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Hoof Pads 

Support and Cushion

   When you hear the term hoof pads, you may think about the plastic or leather that is nailed between metal shoes and hooves to protect soles. However, there is a whole new type of hoof pad I'm referring to which are not the hard plastic, but instead are more like insoles you put inside your own shoes. The hard plastic may cover the sole and protect it from stimulation and some bruises, but it does nothing to actually improve hoof health. Those rigid, semi-permanant pads invite infections from lack of air flow and further weaken the structures it is protecting. The hoof, including the sole and frog, need stimulation to remain healthy. Rigid plastic just can't offer that stimulation. Foam, gel and soft rubber are the materials that make up the new breed of hoof pads that are not designed to be nailed to the hoof, but instead offer extra support and stimulation within a hoof boot or cast.
Variety of Hoof Pads

    Hoof boots are akin to sneakers for humans. They protect, support and absorb shock, without compromising the foot itself. However, boots alone do not stimulate the sole as well as a naked hoof on dirt, and pads can create that effect. Every boot realy should have some pad insert for that reason. Boots are still better than metal shoes in that they don't impede natural function, but they are not perfect. Actually, there is nothing a person can add to the foot to improve on nature, but we can protect from the unnatural problems we create with the horse's unatural jobs such as jumping with a rider.

    Back to pads. Most manufacturers make pads that will fit their particular boot. These are easily cut to fit to the size you need. There's nothing saying you have to use their pads, though. Get creative, use materials available or interchange from one brand to the other. The only thing that matters is that you cater to your horse's needs. 

    In general, most horses only need a thin, flat pad to meed the sole stimulation and maintain healthy sole.  If your horse is recovering from laminitis or an abscess, his needs may be different. Navicular horses may need more stimulation in the back of the foot, and a flat pad may not work as well as a pad with extra material under the frog.

       Whichever pad you decide to use, make sure they fit the boot. Too small and they slide around inside and don't do their job, too big and they make the boot fit too tight and aren't comfortable for your horse. If you need help deciding which pad style you need, consult your hoof care provider.