Buckle up, this is going to be kind of petty and pointless, but I’m going there anyway.
Last spring/early summer, I had Tristan flexed by our local lameness vet. I wanted to just get a good read on his soundness by an expert. I honestly half-expected to be doing hock injections. To my surprise, Tris flexed pretty darn sound overall, save for some slight soreness in his hind fetlocks.
Tris hasn’t had clean, tight fetlocks in…um…many years. He’s a big-jointed, thick-boned horse anyway, and his fetlocks are just kind of janky. Functional, but janky. So not a hugely out of sync thing for his hind fetlocks in particular to show a bit of soreness.
The vet recommended riding him in sport-style boots to give support to the fetlocks and so okay, I had just shelled out a good chunk of money for this vet to look at my horse. I dutifully borrowed a barnmate’s Professional’s Choice boots to start getting a read for what size and style he’d need. Then I bought my own version of them from Roma, used.
Reader, I fucking hated them.
Hate is a mild word. I saw red when putting them on. I wanted to swear every single second that I was putting them on. I ground my teeth. Were I a spitting person, I would have spat. A lot. Even thinking about putting them on makes my blood boil.
Thing the first: is there any way to put these fucking things on that doesn’t require a perfectly still horse, the exact right angle, the perfect amount of torque, and the stars to be in some kind of astrologically perfect pattern?
Cute pony, but look at the awfulness that is that bulge on the side from wrapping the fetlock piece.
Because JFC, there is NO WAY to get them lined up neatly, snugly, and in one go-round. I have been putting sport boots on my horse semi-dutifully for about 9 months now, and it STILL takes me 3-5 tries of adjusting the velcro to get it straight, to get it snug, to get it in the right place, on and on and fucking ON. (Adjust upward for the number of times the velcro gets stuck on something, again and again and again.)
Thing the second: I hate the look of them. I haaaaaaaaaaaaate it. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I am pretty darn far from a fashion-conscious or looks-driving horse person. I like things that work, that look neat, and that are (relatively) clean.
More cute pony. Ugly boots.
I think sport boots look like ass. There. I said it. They make a horse’s legs look thick and blunt and clumsy and UGLY. Doubly so on my already clunky-legged poorly-conformed little mustang.
Thing the third: I loathe the way I have to get them so tight so that they “work.” See exhibit A below: when they are snugged up enough to actually stay in place through a ride and provide some of this mythical fetlock support, they make me a little queasy, and they leave actual indent lines in Tristan’s legs. Even after short rides.
see that dent?
Thing the fourth, as you may have guessed: do they even work????????? I finally asked the barn manager “how will I tell these are helping my horse as they are intended?” and she shrugged and said it’s a cumulative thing. Okay. So I have to put these on my horse every day for the rest of forever and my only proof will be…his fetlocks are less saggy and sore than they otherwise might be? Compared to…what? Some forever unknowable baseline.
Horse’s legs are complicated and they take a ton of torque and you expect me to believe that 1/8″ thick neoprene (UGH) and some velcro is enough to hold up a fetlock under load? Like. Honestly. How does that work?
(I tried to do some research and one sports boot manufacturer said they “provide more support than polos” like NO FUCKING KIDDING, who in their right mind thinks polo wraps provide support and not just padding and good looks?)
I understand boots that provide some compression around the leg. I understand boots that prevent whacks by injury. I do NOT understand how fetlock support is supposed to be achieved by sheer dint of lining up this one little cradle of neoprene perfectly (which again, see above, IMPOSSIBLE). Walking around, I guess? Okay? But cantering? REALLY?
Actual science and actual vets back me up on this, btw.
Roepstorff is even more skeptical. “In the SDFT, the DDFT, and the suspensory ligament, you have a combined strain force of more than 1000 kg (more than 2,200 pounds) when the horse is just cantering—and much greater when he’s jumping,” he says. “Those are huge forces. You don’t support that by just putting something around it.”
So, here I am, rock and a hard place.
I hate them.
The vet told me to use them. The barn manager agrees with them. (She likes them and a bunch of other horses in the barn go in them.) I know his fetlocks aren’t great. They clearly flexed poorly.
Is there any hope? Is there something I’m doing wrong here? Am I the only outlier in the world that thinks these boots are infuriating garbage? Is there some way I can get over this? I legitimately fantasize about setting them on fire each time I have to put them on his legs.
Are there other boots that might provide some of this vaunted fetlock support? Is there some company that makes a version that is less infuriating and better-fitting? Or am I doomed to either ignore my locally trusted experts and go back to the dressage boots that I quite liked and did offer impact protection, or just suck it up and deal with these things forever?
I’ve thought about trying a few different brands but I don’t have endless amounts of spare cash to drop $100-$200 for boots only to hate them just as much as my current ones, over and over again.