The first endurance ride of Idaho, Owyhee Tough Sucker, has come and gone in what seems to be the blink of an eye. It's hard to believe the second ride is only now two and a half weeks away. This season is sure to fly by and I hope to remember to thoroughly enjoy every second of it!
Vetting in at Owyhee Tough Sucker. Merri Melde photograph
Because I had done my "dress rehearsal" with all of our things and a full set of boots two weeks prior to the ride, my last ride on Nero before the endurance ride was done barefoot, as we had a bunch of rain and the ground was soft. He felt strong and fit and I knew I'd have my hands full the morning of the ride. Because we had the luxury of starting at 8 (!!) I didn't put his boots on the night before as I knew I'd have time to do it in the morning. We went to be that night and I looked forward to a good night's sleep. Nero had other ideas- sometime before 2AM he pulled off his Hi-Tie and proceeded to terrorize camp. When I woke the next morning to feed him, well, he wasn't there. I started walking around camp to find him tied tightly to the ride manager's trailer. Apparently he was causing a ruckus in someone else's camp and landed himself in jail. He was none the worse for wear and thankfully nothing was broken on the High-Tie. I guess it serves him right to have missed out on hours of food back at our trailer, fortunately he could use to miss a few meals!
Leaving the vetcheck for the second loop
I put Nero's Easyboot Gloves easily and got on to begin warming up. While I hadn't had any problems thus far with the boots, I also hadn't ridden him further than 13 miles in them so while I was pretty sure he wouldn't have any problems, one can really never know. Consistent with Nero's transition from steel shoes to barefoot and booted, we had no issues. If there ever was a horse designed for the Easyboot Glove, it is this Arabian gelding, Nero's Asad.
We started the day near the front, and kept our spot throughout the 50 miles. Nero was an absolute monster for the majority of the first 25 miles and we came into the vet check in 2 hours and 20 minutes. My hands were cramped from my death grip on the reins and my legs were shaking from Nero's big trot with no less than 4 feet of suspension in every stride. Nero came in already pulsed down and off to see the vet, who made some sort of reference to "big" and "strong." I couldn't hear for the shaking in my legs and the fact Nero was running me over.
About twenty miles into the first 25-mile loop
Off to the trailer to chow and soon enough our hour hold was over. Off we went on the next 25 miles, hoping for a quieter, less pully pony. At this point Nero had let down some and I noticed, for the first time ever, he was paying more attention to where his big old size 2 feet were landing. We stopped fighting and I started letting him make more of the decisions although he still appears to have no pain sensors in his feet while he's actually in motion. While a tough horse is nice to have, one that takes care of themselves can be even nicer! I think we'll start working as a team, eventually, after he gets over the fact *I* am the primary leader. This pains him to hear.
We finished the ride in a little over five hours and in 4th place. I believe 4 of the top 8 were in Easyboot Gloves all the way around. I know 3 of the top 4 in the limited distance were barefoot or booted in Easyboots as well. I don't know about the rest of the LD's because my mind went blank after I finished due to pain. Did I mention this horse is somewhat jarring?
Back at the trailer, I peeled back Nero's gaiters expecting to see some sign of rubbing due to the lack of miles we had previously done booted. Nothing. He had more marks on his hind fetlocks from his brushing boots than he did on any one of his heels/pasterns/fetlocks from the Glove gaiters. I couldn't be happier with my boots and want to offer those just starting down the booted path some encouragement.
Nero, the morning after the ride. He spent the night in jail so we could all get some rest.
At the beginning, you will probably have some boot losses, you will probably have to re-evaluate your management and you will probably have to make adjustments to your trimming, whether it be the trimming schedule or actual trim. However, it gets easier! While some horses are easier than others, they are all worth it. The growing number of successful booted riders is huge now- seek one out in your area for help, most all of us are willing. Also be encouraged that the longer you stick with it, the more you learn and the easier it becomes. For now, my barefoot horse lounges in his pasture on rest. Love those Gloves.
Cheers to you for a successful booted year!