer it would last before the inner layer tore.
Woof Wear states the boot is suitable for use in the stable and can be used on sensible horses in a paddock. Their expectation is that the boot will last 2-3 weeks under normal circumstances. I think it’s fair to assume the boot would hold up for two weeks; it might hold up for three if your horse is on stall rest and is quiet about it. Horses will sometimes step on the boot- I think that’s what caused the tear in Candy’s boot.
The boot retails for $59.95, and I don’t think it’s worth the cost. The boot is easy to use and extremely convenient. If you’re inexperienced at wrapping or very very short on time, I can see this boot being a good solution. You won’t have to worry about it coming off, and it’s easy and quick for even a novice horseman to apply. But even if the boot lasts for the full three weeks it’s supposed to, the cost is still $3/day. For me, that’s just too much.