Don't Nail Your Glue-Ons!

The Moab Canyons 3 Day Pioneer ride just finished. Like every year, EasyCare and Global Endurance Training Center are represented and helping riders with trims, boot fitting, Glue-On and Glove applications and advice.


Christoph and Sean Mahoney are preparing boots at the Hoof Care Joint Operations Center. The team, supported by Kevin Waters, worked every day till nightfall.

What makes this ride so special is the beautiful scenery and the slick rock. Nowhere else in the West does one encounter these vast areas of red sandstone plates, named slick rock, because in rainy conditions these slabs of sandstone not only get very shiny but also slippery.

Contrary to granite and limestone, sandstone is a very soft rock. Hence the formation of the famous arches and the abundant sand trails. The rock itself is often covered by a very tiny layer of sand, invisible to the naked eye. The elements work relentlessly to break up the sandstone into sand.

Traction is friction, friction is greater when a softer material meets a harder material or vice versa. It is diminished when a hard material encounters hard material and soft encounters soft material. Easyboots and polyurethane horse shoes are about the same density and hardness as a bare hoof.  Much softer than steel, bare hooves and EasyCare hoof boots have much more traction when encountering concrete, pavement and other hard rock slabs, while steel shod horses do poorly under those circumstances. Two years ago at the Big Horn 100, we encountered a big slab of granite rock. The steel shod horse next to me slid like being on ice and fell instantly. Suffered major skin abrasions. Our booted horses trotted over it without missing a beat.

But on the soft slick rock, bare hooves and booted hooves do have diminished traction. It's the nature of physics. Metal grinds the soft rock slightly when hitting it, thus creating more friction. Knowing what we are facing and contemplating a solution, I booted some horses with the special studded Glue ons, provided by EasyCare for the North American Championship last year in Kentucky. Originally designed for traction in mud and wet grass, I already had used them last year at the Moab Canyon ride with great success.

















Not having enough of these studded boots available, I came up with an alternative plan for the other horses. How about placing horse shoe nails at the bottom of the boot and exiting them at the weld line between sole and boot wall? Therefore the nails would never even touch the horses hoof. That thought seemed to be worth a try.

















After curving the nail tips slightly to the outside, I placed them as shown above. I cut and clinched them like a farrier does when using steel shoes. On the right image, notice how the clinches are so low that the nails never touch the hoof of the horse.

That was a trial, I did not know if the nails will rip out of the boot, cause too much traction or not enough traction. Therefore, I used that method only on my horse, Stars Aflame, on Day One.

An example of the slick rock the riders went for several miles.

After checking at the vet check at mile 25, everything looked good. The nails were worn quite a bit already, surprisingly, considering all the sand and the soft sandstone we travelled over.  At the end of the 50, this is how the bottom of the boot looked.


 The nail heads were almost level with the boot, but all of them stayed in place nicely. I had great traction all day long, Stars Aflame never slipped even once.

That afternoon, I fitted all the other Global Endurance Center's horses with these nails. During the next two ride days, they all stayed in place, provided just enough friction, but not too much.

Equipped with the modified Glue ons, Trinity and Katie Defrancesco descending safely down Wipe Out hill on Day Three. The pair finished second that day.

Day Three riders enjoying the rising sun.


 A rider heading towards Tombstone Rock early in the morning, crossing vast areas of Utah's famous slick rock.

The booted horses from GETC won on two days, had two second places and received two BCs. Not a bad showing for the EasyCare Glue-Ons over the challenging slick rock country.

Your Bootmeister 

Uno Gets a Mega-Trim

During the week before Virginia City 100, in two separate evening sessions, I trimmed and stuck Glue-ons on Uno's front and back feet. It took me about 20 minutes to trim and glue the rears—and an hour and a half to do the fronts. Why? Because I was desperately trying to smoosh Uno's large front feet into a size too small boot.
 
This was a gradual trap to fall into. Each time I'm trim him, I'd have to take a bit more off until I'd crossed that line from "slight reshaping of hoof to get a nice snug fit" to "complete resculpturing of the foot to get them on" <grrr>. I'd also made a mistake about two weeks previously: during a moment of inattention, I'd trimmed one heel on his right front too short (I have to work really hard to not be over-enthusiastic with my new nippers), so had to even them up.

What a dummy <sigh>. Just what we needed before Uno's first 100. I wasn't terribly surprised when we lost both front glue-ons about 45 miles into the ride. It kind of reminded me of a pair of riding tights I made for myself - I was warned to be sure the calf was good and tight and of course made it too tight. As a result, the stupid things are always slipping down. You want your boots snug, but if they are too small they'll just tend to boing off.
 
Realising that it was time to take a step-back and that Uno was on break for a month anyway, I let his feet grow out for nearly seven weeks    =8^o   (<-- that's ASCII artwork showing "hair-raising") so I could start again from scratch and see what was really going on.
  
So here's my attempt at a step-by-step trimming example.
 
If you're a new trimmer and considering starting to do your horse's feet yourself, I'd recommend not doing it this way. It's way harder to trim a horse with 72"-long feet, than to touch-up an existing un-out-of control foot, so better to get a "Hoof Care Professional" to get the foot where it needs to be and then work from there.

What you will need:
  • A rasp (this is crucial)
  • A hoofpick (I like those ones with the spiky brush on the other side to get the bits off the hoof)
  • A hoof-stand (trying to trim without a hoof-stand is possible, but it's about 50 times harder than with a stand, and much, much harder to do a competent job without becoming demoralised)
  • A hoof knife (I like a narrow-bladed one to get into the nooks and crannies of the frog). 
  • A horse with feet.
In addition, a pair of really good nippers is wonderful. Having said that, for the first year or so, I didn't have nippers and did everything with a rasp. This works fine until you don't get around to trimming someone for many weeks and then have to remove half an inch of hoof wall in the middle of the summer.  Can you say "sweat and biceps"? 

If you're worried about shelling out lots of money buying expensive tools for something you're not sure you're going to be able to manage (and you won't be alone - I was that person once), get the hoof-stand before the nippers. The hoof stand will make your life so much more pleasant and you're more likely to feel like you are capable of trimming your own horse.

Anyway. On with the show. My caveat is that I'm self-taught and this is meant to show how I trim my horses - knowing how they grow, how they move, how much work they're going to be doing, on what kind of terrain, what has/has not worked in the past. I'll probably forget to mention some super-important detail, so please don't follow this as gospel and lame your horses because of it. This is just what I do.  You need to read as much as you can (I highly recommend Pete Ramey as a common sense, non-radical, real-life trimmer), think about what you read, discard things that don't work for you, and experiment to see what does. 


1. Above we see Uno's right front pre-trim at 7 weeks. Euw - bull-nosed toe (I'd rasped and rasped to get it in the stupid boot. Remember - do not try this at home, it works really badly), and very long and spatulate-like.


2. To start with, clean the crud out of the foot, so you can see what's going on. I scrape most of the mud off the outside of the hoofwall, as well as the underside of the foot. Clean out the frog so you really know where the mud ends and the foot starts. Then take a look at what needs to be done. 
 
In Uno's case, I see is horrendously long heels, overlaid bars, lots of sole, and raggedy-thrushy frog.

3. He was shedding some frog at the front, some of the rear portion had lots of funky flaps and pockets for thrush to hide in, and there were some flaps along the groove, so using my hoof knife I trimmed all the rubbish off. 
 
My objective with the frog is to leave it as much alone as possible (although you couldn't tell that, looking at this example), but at the same time I'm trying to avoid hidey-holes in which for thrush to develop - so what/how much you cut off becomes a judgement call. If I know the horse is going to be ridden barefoot exclusively so will self-wear (or if the horse hadn't been allowed to grow out for 7 weeks and get completely out of whack) then I'd be much less aggressive in my frog sculpting. What you see here is way more radical than I would normally be comfortable with.
 
But, yikes, trimming off that frog made his heels look even longer!

4. Another view showing his long heels.

One question that comes up is "how do you know how much foot you can trim off?" My guideline is the seat of the corn (see red arrow) - this is the little corner of sole which sits in the V-shape of the bar/hoof. On a horse with lots of overlaid bar, it can be hard to find sometimes. This is part of the heel area that you're trying to trim down to move to the back of the foot for support. I clean that area out down to proper sole (as opposed to mud or crumbly sole) and that's my limit - I go no deeper than that.

For the rest of the foot, towards the end of summer most of the horses are hiding proper sole under lots of dry, dead, false sole which presents a problem. Do you dig around and take it off, or do you leave it?

Ideally, you want to avoid paring away sole - you're hoping to get that nice barefoot callous going. But in reality, if your horse isn't housed on rough terrain there is usually a time when you need to get the old sole off because it's packed in there (by the end of summer, my horses are living in fluffy dirt in their dry lot - the chances of anything wearing off their feet are slim to none).

So the answer to that question depends on the horse. A few months ago, a friend and I trimmed four horses between us, aggressively removing false sole from all of them. Given how much I'd taken off, I expected mine to be sore but surprisingly they weren't. Of my friend's two horses, one was fine, while the other (trimmed in the same way) could barely walk for about a week.  So the trick is know your horse - and experiment little by little.

When I first started trimming I took very little off. The only thing I used on the sole was my hoof-pick - if the sole didn't come off with that, it could stay there. Now I'm more enthusiastic (did I mention my new nippers?) and have to mentally curb my desire to hack away at the sole. I'm guessing the ideal is somewhere in between the two.


5. Here I've taken my nippers and worked on Uno's overlaid bars. He grows lots of bar and if not kept under control, it starts to flop over onto the sole. I've also trimmed off some of the more upright parts of the bars. On some horses you can do this with a hoof knife. Not Uno, though, he grows bars of steel.


6. Here I've gone a step further. I'm gently poking around on the sole to try and ascertain what's healthy sole and what's junk. Because Uno has been allowed to grow out and because it has been wet here, his feet are very soft and crumbly underneath. In reality, until I get some of the loose sole off, I can't tell what's what, so I'll just scrape away any obvious excess junk sole. If I were to look at his feet again in a week or two, there will probably be more sole to take off, but I'm going to err on the side of caution here and not go bananas this time around.

Again, if Uno was working, if it was drier here, if he was walking on rockier stuff, etc, his soles would be nothing like this - they'd be hard, shiny.


7. Here's my first pass with the nippers. Now the foot is starting to get where I want it.
 
In the olden days, pre-nippers, I'd have to rasp off all the excess hoofwall, so being able to chomp my way around it is a good thing (provided I am very cautious about not taking off too much heel <grin>).
 
The red arrow is indicating some bruising that I found under his overlaid bar - if too much of it builds up, it's like a stone in your shoe - not comfy. 
 
The blue arrow is showing a crease in the sole - this is a slight separation between bar and sole and was initially completely hidden by the overlaid bar. Some crud has got in there. 
 
His hoofwalls are nice and thick, although there's some separation along the white line on the inside quarter (the black stuff along the edge of the hoof below/left of the red arrow). The longer the hoof, the worse this can become - the hoof is being bent away from the foot and stretched. This will result in the horse getting ouchy, unwanted crud working its way into the resulting groove, and your horses feet never improving. So the goal is to keep the feet nice and short to avoid this happening.
 
One area that is fairly sacred is the toe-callous - it's the area of sole closest to the toe, between the end of the frog and the front of the hoof. You want good, thick sole there to protect the front edge of the coffin bone on your barefoot horse, so always consider carefully if you feel the need to take anything off that area. Often I'll leave it completely alone. Here, however, I've been quite aggressive because I know Uno is long and grows lots and lots of toe. But this would be an area for caution on a horse you don't know.
 

8. Once I've gotten this far, I switch out the cradle on my stand for the rubber stopper and work the hoof from the top. In the old days, pre-nippers, I would do most of my work from the top - it's easier to take off extra hoofwall working from the top than the bottom, so if you're nipper-less consider that.

This is also the point you would be looking for any flare on the hoofwall and removing it. In Uno's case, there isn't much flare on his fronts, so I'll have to wait for another example to show that.

To start, I took off a bunch of that nice thick toe - good to have it as protection, but not so good in terms of faster breakover and strain on the tendons - I like my toes really short. Another consideration is that having short toes, especially on a toe-y horse like Uno, you're far more likely to have success keeping your boots on than if you have long toes.
 
Uno still had globs of Adhere Glue (the black stuff) stuck to his hoof walls from his Glue-ons at Virginia City, so I chiselled that off a little, and worked my way around the bottom edge of the hoof, bevelling it slightly.


9. And this is what it looks like on the underside now - much less toe and hoofwall, and no sharp edges to snag hoofwall. And bravo, Lucy - you have resisted hacking away at the still-too-long-heels in favour of a slightly more finessed rasp-approach – still to come.

Looking at this photo, it's a pretty radical trim and not what I would do on a horse that didn't grow as much foot as Uno. Again, it's a case of knowing your horse and knowing his characteristics. I will try to take a photo in a week or so to compare with this to show how much he grows.


10. One thing that is worrying me at this stage is how deep a groove he has (where my index finger is pointing). I don't know if this is because he has excess sole still to shed, or if I need to trim more off. For now, I'm not doing more, but will watch this to see what happens. He's very flat-footed - I seldom see much concavity in his feet - and even less right now. Again, how much of this is a product of letting him get so long?


11. Here we're much closer to being finished. I'm working from the underside again.

Holding the leg by the fetlock, let the hoof flop vertical and sight down the foot. What you're looking for is any unbalance from side to side. Is one heel higher than the other? do you have a bulge of foot somewhere that needs to be taken down? When the foot lands, will it have a nicely-balance platform?

I've taken a rasp and rolled the entire outside edge, filed down the heels, and have paid special attention to that separated area on the right in this photo - I don't want the hoofwall there to get snagged on anything, so roll it extra specially. When I think I'm done, I'll run my fingers around the bottom edge to see if I can feel any areas that might get snagged by rough ground and chipped/bent and touch them up into a nicely smoothed bevel with my rasp.

As a final step, if the foot was thrushy, I'll treat it with some magic potion before letting the horse go out to play. My potion of choice is Coppertox, but I know many people feel it's a bit too toxic, you end up with green hands, green horse and green stall, it's stinky, and it's not that cheap. This is an area for research - see what others are using and decide for yourself.


 12. The finished foot, compared to its neighbour... ah, that's better.

For me, figuring out what the foot should look like is a little bit like being able to recognise good conformation in a horse. To begin with it just looks like a horse. Then gradually you start to recognise "well, that horse's back is rather long"... and your mind starts to filter out "horse shape" and see "good/bad conformation horse shape". Same with trimming. Eventually you won't just see "horse foot", you'll start to notice "too much heel", "too much toe", "flare on the outside"... etc.

13. The finished right front foot.
 

14. The untrimmed left front neighbouring foot. Ack.

Because I let him go so long, I will probably check again in a week or so to see what's happening. That's one of the neat things about doing your own hooves - you can keep poking at them and see what happens.

You know what you're aiming for: short heels, short toes, no flare, minimum chipping, and lack of thrush. By working towards those goals, the feet should eventually turn into what you're hoping for - it might just take a while. But one day you'll look at them and think "Huh, all that [insert whatever hoof problem your horse had] is gone and I didn't even notice". 

If you make a mistake (as I did, over-trimming Uno's heel... and then did exactly the same thing a couple of weeks later with Roop), the foot regrows. Your horse may not be too impressed with you, but so long as you learned from the experience, you can try to avoid repeating it.

In the early days, I would take off much less foot, unwilling to get too carried away, but invariably would look again a few days later and wonder why I thought I had done enough - a fresh eye often shows you things you didn't notice at the time - either in terms of uneveness or just not taking enough off.


This is actually Fergus, who got trimmed next. Patrick bought me this little rolly-stool which I sometimes use for initial foot clean-up. Whilst it helps my back, I would caution the use of one of these - you need to consider your particular horse/trimming situation carefully and make sure you aren't inviting a recipe for being trampled. As an example, I would never use it on a windy day <grin>.


If I know I've got plenty of time to trim the entire horse (sometimes I'll only do the feet two at a time and come back later to do the other two), I usually work my way around the horse, instead of doing both fronts followed by both rears.

My reason for this is that if you do the feet in pairs - both fronts, then both backs - a mysterious force means that the right rear foot will always get done last. Since the right rear foot is the only one that ever does any work, it's usually the one the horse is least comfortable on, so better to get it over and done with earlier on while you're still fresh and can cope with a wriggling horse.

In Uno's case, this time around, I did RF, RR, LR, and LF.

It takes me about an hour to trim each horse - depending on how dirty they are; how long the foot is; how cooperative they feel; how my back feels (this weekend I did three horses and my back was pretty sad by the end - I don't do this for a living. I take lots of breaks to untangle mane, watch the chickens, admire my horses, etc). It also depends how much time I spend staring at the foot to see what needs to be done - Fergus has a wry foot; Roop is toed-in; Jackit grows high heels; Provo grows long curly toes but no heel; Uno just grows and turns into dinner plates; and Hopi, who has the best feet of the whole herd but is the hardest to trim because he's Hopi, gets done too infrequently.

If you poke at the feet more often (once a week? ...much easier to do in the summer when they aren't covered in crud), you'll do yourself a favour and it'll take a lot less time because you're just touching things up not having to do a complete overhaul as I have here.

Oh. And what did I discover at the end of this session? The whole reason I left Uno so long was to discover what size Glove he should actually be wearing - and as suspected he's grown into a size 2 (I put a shell on and then couldn't get it off - always an encouraging sign). Luckily, Fergus wears 1.5s on this back feet, so Uno's front 1.5s can go to F and I'll have to get Uno some 2s. This should really help prevent my recent struggles and help avoid boot-losses. Yay. Mission accomplished.

"In The Trenches" - Pete Ramey's Latest Video

EasyCare will be offering Pete's latest video starting this week.


"It is common for even highly experienced practitioners to feel lost and uncertain when faced with a truly bizarre, unique or hopeless situation- it happens to me, too. So Ivy and I figured the best thing we could do for hoof practitioners is to compile a collection of the cases that have challenged us- you know... the fun stuff! These are the cases that keep us up at night- the cases that always teach us something. In The Trenches is my favorite DVD set so far, and I believe it will be a very valuable tool for any hoof professional. I certainly wish it had been available for me 20 years ago." Pete Ramey

This DVD set is packed with information. Ivy and Pete take you to the first meeting with 11 different "hard cases". Watch as they sort through the problems thrown at them over time. Nothing in this DVD set is easy - none of it is pretty, but almost everyone who watches it will see something they've never seen, and hopefully become better prepared to face big challenges.

The Demonstrations
  • Heat fitting Easyboot Glove hoof boots to distorted hooves
  • Heat fitting Easyboot Glove hoof boots for half-sizing and pad use
  • Heat fitting Glue-On hoof boots Glue-On prep, application and removal Trimming distorted hooves
  • Building sole on laminitic horses Effects of dietary management over time
  • Post laminitis- growing in well connected walls Pulling shoes
  • Opening/treating wall infections Equicast hoof cast applications
  • Pad techniques for laminitic horses
  • Pad techniques for "navicular" horses
  • Using a handsaw on foundered toes (3 different cases)
  • Trimming laminitic feet on the ground Trimming a recumbent horse
And so much more!!

Chris Freeman
easycare-customer-accounts-manager-chris-freeman

Accounts Manager

I am responsible for the accounting at EasyCare. My responsibilities require me to manage accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchasing, receipt of inventory and international order processing.

Hoof Snob

The worst thing about taking your horses barefoot is that you become a hoof snob when it comes to looking at other horses' feet - so many hooves like baked-bean cans, frogs an inch off the ground, ridiculously long toes, or hoof-walls flared to dinner plate dimensions.
 
A friend was recently telling me about her horse going lame during an endurance ride and how the vet had diagnosed unbalanced shoeing as the problem. She confided to me that her horse was now in "special shoeing" (she never explained what this "special shoeing" was - just that the horse was unbalanced but that "you could only see it on x-rays"). From her description, it sounded suspiciously like the horse had been allowed to grow too long a toe, had underslung heels, and was perhaps a bit unbalanced laterally - all things that your average attentive barefoot trimmer would be watching for and trying to correct every time they rasped their horse. 
 
I asked how often the horse would be shod and she said "oh, every 4-5 weeks". I suggested that she veer towards the 4 week option as know from experience that at four weeks my horses feet are already "too long" and out of whack. If that was her horse's problem, the "special shoeing" wasn't going to achieve much if its hooves were allowed to grow back to their formerly long proportions.
 
Her argument was that "well, the horse is going to be on 'light' work [he's on a walking-only regime for a month], so likely his feet won't grow much". In my mind's eye I thought of Uno's currently too-long feet  - Uno who's been standing around in his paddock of duff-footing, doing absolutely nothing for the last 4 weeks, getting time off after Virginia City 100. Hmm.

Uno's right rear foot this weekend, during
 a 15+ mile barefoot ride on the Pacific Crest Trail in amongst volcanic rock and granite outcroppings. He was last lightly-trimmed when I took his Glue-Ons off after VC100, 25 days ago. The flare you see on the outside is the reason I was having difficulties keeping Gloves on his rear feet back in August - duck-footed R us - a problem I have to keep on top off. You can also see how his bars tend to overlay and his heels get underslung. How would he fare on a 5-6 week shoeing schedule? Not pretty, methinks.

But I understand that the average person can't afford to have new shoes slapped on their horse(s) every 3-4 weeks. Indeed, you get into nail-hole problems if you do shoe too often and there's not enough solid hoof to nail to. But the quandary is, by the time the horse has grown out sufficient fresh hoof to nail to, he's too long to be at optimum hoof length.
 
When I used to shoe Roo for competition, I was in a constant struggle to balance his shoeing cycle with his endurance ride schedule. Ideally, Roo needed shoeing every 4-5 weeks (by 5 weeks he was too long and his toed-in front feet would start to look ugly). The perfect scenario was for his feet to be at 2½-3 weeks for a distance ride, but of course if we did a ride once a month it never quite worked out.
 
Nowadays, with a bunch of barefoot horses, I try and keep them where they need to be all the time - no scheduling necessary, unless you count the: "ack, we're going to a ride next weekend, so I really need to trim this weekend" (sort of like realising you've still got homework to do on a Sunday night after a fun weekend). 
 
Of course, real life gets in the way (I'm gone for work 12-13 hours a day, five days a week) and I don't always trim everyone as often as they should be trimmed - the two non-working horses sometimes go a couple of months before guilt gets me back to them, vowing each time that "I won't let them get that long again" (just don't look too carefully at them if you visit, OK?). 
 
But for the most-part, the worker's feet stay under control. In the same way you'd file off a split nail on your own finger when it occurs, I keep an eye on their feet and will rasp off any chips as they happen. Uno's long toes get regular attention - mostly because I hate the way his feet look and they make me crazy when they start to splay out. 
 
Formerly, could I have afforded to keep my horses shod as often as they needed? Nope. 
 
Did I used to sometimes shoe someone, only for them to go lame or get sidetracked on a different horse and realise that I'd spent $125 for the shod horse to stand around in the paddock, eating hay? Yup. 
 
Is keeping six horses' feet under control hard work? Yup. But then so is stacking a truck-load of 100+ lb bales of hay, or having to leap blearily out of bed at 7 am on a Sunday because you get woken up by unexpected pouring rain outside and remember that your hay isn't covered. So is mucking stalls all winter long because your horses can't possibly step out into the rain to poop. 
 
But in the long-run, the satisfaction I glean from having my horses feet where I want them (and if they aren't, it's my problem) is worth it to me. Sure, it's easier to just schedule the farrier, but I seldom have to avert my eyes from a set of baked-bean can hooves in my paddock.

Barefoot and Booted In Australia

I received some great pictures from one of our Hoof Boot Contest competitors. Lyn Summerfield and her daughter Kym are entered in our Easycare Hoof Boot Contest. They do a lot of competitive miles on their barefoot and booted horses. They compete at some of their events completely barefoot.


 
"We successfully completed our State Championship 160 km ride last weekend with my daughter. It was interesting that there were only 16 starters over the full ride. Of those only 6 finished; 3 wore boots (2 glue ons and 1 gaitered) and 1 went completely barefoot and 2 had metal shoes."

         

 

Thanks for sharing with us and our readers, Lyn. Riders around the world are utilizing natural barefoot and using hoof boots to keep their barefoot equine partners healthy. 

Nancy Fredrick

easycare-office-manager-nancy-fredrick

EasyCare Office Manager

As the office manager, I make sure the general operations of the organization run smoothly and seamlessly from A to Z. I have been on the EasyCare team since 2001 and have first hand product knowledge as my horses are barefoot and booted.

Canyonlands- Back on Track

A family photo- Replika, myself and my husband. Thanks for the picture Leonard! 

I promised in last week's post that I would return to the topic at hand - hoof boots and natural hoof care. So here we go! But first I just have to say that this ride marks a year with my mare. Last year's Canyonlands experience was much different than this years, not necessarily better or worse, just different. Last year we were only four weeks into Replika's barefoot transition. She was new to me and I didn't know how much bottom she had, what she liked to eat, or how she liked to be ridden. While she was sound, I took it very slowly as I was very conscientious about rocks and hard footing, given the fact she was newly barefoot. I worried and fretted, was probably over-cautious and hoped I had done right by her at the end. With the protection of Easyboot Glue-Ons and Goober Glue, we did four days. While the results were the same this year (200 miles in 4 days), the "getting there" was much, much different.

Me and Elly, both ponies in Easyboot Glue-Ons, riding the same ride. 

I used the same conconction of Goober Glue on the sole and around the bottom of the boot, and Adhere around the top. Again, my boots performed fabulously, but this time Replika strode out across the trail, never shortening or slowing through some of the stuff she slowed through last year, like gravel roads and jeep roads with embedded rock. She continued to amaze me, every single day. 

A long, rocky hill climb on day 5. Oh yay!

It's funny, but I guess I never thought so many Northwest riders would be riding booted this quickly. It seems like yesterday, we were one of two or three booted riders, and now it seems to be nearing half. And it's certainly not just the slower riders, either. While I know going barefoot and booted has been proven at speed in other regions, the riders here still have the false perception that barefoot horses can't be ridden fast, and that boots don't stay on. Riiiiiiiiiiight. I think both those beliefs HAVE been proven otherwise! 

Upon reflection, I found it funny that most of my rides this year have been in the company of other booted buddies. Although one of my most favorite riding buddies uses steel shoes (I'm working on her!), my other partners have been booted. I certainly don't set out NOT to ride with those in shoes, but I find riding with other booted horses is easier as the decisions regarding where to slow down or speed up are generally the same. Like I said last week, the three of us in boots were able to motor down the paved section of trail where I have slowed to walk in the past with my shod friends. 

Headed down the miles of pavement. Day 2. 

Replika had her boots on for a total of eight days. After taking them off, I once again found that a) she still had feet, and b) they weren't about to fall off. Just like with shoes and pads, there is obviously moisture in the boot and yes the sole does exfoiliate. However, having shod horses with pads in the past, the level of moisture in the hoof doesn't even compare to the hoof after having a pad in place for eight weeks. I also like to take advantage of certain situations, and find that a quick trim is much easier after pulling boots than after the foot has had a few hours to dry out and morph back into a steel mallet. 

Replika's front foot immediately after removing her boot and trimming up a bit. 

Another aspect of booting my horse that I value and love is the fact I can see exactly where she is wearing her boots during certain time periods, meaning how she is wearing her boots during a ride. As she had just come off an injury to the right hind, I was extremely cognizant of how she *felt* throughout the miles. I felt like she wasn't as fluid on the left diagnal on the first day, but she felt smooth and even after the intitial 50 miles. It was interesting to see that she had worn a thin spot in her right hind boot, which I found while taking off that boot. Considering the fact she wore holes clean through either one or both (sheesh it sucks getting old- I just can't remember!) of her hind boots last year, and the fact that we are able to gauge things like that is a handy tool. 

Right hind foot. I am fairly certain I wouldn't have noticed the extra wear should she have been shod. I am thankful for the extra information, any way we can get it. 

I trimmed up the mare after pulling her boots, and just a few days ago we had a nighttime rain. I pulled her out the next morning and finished up my trim finding her feet much softer after a night of rain than after a week in boots. I am always amazed at the amount of growth they have after riding so many miles. For now, she is completely trimmed up and enjoying the rest of her vacation. 

Looking amazing just a short week after riding 200 miles. Nice heel first landing, too. No hidden thrush there! 

The current question is- who do I take to the last ride of the season?!?! 

Happy Riding Y'all!!

Amanda Washington
~SW Idaho

Owyhee Canyonlands - Opportunities Abound

There is something magical about riding across the desert, in and out of canyons, through the washes and over the bluffs, to come home at night to a lively and welcoming ranch. Now times that by five- pure heaven.  I said this before, but the annual five day Owyhee Canyonlands ride has been my absolute favorite endurance ride since I first started the sport. I have been fortunate to ride many miles throughout the Owyhee desert, and never tire of it. John and Steph Teeter provide an amazing atmosphere to ride to your heart's content, and then come back to catered meals, ample wine and amazing opportunities for lifelong friendships. We were lucky to enjoy all of the above for the week and upon arriving back to reality, I have been able to reflect upon all things learned. 

Replika and I on day one. Every day was "the best day!" Steve Bradley Photography

The opportunity to soak up your experiences and learn from them is abundant throughout a multiday ride. Just six short weeks ago, I was unsure that I would be able to take my mare, whom I love riding above all others. You see she had an accident. She was in the hospital for over a week. I was terrified that she wouldn't fully recover. I put everything I had into treating my mare, trying to stay positive and not obsessing over the calendar and my upcoming most favorite ride. She healed at a faster rate then expected, but I was still worried about the surrounding soft tissue, the possibility for hoof sensitivity due to the massive amounts of antibiotics and her physical capacity after being off work for an extended amount of time as well as in a stall for a portion of that time. She was released for full work a couple weeks prior to the five day, and I started her back slowly. I knew it would be up to her in regards to the five day, and I was prepared to ride slow and cut it short if she only had a couple days in her. 

My poor mare's leg. The picture on the right was ten days past the initial injury, and the picture on the left was ten days after the first. It is now completely closed, with a small scar. 

We got one long training ride in about 10 days prior to the start of the ride, and she felt wonderful. I used my Goober Glue/Adhere method to apply her boots on the Sunday prior to the Tuesday start and felt pretty good about things. Her feet looked great and she hadn't shown any signs of being sensitive despite the upset to her system. The growth rings should tell the tale, and it will be interesting to see. We got to ridecamp Monday afternoon, and immediately set about finding old friends and making new ones! I was a bit nervous for the ride, which is completely unlike me, because it is always scary on that first ride back after an injury or extended lay-off. I needn't have worried, she was amazing as always! 

Elly and I leaving a vetcheck. It is so much fun riding with a good friend, on a good horse. 

The first day is always a nice, easy trail to get your feet wet. We rode along ridges, flew through the washes and cruised around on familiar trail. What a great day! Despite the unseasonal heat, she looked great and we were cleared for day two. Now I have to laugh because I had nightmares about this day's trail the nights leading up to the ride. Last year I rode Replika through our transition period from shoes to boots, and I was ridiculously cognizant of every.single.rock on the trail. As this ride is pretty dang rocky, it had stuck in my mind. I needn't have worried this year! Not only did Steph route us around a particularly horrid section of trail, Replika felt amazing in her Glue-Ons cushioned with my beloved Goober Glue! We headed into the vet check after 25 miles an exact hour faster than I had predicted, and made our way home in the heat of the afternoon. We rode with a super-cool dude named Jerry who happened to be from Reno. He had ridden both Tevis and the Virginia City 100 numerous times, and compared the VC 100 with the first loop of this trail. Regardless, it was gorgeous and one of my absolute favorites! On the way back home, we came to a paved road. It is a short section of a couple miles but always seems to drag on and on. After a short pow-wow with my riding buddies, who were all in Easyboot Gloves and Glue-Ons, we decided we would keep up a slow 6-7MPH jog down the road, so as not to lose to much time. We got into our grove and soon overtook six riders in steel shoes who had to slow down because of the pavement. Not us oh no! We kept up our job and guiltlessly glided down the road, all twelve of our boots quietly padding down the pavement. 

Karen and Thunder in their Glue-Ons, and Tamara and Consolation in their Gloves riding down the pavement. The only riders we didn't pass on that road were on booted horses as well!!


Riding through Castle Creek, on the way to vetcheck 1- day two. 


Karen leading Thunder on a rocky downhill. About ten miles of the first loop was like this. 

Despite the rock and road, Replika continued to feel as strong as she had on day one. We decided to go for day three, which I was super excited about as this trail and out vetcheck are my favorite! I know, I know, they are ALL my favorite! Is that a bad thing?!?! I took off again bright and early with my pal and her silly horse, Jasper, who was also outfitted in Easyboot Glue-Ons and Goober Glue. I tell ya, this boot thing is starting to really take off up here in the Northwest! We hit the trail and were soon at the Sierra Del Rio ranch, where I have spent many holds. This ranch is amazing- hospitable, green and just gorgeous nestled in the canyon near the Snake River. We had a fun quick loop out of the ranch, and were soon headed from the ranch to home. There was a very special moment for me on this trail when I realized how much this mare has done for me. The trail was the same that Replika and I flew along by ourselves as the last loop of the 80 mile ride we did in the spring and it wasn't any less magical on this particular day. She never ceases to amaze me and I was having the time of my life with a good friend. It just doesn't get much better than this, folks. 

Elly's super classy solution to the gnats. Nice work, El. 

Scenic overlook of the Snake River just off the REAL OREGON TRAIL ;-) It was gorgeous.

Although Replika was cleared for the next day, I decided we both could use a day off. No shame, and I was able to help P&R at the out vetcheck, and then help crew for my pals as they came in off the trail at basecamp. It had been hot all week and we were ridiculously fortunate to have access to cold water from a real hose! The horses and riders all appreciated the thorough cool-down prior to finishing the ride. Towards the end of the day, I brought Replika out of her pen and trotted her out cold for the vets to make sure she was truly ok for day five. She got the thumbs up from two different vets and I was thrilled to be sharing another day with her on the trail. 

"You want me to go WHERE?!?!" This is Rep looking into the canyon that we would be going into.. all you could hear was the crashing of other horses down below. Or was it cougars? Or Bears? Or???




 

Phew we made it alive!!
Day five was no disappointment, as we were once again extremely fortunate to ride through MORE amazing trail! Sheesh does it ever get old out there?!?! We rode through several canyons and old homesteads on the last day, ending the first loop after a huge rocky climb with an AMAZING trail through a magnificent canyon. We are so freaking lucky! We cruised through the first loop and kept our momentum through the second loop. I was again riding with my girlfriend who I rode days one, three and five with. It was on the second loop that both of us hit a wall, thankfully at different times! Between the silliness and the abrupt "I'm done." statements, we made it through nearly top tenning the day. What a rush to hear the final "You're completed" after traveling so many miles with your best friend, human or horse. Such a feeling!
 
Leonard Liesens, from Belgium, riding Z Blue Lightning who is outfitted in Easyboot Gloves. Blue went on to complete two days in his Gloves. His pose says it all!

There is such an opportunity for learning at a ride such as this. I continue learning, and hope it will never stop. A few things I learned:

1) Easyboot Glue-Ons truly are an amazing option for so many different horses, riders and events. There were tons of horses outfitted in Glue-Ons, and I only know of one lost boot. Fortunately the rider and horse didn't realize the boot was gone until after the ride. It was all good in their case. 

2) Easyboot Gloves can be used at a multiday, although I would definitely want to make sure I had done plenty of miles in my boots to ensure rubbing wouldn't be a problem. It is also important to thoroughly check and clean gaiters and pasterns at every vetcheck to monitor and curb possible rubbing. There were a few horses who were rubbed by the gaiters at this ride, although I believe the rubbed horses were all in the old gaiters. Add powerstraps and athletic tape for a sure fit!

3) Christoph Shork, The Bootmeister, never stops. He rides, he trims, he glues, he rides, he advises, he run run runs. It was exhausting to watch. Just sayin'. 

Christoph and his groupies haulin' the mail into the ranch. What a great looking group of horses! The riders looked a little rough, but those horses were rockin' it! (Literally- they finished the rocky trails each day in lightning fast time. One could say Easyboots made that possible!

4) People who ride in shoes still use Easyboots! I saw a couple of people riding last week with original Easyboots over their horse's steel shoes. At least two of them (that I noticed) went on to ride all five days on the same horse. Easycare truly offers something for everyone!! Good job to everyone!

5) Pay attention to your horse. Every stumble, every nose crinkle, every flinch means something. I think it's better to play it safe then sorry. Unfortunately there were a few horses treated last week. Thankfully they were all sent home looking good, but in this sport it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Pay attention to your ponies and you may be able to prevent something catastrophic, that will not resolve with treatment. 

Since this post has turned into a novel and I have probably lost all my readers with the exception of the editor and my mother, I am going to end it here for now. Next week I will have more boot and foot stuff, which is truly what this blog is about. I hope you'll forgive my rambling and I promise to get back on topic next week! Something about being in the desert for five days makes one kinda silly. 

'Till next time! 

Amanda Washington
SW Idaho

A Year With Boots

Submitted by Gene Limlaw

Well, it has been a little over a year since I decided to stop having steel shoes put on my horses. A lot of people make the transition because they are having trouble keeping shoes on their horses. I guess I was lucky that my horses have nice hooves that grow pretty fast and they were getting out of balance inbetween shoeings. Even my sensitive footed stallion is doing well, I did a 10 mile hunter pace a couple weeks ago and he felt wonderful. I put Easyboot Gloves on him in front and left him barefoot behind.


We have had a real dry summer here in the Northeast and people that have shod horses that I ride have had a lot of lost shoes this summer. I really do not miss that part of shoes.
 
In the past year I have met a lot of new people interested in what I have on my horses feet. They will come up and say "What are on her feet?" When I say Glue-Ons they say "Really? I have never seen them," and we have a nice conversation about the process. 

Glue-ons still are not as common here, so people get very intergued by them. Gluing takes a little practice, but then really so do most things worth doing. I even have gone as far as to help people interested in trying Glue-ons by doing it for them. And they have gone on to have very good rides in them.

I really do feel it is a lifestyle change that takes time to adjust to and become comfortable with. I have spent the summer practicing my trimming skills on our broodmares and have become much more able in this department also. I still have a trimmer regularly come and make sure things are on track.
 
I have done a little over 600 miles this year with increasing success as the season has gone on. My mare is still young and I am having a great time with her. I am excited about the rest of this season and have my sights set on some big things for next year. The last month I did a few clinics and some dressage and jumping lessons.


So I have my work cut out to improve the overall horse as well as my horsemanship and riding skills. A fun fall it will be.
 
Gene Limlaw
Weathersfield, VT

The Top Ten Reasons to Use Easyboot Glue-Ons

There's a lot of talk these days about which boot is better. Not surprisingly, most of the value judgments are very subjective, such as ease of getting said boot on foot; whether or not tools are needed; whether or not athletic tape is required; whether or not glue is used, etc. My opinion is that the optimum boot is the boot that works best for your horse in your conditions for your planned activity. For some of us, that means we use different boots for different days.

The people at EasyCare believe putting the boots through the toughest, most challenging conditions known to horse is the best way to show how Easyboots might work for you. Although many of the EasyCare peeps are focused on endurance riding, it doesn't mean that's the only thing our boots are good for. But it does mean they're good for practically anything you can throw at them.

Using Las Cienega 100
What better test than a 100-mile endurance race? And I don't just mean a middle of the pack performance. Of the top 11 placing horses of 25 starters in the Las Cienega 100 last weekend near Sonoita, Arizona, 8 of them were sporting Easyboot Glue-Ons. Im just sayin'.

1. Christoph Schork - 1st place 100
It was also Christoph's 200th win, of which more than 25% have been in barefoot with Easyboots. Boasting more than 20,000 competition miles, Christoph is the most winning rider in the history of endurance riding.

2. Tarnia Kittel - 2nd place and Best Condition 100

Known by her friends as Tarni, she is one of the most talented riders I've ever met. Based in Australia, she spent the summer in Moab and can currently be found supporting the Australian team at the World Equestiran Games. She also had a great summer of competing in boots with horses from the Global Endurance Training Center at various events across the country.


Tarnie has the unfortunate ailment of falling in love with every horse she rides.

3. Jennifer Shirley - 3rd place 100
Jennifer is newer to endurance than her horse is, but hers is a great story of instant transition. Jennifer pulled her horse's shoes the day before the ride and applied Glue-On Easyboots with Goober Glue in the sole and Adhere on the shell walls. The team looked great all day (I know because I saw her on the common trail - hours ahead of me). It was also their first 100.

4. Kevin Waters - 6th place 100

Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Kevin keeps promising he'll retire from competing, but we're still waiting and we're starting to doubt his intentions. Golden Ali's 860 competition miles so far this year comprise four 100-mile races including one at Tevis and one at Old Dominion. Kevin is another 20,000 miler (21,610 miles, to be precise).


Kevin and Golden Ali during the Tevis Cup 100 this year.

5. Clydea Hastie -  8th place 100
Clydea has logged more than 9,600 competition miles, including 30 100-mile completions (six of them at Tevis). Clydea has been using Easyboot Gloves and Glue-Ons for almost 12 months now.


Clydea and Kim at the finish line of the Las Cienega 100.

6. Kim Abbott -  9th place 100
Kim is the matriarch of endurance riders in southwestern Arizona. With more than 7,600 miles in endurance, 17 100-mile completions, including five Tevis Cup completions, Kim is one of a surprizingly large wave of barefoot/booted riders enjoying Easyboot success in the southwest. Her horse, Sea Spot Run, reached his 2,000 mile mark at the event. He has been barefoot for 12 months and this was his second 100-miler in boots.

7. Kevin Myers - 10th place
My horses have been booted for 16 months now. This will be my highest mileage year since I started endurance in 1995, logging 1,080 miles in Glue-Ons and Gloves so far this year.

8. Rusty Toth - 11th Place
As well as the 100 at Sonoita, Rusty completed the Tevis 100 and Big Horn 100 this year with horses in Easyboot Glue-Ons. Let him rip!


Rusty and Ripper/Rocky doing what they do best.

9. Julia Elias - Turtle Award 100

Not 12 months ago, Julia told me she would never have the patience nor the time to take her herd of 11 horses barefoot. Today, thanks to the gentle encouragement of Kevin Waters, there is not a steel shoe on her ranch. Julia is one of the most focused and most generous mileage junkies I know, with more than 11,630 lifetime competition miles.


Julia: the ultimate mileage junkie.

10. Cathy Peterson - Almost Last Place 50
Actually, Cathy rode her mule, Soldier, in Easyboot Gloves. But she warrants mention because she has found the boot that works for her: yes, a mule in Easyboot Gloves. Look for Cathy and Soldier at Tevis in 2012.
 

Cathy and Soldier approaching the finish line of the 50 at Las Cienega.

83,860 Miles of Wisdom
The riders listed above have a combined lifetime mileage total of 83,860 AERC competition miles, give or take a few. And their collective wisdom speaks volumes. So if you're thinking of trying out this booting thing, or if you have questions about how to make the boots work for you, just ask one of us. We'll be glad you did.

Keep up the bootlegging!

Kevin Myers

easycare-marketing-director-kevin-myers

Director of Marketing

I am responsible for the marketing and branding of the EasyCare product line. I believe there is a great deal to be gained from the strategy of using booted protection for horses, no matter what the job you have for your equine partner.


Uno Does Virginia City 100

Walking along in the pitch dark at 3:30 a.m., trying to focus on something - anything - I actually dropped off to sleep in the saddle for a nanosecond and hallucinated a huge flock of black birds against the mountains on the horizon. That woke me up and I called up to Tami ahead: "Talk to me - about anything - I'm falling asleep here!". Not that Tami was in any better shape, and our fellow rider, Sally, had gone quiet half an hour earlier. We were 95 miles into the Virginia City 100 and the moon had set an hour or so ago.

It was around this point that I decided maybe I'd rather just be a 75 mile rider. When we'd come in off the 76 mile loop at 10 p.m. I'd been happy and bouncing. Uno had been happy and bouncing. We'd survived the 2000'+ climb up to the top of the ridge and the subsequent descent in the dark - thanking the endurance gods who guided us wrong two weeks previously during our pre-riding, causing us to cover more miles than intended. At the time it was a bit sad, but now as soon as we hit trail he recognised, Uno perked up and off we went.
 
Loop 1, Part 1
VC100 wasn't like Tevis - I actually got to sleep the night before and didn't feel totally nauseous all night. When the alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. I was relatively relaxed and didn't feel like killing myself. We had to be on the horses by 4:30 a.m. to walk the couple of miles from camp to the 5 a.m. start in front of the Delta Saloon. It's one of the more bizarre starts to an endurance ride I've ever done.


The Delta Saloon in the center of Virginia City, Sunday afternoon.

Once past the cemetery on the outskirts of town and onto the trail, I realised just how dark it was. It's one thing to be out there as dusk drops onto you, to be gradually immersed in it - but it didn't work that way. As soon as we left the lights of Virginia City behind us, bam, dark. Luckily fellow rider Tami Rougeau had a headlight on, so she and Fancy guided us through the first few miles of turns.


The sun starting to peek up over the mountains.

Asking Tami before the ride what she thought the hardest thing about VC100 was, she replied with very little hesitation: "the rocks". They are a fact of life and something you have to learn to work around. Obviously, foot protection is super-important under these conditions.

35 riders started VC100 and of those I counted eleven horses that were wearing either
Glue-Ons (7), Gloves (1), or Original Easy Boots over shoes (3). At the end of the ride, 26 horses completed - including ten of our booted horses. The only booted horse who got pulled (that I know about) made it 92 miles. Not bad.

The first 20 miles were among the fastest I've ever done - we got it done in 3 hours - needing to move out where we could and this was trail you could trot. ...Actually you can trot most of the VC100 trail - so long as you only want to trot for 10 ft before slowing to prance through rocks.

When Uno gets going, he trots BIG. I seldom allow him to do it (just because he can, doesn't mean he should), but this time around I let him have some fun and he trotted so big that the SPOT GPS locator clipped to my pommel pack went flying off (can you say "BIG action"?) and had to be retrieved by Dave (thanks Dave!). It got firmly tied on at the next stop.


At the road crossing, Uno had to stop to poop (he's still learning) and got left behind when we couldn't get across in time with the others - this explains his rather wide-eyed expression in this picture.
Quite by chance, we ended up riding the first 30 miles or so with fellow booters: AERC Hall of Famer Dave Rabe on White Cloud in Gloves; Carolyn Meier on Rushcreek Okay (great big feet - he wears a 3 on the front and 2.5s on the backs); and Tami and I, all in Glue-Ons.

My booting experience hadn't gone quite as planned the previous week (so what else is new?) and I was enviously watching Fancy's tidy little compact feet in her tidy little compact Glue-Ons, comparing them to Uno's dinner plates.

Having struggled at Bridgeport last month to get Uno's rear feet fitting nicely, this time around it only took me about 20 minutes to tidy up his back toes and glue. Ta-da! By contrast, I spent about an hour and half poking and rasping and squinting at his fronts and still wasn't happy with the fit. <sigh>

Hindsight being everything, I've concluded that perhaps Uno's feet have expanded enough that instead of trying to squoosh him into a 1.5 Glove, he probably needs a 2. Post-VC, he gets a month off and I'm going to leave his feet alone, then tidy them up, and refit him and see where we're at.

Anyway - I was less than happy about the gluing job on the fronts, but you have to obsess about something, right? :)


After the road crossing, we dropped down the Old Geiger Grade - the old Toll Road - to the outskirts of Reno. I'd like to say I ran the whole 2.5 miles, but cimcumstances being what they were, I wasn't in as good shape as I'd promised myself I would be (why are we not surprised by this?), so had to content myself with walking as fast as I could, interspersed with running for as long as my bad ankle would allow. But I took pictures! And I fed Uno some hay that mysteriously appeared by the side of the road mid-way down! Ambidextrous, I am.


Old Toll Road, looking down to Reno.

On the way down the grade, Tami and I picked up our third rider - Sally Hugdal - who's riding partner had unfortunately pulled at the highway crossing. We were happy to have her and her mare, Ellie, who were going for their fifth consecutive VC100 completion.

Fancy led us in the last section through residential streets likity-split and we got to the first 24-mile vet check in 3 hours 40 minutes for our 45 minute break. My friends Renee and Russell Robinson had come all the way down from Eureka to crew for me, and they, together with local friend Crysta Turnage did a most excellent job catering to our every need - hand-feeding Uno slop and pretending to enjoy it when he covered them and everything within a few feet (including Crysta's dog, Molly) with mush.

Please form an orderly line to sign up to crew for Uno in the future.


Dave Rabe coming into the 24-mile vet check.
 

Leaving the 24-mile vet check - Uno is replete.
Loop 1, Part 2
The next 15 mile section included the four mile foray through Bailey Canyon. I'd been hearing about this canyon for years - tales of woe about the awfulness of it, and indeed it was pretty gnarly - but, gah, it was fun. There is a sort of trail to follow... ish. We put Fancy in front, Ellie next, Okay, White Cloud and then Uno bringing up the rear, and blitzed through it - too much fun. I love this kind of trail - it's a bit like a snow-boarders' half-pipe, only with lots and lots and lots of rocks to clamber over before you scoot up the opposite side, duck under a bunch of tree branches, and then drop back down, clambering back over the creek bed rocks and up the other side.



At one point, all the riders got bunched up together and there were 14 of us going down the trail. A parade! Considering that 35 riders started, we had about half the field there for a while. Too funny.

After an hour of rock clambering, we finally hit Jumbo Grade and Fancy took off, with Uno in hot pursuit - they were wound a little tight from the slow pace in Bailey Canyon - so we flew down, Tami cursing Fancy for yanking on her bad knee (lots of surgeries in those knees) and trying to explain to her that having a bit of horse left later in the ride would be desirable. We stopped a couple of times to try and persuade them to drink and I even managed to sponge Uno in an inch deep creek. He was miffed - wanting to run after all the horses passing on by.

The last section crossed Washoe Lake State Rec Area to the 15-minute hold and a trot-by at 39 miles. This is every local rider's favorite trail - a twisty singletrack that winds its way through the sagebrush. Fancy did her wide trot (she squats and goes wide in the back in order to lengthen her stride) and Uno cantered, and poor Sally and Ellie hung on in the back, as the tail of the dog. I know we were supposed to make time where we could, but this was ridiculous.

Excellent Crew were again at this stop, waiting to have slop dropped on them, to be itched on, and generally abused. Trot-bys completed, we scuttled around getting everything done - 15-minute holds are never long enough. Endurance riding being the glamorous sport it is, I dropped my tights to re-butter the insides of my knees and calves that were developing some hot-spots.

Loop 1, Part 3
After Washoe Lake State Rec, there is a loooonnnggg, hoooootttt, climb. All the previous enthusiasm waned and we trudged to the top. Some of this lack of enthusiasm from Fancy might have been because she knew that the SOBs were coming up - Tami and Fancy completed VC100 in 2007, so she certainly knew the trail. Uno had done this trail section before during Washoe Valley in the spring but in the reverse direction, so I'm not sure he remembered what was approaching.


Looking down on Washoe Lake at where we've come from.


Nevada is the land of long climbs.


Still climbing. The rabbit brush was all in bloom.

And here we are, at the top of the first of three, worst, steep V-shaped canyons, fondly known as the SOBs. They aren't long, but they are wickedly steep (I think I worked out they are a 25% grade) and go up about 200 ft - and worst, have really loose, shaley footing which means it's very hard to stay upright.

As we approached, I was weighing up:

Ride them = Use up too much horse (it's Uno's first 100 <bite nails>)
Walk them = Use up too much rider

But who's doing most of the work, we ask? So I got off, and Tami and I slithered and slipped our way down. Tami took the lead on the way up the other side and I was grateful for every break that Fancy took (she was snacking all the way up), as I clung to Uno's tail, watching his back feet about level with my thighs as we went up, wondering if I was going to get a rock flicked in my face.

There are few things more educational in order to learn about boot fit than tailing your horse up a steep climb. I was able to notice how the backs of Uno's front boots were separating from his feet, but that the rears seemed relatively snug still. If your horse is wearing Gloves, you can watch how he digs his toes in, and what that does to the boots as he pushes off. It gives you an idea of how good your fit is.

Hyperventilating, we made it to the top and trudged on to the next descent - SOB #2. They get gradually less steep as they progress, so when we reached the bottom of this one, I scrambled back on and Uno felt pretty good from his short break - a lot better than I felt, at least, which was the desired effect.


Sally and Ellie trudging up SOB # 2.

We made SOB #3 with no difficulty and could finally enjoy the lovely view looking down on the lake and the mountains beyond.

Hands up who can guess what happened next? Remember me whining about the front boot fit? Yup, the right front came off. Sally noticed, so I hopped off and replaced it with a Glove from my pack (I always carry a full set of boots, just in case). Uno still had a lot of Glue left on his foot, so I had to use one of those handy NV rocks to give the Glove a couple of whacks to seat it back in place, and off we went again.

Finally, after more than two hours climbing, we reached the water stop at the cross roads at the top of Jumbo Grade, manned by volunteers Dave and Judy Jewkes. Let's see? 24 miles in 3 hours 40 mins at the beginning of the ride when it was cool, while in the heat of the afternoon: 8 miles in 2 hours and 10 mins... I see how this goes.

The Jewkeses offered lemonade (that hit the spot!) and cookies, but we only stayed a few minutes before setting off down Ophir Grade for the 4 miles or so into Virginia City.

A quarter mile down, Uno's left front flew off and hit the underside of my right foot (that was confusing) <grrr>. This wasn't what I wanted, but oh well. Off I hopped again with my second sparsie Glove and on it went with the help of yet another handy rock (who knew they would be so helpful?) and off we went again.

40 minutes later we were back at camp in Virginia City, hot, tired, and crumpled - but half-way through.

For me this was probably the lowest point of the ride. I'd made the classic mistake of consciously thinking "Ack, we're only 52 miles in and we still have another 48 to go - and I'm already at the pooped-out stage... not good". This is a BIG no-no for 100-mile riding. How does the old saying about "How do you eat an elephant?" go? One bite at a time. I should have been focusing on my hour hold, instead of the next 12 hours.

My friend Ann Blankenship took one look at me and started trying to get me to eat something. I am hopeless at eating on rides - and the tireder and hotter I get, the worse I get. However, Ann was in charge of Lucy-Intake during Tevis, so is familiar with my habits. She fetched me some baby wipes (ah, bliss), some lotion ("Age Defying" - perfect!), and a bowl of canteloupe melon.
 

While Uno scoffed slop next to me, I got to play queen - listing all the stuff I wanted done as I sat there like a wet rag.

Renee rasped off the excess glue on Uno's fronts, so we'd get a closer fit for his Gloves; we replenished my sparsie Gloves on the saddle; Uno's front pasterns were snugged into neoprene wraps (made from a weight-loss belt, of all things) to prevent any under-gaiter rubs; Crysta inspected a new loin rub* and got out the baby powder ready for saddling up; it was decided which clothing would be needed for the next leg - we'd be starting at 4:20 in the warm afternoon sunshine - and coming off the trail at 10 pm in the dark; more snacks (which I wouldn't eat) were added to the pommel bag; the rump rug was rolled tightly and clipped on ready for action; and of course, I retired to the privacy of my trailer to re-butter those delicate areas that needed attention.

* I had opted to ride in Patrick's treeless Sensation saddle for this ride. It is almost exactly the same as mine except for having a longer seat. Although I'd ridden 70 miles in it over the previous three weeks, apparently it wasn't enough to show up this problem. Thankfully, Uno wasn't sore from the rub during the ride, but I'm not sure bald, pink loins is a look I'm thrilled with. Back to my saddle from now on.
 
Loop 2
None of the three of us were thrilled to get going again on the 52-76 mile section. All our muscles had seized up and everything felt lumpy and stiff, so we walked for the first mile or so. Tami was a little concerned about Fancy, so she hand-walked her for a while to make sure everything was well. Fancy snacked the whole way, and was absolutely fine, so she needn't have worried.

This trail was the portion I knew least about, so it was hard to aim for that "bite-sized" piece. Luckily it was beginning to cool off and as we got going again and began to trot, everything fell back into place again and we were off again.

We crossed the V&T railroad tracks a few times (Uno has decided that perhaps a troll doesn't live under them, after all); passed a peculiar derelict set of buildings out in the middle of the desert - they looked like something out of a set for an "apocalypse film" - kind of creepy. Tami spotted someone's lost vest on the ground, so scored big in being able to wear it for the rest of the leg and keep warm.

And after a few miles, we began to climb again. This would be our last major climb of the day - but it was a doozy - climbing for 7.5 miles, past the Jewkes at the Jumbo Grade water stop (stopped to snack and water the horses), continuing up to the very top at ~7,500 ft where you could look out across Washoe Valley as the sun finally set behind the mountains.


As we dropped down the other side, the twinkling lights of Reno came into view and Uno began to pick it up again. For the first time that day, he had shown signs of actually being tired towards the top of the climb - at about 65 miles - and I was a little worried about him. But now he was on trail he recognised and by chance we once again caught up with Dave and Carolyn so Uno was back with his main Herd du Jour and happy to have the company of familiar buddies. Instead of the trudging we'd been doing for the past hour, we were popping along, trotting the flats, jogging some of the downhills, and in no time came to the road crossing at Geiger Summit.

Excellent Crew were ready - they had buckets and pans and everything a horse could want - and Uno wanted it all, including the next door neighbour's leftovers. It's amazing how much stuff a horse can suck down in seven minutes before we were off again - we had a little more than 6 miles to go before getting back to camp for the next hour hold.

Back at camp at 76 miles, I almost felt like celebrating - Uno's vet scores were far better than they had been at 52 miles - owing much to the fact that he was at last eating and drinking like an endurance horse should. He was cheerful and I was cheerful. Renee got me a pot-noodle which went down well, although the peanuts I attempted triggered the gag reflex, big time.

The hour hold flew by and in no time we were off again on our final loop, fitted with headlights, sweaters, wind-breakers and with the rump rug down.
 
Loop 3
The horses were quite cheerful leaving camp, which surprised me. I expected maybe a little baulking at having to repeat-in-reverse the route we'd just come in on through town. The two miles went without incident until we got to the cemetery at the outskirts and Uno suddenly realised what was going on. I think he thought maybe we'd go that far (as we had on our little pre-ride jaunt the day before) and then turn and head back to camp, so he seemed a little shocked that, no, we were actually going out on the trail again.

Even though we were all good to go leaving on the final leg, once we'd passed through town and started down on the trail, we all got a case of the paranoias. Having made it this far we really didn't want to trip on a rock and have one of the horses go lame, so we turned into ninnies ultra-cautious riders - opting to walk almost everything. We had 24 miles to go and six hours to get it done in. How hard could this be?

Tami and Sally, having both been in this position before, explained to me that once the horses got out there on the dirt road leading down the valley, they'd go into Power Walk mode and we'd just motor on through the loop.

This news was met with some sadness on my part. Uno doesn't have a Power Walk. He has a shuffle. He has a trudge. But his idea of keeping up involves jogging. So I concluded that they'd Power Walk and we'd jog along behind.

To begin with, I was all enthusiastic. My knees were feeling a little crunchy from the walking, so I asked Tami if she would be happy trotting the odd section just to loosen them up. What we managed in the "trotting" department was pretty pathetic - we'd make it maybe 20 ft before walking again. But after a bit, that seemed just fine.

We had a bright, almost-full moon. The mountains rose up either side of us along the valley and we saw a small herd of wild mustang grazing quietly in the moonlight. It was quite magical. Sally had some glowsticks attached to her breast collar and a dim headlight, but they weren't needed and Tami and I went with no lights (even though we carried headlights with us just in case).

This section of trail is an "out-n-back" with a lollipop at the far end with a vet-check. This is where we'd gotten chronically lost two weeks before, missing a turn, so even in the dark on a marked trail, we were vigilantly looking for that left turn.

There's a section that crosses a chalk outcropping for a short distance and the chalk was so bright in the moonlight it looked like snow. At the back end of the lollipop we dropped into the rockiest part of that trail - and of course the moon was hidden behind the thick juniper trees. Soon enough we were back out in the moonlight, but sadly it was starting to set behind the mountains, so we were either plunged into pitch black, or had it shining directly in our eyes when it would peek out the last few times.

Just before the Cottonwoods vet check, there's a peculiar spring where the water overflows onto the rutted road and we had to wade through it in one place. I remember worrying that Uno's Gloves would get wet and pop off in the dark and that I was too far gone to be able to do anything about it. But of course they didn't. At 2:20 a.m. when you're reaching the last of your reserves, your brain does its best to cover all bases.

At Cottonwoods they greeted us with soup and hot drinks. Uno was ravenous and just wanted to eat and eat. Once again, there was one of those annoyingly useless 15 minute holds - no time to do anything except try to slurp down that soup - which made me queasy. There was a roaring fire and all *I* wanted to do was curl up in front of it. Instead, I was stuck holding the ravenous horse, blearily trying to scrutinise him to see if I could spot anything amiss. We were joined by a fourth rider at this point and I was last to vet through, so as soon as we were done, it was time to leave again. <sob>

My visions of spending ten minutes - that's all I wanted - curled in front of the fire while someone else held Uno evaporated in a cold blast as I sadly climbed up the step-stool thoughtfully provided for the purpose of pathetic-rider mounting.

Uno wasn't thrilled to be leaving behind the bucket of carrots that he'd wolfed his way through, or the piles of hay, but I finally got him going after his buddies and we set off for the final 8 miles. That's all! And four of those would be trail that Uno had already done three times that day, so knew like the back of his hoof.

And here was the lowest point of the day - the four mile trudge back along the dirt road. The moon was gone. Any earlier energy and desire of "Let's TROT!" was gone. And I was left with the uneasy feeling that I get driving home after a long day - that I was going to fall asleep at the wheel and there was nothing I could do about it.

But here was the surprise: Fancy and Ellie, now headed for home, got into their Power Walk and there was Uno, keeping up with them. ??Uno?? He does have a Power Walk, he just only uses it for very special occasions.

Uno even led us in the last few miles through the canyon like a grown-up. I couldn't really see what the trail was doing and would find myself peering at a dark bush thinking it was a shaded tree tunnel we were going to go into, only to have Uno sweep us by - me teetering on top doing my best to stay with him.

Climbing the last short grade to the cemetery finish line, there was my Patrick waiting to greet us - and then we were done - it was 4:30 a.m.. We'd finished!!

Renee and Russell were there with more pone food and water and we allowed the horses a short snack before making the last pass back through town to camp and the final nail-biting vet check (which, thankfully, all three horses passed without incident).

Uno did so good he made me cry through much of that last journey through town. He had kept bopping along all day, staying cheerful almost the entire 100 miles. Itchy face and drooling aside, he had been the mellowest, easiest partner to share the day with and took my breath away with how strong he had felt throughout the ride.

At 5 a.m. we finally climbed down off the horses for the last time that day and set to work getting them ready for bed. Well, Excellent Crew did. I just sat there in a chair, looking pathetic.

And so goes the final chapter in the story of how Uno and Fancy won joint 5th place in the NASTR Triple Crown 2010 - by completing NV Derby 50 in April, NASTR 75 in June, and VC100 in September. We weren't fast, but we were consistent. After the first 50, there were 20 horses signed up. By virtue of attrition, that number was down to 8 by the time we started VC100.

And Sally and Ellie got their fifth consecutive finish! Ellie gets a new halter and Sally gets to be as proud as a proud thing.