Hoof Boots Win Again at the AHA National Championship Event

It's been a fantastic summer of riding, riding and more riding. I spent a lot of time this year working with Majik's feet as they have grown out the separated hoof wall that he came with. I was told when I bought him that he was unable to go barefoot as his hooves "chip out." I can understand the previous owner's thoughts on this as he has literally chipped off huge chunks on all four feet throughout this process. Luckily, with a different trim and very balanced diet his new hooves are growing beautifully, the chipping has become minimal and he is sound as a dollar. It's really fun to see these transitions. 

Lovely. The day we brought him home. Yes, that's blood. 

Vast improvement, but still changing.

Because of the fact that Majik constantly had a piece missing from one or more hooves, I decided to offer a little extra cush in his Easyboot Gloves for endurance rides. I have since found my "go to" for 50 mile events that I couldn't be happier with. Gloves + Sikaflex = rockin' rides. Just do it. Not only does the Sikaflex offer a little extra adherance to ride out those rambunctious young horse moves, it creates a custom orthotic pad that provides a little concussion relief, eliminates any peripheral loading and makes for pretty happy ponies.  The best part is that it doesn't ruin your boots and is easy to pull out of the hoof when finished. 

The last ride of the year for us came quickly this year and left with a bang. I packed up my Majik Monster and big red beastie, Indy, to head to Oreana, Idaho, for the Arabian Horse Association Distance Nationals. I planned to ride Majik in the open event and Indy in the 50-mile AHA National Championship. The night before Majik's event I put on his front boots with the Sikaflex and slept soundly knowing we were ready to rock the next morning. It was a day where everything just came together. I had a phenomenal ride on a horse whom I adore and found myself grinning like a fool cantering along with The Bootmeister, Christoph Schork, throughout the day. Christoph and I came in to tie for first with a ride time of 5:02. Majik looked fantastic showing for Best Condition although with my weight we just couldn't get it done. Christoph's horse won the BC, deservedly. He had the tried n' true Easyboot Glue-Ons for Starlit who moved exceptionally all day long. 

Pure bliss. This horse owns my heart. Majik felt like this all day long. Steve Bradley Photography.

Finishing a ride in five hours makes for a leisurely afternoon. I was able to apply Indy's boots with the Sikaflex and relax a bit while the day went on. The next morning, we hit the trail with purpose, but it quickly went downhill as my horse decided I did not know what I was talking about, he did not like me and oh-by-the-way-I-forgot-to-tell-you-I-no-longer-listen in an S-Hack. I basically got the finger from Indy, which cost us a great deal of time as I pulled him up to have a frank discussion with him. Thankfully my boots were stuck tight as his shenannagins at that moment would have seriously stressed some improperly fitting boots! Head (kinda) back in the game, we continued on by ourselves until the first vet check and thankfully his head was completely back in the game for the rest of the ride. Indy was awesome the rest of the day and I marvelled at his pure athletisim and strength as we cantered back to the ranch, missing the AHA Reserve National Champion title by less than a minute, for a ride time of 4:38. In hindsight, I wouldn't do anything differently as Indy showed beautifully for the Best Condition award and won easily with a very high vet score for both the National Championship and the open ride. Go Indy! There were more than a few times that day, including a mile of hard-pack gravel road, where I was stoked to have given him the extra protection with the Sikaflex. 

Indy with all four off the floor. This horse is a powerhouse. This was only his second ride in Gloves and he wore them beautifully. Another Steve Bradley great. Below is Indy two days after the ride, looking pretty decent.

The fact that I am still finding what works for me and my horses after all these years and all these miles in Easyboots astounds me. I guess I never really thought about it but figured after a couple years everything would be old hat, but I am fascinated to look back at my experiences with boots and happy that I still have it in my nature to continue to grow and learn and even experiment a little. My horses are only better for it. 

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect: Gluing on Stuff

While there are some things in life that can be done spur of the moment, gluing stuff on our horses feet is not one of them. One of my favorite quotes is from Olympic eventer Denny Emerson, who states; "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." If you're looking for success, this is a worthwhile sentiment to live by. There are few things that make less sense to me than attempting to glue on boots or shoes in less than ideal circumstances, with less than ideal tools, products or procedures. EasyCare has developed protocols for a reason- they work I will never understand why people don't use them. 

Majik in his Easyboot Glue-Ons in front and Easyboot Gloves behind at the 2014 Seneca Stampede 50. Steve Bradley Photography. 

Recently, with the advent and availability of the awesome EasyShoe, I've seen applications that literally make me cringe. While the instruction videos are pretty dang straightforward, it seems that people are quick to come up with their own protocol, often skipping important steps and then vocally proclaiming the failure of the product. While I've seen the same shortcomings in gluing the Easyboot Glue-On, the EasyShoe is a bit less forgiving to less-than-ideal applications. Because there are awesome instructional videos outlining the application of both the Easyboot Glue-On and EasyShoe, there is no reason to come up with a DIY. Throughout the last several years of gluing on boots, and now gluing on shoes, I've utilized these to tailor the process to work for me, my horses and my place. 

Step One: Glue Station- A set of DIY cross-ties and a stall mat close to an outlet for my heat gun works for me! Clean, quiet, flat and accessible are things you should consider when making your "glue station." I like to hang a hay net and keep another horse close by. Having a comfortable area for your horse is one of the most important aspects of successful gluing. A wiggly, herd-bound pony is going to squirm and twist before the glue is set. Try to mitigate this for successful gluing. 

Greta Grenade patiently standing in our "glue stall" after her second set of EasyShoes.

Step Two: Trim n' Prep- A proper trim is imperative for not only glue-on success but plain old booting success as well. Knowing your horse and when he should be trimmed before an important event is key. I've found that my new pasture situation has changed things as far as how soon before an event I can trim and how aggressively I can do so. But key for any successful glue is preparation. You must prep the hoof wall. You must scrape off the weird skin stuff at the heels and you must utilize your wire brush (seriously, peeps, they are like $4) and your heat gun. For my EasyShoes, I use the heat gun three or four times throughout my prep process as I don't use a torch. I have no doubt the torch is a better tool but I have had great luck using my heat gun. Your mileage may vary. 

Greta's feet after prep and before gluing. Note the very roughed up hoof wall. A new rasp makes a world of difference in this step of preparation. 

Majik's hooves awaiting boots.

Step Three: All the Things- Have your stuff out, peeps. Before you even bring your horse up, gather everything you might need. I keep all my gluing supplies in a box which includes a box of gloves, a new rasp, wire brush, glue tips, glue gun, screwdrivers, nippers, etc. There is nothing worse than getting ready to put a boot on your horse and realizing you've forgotten something imperative. Double checking this this step will pay twofold. Don't skip it!

Step Four: Patience- This is not the time to realize you should have been in the shower 15 minutes ago to get ready for your dinner date. While I find the actual gluing goes quicker than the prep, this is not the time to skimp on patience. While your glue setting up depends on things like temperature, amount of glue and the Glue Gods, this is a step you take as long as necessary. It just is. 

Doesn't have to be fancy, just complete.

Step Five: The After- I tend to be over it by this point, as are my horses, and it's hard for me to commit to the standing still portion which really is important. I like to keep them standing stillish for about an hour, of which I eat about 15 minutes cleaning up, another 15 grooming the horse, the next five fussing over the Sikaflex still coming out of the back of my boots and the next five arguing with myself about whether or not I can just put the horse up. I generally last about 45 minutes before caving and putting the horse in their paddock all the while sure that they have somehow compromised the glue bond and are going to lose their boots/shoes before the vet check on the first loop. I am surely jinxing myself now by saying I haven't lost a boot in years, but obviously it's coming now. 

Step Six: The Ride- Enjoy it! If you've prepped properly, used the recommended products and equipment, hopefully you can enjoy a worry-free event with your Easyboot Glue-Ons or EasyShoes. If your boots or shoes pop off within days or even weeks, you likely need to revisit your application. If you find yourself under your horse sweating and swearing while truing to pry the suckers off, you've done well! Don't waste your time, money, effort or sanity by not following the protocol exactly. This is one instance where perfect practice really is worth it.

Why Everyone Should Have Transitions

It's no secret. I have been head-over-heels in Glove Love for a long dang time. Easyboot Gloves have rocked my world and have totally bridged the gap between struggling to get things done with a different brand of boots and pounding out the miles with no worries. Gloves have become such a normal part of my horse life that I can't imagine doing the sport of endurance without them. I fit my horse, I make whatever necessary adjustments for optimal fit (powerstraps, tape, or nothing), slap them on and off we go. 

Topper rockin' his Gloves at the Pink Flamingo Classic 50.

I was enamored with the EasyShoes when they first came out and have fit them into my hoof-keeping program as necessary. Thus far, I've used several sets of EasyShoes on three different horses when needing to grow some foot. The horses love them and grow foot they do! That said, I still prefer keeping my horses barefoot when not in work and booting as necessary for work. 

A little EasyShoe action

Other models of boots have caught my eye, but I can honestly say I never paid them any mind. Why would I mess around with a different boot when I have my Glove affair all figured out? Last year, my husband sought out a different option for his clients with laminitic and very sore-footed horses than the very expensive alternative he previously recommended. He set out on a morning appointment with a pair of Transitions in hand, for a very sore drafty little pony. The pony improved immediately and the owner happily bought a pair to have on hand. A few sore-footed horses who immediately improved with Transitions later, I decided I needed to see what these were all about on my own horses. I never expected to love these things, guys. They are a little bulky. A little heavy. And a little tough to put on. But oh my oh my there is something majikhal in the sole padding.

Some therapy after a lot of sole exfoliation and a rock bruise. Duct tape prevents naughty geldings from removing the straps in attempts to be helpful 

What could I possibly use these for on my sound and athletic horses, you may ask. Let me count the ways. 

1. Did ya let your horse go a little too long between trims and have to trim a bit more aggressively than normal? A day or two in these bad boys and it seems like all residual foot soreness from a recent trim disappears. 

2. Have you accidentally left a pony out on lush spring grass for a little too long? Did the glutton get out and help himself to a few extra pounds of grain? While either incident can be serious, hopefully the worst of it is a bit of soreness and a guilty looking pony. Again, a few days in your Transitions and good as new. If the damage is worse than that, or you're dealing with a chronically footsore or laminitic horse, the Transitions can be used on a longer-term basis with proper management such as checking daily for debris and rubs and treated with thrush medication if necessary. 

3. Ridecamp in the rocks? Slap a set of Transitions on your pony the night before the race if you aren't inclined to boot up all race ready the night before. I recently did this the night before my mare's first 50 mile ride and was happy to let her chill in a looser fitting boot with cushy padding the night before the ride. 

4. Medicine boots. Transitions can easily be used as a medicine boot when dealing with an abscess or injury to the hoof that may require packing, medicating and covering to keep clean and protected while healing. The Transitions are a great option for keeping dressings clean and offer the horse some seriously cushioned relief and support to the affected foot, as well as the opposite limb that may be doing a bit of double-duty while the horse recovers. 

5. Transitioning! We all have transitioned horses from shod to barefoot/booted, from improperly to properly trimmed, and from poor, shelly, crumbly hooves to rock-crunching beauties. Unfortunately a transition can sometimes include soreness anywhere from mild discomfort to pretty dang lame. While there are other options such as gluing on shells or using EasyShoes, sometimes all the horse needs is a little help here and there to get over the hump. Transitions are a great option to use as needed, and their forgiving sizing seems to accommodate a variety of hoof sizes. 

I certainly won't be without a pair in my barn! Have you found any different uses for the Easyboot Transition?

Anya's Transition

Have you had one recently? Recently I saw a post on Facebook by a friend who came home with a pile of bones a couple years ago and now has an athlete that anyone would be proud to own. I felt proud of her, and a little sad to think of the horse she brought home. While he's a lucky guy now, he was sure in need of an upgrade previously.


Although my mare was no where near a pile of bones, nor in true need of an upgrade to her leisurely life, I am sure proud of the transition she's made. She came to me as a lovely but anxious, worried, herd-bound mess of a mare with no muscle, long hooves and a serious tangle of mane and tail. Now, less than a year later, she's a less anxious, less worried, the same amount of herd-bound mare with luxurious locks and a rockin' athletic body on a set of nice, albeit little, feet. Anya recently completed her first endurance ride with energy to spare and I couldn't be more proud.

June 2013 to May 2014. Wow!

 

I experimented a little with using a pair of Transitions on my mare, thinking she'd appreciate the extra cushion that the Transitions offer and the looser fit of the boots. I really liked this concept if even it only made me feel good and for some ridecamps where there are rocks underfoot, I'll definitely be doing it again! Y'all should definitely be keeping a pair of these boots in the tack room, the horses love them. 

The definition of "transition" is technically the process of from one state or condition to another. Are our horses ever truly transitioned, or are they perpetually in the process of transition? I can't wait to see how Anya and the rest of the herd continues transition to better and better. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be the same path without the tools from EasyCare. Lucky us! 

At the end of April, a friend and I decided that while our horses weren't quite ready to embark on a 50-mile endurance ride, they would likely benefit from a 25-mile ride as a jump to a 50 the following month. Her gelding is a game little guy and the 25 miles would be nothing more to him than a training ride, but for Anya, well, not only would the 25 miles be a good training ride physically, I suspected the ride might be mentally trying. Unfortunately, I was correct. The ride proceeded a crappy week of 20-10,000 MPH wind. The horses hadn't rested well in days and the evening of the ride was no different. We vetted in with more wind and in the dark. Anya didn't rest the night nor was she crazy about eating. The following morning dawned bright and WINDY (OMG- please stop it! One can only take so much wind!) and off we set. Both my friend and I outfitted our ponies with four Easyboot Gloves, which performed flawlessly through the day. Each horse traveled easily over  the miles and looked fantastic following the ride. However, the Princess Pony decided that I hadn't yet spent enough money on her and spent the next few days picking at her hay and looking at me from under her ridiculous eyelashes pitifully. A few days of ulcer meds bounced her back to 100% and I spent the next three weeks chasing her around her paddock with syringes of this liquid gold. I am pretty sure that if the neighbors didn't already think I was insane, they do now. I'll be forever known as the girl who chases her horses around in her pajamas to shove stuff in their mouth, never hesitating to drop to the ground to rescue any lost morsel and then proceed to wrestle it back into their mouth despite serious protest. Oh well, I guess I could be the girl who has gorgeous flowers or a bountiful garden. We can't have it all.

 

Anya and I at Owyhee Tough Sucker. Gloves all the way around. 

 

I began to bring Anya back into work which she ate up like a fat kid eating cake, or, like me eating cupcakes. The annual Owyhee Fandango was quickly approaching and I decided to try again. This time, with a few management changes, Anya camped like a champ with her boyfriend and we embarked on our first 50-mile ride on a lovely May morning. The Owyhee trails have changed a lot over the last few years due to flash floods and serious erosion. The rocks. Oh my gosh, the rocks. We chose to ride the second day, a ride which I've done numerous times, due to the nice footing. Apparently, things have changed a bit since my last ride on the Hart Creek. Thankfully the first loop had lovely footing that allowed us to move out at a nice steady pace but the second loop was pretty miserable at times. That said, both horses finished the ride in their Easyboot Gloves with no issues. We were stoked to find out we had finished in the top ten despite maintaining our turtle status for the first 20 miles. Yes, there were more than ten people in the ride!

 

Owyhee Fandango. Steve Bradley Photography.

 

I was thankful for my Gloves many, many times during the day and my friend and I commented numerous times about how much easier it is to slap on a set of Gloves than deal with pads or pour-in protection with shoes. We flew down a stretch of gravel road, floated above the deep sand and charged up hills and down slides, crossed creeks and cruised the single-track. I find it amusing and satisfying to see more than half of the riders at our local endurance events using Easyboots

 

The climb from the creek to the ridgeline was one rocky SOB.

EasyShoe Options - Different Strokes for Different Folks

Since last September, I've had a various combination of EasyShoes on at least one of my four riding horses at all times. I've applied four sets of EasyShoes, with good success and have enjoyed using the different models on my guys. While there are advantages and disadvantages to leaving on any form of semi-permanent hoof protection, I've found the advantages to outweigh the disadvantages for my horses that need a little extra help.

Yup. This guy. 

When the EasyShoe first came out, I'm not gonna lie, I was a little worried I would become addicted to the ease of leaving shoes on and not having to mess with boots, but I haven't found this to be the case at all. My horses that have tough bare feet are still bare, and the ones who aren't comfortable working without protection on at all times have EasyShoes applied. After the dude with the broken off heel grows a new one, I don't anticipate him needing long-term protection. However, having the EasyShoes as an option is fantastic! 

In using the different models of EasyShoes and obsessively evaluating/watching/analyzing (did I mention I am a tad bit obsessive?) my horses in them, I have a clear favorite. The winner for my herd is the EasyShoe Sport. This guy is lightweight, flexible and allows a large portion of the bottom of the hoof to see the light of day. All the while being pretty supportive with its wide-web design. I like to be able to pick out my horses' hooves, apply whatever foot potion I want and generally keep an eye on things. Because it's spring and the ground has been soft, the frogs have had plenty of ground contact to stay stimulated and healthy. This might change when the ground hardens, but if that's the case, the EasyShoe Performance has great frog-support integrated as part of the shoe. For further support, things like Dental Impression Material can be used to fine-tune to one's liking. Could these things be any cooler?

My favorite.

Majik wearing EasyShoe Sports up front and Competes on the hinds. I originally put this
horse in EasyShoes to help grow out his broken-off heel and quarter, and then applied them

on the hinds when his feet began showing excessive wear after ramping up his training. 

For the hind feet, my new favorite is the EasyShoe Compete. I won't lie, I first ordered the Competes because my pretty-pretty-princess gelding has four white legs and feet and the black shoes stick out on him like a sore thumb. So I naturally did what any self-respecting, image-conscious individual would do, and bought some clear shoes and tan Adhere to stealthily rock the EasyShoes in horse shows and clinics and such. Because I had messed up on the sizing for the other horse who didn't need shoes to match his feet, I ended up putting a pair of Topper's Competes on Majik's hind feet and was stoked how great they looked on his one white hoof. I was even MORE stoked to notice he didn't slip at all in the narrower thin-web of the shoe during his daily pasture-time acrobatic sessions. He went from laying tracks longer than his little self to stopping on a dime. For situations where traction is important, like horses working on grass or in slick conditions, these seem to be bomb-diggity. Plus, the incognito factor for those light hooves is pretty sweet. 

EasyCare takes a mean picture, and does a wicked good EasyShoe install.

I'm sure my amateur-self will have have some trial and error in my journey, but for now I am stoked about the product and psyched to see my one horse in particular thriving with his EasyShoes. I also can't wait to see the big things that people do with these in the coming months and years! The EasyShoes have already been used to win endurance rides, win Best Condition awards at those rides, make fancy dressage horses dance and have already helped countless other ponies. The journey has just begun! 

Transition Toolbox

The hoof boot market has literally exploded the last five or so years with option after option of boots for just about every individual situation. The addition of the EasyShoe allows for longer term protection while the various boot models allow for fitting different types of horses with different shapes of hooves and different needs. Although you may love a specific boot (my main squeeze is still the Easyboot Glove), don't discount the other models! 

Recently I acquired a new gelding that I fell in love with years ago. When the chance came to make him mine, I jumped on it. Unfortunately, the day before we were to make a fairly long trip to go get him, he tore off his medial heel on the left front foot. I was told he was not able to go barefoot for this reason, and that shoes were necessary to keep his feet intact. 

Falling in love, all those years ago. 

Still in love, today. 

Although he was barefoot when we got him, his hooves were not functional as we come to expect our barefoot horses and we were facing the somewhat dreaded transition period. In addition, we were also dealing with an injury to the hoof, which occurred because he was far overdue for a trim. Unfortunately the poor guy was pretty dang sore, and the frozen ground certainly didn't help any. Into the transition toolbox we dove! 

Owie. And very much needing a trim. I've never actually seen blood come from a hoof before.

The other front, untrimmed. The hinds were chipped out, but not nearly as severe as the left front. 

After getting his poor hooves trimmed up, I outfitted him in a set of my trusty old Gloves. He was immediately more comfortable and lived in Gloves for a couple days. In the meantime, my veterinarian husband had been raving about the positive changes in a couple client horse after he set them up with the new Easyboot Transitions. Well heck! Let's do this! I was thrilled to see the difference in this guy's gaits after spending a night in his Transitions, and was even more thrilled as he continued to move better and better throughout the week. While he was absolutely much, much more comfortable in his Gloves than he was barefoot, the Transitions were the bee's knee's at that time for this horse. Sold. Don't count these suckers out. They are now a necessity in my toolbox. While they may look like a combo of a couple different boots, there is something wicked special about the sole, peeps. It must feel like walking on a cloud or taking a Valium or something because the difference in this horse after merely putting them on, and the changes my husband and his clients saw in their horses were the real deal. Going from meh to Oh Meh Gosh awesome!

We spent a month putting his Transitions on and taking them off to prevent rubbing (which we never had, but having never worn boots previously, I was concerned) and let him move around a bit with his new feet. His previously wide open central sulcus began to close and the broken hoof began to heel. At that point he was moving pretty well and I was ready to start riding my new boy. Enter, EasyShoe Performance! This new toy is totally a game-changer, peeps. Not only are we now able to give the horse 24/7 protection, their feet can still expand and contract and continue to grow without wearing anything off. All the while leaving the sole uncovered. This horse positively floated in his EasyShoes over the worst of frozen ground, landing strong heel-first and further stimulating/developing the back of the foot. In giving him this protection, he confidently ran, played and pretty much never quit moving. He grew a ton of foot in just a short four-week period, and has been happily barefoot since we removed his shoes four weeks after putting them on. 

EasyShoes ON!

Today, we rode. I popped on our Gloves and off we went. While it's going to take a while to grow out the heel that is no longer, he is one sound, happy pony. After a fantastic ride today, I was reflecting on our options and how easy these choices have made a potentially difficult transition. Obviously three months time is not the end of the road, but those three months could have been a completely different ball game. Our ball game at this time consists of riding. Bring it on! 

Four Months of EasyShoes

Is everyone sick of hearing about the EasyShoe from me yet? If so, I apologize, but the EasyShoe has truly been a game-changer for myself and this particular horse. I don't believe it's a one-size-fits-all miracle, but for my situation, it has bridged the gap between barefoot/shod and sore/sound. In the past few months, while the product has been prepared for launch, there has been much ado. There has been criticism, judgment and some nasty words. I chalk the nastiness up to misdirected passion, from people who believe so strongly in keeping horses barefoot and as natural as possible. I truly believe the naysayers feel any form of semi-permanent hoof protection is a sure demise in the integrity of the bare hoof. They say any horse can be "fixed," with a better, more competent trimmer, a more natural environment, a lower sugar diet, more exercise, less civilization, magical lotions, potions and more. In reality, most of us ride the horse we have. We do the best at providing the horse with good, if not superior-to-most hoof care, we make improvements to living conditions, we consult other trimmers, friends, veterinarians. We stuff slow-feeder hay nets, feed three times the amount of grass hay when we could be feeding much less alfalfa and diligently read and learn all that we can. Yet, sometimes, our horse fails to read the book, and doesn't thrive the way we think they ought to. 

The EasyShoe has added a piece to the puzzle for this particular horse. My horse, Topper. He has spent the last four months in EasyShoes, and every time I think it's as good as it's going to get, he gives me more. In some ways, I feel awful for not recognizing that he truly needed more support. In others, I am just thankful for doing the best I could, and even more thankful for having a better option for him at this time. I'll be the first one to admit that keeping a horse in shoes is not absolutely ideal, however, I think the EasyShoe is going to be an amazing tool for a lot of horses, in a lot of different situations. 

Four weeks in this set of EasyShoes, applied by yours truly. 

At four weeks on the second set of EasyShoes, I am about where I was at this point on the first set applied by Christoph. I feel a little itchy to get my hands on Topper's feet and give him a good trim. The hoof capsule is getting a bit long and his ever-running-forward-toes could be shorter. Is this the end of the world? I sure don't think so. And if you did, you could easily remove this set, trim the foot and re-apply a new set, or, remove the shoes, lightly trim and let the horse spend a period of time barefoot. Either way, Topper has grown some foot, still has his hoof wall in-tact due to the lack of nail-holes and is very, very sound. He has been able to gallop, trot and play over the rock-hard frozen ground, while the other horses have cautiously moved about. I haven't observed him appearing to have less traction than the rest and he hasn't gotten the nasty snow-balls like the rest of them. Winning! 

Observing the beginning of the Great Spread, on both the left and right front. His hind feet are bare, and don't appear to bother him at all. 

After a month of frozen ground that was literally as hard as concrete, we have been blessed with a tropical heat wave of above-freezing temps, which, while delightful to the body, has given us standing water, mud and slop. I'll admit it, I haven't actually cleaned out Topper's feet more than a few times in the past month, but upon closer inspection tonight, they don't appear to be holding up too badly. For those who have asked about how the glue holds in wet conditions, my preliminary opinion is GOOD! Despite standing in wet for the past week, and maintaining a pretty solid work schedule for the last month, the Adhere bond is solid and the EasyShoe shows no sign of detachment. After cleaning out his feet, I sprayed a bit of copper sulfate product in the opening as a precaution. From what I can see of the sole, his feet appear no different than my other barefoot horses. And, just like last time, the EasyShoe is moving with Topper's hoof as it grows, spreading at the heels, a feature that I believe is the ticket for horses who require long-term hoof protection. No contracted heels here! 

Happy Topper, playing in the snow without a care in the world. 

My opinion on the EasyShoe has surpassed my expectations. I found the application totally doable and have been thrilled with my horse's progress. Will I put them on all of my horses? No, but I sure like knowing they are available if needed. I have been blessed with horses who handle being barefoot and competing booted very well, but I'm not about to make any blanket statements about never putting "shoes" on any of my horses. I am so excited for the EasyShoe to hit the shelves next month! Just think of all the horses that may be helped! Thank you, Garrett, for continuing the think outside the box and standing up against the naysayers. It takes people like you to give us more and more options. Cheers to the EasyShoe - may the Year of the Horse be rockin'! 

EasyShoes: Amateur Style

By now I think everyone has seen the lovely pictures of various hoof care professionals (like Daisy Bicking) and EasyCare staff applying the awesome EasyShoes that boast a line of peeps waiting to buy them longer than that of The Hunger Games and Twilight Breaking Dawn combined. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to have The Bootmeister himself put on Topper's first set of EasyShoes, and ever since pulling them off have been hesitantly waiting to put a new set on myself. I'm not sure what my hang-up was. I've glued on dozens and dozens of Easyboot Glue-On shells with success, even for important 100 mile events. I know my way around some Adhere and a glue gun, but for some reason was thinking this was a challenge I couldn't meet. Of course only time (and shoe retention!) will tell, but I think I need not have worried. 

Garrett Ford's pretty EasyShoe application.

When I finally got the nerve to glue on Topper's second set of EasyShoes, the temperature plummeted to negative zero degrees. While this is certainly not ideal gluing weather, it made me that much more impatient with waiting for gluing weather. As the ground froze harder and harder, Topper started tip-topping around on the stabbing ice-ground which jabbed him with every move. His normally nice soft sand paddock froze solid. Luckily our Easyboot Gloves came to the rescue and we were able to keep him totally comfortable and happy in his Gloves. While waiting for a break in the temperature, we enjoyed a nice snowy ride on the trails and several dressage schools in the soft cushy indoor. Nevertheless, I was waiting impatiently for the temps to rise at least above 20*, like any reasonable person. 

While waiting, I was able to view this video that EasyCare recently released, as well as make sure I was able to easily put on the shoes in a dry run without glue in the way. Today I decided was the day, as the temps were well into the 20's and the horses were lazy and calm in the sun. Given that Topper has been standing in snow for the last week, I knew I'd have to pay extra attention to drying his hooves and because of the temps I made sure to warm up my Adhere and EasyShoes by keeping them in the sun until I was ready to go out. 

Gluing Stuff

Like I always do before gluing, I made sure to assemble everything I would need. Because I hadn't glued on a single set of boots this year (seriously love my Gloves), I was a little rusty. No worries, a little consideration and preparation can go a long way when gluing on boots/shoes. I gathered my fresh Adhere, glue gun, more tips than I thought I would need, husband's heat gun with the instructions of not to burn down the barn, paper towels, a pair of Easyboot Gloves, nippers, rasp, wire brush, hoof pick, box of plastic gloves (seriously, don't think you can do this on four or eight gloves), EasyShoes and the horse, which is best to leave out until everything else is ready to go, unless your horse is more awesome than any of mine and have longer attention spans than gnats. The only thing I forgot was a screwdriver, to use when putting glue into the tabs. This would have been very helpful. 

I went and grabbed Topper out of the snow and immediately dried off his feet with paper towels. I used the heat gun three different times in the course of prepping his feet, which I hope was enough. I first dried off his feet and then used the heat gun. Then I trimmed him and prepped the outside of his hooves with the side of the rasp, roughing up the surface to give the glue some tooth. I used the heat gun again. Then I put his feet in a pair of Gloves stuffed with paper towels. And then I burnt my arm on the damn heat gun. At this point I was ready to think about glue and pulled everything into an easy to reach pile from my post at Topper's leg. From here it went quickly, as it always does. 

Hoof wall in the process of being roughed up for maximum glue stickage.

First you apply your plastic gloves (I always use two pairs on each hand so I can peel off the nasty sticky outside one and have a fresh glove to work with). Then I carefully nip off the Adhere and purge a little material. Then you put on a tip and off you go. I was impressed by my contortionism as I juggled Topper's foot, the heat gun, the wire brush,  the Adhere AND the EasyShoe. Thankfully my horse is good. I don't recommend this method. For the second foot, I was a little more organized. 

After getting both shoes on, I realized this process was easier than gluing on shells with Adhere and Sikaflex. The cool thing about Adhere is that once it's set it's set. The bad thing about Adhere is that once it's set it's set. Having a totally ADD horse myself, I appreciate the 60-ish second set-up time and always struggled with the minutes and minutes it would take to set up a a shell with a twisty horse and slow-setting glue. I think the glue-on process for either product takes practice and preparation, as does much anything worth doing in life. 

 

Can't wait to watch these bad boys spread at the heels again!

When you're elbow deep in glue there are certain things you have to just roll with. In the process of putting on the first shoe, I realized I had forgotten a screw driver to use to pry the tab away from the hoof wall to get your glue down there. I used a hoof pick but it wasn't really ideal. Because I had probably been a bit too generous with glue on the floor of the shoe, there was some glue coming out of the holes in the tabs. I hope this combined with the little bit of glue that I got in there with the help of my wimpy hoof pick was enough. On his second, shorter foot, I realized I hadn't gotten my break-over as far back as I wanted. Thankfully, one of the coolest parts of these shoes is being able to shape them from the bottom almost as you would a bare hoof. Want a better break-over? Rasp one in. Want some relief at the quarters? Well rasp that in also. I was able to clean up the tabs on the walls with a rasp and added some more glue to where I felt it would be better anchored to the hoof wall. I rasped in a better break-over and voila! Off we go. 

Topper seems happy in his new shoes tonight and we'll test out my application this weekend with a couple of dressage schools and hopefully a trail ride. Hopefully they hold, as if they don't I have no one to blame but myself - I already know they can last over eight weeks

Topper's EasyShoe Update

Eight weeks ago last Saturday, The Bootmeister, otherwise known as Christoph Schork, applied a set of EasyShoes to my tender-footed gelding, Topper, as part of a demonstration at the AERC National Championship ride. Immediately after the application of the EasyShoe, Topper became more comfortable. As the weeks carried over, he began moving better and better. About two weeks into the shoe cycle, we began our dressage training again, interspersed with trail riding and gallop sets. I haven't felt Topper move like this in a very long time and look forward to maintaining a full-time training schedule with The Top throughout the winter. 

Topper's public pedicure. Photo by Merri Melde.

Christoph applied Topper's EasyShoes with glue on the fronts, and four nails on each hoof for the hinds. I'll admit, I was very skeptical of the glue holding for longer than a few weeks, but thought a few weeks of growth and protection would be better than nothing. Color me surprised when I looked at the calendar and realized a) it had been eight weeks, and b) I was going to have to work a little at getting these suckers pulled. I set my husband to work pulling the hinds last weekend, which came off easily with a set of clinch cutters and crease nail pullers. Topper's hind feet had a ton of growth and were easily trimmed. Because he's never had a problem being tender behind, I trimmed him normally and off we went. We have Easyboot Gloves for those hinds should we need 'em! 

Definitely in need of a trim. And, yes, those are pajamas. Doesn't everyone trim and do barn chores in their pajamas?

Lightly trimmed after pulling shoes. Nail holes should be gone in a couple trims. No problem. 

The fronts were a different story. Although the cuff of the shoe had pulled away at the heels about two weeks into the cycle, it was stuck damn good everywhere else. I have to admit, I've been waiting for Topper to pull a shoe. Having had barefoot/booted horses for the last eight years or so has somewhat colored my assumptions. I have my booting protocol down pretty well and rarely lose a boot. For some reason, I was SURE I would be losing a shoe. On my dressage horse. In the arena. At first I thought he would snag one during one of his shenanigans on a 10m circle or while bolting through a change of rein. Then I thought surely he'd lose one on our trail rides when spooking at a deer or a mouse. Finally, I thought there was no way we would get through any gallop (bucking) sets with both shoes still on. The joke was on me tonight, eight weeks later, when I finally decided they were not about to come off on their own and it was time for a trim! 

Carefree in EasyShoes.

The pictures above show the EasyShoe just after application.

These pictures show the EasyShoe about five weeks in. Check out the
spread at the heels - I don't think this is something a steel shoe will allow! 

When Christoph demonstrated the application of the glue-on EasyShoes, he showed two different ways of gluing. For the first hoof, he used denatured alcohol as part of the prep, and for the second, he utilized a heat gun. While I cannot for the life of me remember which foot was which, I can tell you the right did NOT want to come off. At all. So I quickly ditched the hoof pick that I thought would help me pry off the shoe and grabbed my rasp and nippers. After a little rasping, a bit of nipping and some more prying, the shoes were removed. I decided to let him be for the night and will trim him tomorrow. I'm still laughing at my thoughts of using a hoof pick to pry off the shoes.

Much to my surprise, the Adhere held through eight weeks, an inch and a half of rain, wet mud, dry sand and plenty of Topper's contortionist moves. Most importantly, Topper is moving better than ever. After a couple weeks in his new shoes he started throwing his feet out and offering a truly heel-first landing at all gaits, on all footing. He has been happy to work. He hasn't been sore. I really can't ask for anything more. Thank you, EasyCare, for making this an option for the horses who need it. For all the judgmental individuals out there, judge away. I'm going to go enjoy my horse now. And when the farrier comes next week to apply another set of EasyShoes, I can rest happily knowing that if nailing on these shoes is the worst thing that ever happens to my horse, he's a lucky, lucky boy. 

Sore No More - Topper's New EasyShoe

Last weekend at the 2013 AERC National Championships, I was lucky enough to be in the presence of several very knowledgeable, very talented hoof care practitioners. Between Christoph Schork, Rusty Toth and Susan Summers, I was in hoof care nirvana. Right there along with me was Topper, my seven year old Arabian gelding.

Meet Topper!

Topper has been barefoot his entire life. I got him as a gawky, gangly three year old, and chucked him out to barefoot horse heaven. Hundreds of acres of dry desert foothills. He spent his youth running up and down the hills, living in total bliss. Minus a stall, a blankie and a warm mash every night. Topper was never much for roughing it. I started lightly riding Top the end of his third year, trail riding at a walk a mile or two on gentle trails. His fourth year brought a little more riding, but nothing intense by any means. You see, when you're 15.2 hand four years old on spindly, long legs, it's all one can to do stay balanced. All of the riding that took place until Topper's fifth year was barefoot on lovely sandy trails. I boasted about his strong feet and anticipated no issues in that department. Unfortunately, barefoot perfection did not bless us as we ramped up the miles. 

Running the hills as a 4 year old. The perfect environment to develop perfect feet. In a perfect world. 

When Topper turned six, we started riding further, faster and frequently. I had him in Easyboot Gloves for all of his conditioning miles, which he seemed to come through with ease. However, the day after our longer, harder rides, I noticed Topper was tentative and footsore. I started putting Comfort Pads in his boots, which he definitely seemed to like, but did not help his day-after soreness. At this point we xrayed Topper's front feet, and thankfully found no pathology other than thin soles. Unfortunately this proved to be difficult to remedy and caused more problems than expected. All summer we battled a sound-sore cycle that I thought he would get through with proper padding and riding. He did a few endurance rides with Easyboot Glue-Ons and Sikaflex packing. While he felt excellent during the actual ride, the bruising that showed up weeks later indicated his feet could not handle the extra pressure. 

The end of the bruising growing all the way out. This shows even the soft padding of Sikaflex was too much for this horse. We spent the next several months working only in gorgeous sand arenas, which improved Topper's feet and let him be comfortable and happy. 

The Top spent the winter as a dressage horse, which was great fun while it was too cold to actually ride. Unfortunately as the weather warmed, I became bored and my hiatus with the endurance trail faded. Topper was brought home from the fancy dressage barn and placed on the back-burner. Apparently I can only focus on so many things at one time. Go figure. The move home didn't do Topper any favors in the foot department. While he was nice and sound at the end of a trim cycle, I watched him short-stride over harder footing and downright limp over gravel after a trim. It was time for some serious protection. Enter, EasyShoe

Innovative and progressive, Garrett Ford and team have been working hard on developing another option for those of us who want to utilize a longer-lasting form of hoof protection than the already stellar line-up of hoof boots. While the EasyShoe may not appeal to, or may downright offend, some folks, for others it will be exactly what was missing. On Saturday at the National Championships, in front of a curious group of observers, Topper stood perfectly still while Christoph Schork applied a set of EasyShoes to all four hooves. And he hasn't stopped moving since. 

For demonstrative purposes, Christoph used both glue and nails for Topper new trotters. His front feet were equipped with a final prototype of the EasyShoe, which Christoph applied with Vettec Adhere, and his hinds were outfitted with an older prototype shoe that he nailed on with four nails. My initial perception was that to glue the shoes on, preparation and application had to be perfect. Kind of like the prep for gluing on boots, but more like your life depended on not messing up. As with anything, practice makes perfect, but I could see where several different areas of prep and application could really screw up your results. Nailing the hinds on looked easy, if you weren't afraid of accidentally piercing the coffin bone with a wayward nail, or nailing your thumb to the hoof. After the demonstration, Topper strutted off like he owned it. I didn't tell him all he was there for was to look pretty. 

Photos above by Merri Melde.

Immediately after this, we went for a walk through camp over several rocky sections of road. Topper strode out, visibly lengthening his stride as the walk went on until I was barely able to keep up. He walked over rocks and gravel with no shortening or gimping. At one point he stepped on a rock and stopped, and half of his hoof/Easyshoe was up on the rock and the other half was touching the ground. Not only that, but you can visibly see the heel expand and contract as the horse loads and unloads his hoof. While the thought of peripheral loading makes some people want to gag, and the other thought of nails being driven into the hoof wall creates hate and discontent, all I can say is no one is forcing you to play. For those of us who have horses who have been raised and cared for in ideal environments, with ideal trims and ideal diets, yet still struggle with issues that may prevent using our horses to their full extent, or even keeping them happy and comfortable, the EasyShoe is another awesome tool in the box. 

I love how Christoph set the shoe back to allow for a better breakover.

Excellent heel support.

 

I am excited to see how the EasyShoes hold throughout the next couple weeks, and how much hoof growth we have. In an ideal world, we would use these temporarily, but if a horse requires more 'round the clock protection, I can't think of anything cooler. For those that would rather drop dead than put a shoe on your horse, I hope you never end up with a Topper. But if you do, and he's as cool as this horse, send him over. We'll work with what we've got.