The Alleghany Trail

Friday, August 7, 2015

IMG_1371Friday the “gang” did 24 miles on section 2 of the Alleghany Trail from Durbin to Cass/Dunmore. Except for the few grassy ridge trail sections it was muddy, mountainous, rocky and rough. The excessive rain this year not only created deep mud sucks in the valleys and stream beds, but also encouraged wash outs and some downed trees that posed detours and obstacles.

That sounds treacherous but considering it was 24 miles and about 8 hours of riding, just a handful of downs and mud-sucks or washed out creek banks we had to slide down into wasn’t terrible and much of it was beautiful along the way. I was glad to do it on a horse though and not on my own two feet!

The first few hours were the worst in terms of footing and mountain climbing. This was the ride that could truly test the boot system. I thought hard about my boot grade for the day. I’ve been torn.

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Boot grade is either D or F.

Case for D: It was super tough terrain for any hoof-wear. We walked through the crappiest muddy mountain trails that were a bit too worn out and churned up. We lost our first rear boot (the white foot) within 30 minutes of starting and I took Khaleesi back down the mountain to get it. That was actually pretty cool because no horse wants to leave the herd to go back down the mountain, but though she questioned me, she went, and calmly as well. I need to know I can have her with other horses, or pull her away too. But aside from that silver lining, I put the muddy boot back on, and it was off again within the hour. Now the boots are muddy and I’m a mess trying to get them back on. One more time and the third time it began to twist we got into some soft trail with no rocks and I just left the boot off for a while.

Then a while of only 3 boots and not a problem with the rest until we got to a washed out creek bank that had deep “quicksand” to cross and when we got through that (as quickly as possible) I looked down to see a front clean gone. We did not go back for it. It was deep in the muck somewhere and I was “DONE” with stopping for them. We were now only 2 out of 4 boots on. I brought a spare but wasn’t ready to put it on yet.

Once the footing began to get rockier I did hop off again and put on the front spare. And at one of the water crossings we stopped to drink I jumped down and washed the back boot and put it on again. I had a good few hours with all 4 boots working fine. The terrain was dryer now and rocky has never been a big issue, I think it’s the muddy sloppy footing where she sometimes will twist her rear feet as she goes, the combination of the sucking mud, the slipping, twisting foot and a narrow back hoof and she just comes clean out of them at times.

With about 7 miles to go I looked down to see her front boot bottom gone and the heel captivator just loosely velcroed around her pastern. I jumped down- again- to take it off as it would get annoying when it moved around on her leg. That was it now- no more spare on the trail, we had lost an entire boot and a boot bottom. Luckily the trail wasn’t terrible and about half way to the trailer I switched off the front boot so that she didn’t only wear out the one side. The footing wasn’t so bad and I do not believe she’ll be lame from it- but I’m sure those feet got some wear and chips. Especially since this wet year none of the hooves are as hard as usual.

Ironically I rode into camp with both back boots on just fine, and two fronts gone (thankfully I’d brought a spare). If you look at the averages, they worked about 80% of the time really well… but…

Case for FIronically I rode into camp with both back boots on just fine, and two fronts gone. That is a failure of hoof protection.

Another case for F is that the first half of the ride was not care-free and I was way too distracted by concern over the boots to ride my horse well. I had to get off and deal with them way too many times. Once is acceptable to me- maybe twice on a ride that long, but I lost track the amount of times I had to get up and down or go back to find a boot. It was annoying on a long pleasure ride- to me and those with me, but on an endurance ride, we just do not have time to be screwing around like that.

Finally, the potential of her tearing up her feet or going lame, hoof bruise, abscess at the end of the ride because the boots did not stay on is worse than using metal shoes- in my opinion. The end of the ride was less stressful for me than the beginning – the footing wasn’t great but wasn’t terrible either. Yet I don’t want our riding to end up as constant concern for her feet.

Certainly this trail was the worst possible riding, but I need to know that if I boot- they will work in the worst conditions- because that’s when you need hoof protection the most. I can’t assume that any AERC ride we do will not be exactly like that.

I am a little sad to say that I called my farrier last night and left a “help me” message. Not a ‘drop everything and get over here‘ help me of course- I have way more respect for my farrier’s busy schedule and his time, but a “can you give me a call because I need some advice and to know what you recommend- and what you can do for me” message.

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My concern is making a change so late in the season. I originally thought I wouldn’t do that, but I hadn’t had a boot failure of that epic proportion yet and getting off twice in a ride to fix a boot wasn’t enough to give up. In fact, our last 17 mile ride gave them an A- and I thought we’d finally got them figured out. They even stayed on through cantering. As I look forward through through the next couple months, I have a WV ride in a couple weeks, then possibly a TN ride in September if I can make my schedule work, then I’ll be doing LD 25 on the OD course which is known for it’s tough footing in October. I think the time is now to re-group.

I’m disappointed because if boots would just stay on reliably- I prefer them. Not just because it’s nice to avoid keeping metal shoes on their live hooves, but because I think they are better on slippery rocks, pavement (though I don’t like pavement, we do end up on it occasionally) and even really rocky sections of trail because they protect the bottom of the hoof better than a metal shoe and have an easier impact on their legs for long miles. I also really like the renegades as a boot- I like the design, I like how easy they are to clean and use, and I like how tough the materials are. I will absolutely keep using them as spares, and through off-season.

One big downside… while putting on a back boot at the trailer Khaleesi took a bit wet poop – while it cleared me easily to land on the ground, my favorite SPF sun shirt got splattered with the poop and after a wash right when I got home, the stains did not come out. 😦 it appears my bright orange shirt now has a spotted design up one arm. 

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Aside from the boots, it was a good ride. Really nice group of riding women and though in every group you have faster and slower horses/riders, this one has at least a smaller gap between them. We even went through the town of Cass, right on the highway past the trail station. Lots to see there and she was good in traffic!

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Khaleesi is getting a lot of work right now and she is handling it well. We trotted the last few miles (finally on the Greenbrier river trail it was flat and easy footing!) and she still had the energy to give me a nice medium trot even after about 18 miles of mountain climbing.

Easy to trot out the last few miles along the Greenbrier river
Easy to trot out the last few miles along the Greenbrier river

I have been giving her days off in between our rides this week – but I know it’s a lot of workload in short time periods. Hopefully she’ll enjoy her 10 day spa vacation to relax before the big week!

But not yet… Pascale is coming to visit and we’ll be riding the weekend- though I plan to give the K a day off today!

2 thoughts on “The Alleghany Trail

  1. This is my concern with the Rennies I bought; getting the buggers to stay put. So far, I’ve only tried them on my endurance horse once, did a brief lunge session in the round pen, and they SEEM okay, but I know so little about them overall that I don’t know if they’re going to work or not. Also, mine squeak. No one else ever mentions the squeaking, so I have no clue if they’re fitting right or not.

    And after reading this, now I’m super nervous. I’m one of those who…well, I’m in the HW division for a reason. I don’t want to get out of the saddle unless I HAVE to. And having to pick up boots is going to drive me bonkers.

    But, I’m resistant to driving holes through his feet. He’s never worn shoes, my farrier doesn’t do shoes, and here in Texas, I can pick and choose my rides (mostly) so I can skip rocky rides.

    Why can’t someone come up with the perfect hoof boot? 😦

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    1. I think the rennies are my favorite- but I can’t imagine there is a perfect boot because there is no perfect hoof. I think I have better chance in a drier climate- but they are never carefree… Metal shoes for me- in shoes… Boots off season.

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