Submitted by Kandace French
As a NATRC rider and ride manager, I have often heard in the last year that “NATRC now allows hoof boots in competition.” This isn’t quite an accurate statement, but the recent changes in boot requirements in NATRC have created a more enthusiastic outpouring of competitors with barefoot equines. Effective at the beginning of the 2011 ride year, the North American Trail Ride Conference (“NATRC”) amended the rules of competition to include hoof boots over the coronet band, including boots with straps, gaiters and keepers, provided the attachments do not extend above the pastern.
This opened up the opportunity for riders with barefoot horses to use boots with gators and keepers during a NATRC ride without having to glue boots. This was especially welcoming to the rider that was only riding one day, or less than 50 miles. How wonderful to slip on an Easyboot Glove, tighten the gator and go! What amazing transformations are taking place in the competitive trail ride venue! Since this rule change, I am excited to see the representation of barefoot horses increase exponentially at the NATRC rides. While NATRC has long allowed glued boots, the rule change seems to have brought a real camaraderie and supportive environment for barefoot horses in competitive trail rides.
Knowledge of the benefits of barefoot equines and natural hoof care is increasing. Horsemanship judges and veterinarian judges alike are asking excellent questions, looking at the change and seeing at all the ways that boots can benefit both the horse and rider in competition. On February 17, 2012, I was the ride manager of the Second Annual Bumble Bee NATRC Competitive Trail Ride in Bumble Bee, Arizona.
This desert environment was challenging and the footing varied, including rocks, sand, water, climbs and hard packed flats. The increase in booted competitors entered at this ride was exciting. Over one-half of the horses were booted or barefoot and the largest representation of hoof boots was Easy Care brand.
Prior to the ride, I was thrilled to be asked to glue boots on two of the competitors’ horses. One of those entered horses went on the win the first place Novice Lightweight Horse division and the Novice Sweepstakes Horse. The other horse placed 3 in a field of 14 entries. I was also encouraged to overhear one of the long time NATRC veterinarian judges check out a horse and rider team at the end of the ride and answer questions for the rider about her hoof boots and correct hoof boot fitting. He was educated and supportive of the Easy Boot Gloves and knowledgeable about the benefits of Power Straps.
The number of barefoot horses entering competitive trail riding (“CTR”) events is growing. Booting knowledge is increasing. The number of booted competitors winning in NATRC is growing as well. Not only are more horses entering competitive trail rides, but the attitude and general acceptance of booted horses in CTRs is changing. Booted horses are no longer looked at with curiosity, but admiration instead. More riders are asking intelligent questions and more information is available. As the choices in Easy Care booting options increases, booted horses in NATRC competition increases as well. The pairing of NATRC and Easy Boots at the Bumble Bee NATRC CTR was a buzzing success.
It is just the beginning of another great opportunity for the benefits of barefoot and booted horses to strut their stuff. The proof is in the boots.