Now what?

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.

I know

Shoes and pads were working for the most part. 

But

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:

  1. Are they protective enough for sensitive soles?
  2. Rubbing.

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. 


Turns out she doesn’t believe I will need to go up a size. She thought the pad I added likely didn’t stay put- and shifted toward the heel in movement pushed her heel up and caused the rubbing. 


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. 


Standard jumping saddle v shaped 

Balance GPJ saddle in super extra 8x width I just ordered
Balance saddle I just ordered U shaped. 

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?


We ride!

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!


Life is good!

Scoots 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Back to the details that keep us moving toward 100… which means 50 in just over a month. 

My size 3 scoot boots arrived last week and I believe they fit. They are just tight   enough to be snug but not to cause pressure or rubbing. 


I love the design. They are one piece with  the ‘anklet’ strap so there isn’t anything to come apart- no bottom shell to end up lost on the trail. No Velcro to collect dirt and mud or freeze.

They are the easiest I’ve used to put on and take off. 

I pull them off and drop them in a bucket of water while I untack and they seem to clean themselves – no scrubbing necessary. 

But do they stay on?

So far yes. 


I started with a couple mile waking ride with Susan and Heart and had no trouble.  

Susan and Wild Heart getting on trail and she’s doing great!

Then the stars finally aligned and we did a decent 13 mile ride with various footing, walk-trot-canter in intervals, crossed the Jackson River 3 times, encountered some deep sucking mud and 100% boot success: back and front. On her back feet I still have the renegades and they seem to be working. 

On the renegades I use a few layers of vet wrap to snug the boot in width just a touch and also give it a little grip that helps keep them from twisting in a canter or mud. –Thanks for the tip Lynne!

I heard the peanut gallery (Facebook hoof boot page) called my farrier, and taken matters (per his advice) into my own hands. I have been shortening her toes on all four encouraging her hoof shape to more round than elongated oval and it seems to be helping. 

I have no idea what he will say when he sees her feet 😳 But at the moment at least I can ride and my boots are working!


If the scoot boots continue to work on her fronts I’ll replace the back boots as well but they get expensive so we’re sticking with what we have at the moment as long as we don’t lose one!

This is the first riding since Khaleesi’s mystery lameness. The short walk was to be sure she was ok, then we did the 13 mile harder loop to test it. 


She had seemed fine by the weekend previous so if the ride lamed her again it would at least give me information to work with when my vet comes in February. 

Winter is flask season and K always curious asked to try some of the cinnamon apple whiskey… she insists she’s old enough 🙂

I also am still playing around with my saddle- rough hair puzzle. On the walk ride I didn’t use a pad at all. The Phoenix Rising has a sheepskin bottom and CAN be ridden without a pad. Her back was smooth and even after the walk. 

On the 13 mile I used the pad Phoenix Rising sells to match the saddles that I’d bought way back with my first PR for Faygo.
Day after she was sound and her back was perfect. I didn’t get much sweat out of her (she’s still I incredibly fit- even with the lack of ‘hard’ work this fall and winter) but no rough hairs, no sensitivity after the ride or the next day. Her legs felt tight and cool and she came to the gate to greet me hello which tells me she was also happy. 


I plan to get up to 20 miles or so in the next couple weeks. Thankfully winter agrees with Faygo and for a summer ‘off’ and only getting out once a week she too is doing well and was a good training partner for now. 

We don’t have impressive speed but that is not a concern with K for now- I know she has it in her when she needs it. 

If the weather cooperates I will try to get a ride in with a horse that will inspire her to get her moving.