Reflections On Booting Lessons Learned

Submitted by Leslie Spitzer, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

It's hard to believe that yet another ride season is wrapping up. It seems like it just started. Also along with the end of ride season another year of participating in Team Easyboot is coming to a close. It was a great year and for me, I feel like my knowledge of hoofcare and booting increased immensely. I feel like I've come to a point where I can truly help out others with confidence and share that knowledge all while realizing I am still a student and always will be. There is always something new to learn or something that can be made better.

This was my third year with barefoot/booted horses. I found myself coming into the season still struggling with booting challenges with my main horse, Eagle. I've always been fully open about the fact that I consider him to be the worlds most difficult horse to boot due to his extreme movement, power and his hoof shape. I fully believe in the choice I've made for him to be barefoot/booted so even though I've been tempted, I've stuck with the boots always trying to find solutions to make it work better for us.

Glue-Ons - our standard boot for endurance rides.

I'll always prefer Glue-Ons for 100's but I won't lie, I was tiring of having to use them for 50's. I was quite envious of those who could just slap boots on and go and fantasized about how lovely that would be. Stubborn streak in full operation, I decided I was going to work on that problem and try and solve it. First of all, I made sure I was working with a properly trimmed hoof. I then took Mueller Athletic Tape and wrapped it around the hoof 4 times in the front and 5 times in the rear. I applied Sikaflex to the sole of the hoof with a spatula. I then worked and got the boots on and seated correctly. I then took a hoofpick and pried the boot open at the quarters just enough to get a tip from the Adhere gun in there and I squeezed a bit in. I then did a top bead of Adhere around the boot.  So, it wasn't exactly as easy as slapping on a boot and going, but it was easier than gluing shells - kind of a happy medium. I was extremely happy with the result as my boots stayed on.

Easyboot Gloves on the evening before the ride. Unfortunately, there were no pics of the process.

At the next ride we went to I decided to go this route again, only I decided to use Glove Back Country Boots in the front and Gloves in the rear. I'd been having pretty good luck with the Back Country in training and I thought it would be fun to see how they did. I wasn't even sure if anybody else had actually done a 50 mile ride in them. The procedure I used for the fronts and Back Country was just Sika Flex in the sole and 4 wraps of Mueller Athletic Tape. I used Sika on the soles in the rear and 5 wraps of tape. I then quickly realized my half empty tube of Adhere was not mixing properly so I ditched it and just squeezed some Sika in the quarters and did a top bead around the boot. It worked fabulously - no lost boots.

I have to say I am quite impressed with the Glove Back Country boots. I think it is going to be more of an endurance boot than previously thought. It never budged and I am sized up half a size from our normal Glove size. We traveled at all gaits and at competitive speeds. I had not previously used the Back Country in deep footing or lots of sand (both of which there was a lot) so I did wrap some duct tape around the boot to make sure I would not have to worry about sand affecting the velcro. One thing to note, if riding in deep sand, check at the stops for any accumulation in the gaiters we did have some. At home we do not have really deep footing and I've never had anything accumulate in them. 

Cantering along in our Back Country/Glove combo (Baylor/Gore photo).

Eagle showing off his big trot in the Back Country/Glove combo. (Baylor/Gore photo)

Post ride. The duct tape is a nice touch, don't you think?

In reflecting back on the year in general, I am pleased to say I am noticing a real paradigm shift to boot usage in my local area. I have traveled to rides in different regions over the past few years and had been really surprised at how many boot users I saw compared to my own area. I don't know why this was the case, it just was. I can only assume it's shifting because people cannot ignore the statistics and the successes. It is a very valid option and becoming quite mainstream. I like to think maybe, possibly I have had a small influence in this shift on my local level. I am an advocate of barefoot/booted and I do believe it to be best. My most important lesson has been to approach softly, use few words, lead by example and success and be available to help and answer questions. Plant the seed, nurture it and wow - suddenly people are calling and asking for the help to transition to barefoot/booted. 

I'm really excited and proud to say there are quite a few horses transitioning local right now that I've had a hand in helping out. It's a huge responsibility but I credit being a member of Team Easyboot as an excellent resource. I've made the connections I need so I can get help or ask a question or opinion on my work.

A horse we are helping transition with Navicular Syndrome. This was about 6 weeks ago the day these shoes were pulled.

Same foot six weeks later.  He's got a long way to go but we are seeing some changes.

It's exciting and fulfilling to me to be helping in change and progress. I don't know that I'd have the confidence, the knowledge or the feeling of challenging myself to learn more if it were not for my involvement with Team Easyboot and the resources and folks I've met through Easycare. I'm thankful for that and I can't wait to see what's in store for next year.

What I am looking forward to next year. This is four year old Finney, my first home-bred, never shod horse. 

Leslie Spitzer

Team Easyboot at Shahzada, Australia

Submitted by Susan Gill, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

I've enjoyed my time as a Team Easyboot member over the past few years and my favourite tee-shirt is a visual testament that TE people (and barefooters generally) probably don't switch off - ever.

Barefoot and booting are a lifestyle for us and our horses. My tee-shirt is worn as a banner, a personal motivator, a comfortable best friend, and preferred clothing to get caught in for those unexpected midnight awakenings when camping at horse events. It's been run ragged literally but I am sure it will be around one way or another for some time yet, even if it gets multi-coloured cuffs and neckband repairs.

Joby modelling my favourite TEB tee-shirt, being far more photogenic than me :)

Joby is much more photogenic than me so she got the modelling job showing my special tee-shirt.

This year has been a fairly high learning curve, generally through experience, reflection and discussion. The experiences have generally been wonderful, the reflections have ranged from light-globes to bricks and the discussions often highlight or reinforce individual opinions.

My gluing protocol has developed according to the hooves being booted. I have learned that styles need to be as individual as the horse - this was never more apparent than during my attempt at the Shahzada Memorial 400km Test in August this year.

TEB Jen and TEB Susan, Tammy, Di (TEB Tarryn's Mum) + photographer/Booter Janine.

Relaxing at our campsite seriously discussing rides strategies - right.

4 riders (2 x TEB, 1 x booter, 1 who shoes) + our Camp Rouseabout (mum of another TE12 member) all of which meant we had 3 horses to have shells glued on. Success rate? 2 horses = 100%. One horse - my Joby = 25% by day 3. By the end of our ride people were commenting on Joby's colourful footwear - a different colour power strap for each boot as we lost a glue-on and put on a spare three different times.

What was the difference?  Her gait - she paddles?  Her hoof shape - possibly very slight flares?  The shells - fingerprints on the inside from attaching power straps? All these points have been discussed before and likely it will continue to happen if I can't be 100% diligent in all areas I have control over.

Past experience had already demonstrated that Joby was likely to lose boots so I carried a spare front and a spare hind for every ride loop. And each day I got use one while out on track. I had learned that taping around her hooves with Mueller's adhesive tape worked well. Glueing was the obvious choice for a 5-day marathon but taping the spare boots each day actually proved the more successful option in keeping the boots on. We never lost a taped boot and never developed any rubs either. Jenny Moncur my TE12 partner did an amazing joby booting Joby each day, taking care to follow all the documented tips regarding rub prevention with nappy-rash powder, taping fetlocks with vet-wrap etc.  

I ended up withdrawing on track Day 4 when Joby "hit her limit" mentally. It was a personal best for both Joby and myself, successfully completing 3 consecutive days of 80km of what I consider the most challenging, amazing and enjoyable track in Australia. Already I am planning for Shahzada 2013, knowing we have had a great experience this year to provide the base for our next attempt.

4am start every morning meant a lot of kms achieved before sunrise.

Some last minute adjustments before starting at 4 am. Check out the fancy footwear of the strappers (crew)!

Now Jenny, Joby and I have just returned from our state championships where Joby and I completed the 160km event. Did we glue?  No...and Yes!  Our preferred method was a combination of Mueller's tape around her hooves for adhesion, with sikaflex underneath for shock absorption rather than glueing power. Chosen boots were Gloves with gaiters rather than shells - for this ride I was leaving nothing to chance. The Gloves didn't budge except from our choice when we felt the desire to check them. No rubs, no losses, no concussion, no worries.

This photo provided by Main Event Photography. Shahzada Day 1 in clean gear with matching footwear all round.

Our hybrid glueing methods for 2013 are yet to be determined but I know one thing for sure:  we'll be back and bootin' like always.

Easyboot Glue-On vs Easyboot Glove

Submitted by Karen Bumgarner, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

No doubt about it, Easyboots of one form or another are a favorite item of necessity for many trail and distance riders around the world. Most of us have a favorite style and mine is the Easyboot Glove.

I love the Glove.

But Glue-Ons do run a close second. I have ridden close to 1,000 AERC miles this year with both kinds of boots and the recent rain gave me time to ponder the pro's and cons of Glue vs Glove. And I have to admit it's a lot easier to come up with favorable reasons, but I did try to balance it out.

Thunder at the finish of 5 days with boots glued on - photo by Karen Bumgarner.

Pro's for Gluing boots:

  1. The horse moves naturally as the shell just becomes part of the hoof.
  2. You dont have to worry about debris getting into the boot.
  3. I know people lose them occasionally but I feel pretty confident they are staying put - just try to take one of those glued boots off!
  4. The Sikaflex glue gives an excellent cushion to prevent bruising and relieve concussion even more than the Glove.
  5. Unaffected by hot temperatures and water.

I shot this of TE member Amanda Washington on Belesema Replika and her glued on boots at the 2010 Canyonlands

Cons for Gluing:

  1. For some of us - gluing is really messy.
  2. It takes a good 30 minutes just  to prep the hooves for gluing, roughing up the walls, getting the hooves super clean, etc and I can have a horse in four Gloves and be saddled by then.
  3. It does require special equipment (gun, tips) for the Adhere but the Sikaflex will work with a good quality caulking gun.
  4. The added expense of adhesives, guns and tips that Gloves don't require.
  5. Glue-On shells are reusable but cleaning the adhesives out of the boot is difficult and time consuming for the average person, but playing with power tools is fun!

Merri Melde took this of Thunder in the sand with his glued boots

The Pro's of using Gloves:

  1. They are so extremely simple, just clean the hoof and push them on with an easy whack from a rubber mallet. Hook the gaitor and go: even small children and old ladies like me can put them on.
  2. Great hoof protectection and some people will add sikaflex to the sole area for extra cushioning.
  3. Easy removal after a ride.
  4. Just drop them in a bucket of water for easy clean up.
  5. Use them again and again.

Thunder and Blue, both outfitted with Gloves - perhaps Drin Becker took this.

The Cons of Gloves:

  1. They will come off easier than a Glue-On boot, hot temperatures may allow them to stretch and one may slide off in numerous creek crossings - but I had great luck at five days of Canyonlands with no losses. 
  2. It is possible to get debris in a boot but if the fit is correct it takes miles of deep ugly loose footing for that to happen.
  3. The pastern area or heels can get rubbed although not a common problem and previous blogs have been written about various means of preventing rubs. 
  4. Heavy mud can work itself into the velcro portion of the gaitor causing it to come undone but a wrap of duct tape around the gaitor puts an end to that in a jiffy.

Karen Bumgarner

Blue (in Gloves) and I trotting Fandango in the rain and mud. Photo by Steve Bradley

I'm pretty sure that you can come up with some other reasons that I didn't. But my personal conclusion is that gluing is great for a multi-day or maybe even a 100 miler depending on the conditions. I think for most rides though I will continue to use my tried and true Gloves. However, no matter what type of boot I decide to use, there is absolutely no way I am going back to shoes when booting is so simple, efficient and cost effective. 

Ride on!!

High Heels and Sore Toes, Not Just on Girls Night Out

Submitted by Tennesee Mahoney, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

We all know (directly or indirectly) the often painful results associated with a day or night in high heels.  I remind myself every girls-night-out.  Of course, I love getting spruced up, but I don’t wear pumps every day, and I guarantee I will never go jogging in them. Let's face it, wearing high heels often leads to having sore toes and, depending on the shoe’s fit, usually rubs on our heels, which require band-aids.

High Heels = Sore toes + heel rubs

It's really no different with horses.  This summer, one of the things that I learned, thanks to the bootmeister's expert guidance and several patient equine athletes, is how to get heels done right.  I have always had horses with naturally low heels, so trimming them was easy…I never touched the heels.  Thanks to a barefoot lifestyle, they kept their heels right where they needed to be, or perhaps even a little low, so I would trim everything else and leave the heels as nature intended.

Over the last year or two, however, I have acquired several horses who have naturally higher heels and steeper angles.  Even living and training barefoot, they have too much heel.  The methodology of “don’t touch the heel” no longer worked for me, because they would get too high.  There are many tell-tale signs of high heels, but for the average ‘booter’ there are several things that should easily catch your eye as you go to boot your mount: the plumb line through the cannon bone can be off.

The angle that the boot’s shell creates with the horse’s hoof and hairline become reversed, the angle should open from the heel to the toe (see below,) and not be drastic.

As opposed to an angle that opens from the toe to the heel (see below,) or anything drastic.

And the easiest sign to identify is killer heel rubs.  (I honestly don’t have a picture of that for you!)  Don’t blame the boot, it’s a boot fit/hoof trim issue and not a design flaw.  All that said, every horse is different, and there are extremes at both ends (high heels and low heels,) that are completely natural, functional, and sadly, out of the average range of hoof angles/shapes that boots are designed to fit.  You can see how high this horse's heel bulbs are in the gaiter.

Here is one example I want to share with you.  This horse was tender-footed, equally on both of his front feet before this trim, even in boots.  His heels appeared to be high, but in his defense, he does have a naturally steep hoof angle and pastern.  He may also be a candidate for the ‘wides’ (Easyboot Glove or Glue-On Wide.) Remember when looking at these that I am not a professional trimmer, I am learning, and have much to learn, so take it easy on me. 

The sore-toed-high-heeled hoof.

Clean up the frog a litttle, get your bearings.

Clean up the sole and bars (he was load-bearing on his bars), I used a Merlin for this because he had nice hard sole, but it was thick enough in places that I was afraid it could cause pressure points.

Knowing now how deep I could safely go, and knowing that his heels should be way back at the widest point of his frog, I did the rest of my trim.  

I brought his heels down and back, and touched up the rest of the hoof wall to level everything  out.  I barely took any length off of the toe.  Just behind the white line, significant redness became visible immediatly, after a very light wrasping, where the horse had been toe sore, so I used my hoof knife to relieve the pressure there.  Having high heels was clearly making him bear too much weight on his toes, and his hoof was putting out excess callus on the toe to defend itself.  You can also see where I had to dig out a small rock that was jammed up in his white line causing even more tenderness, there was still some debris up in the hole but that was as far as I fealt comfortable digging, and he let me know that having the rock removed relieved some pain.  

His other front hoof was the same story but without the pea gravel.  The horse was sound after the trim, not tender on his toes any more.  He even went on a ride.  His Easyboot gloves fit his heel bulbs better, so they didn't rub, and were much less likely to flip off.  Remember when adjusting heel hight that you don't want to do anything too drastic since you will be changing the "tension" on the horse's tendons, so if you have a long way to go, do it in steps.  This horse still has a little ways to go.  Here is the previous image with lines drawn in.

I finished this trim by beveling the edge (mustang roll,) and dripping some iodine into his frog and the pea-gravel-hole.  But the moral of the story is; High heels lead to sore toes, and if you're a booter, it will also lead to heel rubs, so if you are having either or both of those problems, you may want to double check your horse's heel height, or kick off your high heels and put on some flip flops.

Tennesee Mahoney

 

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.