Bell boots, aka overreach boots, are crucial in safeguarding a horse's front feet during various activities that could lead to overreaching or grabbing a shoe. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the significance of bell boots, their protective functions and different styles, when and how to use them, and of course, tips and tricks for how to put pull-on bell boots on your horse!

Bell boots cover a horse's front feet from the pastern over the coronary band down to the heel, serving as a protective barrier whether they are in turnout or performing. The primary purpose of bell boots is to prevent interference from the hind feet, which can accidentally overreach or clip the front feet, even resulting in bruising or heel injuries that could result in lameness. Horses can do this during turnout when running, bucking, making sharp turns, or slipping and sliding around in muddy pastures. They can also overreach when ridden, especially in higher-speed activities. Some horses are more prone to overreaching than others. Those with more compact conformation or horses with very long legs are built with an increased risk of overreaching. In contrast, horses with poor hoof quality can be more prone to losing shoes, as only minimal interference is enough to loosen a shoe. Knowing which style of bell boot your horse would benefit from and how to choose the right size can make all the difference! You can learn more by reading our blog, What are Bell Boots for Horses.

How to Put on Pull-On Bell Boots

Pull-on bell boots are known for being the most durable compared to Velcro types, but many horse owners struggle with pulling them on or off and get frustrated. There are a few tips and tricks to putting them on. They typically come in a pliable rubber or “gum” material. The natural gum-colored boots seem to have the most stretch compared to black, white, or other solid colors that are slightly less pliable. If you leave them on your horse for extended periods, the solid colors can be a bit more durable for daily turnout, whereas the natural gum-colored styles may be easier to take on and off daily.

Here are the three steps to putting on pull-on bell boots:

  1. Start with the bell boot turned inside-out. Hold your horse’s foot up like when you pick their feet and slide the bell boot onto his foot, starting with the widest part going over his hoof first. Pull until his toe peeks out of the smaller opening, and it gets tight.

  2. Pull on either side of the bell boot, tugging slightly, while pulling it towards you until his hoof pokes all the way through the opening, and he is now wearing it upside-down around his pastern.

  3. Put your horse’s foot down and flip the bell boot down to cover his hoof.

To remove it, simply pick up your horse’s hoof, flip the bell boot upside down again, and pull off the same way you put it on.

How to Put on Double-Lock Bell Boots

If you don’t want the hassle of pulling bell boots on and off with the pull-on style, you might prefer the convenience of double lock style bell boots, also called Velcro bell boots. These are quick and easy to take on and off. You can find these in single-lock or double-lock styles. Single-lock is the most economical style, with one piece of Velcro going across as the closure. Double-lock styles typically have two separate straps, so if one fails, a backup keeps the bell boot secure.

Here are the two steps to putting on double-lock bell boots:

  1. To put on double-lock bell boots, start by undoing the hook and loop closures.
  2. With your horse standing, place the bell boot around their hoof and close the hook and loop or Velcro straps, ensuring they are secure.

Mud, sand, and wet conditions can accumulate in the straps, making them less secure, so it is helpful to brush any debris out or rinse them off with a hose often.

How to Select and Fit Bell Boots

There are many styles of bell boots available. Materials can vary from rubber or “gum,” PVC, nylon and ballistic nylon, neoprene, foam, and carbon fiber. The style you choose may depend on how tough your horse is on their bell boots, your budget, and your needs. If your horse loses a lot of shoes or can be really rowdy during turnout, a double-thick pull-on bell boot can be a great choice for harsh turnout conditions or tough horses. If you just want to offer some hoof protection and reduce the risk of a lost shoe, then a PVC or rubber bell boot with hook and loop closures can be an economical choice that is easy to take on and off. There are other styles that can be used just for riding and training or with therapeutic benefits as well.

You want to be sure that the bell boot you choose is the correct size for your horse or pony. Bell boots should fit one or two fingers comfortably inside the rim and your horse’s pastern to prevent rubbing. When standing on flat ground, the bottom should reach just slightly above the ground on the back of their heels. It can rub and won’t cover enough to do its job if it's too small. If it’s too large, your horse can step on it and damage or pull it off.

A general size guide that can work for most horses, although keep in mind every style and brand of bell boot may be different, so we always recommend measuring your horse’s hoof and following size charts when purchasing bell boots, may help you choose a size:

  • Ponies = Small
  • Arabians/Refined Breeds/Smaller Quarter Horses = Mediums
  • Thoroughbreds/Stockier Breeds/Refined Warmbloods = Large
  • Large Warmbloods/Heavier Breeds = Extra-Large

Do bell boots go on the front or back?

Usually, bell boots are designed to be used on a horse's front feet. However, in some instances, using bell boots on the hind feet can have a purpose. Addressing issues like horses losing hind shoes often or getting abrasions above the coronary band from interference can be reduced by using bell boots on the hindfoot. Properly fitted bell boots can provide temporary relief, but it's crucial to consult with a farrier for a more permanent resolution, especially if a horse continues to interfere behind.

Investing in the proper use of bell boots is a proactive measure to enhance your horse's safety and well-being. Whether your horse engages in riding, turnout, or specific activities requiring extra care, incorporating bell boots into their routine can make a significant difference in maintaining healthy hooves and pasterns!