This afternoon, I picked up Dundee's shipping boots. They were on the lawn. Like a good horseperson, I had washed them off immediately after using them and then set them out in the sun to dry. Like a slovenly horseperson, I left them out for a several days so that they got rained on and then blown all over the yard. Oops.
Using shipping boots is a fairly new concept for me so I am not quite used to the maintenance. Before this, I was a staunch shipping WRAPS user. Wraps go right into the washing machine after a use. The drying and re-rolling is still maintenance but it's maintenance that I am familiar with and know how to manage. The boots are, by far, easier and quicker to apply. One piece, a couple of Velcro straps and done! Shipping wraps start with bell boots, then a quilt - wrapped evenly and smoothly, in the right direction, snug but not tight, making sure to cover the top edge of the bell boot; then the wrap - even and smoothly applied with enough tension to keep the whole package secure, but not so much as to cause bandage bow (yes, I did that once & felt horribly guilty), making sure to finish with the Velcro closure at the top. A nicely done, completed shipping wrap should look like a brand new tube of toothpaste, not the tube of toothpaste that my 9 year old son has been using and looks like someone tried to strangle it round the middle.
The quilts have to puffy, yet firm. Thin, measly quilts are too hard to use and do not offer enough protection. The outer wrap has to have a little stretch but not too much. The test is whether the cloth gets narrower when you pull on it. Too much stretch can constrict and create pressure spots within a wrap. With so much that can wrong with shipping wraps, it's surprising that they can do any good at all.
The great thing about (correctly applied) shipping wraps is that not only do they protect against bumps and scrapes, but they also support the horse's leg. After a day of showing, or even just a long trip standing in the trailer, good shipping wraps can prevent swelling around the tendons and ligaments of the lower legs. I can attest to the protection factor. One of my horses ( http://ridinraffles.blogspot.com/2011/10/rest-of-story.html ) was my very own shipping wrap testing facility. Gretchen made several attempts to sever her limbs via horse trailer and while she did sustain injury, everything under the wraps was intact. Previously in this post, I made mention of making sure that the wrap covers the top of the bell boot. Gretchen once cut her leg, just bad enough to require three stitches, in the half inch of space between the bell boot and shipping quilt. I made darn sure to cover that half inch every other time after that.
Since Gretchen, I've had 3 other horses that all traveled quite nicely in the trailer but still, I used the wraps. Just because a horse travels well doesn't mean a thing if someone cuts you off in traffic or some fool rear-ends the trailer, or something worse (which we don't like to think about). Your horse may not be kamikaze like Gretchen, but that doesn't mean an accident won't happen.
However, after spying a set of really nice shipping boots - you know the ones, they look like Kevlar, come up over the knee and hock and all the way down over the hoof - in the consignment section of the tack shop for less than half the original price, I bought 'em. And I used them. And then I got lazy. The thought of taking fifteen minutes to wrap my horse when I could slap some boots on him in about three minutes, seemed foolish. I know the boots don't offer the same protection as a set of hearty wraps, but (here comes my justification) the wraps don't cover the knee and hock like the boots do. Those parts are valuable too, right? So I should take the opportunity when it's presented to protect the upper joints too, right? That means I can take the lazy route, right?
I do not like putting my horse in a trailer without something on his legs. Just like I don't ride without my helmet or drive without my seat belt. You just can't predict when an accident will happen. Some horses don't like having wraps on and they do the Ministry of Silly Walks when getting from the barn to the trailer. I know one horse who would practically turn himself inside out trying to get his shipping boots off while in the trailer. There are horses who will kick constantly in trying to shake loose a shipping wrap or boot. Those ones are the only ones who get a pass. If it's just a matter of him channeling John Cleese or Houdini, the wraps can stay on. If a horse is going to kick in the trailer then I will take the risk of a possible accident rather than deal with the definite damage to the trailer and my horse's legs. Most horses can learn to wear wraps and boots if you put them on and let him wear them while he's in the stall. He shouldn't wear them outside in the paddock, there's too much freedom of movement and the possibility of a wrap coming undone is too great.
It never pays to get lazy with horses. Efficiency is great, but cutting corners is not. Snap the throatlatch on the halter, use a leadline to take your horse to the stall, use the hoof pick, and use some shipping wraps. Practice doing them correctly before hand. It takes a couple of tries to get them right. As a comparative reference, I will send you some photos of slightly strangled toothpaste tubes.