Saturday, August 31, 2013

A New Saddle Pad...and Some Crazy Horseflies

I am a bona fide saddle pad junkie.  I own too many saddle pads by any standard.  But I can't seem to stop collecting them.  I suspect it may be because the most exciting thing you can do with a dressage show pad is to add some piping or binding in a conservative color, and by color, I mean, white, cream, gray, navy, black, or maybe a sliver of silver or gold.  As far as I can tell, dressage judges are afraid any sort of actual color or pattern will distract them to the point that they won't notice whether the horse was even cantering on the correct lead.

Anyway, ever since I started riding dressage, I've been on the lookout for fun saddle pads with colors and patterns, and I've had some luck, but I'm still jealous of all the cool all-purpose pads out there.  In fact, because my dressage saddle has fairly short flaps, I can get away with using the occasional all-purpose pad.  I'll post some pics of my favorites at some point - if I ever wash them, which I probably won't, because the only laundry that gets done regularly at my house now is my daughter's diapers.  My husband and I do have some standards!:)

I somehow happened to be at Dover Saddlery the other day...OK, it's because I specifically drove there.  My daughter was fussy, and we needed a fun task.  What could be more fun than hanging out in a tack store?  I did need another pair of breeches, and while I was there, I wandered into the saddle pad section.  What can I say?  Gemma said the pad was awesome and we had to have it.  So I paid the very reasonable price of $26 and got it.

The awesomeness of this pad cannot be fully demonstrated by the picture.  All the faint handwriting on the pad is actually a metallic silver.  And there are ruffles around the binding.  And a pattern.  It doesn't have any color, but I still love it.

I used the pad on my ride today at Shenandoah National Park.  And it's a good thing I did, because the ride would otherwise have totally sucked.  I rode by myself, which was not the problem, although I did admittedly get confused for about 2 minutes on the road to the trail because there was a fork in the road I didn't remember, and so I guessed which way to go.  Then, I second-guessed myself because I overthink almost everything, as anyone who has tried to give me directions can attest to.  Then, I figured out the first way I went was the right way, and we were all good.

The real problem with this ride was the horseflies.  August is definitely the worst month for them, but when we rode in the exact same location last week, they were not nearly so bad.  For the entire 2 hours that we rode, I doubt Nimo got more than a 1-2 minute break from being pestered by them.  I killed dozens of them and even developed some skill with swatting them out of the air with my whip.  But, it was just plain miserable.

I suspect part of the problem may have been that today was typical hot, humid August weather while last weekend was beautiful and warm and dry.  The other related issue was probably that Nimo was sweating a lot more.

I have been wondering exactly what a difference humidity makes to a ride, and I got my answer.  Last week we rode 7 miles.  The temperature was 78-80 degrees and I don't know what the humidity was, but it was very low for this time of year (maybe 40-50%).  It was definitely challenging for Nimo, but by the cool-down phase of the ride, he looked good, was walking pretty energetically toward the trailer, and the only sweat he had was under the saddle pad and girth.  Today the temperature was 85-88 and the humidity was more typical (about 80%).  We only did 5 miles of the exact same trail (minus the 2 minutes spent wandering around), and he was sweating profusely all over his body, panting harder, and he didn't speed up at all when we were headed back to the trailer.  I even got off and walked a few times and gave him several short breaks.  He's fine and was happy to eat grass when we got back to the trailer, but I believe that this ride was metabolically much more difficult than last week's.  I wish I had a stethoscope because I think that would have provided some useful information (and yes, I could have taken his pulse another way, but I was not thinking and yes, I have ordered a stethoscope so this won't happen again).

There is no question that the effect of the 7-10 degree temperature increase and the almost doubling of the humidity had a significant impact on performance.  The ride we had today was much more like what I had expected last week.  And it tells me that I am damn lucky to be doing my first ride in October when I can expect cooler temps and lower humidity.  It also tells me that the cumulative impact of increased temperature and humidity over a 50-100 mile ride for a horse unused to those conditions must be astronomical.  I'm sure there are studies out there that have attempted to quantify the effect, but I guess I don't need the actual data to know that I would be risking my horse's life to ride in conditions like today over difficult terrain without proper conditioning.  I really knew that already, which is why I'm trying hard to condition well, but I got my own anecdotal evidence today, which has doubly convinced me.

The other thing I learned today is that I need to order some locking pins for my Easyboots.  The buckles kept coming loose, which meant I had to keep getting off to fix them.  And the first time it happened, I didn't realize the cable ended up on a looser setting, so I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out why it sounded like the boot was loose even though everything looked OK.  I checked the website, and it says they cost $2 for a package of ten, so my question is, Why the hell didn't the boots come with the pins in the first place?  For $204 plus shipping per pair, I think I should be able to expect some $2 pins.  On the other hand, I did get some exercise, which is not necessarily a bad thing...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mountain Climbing and More...

As preparation for the 15-mile intro ride that I'm doing at the end of October, it's really important for Nimo and I to get some actual mountain climbing in.  In fact, this particular 15-mile ride is actually the first loop of the famous (infamous?) Fort Valley ride hosted by Old Dominion.  That means that we can't just be able to coast through any old 15 miles.  We actually have to be able to handle some fairly rough terrain.

So on Saturday, I met up with the lovely and generous endurance rider who connected with me through my blog several weeks ago, and she gave me the scoop on a common conditioning location.  We parked at the 4-H center near the Shenandoah National Park and started climbing up to Skyline Drive.  Probably about half-way up, Nimo was convinced that he could no longer pick his foot up high enough to make it over a small stone barrier (as in about 3" high).  We took a short break and kept going.  Up and up, until we got to Skyline Drive.

Then my riding companion explained that we could continue going up, cross the road and go down for awhile, or turn around and go back to the trailers.  To be honest, my original intention for the ride had been no more than an hour or a couple of miles because I figured that would be all Nimo could handle.  He'd never done any real climbing, so I didn't want to overdo it.  But, the day was gorgeous - partly cloudy, 80 degrees, low-humidity - and I was having FUN!  The kind of fun that I used to have when I was much, much younger, before I got to be a serious dressage rider and I started pretending to myself that it was fun to do a trot lengthening across the diagonal.  (Please don't get me wrong - there is something very rewarding about dressage movements - but I don't really consider them fun.)  I checked in with Nimo and I was pretty sure he wasn't ready to lay down and die, so I opted to keep going, but down rather than up.

We crossed Skyline Drive, and headed back down a fire road.  And I felt totally cool, like someday I might be an endurance rider.  Plus, we got to mingle with some families there for sight-seeing and even got to make the day for a few young kids who loved seeing and petting the horses.  After going down for awhile, I ended up having to get off to fix a loose clip on one of Nimo's boots.  No big deal, except the trail was so well-maintained, I actually had to walk awhile before I found a sort of giant mount of dirt to use as a mounting block.  I did decide that we should head back at that point, even though part of me just wanted to keep going to see what was around the next bend in the road.  I remember that feeling when I was a kid.  How I always wanted to explore a road that I hadn't ridden before, particularly at my grandma's house.  It was in a very sparsely populated part of North Dakota, and I never knew when I'd come across an old house that had been abandoned for decades.  I could just feel the history emanating from the building and it made me want to know who had lived and died there.

Anyway, nostalgia aside, my horse had to go back up and then back down several miles.  Which he did without complaint, even taking the lead for a short distance as we got closer to the trailers.  We ended up doing just about 7 miles, which I really couldn't believe.  Nimo felt great for the last mile, perky and not exhausted at all, so I think I made the right decision on the distance.

My next step was to see if we could do another ride on Sunday over less challenging terrain.  I made up my mind that I wanted to try for 8 miles, meaning that we would get in a total of 15 for the weekend.  I've read several riders say that they feel like doing two 25 mile rides back to back is a good indicator for whether a horse is ready for a 50, so I thought I could apply the same thought process for a shorter distance.

I made plans to ride with a friend, and we ended up with 4 of us at Manassas Battlefield.  We had ridden there before as part of organized rides, but never on our own, so it took a little investigating to figure out where to park.  And we weren't really sure how to get to the actual horse trails because there didn't appear to be one that connected with the horse trailer parking lot on the map.  As it turned out, there was a trail right off the parking lot, so we sauntered off on what was yet another picture perfect day, which is unbelievable for August.  I guess it's just not possible to not ride on these kinds of days.

I've hiked many times at the Battlefield over the years and I thought I had a decent grasp of the layout of the park, but I discovered that there was much undiscovered territory.  It was awesome!  We did make it the whole 8 miles I wanted to go and the trails were like a movie set, they were so gorgeous.  Here's a picture taken with my feeble cell phone that doesn't even remotely represent the awesomeness of the trails, but hopefully, you'll get the idea.

The Battlefield is mostly flat and the footing is nice and firm without being rocky.  The only downside is that the park is bisected by 2 extremely busy highways, and it's almost impossible to get a longer ride in without crossing at least one of them.  But, we had good luck with drivers willing to stop for us, and it really wasn't an issue.

We just walked the trails this time to get our bearings, but I'm definitely planning on making the Battlefield a regular stop for some more serious trotting work.  With the relatively level, firm ground, the trails will be perfect for doing trot sets and maybe even some canter if I get a little braver:)  And Nimo felt great on the second day.  No soreness or stiffness that I could tell, and we did do a short trot and he felt very energetic and forward.  I couldn't have asked for anything more from him, so he's getting a few days off to chill and then we're back to work!

The other accomplishment that I'm excited about is that I did what I think was a pretty decent trim on my horse's hind feet.  It was much harder than I thought it would be just to move the rasp across the hoof, much less do something on purpose.  But once I got the hang of it, it wasn't too bad.  I really only had to do a bevel around the edge because we've been riding enough to keep them worn down.  And I actually did the trim right before we did our mountain climbing.  As in literally, I trimmed his feet and then loaded him.  Because I wasn't planning to boot his hind feet, that might have seemed like a less-than-bright move, and maybe it was.  But I didn't detect any sensitivity over the rocks or gravel, so it worked out.

I didn't have time to trim his front feet over the weekend, but I got to them yesterday.  I think they were a little more difficult because there was more growth and some uneven sections.  I didn't think I needed nippers because I was just doing a bevel again, but the hoof wall is pretty thick, so next time, I'm going to use the nippers to give myself a little bit of a break from so much rasping.  Overall, I'm pleased with my first effort.  I'll try to post more pics after the next trimming, so I can compare them with what I posted last week.  Hopefully, there will be some positive changes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nimo's Feet

So I've decided to start trimming my horse's feet on my own.  Because I know very little about the subject, I've been doing some research, and I can see that there is a lot of conflicting information out there and that I'm going to have to pick a methodology and try it to see how it works for Nimo.  The methodology I've selected belongs to Maureen Tierney.  She's got a website:  The information provides a compliment to her book, Natural Barefoot Trimming: The Hoof Guided Method.  I'm still in the information assimilation stage, so I don't have a lot to say at this point except that what she says makes sense to me.  Her advice is to try to simulate how nature would wear the hoof if the horse was wild, but also to give the hoof space to essentially tell you what is going on and what it needs for a trim.

I will say that because Nimo has never had shoes on, I've been a little frustrated with all the barefoot trimming information I've found.  There seems to be an assumption that readers either currently shoe their horses and want to take the shoes off or recently took the shoes off.  What would be more helpful is how to handle a horse that has always been barefoot.  I say this in particular because after I took some pictures of Nimo's feet, I realized that maybe they weren't quite as fantastic as all my farriers have been telling me.  I'm not saying there are huge or serious issues, but as you'll see below, the frogs on the front feet are not quite as healthy as they should be and there is some definite flare going on for all 4 feet.  (And it's entirely possible there are other things going on that I don't see right now because I'm still new to this level of evaluation of my horse's feet.)  I'm actually kind of bitter right now because I'm realizing that I should have been paying more attention to Nimo's feet than I have been, and it appears that the trims he's been getting may not have been exactly what he needed.

I also discovered that it isn't that easy to take good pictures of hooves, especially if the horse is not interested in standing still or holding his foot just right.  While Nimo is normally pretty easy to work with, he was behaving like a complete idiot when I was trying to take these pictures, nearly resulting in me beating him to death with a hoof file.  So, my pictures could use some improvement, but at least I got something to give me a reference point.  Below are the front pictures of all 4 feet.  You'll see the flare that I mentioned.  It's not horrifying, but it was a surprise to me because I literally never noticed it until I took the pictures.  Also, his left hind is not quite as wonky as it looks.  I was off-center with the picture.  And, the hind feet are untouched at this point, but I had previously done a little rasping on the front feet to clean up some minor chips that were driving me crazy.

Next, here are the pictures of the bottoms of his hooves.  Overall, I think these look pretty decent (although they are all tilted one way or other - it's hard to hold a giant hoof and a giant camera at the same time!).  I do see some asymmetry on the outside of the both hind feet and the frogs of both front feet were a little softer than I like.

After the pictures, I did clean up the frogs just a little by removing anything that was obviously dead.  I also did a little beval around the hind feet, but I felt like I needed a bit more information before doing more than that.  Now that I've had a chance to study pictures and videos more, I think the next step is to file a 45 degree beval around each hoof, starting just in front of the white line.  I think the toe could come back just a smidge, particularly on the hind feet, where I was surprised by how thick the wall looks, but I'm going to stick with minor adjustments for now and see how things work out.

I would also like to emphasize that any book on trimming hooves should include this statement:  ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD ATTEMPT TO RASP THEIR HORSE'S FEET WITHOUT GLOVES ON.  Yes, I am an idiot.  I did not wear gloves because I thought I was just doing a little touch up and didn't need the protection.  I was wrong.  This is what your hand will look like if you don't wear gloves:

And, in other news, the size 5 Easyboot Epics that I ordered seem like they are going to work out, at least for awhile.  I can tell they fit much better than the larger size and I ended up liking the cable system better than the adjustment system on the Bares.  I still don't like the screws on the inside of the boots because I could see where there was some minor scratching of the hoof wall and the gaiters are still way too big for me to fasten properly.  I think I will call the manufacturer and see if they have any suggestions about fitting the gaiters, but hopefully they will work well enough for me to keep conditioning.  It's really time for me and Nimo to start climbing some mountains to properly prepare for our Old Dominion 15 mile ride at the end of October, and I think the boots will help keep his feet protected while we work on rocky terrain.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How having a farrier is like dating...

I'm sure it's happened to at least most of us women.  We meet a guy we really like.  He seems to really like us too.  At first, he calls all the time, and when we call him, he calls us back right away.  But, after awhile, when we call, he returns the call more slowly with an excuse, "Sorry, I lost my phone" or "Sorry, I wasn't feeling that great."  Soon, he doesn't bother to make excuses and it gets increasingly hard to get a hold of him.  We start to wonder what's going on.  Doesn't he like us anymore?  What are we doing wrong?  Then, eventually, he doesn't call at all.  He avoids us like the plague.  The relationship is over, and he figures the easiest way to tell us that is not to tell us at all (see He's Just Not That Into You).  We feel angry, hurt, and sad, and we're clueless about what happened.

I'm not sure what farrier services are like in the rest of the country, but the above scenario has happened to me more than once.  Plus, with the advent of texting, I've had 2 farriers break up with me via text.  And, lest you think that my difficulty with farriers stems from defect in me, let me assure you that I always pay immediately.  I go to virtually every appointment, and I leave a check if I can't be there or mail one within 2 days if the farrier came when I wasn't expecting him.  I also always pay more than the charge because I'm often the farrier's only client at the barn, and I know that it takes extra mileage to keep me as a client.  When I lived in Iowa, I never had these problems.  My farrier scheduled appointments in advance.  He set a specific time.  He showed up at that time.  Always.  Except for maybe one time, when he called ahead of time to reschedule. 

Here in Virginia, good farriers are practically mythical creatures.  My first farrier was an awesome farrier, but he sucked in the communication department.  I would spent weeks hunting him down before every appointment.  My friends who also used him, would conspire with me to get him to trim/shoe our horses.  This went on for years, but finally, after it had been 15 weeks since he trimmed my horse's feet and my horse's white line was starting to show signs of trouble, I got a new farrier.  This new farrier was even more awesome.  Not only was he really good with feet, but he scheduled appointments in advance and showed up on time.  For two and a half years, I had bliss.  Then, I had to move to a new barn.  It was not in my farrier's service area.  But he kept telling me that he'd think about it.  Maybe we could work something out.  I fantasized that I could move to the new barn AND keep my fabulous farrier.  Oh, was I wrong.  After not hearing from my farrier about the "work it out" scenario, I texted him.  Two weeks later, I got the break-up message via text.  No suggestions for other farriers I could work with, no apology for leading me on for weeks when I could have been searching for a new farrier, and no offer to trim my horse's feet for a last time, so I had plenty of time to look for someone new.

So, I found a new farrier.  He seemed like a pretty good farrier.  His scheduling wasn't as good as my old farrier, but he was still reasonably reliable.  Then, he got hurt.  He was out of commission for several months.  While he was out, I stayed his client.  I begged the first farrier I had to please trim my horse's feet one time.  I had to haul almost an hour to a different barn, but I got my horse's feet trimmed.  And I waited for my farrier to heal.  I texted him for an estimate of his return to work, trying to decide if I needed to use someone else temporarily.  After a couple of weeks, I got his response.  It would be a few weeks yet before he could fit me in, but he was planning on continuing to trim my horse's feet.  Weeks went by.  I texted again.  When could I expect his visit?  Two more weeks.  Then, the text message, "I can't trim Nimo's feet anymore.  I don't have any other clients at your barn."  WTF?

Panicked, I contacted my trainer at the time to see if she had any recommendations.  She gave me two names.  I called one and prayed.  My horse's feet were in rough shape because they hadn't been trimmed in 5 months.  Luckily, the new farrier called me back quickly and was able to fit me in within 3 days.  Awesome!  He was also training an apprentice who gradually took over the trimming of my horse's feet under the new farrier's supervision.  Eventually, the new farrier asked me if I would be happy with the apprentice continuing the care of my horse's feet.  It was fine with me.  I figured the apprentice was just starting his own business and would provide good customer service to get and keep clients.  He worked with several farriers, so he had back-up, and he seemed to be doing a good job with the trimming.  Again, it was great for awhile.  Advance scheduling, showing up on time, even going out to bring my horse in if he arrived early.  Then, it happened.  He said he'd come, but he didn't.  No phone call, e-mail, or text message explaining why.  No apology for missing a scheduled appointment.  Nothing.

My horse is now 2 weeks overdue for his trim, but with all the riding I've been doing, his feet are worn pretty well, so I just took a rasp and cleaned up some rough edges.  As it turns out, I'm planning to move to a new barn in a couple of weeks. There is a farrier who already handles almost all the horses at the barn, so if he's decent, I should be able to use him.  Here's the thing.  I'm beginning to think that maybe it's just better if I learn to take care of my horse's feet myself.  Sometimes you just have to take responsibility for yourself.  Right?

I've noticed that a lot endurance riders, particularly the ones who boot, seem to trim their horses' feet some or all of the time.  After over 2 decades of leaving it to the experts, I think it's time that I learned more about my horse's feet and how to take care of them.  For some reason, I've never had the interest in learning the details of trimming a hoof.  I can't really explain why, except maybe fear of screwing up such an important part of my horse's anatomy.  I love delving into every other topic related to horse care and I think I've got an above-average grasp on nutrition, exercise, and health care.  With hooves, I can tell a decent hoof from a bad one, but that's about it.

So, from this point forward, I'm definitely going to be reading up on hoof care and attempting to take over trimming for myself.  I still intend to work with a farrier, at least for awhile, or occasionally, to make sure I don't screw up.  But, my horse's feet are honestly pretty basic.  He doesn't really have any issues, except for some thrush in the spring when he ends up standing in mud for about 3 months at a time.  And even that was hardly noticeable this year.  I can do this.  And then I will no longer feel the panic that comes every time I realize I have to find a new farrier.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A little eye candy...

This post has absolutely nothing to do with endurance riding.  It's just that I've been taking this class on using textures and blending with photos and digital scrapbook pages in Adobe Photoshop, and I wanted to show off my latest effort.  This is a picture of Nimo from a couple of years ago that actually didn't turn out that great, but after quite a bit of working with it, I thought I improved it a lot.  Now I just have a couple hundred pictures left!:)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Boot Saga Continues...

You'll remember how I ordered sizes 6 and 7 for Nimo in the Easyboot Bare to be able to try different fits without constantly ordering and sending back sizes.  It turns out that I should have ordered a size 5 too.  I tried out the size 6s on a short ride yesterday because it was immediately clear that the size 7s were waaaaayyyyy too big.  Because the Bares require adjusting before putting them on the hoof, I spent some time with a screw driver to adjust them down to the smallest they would go (based on the fact that if they were at a larger setting, they were clearly not tight enough).  This was no small feat because it was almost 80 degrees outside with literally 100% humidity (I am prone to exaggeration, but I looked this statistic up to be sure).  The simple act of turning a screw made me drip with sweat and wrestling the boots on made me want to keel over and die.  I hate August.

Anyway, I got the boots on.  They looked like this.  Please note that I later fixed the gaitor straps so they didn't look so wonky, although I definitely have more comments about them coming up.

I walked Nimo around in the boots to see how he would react.  He was totally fine.  And after having a brief conversation with myself debating the benefits of a gradual transition to the boots involving days of handwalking, lungeing, riding in the arena, and then finally taking Nimo out on the trail at increasing distances, the impatient part of me won.  I was scheduled to go on what I expected to be a fairly short ride of less than 5 miles on pretty decent footing with the Nokesville Horse Society, and I thought, "What a great way to try out the new boots!"  So, I left the boots on, loaded my horse up into the trailer and hauled him out to Silver Lake Regional Park in Haymarket, Virginia.

The ride went really well despite the fact that about 30 seconds after we started, I realized the boots were too big because I could hear them making sort of a flopping sound.  I had come prepared to take the boots off and just strap them to my saddle, so I figured at some point, they would come off and I'd pick them up.  In the meantime, several lovely people who sensed my possible stupidity for riding my horse with boots that were too big told me that my boots were too big.  "They aren't supposed to be making that sound," these lovely people said.  In fact, one lady made a point of telling me that several times throughout the ride.  I think she thought I would take them off immediately, and when I didn't, she must have thought I didn't understand what she was saying.  In fact, I wanted to see what my horse would do.  I paid a lot of money for him and I pay a lot of money every month for his care.  I try very hard to make sure he gets great food, lots of petting, and treats, and in return, every once in a while I expect a little research in return.

In this case, I wanted to see how he handled wearing boots on the trail, how he handled it when the boot came loose, how he handled me getting off and messing with the boots, and how a boot that was loose performed.  Here's what I found out.  My horse could have cared less about the boots.  Despite the fact that they were flopping around on his feet, he happily walked out and trotted energetically.  In fact, this was the fastest-paced organized ride we have been on this summer.  We did 4 miles in just over an hour and Nimo clearly could have gone faster.  Not quite my target pace, but much better, especially because the ride included a lot of really boggy mud that slowed us down frequently.

The boots stayed on for 3.75 miles before they came off.  That was through lots of trotting and crazy mud.  When one did come loose, it was easy to tell.  My horse was trotting and his gait drastically changed, but he absolutely did not freak out.  He just stopped.  I got off, retrieved the boot that had come off and took the other one off, which had actually turned around backwards.  Nimo was perfectly calm through the whole process, including when I had to hunt for a fallen tree or stump to use to get back on.  And, there were no rub marks or other signs of soreness or discomfort from the boots.

Overall, I thought the performance of the boots was pretty amazing, given that they were too big.  I suspect part of the reason they stayed on so long was because of the gaitors.  At one point, I looked down and it appeared that the straps had loosened somehow, and it wasn't long after that when the boots came off.  Here are my complaints about the boots.  First, they have to be adjusted BEFORE you put them on and you need two different screw drivers - a phillips to undo and retighten the adjustment screws on the outside of the boot, and a flathead to stick in between the boot and the hoof and the front of the hoof to check fit.  So, if you're on the trail and realize you need to make an adjustment, you have to take the boot off, undo screws and put the boot back on.  I realize you wouldn't need to do that often, but I can see that if you're breaking in new boots, you might have to do that a couple of times, especially if you're on a long ride.  Second, the bulk of the adjustment system is on the front of the boot and it is heavy.  That has got to unbalance the hoof in some way.  I'm assuming that is why the Easyboot Glove was invented, but of course, it isn't made in my horse's size.  Third, I hate the gaitors.  They are made of neoprene, which I dislike because of its heat-retaining properties.  They can't be adjusted tight enough to keep out debris.  And, I'm not sure what sort of pastern they were made to fit around, but it isn't anything remotely like my horse.  You saw in my picture how wonky the straps were.  That was how the material wanted to fit - at that weird angle.  Of course, that is not what the Easyboot brochure looks like at all.  But when I adjusted them like the picture, there was a huge gap behind the fetlock, which did not make me happy.

So, I'm going to send back all the unworn pairs of boots and order a smaller size in a different model to see how that works.  Because my horse seems so accommodating about the boots, I think if I can find some that fit him, we'll be in good shape.

Also, if anyone has any tips or advice they would like to share with me, except for, "The boots shouldn't sound like that,"  I would be happy to get it:)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Search for Hoof Boots Begins

Well, I have now reached the point where I need to start looking for boots for my horse.  For one thing, shoes or boots are required for the Old Dominion Intro Endurance Ride that is my goal for the end of October.  I admit that I was skeptical about the need for shoes/boots for a 15 mile ride, but after riding 10 miles a couple of weeks ago in the area where the ride will be held, I am convinced my horse does need hoof protection.  If I could train on those trails all the time, I could possibly acclimate my horse's feet...or I could really cause some damage.

So, I've decided to give boots a try because I've never had shoes on my horse's feet.  I'm not trying to say that shoes are bad.  Every horse I've owned before Nimo has needed shoes at least most of the time.  They gave support to aging arthritic legs and held together some of the worst feet I've ever seen and I'm convinced they improved my horses' lives.  However, Nimo has really good feet with good soles, good frogs, and good hoof walls.  He does absolutely fine on most footing, except for the really rocky stuff, so it seems to make sense to me that boots should be my first choice.

Here's the problem:  My horse has really big feet.  He's a big guy (just shy of 17 hands) and his feet reflect that.  I measured them at about 6.5 inches wide a couple of days ago.  He is at the end of his trim cycle, but I've been riding enough that honestly there isn't that much growth.  And note to people who use boots already:  I absolutely understand that measuring for boots is supposed to be done shortly after the trim, not just before the trim.  Here's the thing.  My farrier missed his appointment (possibly more about that later, depending on how things go).  I'm on a schedule.  I need to move forward with The Plan to get my horse fitted for boots so I have time to find boots that fit and get my horse used to wearing them and conditioned while wearing them.  I figure that there is the real likelihood that I will end up having to have custom boots made for him, so I need to budget time for that if the off-the-rack boots don't work.

Because of Nimo's hoof size, Renegades were automatically off the roster.  They actually would have been my first choice (possibly solely because they come in multiple colors), but the largest size they come in is 6 inches - just a little too small.  So I went to Easyboots.  And I found out that there are an overwhelming number of choices and all the boots are sized differently.  Perhaps luckily, only a couple models come in sizes big enough to fit Nimo.  So I promptly ordered 4 size 6 and 4 size 7 Easyboot Bare boots thus allowing me to be prepared.  I figure I can just return the size that doesn't fit...or both sizes if neither fits.  But I just hate ordering stuff, returning it, ordering new stuff, returning it...etc.  I'm impatient.  I want to know immediately if the boots are going to work.

I also realize that the company says these boots are no longer made, so the stock is limited to whatever is on hand, but the description seems like what I am looking for.  A nice, sturdy boot designed to mimic the bare foot of the horse.  They will supposedly last 500-1000 miles, which seems reasonable, and I like that they don't use the cable system.  I hate the cable system.  I am not a stranger to Easyboots, having used them in the past when my horse lost a shoe.  I just don't like the prongs that dig into the outside of the hoof wall.  The Easyboot Bares are supposedly a bitch to get fitted, but after that, are much easier to put on.  Maybe that means they will also fall off.  I guess I just have to try them.

Anyway, I've been notified that the boots are en route, so hopefully they will be here in a few days and I can see what the situation is.  I'll keep you posted...

Friday, August 2, 2013

A conversation with myself...

Last night I rode my horse.  This probably doesn't seem like that big of a deal, unless you know the inner dialogue that led up to the ride.  I have this terrible habit of not wanting to ride if it's too hot, too cold, or I'm too tired.  Because sleep deprivation has been my constant companion for probably the last 19 months, I usually have to overcome two of the three.  I didn't used to have this problem, but as more responsibilities have crept into my life, riding my horse sometimes seems more like a chore than a hobby.  It's step 23 on my to-do list to fix that.  Anyway, if I haven't specifically planned to meet someone to ride, I often wuss out, which is what happened Wednesday night when I somehow convinced myself that I wanted to watch the movie, GI Joe: Retribution, instead of going riding.

I was brain-dead from 8 hours of working and watching my 10 month old daughter (by the way, I do not advise working and watching a baby simultaneously, unless your job involves a lot of staring vacantly into space) and had entered the twitching part of the phase, where I literally can't focus on anything for longer than 1.5 seconds and my eyeballs want to burst out of my head.  So, rather than getting some horse therapy, I choose to rent an action movie.  Now, don't get me wrong, action movies are great.  They are especially nice when you have the attention span of a gnat and will easily get lost in a plot more subtle then "Must Blow Up Bad Guys."  So that's what I did.  And then I went to bed.

On Thursday, I recommitted to riding.  I was definitely going to ride.

Me (to my husband at 5 pm):  "I'm going out to the barn to ride my horse."

Husband:  "OK, have fun."

Me (to my husband at 5:54 pm):  "I'm going out to water the chickens."

Husband:  "OK, will you bring up the plates from downstairs so I can wash them."  (Yes, I am truly blessed to have a husband who washes dishes almost every day.)

Me (to myself while out with the chickens):  "Wow, the coop sure is dirty.  I better clean it."

Other me (to myself):  "Are you sure this isn't a form of procrastination about riding?"

Me:  "Of course not.  Why would you say such a thing?"

Other me:  "Because you've had many opportunities to clean the coop, but you chose a time 5 minutes before you're supposed to leave to go to the barn to do it."

Me (defensively):  "That is so not true!"

Me again:  "It is really muggy out here.  I don't know what the weather man was talking about when he said there was lower humidity outside.  I wonder if riding is such a good idea."

Other me:  "Gaaaa!  I knew it!  Finish cleaning the coop and GET OUT TO THE BARN!"

Me:  "Look, I can still ride tomorrow night.  It's supposed to be even nicer then.  Maybe I should do that.  The thought of riding around in the indoor arena in this humidity is not pleasant."

Other me:  "You don't have to ride in the indoor arena - you could ride in the fields."

Me:  "But the fields are probably muddy with all the rain we just got."

Other me:  "Then just walk around the neighborhood."

Me:  "But then I'm not really getting any conditioning work done, and Nimo really needs to work on some loosening exercises - his right shoulder feels stiff."

Other me:  "Oh my God!  Why do I even put up with you?"

Me (to my husband):  "Whew!  It's nasty out there!  I just cleaned the coop - it was really dirty."

Husband (knowingly):  "Huh.  Are you still going riding?"

Me:  "Maybe not - the humidity is supposed to be lower tomorrow.  My ride might be more pleasant."

Husband:  "Hmmm."

Other me:  "Look at the time.  It's still only 6:20.  You have plenty of time to ride."

Me:  "Sigh...I guess I really should get out to the barn.  Nimo has been losing some weight recently.  I should at least check on him and give him some treats."

Other me:   "Hurray!"

Me:  "I wonder if I should put on riding pants?"

Other me:  "Yes!  That way, you don't have to ride, but you could, if you wanted to."

Me:  "Good point.  I'll wear the riding pants, but I won't necessarily ride."

...40 minutes later at the barn...

Me (to my horse):  "Holy Crap!  What happened?!  You look like you were drowned in a mudslide!"

Nimo:  "It was hot.  There were flies.  And you washed off the last batch of mud I rolled in."

Me:  "Now I'll never get to ride.  I don't have the energy to get all this mud off!"

Nimo:  "Cool.  Did you bring food?"

Me:  "Yes, here's some food.  I guess I might as well try to scrape some of this mud off...and maybe use the hose."

...Half an hour later...

Me:  "Well I've gone through all this work.  I guess I should ride."

Other me:  "Yay!  We can ride in the field and see how the footing is.  It doesn't look too bad in the paddock."

Anyway, to cut this long-winded dialogue short, I did the fields...and we also worked on suppling and lateral exercises...and we trotted a lot...and my horse was as fresh after an hour work-out as he was at the beginning.  Which is saying something because normally my horse likes to go as slow as possible.  But he did a very legitimate Arab impersonation and acted like he might spin and bolt at any moment and snorted a lot with flared nostrils, and pranced instead of walked, and tried very hard to go faster.  Cool.  I guess all that riding has paid off and I should keep doing it because my horse is actually getting fitter.  I can't wait to talk to myself about it tomorrow:)