I've been procrastinating about getting new boots because I expected the process to be challenging and there really just aren't that many rides where I feel like Nimo even needs them. (Plus, they are horrifyingly expensive in Nimo's size.) However, with the OD National Championship ride opening up an open LD category and the Fort Valley ride that I'd hoped to attend cancelled, I realized that if I want to do another ride this year, I really need to be planning to go to the OD ride next month. And that means I need 4 functional hoof boots. So, with the proper motivation in place, I started comparing boots and I decided that the new Easyboot Trails looked like a good possibility.
I ordered a pair of size 10 boots for Nimo because his measurements fit at the top end of the width and length for that size (he measures 6 1/8" across and 6 1/4" for length on the front) so I was hoping I wouldn't have any gaps and the boots would fit snugly but not too tight. Because of the design of the Trails, I worried a little about heel rubs, but I was excited about the prospect of not having to use any tools or worry about hardware malfunctions. The Trails are similar to the Cavallo boots, which I've used on Nimo's hind feet, in that they close over the top of the coronet band and utilize Velcro closures instead of cables and buckles.
I did a fresh trim on Nimo's front feet after the boots arrived and just managed to get them on. To check to see if there would be any immediate issues, I hopped on Nimo bareback at dusk and took him for a 25 minute walk around the farm. (And let me just say how cool it was that I could do that. I first rode Nimo bareback last December, and I now feel confident enough to take him out of the arena at dusk, when he is at his spookiest.) Nimo moved well in the boots and didn't fuss at me, so I figured they fit well enough to try them on the trail. The instructions did say to give the boots a break-in period, so I planned to go to Sky Meadows State Park and do 7-8 miles to test the boots.
I decided to meet a friend at the park on Sunday morning and I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I headed out to the barn. I had gotten up on time, packed a lunch, snacks, and assorted beverages, and remembered to put a few things back in the truck that I had taken out in the name of cleaning. I pulled into a gas station near the barn and maneuvered my truck and trailer into a fairly tight spot with ease and without hitting anything. I reached for my purse to grab my wallet and made a startling discovery. I HAD FORGOTTEN MY PURSE!!! I had about 37 cents in change in the truck, no cell phone, and not that much gas. And apparently gas stations don't have pay phones anymore (although I'm not sure I could have afforded one anyway.)
So, I unmaneuvered myself from the pump and headed back home, driving as fast as I dared through speed trap territory. I got home, ran into the house, grabbed my purse, and attempted to slink out the door without anyone noticing...And that was not to be. My husband and daughter were standing in the kitchen gaping at me. I felt compelled to explain I'd forgotten my purse and then ran for the front door. My husband said something about just using a cell phone to call him so he could have brought my purse to the barn (perhaps I should mention that this is absolutely not the first time I've forgotten my purse before a ride). I imagined that I was Katniss from the Hunger Games and that I had a full quiver of arrows before I yelled that I didn't have a cell phone and then ducked out the door before further humiliation could befall me.
I called my friend on the way back to the barn to let her know I was running very late - close to an hour - because of my forgetfulness and I suggested that she and the other lady who was meeting us go ahead and start on their ride and I would catch up when I got there. Then I got gas, threw my tack in the truck, loaded my horse faster than I ever have, and got on the road about 45 minutes late. However, I made it to the park in record time, so I ended up only being a half hour late and my friend hadn't left on the ride yet.
I got Nimo ready really fast, feeling terribly guilty about being late, although my friend was quite understanding and in no hurry. We got on the trail about 20 minutes later. My hope was that I could do the 3-ish mile mountain trail to test the boots during a climb and then do several miles of meadow trails to test the boots at a trot. I wasn't sure what the other two ladies I was riding with would want to do, though, so I expected that I would ride with them and then head back to the trail if I felt like I needed more or different miles.
As it happened, we did do the mountain trail. It's not as strenuous as some of the mountain trails I've done, but it is still a significant climb, with some level of rockiness, but nothing excessive. I have done the trail with Nimo barefoot, so I was interested to see how he would handle it with boots. And he did just fine. He seemed his usual self, carefully picking his way through the rockier sections and then offering to trot up some of the steeper sections.
|View from about halfway up the Lost Mountain at Sky Meadows|
I noticed that Nimo and the other horse had trouble finding a rhythm at first. The other horse had been wanting to go faster during the first part of his ride, but after losing one of the group, he seemed more hesitant and reluctant to be in front. And Nimo didn't really want to be in front either. So we spent about a half mile working with the horses to convince them to move out. It didn't seem to be an issue with wanting to leave the trailers because both horses were walking out really well, but they didn't want to trot in front. After about a half a mile of Nimo mostly leading and trotting slowly (oh, so slowly), the other horse gained confidence and took the lead. After that, the horses moved really well together and Nimo used his 14 mph trot to keep up with the other horse's canter and we moved quite quickly through another 3 miles or so of trail and then walking the last 3/4 mile to the parking lot.
I'm going to interject something unrelated here before I give you my thoughts on the hoof boots. The other lady I rode with told me that she had wanted to do endurance riding, but her horse wouldn't pulse down quickly enough. I thought that was kind of a weird thing to say, especially because it was clear her horse (not an Arab) was fit and was regularly ridden on very challenging trails. But I let it go and didn't really say anything, because I didn't really know the lady or her horse and I figured it wasn't any of my business. At the end of the ride, we were chatting and the lady mentioned that she'd had so much fun trotting and cantering because her horse really liked to go faster than a walk, but she had trouble finding people to ride with that also liked to go faster. I had noticed that her horse seemed very comfortable cantering on the trail and very in control, and I was admiring how well they worked together. I'm not sure exactly how we ended up on the topic of pulsing down, but at one point the lady mentioned she'd been riding on a difficult climb with an experienced endurance rider. The lady's horse needed a break during the climb and the endurance rider (on an Arab) mentioned that she thought the horse would have trouble pulsing down on an endurance ride. Apparently, that comment (and whatever other related conversation occurred) was enough to convince this lady that she shouldn't do endurance with her horse. When I asked how long it was taking him to pulse down to 60 bpm after a trail ride, the lady said she didn't know because she'd never actually taken his pulse rate. She just took the endurance rider's comment at face value and thought she couldn't do endurance riding on her horse.
I'm not telling this story to belittle the lady I rode with in any way. In fact, I was really impressed by her and her horse. She had already figured out hoof boots and was riding with 4 of them that seemed to fit and stayed on the whole ride. She worked very well with her horse and the two of them have logged lots and lots of miles together, many of those miles on their own and over mountainous terrain. The reason I'm telling the story is because I realized that we never know how those around us will interpret what we say. I have no idea if that experienced endurance rider meant to be discouraging or was just thinking out loud or maybe even just trying to provide some advice. What I do know is that a lot of experienced riders have talked to me about cooling my horse, electrolyting, and pulsing down. It is true that I (and every other rider) need to be aware of those issues. But the fact that my horse might take longer to pulse down than a very fit Arab doesn't mean my horse can't do endurance. It just means I need to manage him carefully, pay attention, and develop strategies to help him.
So I explained to the lady I rode with that if there is any horse who shouldn't be doing endurance, it is a 17-hand, black Friesian. And yet, we're doing it. So if we can do it, so can she and her horse, if that is what she (and her horse) wants to do. Of course, we still have a long way to go and I still have a lot to learn, but I was horrified that someone who was clearly a great candidate for endurance riding had been discouraged before she even started.
So for those of you reading, if you are experienced in any discipline and you happen to have the opportunity to interact with anyone who is new or even just interested, please remember that what you say might be taken differently than you meant it. It's something I need to remember too, which is one reason I'm writing about it here. Enough said...
Back to those boots. They performed really well overall. I still feel like they were a little bit big, but that may be remedied by letting the hoof grow a little. I had initially thought I'd need to trim every week to keep them fitting right because Nimo's measurements were right at the top of the scale, but now I'm thinking there might be some room.
|They look so clean and fancy compared to my other boots!|
|This is a view of the side of the boot with the outer shell pulled back and stuck together to keep the Velcro out of the way while putting the boot on the hoof.|
|Back of the boot - you can see the holes on either side for the attachment of an optional gaiter.|