Sunday 9 December 2012

Aren't you going to put shipping boots on your horse...? Why no. Thanks for asking.

And so, with our showing debut behind us, we hunkered on down for a long Canadian winter of circles and transitions, and all of the other exciting things that one does with a 4 year old horse.

You see Curmudgeon - showing isn't that bad.  Nothing scary happened at all

No, nothing scary did happen at the shows. And thankfully, nothing scary happened driving TO the shows either, due to our careful efforts to learn to go in and out of the trailer in a safe and orderly fashion. And as you may recall, this trailering portion of the whole event was actually the part that freaked me out the most. "Practice makes Perfect" loading and unloading sessions are of course the most essential element to  easing one's worried mind with respect to trailering

However, as with everything else in the horse world, if practicing and perfecting are just not enough to ease your psycho neurotic mind... the horse world has an app for that.  As in - some expensive gizmo or piece of tack you can spend money on and app-ly to your horse, in hopes of protecting them from whatever it is your psycho neurotic horse owning mind is keeping you up at night worrying about. For me, it was the image of Ms. V kicking her spindly toothpick legs through various surfaces on the Red Rocket.  No matter how many times she stomped on and off the trailer during practice, I could not simulate what might happen once the ramp was shut and we were rolling down the road.  

Now, those of you that know me, know that I am a zero effort horse owner.  I don't spend a lot on the frills. Hay. Water. Pellets. $9.99 plastic brush boots from Greenhawk. That's how I roll. I am the anti-tack whore. I am like the wizened and withered, lock-legged spinster of the tack buying world, or tack nun, or something like that.  But this once, way back when, because of these sleepless nights....I decided to break my own rules.  I decided to invest in the ultimate bubble wrap of horse transport - those big honking kevlar sausage shipping boots that come up to the horse's crotch, and make the same swoosh-swoosh-swoosh sound as a snowsuit as your horse parades awkwardly around the yard.

No slouchy old poo stained cottons and stretched out bandages for Ms. V.  Her legs would be encased in the equine equivalent of bullet proof vests, because I was a loving, caring, concerned horse owner. 

Top all of this off with a dorky leather chapeau - and we were ready to hit the road in perfect safety.  

No, it is not Camilla Parker Bowles sporting her favourite fascinator at the Royal Wedding. It is Ms. V ready for the Red Rocket
No practice makes perfect session is complete unless you use all of the equipment during your practice.  And so, I got Ms. V suited up and prepared to take her off to the Red Rocket to try out our new ensemble.

She stood quietly in the crossties wearing her new duds as I wandered off whistling to get her leadshank.

Then - she moved.

Next - she went ENTIRELY FREAKING BANANAS.  Like I had never seen her go entirely freaking bananas before, and thankfully have never seen her go since.

There was rearing. flailing. flipping, falling. Eventually, there was the ripping of crosstie eyebolts out of walls, and finally, the ripping of $100 shipping boots off of legs, using some combination of walls and other legs.

And there was of course about 4 absolutely stunned and helpless bystanders wondering what the hell they could do to stop the insanity, yet also wanting to live to see another day without having their head kicked off by the freakshow going on before their eyes.  As luck would have it, we were all unfortunately behind her - so grabbing her head was not an option.  (Not that it would have helped much, I don't think, to be honest).

Finally, after what seemed like a really long time, but was probably only seconds, there was one shaking, snorting horse, staring intently at the tattered remnants of the leg-eating sausages, with a look on her face that clearly said..

"take that, you son's-a-bitches. Want another piece of me?"

Curmudgeon!  You almost killed your horse!  Don't you know you should always....(please insert your own favourite piece of know-it-all advice right here). 

Yes, I did think of all of these things.  I ran them through my psycho-neurotic mind that night, as I laid now doubly sleepless in bed, worried not only about toothpick legs flying through the walls and windows of the Red Rocket, but about pieces of shipping boots flying out after them and bouncing off the windshields of passing cars.

Should the crossties have had pieces of twine attaching them to the walls, so they would have broken free easily?  Maybe.  But then we would have had an insane horse running loose through the aisles.

Should I have introduced the boots more slowly?  Maybe. But she had worn her poo stained cottons and stretched out old bandages several times without incidence, and wore her $9.99 Greenhawk brush boots every day.  Who knew these would push her over the edge?

Should I have just stuck to my old plan of being the tack spinster?  Yes. That was the only answer.  I was being punished by the aliens that run the simulation for swaying from my strategy to be the world's most cheap-ass, curmudgeonly horse owner.  One who did not spend a dime on stupid shit that horses don't really need.  Like big honking shipping boots. Or a $3000 saddle when there is nothing at all wrong with the $500 one.  Ooops, I am getting ahead of myself again here, aren't I.

(Oh - by the way - please feel free to tell a tale of a horse you know who's hock got popped off like a bottlecap, or who's knee was rubbed right off of its body due to the absence of big honking shipping boots, to prove me horribly wrong.  I love that).


  1. I have shipped horses for over thirty years with nothing but bellboots on to protect the coronary band. It has worked for me. I try to be a careful driver so the horses do not have to scramble.

  2. Anonymous: I follow your model. I rarely wrap OR boot since my OTTB--who loads, travels and unloads very nicely from his 2-H straight-load bumper pull trailer--mostly "goes solo." I too drive carefully, more concerned about the idiots who speed up to cut in front of me to turn right (because I'm in the right lane, where we "trailer types" belong).

  3. My guy loves his shipping boots because once they are on he knows he is going on the trailor - his favourite thing. His little face perks right up and he marches on without hesitation. Yes he is heavenly.

  4. No tales of ripped off hocks or gaping wounds from me. i've always maintained that the big wraps upset the horses more than anything....i'm a barelegged shipper (or bell boots like the previous poster)i worked for a tb trainer who shipped his $100,000 horses bare, I figured it was good enough for my cheap ones.

  5. I used shipping boots once on a horse we were shipping from PA to Michigan. My friend and I who bought him it would be a brilliant idea. Wrong. After having to re-apply them to his legs 5 times in the first half of our 10 hour trip we said forget it and I haven't touched the things since. I instead now stick to pillows and standing wraps and have never had an issue.

  6. My horse is dead quiet once the trailer starts moving, so I've never tempted the idea of trailering with shipping boots. I have put them on her, but that lead to breaking of cross ties, which is not a reaction I want when in a moving trailer speeding down the 401.

  7. She looks better than Camilla Parker what sit in her leather fascinator. FAR better than the two daughters of Fergie who always manage to look like guppies with the big eyes or frogs squashed underfoot.

    Miss V is a natural beauty.


  8. Tack nun? Hilarious!

    I worry more about driving carefully than shipping boots. I used to think that I should buy the expensive pair like in your story, but then figured that my horse might be more freaked out by the boots than the trailer ride. I am glad that I held out!

  9. I had this same conversation the other day; I've had too many horses kick in response to shipping boots and I'd rather have the barelegged and not kicking.

    I was also the no-frills sort of rider, until I started riding my very princess-like TB. Now I feel compelled to buy her anything a princess could desire - and all of it in matching colors. I came home from a show today with a purple turnout blanket, purple show sheet, purple blingy browband, and a $900 saddle that looks like it won't even fit her. D'oh!

  10. I just found you but I have to say I think I love you :-) . I too am a tack nun and your story is quite funny. Never used shipping boots and don't plan too. I love the sausage comment.

  11. I do buy a lot of tack, much of it unnecessary, which makes the local equine consignment place happy.

    But I won't ever, ever buy or use shipping boots. I have seen a few horses do what Ms. V did, including a saintly experienced old gelding who had probably done thousands of miles in a trailer bare-legged, until his owner decided that he needed "more protection." The shipping boots exercise actually injured him, though not seriously.

    I know a lot of people who've basically been shamed into buying them because "OMG don't you know horses get HURT in trailers all the time? How could you possibly be so neglectful as to not stuff your horse's legs into hot, bulky, boots that make a lot of horses very nervous?"

    My mare, who's not fond of "stuff" on her legs, travels naked, or with plain old Woof Wear splint boots and bells.

  12. I have two sets of shipping boots, but they are the low ones that simply wrap with velcro below the knee/hock.
    I used them once on a gelding I had because I was going in a friend's straight load 2 horse and he had rarely if ever been trailered. I did how-ever get him used to them before hand.. I also had a neoprene tail wrap and a light sheet on him.
    We unloaded him for an overnight stay at a stop over and the cowboy said, "Why so much stuff on the horse?" After I took off all the stuff, he said ,"Nice looking horse!!" I said I wanted to keep him that way!!
    I stopped using them after that one time, except for my saddlebred cross, I had her in a 2 horse once (when she turned herself around backwards) after that I used a stock, BUT I did eventually get a two horse and I had to put a Camilla Parker Hat on her OR she would NOT get in!! Eventually she would just load right in it. I sold that one and got another OLDER than dirt 2 horse and she loves that one too! I did use shipping boots either last year or the year before that as I took her in the two horse about a 100 miles in it. In the stock trailer I could use, she does paw and stomp, and she is one of those that anxiety sweats. She jumps right into a stock but sweats more. She is always a little hesitant to load in the 2 horse, but sweats much less.
    I do use the tail wraps as my old trailer has the lower doors so the horses do tend to flip their tails out and poop on the road Or on their back legs... so I use the wraps to keep them from hurting the thinner skin under their tails!

  13. I used shipping the end of our 45 minute journey said shipping boots, which set me back $100, were in a thousand little shredded pieces. I still keep them as a reminder in case I get some insane idea that my girl needs more than SMB's in the trailer.

  14. Our first two horses had a variety of incidents in the trailer, so we did use shipping boots on them to minimize the damage they did to each other.

    I generally don't use them now, though. When my filly was shipping across the country to get to me I bought some in case she did well in them as extra protection since she would be travelling for days. Turns out she very quickly discovered a single well-planned kick would remove them from her toothpick legs, and therefore she made the trip bare and unscathed.

  15. My current trailer and my coach's trailer doesn't have a partition that goes completely to the floor, so to prevent an accidental stomp when hauling side-by-side horses, I will use a simple set of shipping boots (not the kevlar full coverage). Nothings worse than unloading and spending 15 minutes trying to stop the bleeding with Wonderdust because 2 mares we having a "stop touching me/looking at me" fight. One horse doesn't warrent boots for trips under a few hours.

  16. I'm torn when it comes to shipping boots as they seem bulky, too loose, and prone to "issues". When traveling short distances to an event, I typically have exercise-type bandages or DSBs on them already. But on longer trips, I like standing wraps and bell boots. With one horse, he was so quiet that I became complacent and didn't use anything, until I saw this:

  17. I did have a nekkid horse fall down in the trailer and scrape himself to shit thrashing around trying to get back up. There was a lot of blood and it was super scary (I had visions of pink juice dancing in my head) but the wounds were superficial and the vet stitched them up and the horse was fine. Since then I use them on my horses. But I'm going to use the cheap ones and I'm not going to get all judgey on people who ship au naturel.

  18. Curmudgeon, this has to be one of your best posts ever. You have outdone yourself in the descriptive language and humor departments! The Camilla Chapeau = PERFECTION.

    That said, YIKES, I can just imagine your horror watching Ms. V thrash about in the cross ties in hysterics. I've seen a horse do that and it just sucks... Sure am glad she was okay, even if you were out a hundred bucks.

    I have never owned a horse but when I do, I think I will be shipping in bell boots and wraps. Poo-stained cotton is no problem. :-)

  19. I tried shipping boots once on my four-year old. We never made it to the trailer. In fact we never made it anywhere since the poor guy did not mean to move before the big fluffy flesh eating monsters were off his legs. He has never been terrified of anything in his life but these boots made the gelding almost drop down.
    I must say I got a good laugh out of it and stayed with the regular wraps. Now he goes bare and has no problems.

  20. This blog totally makes my day ...

    I too have arrived at shipping my horse bare-legged.

    As a first time horse owner who was similarly terrified of trailering, I was convinced to buy the whole shebang ... shipping boots [albeit the shorty, cheapy ones], poll-protector-fascinator, AND the tail protector. I even have the halter fuzzies! [But never used them ... ]

    Well, he ripped the boots, and as it turns out, he's not really tall enough to need the 'fascinator'. And it seems kinda futile to face the high dangers of the highway with only a measly tail protector. So yah, naked it is.

  21. I work at a barn that takes in layovers for the big transporters, rarely does a horse come off the trailer with shipping boots & when they do, they are a mangled mess. Injuries I have to attend to 99% occurred in the loading process because they were poorly trained. If you are having a horse transported, have them loading well first, don't expect the hauler to train your horse in 10 minutes.

  22. Most shippers want the horses bare-legged anyway. They don't want to deal with wrapping mishaps.

  23. you had to have sold miss v by now, right?

  24. I love your blog! I am laughing my ass off. Thanks.

  25. Geez, my big old shipping boots were <$100 and have lasted > 10 years. I particularly like them because they take about 30 seconds to put on and repel horse poo. My horse just picked his legs up a bit at first, but I suppose folks might want to try one at a time on a newbie horse. On a lead in a safe enclosure, not just give up on shipping boots entirely? They seem a lot sturdier than wraps to me. Long distance hauling -- that may well be another matter.

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