Kim over at Enlightened Horsemanship recently asked for details about using stockings to prevent pastern rubs from Easyboot gaiters. I owe her one for her recent post about using TTouch to assist a colicking horse, so here it is: The Stocking Trick.
If you call EasyCare Inc's wonderful customer service department to ask advice about gaiter rubs, the first thing they'll ask is whether you've tightened the gaiters as much as possible. This, according to the instruction booklet, should prevent rubs. I assume that is true for most horses, but it doesn't work for Aaruba. I have eliminated most of his gaiter rubbing problems by simply riding with looser-than-recommended gaiters.
The inside of Aaruba's right front pastern, however, insists upon suffering frequent gaiter rubs. So, I've moved to the second line of defense recommended by EasyCare: nylon stockings. The idea is simply to put a thin, slippery layer between the gaiter and the horse's skin, allowing the gaiter to slide over the nylon instead of rubbing the skin raw.
Start by cleaning the hoof. Then, slip a nylon stocking over the hoof and up the cannon just as if you were putting it on your own foot. Then, put the hoof boot on as usual. For really long rides, I sometimes use two stockings per hoof; however, the extra width makes the hoof boots harder to get on, whereas a single layer of nylon makes it easier.
Fasten the gaiter as usual, then fold the stocking down over the gaiter so it can't slip down the horse's pastern. (And so your horse isn't embarassed.)
Note for the guys: Nylon stockings are usually sold near womens shoes and socks. At a large grocery store, you might find some on the toiletry aisle. They're sometimes called "knee-highs," and they're usually one-size-fits-all. Some come with a reinforced toe, which is helpful but not necessary. If you can stomach a trip to Walmart, you can pick up a baggie of 10 stockings for about $2.00. Anywhere else, expect to pay at least $5.00 for 8 or 10 stockings.
Though a single use will completely demolish a stocking, I've been pleasantly surprised by how well the things hold up in rugged terrain. The only problem I've had is sand, particulary when combined with water. Sand can go over the top of the gaiter and get trapped in the nylon. If your hoof boot is properly fitted, this won't be a problem for the hoof, but you may need to dig sand out of the stockings occasionally. Don't worry about this overmuch; Aaruba and I made a lot of sandy water crossings at Old Selam, and the sand around his pasterns didn't chafe even over fifty miles of trail.
And there you have it -- one of the few problems in life that can be solved quickly, simply, and cheaply. Don't get used to it.