This year has been a bit different than years past. I started the year with three horses who had never done an endurance ride, and while the season isn't nearly done yet, things are shaking out to be a bit different than I expected. As always, I have been learning like crazy along the way.
Mid-Year Lessons Learned:
1) Transitioning a horse from shod to bare doesn't have to be difficult. While it can be challenging for certain horses living in certain environments, most horses can be transitioned easily with proper trimming, dry footing, lots of MOVEMENT and a diet devoid of high sugar and starch. Nero the Unicorn transitioned easily from shoes to bare without one single bum step. While I understand this isn't always the case, Nero was a fatty with a cresty neck and probably tended towards a more sugar-sensitive side of things and still handled the transition easily. I fully understand that not every horse is this easy, but it is sure encouraging for those who think their metabolic-type horse won't be able to go barefoot.
2) Boot retention is dependent upon proper trim. The boots can work perfectly time after time, yet the moment you slack or get too over-zealous about trimming, Houston may have a problem. Stay consistent with your trims and your boot fit should not waiver. Two to three weeks, people! If you can't have your trimmer out that often, pick up a rasp. It's not that hard to touch up between trims and imperative for successful booting (and a healthier horse).
3) Young horses are exhausting, and oh-so-satisfying. Having three rookie horses has brought me back to reality. I have been blessed to have some very talented and athletic horses in my life throughout the past and recently. Each time I bring along a young horse, I remember the process of starting from nothing, and ending with a solid-citizen. Horses like my mare, Belesema Replika, and The Unicorn, Nero's Asad, have given me a goal in which to work toward with my youngsters, and half-way through this year, I realized I am headed there, finally. While it's fun to get a ready-made horse, it is incredible to take one from nothing, and complete their first trail ride, first endurance ride, first anything.
Belesemo Enchanter (above) working hard to be a good predecessor to his aunt, Belesema Replika (below), whom I love dearly and shared many incredible and memorable miles with.
4) Problems can appear now, and hit you in the face, later. Earlier this season Topper had been showing signs of sore feet. While we radiographed him and saw his very thin soles, it was his left front that was most affected. Yesterday, while trimming his feet, I was horrified to peel away a layer of exfoliating frog and see a large bruise that must have been very painful. Of course there isn't much you can do for a bruise besides provide cushion and protection, which we did, you still feel horrible when you see the evidence later. Listen to your horse, they are usually always telling you what's going on.
5) Never make plans. Shoot for goals instead. Of course we all know this one. The second you make plans, the second they are doomed! Remain flexible and keep a sense of humor. Every year I am reminded of this, and every year I go with the flow easier and with less resistance. And when all else fails, take a break and spend your budgeted horse competition money at Pottery Barn. Your house will thank you. And a little break for the horses never hurt.