what are brushing boots used for

What Are Brushing Boots Used For?

Brushing boots, otherwise known as horse boots, are protective boots that encase your horse’s lower legs to protect them from any accidental knocks or bumps. Just as a skilled rider dons their attire, these boots ensure your horse is ready to prance, gallop, and jump in any equestrian discipline with confidence.

Brushing boots come in several materials, including plastic, neoprene, gel, leather, and sheepskin. The boot wraps around a horse’s leg, fastening on the outside of the leg with either studs, buckles, hooks-and-loops, or hooks-and-studs.

Equine suppliers generally sell the horse boots in pairs. After all, horses have four legs and you don’t want to leave one undressed!

In this article, I’ll run through the types of brushing boots available. I’ll explain their specific uses and how they’re designed to protect your equine companion’s legs.

Why Are They Called Brushing Boots?

Brushing boots get their name because of the function they carry out. When a horse moves, whether walking on rugged terrain or galloping across a polo field, a hoof could knock into an opposite leg. This is the action of brushing and can cause trauma to an unprotected leg or the hoof.

Think of how many times you’ve noticed bruising, scratches, or scabbing on your horse’s lower leg. This is mainly the result of brushing injuries. Wrapping brushing boots around your horse’s hind legs, at least, will minimise these types of problems.

Injury to a horse’s leg can also happen through having an abnormal gait or one of its hooves impacting on a hard surface. Horse boots absorb much of the shock when a horse’s hoof lands on the ground, lessening the risk of trauma.

Riders should use brushing boots while competing in equestrian sports as their horses often move at great speeds. These activities enhance the risk of brushing and other injuries. Using horse boots during turnout, riding, or lunging will help reduce the risk of injury and improve the horse’s confidence. Jumping can also result in trauma – horses do many sharp turns and also injure themselves by clipping fences.

If you only ride for fun, there’s less reason to protect your horse’s legs. This is unless you’re riding cross-country or on other harsh surfaces.

Many horse owners set apart brushing boots and horse boots designed for specific purposes. Although these other horse boots can be specific to parts of a horse’s anatomy – like its fetlocks or tendons – they still prevent brushing trauma.

Different Types Of Brushing Boots

I’m going to list some of the most common types of horse boots available. I’ll include descriptions of how they serve their designed purpose, over and above the protection they offer as brushing boots.

Bell boots

Overreach boots

Bell boots, also known as overreach boots, protect a horse’s hoof and heel as well as its lower leg. Manufacturers design these types of boots to protect against overreaching, which is when a toe on the horse’s hind hoof clips its front heel.

As their name suggests, bell boots are bell-shaped, wrapping around a horse’s whole hoof and protecting its heel. Whether worn in the paddock, arena, or out riding, they provide protection in rugged and muddy regions. They come in handy when jumping or rounding obstacles too.

Overreach boots are either pulled on over the hoof, buckled, or fastened with a hook-and-loop. Pull-on boots secure best on the hoof and offer optimal protection, but they’re more difficult to remove. The other styles are easier to fit and remove, but fall off more often. On heavy ground, they also tend to clog up more.

Cross-country boots

Cross country boots

A cross-country boot carries a design to guard against injury while moving and jumping. They assist especially during harsh cross-country disciplines. Horses experience heightened leg pressure over these arduous cross-country courses. For this reason, these types of horse boots have enhanced protection.

Lightweight but extra-strong materials get used in their manufacture. They also usually include a reinforcing strike pad in the protective boot. Technical specifications for cross-country boots differ, with the more pricey ones even having built-in cooling designs. These keep the boot cool and decrease excess stress on the horse’s tendons.

Every cross-country boot design includes one mandatory feature. All these brushing boots are waterproof. Cross-country courses include water fences and a horse boot that absorbs water would weigh a horse down. Doing so will slow the horse and increase its risk of injuring itself.

Dressage boots

Dressage boot

A dressage boot is a specific brushing boot designed to protect each horse’s leg during dressage warm-ups, and practice. Like bandages, competitors must remove these for tests or both horse and rider will face elimination.

The primary role of these horse boots is to protect against interference. Hence, they guard against damage to the horse’s ligaments and tendons. They’re also very useful for horses prone to overreaching.

Dressage boots are particularly aesthetic types of horse boots. This is due to the elegant nature of dressage itself. White and black are always the most popular colours. Often, though, riders with bay or chestnut horses choose brown to match their mounts.

Normally, you’ll find a dressage boot comes in neoprene or a similar softer material. Some include a strike pad for extra protection of your horse’s cannon bone and fetlock joint. Many riders also use fetlock boots for dressage activities.

Fetlock boots

Fetlock boot

Fetlock boots get used as hind ankle boots that cover your horse’s legs to prevent injuries to the fetlock joint. These injuries can occur when the opposite hoof hits the lower leg and fetlock. Riders fit them to the horse’s hind legs, starting under the knee and covering the inside of the leg. Often used for showjumping, their design offers protection while still allowing your horse to know if it touches a pole when jumping.

Fetlock hind boots come in two common designs, with the first being much like a multi-purpose brushing boot. This style offers extra padding inside the fetlock area. The second design wraps around the back of the joint with the front of the fetlock boot remaining open.

Fetlock boots get made from several shockproof materials that protect your horse’s rear legs. These types of horse boots often include ventilation and are flexible despite being shockproof. Most horses wear them in combination with tendon boots, which cover the forelegs.

Tendon boots

Tendon boot

Tendon boots protect your horse’s inner foreleg, fetlocks, and tendons while usually remaining open in the front of the leg. In this way, your horse can feel a pole or fence’s contact when jumping. A horse’s tendon area often gets struck by the hind hooves on landing after a jump. For this reason, manufacturers include reinforcing in tendon boots for extra tendon protection.

Tendon boots are specifically designed for jumping. These brushing boots also guard against the brushing caused when a hoof makes contact with the horse’s lower leg, though. You can also get closed tendon boots that protect the leg’s front part – useful options for horses in events that allow solid fences.

Open or closed, using these horse boots for your horse during regular work is a good option. During eventing or jumping, you should view their use as essential.

Travelling boots

Travel boot

Travelling boots are designed to protect the legs of your horse while in transit. The back protective boot has a shape that protects the hock and stretches all the way to the hoof. The front boot covers from the horse’s knee down to the hoof, with both the front and rear boots made from lightweight materials. These materials are shockproof to minimise any impact on a horse’s leg during a journey.

Most travelling boots have hard and durable exteriors with soft, padded material inners. In other words, horses stay protected and comfortable throughout long trips. You’ll find them in various styles, so it’s worth shopping around to find the right anatomical design for your equine buddy.

You may find that your horse isn’t enjoying having its legs covered by travelling boots. Make sure you get it accustomed to the feeling well before you have to load your horse for transporting. This is essential if you’re taking a long journey.


What other types of brushing boots are there?

I’ve touched on the more common types of brushing boots, but there are still other horse boots to mention.

  • Turnout boots for horses are designed to protect their legs while you take your horse from its stables to pasture.
  • Hoof boots are commonly used on shoeless horses for crossing difficult terrain. Hoof boots also get used temporarily for horses in rehab or battling hoof or lower limb injuries.
  • Therapy boots assist in the efficient healing of a horse’s hooves from injury. Vets often suggest them as their ease of use makes them preferable to wrapping a horse’s leg. They’re also known as medical boots, for use together with medication.

Where can I buy brushing boots in the UK?

You can buy brushing boots from equestrian retailers, online stores, and their manufacturers. You’ll also find them at tack shops, equestrian shows, and equine trade fairs.

How do I clean and maintain brushing boots?

How you clean and maintain brushing boots depends on the material used and the instructions provided. You can clean most brushing boots by brushing off any dirt or debris and using a damp cloth to wipe them. It’s possible to machine-wash some horse boots so pay attention to the manufacturer’s documentation. Don’t wash them using chemicals that might be harmful to your horse before checking.

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