Your horse's legs need protection during shipping, and shipping boots and leg wraps offer similar protection. Shipping boots are padded wraps with self-closing straps that fasten with buckles or Velcro. They extend from the coronet band near the hoof up to the knee, and protect the delicate areas along the horse's pasterns and cannon bones. Shipping wraps are fashioned using either quilted pads or cotton batting placed around the horse's lower legs, then wrapped using polo wraps or another type of bandage. They cover the same area as shipping boots, but additional protection, such as bell boots, may be added to protect the hoof area.
Shipping boots and shipping wraps provide similar protection to your horse's legs. They must be placed correctly, however, to give the best level of protection, and it is easier to place shipping boots correctly. They fit naturally over the pastern and cannon bone, with cloth and padding extending down over the coronary band. Wraps must be placed carefully so that the quilted inner lining fits over the heel bulb and the coronary band, the line where the horse's hoof meets the leg. This area is very sensitive and easily damaged if a horse takes a bad step or stumbles while the trailer is turning a corner or stops short. It's easier to make a mistake placing wraps, which can render them less effective at protecting the horse's legs.
Ease of Use
Shipping boots are easier to use than wraps. One person can place the boot quickly on the horse's leg and pull the Velcro straps closed. Wraps, on the other hand, take skill and practice to place correctly. It sometimes takes two people to wrap a horse's legs manually, with one person holding the inner lining in place and the other person winding the polo wraps around the leg. Knowing how to use polo wraps correctly also is important, since wrapping a horse's leg incorrectly can cause damage to the tendons. Boots mitigate this risk because there's little risk of pulling the wrong way against the tendon when they are strapped into place.
Cleaning and Care
Shipping boots and wraps can be cleaned at home by the horse owner or groom. Boots that are soiled can be hosed off and rubbed with a brush if necessary to remove mud and manure. They should be left outside to dry. Wraps must be hand or machine-washed, then line dried. Wraps are easier to replace if one rips. If a shipping boot's strap rips, the entire boot must be replaced. Cleaning and care are about equal for shipping boots and wraps, and are more a matter of personal preference.
A set of four shipping boots costs more than a set of four quilted leg wraps and bandages. Whenever you are shipping a horse, always bandage or wrap all four legs, or at minimum, both front legs. A set of shipping boots typically includes four boots, with one set for the front legs and another for the back legs. Wraps, on the other hand, all are purchased separately, but when you add up the costs they generally are much less expensive than boots.
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Jeanne Grunert has been a writer since 1990. Covering business, marketing, gardening and health topics, her work has appeared in the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books, "Horse Illustrated" and many national publications. Grunert earned her Master of Arts in writing from Queens College and a Master of Science in direct and interactive marketing from New York University.