Saturday, October 14, 2017
Early registration and deposit for the Fort Valley 50 next Friday in mail: check.
Last 26 mile ride to be sure my girl is still holding up: check.
Tack cleaning and pre-packing started: check check.
At the moment I am on target to head out in less than a week for the last ride of the season and the first ride for us since early June.
The last long (26 mile) ride was postponed later than I’d planned but at least it was rescheduled for a beautiful fall day and I was able to relay the ride between two friends (each did half) for company. My trusted endurance buddy Susan rode the morning 13 with Levi who is healthy, sound and also doing great now barefoot in boots! (For the record it wasn’t THAT long ago that I passed on the sentiment I’d believed based on my experience: that horse will never be able to go barefoot…… he used to tear hoof up just living in the pasture if he wasn’t shoed… live and learn!)
Then Claudia met me for the afternoon 13 with her lovely mare Willow. Willow is gaining miles and fitness and won ‘miss suitability’ in a local multi-day high mileage ride last year. I am pleased to say I think she’ll make it out to an LD next season and I suspect Claudia might be an endurance rider at heart ❤️she may come to the dark side sooner than one might think…
Willow finished the afternoon still strong with plenty of horse left. I have no doubt she could have made the whole 26 if Claudia hadn’t been tied up with work in the morning.
Fall riding is my favorite- everything about fall is my favorite actually!
It was good to see Khaleesi finish the 26 with plenty of horse left as well. The mare is pretty fit for a minimal riding summer and I believe ready to come back finally for a slow 50.
So the mare is good to go….
…however my hoof protection plan is going to need some supernatural intervention!
I am heading into another technical rough & rocky Old Dominion ride like the one that cost me a metal shoe in mile 4 last June… this time with hoof boots. 😬 And I’m not even glueing them on.
Any number of experienced people whose opinion I trust completely would unquestionably tell me to come up with a better plan for success.
They aren’t wrong.
But this is where I am – so I’ll go with it.
We do the best we can- and either get a miracle or a lesson. Those are the kind of adventures I hope define my life.
Though my plan is against the odds, I have at least a few things going for me.
First I’ve heard Karen Chaton talk (she has an endurance blog and co-hosts the endurance day podcast at horses in the morning) and she rides many endurance rides including Tevis with her boots successfully and not glued. I’m hoping to have some of her luck.
Second, one benefit to ‘strap on’ boots is that as long as I have spares I can put a boot back on and go- no need for farrier and hopefully (no nails and no glue) still have an intact hoof!
I have a bucketful of magic boots coming along on this trip! Third and hopefully the most important: my front Scoot Boots have a solid training track record.
They have stayed on for over 100 training miles at this point and though I have occasionally lost one it’s been obvious (a mud sink, a rock slide) and I knew it immediately and they are quick to replace. Even those moments are rare and my Scoots just survived the full 26 mile ride with 100% success. I’m not expecting to get 50 rough miles without having to hop off and replace a boot- but my hope is that it will be rare and these Scoots will hold up to the terrain.
My rear boots are unfortunately still in ‘beta’ testing mode and this is because the slims took so long to release I haven’t had the time I need to play with options over miles.
The slims fit great on her bare hoof but I’m using sole padding and wrapping mostly due to the extreme nature of the mileage and terrain.
I used the thinnest sole padding and a pretty thick collar wrap on the 26 mile ride and they stayed on perfectly – however at the end of the day there was a very slight spot on the side of the coronet on the back half of the hoof that had rubbed. It wasn’t sensitive for her and I don’t think it is a true problem (completely normal by the next day) but it’s enough to make me pull the padded endurance gaiters off the slims and do a much thinner vet-wrap & tape modification for the collar.
I won’t have the ability to try it out over miles before ride day but I will put them on to see how they’re fitting.
I may be better in a regular size 2 with a more padded collar to help keep the foot snug without being too tight. I could have a thicker pad in a regular size 2 as well. I’ll have this option available in my kit as well if I begin to see rubbing at the band over the 50.
Last- before the slims came I was having decent luck with my old renegades on the hind feet. They stayed on pretty reliably but they won’t hold a pad which isn’t preferable. (I have learned through this process that using a boot without a pad keeps the hoof from being able to be supported fully on giving surfaces like grass, soft trail or mud. The 1000 pound horse sinks into these surfaces enough to distribute the weight/pressure over more of the hoof. If the boot doesn’t allow this over a ride it’s in essence like staying on a hard surface (concrete, hard pack, asphalt) the entire ride with all the pressure/impact on the outside contact surfaces only (hoof wall and laminae). It’s harder on their joints and their feet this way). It’s true that the hinds seem to tolerate this better than the front feet- but I want my horse to power from her hinds not pull heavy on her front legs so getting padding back there so she is comfortable seems like the best practice if possible.
Regardless I have 3 possible hind boot scenarios if one or two fail.
The other part of the plan is to ride alone. I may need to stop and deal with a boot and I don’t want to feel pressure of holding anyone up as I do what I need to do- conversely there may be places I can make up time that may be different from needs other horses have (this has happened to me on past rides where K was super slow on rocky places but had plenty in the tank to canter on the good footing- but the team we’d hooked up with ‘didn’t canter’ … it ended up ok but made me nervous with the clock...)
One thing I have begun to notice is that Khaleesi is moving through rocky sections easier than ever before since I’ve been riding her! It’s been so subtle a change over time I almost didn’t notice until this week when she kept moving in places she used to slow WAY down to navigate rocky sections. This is huge. It will be interesting to see how she does on a really rocky trail compared to metal shoes and pads at the No Frills ride in April.
The more I learn the more it makes sense that we saw some evidence of impact damage in X-rays last winter in the right foot (coffin bone) – foremost I’m naturally super-right sided and likely weighted to that side more heavily over time- but secondly I was either in metal shoes, then with impact pads that wouldn’t have allowed surfaces to help support the hoof- or boots without pads which also didn’t really support the whole hoof over hard riding.
I’ve been working as constantly as I can to on getting more balanced OUT of the saddle to help me get more balanced IN the saddle to minimize one-sided damage I’m causing in my horse.
I’ve asked my fantastic gym coach to forgo some of the muscle building work for balance and feel exercises. He’s always trying to understand what I’m doing and work on new routines to help me improve what I’m lacking. Since I have somewhat odd requests, he does research each week to come up with new ways to help me improve.
Now hopefully the hoof solutions will lessen impact and make a difference as well.
Yet after the 26 miles I think I found I am the one in worse riding shape! You can jog, squat and work out but nothing duplicates spending an entire day in the saddle. My legs were tired and my body stiff from that ‘easy’ ride as I haven’t been out on the trail long distances this year.
Hopefully I’ll hold up as well as my horse!
A betting person would be smart to pick another team this ride- but I’ll take my long odds, my barefoot horse in strap on boots and a little prayer to the staring line and see what we can do!