Not Just Vents! Why The Exoskeleton is Not Your Average Air Flow Exercise Boot

Posted on March 27, 2023 by Categories: Exoskeleton
exoskeleton fei legal tendon boots

What do you look for when shopping for exercise boots for horses? Whilst protection has always been the main purpose of exercise boots for horses, we now understand why this protection must come with minimal heat build up. This need for minimal heat insulation is often at odds with the desire for pretty, blingy, matchy-matchy boots. Whilst many modern brushing and tendon boots now feature vents, Cryochaps have gone one step further with the Exoskeleton. This blog article covers the importance of prioritising minimal heat build up and why the Exoskeleton is more than just another vented air flow boot.

Where Does Heat Build Up Occur?

The largest tendons in the horse’s forelimbs are the SDFT (Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon) and DDFT (Deep Digital Flexor Tendon). Tendons are like large rubber bands. When stretched and released they generate heat – mainly from the middle body of the tendon, that is the middle of the back of the lower leg. The SDFT & DDFT are very near the surface and are only covered by a very thin layer of skin and fat. This is why protective boots are advisable for jumping or fast exercise in particular, where there is a high risk of interference/brushing or over-reaching. However, when choosing an exercise boot, it is important to factor in how well the boot will allow heat to escape from the horse’s legs. 

Why is it so Important to Minimise Heat Build Up in the Legs?

There are a number of studies showing that a) the horse’s tendons can reach 45°C during exercise and b) these high temperatures can result in damage to the tendon cells. Below are some of the findings from various studies into the relationship between heat and the tendons:

  • Wilson and Goodship (1994) measured heat produced inside tendons when a horse was galloping and found temperatures of 45°C in the SDFT. They concluded that this heat could be a major contributor to degenerative changes in the tendons of equine athletes. 
  • At temperatures of 45°C – 48°C over a period of 10 minutes, a rapid decline of tendon fibroblast activity takes place, resulting in cell death (Birch et al. 1997; Burrows et al. 2008). 
  • Yamasaki et al. (2001) also showed in vitro that when tendons were exposed to 45°C for 10 minutes only 27% of 56 tenocytes survived and showed in vivo that temperatures of 45°C were reached after a short gallop on the track. 
  • In Cryochaps’ several tests on general hacks with trot and canter work, temperatures rose to 38-39°C on the external surface of the skin inside what was termed a ‘vented’ boot from a competitor, meaning internal temperatures could be in the damaging range of 45-48°C.

How Can Tendon Boots Be Designed to Minimise Heat Build Up?

Tendon boots and brushing boots are designed to protect the vulnerable lower leg tendons from strikes, overreach and impacts during exercise. However, anything we put on our horses’ legs is going to have an insulating effect. Whilst this may be outweighed by the need to protect the tendons from strike injuries, we must do everything we can to keep that potentially harmful heat build up to a minimum. 

Many tendon boots now come with vents, which are designed to allow air to flow through the boot and heat to escape. However, not all vented airflow boots are designed equally.

Things to look out for when shopping for vented tendon boots

Firstly, the size of the vents is important. Smaller vents do not allow as much hot air to escape as larger vents. The Exoskeleton tendon boot has been designed with large vents to allow as much heat as possible to escape. The boot features a tough external armour, which provides protection against strikes and impacts where it is most needed, whilst the rest of the outer layer is opened up to provide the extra large vents.

Secondly, the positioning of the vents is important. Some boots feature forward-facing vents, or vents positioned at the top and bottom of the boot. However, the Exoskeleton tendon boot features vents at the top, bottom, along the side and at the back of the boot. Specifically, the Exoskeleton features extra large vents on either side of the SDFT and DDFT. Since these tendons are where most of the heat is generated, it makes sense to focus the vents in this area. 

Thirdly, do the vents simply allow heat to escape, or do they actually allow or assist airflow through the boot? Many vented tendon boots feature vents that allow heat to escape, but they do not necessarily aid or allow the flow of air through the boot. The Exoskeleton tendon boot features a patented forced convection cooling technology. This system forces cool air across the back of the leg as the horse moves. As the leg moves forward through the flight phase, the tendons and ligaments relax. This creates an air gap, which allows air to flow through the boot and cool the rear of the leg. 

The Exoskeleton Exercise Boots For Horses

Our exercise boot is designed to strike a balance between protection against impacts and minimising heat build up. The Exoskeleton is not just a vented boot; it is a tendon boot designed using convection cooling technology, which allows air to flow through the boot itself and across those all-important tendons. Meanwhile, it provides excellent impact protection in the areas where it’s needed most. The Exoskeleton tendon boot is available to purchase in black or tan, and our matching FEI legal fetlock boots are available to purchase separately. 

Kickstart Your Horse’s Post-Exercise Recovery With Cryochaps Ice Boots

We always recommend removing your horse’s exercise boots immediately after exercise in order to allow as much heat as possible to escape. However, icing your horse’s legs after exercise can help kickstart that post-exercise recovery. Find out more about the science behind Cryochaps ice boots and discover Cryochaps today.