A large debate is taking place on social media and elsewhere as to whether closed-front XC boots are leading to an increased risk of rotational falls.
The first thing to state on this topic is that at this stage this is JUST A THEORY! I have not seen any evidence to suggest this is the case. And having talked to someone involved in the UK XC falls research, they don’t subscribe to this theory either.
The THEORY, as I understand it is that the closed boot increases the friction between the leg (front of the boot) and the jump surface, causing the leg to be “left-behind” and unbalancing the horse, so that it “tips” or rotates over the jump.
Many people therefore seem to be advocating open-fronted boots for XC to reduce the risk of rotational falls. This in my view is highly premature, not supported by any evidence and could lead to increased horse injuries. Horses hit fences on XC more often than we may like to imagine. The Goodyear/BE safety research from 2008 showed that on one instrumented fence at Gatcombe and Burghley, out of 144 jump attempts, the fence was hit 147 times! And a large proportion of these impacts will be front limbs. Ellen Singer’s research from 2008 reported that forelimb injuries were around 1.6 to 2x more likely to involve the forelimbs and that skin wounds accounted for 58% of injuries.
So, it’s a THEORY that closed-fronted boots are increasing the risk of rotational falls. It should be investigated. But by switching to open-fronted boots as a knee-jerk reaction is very risky. It could be that this not only exposes your horse to a greater risk of injury, it could be that it may even INCREASE the risk of rotational falls – more on this to follow at a later date.