Originally published August 21, 2018, updated January 24, 2019
If you’ve strolled around the parking lot at a barrel race, team roping or rodeo lately, you’ve probably seen a trailer or two with horses sporting Soft-Ride Equine Comfort Boots instead of standing flat on the ground. You might have even rolled your eyes and thought those folks don’t know that horses have stood around for centuries without cushioned feet—but you’d be wrong.
A horse’s frog is a critical part of the animal’s circulatory system. The blood flows down the horse’s leg into the digital cushion, a part of the inner hoof above the frog, which contains a network of blood vessels. The horse’s weight then compresses the frog on the ground, squeezing the blood out of the digital cushion, and pushing it back up the horse’s legs–known as hemodynamics. Much like a human standing on hard ground, a horse moves his weight back and forth from leg to leg, loading and unloading his weight, to pump his blood, which decreases inflammation that causes pain.
BACK TO NATURE
As horses evolved in nature, their frogs were constantly in contact with the ground, usually in soft, sandy soil. That soil filled the nooks of a horse’s hooves, naturally pumping the frog and digital cushion. For millennia, that is how the horse’s feet and legs stayed healthy.
Soft-Ride Equine Comfort Boots’ deep gel orthotic replicates that loading and unloading in nature by pumping the horse’s hoof, even when he’s wearing shoes and standing on hard ground that doesn’t conform to his hooves. The deep gel still reaches into the crevices of a horse’s foot, shoes or no shoes, to push against the frog and provide deep comfort for the horse. When worn correctly—and not too loosely, like many ropers and barrel racers tend to do—the deep gel has nowhere to go but up into the foot, creating natural comfort for the horse. The volume of the gel, paired with the hard shell of the Soft-Ride Boot, creates a gel platform that enables the horse to find its most comfortable hoof angle—similar to humans shifting their feet side to side to find comfort when standing. This is ideal for hauling, standing tied, and standing in stalls where a horse would have otherwise been stripped of his body’s natural mechanisms.
Other boots on the market offer foam padding that can compress and collapse, rather than Soft-Ride’s deep gel orthotics. The deep gel orthotics—the heart of the Soft-Ride system because they enable the critically important loading and unloading of the sole—conform to and support the sole of the hoof and the hoof wall. That provides comfort and relief and helps tender-footed horses stay on their feet when suffering from thrush, solar abscesses, laminitis, navicular, and other common hoof issues. When used as part of a therapeutic treatment plan, Soft-Ride Comfort Boots may help reduce your horse’s need for some medications.
That natural loading and unloading of the hoof pumps lactic acid out of the horse’s ligaments and tendons in the legs, too. So, after asking a lot of your horse at a jackpot or rodeo, putting Soft-Rides on his feet will help move the blood through his legs, getting rid of the toxins from the over-exertion of the soft tissue. Even on a long haul, where your horse might have traditionally stocked up or gotten stiff, Soft-Rides will help keep him limber and help him recover faster.
Abscesses are caused by a lack of circulation and infection in a horse’s foot. By putting a Soft-Ride Equine Comfort Boot on a horse with an abscess, you are pumping more blood to the infected area, speeding healing and building up a stronger, healthier foot. The more blood that flows in and out of a horse’s hoof, the thicker that sole will become. Soft-Rides can also be useful in horses battling laminitis and a wide variety of ailments.
Soft-Ride boots are heavier than some other boots on the market. Does this extra weight affect a horse’s joints?
It’s always best to consult your vet if your horse has any specific issues, but, in general, Soft-Ride Boots don’t affect a horse’s joints at rest because the weight is comparatively minimal to its body weight. Soft-Ride Boots are not intended to replace traditional metal shoes and are not meant to be worn while riding.
When should I size my horse’s foot?
You should size your horse’s foot shortly after his hooves have been trimmed. It’s important that the boot is not too big. This will ensure that the gel orthotic massages the bottom of the foot and does not get squeezed up around the outer edges of the hoof.
Are Soft-Ride Boots intended to be used with shod or unshod horses?
Soft-Ride Boots are compatible with both shod and unshod hooves. They were originally designed with metal shoes in mind, so shoes won’t damage the gel orthotic. They are equally beneficial for barefoot horses to give them a little extra support and comfort when it’s needed.
My horse has bar shoes/pour-in pads/ wedges. Can I still use Soft-Ride Boots?
Yes! The gel orthotic is designed to conform to the hoof sole under the weight of your horse and can form around different types of traditional metal shoes. However, many people are using pads/bars/wedges for a specific reason or to correct a problem and prefer to remove the frog support portion of the orthotic. This is easily done with a belt sander, hoof nippers, or a knife, and does not change the integrity of the overall solid gel orthotic.
Should the boots fit snug or loose?
Ideally, the boots should fit snugly with 1/8-inch or less showing around the outside of the gel orthotic. The closer the fit is, the better it will work for your horse. Much like a person’s shoes, the boot should be the smallest size that isn’t too small to get the hoof into the boot. Issues can arise if the boots are too large or too small. Boots that are too small will tear out because your horse’s hoof or shoe will rest on the upper fabric of the boot or on the hard plastic boot sole instead of sinking into the gel orthotic. The whole hoof wall or shoe must fit and rest on the gel orthotic for proper function. Boots that are too large will be sloppy on the hoof and can spin around, and there is also potential for the extra boot material to fold under the hoof as the horse walks, which will lead to a rub-through in the material.