Sunday, October 16, 2016

State of Mind

I haven't written for awhile.  Part of the reason is that September was the month from hell with respect to my job and part of it is that I've been having trouble figuring out how to express some thoughts.  I'm not sure how much I can say on a public blog about the first reason, and I'm not sure that I've really remedied the second reason, but I'm going to try to explain where I'm at.

Over the past few months, my motivation to continue to condition for endurance rides has waned.  I was in a pretty good place at the beginning of the ride season this year, but after failing to complete either ride that I entered in the spring and having to scratch from the ride I'd hoped to do in June, I admit to feeling a bit forlorn about the possibility of us ever completing a ride other than the one we finished almost 18 months ago.  I can't count the number of times I've read about someone's successful ride and wondered why it seems so easy for so many people and not for me.  (I know that plenty of people out there have overcome far more than I have, but the brain sometimes doesn't remember those things when adversity strikes.)  Part of it is my choice of riding companions certainly, but there must be other factors too because there are plenty of non-Arab horses competing in endurance.

My husband would say that it is possible that I'm making things more complicated for myself, because I do have a tendency to do that.  For example, why use regular paint to paint a wall when I can use a two-step faux-finish process that still isn't done over 9 years after I started?  (I adore that faux finish on the walls that I have done, and I'm glad I haven't yet succumbed to the easy painting, which has no character.)  Why buy jewelry when I can make it myself after spending weeks searching for all the items and suffering through the endless hassle making it for 3 times what I would have paid if I had just bought it already made?  (Because learning how to made something yourself is rewarding all on its own!)  And don't even get me started on the mess I made in my kitchen the first time I made butter.  Just a word of advice - don't dump the cream in a large mixing bowl and use a handheld mixer to make butter.  The cream will splash EVERYWHERE and it will take days to realize the extent of the disaster.  Do yourself a favor and use a blender or - gasp! - an actual butter churn.  There is a reason for that design:)  (But OMG, fresh butter is amazing!)

In terms of how I've made things more difficult for myself (and Nimo), the hoof boot issue is the one that springs to mind first.  Hoof boots are flat out not working for us.  There are assorted reasons for that, but the most recent problem (the boot literally just slides right off his foot even though I am convinced that it fits properly and I've got it tightened as much as is reasonable) has nearly sent me to the loony bin.  At this point, I have tried several brands of hoof boots with frustrating results.  The Equine Jogging Shoe is fiddly to put on, seems to turn on his foot even on easy terrain, and doesn't seem like a good design; the Cavallo Simples barely fit his front hooves and seem to rub the hoof wall in addition to making the most annoying clonking sound with every footfall that makes me want to stab my eyes out; the Renegades just don't quite work for his spade-shaped feet, despite some expert assistance and getting the fit so close I can almost taste success; the Easyboot Trails had velcro that simply would not stay fastened; and the Easyboot Epics, while seeming to fit beautifully, are either breaking gaiters or just coming right off the foot - both new problems that didn't used to happen.  Any other brand (e.g. Scoot Boots) that I haven't tried is because it doesn't come in his size or because it is clearly not appropriate for endurance riding.

I did, however, discover a new hoof boot that is not currently being manufactured, but just launched its Kickstarter campaign.  The boot is expected to come in Nimo's size and the shape of the boot looks like it can accommodate Nimo's hoof shape.  It can be adjusted in shape/size to a small degree and there are no gaiters or hardware.  You may have heard about it already, but if not, check out the Megasus Horserunners at:  http://horserunners.com/.  The big potential issue with this boot (because there is always something), is that it relies on a velcro strip adhered to the hoof wall.  The intergrity of that velcro strip and the effect of the adhesive on the hoof wall are both huge considerations in terms of the usefulness of this boot.  That said, I'm thrilled that there is continual innovation in the hoof boot industry and maybe this boot or the next boot will be the one that works for us.

Why don't you just put shoes on your horse? you ask.  That is a fair and reasonable question.  I've considered it many times.  I know Saiph and Liz have both had really good results with switching to shoes for competition, and I also have access to the same farrier (bless his heart for being willing to come to me!).  I believe that the two of them were very thoughtful about switching from boots to shoes, and I believe that the farrier would do a good job with Nimo.  But...the only reason Nimo needs hoof boots in the first place is to do OD-sponsored rides, like No Frills, The OD, and Fort Valley.  He doesn't need them for other rides like Foxcatcher or Mustang Memorial or Rabbit Run, and probably a whole lot of other rides that don't have rocky trails.  As for conditioning rides, I can just slow down for rocky areas on the trails, so I don't necessarily need the boots/shoes for those, either.  And I need to really think about why I am going to put metal on his feet and pound nails into his hooves for what might be at most 3 rides a year.  In the end, it isn't enough.  Nimo has good, healthy feet that are perfectly fine to do 90% of what he needs to do and the rest of it is just me wanting something more.  I cannot justify putting shoes on him so I can compete in 1-3 rides a year, especially when there are other options for rides, even though they are farther away.

If you are pounding your desk in frustration as you read my explanation, I get it.  I really do.  Sometimes a certain path is easier and any normal, sane person chooses the easier path.  Why continue to struggle with hoof boots when that struggle interferes with achieving my long term goal?  Well, because it only became a long term goal a few years ago and it is my goal, not Nimo's.  And I'm not even sure anymore if it is a good goal for me to have.

What do I mean by that?  Two things.  Well, maybe three.  Possibly four.  Sigh...I don't know.  Here's where I'm going to try to express some thoughts, so bear with me.  First, conditioning through the summer in Virginia is miserable.  It is hot and humid.  There are lots of bugs that bite me and bite my horse.  The sun is unrelenting in its brightness.  I hate it.  Nimo hates it.  This year, I gave us both permission to back off on miles and pace because I could not handle the torture anymore.  That helped, but riding still sucked.  On one particular conditioning ride, I think I killed over 100 horse flies.  We cannot make good time when I'm constantly whacking at the blood-sucking little vampires.  Normally, Virginia summers aren't that long in terms of the true misery.  But this year, we basically went from cool and wet to 90+ degrees within less than a week and stayed there from mid-May to the end of September, when it got cool and rained for a week straight (apparently there were only two options for weather in Virginia the past few months).  Now we are back to seasonal temps and it has made a huge difference in how both of us feel about our rides.  But if I can't condition properly for four months out of the year, that means that I may not be able to have Nimo in good enough shape to do fall rides, especially because Mustang Memorial moved its date from mid-November (oh, blessed freezing temperatures!) to early October (too soon to have recovered from the summer slump).  But that's OK, maybe I can just focus on spring rides.

Except...when I first started this journey, I didn't mind riding alone.  In fact, I preferred it for the first year-ish.  I was still getting Nimo and me in shape and I also needed the time alone to think and to get back in touch with myself.  But over time, I made friends and found new people to ride with.  Let me emphasize that I really enjoy riding with all of these people.  They are thoughtful, fun people, who have taught me things or have simply been a great support system to help keep me motivated and give me someone to talk to that isn't work-related or four years old.  None of them, however, have horses that are a good fit for Nimo's pace.  Most of them go a little too fast.  A few too slow (they aren't endurance riders).  But most of the time, that is OK.  Because riding with faster partners helps us condition better and riding with slower partners means mixing things up a bit.

However, at actual endurance rides, I've really had trouble finding a good fit.  The one ride that we actually completed was in large part because I found a great partner to ride with (Saiph and her lovely mare, Lily).  It was so much fun and it was what I imagined endurance riding would be.  Except that that particular ride turns out to be the exception rather than the rule for us.  I have recently realized that I don't want to do an endless number of rides in the future years by myself.  I don't want to "ride my own ride."  I want to ride with one or two (or even more) people who feel comfortable out on the trail and with their horses and who do not want to set speed records, but who also know the value of moving out a bit occasionally.  I want to ride with people that I know and get along with and like (and who hopefully like me too!) and whose horses are a good match for Nimo's pace.  And that just isn't happening.  Nimo is simply not confident enough at this point to be fully motivated for an entire ride on his own.  He needs a buddy.  And without one, he can be difficult to ride, which quite honestly is not fun for either of us.

I will be the first person to say that fun is not the only consideration for why I do things.  In fact, I tend to think that fun doesn't happen very often without a lot of work beforehand, so it doesn't bother me that some rides might just be miserable or a lot of work, but it does bother me that I see nothing but unpleasantness in my future because all of the people that I know in the endurance world ride much faster at rides than I do or are doing different distances.  And I need to seriously consider why I would subject Nimo and myself to repeated rides that don't add much value.

And then, there is the Science of Motion issue.  I think I mentioned in my last post that I've begun employing Science of Motion (SOM) principles in my work with Nimo, in part because I suspect a sub-clinical physical issue.  But the deeper I go into those principles and the more I learn about them, the harder it is for me to 1) ride with anyone and 2) condition for endurance.  The reason is that SOM isn't like a typical dressage-type training course or set of steps.  It is a fundamental reworking of the way that I ride and the way that Nimo moves.  That kind of drastic change doesn't happen overnight nor is it easy or even well-understood by someone who isn't also working through the same thing.  There is no quick fix, like dropping my stirrup a hole (although I've done that) or moving my stirrup bar back (did that too).  My position has changed in such a way that I must consciously think through the placement of every part of my body all the time (plus, even a 5-mile ride makes me sore).  And the way I communicate with Nimo is different too.  I use as light a contact as possible (the weight of the rein is the ideal) and there are no rein aids (like the indirect or direct rein aids most people learn about in dressage).  I must use incredibly subtle changes in my body (such as a slight rotation of my upper body to indicate shoulder in) to communicate.  There are no spurs and I ride without a whip unless I'm in a lesson where we are working on advancing or learning something new.  But the whip is held differently and it is used with a light-as-a-feather flick.  I've been experimenting with bits (probably more on that in a different post) but have found that the hackamore is still the best thing for us at this point.

As for Nimo, he is learning to move his body in a different way too.  The simplest explanation is that SOM is about balance before movement, unlike the more common approach to dressage which asks a horse to move out before asking for balance.  I am now horrified that I used to chase my horse around the arena, asking for more and more movement.  (And in fact, it was that chasing that eventually turned me to SOM as an alternative because it was making me uncomfortable.)  That was not a helpful approach if my goal was to achieve a more supple and athletic horse (which it was).  Instead, SOM asks that I slow Nimo down to the point where he is walking one step at a time and each footfall is analyzed in how it feels and looks to determine where there is gait asymmetry and what the horse is trying to protect - a discomfort or even pain - through that asymmetry.  As of my last lesson a week ago, it has become clear that his left hind leg is not moving in a balanced way.  The biggest problem is that he is leaving it on the ground too long in what would normally be considered the propulsion phase of that leg's movement.  Essentially, that means that he becomes unbalanced as his left hind leg gets strung out behind the movement.  It could mean his stifle is bothering him or it could be something else.  We haven't gotten that far in the analysis yet, but it's good information to know.

The SOM work is very mentally demanding and while it is a relief from a cardio perspective to slow things down, the change in my position and the way Nimo moves is physically demanding too.  And, as I mentioned above, it is incompatible with endurance conditioning.  I still do short rides once a week out on the trails.  I even did a Hunter Pace with Nimo a couple of weekends ago and it was literally the perfect ride.  I had a great riding partner who was confident and having fun.  Our horses (despite one being gaited and one not gaited) were able to pace each other very well.  I was able to slow Nimo's trot to match my partner's horse's gait and my partner was able to canter her horse to keep up with Nimo's bigger trot when he was leading.  The horses were mentally stable, despite being passed by a group a couple of times and Nimo was completely under control with minimal pulling even when watching another group go faster and disappear into the distance in front of us.  This experience refers me back to my sentiment that having a fun and well-matched partner on an endurance ride is one thing that will be important for us continuing in endurance.  I also think that the previous work on SOM was useful in helping Nimo and I communicate better.

My short trail rides, though, are compromise rides.  They are not truly compatible with the work we are doing in our schooling sessions, because in our schooling sessions, we are mostly still walking (although we have recently started brief interludes of trot and my instructor has agreed to doing a trail lesson as well as helping me with achieving a sustainable trot in the arena to aid with cardio work - more on that in another post too).  Nimo's walk is painfully slow at this point because he is learning to place each foot.  It will not always be slow, but there is a progression that he is going through and it will be awhile before he moves out at the walk again.  And his new walk will never look like a big swinging dressage walk.  His new trot may not look like what he does now and his new canter will hopefully be 100x better than what he does now, which is quite out of balance.

My point is that I can't condition for a 30 mile ride in the mountains and also work on correcting Nimo's balance and coordination under saddle.  I have to deal with the balance and coordination first, and then I can start conditioning again.  I fought against that notion for months and have only recently come to the conclusion that there can be no situation where I do SOM work in the arena and non-SOM work on the trail.  There can only be SOM work, with the understanding that I may be compromising for short distances to give us both a mental and physical break out on the trail.

You may be wondering if I would recommend or even advocate for the SOM philosophy, and my long answer is complicated.   My short answer is "No."  From what I can tell, people come to SOM through a variety of ways, but it is typicaly the result of either an epiphany or a serious physical issue with their horse.  I think of it almost like an addiction situation.  You have to hit rock bottom and want help before you can break the addiction cycle (and even then it is hard).  If you don't feel like there is anything fundamentally wrong with the way that you ride or the way your horse moves, SOM will do you no good.  It can only help if you believe that you must make a fundamental change and if you agree with the science and philosophy behind the SOM program.

What is the science and philosophy? you ask.  Well, you can read a lot of information about it for free on the website (which is actually unusual when there is a paid service/class offered).  There are a few books for sale, several clinics around the country (and the world), and the big ticket item is the online class, which also comes with a certain level of feedback from Jean Luc Cornille himself on videos of you riding your horse.  There are a few instructors too, but there is no certification yet for them, so they can be hard to find because they can't advertise as SOM instructors.

From my perspective so far (I'm only on the 5th installment of the course), the science is based on a lot of studies that have been done over the past several decades on the biomechanics of the horse as well as research that Cornille has done through case studies.  There is also a horse skeleton that is used frequently to demonstrate many of the scientific findings in a more tangible way.  I can't even begin to describe it all, but it addresses things like the stance and propulsive phase of a stride, how long and low movement affects a horse's back, and the connection between lameness and other areas of the horse's body that may be in pain and causing the lameness or even behavioral and performance issues when a physical reason doesn't seem evident.

In terms of the philosophy, there is no natural horsemanship technique to learn, no special equipment to buy (except perhaps some specific guidance on bits and saddle fit), and no set of 10 steps to a perfect horse.  There is no discussion on how the horse must be submissive to the rider's aids or lectures on how you need to teach your horse to respect and trust you.  The philosophy is based on educating the rider in such a way that the rider understands equine biomechanics so well that she can choose not only the best gymnastic exercises for her horse but she can choose the way she implements them.  The rider develops a sense of feel for her own position and that of her horse so that she can tell immediately if the horse is in balance or not, and if the horse is not in balance, she knows what to do to help the horse become in balance.  Dressage principles from many decades past are touched on and some are supported while others are not, based on a scientific evaluation.

All that may sound awesome (or not, depending on your perspective), but it is actually really frustrating.  Shedding decades worth of thinking is not the easiest thing, and those of you who believe that a shoulder in must be done at a 30 degree angle, that a half pass is haunches-in on the diagonal, and that long and low work is good for your horse will find that SOM is impossible to even comprehend and you will likely think it is garbage.  Please understand that I am not criticizing you if you believe those things.  As I mentioned above, SOM is for those who have come to a point where they realize things aren't working and they need to try something different very different.  If you have a good relationship with your horse, your horse is moving well and sound, and you are where you want to be in your competitive or other goals, SOM would likely not be worth your investment because it would frustrate you beyond belief.  I want to learn about it, and I've been pulling my hair out for months with only a recent breakthrough that has kind of started some forward progress.

So I've got all this stuff in my head right now.  I'm simultaneously thinking about how to condition, when to condition, which rides to do and also thinking that I can't think about any of that now because I need to focus on our SOM work.  I don't want to give up on endurance, but I think I have to for the short-term.  That said, I do think there is at least one SOM concept that is potentially a gold mine for endurance riders, and after I know more about it, I hope to write about it.  But there are issues beyond the SOM work.  Assuming I manage to retrain Nimo to move differently and then manage to condition him well enough to do an endurance ride, I still have hoof boot issues to deal with as well as riding partner issues, plus one other issue that I haven't written about yet because I haven't been able to find a good way to work it into this post.  I don't know how all that is going to play out.

And all of this stuff was really getting me down until two things happened.  The first was the hunter pace I mentioned above.  Having an hour of actual fun in the saddle really changed my negative perspective! 

The second is more complicated and is more about the release of a negative than the application of a positive. I already said that September was unpleasant because of my job.  I am a Federal employee who works with grant programs, and while there is often a certain amount of craziness at the end of the Federal fiscal year (which ends on September 30), the program that I was working with this year far exceeded the normal crazy.   A couple of particular highlights (actually better described as low points) were when I had to continue to work for a full week not just my regular hours but extra hours despite having a severe case of food poisoning and possibly follow up stomach virus (I'm so sorry I missed your call, but I was busy repeatedly vomiting) and the day I worked from 9 am to midnight with only 2 breaks in a desperate attempt to get caught up.  The stress and pressure were unbelievable, and I doubt any of my other coworkers would have even bothered to suffer through it. 

I have realized that I have developed a particular tolerance for job-related suffering, and I have also realized that this last September is the last time I will suffer through it.  I forget exactly how the saying goes, but the concept is that if I am miserable, it is because I let someone else make me that way.  The big reason for my epiphany is because I saw what working crazy hours did to my relationship with my daughter, who is 4 years old and doesn't understand why her mom couldn't spend the usual time with her.  And the explanation that somebody higher than I am in the management chain didn't follow my recommendations and basically deliberately created an intolerable situation (for me and a few others) didn't cut it.  I don't save lives through my job, but my agency sometimes seems to act like that is the case, and from now on, unless there is an actual fire to put out, I won't be putting forth the effort that I did in September anymore.  I don't know exactly what that attitude means for my continued employment in this particular field.  And that means a lot of uncertainty.  But for now, the extreme pressure has been released, which has freed up my brain to occasionally think about things unrelated to how I'm going to overcome the latest job-related challenge.

In terms of where I am today, well, I just came home from doing another Hunter Pace, which was equally as fun as the last and Nimo was even more of an amazing ride.  He was completely unphased when passed by other horses and even consented to slowly trot behind a group while letting them get out of sight.  We rocked the 6-ish miles of the course, which were quite hilly, and finished in an hour.  I can't get over how wonderful it is to be finished in an hour!

I have also noticed that there is something going on with my connection with Nimo.  He loves people, so he is generally easy to catch and always comes when called in his field.  But the last couple of weeks, he has been either waiting at the gate for me (even if it was late when I got to the barn) or he hears the car and starts coming to the gate (even in the pitch dark) and I never have to call him.  It could be that I've switched his treats to the Mrs. Pasture's brand (a serious upgrade from the uber-expensive, but healthy, marshmallow treats he was getting) or it could be that the SOM work has done more than just affect the physics of our work.  Many SOM participants have reported that their horses seem significantly happier to work with them over time, but I didn't expect to see that type of result with Nimo because he is already a pretty congenial horse to work with.  I think it's too soon to draw a definite conclusion, but it is an interesting development.

He also seems to have an overall calmness that he did not have before.  At the first Hunter Pace we did this fall, he got excited when some riders began cantering around a field and he was tied at the trailer.  I just reached over and stroked under his jaw for a few seconds, and he settled down immediately and shifted mental gears back to hanging out and eating hay.  I'm not sure I could have done that even a few months ago.  And at today's ride, he was calmer than I have ever seen him at any kind of competition despite the unorganized milling of horses at the start area and that it took us over 30 minutes to get out on the trail while we waited for others to start and finish.  He felt good out on the trail, walking when asked and moving out when asked.  Plus, while the other horse was happy to lead the whole ride, I asked Nimo to move out in front in the woods (where he is less comfortable leading than out in an open field) for awhile, and he was really good about maintaining a trotting pace with just a couple of taps from the whip when we got to the top of a steep hill that he wanted to finish by walking up.

So, while I am a bit sad at what is hopefully a temporary suspension of our endurance activities, I think the improvement in our relationship, the actual fun rides, and the interesting biomechanics work are Good Things.  I don't know what the future holds anymore and I have tried to stop Planning Things, which is a bit disconcerting on the one hand and kind of exciting on the other hand.

13 comments:

  1. Sounds like you have a lot going on, so good on you for working through things as you are, hang in there!

    It's not really important (because you are working on other things right now), but I just wanted to talk a bit about shoeing vs booting. I read so many stories with people having the worst dramas with boots, if I had so much trouble I think I would have given up in frustration (I use boots), it is so much extra stress to work through. The first multi-day ride I did with my young horse, I was really worried about how she would behave. So I put shoes on her, and it made a massive difference, not having boots to worry about too. Once I got through that, I went back to boots, because I wasn't worrying about riding and could deal with the uncertainty (which was unfounded because I rode her 5 days straight without a single boot issue). So I just want to point out that you could consider putting shoes on just for rides. You don't need to change anything about how you manage him, but just have shoes put on for the rides you need them. If you get some shoe-pullers, you can pull them off yourself the next day. I would however suggest trialling the shoes on for several weeks before the ride, just for the first event, just to make sure they don't cause any issue. After the first event, this wouldn't be needed.

    The other things I wanted to suggest is that you can use plastic shoes. I used Terraflex shoes from Blue Pegasos, but Easycare have shoes too. These give many benefits of shoes without as many drawbacks. Some are glued on, others nailed. Make sure you trial the glued ones before the event, but I had really good results with the nailed-on plastic shoes staying on.

    If you keep the use of shoes to the minimum, you shouldn't have issues going barefoot again. The hoof won't uncondition itself to being barefoot if the shoes aren't left on.

    Anyway, just wanting to share in case it helps you in the future when you get back to needing hoof protection. In the mean time, enjoy your journey and everything you are learning! :)

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, OneHindResting:) And for telling me about your shoeing experience. Definitely if I was going to do shoes, I would look for something non-metal. I do know that the Easycare shoes do not come in Nimo's size, though, so I expect that I might have trouble finding something if I wanted to go that route. (My next horse will have smaller feet!)

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  2. Oh, if you use nailed-on plastic shoes, you don't need shoe-pullers, but you definitely need nail-pullers! ;)

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  3. I get you on the endurance frustration level. My horse likes to go too hard (we're working on it) and manage to hurt himself (this year, popped splint at first ride, season done). I see people having these great seasons, when I can only afford a couple rides and my horse gets hurt, we're pulled, I'm discouraged.

    And the boot thing too. Like you, I'm fine if others want to change to shoes, but I"m also not willing to compromise for a few rides (if that) a year. I do find boots successful for conditioning, but at competitions they come flying off. So I do glue-ons (if I actually get to rides) and that compromise works for me.

    SOM sounds like an interesting and difficult journey, and that you are seeing some progress in many ways. I hope you keep trying to find ways to have fun (and not work too hard!)

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    1. Ugh, I can see why you'd be frustrated, irishhorse. An injury is no fun, especially at the beginning of the season.

      I wish I could do glue-on hoof boots, but alas, neither Renegades nor Easy Boots have a size that fits Nimo. See above where I say that my next horse will have smaller feet!:)

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  4. SOM sounds intense! That's what dressage does for me. In my case, I get way, way too focused on the way the horses move and start worrying endlessly over them and so the trail helps me focus on just having fun. I'm glad the SOM work has helped strengthen your relationship with Nimo even more, and that you're still having a blast at hunter paces! :D

    I am in the same boat: I'm supposed to be conditioning for another ride but I'm so mentally done. I don't want to ride alone either and with Carlos's new schedule, that has become a necessity as of late. And I just don't wanna. I completely understand how you feel! I don't think I could do the "ride your own ride" thing either. I love the sport, but not enough to go out and ride for an entire day by myself. The social aspect of it is such a huge component for me. I honestly don't have a problem slowing down for someone else or waiting for another's slower out-time if it means I get to ride with them for the entire ride. I wish you and I lived closer! <3 We could ride together more often.

    In terms of shoes, they have done no harm to either of mine. I used to be such a die-hard barefoot advocate but I have no problem with nails in my horses' feet if that's what it takes to get them competing soundly. I genuinely cringed at the idea of putting shoes on Gracie especially, who literally has gravel-crunching feet...I've never had to boot her...but she was no worse for the wear having them, and I've simply removed them after each ride. Her feet have not been weakened at all by the shoes; each time she returns to barefoot without missing a beat. At the moment Lily only has shoes on her fronts for conditioning and I'll be removing them in November: it's far easier to boot her hinds than her funky fronts for conditioning rides, and with no grass in the winter-time, her feet are always more solid. I also prefer the traction of barefoot when it comes to ice and snow! She has been on and off barefoot throughout the season too though. Dan does such an awesome job shoeing that it only takes me two weeks before I can rasp off the nail holes myself post shoe removal. Lily will stay barefoot for the next 4-5 months starting in November, and then if all goes well, we'll just do it all over again next year. :)

    I hope you're back at it next year, and that maybe this time we can complete another ride together! :) <3 And we NEED to meet up this winter to ride together!

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    1. I totally agree with you on getting out on the trails just to have fun and get a mental break. I have found that Nimo has already started to move differently on the trail and I'm not sure what that means for how I should be conditioning him (hence the SOM lesson out on the trail soon!).

      And there is no one I would trust more to give me good feedback on shoes vs. barefoot than you:) I really do believe you and I actually think Nimo might go better too. I'm just having a mental issue about it right now. I'm possibly being stubborn for no good reason:)

      I do absolutely want to get together for a ride this winter! I've missed riding with you and would love to get together, even if all we do is toodle around:)

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    2. If I move next year per the plan, I'll be an hour closer to y'all and maybe we can all find opportunities to ride together more often!

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    3. That would be awesome!!!😀

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  5. Nemo, in many ways, sounds like my endurance horse. I ride a small, black Paso Fino, so my endurance rides are NEVER like anyone else's. Thankfully, I've found a few nice people who, at rides, will hang back at my slower pace (we average between 5-6 mph at a ride) and stay with me, because otherwise, he gets bored on the trails if he doesn't feel like he's "hunting" down other horses. But for conditioning, it's all either solo riding, or begging someone to come ride my OTHER Paso Fino who I've conditioned for LDs, but who can't quite keep up with my endurance Paso now. So once again, I have this disparity of horses. Can't keep up with the Arabs, don't want to do walk-only trail rides as they don't benefit us!

    I'm also dealing with the boot/shoe drama. I cannot justify shoes for the 3 or 4 rides a season that require them. I'd rather skip the rides than slap the shoes on. And now I'm trying to find the right type of boots. I gave up on Renegades. I currently have a pair of Scoot Boots that my friends surprised me with for my birthday, but they're based off his Renegade boot size, and now that my farrier and I have been changing his angles (he was having some tendon issues since he grows toe like CRAZY), the brand new boots SWIM on his feet. So I've got to figure THAT out.

    I do like the results I got from one ride with Hoof Armor. And I've considered doing glue-on Renegades or even the EasyCare FlipFlop. Have you ever considered glue ons for him? It was a thought I had as I was reading your post.

    And the work/life balance with a little one at home; I feel you. For the past 6 weeks, every Saturday and Sunday I was up at 6 am so I could be to the barn by 7:30 and in the saddle by 8 and then try and ride 1 horse for 2 hours, then another horse for 2 hours. Then go home. It's exhausting and draining after working all week. And the day my husband told me my 2 year old woke up and asked "Mommy here?" I almost wept out of guilt. But I can't quite find the right balance of horses/child/life just yet. I keep trying to find it.

    Just wanted to put all that out there. It sounds like the Hunter Paces really help shake things up and are fun! I wish we had them here in Texas, but the sound like an East Coast thing, which makes me sad because I think we'd really enjoy them!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story, shayla! Being a mom and having an interest other than your child, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and cooking is both wonderful and seemingly impossible. I hate the guilt I feel when I miss something my daughter wants me to do, but I don't know how to survive without horses in my life.

      I have thought about glue-on boots but I don't think any are made in Nimo's size right now. That said, I do keep looking and if I ever find some, you can sure I will try them:)

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  6. Ack. I just had a comment. Then I spilled tea on my keyboard. Then the comment went POOF.

    Poop.

    ANYWAY, take II:

    1. You are a very wonderful human, Gail. In case you haven't heard that enough lately with your whirlwind of life.
    2. I'm so happy to hear that your relationship with Nimo is getting even better. I love that the very bright light on the other end of the tunnel journey is getting a lot brighter. It seems like super awesome things are right ahead for you.
    3. I hope things with work resolve themselves for the better. I find that with work (and really life) when I need a change and decide I want to pursue said change, things fall neatly into place to make it so. It may not be textbook perfect neatness, but I do tend to get to the other side. I hope textbook neatness happens for you. <3

    Hello to Gemma. I hope she's had a great summer. I love seeing your posts about her. She's a really fantastic little person and I can't wait to meet her some day.

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    1. Thanks, Liz:) What a wonderful comment! And you may get to meet Gemma at the Ft Valley ride when I stop by:)

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