In which Fiddle tests out new hoof boots and we are underwhelmed by them

The EasyCare company has been making hoof boots for horses since 1970, and I've been buying them since 1994. You could call me a loyal but somewhat unenthusiastic customer. EasyBoots weren't "easy" at all...but there weren't any alternatives, so I bought 'em and I used 'em.

Until recently, there was only one kind of EasyBoot:


They called it "the EasyBoot." This was the days before Epics and Edges and Grips and Glue-ons. There was just the one color, and just the one style, and it came in several sizes. The size you used on your horse was the same size shoe you would put on the horse.


These old boots were a pain in the tailfeathers to put on and take off. They scraped up the outer hoofwall if you didn't squash down the little teeth inside the boot and they were likely to zing off into the bushes or slorp off in deep mud and be lost forever if you did squash down the little teeth inside the boot.
The cables used to adjust the fit were guaranteed to slice up your hand, so there was always blood on my cables.
Yeah. Not pretty.

With all that said, EasyBoots were a useful "spare tire" for trail riders who didn't want to hop off and hand-walk a horse back to the trailer after losing a shoe. The plastic was sturdy and lasted a long time. The company started making the boot in bright orangish-red a few years ago, which made the boots easier to locate when they went zinging off into the shrubs. And I learned to stuff a couple of bandaids inside the boot when it was stored in my saddlebag, so I could patch up my hands once the boot was installed.

Lately, I've been reading more and more about the benefits of leaving horses barefooted. For Hana, this is not a problem: she has small, tough feet. Fiddle has good feet too--tough enough to break the farrier's nippers--but her soles are tender. I like to leave her barefoot for the winter months when I don't ride much and the ground is soggy, so I decided it was time to try out some of the new products now available from the manufacturers of my old EasyBoots.

I measured her feet carefully. She takes a size 1 horseshoe on all four feet, but the steel shoe must be widened significantly to fit her round feet. Steel horseshoes are hand-fitted to each foot, so even when a horse wears a size 1 shoe, the shape of her foot might be significantly different from the shape of another size-1-wearing horse. Steel is flexible, and a good farrier is vital to preparing and fitting shoes to each individual horse's foot. I love my farrier!

I compared the size and shape to the chart provided by EasyCare, and I saw a good match with the size 3 Easyboot Glove, so I ordered a set.

These boots promised to fit well, be much easier to take on-and-off than the old style EasyBoot, and the ankle straps would keep them in place and prevent them from zinging off into the bushes.

Here's the video produced by EasyCare showing the boot:







Looks great, huh? Looks EASY, doesn't it?

So, why were we underwhelmed? There were a lot of reasons!

To start with, it's not that easy to put them on. Why is my experience different from the experience of the nice fellow in the video? Here's my theory:

* He was demonstrating this boot on a fine warm day
* Here, by contrast, it is not warm. It's downright COLD!
* The material in this boot is NOT nearly as pliable in a cold environment as it is in a warm environment.

Sigh.

I did get them on, finally.
They are easier to put on than the old-style EasyBoots, and they don't have cables to cut up my hands. However, the stiff rubber did not want to stretch over Fiddle's foot.

Finally: got 'em on!

Ready to head out!
Fee was surprised to feel the straps around her pasterns. She did a few high steps, and then figured out that they weren't hurting or impeding her, so she started walking like a normal horse again.

I was pleased. I looked forward to our ride.

I looked back at her when I led her through the gate (about 20 strides from where I took the last photo) and saw this:



Uh, left-front boot?

I took the boot off (they are easy to take off!) and put it back on (still not as easy to put on as the video would have you believe). Tight fit is essential to the fit of this boot...and tight fit + cold plastic = a small struggle to get it on again.

Sigh.

Okay. Four feet pointed forward again!

Fiddle patiently snacks on grass while I fix her boot and take photos.

Off we go, down the road! The sound of booted feet on our country road made a nice little thock-thock-thock-thock-noise.

"Nice," I thought. Fiddle was striding out properly, not tiptoeing forward the way she does when her feet are tender.

Less than a quarter mile later of walking on our country road, the sound changed to a thock-thock-thock-thwap sound.

I looked down: one boot was sideways on her foot.

I hopped down, took the boot off, put the boot back on, made sure the pastern straps were a little more secure, hopped back up and proceeded forward. Thock-thock-thock-thock.

"Nice," I thought.

Less than a quarter-mile later: thock-thwap-thwap-thock.

Both boots on the right side were flapping around her pasterns.

I hopped down, took the boots off, put the boots back on, adjusted the straps, hopped back on and proceeded forward.

Thock-thock-thock-thock.


You know what's coming next, don't you?

Less than a quarter-mile later: thwap-thwap-thock-thwap.

Three boots flapping, one boot securely in place.

Sigh.

Fiddle happily ate grass and wondered what the point of this exercise could possibly be while I pulled all the boots off her feet

and attached them securely to her breast collar.

Then, I hand-walked her carefully home, rode her barefoot in the pasture for a little while, and then let her eat grass in the backyard while I examined the boots. Three were in good shape, but the fourth


had a little part tearing loose between the boot and the strap.

Total distance covered: less than a mile.

Total satisfaction rating: totally not satisfied.

I recognize that some people have been very happy with these boots--their testimonials convinced me to try them. Personally, I consider the entire trial an expensive failure.

I plan to send a link to this blog post to the EasyCare company, with hopes that they will endeavor to make me a happy customer again. I'll let everyone know how that turns out.

EDIT: before I could send a note to EasyCare, Garrett Ford (prez of the company) contacted me via the "comments". I call that good customer service! I will keep everyone posted on our progress to re-boot my mare.

Comments

  1. How frustrating!

    I was never very impressed with the original Easy Boots, what with the teeth and cables to break or get tangled in something, so am somewhat biased against all their current incarnations.

    I purchased one pair of Cavallo Simple Boots a year ago, as the girls have always been barefoot, but it would be good insurance for their front hooves (Luckily, Kate's and Maddie's feet are the same size. I can only ride one at a time, right?) I was so pleased with their fit and performance that I watched for and purchased another pair, slightly used, on eBay last spring. Sometimes I put them on right off the trailer, other times I just bring them along "in case."

    The day Kate and I rode the Parke Creek Ridge, she covered at least two miles of nasty-jagged lava rock, without a mis-step or ouchy. Yeah, the soles of the boots showed a little wear, but not near as much as I would have expected.

    I'm sold on these "sneakers!"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Besides, I would think Easy Boot would have a satisfaction guarantee?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Garrett Ford from EasyCare here. Yes, we do have a 30 day money back guarantee. Send back your boots and we are happy to take care of you. If you purchased from a dealer take them back to the dealer for the same guarantee.

    Looking at the fit photos (Easyboot Glove Fit) you posted on the page I can see huge gaps at the sides and the boots don't look like they fit at all. As we detail in the Fit Kit and Glove instructions, it's very important to get a fit like a Glove in these boots. If the fit is not good we don't recommend the boots.

    Did you use a Fit Kit to size the boots before you purchased the Gloves? The V at the front of your boots didn't spread at all, a clear sign they don't fit well and are not tight. You will see the difference if you look at your fit and then look at my video.

    The horse also looks like it has some flare that can be removed. Flare makes it difficult for any hoof boots on the market to work well.

    We are happy to make you happy. I think you will have much better results with a tighter fit and fitting per the Fit Kit instructions.

    Let us know how we can help get you in the right size or help with your refund.

    Garrett Ford
    EasyCare Inc.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow.

    You saw it here first, folks:

    Garrett Ford gets the Gold Star for customer attention--he posted a reply to this blog in between the time that I did some early-morning edits and the time that I returned from feeding the horses.

    Garrett: I'll contact you privately and we'll see how to get my mare booted up properly--and then I'll write a blog post about that!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very interesting! Glad to hear that Easyboot is taking care of you though. Hope you keep us up to date on the replacements!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hank has a very strong push on his hind end on hill, and he would shove the Easyboots off,and they ended up hanging on the front of his hoof like your one photo. But he was not nearly as calm about it. Thankfully he stood while I got off, and tended to it. But he was pretty close to major explosive behaviour!

    I'm a fan of my horse shoes, but it is nice to know we have so many different choices in boots out there for those who want to use them. And also a high five to Garrett to contact you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've stuck with Epics for Red and Lyra as their hoofs are in transition (started with severe pathologies). Friends have been extremely happy with gloves, but I don't think we are there yet. Good luck with your search for a workable boot.

    ReplyDelete
  8. So sorry that you found out what I did...my mare is not a candidate for the easycare's company products...I can use the Old mac's G-2s =with 3 frickin pads in them=..clunky man!
    Trying to be patient for the RENAGADE Rep to call me back..I want someone else to measure for me... then I won't be mad when I get it wrong..!
    I am going to do the 50% off trade up for more Old mac's G-2's...not for endurance though...as you know...too cluncky. I have about 5 pairs of the easy boot epics. WOE is me for trying for sooo long!
    KK

    ReplyDelete

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