Welcome to EN’s Product Review series! Who doesn’t love shopping… especially when the object of your search is new gear for yourself or your horse? While I get SUPER excited to browse tack shops in person (and online), sometimes even I’m slightly intimidated when I look through the seemingly endless number of options of equine-related products available. As an enthusiast of many types of equine products, I LOVE trying out new gear—for myself, or my horses. Which is why I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to try out products that companies have generously sent to me, so that I may share my personal experiences with all of you! Some of the products featured are from our totally awesome EN sponsors, while other products are unique, new, and/or interesting items. This column is meant only for me to narrate my personal journey, and share my own opinions and experiences with all of the products featured. Of course, every horse and rider is a unique individual, so each product may perform differently for you and your horse then it does for me—after all, different things work for different people (and horses!), and that is all part of the variety of life! While I will make no recommendations to you, I hope that you simply have fun and find entertainment while reading about my many adventures of trying new products, and that hearing about my personal experiences might help give you factors to consider when you are on your own quest for new gear!
In my years of riding, I haven’t always thought about thought about things like leg support and protection for my horse. During my early years, it was enough to throw on a pair of stretchy pants, paddock boots, and a helmet for me…and then I’d tack up my horse, and hop up into the saddle to be on my way out for a ride. Since those days of old though, I’ve not only gained more experience in the saddle; I also feel like I’ve tried to educate myself more about equine management–everything from horse health, to what supplements can do, and also what benefits certain types of tack and equipment can offer. I’ve made it a goal of mine to continue to learn (because let’s face it–the learning process is something that never really ends) about ways that I can improve both my riding and the care and training of my own horses.
Historically, I’ve never used protective boots, or bell boots on my horses when riding. If you’ve been following along with my other posts, you will probably recognize my oldest gelding Ripley; although he is now in his 20s, he is still in work–and I’ve made it my goal to ensure that he stays comfortable with his workload. Since not long after I’ve owned Ripley, he has always been sensitive in his front feet; so much so, that he has worn front shoes, with a rolled toe for about as long as I’ve had him, upon the recommendation of my vet many (many) years ago. Other than his sensitive feet (which the shoes have been able to successfully manage), Ripley has not had any major soundness issues during his time with me. As part of my goal to keep Ripley happy, healthy, and comfortable, I decided to try out supportive boots and bell boots on him..
Recently, I had the opportunity to try out a set of VenTECH Elite Sports Medicine Boots, as well as a pair of Ballistic Overreach Boots–both from Professional’s Choice. I’ve used soft, open front neoprene boots on Ripley in the past, but I was excited to have the chance to try out a set of Sports Medicine Boots. While reading about the VenTECH Elite Sports Medicine Boots, I really liked the idea that the boots fully wrap around your horse’s legs, to provide 360 degrees of coverage and protection against the shock of impact. The limestone-based neoprene that the boots are made out of is also ventilated, so moisture and heat are able to escape, helping keep legs cool, even while they are protected. And as an aside–I’m absolutely crazy about colors (you know us eventers…we love bright colors, right?). I certainly like the number of colors and patterns offered in the VenTECH boots!
The Ballistic Overreach Boots are also offered in corresponding colors to the VenTECH Elite Boots – they are made out of a ballistic nylon, and also have a layer that protects areas of the hoof and by absorbing any energy caused your horse overreaching in their stride. These particular overreach boots also feature a knob that sits on the rear side of the foot (behind the heel), that is meant to keep the boot from spinning while being worn.
Both the VenTECH Elite Sports Medicine Boots, as well as the Ballistic Overreach Boots were quite lovely when I first pulled them out of the box that they arrived in. The VenTECH boots felt soft and flexible to the touch, and the Overreach Boots felt nice and sturdy. I tried both boots in the Crimson Red color, which looks lovely in person (but the color just seemed to pop once I put them on Ripley!). There is a slight color difference between the red of the VenTECH boots and the Overreach Boots – the two are made from different materials, and I think the set looks great together in my opinion, even with the slight variation in color. When I went to put both types of boots on Ripley for the first time, they went on easily, and were very nice to look at. Everything appeared to fit well, so I set off for my first ride with both sets of boots!
Since that first day, I’ve been wearing the boots on Ripley for most of our rides – for both flatwork, and for schooling over some small jumps. While I unfortunately can’t read Ripley’s mind to know just how much better his legs and feet feel to him when he wears his VenTECH Boots (wouldn’t that ability make diagnosing any health or training problems SO much easier though!), I can say that they fit nicely and I get the sense that they are ‘hugging’ his legs when I put them on. According to the labeling, the VenTECH boots are proven to absorb up to 26% of energy from hoof impact; with this knowledge, I certainly have more peace of mind, knowing that I’ve got Ripley’s legs wrapped up and protected–especially because even at his age, we are still galloping across our back field and schooling over small jumps. Ripley puts his heart into his work, though for him, it doesn’t really seem like work at all. Even so, I want him to feel great, and I feel like using boots to help absorb some of the energy from the impact on all four of his legs helps him; the fact that he looks great with them on also? That’s just a bonus, in my mind!
I’ve not had any issues with the VenTECH boots slipping or sliding during use. I’ve also checked out Ripley’s legs after removing the boots post-workout; even after sessions when he is warm and sweaty, I did not feel heat or moisture from where I removed the boots (just the hair that Ripley has been shedding like crazy, and the bit of mud he kicked up…definitely time to hand wash those boots!). Ripley certainly seems comfortable with wearing them; and because I want him to feel (and look) his best, I will continue to wear them on Ripley.
I also feel confident that the Overreach Boots are something that are working to help Ripley. If there’s one thing that I know for certain, it’s that my boy loves to run. Something that I’ve observed is that when I let him move into a canter (or gallop), while wearing the Overreach Boots, I heard a new sound; what I heard was a steady ‘thwack, thwack, thwack’, that seemed to be timed with Ripley’s gait. I was a bit surprised when I realized that what I was hearing was Ripley continuously hitting his front feet with his hind feet. Over and over again (like that Nelly and Tim McGraw song…you remember that one, don’t you?). In a steady rhythm. I guess I was a bit shocked that I never really realized this he does this, and I felt pretty bad that I haven’t been protecting his front feet and heel bulbs from impact all this time. But, I feel like the important thing is that now that I’ve realized this, that now I am going to use the Overreach Boots going forward. Chalk one up for protecting Ripley’s front feet from that impact!
So while I certainly like the way that both the VenTECH Elite Sports Medicine Boots, and the Ballistic Overreach Boots wear and look on Ripley—I also like the fact that Professional’s Choice offers a 30-day money back offering and warranty on both sets of boots as well! Those types of programs offered by Professional’s Choice gives me peace of mind that if I have difficulties with their products, that I can go to them and ask for help. The VenTECH Elite Sports Medicine Boots retail for $94.95 for a pair, or you can purchase a set of four in a value pack that retails for $169.95; the Ballistic Overreach Boots have a retail price of $30.95.
Go Leg & Hoof Protection. Go Professional’s Choice. Go Eventing.