Protecting your horses legs when exercising is an important factor to take into consideration to help prevent unnecessary injuries. Although not all injuries or accidents can be prevented, there are certainly many different types of leg protection that we can use to help avoid vet bills. High quality leg protection is therefore essential for both recreational and professional riders.
What is leg protection?
Leg protection is any form of protection that goes on the horses legs, including tendon boots, brushing boots, fetlock boots or bandages. Leg protection can also be worn in the stable, both as prevention and assisting in the recovery process after strenuous activity. These include stable boots, ice boots, magnetic boots or polo wraps. Transport or travel boots offer protection during transport.
Which leg protection is right for my horse?
The leg protection you choose to use on your horse will very much depend on the discipline you ride. For example, eventing horses need much more protection on their legs to prevent impact injuries then a horse that is out hacking. Show jumping horses tend to wear open front jumping boots as they are less likely to receive injuries to the front part of their legs, but more likely to have overreaching injuries on landing, therefore they require durable protection over the ligaments and tendons. As eventers are also likely to have front impact injuries, they mostly wear closed tendon boots, but still require the strong protection from overreaching. Dressage horses need boots to help prevent brushing or knocks during their training.
The different types of protection and their uses
Exercise Polo Wraps or Bandages: One of the oldest methods of leg protection, polo wraps tend to be made from polar fleece but can also be a mix of polar fleece and elastic or just elastic. Generally bandages for horses are between 3 - 3.5 meters long and for ponies or small horses 2 - 2.5 meters long. They have a secure Velcro fastening for keeping them in place.
Uses: Bandages are one of the most common forms of leg protection during training and are used across both English and Western disciplines. Offering both support and helping to prevent knocking injuries, bandages are worn in both training and competition. It is very important to ensure that the bandages are put on correctly as incorrect fitting bandages can cause damage to the horses legs. If you're uncertain how to bandage, be sure to watch a professional and have someone with knowledge assist you until you get the hang of it.
Our top pick: The Kentucky Polar Fleece Bandages are the perfect choice for both professionals and amateurs. High quality with an extra strong Velcro closure, these bandages won't slip and are machine washable for easy care. Available in a range of colors to match your daily outfits.
Tendon Boots: another traditional form of leg protection, open front tendon boots were originally designed for show jumpers, but have now become popular among a wide range of disciplines, even dressage! The boots are generally made from a strong outer shell to protect the tendons and ligaments on the sides and backs of the horses legs, whilst the straps are made from either elastic or leather with Velcro, buckle or clip closures.
Uses: tendon boots are ideal to use in just about any discipline, whether hacking or dressage, however, they are especially designed for show jumpers as they offer protection on the back whilst the front remains open allowing the horse to receive the appropriate amount of feedback should they knock a rail, therefore encouraging them not to do it again.
Our top pick: the Zandona Tendon Boots are both high quality and reasonably priced. Made in Italy, they offer breathability to prevent overheating as well as excellent protection to the leg. The easy clip system allows them to be put on and taken off quickly. The special flex zone ensures freedom of movement to allow your horse to perform their best.
Fetlock Boots: designed to protect the hind legs, fetlock boots or back boots come in a number of different forms depending on the discipline. Designed to protect from both brushing and knocking injuries, back boots are a must have for horses who's hind legs tend to knock together over jumps or during flat work. In show jumping, fetlock boots come in a variety of options, including Young Horse Fetlock Boots and various different kinds of open hind boots which can be used in competitions depending on the levels of the horse & rider. Longer length fetlock boots offer extra protection to the pastern area on horses that tend to brush their legs together.
Uses: fetlock boots are most commonly used in show jumping but are also used in many Western disciplines as well as flat work training, lunging or dressage work.
Our top pick: the Zandona Junior Fetlock Boots are great for both young show jumpers and older horses for both competition and flat work. Affordable and high quality, the back boots are made in Italy and offer excellent protection as well as breathability.
Gamaschen: brushing boots or splint boots are designed to help prevent brushing injuries that can occur during regular workouts. Offering protection to the inside of the cannon bone and fetlock joint, brushing boots are generally made out of neoprene with Velcro closures.
Uses: brushing boots are the perfect choice for flat work, dressage, hacking, turnout, lunging or in the walker. They're especially good for horses who tend to brush their front or back legs together.
Our top pick: the HKM Protection Boots Breath are affordable, durable and hard wearing. As the name suggests the boots are highly breathable, making them ideal for daily use. The three Velcro fastenings allow for a well adjusted fit whilst the soft neoprene inner ensures comfort.