Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Since pulling out of the OD100 on my first try a couple weeks back I find my life to be surprisingly normal (slight sarcasm). No long term disappointment holding on… just back to life as usual! No regrets.
My farrier came out. He looked at the bare hoof and wondered why I didn’t put on the spare shoe. I was prepared for this. He made sure of that. It is true that in the moment I thought the foot was more torn up than it was. It might have held the shoe. But maybe not. It was a gut thing. I assured him many times over I didn’t think an ounce of blame was his these things happen to the best.
I asked him to pull the other front shoe for me so it would be done clean with no damage. Leave the hinds for now- they look great!
What’s that you say readers? Barefoot front feet in mid summer!? The middle of conditioning? What am I thinking? Madness…
Well I’ve been kicking around my hoof program continually and yes yes yes. I know.
IknowIknowIknow Iknow Iknow. I know I know.
Shoes and pads were working for the most part.
I just have this gut feeling that says I can do better.
Gut feeling can get me into trouble, but also could be that little voice in the right direction. I’ve listened to that gut feeling little voice before and it’s taken me on a different path I know is right for me and my horses.
Because it’s shown results.
I wasn’t willing to make a change before the OD ride, but now I don’t have an event on the calendar until September (unless my schedule opens up)- it seems like an opportunity to expirament.
I’m not thrilled keeping her padded all the time. It’s been a damp spring and even though the pads drain, they have to keep some moisture in there. I also don’t like how the heels begin to seemingly compress over time riding especially with the pads. Then there are all the people who swear that having nails and steel shoes keep the blood from flowing as well through the leg over time……
Added all up it makes me wonder if the pad & shoe program is building her up for the long term or tearing her down for some protection in the here and now.
There’s one way to find out…
I had my farrier take off the other front, and leave the hinds. The hind feet shoes are staying on and I am not as happy with my boot program on the narrow hind feet for the moment so I’ll take this on in parts.
The Scoot Boots are still working. With the one exception of when I tried to add a pad 16 miles into my first 100
Lesson learned here by the way: rule #1 is never ever even think of trying something untested on ride day – especially a 100. How many times have I heard that is one of the most common rookie mistakes?
So with that exception the boots are staying on 100%. I am now noticing some rubbing as I haven’t been using the gaiters- and one of the gaiters has a broken snap. So I have two issues to sort out now that the most important one (boot staying on) is settled:
- Are they protective enough for sensitive soles?
I called my USA Scoot representitive in Vermont and went all through my concerns. Scoot now makes pads for their boots- I assumed I’d need to invest in the next size boot up… more $ 😤😝… and add the pads.
They also have new endurance gaiters that are more protective and more durable. She believed that my current boot size with the pad they manufacture to go in the boot is going to be just fine- and when they arrive I will take a picture for her to see for sure. Once certain the fit is good, it gets glued in and stays put.
Then we start training in boots and pads with the protective gaiters and see how she does. If they seem to be working then I move to the hind feet- in August (hopefully) they will have come out with the narrow version (in development and slated to release in June but not quite ready yet).
I’m willing to try. The worst case scenario is I’m back in steel shoes at the end of the season – and that certainly could happen!
Meanwhile I have been doing some digging into the concept of the Balance saddle. It was recommend to me at the clinic in April as a way to improve on something that was working ‘ok’. My saddle fits (in the traditional sense) and my horse is doing well in it. She is not back sore ever since I switched to the wide tree last year and the beautiful design of the Phoenix Rising gives lots of shoulder movement and some ability for the back muscles to work underneath it.
All in all she has a nicely muscled back. But there may be the start of some atrophied muscling right behind the withers- which I understand becomes pretty normal in most horses ridden in traditional (English, western or endurance) saddles.
The Balance system builds a saddle in an upside down ‘U’ shape (yes- this is similar to the hoop tree concept, but I understand the Balance founders began this design originally) instead of the normal ‘V’ shape. Even if your horse isn’t currently that rounded- that if you use a saddle that allows for proper movement in their back instead of fitting the saddle to the static back then they are able to develop those muscles in work, have a stronger back and move better. This has proven true in at least two people I know personally who are using Balance.
I like it.
The gut thing again.
The concept that intrigues me is that almost the worst thing one could do is custom mold a saddle to a horse’s back (even worse while standing as they are in motion while you ride in the saddle). Pressure points are only a small part of the bigger issue- that I want my horse’s topline to improve and build muscle over time and a saddle sitting on the muscles and nerves especially behind the withers will not allow for that.
Treeless seems to at least have more give however having no tree to distribute the pressure at all is also not good – at least that’s what I believe. Some riders swear by them and compete healthy backed horses many years. I wouldn’t want to argue with one of you- it’s just not the direction for me!
My friend Pam has a Balance saddle and I asked her to bring it to VA for the summer so I could test run it. I loved it- and Khaleesi really loved it. I could feel her lift more underneath me and she was more forward than usual. In good spirits.
So I happened upon a used one that was exactly what I’d need in size and style – it even had added D rings from the manufacturer so… I made the jump. I’ll sell my second Phoenix Rising and the price is about equal so it ended up being easier than I’d thought it would be!
I will keep my saddle and have both for now. I don’t think the Phoenix is a bad fit and it’s working. I do think this could be even better but we’ll see how it goes in riding it.
One thing about the Balance saddle concept: it demands the rider take on more responsibility in actively riding in a balanced position. Because the saddle doesn’t perch exactly to the shape of the horse it can move if you’re not doing your job.
I did not find this to be a problem for me in the 12 miles I rode in the saddle. In fact I didn’t have a breast collar on hand that fit and I worried it might slip back in the Mountains.
It didn’t. It wasn’t nearly as ‘comfortable’ as the Phoenix for the rider’s butt – but it was fine- probably occasional riding in a bareback pad helps with my balance too!
However I do wonder if going through a 100 and getting tired I may find myself needing to have both options as the night wears on. It would be nice to be able to change it up for both of us to do our best.
So I will share how these experiments in upping our game go!
Meanwhile what next?
I have had a wonderful time riding with some friends close to home with no particular goals but to enjoy the trails and get some miles in keeping fit!