Alot has changed in 50 years. You don't have to, but those $25 bells and $20 polos could save you a hundred some vet bill. I don't ride without bell boots, just last night a friend who never uses bell boots her horse cut the back of his front foot riding. He doesn't have shoes either. Polos and sport boots save from cuts, burns from the ground at times, and they offer some support. There not going to keep your horse from being injured, but at least there's something there. Posted via Mobile Device
No you don't HAVE to use them...just like you don't HAVE to eat healthy.
But they protect the legs and give you less of a chance of having to call the vet when your horse slices the back of their legs. I want to keep my horses legs protected and sound, because without healthy/sound legs you don't have a horse.
I would use them if I were you. And learn how to use them properly. They can pay for themselves hundreds of times over when it comes to horses getting wounded. No matter how careful you are, its not a matter of "if" your horses get hurt, its "when" and "how bad".