How Good is the Traction on your Hoof Boots?
There are four main factors that determine traction of a hoof boot.
1. The hardness or softness of the material.
2. The tread design.
3. The flexibility of the sole of the boot.
4. Added ice studs
1. Material Hardness: You may be aware that snow tires are a softer material than regular or all-season tires. This is because softer materials have better traction, especially in cold conditions. The same applies to hoof boots. Scoot Boots are a softer material than many other boots and therefore have better traction. A softer material can mean less durability, but the particular blend of TPU (thermo-plastic-urethane) material of Scoot boots rivals that of other harder boots, with many users reporting 600 miles or more on their Scoots, and some over 1000 miles. A side benefit of the softer material is more protection against concussion on hard surfaces.
2. Tread Design: Again, as with snow tires, where tread pattern has an impact on traction, and so it goes for hoof boots. Scoot Boots have a narrower tread design than other boots which provides extra grip. Most boots have a more blocky design. The larger the surfaces are that touch the ground, the less grip you will have. These are my boots, pretty much worn out at 830 recorded miles (plus quite a few unrecorded), but they still have traction.
The depth of tread is also a factor. While other boots may have a thicker sole, they do not generally have deeper treads than Scoot Boots. The extra thickness in most other boots is in the sole above the treads, making for a heavier boot. And, because of the tread design, Scoot Boots retain most of their traction until the boots are pretty much ready to be retired. With many other boots you pretty much have "bald tires" long before boots are worn out.
With another boot brand I was using before, I always bought a new set when the boots were about 50% worn, because there was not enough traction for wet conditions at that point. I would use the older boot in dry conditions and the newer boots in wet conditions. With Scoots I was able to use the same set in all weather conditions for the life of the boots (I do install studs for riding on hard packed snow and icy roads in winter - more on that later).
3. Flexibility: You may be familiar with poppers or snow pads used with horse shoes.
These are a flexible plastic layer that can be applied between the hoof and shoe and will pop snow and mud away from the shoe when the horse steps and flexes the plastic.
Scoot boots have a very flexible sole that basically acts like a popper. My horse has big concave feet and tends to build up snowballs if ridden in snow at certain temperatures. This creates an extremely treacherous situation. So I always put Scoots on him when riding in sticky fresh snow. The snow just pops out and I have great traction even without studs.
4. Added Ice Studs
Studs add traction on hard-packed snow and icy roads, as well as in wet grass. We carry both Scoot Boot studs and our own custom tee-nut studs.
The Scoot Boot studs only require a small hole to be made in the boot, which does not go all the way through. They can be removed and the boots then used the rest of the year without studs. They can be a challenge to reinstall as the drilled holes must first be cleaned out and this is difficult with holes that don't go all the way through. Scoot Boot "Quick Studs" https://www.timberlinetack.com/collections/featured/products/scoot-boot-ice-stud-pack
Our tee-nut studs are a bit larger and more aggressive. They require holes to be drilled all the way through the boots and once they are used you cannot switch to Scoot Studs. These dont' come with spares; it's virtually impossible for them to come out. The studs can be removed and the boots then used the rest of the year. The holes are easy to clean out with a screwdriver or other small tool. Our experience is that no material enters the sole of the boots through the holes. The holes get packed with grit, and we leave them packed until it comes time for installing studs again. https://www.timberlinetack.com/collections/featured/products/studs
If using studs we recommend using them on all four boots so that traction is equal on all feet.
Conditions that Affect Traction
There are various riding conditions that affect traction of boots, most being quite obvious, but below we tackle the reasons Scoots handle these conditions so well:
2. Snow and Ice
3. Hard smooth surfaces
4. Wet grass
5. Creek crossings
Mud: As with snow it's an advantage to have a flexible boot. As the boot flexes it will tend to dislodge mud from the boot adding to traction. Clay mud is particularly problematic even with Scoot Boots though. The very sticky mud will cling to any boot and obscure the treads, so care should be used on this surface especially if combined with hills!
Snow and Ice: Studs are recommended for ice and hard-packed snow such as is found on roads being driven on by vehicles. Common sense should still be used though, especially on roads with smoother harder ice. Test them at the walk first, then a slow trot, and don't go screeching around corners! Here's a quick video of a ride with ice studs, on hard snowpack up a hill. NOTE: If this were sheer ice I would not attempt this - use your own judgement.
We do a lot of winter road riding here in Montana. We tend to choose the warmer winter days such as pictured here, but note that wet melting snow can be much slipperier than snow and ice on a very cold day!
Hard smooth surfaces: Surfaces such as smooth paved roads and large flat rocks are notoriously treacherous in metal shoes. Most any boot brand will tackle this surface much better than a shoe. But this is where the softer material of Scoot boots will offer superior traction to other boots.
Wet Grass: Shoes typically perform better than most boots in wet grass. But here again Scoot Boots have an advantage over other boots because of the narrow treads and flexible sole. In a previous blog post, we interviewed Heather Fountain, who does eventing sucessfully with unstudded Scoots on the front feet (and barefoot in back) even over wet grass. Soil conditions may vary, however, and studs are generally recommended (whether using shoes or boots) for activities such as eventing and foxhunting where you are likely to be travelling at high speeds over wet grass.
Creek Crossings: Especially where there are algae covered rocks, anyone who has tried crossing a creek themselves knows how slippery the rocks can be. Caution should be used regardless of hoofwear, but here again Scoots have an advantage due to the flexible sole. Trying to cross a creek in a hard and thick soled boot is quite like trying to cross a creek in ski boots! Where as crossing a creek in a softer more flexible boot like Scoot Boots is more like crossing in river shoes.
Have Fun and Be Safe!
Overall you will find Scoot Boots to have as good or better traction than either shoes or barefoot in most conditions. But regardless of what footwear you have on your horse, when riding in challenging conditions, use caution and incrementally test your limits. Start at a walk, see how your traction is. Try a slow trot, any slipping, go back to a walk. Take extra caution when combining wet, muddy, or icy conditions with hills or tight turns. Enjoy the ride!