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Newsletter - Issue 7

The Orthotics Edition

Maybe you heard about Soft-Ride boots from your vet or farrier. Maybe you saw them on a horse at a show. Maybe a friend recommended them to you when you were discussing your summer plans. Regardless of where you heard about our boots, one of the first questions you probably asked yourself was, “What makes Soft-Ride so much better than any of the other options out there?” Well, we have several very technical, very well researched, design and material patents that set us apart, but the easiest and simplest answer is: our gel orthotics. Read on to learn more about how the equine hoof works and what makes Soft-Ride deep gel orthotics the best option for your horse.
Soft-Ride Team
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The Magic of Mechanics

Soft-Ride gel orthotics are designed to address the major components of the hoof, whether it is for preventative care in a sound horse, or therapeutic care in a lame one. The elasticity of the deep gel orthotic allows the urethane material to be compressed under the horse's weight and return to its original shape when the weight is removed. There are three major factors to address in hoof functionality that Soft-Ride’s gels are uniquely designed for and capable of improving. Circulation in the hoof is critical not only for hoof health but for the overall wellbeing and health of the horse. Shock absorption allows the horse to move at speed, despite the relatively small weight-bearing surface area of the hoof. Supporting the hoof allows those two critical things to happen because the horse can move in a natural, functional, and painless way. Soft-Ride gel orthotics have a patented design and materials that increase the proficiency of the natural hoof in each of these areas
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Soft-Ride gel orthotics are made of a urethane compound which allows the horse’s hoof to compress the material where it is weight-bearing - also known as loading. The gel will return to its original shape when the weight is shifted to another position- also known as unloading. Since our orthotics have no air bubbles in them, there is nothing that can deflate or “pop” when the material is compressed by the horse’s weight. The elasticity of the gel means the loading and unloading cycle can continue perpetually without the material permanently deforming or degrading over time and with use.

If you’re wondering why loading and unloading the hoof is so important- look into the circulatory system of a horse’s leg. When a horse shifts its weight- whether this is from work such as walking, or static shifts in position while standing- the sole and frog of the hoof will make contact with the ground (load). When the horse moves its weight to another position the sole and frog disconnect (unload) from the ground before repositioning (load). This loading and unloading cycle encourages blood flow in and out of the hoof capsule. Since the average sound horse is changing its loading position three times a minute at rest, and an uncomfortable horse will adjust their position five to eight times a minute, the loading and unloading process is nearly constant during both work and downtime.

Putting Soft-Ride’s gel orthotics on the hoof encourages this process both with the elasticity of the material and with our patented raised frog support cushion. Each time the sole and frog load into the gel orthotic it compresses under the horse's weight. This compression mimics the natural compression of the foot which squeezes the veins in the hoof and encourages blood to be forced up the leg out of the hoof capsule. Each time the hoof unloads the gel returns to its original shape and size instead of remaining compacted. This unloading of the gel coincides with the unloading of the hoof which allows the hoof capsule to flood with blood due to arterial flow and gravity. This is what it means when the hoof is referred to as a “second heart” or a blood pump in the circulatory system, and why each hoof step is critical to circulation and the overall health of the horse.

Only Soft-Ride’s patented deep gel orthotic has the elasticity to help each loading and unloading cycle, and only Soft-Ride offers an elevated frog support to encourage stimulation across both the sole, frog, and bars inside the comfort boot.
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Shock Absorption

Horses are unique in the animal world because they have evolved to weight-bear on a single digit. The distal limb and hoof have a similar structure to a human finger with the hoof wall being the fingernail. The force of a gallop can produce up to 2.5 times the body weight of the horse in a single hoof strike. That’s a lot of weight on a relatively small surface area! Because of this, the hoof has to have significant shock absorption properties to counteract this concussion.

When a hoof is functioning correctly, it provides protection and support for the bones and ligaments in the lower limb by protecting it from concussive force using the elasticity of the soft tissues in the sole and frog of the hoof. These soft tissues change shape during the ground strike by spreading out, then rebounding when lifted.

Soft-Ride gel orthotics are uniquely designed to help absorb and disperse the concussive energy of a horse in motion. Our gel orthotics also protect from the external forces created by the bouncing and lurching motion of trailer rides on uneven roads, during stop-and-go traffic, and for long-distance rides where hoof and leg tension used for balance can cause stocking up and soreness. The patented urethane material of our orthotics dampens force and vibration allowing the hoof to relax, moving in its natural state with extra protection which makes horses more comfortable and less fatigued. The density of the Soft-Ride orthotic enhances the sole and frog’s ability to absorb shock by working as a secondary system and providing a protective platform for the hoof to rest against.

Support and Comfort

Soft-Ride boots provide your horse with a comfortable and supportive platform for resting his hooves. Much like humans putting on supportive tennis shoes or using footbed inserts in our own shoes, Soft-Ride boots cushion and cradle the hoof in a way that relieves tension and stress related soreness.

When using Soft-Ride boots on sound horses for travel, the deep gel orthotics have a multifaceted job. The urethane material of the orthotic absorbs much of the bouncing, jerking, and unpredictable movement on a trailer ride, enhancing the journey much like the shocks of the vehicle you’re using to travel. The gel orthotics can also be depended on to dampen the contact shock of walking your horse over hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt since the material will not compress over time or from impact the way a foam-like material with air bubbles would. Soft-Ride boots are also used in stall environments at shows to provide a comfortable resting platform and protect the hoof from the concrete flooring in the stalls. By using Soft-Rides in the stalls you are ensuring your horse will have improved circulation and will be protected from the soreness and inflammation often associated with stalling in less than ideal settings.

When working with tender-footed or injured horses, the deep gel in Soft-Ride’s boots is instrumental in stabilizing the hoof. The orthotic material used in our boots allows a lame horse to select the most comfortable resting position for the foot by adjusting his weight to load the gel. More importantly, because the deep gel is an elastic material, each time the horse adjusts his position the gel will adjust to the new resting position. This allows the foot to continue to expand and contract in a natural manner and does not fix a specific orientation or angle to the hoof which could, over time, have detrimental effects on other parts of the distal limb anatomy. The elevated frog support in the orthotic offers targeted activation of the hoof which leads to healthier blood flow. This gives an injured horse a supportive, dynamic resting platform for the hoof and makes it easier and less painful to move and walk while recovering. Soft-Ride boots are recommended by vets and farriers to help treat a variety of issues including laminitis, navicular syndrome, ringbone, abscesses, arthritis, Cushing disease, and sole bruising because of the functional support and comfort our deep gel orthotics provide.
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We hope this gives you an idea of how the equine hoof works and how Soft-Ride’s gel orthotics help with functionality in the major areas of circulation, shock absorption, and support to help your horse stay or become comfortable. Make sure you tune in to our next newsletter to learn more about how to use our different specialty orthotics. In the meantime, here are some articles about hoof anatomy if you’d like to learn more:





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Soft-Ride Mission

As we continue our drive to keep your horse on his feet, we've received more than 15 patents, ship to over 50 countries, and work with more than 6,000 veterinarians around the world, as well as every veterinarian school in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. And with horse owners from every discipline using our products, we can safely and proudly say, "The best in the world rely on Soft-Ride."

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Disclaimer: This content is for education and is not medical advice. If you suspect medical illness or injury contact your veterinarian for medical advise.
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