SMART BOOT USE
Boots can protect a horse’s limbs during riding sessions, but---with one notable exception---leaving them on during turnout isn’t a good idea.
Tendon boots and others that cover the legs trap dirt and heat next to the skin, which can lead to irritation. And a damaged or loose boot can be a hazard, injuring the very structures you’re trying to protect. You may see photos of horses turned out wearing leg boots, but these tend to be elite athletes who are groomed thoroughly before and after they go out and whose turnout is carefully monitored. Unless you’re able to provide that much oversight, it’s better to forgo leg boots when your horse is on pasture.
Bell boots, on the other hand, can be helpful for horses who tend to overreach---stepping on their front heels with a back hoof as they move. These horses may pull off their own shoes or, worse, injure themselves when at liberty. Bell boots can guard against both of those possibilities. Keep in mind, though, that bell boots also tend to hold mud against skin, which can lead to continual exposure to moisture and germs and a painful case of scratches.
If you leave bell boots on your horse for turnout, it’s important to regularly flip them inside out to brush the leg and clean the underside of the boot. As you do this, inspect the horse’s hoof and heel area for signs of irritation.
BOOT CAMP: When a horse wears bell boots during turnout, it’s especially important to keep his legs and the boots clean.