Miracle.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

apologies for the premature publish of this post!

The last post Against the odds I said I was looking forward to a miracle or a lesson. In fact I got both. The lessons can wait a day or so until I collect my thoughts but a shorter review on the big question of the hoof boots seemed like a great post to get up right away.

The boots worked 100%.

I am blown away actually. I didn’t lose one boot the entire 50 miles.

The were two separate incidents of a front twist – both times the left front. The first at mile 18 coming into the first vet check. It was a long gravel downhill then pavement. Not certain when it happened but it wasn’t twisted long. It was so close to the vet check I walked the rest of the way in once I got off to fix. The second around mile 42 on grass between some trotting and cantering. I felt something off and began to panic no no not lame now!!!! And looked down to see the boot had twisted. Hopped off to fix and back in business.

The fronts I used the Scoot Boots that have been working for us since spring.

The rear ended up a combination. I began with the Scoot Slims and they stayed on the entire first loop as well. When I vetted in there was very slight questionable gait issue. The vet held the card and suggested we come back in a few- this isn’t unusual for a something questionable in a check.

I pulled the boots and a couple of us checked her feet and legs- all looked fine. I trotted her barefoot for a ‘wandering’ vet who knows us — actually he’s the first vet I met at my very first endurance ride when I vetted in Faygo… and asked an informal opinion. He checked her over and thought she was sound.

Went back barefoot and trotted her again for a re-check and the vets decided it was a little ‘odd’ but not truly ‘off’.

I’m not afraid to bail on a ride if it’s best for my horse but my gut told me to keep going. I also thought: if something is wrong I need to see it to help fix it. Mystery potential lameness doesn’t give me much to work with. I’d either see her do fine or I’d make it worse to help me pinpoint what’s going wrong.

Also- her heart rate was stellar which told me that she wasn’t likely in pain. When I pulled at the OD her heart rate was running high and this was before she was lame (in fact she never went lame because I didn’t continue with a pulled shoe and a boot rub from an incorrect pad).

This didn’t seem like that. No heat, no elevated heart rate, she was eating and drinking like mad… to me she seemed fine.

However: as the original vet first thought it was a hind that was off I decided to try going back to the renegades on the hind just to be safe. I had three loops so could rotate between hind boots with whatever worked best

The Scoot Slims didn’t cause an issue that I’m aware of- I just haven’t had the time with them to really put them to the test. They are too new as they just released the slims weeks ago.

As the next vet check Khaleesi looked sound without question so I opted to stick with the renegades on hind for the third loop.

I never had a hind boot issue on trail in either boot style. Not with twisting and never coming off- we navigated some rough terrain and went in every speed and gait through the almost 12 hours.

So I took on some pretty long odds and I feel got the miracle I’d hoped for.

Quick disclaimer– I finished very last on Friday with only about 5 minutes to spare. This tells you the speeds I was traveling overall were very conservative comparatively. Early in the day she was ‘flying’ (for us) through the rocks like I’ve never seen- but that changed over the day as the rocky trail continued there is fatigue and also some sensitivity that can build up. Still she moved through the rocks better than she has in the past without question.

I don’t push her anymore on rough trail. I learned my lesson once when I just about destroyed her feet in my ignorance at Iron Mountain 2016. I would rather not finish than put her there again. I only ask that she keep moving and she does.

A a few things I’ve learned in my boot journey:

  1. Trim is vital, key, and necessary. Without a good barefoot trim you cannot keep boots on reliably. People used to say this to me and I did not really understand. For some reason farriers are leaving a lot of toe on horses. I’m not saying they’re wrong but I am saying I don’t really understand it now that I’ve learned what I know now. When you look at a balanced foot having a midpoint and then half the foot in front and half behind it should be somewhat clear where the toe is supposed to be. I had x-rays in the winter after spending some time filing her toes back myself over weeks – and the x ray showed still a LOT of toe left out in front. Boots are not simple with a good trim but they are about impossible in varied gaits/terrain without one. If someone with an experienced eye tells you your heels are too high and your toes are too long they are probably right if you want to use boots.
  2. Nutrition is imperative. I’m not saying go for every hoof supplement (I am in a less is more approach) but try to feed smart. Grass is great but it can also be the enemy if it’s too rich and creating sub-clinical hoof issues. In my case we also had a hind gut absorption issue that I think probiotics helped fix. It’s very individual and also takes some trial and error. Shocks to the system can screw up healthy hoof growth from vaccines to chemical wormers to periods where the gras is too rich. Just be aware.
  3. Find the boots whose design you like and start there. I’ve seen that not every horse works every boot style. Trying them out can be expensive and takes time. If one doesn’t work consider trying another. I think it’s worth it.
  4. Your horse might need some time to figure out how to move in them. If you have a ride where a canter or some hard terrain pulls them off- consider a few more rides in them to see if your horse might get better at moving better in the boots.
  5. Modifications are awesome. They can take a good thing and tweak it so it works even better for your needs. Small things like a pad, layer of vet wrap or athletic tape on the hoof, custom fitting with adhere in a too wide boot or in my case the duct tape collar on the boot can be just the touch to go from mostly good to true success. Check in with groups who are hoof boot savvy for creative ideas.
  6. If you ride on trail do SOMETHING to make the boots HIGHLY visible. Spray paint, bright duct tape, anything. This makes it very quick to see if the boots are on while riding and if one comes off you’d be shocked at how sometimes you KNOW it’s RIGHT AROUND HERE- but you sill can’t find that black boot in the leaves. The process to get started is already costly- it’s more expensive when you lose them!
  7. When you find what works get a spare or two. Always carry at least one along – laws of life say if you’re prepared you won’t need it. 😁

Making boots work takes patience and some ‘longsuffering’. I had given up on the process already once before when it just wasn’t working for me and was frustrating enough to just ask for metal shoes to make life easier.

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he only reason I really dedicated myself to this was from necessity. I knew my horse's feet were not doing well in metal shoes and they continued to decline. This horse has been great for letting me know what doesn't work. She does not suffer quietly. That's a good thing- it may take me some time to sort out what makes her comfortable, but I'd rather learn that than get by and have her just fill in and work through it only to have her break down later on.

Also though initially it can be costly to try and lose boots, in the end it's getting less expensive for me: I now maintain my own trimming every couple of weeks doing a little here and there instead of waiting a whole cycle then making big changes to the hoof. My knowledge will save me money on trim visits and only have my trim mentor come out at certain intervals to check how they look. Also metal shoes and pads can get expensive too. If my boots hold up and I don't lose them they are more cost effective.

This is the long range view and have a decade plus horse for me. And though some have been smart to find a horse bred or naturally suited to this sport, I've got a genetic mutant that I think can be a solid endurance horse and will eventually get through a 100 safe and sane but she needs some extra attention to detail that others may not. I love everything about her but she's not tearing up the rock mountain trails on rock crusher hooves. Yet…..

I am thrilled (and a little surprised) that my boots are becoming truly viable especially for training miles and even in competition.

I love my Scoot Boots and though I may play around with renegades on the hind at the moment as I sort out if she needs a little more heel protection on the hinds on the worst of terrain- I'm still going with the Scoots to see if they end up doing the job just as well as they are a simpler boot and I love the no Velcro and no wires.

I cannot see the future yet and it's possible I may end up using shoes on some of the hardest rides then pulling them right after.

I saw a few metal shoes out there on the trail discarded on the rocky passes. One thing I really appreciate is that I was able to make a change on this ride without a farrier. It's much easier to throw on a replacement boot than get a new shoe at a vet check or especially on trail. I don't think metal on 3 and a boot on 1 is going to end up good for the horse over long miles so I appreciate the ability to have control with a strap on boot.

If that system can get working well it's actually a big advantage.

Thanks Scoot Boots! It's really changed the options for me and my mare. The blog they put out has very interesting information about going and staying barefoot along with hoof health insights. It was a blog entry by a thoroughbred owner who’d been told her horse would never be sound barefoot that truly inspired me to try something very different and I love how great her feet are looking now!

Discomfort.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Friday brought a beautiful mild early Fall day and a long overdue ride with some friends.

Khaleesi seems to be coming back all around so this ‘fast and far’ ride seemed a good testing ground to see where she is.

My friend’s son in from NYC had only one birthday wish this year- to get out with the horses and have fun on the beautiful trails. A natural horse-guy comfortable on a horse, physically fit with no equine inhibition- he created a perfect training opportunity for me in all realms at once!

Somehow the saying:

Ride em like you stole em

Comes to mind. 😳😁

There were a few occasions where he let that horse fly and literally ended up completely out of sight for a while!

I enjoyed his carefree abandon from a distance and insisted that Khaleesi take my version of a ‘footing-safe’ speed and not just running with the ‘herd’ (if one horse plus yours constitutes a herd…) and that was great training for us both.

No darlin- I set the speed. Yes. Really. When the footing and circumstances allowed (when she was checking in with me and not assuming take off) I occasionally did encourage her to run – and as fast as she could get her legs to go! Try as she might she is just not as fast as the old gelding but we had fun. It’s good to push the limits once in a while physically.

There was also a section of the ride where the other two cut through the beautiful field. I decided to stay on the path along the edge in part because Khaleesi wanted so badly to go with the others that I decided it was yet another opportunity to train something different from the herd.

I am aware that for the most part we are on the same page on the trails- however that is not the same as leadership. I don’t like to ‘pick a fight’ just for the sake of doing so, but taking an opportunity to do something different can be helpful in establishing that long term goal of us both agreeing that I am the brains of the operation.

It develops patience, character and faith.

There are many things my horse cannot know because I cannot explain them to her. She is a being with thoughts and intellect. I give horses a lot of credit. However I cannot completely explain to her when she steps on that trailer if we are driving 10 minutes for a short ride or 6 hours to the Biltmore for her first 50 miler. I can’t tell her if we’re going to play in the manicured arena or have a rough trail cutting ride through briars and overgrown brush that will make little scratches on her sensitive legs and get caught in her tail. I cannot completely assure her she will EVER return home again. (Honestly we can never promise such things anyway in life).

The horse has to put her faith in me that I will put her well being first. She may ask not to have to go through the discomfort of a long hard ride, but she has a job and I insist she stays fit. In return I’ll do my best to meet her needs and give her the best life I can.

We all build this with our horses one example at a time and with every interaction like it or not – so eventually the relationship gets to a point where the horse says: ok! What do you need me to do today and how can I help? Now zoom out a level.

I also need to have some faith.

The decisions I made in the spring when I had that nagging feeling that things were passable… but that we could do better… went against some expert opinions. There was that voice I’m learning to hear and learning to trust and I was sure by then it was the right thing and at the right time.

Then things got uncomfortable:

  • My horse struggled to stay sound.
  • I had to pay a lot in travel costs early on to get a barefoot trimmer I trusted to come this far.
  • My horse started hanging out at the far end of the field making me go get her instead of running to the gate to greet me.
  • I held off on my summer conditioning rides because she didn’t seem 100%.
  • My riding seemed to be getting worse as I tried to improve.
  • I started to question my own leadership ability.
  • My leadership suffered as I reexamined and overthought trying to sort out what to do and how to do it and if I was doing it right.
  • I made a few interaction mistakes including a trailer loading one that was significant because fixing the mistake I created brought a surface injury when she fought against herself trying to back off during loading. (That issue is now gone- the fix worked- but I’d have never had to fix if I hadn’t made the mistake to begin with).

This week of getting back to riding has given me a glimpse that the vision of what I saw could be possible is coming closer. I still need to get some conditioning miles back on her but the boots are staying on [the scoot narrows have arrived at NY customs and should be at my door within days- but meanwhile the old renegades are doing pretty well- only lost one at a crazy canter last ride- having her feet actually trimmed properly HAS made a difference!] and her feet are getting stronger. I’m learning more about how the feet affect the entire body. I believe she’s coming through that detox period and her guts are starting to wake up getting essential nutrients through her body and hair and feet are benefitting.

I’m feeling her back lift underneath me more often on her own while riding in the new saddle. My riding balance is improving. I’m continuing to build new layers of leadership and trust and my confidence is coming back. My horses are beginning to follow me in the field again from time to time.

It is exciting to see the light. However I don’t want to lose sight of the lesson that it’s during that uncomfortable waiting period where you grow. It’s where you stay the course or bail out.

I’ve pondered recently the classic stories of the greats who waited through the discomfort I think wow:Noah was told to build a boat and wait for rain (which had never happened previously). It was 120 years in between and I’m sure everyone thought he was a looney toon. He didn’t even know what rain was. That would be uncomfortable.

  • Sarah was told her son would be the father of a great nation… only she was barren and waited until she was 90 to have her first child. THAT would be uncomfortable!!
  • David went through many years as a servant for the current king (and passing by a few opportunities to kill him and take over) and then hiding for his life toward the end of the 10+ years after he was ‘anointed’ to be king. That would be uncomfortable.
  • The people of Israel were in slavery 400 years after being promised they’d be delivered. Slavery would be the extreme example of uncomfortable.

It so happens the Bible generally has more stories of faith through discomfort than literature of our more recent history. I think one reason for that that most humans are discomfort-adverse. I certainly am.

At some point I’ve finally grown up enough to realize that discomfort is actually my friend. Sometimes it comes from bad choices and lack of personal boundaries. Then it’s a warning to pay more attention.

Sometimes it’s there to encourage growth.

I have been chewing on the concept a friend recently mentioned to me:

Sometimes God comforts the afflicted… but sometimes He afflicts the comfortable.

Living in America in the present time I found it easy to live day-to-day in the uninvestigated belief that the goal of life is to be comfortable. To make enough money to eventually not have to work (or work so much), to have friends that like me, leisure time and ways to enjoy it and above all have fun and be happy. But there is always something missing.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard the phrase: as long as she’s (he’s) happy. It never sat right with me.

Yet that is exactly what I’ve been spending 40 years in pursuit of. Basic comfort and happiness.

Yes- I volunteer in my community, I give to non-profit groups that are doing good work, and I even started a strings program that reaches young people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to learn music. I care about my friends and do my best to help where I can… I do good things- but there is more. A shift in perspective that I sense changes the reason you get out of bed each day.

Challenge me today. Give me something to work out… not only do I accept that I may have a tough problem to solve- but I embrace them! Instead of ‘why me’ maybe ‘why not me?’

Maybe that’s my version of: what are we doing today and how can I help that I want from my horse?

If I hadn’t been born in the US, things might have been different – I might have been in pursuit of clean water. Or shelter from the elements. Or freedom from being trapped in the current human trafficking systems worldwide. Maybe safety in a war ravaged country.

I found it pretty fascinating one day a couple years ago listening it a Freakonomics podcast that suicide rates in America are basically double the homicide rate… and in the Amazon jungle the native cultures don’t even have a word for suicide and when asked about it laughed at the concept that someone would kill themselves.

First world problems? Is comfort literally killing us?

I digress. 😐

It seems there is a law of the universe as real as gravity that one must put in some discomfort in order to grow. Growing appears to be a necessary step in being prepared for a greater purpose… (I can help others better if I’ve gone through enough myself to be of use!) and being part of a deeper purpose seems likely to lead to more depth of satisfaction than the pursuit of comfort and happiness …

Then logically if I were able to live that comfortable life I was aimlessly seeking and never get stretched, I would never have the opportunity to mature, grow personally and have a more positive impact on the world around me.

And developing faith and growing through the discomfort of waiting means that I am able to be ok with circumstances that create difficulty and instead of wishing for the discomfort to disappear I can dig in and allow it to mold me and still have peace about the process.

Byron Katie suggests we make friends with the situations that create discomfort. They are opportunities. In her ‘Work’ after many series of questions she encourages participants to say the “are willing to experience (insert uncomfortable thing here)” and you are really getting it when you can honestly go to the next level of “I look forward to experiencing (insert uncomfortable situation here)!”

I have to admit I’ve spent some time working through some things ‘getting it’ in my head but thinking: I look forward to being ignored by my husband… annoyed by my mother… let down by a friend? Seriously. Who are those people?

Now I see those things show me weaknesses and places I can still grow. Places I can ask: how can I help someone else instead of being bothered about how it made me feel? Maybe my husband is overworked trying to support our family. Maybe my mom could use a little understanding today. Maybe my friend is going through something personally.

To the initial point- my equine example is basically trivial. My horse rebuilding from the inside out and missing some riding days as I worry if it’ll take two years for her feet to grow in right isn’t even close to significant in the world as human trafficking or war refugees. But going through the process has been a reminder.

Maybe I can change my view on life that the things that challenge my comfort could be strengthening my character that will allow me to do more good- and then start looking for the open doors, the way to use those strengths. Not just the things that seem easy but the ones that seem … maybe even impossible.

I’ll admit it- I’ve grown weary of the noise especially on social media of folks complaining about politics and about being offended or protesting or resisting or making loud public statements that lead those who agree with you to applaud and those who don’t to entrench themselves deeper into the belief they are right. Even those who are active politically seem sometimes to miss the point. We cannot legislate love and tolerances can only live it every day. Governments are notoriously bad at helping the world be a better place when compared to motivated people coming together. No current president is stopping me from opening my wallet or donating some time toward disaster relief, persecution or world hunger. And there is one positive side to

America: we are as a whole more generous with our finances than most other countries! ❤️

however still we get more divided each year. I don’t see any slowing down either. We fight hate with hate now completely unveiled. My tolerant friends are completely intolerant of those who disagree.

While we stay distracted by our arguments and being right or being offended, make snide or sometimes truly hateful remarks about those we feel justified (because they behave the same way), the true enemy wins: hunger continues; human trafficking continues; children are turned into soldiers; people are tortured for their faith; women are beaten for various reason in areas of the world they don’t have unequal rights- they truly have NO rights; people die of curable and preventable diseases…

I want to zoom out a level or two – see something bigger than comfort (having a government leader I like… being offended by someone else’s words or behavior that don’t even truly affect my life today) that is part of the comfort.

If nothing else all the fighting has embarrassed me enough to look for ways to take action and realize it could take me out of my American comfort zone.

And that honestly gets me a little excited.

Maybe the hunger for challenge- leaving the comfort zone or attempting the impossible is a little why endurance riding appeals to many of us…

Because don’t get me wrong- it’s all about the horses, but at the end of the day I think we’ll find that it really wasn’t about the horses at all.

No Regrets…

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I have a mantra here that the only ride I regret is the one I didn't take… even on those days where I just don't feel it… once out there on the horse something wonderful comes of it. Right?

So finally a ride where I almost take it back.

Almost.

It began in the field. The mares were half way down the multi-acre pasture and when I came into the field they gradually migrated all the way to the farthest corner. Though so often my beloved steed greets me at the gate with nickers and drops her head into the halter- something about late summer changes up their routine each year to hanging around at the far end until evening. I think it's the shady tree line. She wasn't hard to catch- didn't run away but she was NOT enthusiastic.

Sorry to say- you need some exercise. Between the 26 mile ride last weekend and getting a somewhat invasive hoof trim early in the week- you've had enough time off and we need to climb the mountain today…. get some miles.

Whatever. She seemed to reply.

** one major thing I'm sorting out after the barefoot class and some personal research is that horses in boots really need to be padded. On a giving surface, the entire sole should be able to help support bearing the massive weight of the horse. First the soft-tissue part of the heel makes contact which is what does the most impact softening, then the inner wall and laminae and outer parts of the sole as the movement follows through the frog getting contact with earth helping move the blood like an auxiliary pump back up the leg- and on a giving surface the hoof will sink in enough to momentarily distribute all the weight onto the full sole before finishing the movement on the hardest-bone structured toe that drives the power of the stride forward.

When using hoof boots, the earth cannot meet the full sole and give that momentary full weight distribution which ends up acting a lot like a non-giving (hard) surface. In essence using hoof boots and no pads is a little like my horse walking on hard pack or pavement for those miles because it demands the hoof walls and laminae (and possibly the frog) to always bear all the weight.

Hm. So I'm experimenting with pads at the moment to see if I can use them without rubbing on the heels and if they'll stay put etc.

Once booted, padded and saddled up, the walk out was a dilly-dally that I had to use every bit of mental energy to Jedi-power her forward and then occasionally a little tap from my crop when she thought we might be camping at a nice grass clump for the night. Add to that the terrible horse flies that we often just had to pause, wait to land, and slap slap slap until stunning or death.

This isn't so fun….

A couple miles up the mountain we both hear a lot of crashing noise and too near for my taste a young bear cub comes hot-tailing down a tree and scampers loudly off.

Khaleesi is certain we should turn and run home – she spins around but I convince her to face forward and wait. She stands her ground and I'm left wondering where mama is. After a few minutes we calmly walk on.

This is Khaleesi's first bear that I'm aware of. I'd run into a fair amount of them in years past with Faygo but just haven't seen a bear on trail in about 3 years now. She did great. And don't get me wrong – I love to see bears!

We make it up the mountain and begin to descend into Little Valley – yes, its steep, but that's why I like this route. Great training. Man alive she is going even slower than down this mountain than she did climbing up!

Apparently the grass and road is a little slick. She decides to try the tiny swell on the off side of the wash-out bordering a decent incline to the wooded mountainside on our right, and as I'm suggesting it doesn't seem like the best choice to me she slips right back down into the wash-out four legs down onto her side with me trying to decide if I should get off or hang tight. She is good enough to wait for my decision and I adjust myself better into the saddle and she gets up with me still in tow. I feel like I'm riding an elephant today.

I start to ask if she's ok when she sees a juicy grass patch and the change of focus into relaxed eating as if nothing had happened answers my question and I ask her to move along.

Another couple of miles we go through a particularly overgrown section where the grasses are knee high and she begins to panic and kick and dance. I know exactly what's happening and attempt to kick her forward out of the worst of it. She keeps trying to put her head down to bite and itch her leg (just what will make it worse!) and I'm popping her with my crop to MOVE JUST GO!! Go!!!!!

It's what I call the Velcro peas and they were all over her legs, side, and now ears and head. They aren't painful but extremely annoying. She was being attacked by the plants. I got her to stop dancing enough to dismount and began removal which also meant they were getting all over me. This process took about 10 minutes between her and me and then I had to look ahead to see if I could avoid more of these hidden green monsters until we hit the next trail that would likely be free of it.

Between that and sawing a log on my friend's property trail that was just close enough to their impossible to open gate it wasn't worth getting back on… I spent a decent amount of that section on foot.

Finally in their yard with some huge mounting boulders (the balance saddle is awesome but it will slip if I mount from the ground- especially when K's sweaty) I got back on my horse and decided to have a good attitude and enjoy some calm relaxed walking through the quiet (practically ghost) town of Bolar.

We ride the road through here- often actually- and most times don't see any vehicles. The speed limit is 25 – the road goes nowhere and is curvy so drivers are not usually in a hurry and not often going very fast.

Khaleesi and I ducked into Bolar Run for a quick drink and upon popping back out onto the road- the wrong side of the road for the direction we were moving- I heard a vehicle. I stayed put because it was moving at a decent speed and I had a little extra grass at the side of the road to tuck into and the vehicle wouldn't see us until it made the turn – not very far, but far enough to slow down if I stayed where I was.

It was the mail jeep and headed both too fast and also too close for my comfort. I tried the universal 'slow down' arm wave but apparently he thought I was waving at him and waved back. I couldn't believe he would drive so fast so close to us- it almost felt like a game of chicken but we had no where to go- Khaleesi began to panic and spin looking for somewhere to run as I yelled (so he could hear me) SLOW DOWN! PLEASE CAN YOU SLOW DOWN!?

He did finally and said he was sorry he didn't know 'the horse would do that'.

Sheesh.

I thanked him and got K to settle as he drove on and looked back to see she'd thrown a back boot in the spinning dance. Not surprising. At least I wasn't in metal shoes on the pavement.

Then I realized that postman might have done me a huge favor because as I was on the ground picking up the discarded boot I heard it.

A really really big rumbling. Far enough out for me to get us over to the other side of the road (where I belonged) and set myself up for what I knew was going to be much worse that the postal jeep. And to stay on the ground.

When the massive dump truck came sailing around the corner I got his attention and he slowed right to a stop. It's the kind of truck that makes big scary noises even with it isn't moving. When it does move even slowly, the bed seems to jump around slamming metal and the engine is deafening.

I motioned him to come on past and he did so slowly. Khaleesi was in considerate fear for her life and was looking everywhere for an exit but behind us was a rock wall so she just cowered behind me in this strange stance I think I've seen my cat do once or twice with her front legs out in front of her and her back legs shaking underneath.

I just kept my breath even because I knew the giant truck wasn't coming to get us. Khaleesi could spin and dance on my short lead as much as she needed but would not get away and it would pass. As long as I stayed calm we'd be fine.

The driver was doing his best to move past us nice and easy. As he passed she bobbed on my lead back and forth behind me until we were able to move on with the truck safely behind us.

Boot in hand I wasn't even considering trying to put it on there on the road. We had less than a mile to the red gate back to private trails and I just needed to hand walk her and regain my own composure.

We are generally fine with cars, trucks, even motorcycles. And this little stretch of road in the middle of nowhere is hardly traveled yet I just had two decently frightening vehicle experiences. Maybe the worst ones I've had to deal with in my riding till now- all in a few minutes.

Where is that flask when you need it?!

Back on the ground yet again I unlocked and got onto the other side of the gate without further incident and replaced the hoof boot. Problem is – this area is so flat. I really cannot mount from the ground with this saddle 😐

I start walking looking around and realize I'd just passed a decent dirt ledge- I only need a foot or two to make the difference and that could do it.

So I turn around and ask K to follow. She says NO WAY JOSE. I move the reins over her head (my lead rope) and try to start maneuvering her so I can get on and she bites me!!!!

I AM NOT GOING BACK THERE!!

I had to laugh at this point. Bite is a little exaggerated but it technically was her teeth to my arm so I will call it that. But it was like she scraped my arm so gently I barely knew what had happened (so no bruise or pain) – it was a cry for help.

Khaleesi: PLEEEAAAAASSSSEEEE!

Me: Ok – no – listen – we are not going back to the road, to Bolar, and over the mountain again. I do know this is the best way home- I just need to back up to this ledge to get on… work with me ok?

She seemed to understand and cooperated to lining up for me to mount.

Trust me- we both want to go home!

Ok- only 4 more miles to go. What more could happen?

We finally relax into a nice trot on some flatter trail parallel to the river valley when she stops short. Ears go up and every muscle tenses… I put my heels down, melt into the saddle and breathe-

Ok… now what is it girl?

A large adult black bear crosses the trail a handful of yards in front of us.

Seriously. It's a two bear kind of day I suppose.

I again ask her to just wait. Let's see if anyone else is following before we move on. But you can relax. She does. A little.

And someone else is following. A very large doe jumps across the trail at the very same spot.

Ok.

Anything else?

Just two snapping turtles getting it on. Yes. At least that's what I assume is going on when one is angled on top of the other. At this point they'd both pulled into their shells… I think we were ruining their moment.

Let's walk a bit and see how it goes. Easy like.

Only 3 miles to go and I notice a cloud seems to be darkening the woods. I try to see the direction our weather comes in figuring the way my luck has been today we're about to be drenched in a full on thunderstorm.

Funny – I don't hear any thunder… and there doesn't seem to be wind either.

Oh. Right. This is eclipse day!

This must be that time. So for a little while the ride from hell turned a little bit magical as I wondered what would happen… I knew we weren't in full eclipse zone, but how dark would it get… and how long I couldn't remember – just a few minutes I was pretty sure.

It was neat to see the shadows on the ground and the pretty dim light mid-day. I didn't sense Khaleesi was concerned about it and we finally settled into a relaxed trot again after spooking one last deer right off the trail. At this point jumping a deer was barely enough for a twitch and though I caught my breath (it's a little startling) it is after all only a deer.

Finally arriving back at the barn the drama began to fade and the positives surfaces.

  • We got in the climbing miles I wanted.
  • Boots and pads worked pretty well- no rubbing and they all stayed on (except the rodeo moment on the road)
  • We developed deeper trust getting through a few dicey moments together.
  • I saw 2 black bears!! (And 2 turtles…)
  • I ended up riding in the woods during the eclipse even though I hadn't planned it.

The saddle is great and there's not a hint of sensitivity in her back right now.


Boots made the entire ride. Due to her back feet being even smaller after the trim I tried an old pair of Faygo' renegades and they did well. I'm still waiting on the Scoot Boot Narrows to release!

Pads after ride.

Gave her a shower-rinse and put her in the field where she of course rolled in the grass and took a big drink.

It may have been my least favorite ride and too dramatic for my taste, but it was still a ride.

No regrets.

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. 

Mud.

Friday, January 13, 2017

She asked if we could find some mud to train in. 


After frozen ice and snow with a low Sunday night of 3 degrees, the temps rose to almost 60 Thursday with bouts of rain coming through. 

This ridge road was a total mess in spots. After climbing to the ridge (which is a big climb) we chugged through the worst of it at a walk, trotted when we weren’t so deep, and enjoyed the more forested areas where the footing was pretty nice. It took 4 hours to do the 13 miles of out and back – we definitely got in a good training ride! 

​​

The new scoots have just arrived (not in time for the mud ride). I was shocked at how well the old boots (duct tape and vet wrap program) held up even when sucked completely into mud holes. 

I twisted a front renegade about mile 8 and put the muddy thing back on Velcro and all. At that same stop I pulled her into quicksand basically to get on in a good spot at the edge of the trail and as soon as I got on and she pushed herself out of the muck a back boot twisted around. After fixing that immediately we were off and not another loss through more mud and some decent trotting. 


Excited to try the scoots. Report soon!

Winter Conditioning : Brought to you by Duct tape and vet wrap

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Determined to continue training despite hoofwear woes I put my broken boots back together as best I could and dug through the old chest for anything I could get on her front foot to keep on the trail while waiting for the new scoots. 

I found a long past use easyboot trail of Faygo’s whose Velcro has seen better days. With the help of a hammer I tapped the boot shell on (at least it’s not coming off easily!!) and pulled the gaiter over and did my best to put the dead Velcro in place- now we just need some duct tape (red of course) and fingers crossed it would work for the day. 


The boot is a little tight and I wondered about rubbing on her heels but didn’t think that would be a long term issue with a ride or two before the new boots come. 

Then I went back to my size 1 renegade on her other front and did a little prayer.

For her hind boots- that have begun to work well after reshaping- I found some chips in her hoof from the nail holes and that made the size 0 boot loose on her hoof so that I could twist it back and forth. 

Not good. 

So I took some vetwrap and went around the hoof to enlarge the foot only in width.  Boot too tight! At least it made a difference. I pulled a few layers off until it felt snug without being tight, then secured the boot and pulled the vetwrap down to be sure it wasn’t on her coronet band. 


Another little prayer and we were off. 

Gorgeous day even though the forecast called for high winds and a wintery mix. Instead we were blessed with sun and occasional breeze. 


Susan and I did 12 miles on decent trail and the boots withstood water crossings, mud, soft hoof-turning footing, and walk-trot-canter. We did some pretty hard fast canters occasionally and not an adjustment or lost boot the entire day. 

She’ll drink out of a mud puddle but in a stream she’s always picky about where the water is best. Usually it’s inconvenient for me… here it’s right under a grapevine.
A little muddy but still on!

I am hopeful the back boots are now a good fit but the losses on my fronts recently make me think they aren’t quite right. I may play around with the vetwrap to make sure the boot can’t move around on the hoof. That could be a good long term solution no matter what boot she’s in. 

At least we’re getting miles for now and not sidelined with no hoof protection. 

I anticipate getting the new scoot boots next week hopefully by Wednesday.