• horse;
  • treadmill;
  • fetlock joint angle;
  • support boots


Reasons for performing study: Support boots are thought to reduce tension on the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDTF) of the horse and are frequently recommended for horses convalescing after tendonitis, but evidence of their effectiveness is conflicting.

Objective: To document the effects of 4 different types of support boots on fetlock joint angle in comparison to the unprotected fetlock.

Methods: In 26 horses, the kinematics of the forelimb fetlock joint angle was measured at walk and trot on a treadmill when wearing 3 different types of support boots and 1 protective boot, as well as without boots. As outcome parameters, maximum extension of the fetlock joint and the moment at which maximum extension occurred in the stride cycle were determined.

Results: At walk, 2 of the support boots reduced the maximum extension significantly by 0.8 and 0.9°, respectively (P<0.05). Additionally, one type of boots also delayed the occurrence of maximal extension within the stride cycle. At trot, all support boots reduced maximum extension significantly by 0.56–1.44° (P<0.01), and the protective boot reduced maximum extension by 0.56° (P<0.05).

Conclusions and potential relevance: The results demonstrate the effectiveness of support boots in reducing maximum extension of the fetlock, which can be assumed to reduce tension in the suspensory apparatus and SDFT. The delay of the moment of maximal extension may be relevant in reducing dynamic forces. However, it should be noted that the long-term consequences of reduction of maximum fetlock extension are still uncertain. Such a reduction over a prolonged period might negatively affect fibre alignment in the healing tendon.