A few years ago Linda Cowles introduced me to the world of barefoot and fitted my three horses with Epics soon after they were introduced to the market. This was during the time that I was in the process of starting Drako. I have had a few years of endurance fun with my older gelding, Beau, but he was starting to have wear and tear issues, so why not barefoot him and concentrate on getting Drako into endurance. Drako has had maybe only one or two shoeings in his life. My third horse, Beamer (unfortunately now deceased), was already a barefoot former broodmare, so no change for her except I started riding her more.
Drako’s first LD had him losing his mind when he was passed by the hot shoe 50 miler’s. At 6 years old and a year and a half under saddle on the trail, he still wasn’t ready emotionally for sane (for me) endurance riding. So we did a lot of Centered Riding lessons and just having fun trail riding. He had me in tears sometimes with his Jekyll and Hyde emotional balance which seemed to be set off when he’s around other horses.
I joined the Bay Area Savvy Players, a Parelli Natural Horsemanship study group, and started to take him to their play days and camps and taking occasional Parelli lessons to work through these issues. During this time I accumulated three+ sets of Epics for my three horses, occasionally doing and LD’s on my other two (sane) horses in Epics when I’m riding with friends curious about the sport of endurance.
Last year I started to notice the improvements in Drako’s behavior so I took him to Montano de Oro LD, got lost, pulled ourselves from the competition and took him to the beach to let him have a blow up there without the pressure of being in the pack. I was actually happy to pull that day so that we could work on his first ocean sighting without hurting other riders (or me!). I had started the rides in Easyboots (took gaiters off my Epics) but took them off after pulling to ride on the beach. Again, boots were not the problem.
Fireworks last year proved to be the ticket to finally getting him to finish an LD, but not without having an emotional meltdown half way through the ride and running over the vet at the vet check. He wore Epics that day, and the Epics certainly were not the problem!
I train barefoot most of the time, but I know that Drako would need hoof protection again. I still haven’t worn out the Epics yet. I want to try the Gloves but can’t justify it until I finish up using my Epics. Linda warned me that Easyboot products tend to last longer than you want to sometimes and this is certainly the case! I put on the boots the night before because I’m really not a morning person. I noticed that one of the cables wasn’t pulling through as easily as the others, but I went to bed and didn’t think about it again.
The ride start was uneventful. I found a couple of friends I knew to start the ride with, and the ride start was pretty uneventful. A nice gal on her mustang joined our group, and we found our horses to be well matched. I started hearing a clicking a few miles out, but all the buckles were still down and the hoofboots still on, and I hate getting off and fiddling when there’s a pack of horses and riders, so I continued on until we get stopped because someone’s horse had slipped off the trail. I got off to look at the boots and the cable was broken on that same boot . I guess maybe a shot of WD40 or something would have been the cure before, but it was too late. After determining that the rider and horse were okay, we continued on. I decided to replace the boot with the spare I had in my pack at the trot-by.
The rest of the ride was a lot of fun. A bunch of us missed the turn off on the lollipop trail and had to turn back. A couple of horses got loose after the return river crossing which was a little bit too exciting for Drako so I eventually had to get off of him while everyone was getting organized. Riders and horses okay. We finished around noon at the rear of the top third of finishers which I thought was pretty remarkable considering all the little time eaters we were having. We certainly weren’t burning up the trail! Vetting in with good vet scores, I was really happy to complete.
So we met our goals. One of them was to wear out the Epics so I could get Gloves! Somehow I guess I didn’t zip up the pack all the way so I lost the Epic that had a broken cable. I found another broken cable on a rear boot. It was still on and I had no idea when it broke. But considering how many years I’ve had them, it’s not so sad. I know that there’s still plenty of life in those boots if the cable is fixed, and maybe I will eventually fix it, but it’s time to do a hoofboot exchange for Gloves.
It’s also time for me to think about getting Drako into doing 50’s! It’s about time for both, eh? I’m sure that I wouldn’t be having this conversation about Epics lasting too long if I was really doing 50’s in hoofboots, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Thanks Easycare for everything you do for us endurance riders and horses. Keep up the good work. I’m looking forward to getting Gloves and riding in real endurance mileage again after a few years absence.
Photo courtesy of Gore/Baylor Photography