There are two basic reasons to shoe a horse — to provide protection and support.

Now, this isn’t a groundbreaking revelation, but sometimes the obvious is worth repeating. There are circumstances when a farrier encounters a hoof that needs protection and support, yet the horse just can’t handle shoeing. You might want to consider a boot, Larkin Greene suggests.

The Vettec clinician was working on a horse that had a typical under-run heel with a long toe, but shoeing was out of the question.

“This horse could not be nailed to,” he says, “not only because it couldn’t take the concussion of nailing, but there’s nothing to nail to, and the horse wouldn’t stand for more than about a minute.”

Shoeing the horse was impossible, but applying a boot wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, either.

“When we put the boot on the foot, it was way too short, and that’s really going to create some problems,” Greene recalled to attendees at January’s International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati. “We wanted to move it back, so I cut the front of the boot open so the toe’s sticking through it. It was still a little short, but it was better. I smeared Vaseline on the wall, sanded the boot and rebuilt the front of the boot.”

Modifying boots are fairly quick and simple, Greene says.

“We modify everything else under the sun, so why not boots?” he asks. “We can adjust the toe, we can add material to adjust for poor fit, and we can add heel support and cushion. We can customize a boot not only for that horse, but also for each individual foot. Not only will it reliably provide support, but it will stay on.”

How simple and quick are the modifications? It’s as quick as a few swipes of your rasp.

“Toe modifications are actually pretty easy,” Greene says. “Most boots have enough material in them where you can rasp breakover. If you want to improve breakover, you can rasp it right into the boot and make quick adjustments that way.”

Some boots don’t offer much sole support, but that can be modified, too.

“Most boots are pretty hard in the floor and unless they have a really good frog, it’s basically like standing on a hard floor,” he says. “But you can use dental impression material. You knead it together and pack it into the foot. Let the horse stand on it while it sets. That’s really important because if you don’t, you’re holding it up while that sets; you’re going to create sole pressure. So, let them stand on it and it molds to the foot.  It doesn’t bond, so you can remove it.”

Since most boots are also short, heel support needs to be added.

“You can add length to them by applying adhesive,” Greene says. “Use a marker to outline the area where you want to build it. Use a shallow drill bit to drill some holes in there and wire brush it clean. I even use the edge of a rasp to add some surface area. Add duct tape to use as a dam. You can use a liquid urethane and it sets pretty firm like a car tire, and float it on there. Once it’s set, trim it, nip it, you can rasp grooves into it for traction, and effectively add support to a boot that would otherwise be short. You can do that to whatever degree you want to do it.”