Horse A - Fergus
My husband Patrick's horse is a lovely big buckskin tennessee walker/arabian cross. Fergus has never worn shoes in his life so we were very happy that Garrett was at the Death Valley ride in 2008 and fitted the horse with Easyboot Gloves for their debut limited distance ride.
I've heard about TWHs - they often have trouble keeping on shoes because they have a big overreaching stride. I remember talking to a guy at Tevis one year - by the time his TWH had gotten to Robinson Flat (36 miles) it had yanked off all its shoes and they had to pull.
As an unknown quantity I wasn't sure how things would go with Fergus but was nervous: it was Patrick's first ride; they'd never tried the boots before; they went out alone; he was inexperienced dealing with horse footwear; what if Fergus prised them off every five minutes and Patrick had the most awful ride? I really wanted things to go well for them for their first official distance event.
When he showed up at the finish (a punctual five hours later, as instructed), Patrick was beaming. Everything had gone perfectly - the boots performed flawlessly, Fergus had no rubs, they'd ridden through sand and rocks, ups and downs, and it had been wonderful. In fact it went so swimmingly that they did their second LD two days later, clambering over the Slate Range.
Patrick and Fergus climbing the Slate Range, Day 4 of the Death Valley Encounter endurance ride, 2008
Cache Creek 50, Lake Co., California, May 2009... 874°F.
Horse B - Roo
Roo did his first fully-booted ride in May 2009 at Cache Creek. This ride turned out to be on the hottest day of the year with temperatures up in Dante's Inferno range. We set out on this maiden-booted-voyage with Easyboot Gloves on the front and Renegades on the back.
At the time, I couldn't get Gloves to stay on Roo's back feet. Garrett told me I needed a smaller size but I couldn't see how to smoosh him into the next size down, so was experimenting with Renegades.
Roo travels cleanly, he's got "normal looking" feet, and he's not prone to histrionics so I figured we'd be OK. We practised at home beforehand and I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the expected teething troubles ...and was rewarded accordingly.
By the time we'd finished our 50 miles, every single boot had come off at least once with a total of 11 boot losses over the course of the day, resulting in about 45 minutes total fiddling around, plus emotional wear and tear. I was hot, Roo was hot, and we'd tested our riding partner's saintly patience to the extreme. We completed, but it wasn't pretty.
Roo checks out the attack-cows
Later, when the dust settled I went back and reviewed the boot losses. There was the incident when Roo got tangled in some hidden hot wire, freaked out, dumped me in a ditch and lost all four boots. Hmm. Then there was the part where Roo lost his right-rear boot four times in three miles. This turned out to be from the velcro on the Renegade strap failing (related to the multiple muddy creeks we had to slop through). After that I switched him to a spare Glove - a spare Glove that was too big (remember that part) and not surprisingly that one twisted off three times in five miles (although it did reseat once when he spooked at a bush). The only other front boot loss occured when he tripped and flipped off his right front towards the end of the ride.
So what did I learn from these incidents?
Apart from the obvious "don't ride into wire" and "next time, use new straps", the overwhelming lesson was the importance of proper boot fit.
It turns out Roo has uneven-sized front feet (remember above where I mention this being the real world, with real horses?). His right front foot is his "wimpy" foot and needs to go in a size smaller Glove. Once I figured that out, I don't believe we've lost a front boot since.
As far as his back feet went this had been a continued source of frustration for me and I was getting to the "well maybe we'll just shoe the back feet" stage (this was five months into him being barefoot).
The weekend after the ride, I sat down and made a paper template of the inside of the Easyboot Glove. Then I held it up against the underside of Roo's rear foot to ascertain exactly how much toe I needed to remove to get him in the next size down. My impression had been that I was going to have to compromise hoof integrity to make it work (which of course I wasn't willing to do), but when it came down to it Roo just needed a bunch of toe removed - toe that I later decided probably shouldn't have been there in the first place (I'm the hoof trimmer for all the horses and still very much at the learning stage).
With his toes dubbed off, Cinderella's dainty feet slipped into the next size down and, voila, my horse was on his way to keeping boots on.
Horse C - Uno
Uno's time came a year or so later, so we'll leave his story for now.
Fergus' feet shrink and Roo gets the last laugh.