Protect your horse from rocks, cactus and other poky things with cheap and easy denim bell boots

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Supplies, Ranch Life

Since moving from northern Nevada to northern Arizona last fall, we have picked up on some handy tricks used by the local cowboys to cope with the rugged terrain. One of the major differences between the sagebrush desert of the Great Basin and the rough mountainous desert of the Southwest is the enormous amount of rocks down here. I have a personal theory that it’s not “rocks”; it’s just one huge rock. If you’re driving a vehicle, you’ll want four-wheel-drive, all-terrain tires and good shocks. If you’re riding a horse, you’ll want to take some extra precautions to protect your mount.

See these canyons? A cowboy lives right in the middle of them, and he and his horse must climb up and down these big, rocky mountains all day in pursuit of the bovine animal. Until we moved to a different cow camp, that cowboy was my husband. While we lived there, though, a native Arizona cowpuncher showed Jim how to use old blue jeans to protect his horses’ legs from the rocky terrain and variety of spiky succulents, which are murder on an animal’s lower legs.

The rocky ground is covered predominantly with prickly pear cactus, a fairly low-growing but prolific plant covered with spines. Cholla, Spanish Dagger, mescal plants and other poky plants that I don’t know the names of yet also grow abundantly where my husband now cowboys every day.

Riding a horse through this brushy rock pile inspired someone to invent these cheap, disposable, lightweight bell boots made out of worn-out jeans. They don’t offer as much protection as rubber bell boots, but they are super cheap, don’t chafe, and they can be left on while the horse is turned out.

These homemade blue-jean bell boots will help protect a horse from sharp rocks and cactus spines. Ranchers and cowboys usually have an overabundance of old blue jeans laying around, so the material is plentiful, readily available, and cheap to obtain for most horse owners.

Cheap is affordable. Cheap is good. People like cheap stuff. Horse owners are people. Therefore, horse owners like cheap stuff.

I probably didn’t need to spell that one out for you.

Sorry about that.

Anyway, back to the tutorial. First, cut 8″ sections out of the leg, making intact “donuts” of denim. Make sure you use worn-out, ripped, too-small (dang you, winter weight gain!) or otherwise ruined jeans. Make sure the jeans are either yours or completely destroyed. If you start cutting up a pair of jeans that are not yours or not completely destroyed, this cheap, easy DIY project can quickly become expensive and complicated.

Once you have a circular piece of fabric roughly 8″ tall, put the bell-boot-in-the-making on your horse’s fetlock and fold it down. Then, fold the excess fabric around, doubling it over for extra protection, and secure in the front with hog rings.

Here’s what hog rings look like.

They can be bought at most ranch supply stores.

Here, my husband uses his hoof stand to put the boots on, but a person could just kneel down and put them on as well. No special equipment necessary; we’re still going for cheap and easy here.

Once you’ve wrapped and secured all four feet with old denim, your horse is protected for a day of crashing through the rocks.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Supplies, Ranch Life

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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