When Majyk Equipe launched our first line of products, the first boots we made were jumping boots. As that time, the choice of jump boots on the market was limited to say the least. There were low quality boots that needed replacing every three months or high quality styles that were so expensive that we could only use them a few times a year. Surely, we thought, there had to be a way to have the best designs and technology without breaking the bank? We searched high and wide and even purchased some things from Europe via the internet, but we kept coming to the same conclusion.
So the idea started to percolate. During our many years in the Sporting Goods Industry we had worked on product launches of some of the most iconic sports shoe brands. Most of these brands grew up on the West Coast of America but were renowned worldwide for their style, technology and design. We knew what materials were used, which factories were innovating, and where the best Research and Development Teams were. The more we looked into making a line of equestrian horse boots, the more it made sense. Endless cups of coffee and late nights followed and pretty soon everyone around us got the message that we were serious about this. We consulted with vets, military trauma experts, horse trainers and more. Eventually, armed with cad drawings and material selections we went into production.
Today, looking back at those early days we find ourselves still seeking the same things. Now that so many world class riders have switched to Majyk Equipe products, we have the luxury of consulting with them anytime we are introducing anything new. This helps us stay in touch with the ever changing world of top level competing.
OK, so you may not be at the upper levels just yet, but you still want good protection for your horse. So what makes a good jump boot and what should you look for?
1. It All Starts with Design.
We expect you would be surprised to learn that some well known brands don't actually design or make the things they sell. That's right, they really have no real idea what they are selling beyond how it looks and feels on the surface. There are quite a few horse brands that buy their products from factories that will happily add a company's logo to their basic products for a little extra. If you've ever seen boots that look to be identical but are sold under different brand names, that's the reason. Without understanding the dimensions, size, fit and structure of a horse boot from the ground up, companies can't really tell how it will perform. Add to that the fact that many have no real idea on whether the materials selected are really suitable for horse use and you can see why there might be problems.
Early sketches from our vaults. Yes we really do work on every aspect of our unique designs!
2. Materials Matter.
You wouldn't expect that a designer dress would be made from the same materials as something you purchase from a mass market retailer so why assume that all horse boot materials are the same? Quick tip. They're not. As a general rule of thumb, less expensive synthetic boots are molded from cheaper plastics that don't have the same ability to flex and mold to your horse's leg as well as the better TPU types. They also tend to be heavier.
If you're looking at leather boots, the cheaper end generally uses lower level grades of leather that's mineral tanned. Lots of countries like China and India have home grown leather that they can use to cut cost, but these countries also import more expensive hides from countries like Italy and Argentina. It's no coincidence that Auto makers like Porsche and Audi use Argentinian leather for their upholstery. This sort of leather is designed to look super luxurious but also stand up to lots of wear. Cheaper leather may start off looking good, but is more likely to show wear faster or discolor. Some European leathers are farmed and so the hides tend to be thinner but there are also some good quailty European leathers on the market - you can usually feel the difference. Also don't be fooled by names of materials that may sound like leather but aren't. If its 100% leather the description should say so. Otherwise its likely faux leather even if its a fancy name that sounds like leather. If you're unsure, look at the detailed materials description - it's usually hiding in there somewhere. When it comes to leather, look for the country of origin of the actual leather, not where its manufactured, as these may be two different things. Try to find out as much as you can about the basic material so you know you are getting a good quality product.
When it comes to using the best materials we're pretty transparent about how we feel. When we started in this industry we were looking at companies that had been around for 40+ years. The staggering thing we noticed was how many of them were still using materials and technologies that came up in the 1960's and 1970's. Take neoprene as an example. Neoprene was first made popular by the wet suit industry to insulate against the cold for divers submerged for long periods in cold water. Basically, neoprene was preferred for keeping the heat in. Does that sound like the ideal choice to wrap around your horse's leg as it works? There have been many studies on how just overheating your horse's legs by a few degrees can contribute to lameness and tendon problems, yet still so many boots are lined with materials not designed to breathe. Neoprene also won't protect against bacteria and fungus growth. Ever wondered why your horse's boots get stinky after a while? That's right - its the bacteria growing inside. If you train at a barn with communal horse buckets it's even worse as the bacteria and fungus can spread from horse to horse. Now, saving a few dollars doesn't sound like such a good idea when you factor in the potential cost of multiple vet bills! So why wouldn't a company bother to research to find better alternatives? Again, it often comes back to not being in control of the initial production. If the brand you like is buying their boots from a factory that uses neoprene because its cheap and plentiful, then neoprene is what they will get in their finished products.
Generic Leather Boot Good Quality Leather Boot (Majyk Equipe)
2. Technology is Important and Comes at a Price.
If you are planning on doing more than basic trail riding with your horse then some form of protection is important. Generally, boots with a very low price point are usually mass produced and have little technology. With so many different technologies out there it can be confusing but generally you want to look for impact protection that is specifically designed to work against any blunt trauma or direct strike. Older models usually have older technologies so be on the look out for newer technologies (ours have ARTi-LAGE technology that you can read about here.)
3. Boots Should Breathe But Not Take in Water and Dust.
Its so important to choose a lightweight boot that breathes. Dermatophytes, or microorganisms that cause fungal diseases, thrive in warm, moist environments. A boot that doesn’t "breathe" can increase the horse’s susceptibility to conditions that cause sensitivity. While many boots claim to be 'ventilated' or 'breathable' many boots offer very little. When we designed our boots we looked at lots of other things that needed to breathe for inspiration - everything from natural items to car venting systems - and we came to one conclusion. Bigger is better. Just as a smaller window provides less ventilation than a larger one, so smaller vents let in less airflow than larger ones. Added to that the placement of the vents are equally important. Large vents on either side of the boot will allow air to enter on one side, circulate around the leg and exit at the other creating ongoing cooling. Minuscule vents on the back of the boot may trap any air circulation which won't provide for optimum air flow. With any sort of vents comes the opportunity for particles to enter the boot. We line our vents with a special micro mesh material that filters out particles while letting the air flow. The result is a boot that really breathes but keeps out dust and drains fast if it gets wet. Our neoprene-free liners are made of a breathable bio foam that's also perforated for ultimate airflow efficiency so the whole boot works together to create a horse boot 'ecosystem' for your horse's legs.
4. Boots Need to be Hard and Soft at the Same Time.
This is where it gets tricky. Most plastic horse boots are molded in one piece, even the more expensive ones. This means that the plastic poured into the mold has to be the same hardness all over. Cheaper boots tend to be made from harder plastics so they can offer basic shell protection without adding technology, but this can mean a less than perfect fit as a stiff boot can't adequately hug your horse's legs. If you opt for a softer, thinner plastic, then the strike areas also have to be soft as the boot shell is the same hardness all over. Great for comfort - not so great for protection. The ideal boot would have a soft shell where it touches the horse's leg but be harder in the areas that need to protect against a harsh strike. When we set out to make ours, we realized that the only way to achieve this was to make a boot with two different hardness levels - softer where it wraps around the leg and firmer in the strike zone areas. It's extremely complicated to do which is why you won't find many boots made this way! If you look at pictures of our boots you will see that it really hugs where it needs to but has a super sturdy strike guard area.
Lauren Kieffer, Olympian
5. You Should be Able to Use Your Boots All the Time, Not Just for Shows.
It stands to reason that if you care enough to protect your horse's legs then you care enough to protect them all the time, not just some of the time. Super expensive boots that cost upwards of $500 to cover all four legs may make you think that you're making a good investment, but its no good if you only use them in the show ring then use $30 boots for schooling. Let's face it, you're more likely to have an accident on the 150 days of the year you're at your home barn practicing, not the few days when you're competing - so why not buy boots that can be used for schooling and for showing. One of our goals when we started Majyk Equipe, was to make a well priced boot so riders could easily afford to have a couple of pairs in their tack trunk. Despite the higher cost of manufacturing to combine the best elements all in one boot, we have managed to keep the costs down by cutting out the middle men. Often the high price tag you see attached to some boots is not necessarily because they are better quality, but because their price reflects import costs and the cost of a sales force to sell them. You might be surprised to find they aren't such a premium product in their actual country of origin.
Madeline Backus, Rolex 3 Day Event 2017
Boyd Martin, Olympian, Red Hill 2018
So whatever you choose in the end, try to remember that your horse's legs are paramount when it comes to keeping them fit. In the racing world there is a saying that goes 'No leg, no horse' - something it would be wise to consider when you set out to purchase your next pair of horse boots! :)