A Hoof Boot is a device made primarily of plastic or rubber and is designed to cover the hooves of a horse as an alternative to, and occasionally in addition to, horseshoes. It is often used as a protective device when the animal has a hoof injury that requires protection of the sole of the hoof, or to aid in the application of medication. There are many different designs, but all have the goal of protecting the hoof wall and sole of the horse's hoof from hard surfaces, rocks and other difficult terrain.
Hoof boots are most commonly seen as a substitute for horseshoes, either as a backup for a thrown shoe when a farrier is not available, or as a temporary form of additional protection to a barefoot horse that may be subjected to conditions that its unshod hooves are not able to handle without damage. Horse boots are particularly popular for trail riding and endurance riding, though are also sometimes seen on horses in parades and on police horses who have to work on hard pavement.
The other major use of horse boots is for veterinary medicine. If a horse has a puncture wound in the hoof or a bruise to the sole, the boot provides protection to the wound or injury, increases the cleanliness of the area, and may at times be used to keep a poultice or other medication in contact with the hoof. They are also very useful for protection of the hooves of horses who cannot for some reason wear horseshoes, such as a horse that has lost a large chunk of the hoof wall due to disease or injury. In some cases, horses with laminitis also respond well to the protection of hoof boots while their hooves recover.
As a general rule, hoof boots are not kept on horses full time, rather they are put on and taken off as needed. Riding horses have their boots removed daily at the end of the ride, though they may be kept on for a couple of days without harm if properly adjusted and watched carefully for rubs and slippage. In the case of horses with injuries, they may be kept on for longer periods of time, but need to be periodically removed, cleaned, and the horse checked for rubbing or unusual abrasions, after which the boot may be replaced.