A few years ago, I was researching an article on hoof boots for EQUUS magazine. This was great, as it allowed me to try a number of different boots on the market, and I often got "VIP" treatment from the companies, meaning they sent someone out to make sure the boots were fitted properly to my horse.
My gelding, Gryphon, is a great horse to try boots on, as he is extremely expressive about how he feels about everything, and it is easy to tell if something is making him uncomfortable. So many horses are stoic about pain and discomfort -- not my precious morgan prince! I am an equally good test subject in some ways, as my bad back makes it difficult for me to bend over and fuss a whole lot with a hoof boot; I want easy on, easy off, but still a great fit.
So, which boot came out the winner? No question about it, Gryphon and I both VASTLY preferred Renegade hoof boots (available at: renegadehoofboots.com), for many reasons:
1) First and most important, they are extremely comfortable for the horse. Their smart design with the boot cut below the coronet means no rubbing, and the unique "heel captivator" allows the boot to stay on very well without being all that tight. Yes, there is a part that wraps around the pastern, but it has cushy neoprene all around it and it really is fairly loose when "secured", putting almost no pressure on the pastern. The open back lets water, dirt and rocks fall out, preventing any buildup of material that might bruise the sole or frog. Gryphon (who has been known to kick, strike out and throw a bucking fit if the boots you put on him are uncomfortable in any way) was 100% okay in these boots right off the bat, and he soon realized that not only did they not hurt him, but they made him much more comfortable on the extremely rocky trails we were riding on. His stride was much more confident and he seemed to actually enjoy himself in his cool new footwear.
2) Almost equally important, these boots are a breeze to put on and take off. Once you have done the initial adjustments to "custom fit" them to your horse, all you have to deal with are a couple of velcro straps. The boot fits closely to the hoof with a nice, low profile, yet it still slips on easily due to the clever open-back design. You just open the straps, lower the heel captivator and pop the boot on -- no tools or pumps, no prying anything open with a hoof pick to get it off -- hallelujah!
3) These boots stay on and wear well. I am not a hard-core rider, but I have friends who are, riding out in very rough terrain, mud and water for long hours on a regular basis. Those who have tried these boots also swear by them now, across the board. I've never had one come off, and neither have they from the reports I've gathered. The boots also take a pounding and still last a good long while, so you will not be buying a new pair every other month.
4) The boots are available in regular and wide -- this really makes a difference in how they fit.
5) They have studded boots for situations where you need more traction, and they have glue-ons for those in serious competition where a light-weight, super-close fitting boot is an advantage.
6) Renegade is a small company whose owner is personally involved in all aspects of production -- and the boots are MADE IN THE USA. That may not matter to some people, but it does to me.
7) They come in lots of fun colors that can have a practical purpose, too: lighter colors are better in hot climates.
Are these boots right for every horse? Probably not, as they are designed for a horse that has at least a decent, natural hoof shape, so if the hoof is very upright and narrow (like some poor horses just coming out of a lifetime of being shod), the boots might not stay on that well. However, if your horse does have a reasonable or better shaped bare foot, I HIGHLY recommend the Renegade. They were quite simply head and shoulders above any others I tried, and I tried quite a few! If you want to know my opinion about any other specific brands, please contact me.