Expanding on a Growing Theme

November can be grey and dark, but never when working with hooves. For part of the month, I will be traveling to Europe to continue the program of conducting clinics on Natural Hoof Care, Barefoot trimming, application of  Easyboot Glue-Ons and Easyboot Gloves.

Glue on Easyboot  (This boot will be covering 155 miles during the Moab Canyon Endurance Race).

For the last few years, I have been traveling 2 to 3 times a year to Europe to hold these workshops. Now, one might reckon that Europeans had horses for thousands of years and long before Americans even worked with horses. And one might conclude that it would not take a hoof care professional from the USA to teach Europeans how to shoe a horse or how to handle horse hoof problems.

All true. But Europeans are also more traditionalists and conservative in their approach. For the most part, they had been content with their various metal shoes. After all, they served them well for thousands of years. It was mainly here in the USA where the hoof boot revolution started. German and Austrian companies have been paving the way somewhat with their research and development of polyurethane shoes. Cera and Equiflex stand out and were more progressive in their approach of inventing and using alternate hoof protection methods. Hildrud Strasser started a bare foot trim program in Germany. Yet, most horse owners stayed with metal shoes.

Medieval horse rider in Europe.

It was not till forwar- thinking people like Pete Ramey brought Natural Horse Care into the awareness of the general equestrian community and EasyCare developed an encompassing Protective Horse Boot program that horse communities outside the Northamerican continent took notice.

What makes this trip even more worth mentioning is the fact  that it will lead me to France (Brest) and Switzerland (Zurich). Both countries have mostly been using steel shoes in their equestrian disciplines and pursuits. Even at the highest FEI level, French riders preferred steel shoes on their horses. Now we see that French and Swiss endurance riders want to expand their horizons and learn and study more about protective horse boots.

All the combined efforts by the EasyCare staff and the professional trimmers as well as the Team Easyboot members in educating about the benefits of the EasyCare boots bear fruit worldwide and this expansion is ever continuing.

These boots were applied at the GETC facility in Moab. GETC (Global Endurance Training Center) is also providing funding for this trip.

While Easyboot Gloves, Easyboot Glove Back Country and Trail as well as Epic, Easyboot Bare and Grip and Easyboot have been more popular overseas, the work with hoof glue is not as common yet. My intentions are to make the clinic participants more comfortable with using Vettec Glues and Easyboot Glue-Ons. The demand is there and jointly we will make it happen.

Vettec Glues have proven to work very well with gluing not only Easyboot Glue-Ons, but also to protect bare footed horses with the Soleguard and shaping hoof shoes with the Vettec Superfast. All these glues are going to be used and demonstrated during these clinics.

How will these clinics turn out? How will they get accepted? Watch for the follow up report after my return.

Your Bootmeister,

Christoph Schork

Easyboot Gloves Rock the Canyonlands

Submitted by Karen Bumgarner, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

With a successful four days of City of Rocks (COR) behind us, the rest of the summer flew by. Thunder's cousin, Z Blue Lightening was supposed to do some rides too but he had come home from COR with a cough. While Blue was recovering, Thunder was happily trotting two days of mountain creeks and trails at both Pink Flamingo and Old Selam 50-mile endurance events. He bounced down the trail like Tigger in his Easyboot Gloves. Yes he's a happy camper and entertains himself escaping from his corral. But that's another story.

All four of these riders were using Gloves on their horses Day 1 - Trish Frahm, Judy Bishop, Merri Melde and Linda Kluge. Photo by Karen Bumgarner.

Our second multi-day attempt for 2012 was the Owyhee Canyonlands 5 day. 250 miles of rocks, sand, creeks, rocks, hills and more rocks. Thunder had completed this five day in both 2010 and 2011 so I figured he could do it again. But we hadn't ever tried two multi-days in one year and I thought that made the task more challenging.

Beth Skaggs using original style easyboots photo by Karen Bumgarner.

There is always so much to pack and plan for on a multi-day. I wasn't gluing this time as we had been doing fine with the Gloves and no rubs. My plan was to use my Gloves and do the knee high nylons for protection. I had two boxes of the nylons, I had sorted through the Gloves and had them all matched up and hooked together.  As I gathered up all our stuff I recalled Steph saying something about a day with rocks. Now when Steph says a trail is rocky you had better listen, because it will indeed be rocky! So I ordered some comfort pads for Thunder's Gloves to give him a bit more rock and concussion protection. Only problem with this plan was that there was a mixup or misunderstanding and the comfort pads didn't get shipped. However I had some 1/8" memory foam and I cut out my own pads. Now I felt like we had everything. Thunder was ready, I was ready and we were going to do this.

Going up through the rocks on Knife Ridge photo by Karen Bumgarner.

The morning of the ride at the crack of dawn I had my hoof pick, gloves, nylons and mallet all lined up in Thunder's pen. One hoof at a time I put the nylon's over the hoof and up the leg, then applied the pads in the front hoof, then the boot, whack whack with the mallet, and set the foot down. Hook the gaiter, pull the nylons down over the gaiter and voila! This would be our daily routine each morning. And I wasn't alone as I heard the familiar "whack whack" of others putting on the gloves for the day. I don't know how many riders used Gloves but I saw a lot of booted horses. I'd guess half of the horses were wearing Easyboots, and most of them were Gloves and some Glue-Ons

 
If you worry about rubs try a knee high nylon over the hoof then put the Glove on the hoof, photo by Karen Bumgarner.
 
Just as Steph promised, day 1 was incredibly rocky. We had new trail through one of Idaho's oldest ranches, the Spivey Ranch. I was so thankful for the superior protection the Gloves offer as well as the added padding from my McGyvered insert pads. We took almost 8 hours but Thunder finished sound and looking good. The canyons and trails were really beautiful even though we did have rocks. I rode with Trish Frahm who normally shoes in front and is bare in the hinds but this day I had outfitted her mare with the combination of Gloves and nylons on the hind hooves and she did wonderfully. Always fun helping others with boots and having them say, Wow that was easier than I thought it would be." 
 
 
Steve Bradley always gets the great shots when he calls Thunders name
 
Each day after finishing the boots came off, I cleaned up the hooves, tossed the boots in a bucket of water and cleaned them up too. I believe that removing the salt and debris is not only important for the skin of my horse but it makes the boot gaiters last longer too. And yes if I would have glued my boots I wouldn't have this chore. But I really didn't mind as it only takes a few minutes and I like checking the hooves. 
 
 
Merri Melde got a shot of our post ride check at the end of Day 2.
 
The second day didn't have much rock, the footing was said to be good so I skipped my homemade "pads". I knew days 3 and 5 would be rocky and I was saving my last two pair for those days. I rode with Leonard Liesens on a new horse, Bodie, and he was wishing that he had my Easyboots. But it was too close to the ride when the bay arrived at Teeter's to make any sudden changes. This day we had two 25 mile loops from camp and it went very well.
 
 
Amanda Washington and Layne Simmons at the beginning of Sinker Canyon. Photo by Karen Bumgarner.
 
Yeah buddy! Day 3 we went through the historic Joyce Ranch and along the reservoir to a short section of Sinker Canyon. Complete with a beaver pond, numerous water crossings, large rocks that move about under the hoof, great scenery and great riding companions too! Thanks Amanda Washington and Layne Simmons. All that and my Gloves never budged but I did see a lost shoe.
 
 
Amanda Washington and Topper splashing through the beaver pond. Photo by Karen Bumgarner.
 
On day 4 we had lots of sand washes, two track roads and some great footing around the Wild Horse Butte loop. I took a Junior, Torri Church, who also uses Gloves on her little mare, Precious Little Gem. Torri's mare did lose a boot but we discovered that she was wearing the wrong size boots and fortunately Torri had more boots waiting at the vet check. Once we got the right size boots on her we had no more problems at all. Again, a proper fitting boot is a must!  It was a really good day for the both of us. 
 
 
My view for five days, loved it!
 
The last day is always a nail-biter. The multi-day horses had really dwindled down after day 4 and I thought there were 4 of us left. The final day offered several miles of Sinker Canyon, more sand, rocks, water and another trip through the beaver pond which was pretty fun! Those wonderful Gloves stayed on through it all! In the vet check though Thunder was a smidge off and my stomach turned at the thought of it. But when I pulled the boot I found some sand and small rocks along the heel. We had traveled through a great deal of debris and deep footing in a few miles. I cleaned it all up, let it dry, took him back for another trot and he was good to go! Whew! After the vet check we went up into the high country and it was wonderful! I love the smell of Juniper.
 
 
Thunder cruising in his Gloves on day 4. Photo by Steve Bradley.
 
Thunder had completed all 5 days. Woohoo! With the fastest time by a couple of hours and he was awarded the 5-day Best Condition also! Only two horse rider teams finished all five days and I think Steph usually has around 6 horse/rider teams finish.
 
 
Our Easyboot Gloves had gotten us through another multi-day. It's such an awesome feeling to ride day after day and not worry about my horse's hooves and rocks bruising him. It's pretty hard to beat the reliability of booting. The Gloves rock. And so does my horse.
 
Karen Bumgarner

 

How to Boot for Special Footing and Why You Want It

The annual Moab Canyon Endurance Ride is just around the corner. In its sixth year now, more than 100 riders are entered to enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery the west has to offer. This endurance ride is also the last endurance event in the Mountain Region before winter sets in.

Day 2, Vet Check below Tombstone.

What makes this ride so different from many others, are the large areas of sand stone plates, also called Slickrock.

Riders hand walking their horses down a slick rock plate.

Sandstone is by nature a very soft rock, thus the magnificent canyons, rock formation and arches seen all over the southwest USA. 

Rock formations and plates made of granite, gneiss and lime stone  prevail in most of the Sierras and Rocky Mountains. These are very hard rocks and riders who have ridden the Big Horn in Wyoming might remember the rather extensive granite plates there. Years ago, I witnessed a  horse, shod with steel shoes, sliding over these plates like on ice and falling down. Why could it not find any traction?

Steel is a hard material, so is the granite rock. Therefore steel shoes cannot find enough purchase on this kind of hard rock and slide. Riding steel shod horses fast over concrete and pavement, one can observe the sliding and skidding, while barefoot hooves, hooves protected with polyurethane and Easyboots of all kinds can move safely at any speed over it. Plastic horse shoes and Easyboots are matching pretty close the hardness and density of the natural horse hoof. They are flexible and pliable, molding and adjusting themselves better to the hard underground, thus providing excellent traction.

Sandstone, on the other hand, is a softer rock, so when riding bare foot or with polyurethane shoes or Easyboots, these softer materials tend to slide more on these surfaces. That is why EasyCare provided us with some helpful accessories to give our horses more traction over these interesting red rock plates: the Quickstuds.

These studs can get placed easily with the Quick Stud Application tool into the bottom of  the boots either before booting or after they are already on your horses hooves. You can use them on the Easyboot Gloves, the Glue ons, the Epic, the Edge, the Easyboot, the Bare, the Glove Back Country, the Boa Horse Boot, the Old Mac and others.

What makes the EasyCare Hoofboots special is not only the light weight, the shock absorption characteristics, the sole protection and ease of application; add to it the fact that the boot material matches the density and flexibility of the actual horse hoof, thus providing a smoothly working synthesis with the hooves. Nature did not intend for the hooves to work rigidly and be in an inflexible cast, if I may use that term as a comparison. Instead, the relatively soft hooves are bending and molding to the ground while the  digital cushion is working as an inner shock absorber when traveling over uneven surfaces. Hooves equipped with proprioceptors are reading the ground surface, preparing the hooves for the landing

Now we can get the protection and flexibility of the EasyCare Boots as well as the necessary traction over the sand stone plates.

Years back, EasyCare also retrofitted some boots with larger traction studs. These studs also served well in muddy conditions and icy roads and trails.

These studs were secured from the inside with flat plated screw heads.

For this coming Moab Canyon Endurance Event, The Bootmeister will be available to assist any rider in fitting  Easyboots, Gloves, Glue ons as well as all other available Easyboots and protective horse boots  and can also help inserting the Quickstuds.

Please make reservations through Global Endurance Center by email or phone.

Your Bootmeister

Christoph Schork

"Oh, You Use Easyboots?"

I was recently asked this question at an endurance ride, which made me giggle to myself while answering, "Yup, I sure do." When the individual responded by asking how they work for me, I started reflecting upon my boot use over the past five years. I've ridden over 2,600 endurance miles in Easyboot Gloves and Glue-Ons. I can't even estimate the number of training miles I have ridden in them, but I would guess it's probably as much or more than my endurance miles. I'd say that they have worked out pretty well to have kept with them that long. I can't imagine using any other boots or putting shoes on my horses at this point in my life or my horses' careers. Thankfully I've passed the learning curve of fighting boots that don't fit, feet that aren't trimmed properly and and less-than-ideal glue jobs. The learning curve was brief, but gave me empathy! 

A couple weeks ago I took my now-grown-up boy, Topper, to the 10th Anniversary Owyhee Canyonlands endurance ride. Because I was planning on riding more than one day and have been hit with scratches 100% of the times I have gone to this 5-day, I decided to glue on Topper's boots. Not only does gluing help prevent further irritation by removing the gaiter-part of the equation, but there is nothing so supportive and cushioning as Sikaflex in the sole of your Easyboots. It would be the first time Topper went more than one day at a ride and the first time he's had a full set of Glue-Ons. He felt incredible! 

Topper and I cruising down the trail. Steve Bradley Photography

The two days I chose to ride were both the days that offered trail winding through the bottom of the beautiful Sinker Creek Canyon. While these were the most beautiful days, they were very rocky and wet being that we rode UP the creek! Unfortunately we were missing our paddles but had some badass horses to navigate with ;-)  The first day we rode had only a couple miles through the creek at the bottom of the canyon, but the second day we rode between six and eight miles through the canyon, up and over, and then into the high desert where we enjoyed the beautiful juniper trees and incredible views. Riding at the bottom of the canyon, under the high rock walls, through beaver ponds up to some horses bellies and marveling at the fall colors and laughing with friends just doesn't get much better. 

Splashing through the water for another Steve Bradley great. I was thankful for my Glue Ons once again during this ride. It's been several years now of using them during this great 5-day. 

Team Easyboot member Karen Bumgarner and Z Summer Thunder braving the maiden voyage through the beaver pond. This was secretly my favorite part of the ride! Karen rode Thunder all five days in his Easyboot Gloves with no rubs, no losses, no problem. 

More Sinker Canyon

And up into the high country..

Obligatory dueling camera shot

Riding constantly through the creek and ankle-twister rocks make for a pretty good test of one's glue job and I was happy Topper's boots stayed secure and tight on his feet. I was surprised when a friend of mine showed up in boots that her hoof care practitioner glued on for her, only he used Adhere on the walls with no Sikaflex for extra cushion and stick-factor. Needless to say she lost three of her four boots after riding four days back-to-back. I wish more professionals would utilize the recommended gluing protocol designed and tested for the extreme conditions of endurance riding. Fortunately for her, she was able to slap on her Gloves and finish the journey. 

I ended the week thrilled with the two days Topper gave me. It is the most amazing feeling to take a young, gawky, gangly horse, mostly resembling an elk for his former years, and developing them into the "perfect" (to each his own) horse. I couldn't be happier with him and it is now up to me to care for him and slowly continue bringing him along. It's been a long journey to this point, I am hoping for many, many more years with him. As far as my boots, well they aren't going anywhere. With the different options in the Gloves, Epics and the new Glove Back Country boots (which I love!), it seems that there are options for just about every horse and every rider at this time. After every new advancement in the Easyboot line-up, I find myself thinking, this is as good as it gets! And it's good! And then Garrett Ford goes on to surprise, create controversy and make things better and better. It's a good time to have high performing barefoot and booted equine athletes. 

Another great shot by Steve Bradley

Thank you, Easycare, you have made the tough miles that much easier on my horses. We ALL thank you! 

I'm Going To Hell

After over 20 years in the horse business and making protective hoof wear for horses I've finally been told by a horse owner via e-mail that "You're going to hell".

My decline and direction toward the underworld started when I purchased an Arabian race horse named Clunk.  I purchased Clunk with the goal of trying to make a urethane form of hoof protection that absorbed concussion, allowed the hoof to flex as nature intended and provide the traction needed to win flat track races.  I was pretty naive going into the project and found out very quickly that the flat track industry wasn't going to allow just any Easyboot model and making a product to comply with the rules would not be easy.

The first design that I tried to use on Clunk.  Clunk was not allowed to race in this design.

I caught a break when Fran Jurga told me to contact Curtis Burns of No Anvil. No Anvil makes a flexible horse shoe called the Burns Polyflex Shoe that has been used with great success on the race tracks around the world.  The Burns Polyflex Shoe was used by Shackleford during his 2011 Triple Crown bid.  Shackleford placed 4th in the Kentucky Derby, Won the 2011 Preakness Stakes and finished 5th in the Belmont Stakes. The list of horses that have used the Polyflex successfully is impressive and includes greats like Curlin.  Curlin is the highest North American money earner with over $10.5 Million earned and many of his most successful years performed in the Burns Polyflex Shoe.  Because Curtis' urethane shoe absorbs concussion and allows the hoof to expand and contract it has proven it has a place in the equine world and will continue to used by the best flat track horses for years to come. 

What makes the success of the Polyflex shoe so intriguing is that Curtis Burns usually gets called in to work on a horse when the horse isn't going right.  "The horse's attitude has changed",  "He's a bit footsore", "The horse has a bad quarter crack and has a major race coming up".  Although Curtis is a true craftsman with urethane and adhesives, It's rare these days for Curtis to work on horses himself as he refers the work to farriers that are skilled in the art.

The Polyflex has been used by trainers and horse owners as a tool in their bag of tricks to improve the performance of a horse.  When horses are racing at the Preakness, Derby and Belmont levels performance matters, millimeters matter and the difference between 1st and 5th is fractions of a second. 

Curtis coming off a Hawker Jet.  The plane was chartered by a horse owner that needed Curtis to come quickly and fix a quarter crack.

Curtis went through a difficult process getting the Polyflex accepted into the racetrack industry and Fran Jurga thought Curtis could steer me in the right direction with our desire to run a flat track in a modified urethane hoof boot design.  Curtis and I hit it off immediately, and started talking about new urethane hoof shoe/boot designs that could benefit horses on the track and in other parts of the equine industry.  We are now partnering in a lightweight glue-on urethane shoe that absorbs concussion, allows heel flex, gives the hoof the opportunity to expand and contract.  A tool and an option for not only the race track horse but the backyard trail horse as well. 

The Easy Boot/Shoe project continues and we are now testing several different urethane options, urethane densities, sole and frog support options and tread patterns.  I'm not yet sure where the whole project will go or if it will ever hit the consumer market, but it's shown me that the horse's hoof and the beliefs that surround it are often hotter topics than politics and religion.  I find it fascinating when I get hate e-mails from customers for potentially making a peripherally-loaded hoof protection device that could give them an option toward better hoof function and improved soundness.

A close race to the finish.  One horse in the EasyShoe prototype; the far horse is in an aluminum plate. 

Several different EasyShoe prototypes ready for testing.

In a perfect world the horse would be barefoot as nature intended.  Horses would live on thousands of acres and self trim their hooves as they searched for food.  In a perfect world horses would not be stalled or fed two high-calorie meals per day or be asked to carry a rider that is 25% of their weight over terrain their hooves are not conditioned for.  In a perfect world we wouldn't drink soda, we would all exercise more, we would watch less TV, we would all have a garden, we would smile at strangers and say please and thank you more often.  In a perfect world we would spend less time on the internet and more time with our family, friends and four-legged creatures.  In a perfect world, we would put our health and the heath of our loved ones (all with a heartbeat) first. In a perfect world, rules would not be written to prevent barefoot horses and hoof boots from competition.  Rather than tell someone it's a "sad day" in the horse industry they may say "I applaud you for your efforts but I would prefer your device to load more of the hoof".  In a perfect world an internet lurker that has yet to touch, feel or use a new prototype device may say that is a "interesting idea but not for me" rather than "You're going to hell".

The world is not perfect and will never be perfect.  Companies, products and ideas are born to bridge the gap between perfect and the human race. 

People are funny but in the end we are all in charge of our own health, the health of our equine partners and making the world a better place for our children.  We are all wired differently and look at products, solutions and ideas from a variety of viewpoints. The critics won't stop me and many others from tinkering. I'd rather get the occassional hate mail than be one of the folks who during their life "knew neither victory nor defeat."  The haters in life just bring me back to one of my all time favorite quotes and after reading it I just smile and continue:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Garrett Ford

easycare-president-ceo-garrett-ford

President & CEO

I have been President and CEO of EasyCare since 1993. My first area of focus for the company is in product development, and my goal is to design the perfect hoof boot for the barefoot horse.

 

Virginia City 100 (In Which I'm Regularly Reminded Why I Love Using Boots)

This was going to be a ride story about Fergus' and my Excellent Adventure at Virginia City 100, but instead I found I had quite a lot to say about gluing, so that story will have to wait. Needless to say, we had a great weekend and Fergus, as usual, impressed the pants off me. He continues to astonish me with his ability, his enormous walk, and the way he takes everything so calmly in his stride (and a very big stride it is, too). Love my borrowed golden boy.

Alas, as part of the original agreement (where I got him on loan to do "NASTR Triple Crown")(and snuck Tevis in there too) I now have to return him to his rightful owner, Patrick. Despite that, I'm already secretly scheming to borrow him back for 20 Mule Team 100 in February. 

Smug Gluers R Us

For once I actually felt ready - Fergus and I drove up to Virginia City on Thursday night after work, arriving after midnight but ensuring I'd have all day to get him glued, get everything ready for the ride, preride the part of the route through town, and still relax and socialize.

The camp for Virginia City 100 is on the south side of town and the trail exits on the north side of town. Because of this, we repeat the through-town section four times - always in the dark. The ride starts on the main street and within two blocks drops down a steep paved road to the next terrace below. Judging by the amount of yelling going on at the start of the ride, this steep drop is not much fun in steel shoes. Fergus, on the other hand, marched right down the middle of the road, causing us to appear at the front of the pack and, very briefly, be in third place overall. Awk. Not where I wanted to be at all.

Following shod horses through town later in the evening, every time they hit some repaired asphalt or a painted part of the pavement, their back feet were slipping out from under them.

In boots? Nope...

Fergus and I pre-riding through town on Friday afternoon.

Gluing

Friday morning's gluing went very well and I was extremely satisfied with the outcome. The fact that I ended up completely covered in glue, including a gob all down one leg and a large blob in my hair is neither here nor there - so long as the boots went on well, I don't care what I look like.

A freshly-glued Fergus gazing down at Virginia City. Thanks to my assistant volunteer, Lorri Stringfield (who also used Glue-ons for her first 100 with her horse, Cruiser), for keeping him as still as she could during the proceedings.

New Things I Learned About Glueing

1. Using a Cooler 

After a discussion with Kevin Myers during which I whined about not being able to get the Glue-ons on the horse before the Vettec Adhere glue set up (approximately 0.7 seconds during California summers), he pointed out that even if I kept my glue cool, if I was applying it to a warm boot that might have an impact. I flashed back to my Glue-ons sitting in the warm sun before my last gluing experience and could see where I might have been going wrong.

Accordingly, I arrived at Virginia City with an enormous cooler filled with ice packs and boots and glues and alcohol and disposable gloves and tips and knives and paper towel and ... well, you get the picture. 

Keeping everything in a cooler was a stroke of genius. I was actually able to "take my time" (this being relative - you still can't hang around, but at least you don't have to have the powers of the Silver Streak to get the job done). It still required everything to be laid out ready (albeit inside the cooler), and you had to prethink what you were going to do ahead of time, but the resulting experience was positively relaxed. 

2. Sikaflex Application

Unfortunately, I wasn't there when the EasyCare Glue Crew put Fergus' boots on for Tevis, so I didn't get to see whatever ludicrously effective system they used to get those suckers to stay on so well. The only thing I had to work from was a quick blurry photo that my husband, Patrick, was able to sneak before being shouted at for not keeping Fergus completely immobile (not actually possible when he's bellowing at the world).

The resulting pic showed a curious difference in how they applied the Sikaflex (formerly Goober Glue) sole packing. Instead of a small bead all the way around the inside edge, followed by a blobby triangle-shape mimicking the frog (see left), they made a large fat "I" shape (see right). This is much quicker to squeeze out and judging by the Tevis results, just as effective.

 

Fergus had been a little footsore on some of the harder footing during our pre-ride, so I wanted to make sure that he had as much cushioning as possible. As a result, it's possible that I overdid the Sikaflex "slightly"... ...and it's possible that's how come I ended up covered in glue as it proceeded to ooze out of every possible exit. Apparently I still need to perfect that aspect of glue application. Different sized feet with different amounts of concavity will require adjustment accordingly.

3. The Twist

The third thing that I suspect I've been missing out on (probably related to the aforementioned fact that I seldom had time enough to get the boot on the hoof before the glue was set up solid), is to give each boot a slight twist back and forth once they're on, to get the glue to really stick well to both hoof wall and Glue-on wall. 

4. The Growth

And now we come to the only mistake I made during the whole proceedings. As mentioned, perhaps I was a little overenthusiastic with the Sikaflex - witness below the golf-ball sized glob of glue that oozed out of the back of the first Glue-on that was stuck on Fergus' right front foot (and I suspect I also forgot to give it that smearing twist).

In my defence, I did pull at the blob slightly just after glueing, but was worried I'd pull out the entire back part of the squooshy glue which so nicely plugs the heel area, so I left it alone to cut off later ...and never went back to it. So as a result Fergus went over 40 miles with a bobble on the back of his foot. 

No harm done, right? 

Wrong.

The bobble acted like a handle, so when he stepped on it while climbing a long hill at 42 miles, the boot popped right off and we left it behind. 

Lesson learned and luckily I noticed not too long later as we crested the long hill we'd been trudging up. I always carry sparesies, so on went a Glove and off we went and I never really thought about it again.

The long 2000' climb at around 40+ miles - Washoe Lake on the left, rocks on the right. At the top of the climb I noticed we were missing something

Other Reasons You'd Want to Boot at Virginia City 100

Nevada is well-known for its rocks. Luckily, for the most part you can step in between them. Of course, there are exceptions - like Bailey Canyon that occurs between 25 and 35 miles. It's actually a lot of fun, so long as you aren't the type who likes to travel at warp speed at all times. You take your time and you enjoy the challenge:

Although there isn't much water on the trail to lubricate your boots, there are a few really steep climbs that cause you to pray you've got your booting protocol down. Here Fergus is at the top of the first (and steepest) "SOB" and is explaining to me that it's time for me to get off and walk:

and here we are scrambling up the other side looking back at Connie and Pam who yelled across to me that she found my lost glue-on (they are the tiny dusty things about half way down the descent):

You also spend quite a bit of time on old mining roads that take you all over the mountains. There are plenty of places to trot, but you have to be ready to slow down when necessary. Connie (in the blue ahead) found an old oxen shoe not far from here while marking the trail:

 

Part 3 of the Triple Crown - Mission Accomplished

And so Fergus and I completed VC100 around mid-pack which is where I wanted us to be - slow and steady is going to get the job done since neither of us are likely to break records in the fitness department. But by doing so, we received the NASTR Triple Crown award (NV Derby 50, NASTR 75, and VC100) we hoped to achieve back in March when we set out on this journey. Like Uno before him, Fergus wasn't necessarily expected to do much more than slow 50s, which is why it's all the more satisfying that he has turned out so well.

As I said at the beginning - love my big golden borrowed boy, mush face and all.

All About Heels

What does it actually mean, that often heard advice by farriers and hoof trimmers, natural, bare and otherwise:

"Trim your horses heels to the widest part of the frog!"

Easy, just do it!

What is the importance of that heel landing and why does a short heel help with that?

Looking at the anatomy of a horses hoof, we can clearly see that nature intended a horse to land heel first:

 

The yellow part shows the digital cushion, a tissue designed to absorb shock. Notice that the digital cushion does not extend to the tip of the coffin bone and the front of the hoof.

Can we draw the conclusion from this simple image that the horse is not intended to land toe first?

(Of course, when we talking about heel landings, we are considering only level ground. Any horse climbing steep hills will, just like humans, get ground purchase by digging in the toes first.)

Dr. Robert Bowker, Professor of Anatomy and Director of the Equin Foot Laboratory at Michigan State Univeristy believes the heel area of the hoof is THE most important part of the hoof. His studies focus on the hemodynamic flow theory, which proposes that blood flow through the network of tiny capillaries the in heel region plays a vital role in shock absorption. He also discovered the proprioreceptor sensory cells in the heel region who transmit information to the horse's central nervous system and allow to 'feel' the way across the ground.

A hoof capsule will always grow forward at  the same angle as the dorsal hoof wall shows in the upper half. With time then, the heels will have grown forward as well and will not be at the same level as the frog anymore.

This untrimmed hoof: the green arrows show the heels where they should be, the red arrows show the heel where they presently are. They have grown forward almost an inch.

 

I have marked the heels with a purple line to show how far they should get shortened.

Shortening the heels to the widest part of the frog seems now a no brainer, but first I want to make sure, we are not cutting into live sole doing so. Step one is therefore finding the live sole in the heel area.

Using a hoof knife, we can scrape off the dull and powdery looking dead sole first.

On the left heel, we still can see the dead sole. I just started to remove it. On the right, the shiny live sole is visible. I do not want to shorten the heel any further than that level. In fact, it might be advisable to keep the wall in the heel area about 1/8 to 1/4 th of an inch longer than the live sole.

Why is the level of the live sole so important?

Without taking a X-ray of the hoof, we do not know whether the coffin bone is parallel to the ground or to the visible sole. The coffin bone might be laterally tilted a few degrees within the hoof capsule. Finding the live sole first, will give me that answer, because the live sole will not lie. It will be of the same thickness to the sensitive structures on both sides.

 

After finding the live sole on both heels, the blue arrows show the present end of the heel compared to the the purple line, indicating the widest part of the frog, where the heels should get  trimmed to, ideally.

On a side note, the red arrow shows bar bruising, caused by a bend over bar, exerting pressure onto the sole.

We can also apply a third parameter to check for depth of sole and distance to the palmar processes or wings of the coffin bone. By measuring from the bottom of the collateral grooves close to the heel area,  we can  get information on  how level the coffin bone is situated within the hoof capsule. From studies on cadaver hooves we found that the distance from the bottom of the collateral grooves to the sensitive corium is always 1/2 inch. If the distance measured now from the bottom to the collateral groove to the heel area is equal distally and medially, we can draw the conclusion that we trimmed the horse level to the coffin bone within the hoof capsule and the horse's hoof lands parallel to the ground surface on level ground.

Measuring the distance from the bottom of the collateral grooves to the live sole and untrimmed heels.

After trimming the heels, cross checking for equal distance from the bottom of the collateral grooves to heel level.

Before shortening any heels, it is a good idea to cross check these three parameter against each other:

-where is the widest part of the frog?

-where is the live sole in the heel area?

-how deep are the collateral grooves and are they equal to the heel level?

Following these parameters, we might not always be able to trim to the widest part of the frog on both sides.  A laterally tilted coffin bone, an occurence not as rare as one might think, requires leaving one heel longer than the the other one. Each horse is unique, each hoof is unique.

Professor  Bowker came up with compelling anatomical reasons for trimming the heels to the widest part of the frog. I might add humbly a mechanical one: support of the movement apparatus and skeletal system.

Compare both images: the red arrow indicates the heel in the untrimmed hoof as it compares to the plum line through the center of the canon bone. The heel is not supporting the skeletal apparatus in this image. The hoof is not supporting the horse, resulting in added stress to the tendons and ligaments.

In this image, the green arrow points to the trimmed heel. The plum line through the center of the canon bone goes right through the heel: the heel is now supporting the skeletal system, therefore less stress on the tendons.

I might add that this horse is not displaying an ideal of conformation in the lower leg. Better would be if the end of the heel would extend back further from the plum line.

Whether we are practicing Natural Hoof Trimming, Natural Hoof Care, Barefoot Trimming or Trimming for Protective Horse Boots, Easyboot Gloves or Easyboot Glue ons or for shoeing, the principles of anatomical and mechanical correctness remain the same. The hoof is supposed to support the skeletal system and movement apparatus and the horse should land heel first.

Food for trimming thought by

The Bootmeister.

Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

The above title may seem like common sense but I have come to the realization that common sense is not common. Far too often I talk with distressed customers who need to purchase boots for a riding trip that is just days away. Sometimes it is the customer's first time using boots on the horse and the horse's shoes may have been recently pulled. Unfortunately this is far from an ideal situation. Whether you are developing a Strategy to Top 10 at Tevis or going on a weekend trail riding trip, planning and preparation can mean the difference between success and failure. Although I am not currently involved in distance riding, I did just finish a 24 mile backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. The same steps I took to prepare for my trip apply to distance riding.

View from South Rim

View from the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

1) Check Your Equipment

Before any organized event or casual excursion always check your equipment to verify that it is in good shape. My hiking boots were several years old and I had been super gluing the soles together; no one likes breaking in a new pair of boots but I knew that super glue was not going to cut it for Grand Canyon backpacking. I bought new boots two months before my trip and began the break in process. We strongly encourage our customers to break in their horse's boots as well. It is best to start by doing shorter rides (less than an hour) at a walk and trot. If your horse is moving freely and not chafing, you can increase the speed and duration of your rides over time.  

2) Check the Fit

A good fit is an important key to success. I knew if my boots did not fit well, I would be at risk of developing blisters. If your horse's boots do not fit, there is an increased risk of chafing, twisting and boot loss. Purchasing boots well in advance of your trip gives you time to ensure that the boots you selected are working well for your horse. No one wants to have a riding trip ruined because they lost new boots or their horse developed a rub.

Easyboot Glove Fit

A good fit with the Easyboot Glove is vital for success.

3) Condition Hard

If you condition harder than the trip you are preparing for, you are more likely to have an enjoyable experience. Although the longest days of my trip were seven miles, I did some conditioning hikes that were over ten miles. This was also an important step in Kevin Myers' strategy for Tevis and applies to all distance riders.

Planning and preparation allowed me to have a worry free trip that was blissful. Do yourself and your horse a favor and follow these steps. I can promise that you won't regret it.

 

Alayna Wiley

Alayna Wiley, EasyCare CSR

Customer Service

As one of the customer service representatives, I am happy to help get your horse into the right boots. I have plenty of hands on experience since my horses have been barefoot and booted since 2003.

 

The Pendulum Swings

I spent the last weekend up in Cascade, Idaho, for the final migration of the Rare Forest Pink Flamingo, also known as The Pink Flamingo Classic. The ride is managed by two of my best friends and has been a hit since its inception in 2006. Having been to every year of this ride, spending time at the vet check with my husband, at registration with my friends and on the trails with my horses, you become aware of the norms. This year, after riding the 50 on Topper the first day, I helped P&R in the morning on the second day, when I became acutely aware- the pendulum has shifted. 

The Annual Pink Flamingo Drop- these guys spare nothing at this ride!

All year I've been noticing a dramatic shift of booted vs. shod riders at our local rides. At the Oregon Outback ride, it became clear that while the Northwest *is* changing their views and is more open to the Idaho of barefoot and booted riding, Idaho has it locked down! Looking at the numbers, I do believe there were more booted horses than shod at the Pink Flamingo. Just a few years back, a handful of us were all that were. How soon until steel shoes are a drastic minority? 

Watching the various horse and rider teams in different stages of the game, and was pleased to see very few issues. I also saw riders troubleshooting, together, and had a lot of fun discussions with people who have gotten past the sometimes difficult learning curve and are on enjoying the ease and success of booting. While the Easyboot Glove was the most prevalent, I observed a few Glue-Ons and some Renegade boots. I also saw a lot of nice low heels, short toes and strong hoof walls. Way to go people!

Ride managers Linda Walberg and Sally Tarbet, zooming the trails. 

For Topper, I chose to use my trusty Gloves. I decided to use Sikaflex in the bottom of Topper's front boots, as I knew the ride has a fair amount of downhill and some hard-pack road and thought Topper would appreciate the extra cush. For the hinds, I used his Gloves with a couple wraps of 2" Elastikon. While I normally use athletic tape for training rides, I have found that the Elastikon is stickier, a bit thicker and seems to hold up a little better for looooong rides and those with lots of water. It is much more costly but I don't mind spending a few extra dollars for endurance rides- what's a few more after all the money it costs to begin with! 

Of course it wouldn't be a ride if there wasn't something to learn from it. I made a cardinal mistake of booting, and was reminded I need to pay attention, even when things seem second nature. I have done six rides this year with Gloves, and had no problems. Of course this one, well, yes, I got a rub. It was small and didn't impact us, but it was a rub nonetheless and I felt like a jerk because of it. When I booted Topper that morning, I left the gaiters loose while I finished tacking up, and forgot to tighten them before I left. Imagine my surprise when I came in at 25 miles and felt awful when I saw the little red mark on the inside of The Top's left hind ankle. I made a few adjustments, put some salve on it and was prepared to pull my hind boots on the last loop if it increased. Luckily, it never got any worse and wasn't even sore to touch. Moral of the story- don't be a flake and tighten your gaiters! It really does make a difference! I won't make that mistake again! 

Topper struts his stuff. He knows he's something! Steve Bradley Photography

We had a great ride. I know I've written about Topper, and his, erm, mental and foot challenges, Three years ago, two years ago, even one year ago, I can't say I really thought we'd get to this point. Topper left camp on his second endurance ride ever, as calm as he could muster. He settled in and was incredible the rest of the day. I was thankful for the Sikaflex in the fronts and was thrilled with how he looked after and the next day. It's been a long, long road, with thrilling results. I love this boy. 

The next day was Chant's turn, who unfortunately has resorted back to F-Bomb. I took him out on the 15-mile loop and wow, did we go. He was a little pent-up from being in a pen for the two days previous and was on his A (or F, depending on how you look at it) Game. I took him out barefoot and was excited that he didn't miss a step. This horse has incredible feet and I plan to really develop them by riding as much as I can barefoot. Chant cantered, big trotted and grudgingly walked up and down the steep hills and back on into camp. This guy is difficult to deal with but oh-so-athletic. It should be a fun ride. 

The F-Bomb doing what he does. Arguing about how we should be going much faster. Steve Bradley Photography

For now, Topper is on a long break after doing his first two 50-mile rides in the course of a month, and Chant has been moved up to the plate. We'll see how this goes! 

Wish us luck :) 

 

Topper's Rockin' Big Day

Holy heck my baby has grown up! It truly seems like just yesterday, I was reluctantly loading an awkward, gangly, frizzy, skinny, head-case of a three-year-old gelding into my trailer. Yesterday it was not, but sometimes it feels like just yesterday, and sometimes it feels like it's been ages. In reality, three years ago, almost to the day, we brought Topper home, and three days ago, he completed his first endurance ride at the City of Rocks Endurance Ride in Almo, Idaho.

Anytime a horse finishes such an accomplishment is huge, but when it's been preceded by years of blood, sweat, broken wrists, broken railroad ties and tears, it's the real deal. I'm not jokin', y'all. This horse was a total freak with a capitol F when we brought him home. He has done more stupid, reactive and dangerous things than all my horses put together. In Topper's defense, he hasn't a mean bone in his body. Just several insecure, reactive and panicky bones. We've added magnesium to his diet. Hope that helps. But really, he has turned into a very nice horse. While there is still that level of anxiety and nervousness just under the surface, he just gets better and better the more we do. I'm pretty sure that by the time he's 19, he'll be awesome. 

Where it all began. Topper at three years old. Plenty of improvement needed.

Throughout the years, I have struggled more with Topper's feet than I have with the others. He came with a pretty significant dish and some wicked long toes, and it's something we have battled since. Luckily, the stronger he gets, the less his feet go wonky, and I've worked hard to keep him even and balanced, in both feet and body. 

Frequent trimming has been imperative in Topper's hoof health, and I've learned more from his problem feet than I would have if he had picture-perfect, textbook hooves. Because of his very long legs, he developed a consistent grazing posture where his right front gets slung back and his left front ahead. Long toe, low heel, yada yada yada, I've gone on and on. The moral of the story is I can't imagine what his horse's feet would look like if they had been shod from the age of three on, or if he had been left out in pasture without frequent trimming. As frustrating as it's been, I am thankful for the lesson and experience. 

Using boots on Topper has been easy. I took advantage of the slow miles I put on him and rode mostly barefoot to develop a strong foot. Fitting him for his Gloves was a bit of a challenge, in that he has very wide front feet. After the development of the Easyboot Glove Wides, it was smooth-sailing in the boot department. Prior to the Wides, I experimented with a few different sizes, but ultimately settled on 0.5W for the fronts and 1s with Powerstraps on the hinds. Start early fitting for boots, don't wait until the last minute. It really pays to do this and is one less thing to fret about when your ready to step your training up. 

Topper in his boots on a training ride at 7,000'.

Recently I wrote about sensitivity due to thin soles. I decided to glue boots on him before the ride, using lots of SikaFlex to cushion and absorb concussion. This worked beautifully, as it always does, and gave Topper the comfort and security to keep on keepin' on! While this ride wasn't exceptionally rocky, there was a fair amount of road and I was psyched to have the extra protection. Topper's boots are still holding strong, and I plan to leave them on for a period of ten days or so. While leaving boots glued on for longer than a week can be somewhat controversial for some, I love the amount of foot that grows after a ride and I find that horses who need the extra growth thrive in properly used Glue-Ons. I am so thankful for this option.

I was so psyched for this ride, not only because it was to be Topper's first, but because we would be doing it with one of my best friends in the world, and Topper's brother! For real! His brother! Because I'm a dork like that, I think animal siblings are too funny. My yorkie has regular playdates with his littermates. My friend's Sheltie has playdates with his brother and my horse is no different. He and his brother were born on the same day, April 1st, 2006. Yeah, the joke's on me on that one! They were sired by the same stallion. Poor Hemi's mother passed away when he was just a little guy, and not only did Topper's mother adopt him, she nursed both boys and cared for Hemi as her own. Topper and Hemi still remember each other when they get together, and I couldn't think of a funner way to spend 50 miles! 

The boys coming into the vetcheck. Jackie and I were trying out each other's stirrups.

Topper and I on our first endurance ride together. I look forward to many, many more rides with him. Steve Bradley Photography.

After the ride. We did it!

Jackie and I had a fantastic ride on the boys. They had a wonderful experience and finished the ride in great shape. We cracked up all day at their similarities, including a propensity to be a wee bit lazy. We'll work on that for the future. Hemi has always worn Easyboot Gloves also, and proudly sports the Kansas City colors, red and yellow on his powerstraps. I would estimate 90% of my friends now use hoof boots which is awesome! It's so fun seeing all the boots around ridecamp instead of steel shoes. Pretty soon, steel will be a thing of the past. 

The Levermann family riding the Teeter horses. They were outfitted with Gloves and Glue-Ons. All three pairs did all four days.

Team Easyboot member Karen Bumgarner and Z Summer Thunder who completed all four days in Glue-Ons. Thunder looked great.

Carol Brand on her gorgeous gelding, August. It is a small miracle in and of itself that Carol has barefoot horses who go in Easyboots. She used to tell me their land was "just too abrasive, dry and rocky to go barefoot." I knew she'd come around. Due to their abrasive, dry and rocky ground, her horses have incredibly functional hooves. 

So keep on keepin' on. Whether your at the beginning whacko, frizzy stages, or nearing the milestone of a big accomplishment, keep at it. Because when you do, you get to look back and remember everything you've gone through to get there. And you get to look forward to all that's coming.