Keeping It Real

Kevin asked me if I'd write something for the EasyCare blob and I said I only would if I could talk about boots, warts n' all.

My take is that people need to be secure in the knowledge that when things aren't going smoothly "as seen on TV", they aren't alone. There is often trial and error involved with booting and no, you aren't a freak, you just need to understand that you live in the real world of badly behaved, muddy horses, ones that deliberately stand on your foot when you're trying to boot the front end, and poop on your back when you're trying to boot the rears.

It should also be pointed out that it doesn't matter what you think is going to happen - boot fit-wise - or what your friends tell you will happen, it doesn't work the same way for every horse.

De-Booting, Post Event (In Which I Hardly Swear At All)

Whilst I'll happily use Gloves for any endurance ride up to 50 miles, using Glue-ons for longer distances seems preferable - no worries about any potential rubs or losing boots. Typically, I like to get the Glue-Ons off the feet within ten days. This is more a product of gluing a few days before an event but then being too floppy to get the things off until the following weekend.

Fergus' back feet in their glue-ons the morning following Tevis after a refreshing bath.

Tevis was no different - the EasyCare Glue Crew put them on the Wednesday before, and with only 6 hours sleep between Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday was a bust as far as doing anything coherent. ...Come to think of it, the next two weekends were pretty much a bust as far as doing anything coherent, but Sunday a week later I frog-marched myself out to the barn, and, armed with the usual array of Glue-on removal tools - a mallet, a wide-bladed screwdriver, and a couple of tyre levers - set forth to remove Fergus' boots.

45 minutes later, I was dripping sweat and had nearly managed to get one boot off.

What the....?

I have never had such difficulty getting glue-ons off in the past - evidently EasyCare's current gluing protocol is ludicrously effective.

In the end, I ripped the front off the shell getting it off. This is not usual - this is the first Glue-on I've completely ruined in the process of removal - but given the choice of losing a boot or having it not be reusable, I'll go for the solid-attachment every time:

Left-front shell with the front torn out to get the stupid thing off.

During Tevis, I diligently carried a complete set of sparsie Gloves but really needn't have bothered - there was no way those suckers were coming off.

One of the "Tevis Bogs" - it's not the bogginess that is worrisome, it's the fact that these bogs contain hidden boulders lurking in the murky depths, waiting for the opportunity to rip off unsuspecting footwear.

In the end, I had to content myself with just removing the front boots that day. Once the boots are off, the feet are soft so it's an ideal time to trim (and I couldn't believe how much his feet had grown in the two weeks since he'd had his last trim - why people would want to leave them on for longer is a mystery). A few days later I persuaded Patrick to come out to the barn and take off the back boots. They came off slightly more easily, but were still a struggle.

Our next adventure comes in the middle of September with Virginia City 100 when we will be gluing again. Unfortunately, there will be no EasyCare Glue Crew to help out so I'll be picking their brains over the next couple of weeks as to what steps they took to get those things so blinkin' well attached.

--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

Fergus and I Do Tevis (In Which I'm a Lot more Noodle-Like Than He)

It's always best to carry emergency supplies on the saddle "just in case" - especially when travelling 100 miles.

With husband/owner Patrick handling, Fergus had his boots firmly glued on by the EasyCare Crew the Wednesday afternoon before Tevis. Despite the fact they were firmly glued, I like to be prepared so still carried an entire set of Gloves with us. If I could have, I would have carried a spare girth as well - but that's just silly, right? (I had it in my crew box, though).

I feel the green boot bags on the back of the saddle add to the overall ensemble:

 
Fergus and I arrive at Robinson Flat (36 miles) still in one piece. Other than the words "check for boot funkiness" appearing in my crew notes, the boots were mostly ignored, which is how it should be. Photo by Ashley Wingert.
 
Other things I carried but didn't use:
  • Sunglasses for 68 miles... never wore them. All the better to fill my eyes with eyeball mascara (aka Tevis crud).
  • Ziploc baggie of horse fud for 100 miles... Fergus took two mouthfuls out of it while I was hopping around on one leg, trying to get rid of a cramp at 45 miles.
  • Lip salve for 100 miles.. It is better to complain the next day about chapped lips.
  • First aid kit for 100 miles. I did actually use the vet wrap when one of my calves was being unbearably rubbed by an errant bit of saddle trim. See, better to be prepared?
  • Numerous munchies for 100 miles... but you must be sure not to eat them, lest they make you feel better.

So proud of my big borrowed golden horse - crossing the finish line. (photo: Gore/Baylor)

We completed the Western States Trail 100 Mile Ride in 23 hours, 10 minutes, at 4:25 a.m. on Sunday 5th August - approximately 24 hours after getting on the horse the previous morning. It was my first completion and Fergus' first 100 mile ride.
 
Fergus has never in his life felt so solid, nor gaited such a distance (he generally walks big, trots bigger, and canters). Having never worn shoes in his ten years, boots have taken him places that none of us dreamed he would go. And he never put a foot wrong.
 
(five million word version to follow)
 
--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

 

On the Way to Tevis (in which I end up a bit battered)

So Fergus and I find ourselves unexpectedly on our way to Tevis (4th August) and right now I'm wavering back and forth between "normality" and the usual "Tevis paranoia". Predictably, I don't feel he's as fit as I'd like - and I don't feel close to as fit as I'd like, but we'll do our best and provided the temperatures don't get too ridiculous, we stand a good chance of finishing. He's strong and I'm the smart one, right? 

Right <snort>.
 
We're lucky enough to live close to the bottom half of the Western States Trail (WST) so have plenty of opportunity to pre-ride the trail. Two Sundays before the ride we did our last "proper" pre-Tevis training excursion. We hand-walked the 1000' down from Driver's Flat to get to the WST at Fransciso's (the 85 mile vet check) before back-tracking along the trail towards the Finish. Fergus wore his gloves (he's due to have his glue-ons attached the Wednesday before the ride) and I wore my planned Tevis attire (which has now been carefully reassessed after various rubs and discomforts were identified during our 18 mile trip).
 
 
Fergus on the River Road after the last vet check, Lower Quarry - this is the easiest mile of the whole trail - just as well, since by the time you get here, you're completely stupid.
 
One of the main reasons for this route choice was to make sure that Fergus understood the "Crossing the River" concept. He's been wading down there before (much happy splashing and wallowing from him) but we'd never actually crossed to the other bank. They arrange for the flows from an upstream dam to be reduced on ride day, but it doesn't always work as planned and the water can sometimes get deep. I wanted to be sure that he'd have the urge to keep going forwards if he got worried, rather than turn back the way he'd come.
 
 
Pouting over my poorly finger shortly before crossing hw-49 - looking back towards Lower Quarry
 
The river crossing turned out to be a non-event on Sunday, barely belly-deep, but on the way there, trotting cheerfully along, Fergus took it upon himself to stop dead for absolutely no reason. Because he has such big movement the best way to ride it is to stay way looser than my normal stance on my smaller [spookier] horses and the end result was me narrowly missing somersaulting over his head. Once scrabbled back into the saddle, I looked down at my little finger and realised it was bent at an odd angle. Uh-oh. Pulled it back into shape but over the next mile every time I bent it slightly it would pop back into oddly-bent-mode. It began to hurt more so I taped it to its neighbour with some electrical tape from my pommel bag (boy scout, me) - without even really slowing down, I might add. Good 100-mile skill to master.
 

Looking backwards and forwards on No Hands Bridge - this was the last place we were vaguely comfortable, temperature-wise for the next five miles
 
 
Towards the end of the ride, with the temperatures hovering around 100°F, Fergus and I began to get more and more pathetic and wilty. I'd spent the day before in the barn in 110°F rasping three horses that were overdue and not likely to get much attention over the next three weeks, and I was definitely paying for it. We made use of the sponge-onna-string in the creeks, but the heat was really getting to both of us. Remember the comment about me being the smart one? Not. Luckily riding buddy Erin was able to mop us with her sponge and get a reluctant Fergus to drink out of her smooshable bucket that she filled from a trickle coming out of the bank.
 
The final insult to his hot-self was convincing Fergus—who knows the trail pretty well—that we had to make the nearly mile detour away from the "old finish" to come back around from the opposite direction via the "new finish". Was this some kind of warped joke?
 
All's well that ends well. At the finish we hosed the horses back to a manageable cool state and a large bottle of gatorade restored a modicum of intelligence to my overheated brain and I was able to drive us all home again, nursing the poorly finger and hoping it will be in reasonable shape in two weeks.
 
Here's hoping for a fun trip on the WST. With Fergus to look after me, we should have a good day. And thanks, Patrick, for loaning him out - I promise to give him back at the end. Honest.
 
--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

 

Off the Beaten Path (In Which We Explore Unknown Trails)

In August and September 2001, we watched from our front deck as the Star Fire burned over a period of nearly three weeks. The fire rampaged through thick timber of old growth forest along the steep canyonsides of Red Star Ridge and by the time it was out, 16,800 acres stood blackened.

The Star Fire the day it started, from my front deck.

Over the ensuing years much restoration has been carried out, including the planting of 4,300 seedlings by volunteers. The trail through the area - formerly used by the Tevis 100 Mile Ride until the mid 90s, and still used by the Western States 100 mile Run - was closed for a number of years until the dangerous dead trees could be removed. It is now open, once again on the WS100 Run route, and although sparsely used, available to equestrians.

Seedlings crowding each other for space along Red Star Ridge.

We spent the week and weekend following 4th July horse camping up at Robinson Flat (the 36-mile vet check on the Tevis) and decided to ride the trail used by the Run - Duncan Canyon to Red Star Ridge - returning via the Tevis trail down the dirt Soda Springs Road.

On the ridge south of Robinson Flat, looking out towards Red Star Ridge.

Since the fire cleared the hillside of trees, although you can see Red Star Ridge from Little Bald Mountain on the Robinson Flat side, we weren't sure what to expect as far as the trail went. The only thing we did know was that the trail would be open and clear because the Run was only two weeks previously.

On the way down Duncan Canyon.

But one thing we hadn't considered was: no vegetation = no good footing. Although the views were amazing, the going was slow simply because we were walking through denuded rocks for miles and miles.

Looking down on French Meadows Reservoir.

Poor Hopi, who'd never gone that far before and certainly wasn't mentally prepared, was a very sad horse indeed, necessitating lots of stopping to eat "some of that green stuff" to cheer him up.

Thankfully, when we finally reached the end of the ridge and picked up the dirt road the 8 miles back to Robinson Flat, he underwent a miraculous recovery and was suddenly able to trot all the way home with much enthusiasm.

On Red Star Ridge - views in both directions.

By the time we were done - 23 miles in total - both Fergus and Hopi had each ripped through the toe of a back boot as a testament to just how abrasive the footing had been - particularly some of the more volcanic portions. I was glad they had the foot protection the boots offered.

The following day I was joined by fellow Team Easybooters, Tami Rougeau and Renee Robinson, and I borrowed Fergus and we rode "The Canyons" - Robinson Flat to Foresthill. This is a 34-mile trek through the three deepest canyons. 

Bite stylin' in his red glue-ons.

We carefully practised all aspects of the trail, including the rocky singletrack leading south from Robinson Flat, which I found out the next day is being excluded from this year's Tevis.

On the way down the rocky singletrack towards Dusty Corners.

One trail obstacle we hadn't expected to encounter was a mother and baby cow just as we reached Pucker Point. The jangling bell was the biggest giveaway. Needless to say we hand-walked Pucker Point "just in case":

... which turned out to be just as well when we got around the corner:

Bite is deathly afraid of cows, but look how well he's keeping it together!

The best part of the whole ride was a wade in the creek below Swinging Bridge, the most gorgeous place on earth. Both Bite and Fancy were in Glue-Ons, while Fergus was wearing Gloves. Despite the thorough soaking, no boots were lost on the long climb up to Devil's Thumb.

Bite and Fancy enjoying a refreshing wade in the creek after the long descent from Last Chance.

Tami and Fancy on Swinging Bridge.

By the time the mini-vacation was over, I'd ridden 70 miles and Fergus had completed a good 70% of the Tevis trail. Which got me thinking, and even though I didn't mean to, I signed us up for Tevis. It should be a most excellent adventure. 

--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

Tevis Fun Ride (In Which Half the Herd Gets to Go on An Outing)

In the middle of May it was time for the Annual Tevis Fun Ride. This weekend is spent horse camping at the Foresthill Mill Site (the 68 mile vet check on the 100 mile endurance ride) and joining a bunch of like-minded folk to ride portions of the Western States Trail. 

Many people come to this event in order to get themselves and their horses ready for Tevis - the more the horse knows the trail (especially the part you will be riding at night), the better. My Tevis-entered friend wasn't able to bring her own horse down, so she borrowed Fergus for the weekend to familiarize herself with the trail's twists and turns.

This left me with either Hopi and Small Thing to ride. Both were capable, but neither was up for 35-40 miles in one weekend. So I ended up bringing both and did a day on each of them.

Day 1 - Devil's Thumb to Foresthill

On Day 1, we trailered 45 minutes from Foresthill, down an 8 mile dirt road in the middle of nowhere, to Devil's Thumb - around mile 54 of the Tevis. Because of lack of access, usually the only way to do this is to ride out and back.

This was Hopi's day to be ridden. He's still pretty green, but coming along in leaps and bounds, demonstrating a level-headedness I wasn't sure he possessed. I knew that we'd be hand-walking most of the more alarming sections of drop-off trail, so figured he would get lots of practice at not being a klutz on the technical trail.

We were also joined by Tami Rougeau and the lovely May.

This section of trail is only 14 miles or so, but has 3,600' of descent and 2,700' of climbing - and plenty of "technical" for Hopi to practice his footwork on.

All three participants were booted - May sporting Glue-Ons, Fergus in Glue-Ons in back (leftover from Washoe Valley) and Gloves in front, and Hopi in a mish-mash of leftover Gloves from the bottom of the boot bucket. 

The narrow, drop-off trail a few miles out of Deadwood in El Dorado Canyon.

Weenie that I am, I would have been hand-walking this section even if I wasn't riding a green horse.

Slowly working our way towards the omnipresent goal of one day completing Tevis, Hopi visits Michigan Bluff for the first time.

 

Hopi stomping along, learning what to do with his feet.

Renee and Fergus, Tami and May at a tiny creek in Volcano Canyon.

We had a most excellent day and I was thrilled with how well Hopi dealt with everything. He's still klutzy, but the way he's keeping up with his learning curve is very encouraging.

Day 2 -Foresthill to Driver's Flat

For Day 2 I dropped my trailer at the end of our ride and caught a lift back to Foresthill. It was Small Thing's turn and although everyone else tacked up their horses before the trailer left, I didn't trust him not to rip half his tack off while standing tied to the trailer, so opted instead to wait until I got back to clothe him. Of course it was only then that I realized I'd left his tiny short girth in the trailer 30 minutes down the road <sigh>. As luck would have it, Tami had a short girth and we were in business again.

We ended up with a row of five booted horses - the two in front are Destiny and Breezy - both of whom wear Original Easyboots over shoes; followed by May in her Glue-Ons; Small Thing in his Gloves; and Fergus in his Gloves. Between them, the five horses have nearly 9,000 miles of endurance competition miles. Small Thing was the odd one out, having not yet managed to start a ride.

This day was over 20 miles - and warm - and I wasn't sure how well Small Thing would cope. As it turned out, he coped admirably, bopping down the trail with much enthusiasm... in fact, getting more enthusiastic the further we went. It seemed that the more pathetic I felt, the faster he went.

California Street Loop about two thirds of the way between Foresthill (mile 68) and the next vet check, Francisco's (mile 85). This is the section ridden in the dark by all but the front runners during Tevis.

I trusted Small Thing not to do anything stupid - so of course he tried to turn sideways to snack along this section, causing his back feet to fall off the trail, and giving me a mild cardiac arrest.

Finally off the narrow singletrack and nearly at Francisco's. This is the Middle Fork of the American River. I had thought that Small Thing would be tired by the time we got to this point, but instead he took off cantering when we got to the river road.

By the time we reached Francisco's, I was suffering from heat stroke and wanting nothing more than to lie down in the shade for ten minutes and regroup. Small Thing helped.

The crowning glory of the day was Small Thing marching up the 1,000' climb to Driver's Flat at the end of the ride, showing no signs of being remotely tired, causing me to reassess his capabilities. Hmmm, maybe he could do 50 mile endurance ride? (never mind that I'm not yet capable of riding 20 miles on him without wilting). 

--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

 

Part 2 of Triple Crown (In Which Fergus Gets Boots Glued to His Feet)

In late May it was time for Part 2 of our Triple Crown attempt - NASTR 75 endurance ride. Typically, I don't bother gluing on boots for 50 mile rides, but when the distance gets up to 75 I start to lean towards using Glue-Ons. In Fergus' case, he'd probably do fine in Gloves - he's never had any rubbing from the gaiters - but it seems to be better safe than sorry.

Glue-Ons Offering Support

Months ago during the winter, Fergus had either scalped the back of his foot or blown an abscess, because he had a big slice in heel. I'd been watching this hole grow out steadily over the months and knew—without a shadow of doubt—that it would reach the bottom of his foot at the worst possible moment. And sure enough by the time NASTR arrived it had reached the ground and half the hoof wall at the heel on that side was collapsed due to not being attached, leaving him a tiny 3/4" square heel buttress to stand on. Not ideal when you weight 1,100 lbs. 
 
 
Fergus' scalped heel - perfect timing meant that it had grown down so his weight-bearing heel buttress was effectively 3/4" square by the time the NASTR 75 endurance ride rolled around. <sigh>
 
I poked around this area for a while, trying to figure out how best to deal with it - trim, or leave it alone? In the end, I mostly left it alone and rasped what remained of the rest of the heel very conservatively. It seems, however, that gluing on a boot protected the area beautifully, offering extra support and safeguard from further damage. We had absolutely no issues from his manky heel whatsoever.
 
 
The same foot a week later, after being freshly trimmed following the 75 miles at NASTR. The manky heel should grow out fine now, even if it doesn't look great at the moment. 
 
So, on to applying Glue-Ons to the horse's foot. The same system applies for putting them on, as taking them off - install horse in front of hay bag and get to work. Lay out your tools within easy reach ahead of time and mentally go through the motions of what you're about to do. 
 
Hoof Preparation
 
Clean all mud and debris off the hoof wall and out from the sole. You want that foot to be as clean and dirt free as you can manage. Some people use a wire brush to scrabble the dirt off.
 
In the early days of gluing, when told "rough up the hoof wall" I thought this mean to rough up the surface by taking some large gauge sandpaper and cleaning the surface of the hoof off with it. 
 
Not exactly. 
 
What you need to do to the hoof is similar, but somewhat more aggressive. With the edge of the rasp, ideally you want to scrape cross-hatching into the hoof wall to give the glue something really good to grip onto:
 
 
This cross-hatching on the hoof-wall is all but invisible within a day or so of taking the glue-ons off.
 
I also wipe the foot with denatured alcohol "just in case". 
 
Gluing
 
Because Goober glue (now Sikaflex) takes a while to set up, at this point you have the luxury of adding some extra spiffy touches before getting to the actual gluing-to-the-foot part.
 
The first thing is to squeeze out a bead of goober glue around the inside bottom edge of the shell to prevent any hard Adhere from being forced down the sides of the boot and getting under the sole as you push the boot on. I've had Adhere get down there a couple of times and it has been one of my biggest worries - the last thing you want is a hard lump in the bottom of the boot. As it turned out, this bead works beautifully - forming a squishy anti-Adhere barrier.
 
 
You can sort of see here how this GG bead works: this is Fergus' foot post glue-on removal. The glue you see on the hoof-wall is all hard Adhere, while the glue that I'm pulling forwards with my gloved fingers is a rubbery skirt around the bottom edge of the hoof wall which prevented any Adhere from being pushed down into the sole as you put the boot on. 
 
Once you've got your "anti-Adhere" bead in place, you can squeeze out a triangle of GG/Sikaflex into the bottom of the boot - basically mirror the shape of the frog. This will act to cushion the sole once it spreads out when you put the boot on.
 
And at this point, you're ready for the actual gluing. It's helpful (although not critical) to have an assistant to hold up the freshly cleaned foot, especially if you don't have a spotless area as your gluing venue.
 
If the weather is warm, you might try keeping your materials in a cool place while you're getting ready and prepping the feet. Some people resort to putting their Adhere in the refrigerator beforehand - certainly helpful to avoid the glue setting up quicker than you can get the boot on the foot. One tip Kevin Myers recently gave me is to make sure you don't leave the glue-on shells sitting in the sun, as warm boots will accelerate the glue setting up as much as warm glue will.
 
Using a new tip and a new pair of disposable hand-gloves for every boot, work your way around the shell, smearing the Adhere onto the inside wall with the tip. Do not get any in the sole (= hard blob under the foot).
 
Once you've applied glue all the way around the inside wall of the shell, push it onto the foot, and if your fit is tight give it a couple of seating-whacks with the mallet before putting the foot down. Pick up the opposite foot for a minute or so, to allow the glue to set up without the horse twisting out of the boot or wandering off. 
 
Et voila - le boot est glued.
 
 
Fergus stylin' in his back Glue-Ons.
 
I use any extra GG that comes out the back of the boot to seal around the top edge. However, this has the downside of staying tacky for a longer time than if you use Adhere to do this, potentially resulting in a coating of hay and bits of fluff (or the horse accidentally brushing one foot against the opposite leg, anointing himself with black goo).
 
 
 
The morning after I glued Fergus' boots on, I woke up to the sound of thundering hooves. Poking my head out, I could see a big cloud of dust with a small black shape hurtling past, followed by a large golden shape hurtling after it - Fergus and Small Thing doing laps of the paddock. It was a good work-out to make sure the glue-ons were going to stay on for the endurance ride.
 
And stay on they did. 
 
Very proud of my, uh, Patrick's boy, completing his first 75 in such good shape. We finished with a ride time of slightly less than 15 and half hours in our customary third-from-last position - and Fergus didn't really look like he'd done anything, which was my goal. 
 
Looking back, I can see some holes in his training (uphill trotting to keep up with those Nevada horses; learning how to eat your own food at vet checks and not stand around gawping/coveting the food of others), but overall he did spectacularly well. Phase 2 of NASTR Triple Crown accomplished - only Virginia City 100 left to go.
 
 
Fergus moseying along at about 25 miles into the ride, having done the worst rocks in El Dorado and Illinois Canyons. Photo: Rene Baylor.
 
 

--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

 

De-Glueing (in which Fergus gets his boots removed and gets the best trim he's going to receive for the next four months)

Fergus didn't get his glue-ons removed until the Saturday following NASTR 75 - 8 days later - due to lack of energy on my part. As soon as the shells come off is the perfect time to do a really attentive trim because the foot is still moist, allowing you to remove any retained sole and get to the bottom of any other rock-like areas of the foot.

First you assemble the horse, a hay bag, and a few chickens as helpers:

Then you assemble the necessary tools - gloves, a rubber mallet, a couple of tyre removers, and a pointy hoof pick.

 
A word about rubber mallets. I recently used a friend's mallet to encourage some snug boots to go on the foot. Her mallet was huge and heavy and I could barely swing it, making it a tough tool to use. My mallet, on the other hand, is a wussy mallet - it's hefty enough to do the job, but not at the expense of yanking all the muscles in my arm in the process. So if you find yourself wishing you didn't have to wield that heavy thing, consider shopping for a less-overwhelming mallet.
 
The hoof pick is necessary to start on the edge. The back part of the boot is usually separated from the hoof wall, so poke the hoof pick in there to make a big enough space to weedle your tyre remover in:
 
 
 
Once you've wiggled the end of the tyre remover in, you can start working your way around towards the toe using gentle whacks of the mallet. I really like using the tyre remover rather than a wide-bladed screwdriver because it curves towards the outside with a blunt tip - so when you tap it with the mallet, you don't run the risk of inadvertently gouging into the side of the hoof wall, causing the horse to start in pain and knee you in the corner of the eye. Ask me how I know this.
 
So tap your way around to the front, before going around the other side and working your way back to front on the inside. This is where the hay bag helps - the horse doesn't care what you're doing, grovelling around under his feet.
 
 
 
 
Fergus' newly revealed foot - complete with its casing of Adhere.
 
You can either rasp off this left-over Adhere, or you can leave it alone - depending on how obsessive you're feeling and how much time you have. In Fergus' case, I rasped off the excess glue - being careful to only take off glue, not hoof-wall.
 
NASTR 75 is a particularly rocky ride and because Fergus can be sensitive, I wanted as good sole protection as possible. In this case, we'd smeared Goober Glue (now Sikaflex) liberally all over the bottom of his foot before applying the boot - and it worked beautifully. Instead of just protecting the frog area as sometimes happens, I was able to get the whole sole covered in a rubbery cushion.
 
 
 
He'd picked up a little bit of sand from the multiple creek crossings, but nothing too bad.
 
 
 
And as predicted, his foot was nice and moist (read 'stinky'), so instead of fighting against rock-hard foot material, I was really able to get rid of junk sole and clean everything up to set him up nicely for the coming dry months.
 
Since he's on break for a couple of weeks and after that will be on light riding for another couple of weeks, I removed the remaining damaged slice of hoof in the heel that was trapping gunk and not doing much by way of support. This should grow out properly now and by the time he's ready to hit the trails aggressively again in early July, he should be looking good.
 
 
--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

Washoe Valley Ride (in which we learn what we can get away with, and what we can't...)

To say the weekend didn't quite go as expected would be an understatement. 

 
Problems
 
Patrick called me as I was leaving work at 8 pm on Thursday evening to tell me that Hopi had a poked eye and it was swollen shut.
 
As part of Hopi's continuing education, he was to join us on our trip to the two-day Washoe Valley endurance ride as a spectator - to get some ridecamp experience and to be exposed to ridecamp stuff - horses, people and dogs going past at all hours of the day and night; RVs, trucks, trailers, ATVs passing; perhaps a fake vet check if the vets were amendable; and, most importantly for him, food appearing in front of him at regular intervals - no need to share - just stand and eat all day long. Hopi thinks ridecamps are "A Good Thing".
 
By the time I got home and inspected his eye, it didn't look too bad - he was able to open it and wasn't unduly reactive to us prodding at it, so it was decided we would continue as planned since if he needed veterinary help we were going somewhere where there would be vets, and if he needed regular administering to, we'd be on hand to be his personal slave for most of the weekend.
 
As it turned out, by the following morning the eye was looking much better, the swelling was down, the watering had stopped, and although you could see a poke and a scrape on his eyeball, he seemed quite happy. Go figure.
 
Problem #2 occurred about three minutes before loading up on Friday, late morning - Fergus, tied to a post while Patrick went to collect the next horse, managed to get tangled in his lead rope, resulting in him jammed upsidedown against the post, legs flailing. 1100 lb horses should not get into those positions. The result was a cut on one heel and two rope burns on the other pastern, and goodness knows what in terms of tweakedness from pretzelling himself. We trotted him and he seemed sound, applied desitin to his owies, and decided to load him up anyway and see how he was by the time we reached the ride (3.5 hours drive away).
 

The gang, ready to take on Washoe Valley - L to R: Fergus, Patrick, Hopi, and Small Thing
 
Problem Solving
 
As it turned out, Fergus passed the vet check with no problems. And Small Thing didn't disgrace himself on his debut appearance in front of the vets. Both were checked in for the 25-mile ride the following day and we retired to the trailer to figure out what we were going to do for footwear.
 
Originally, I'd intended for Fergus to just wear Gloves, but clearly with his owies that wasn't going to work - the gaiters would be putting pressure in exactly the wrong places, so instead I opted to glue boots on his back feet and, as luck would have it I had a size 2 and a 1.5 Glue-on left over from glueing Uno at 20 Mule Team 15 months earlier. I also had some adhere glue from the same time period and although it had been stored in the cool basement, I was sure that at some point I'd left my booting box sitting out in the sun, so didn't know how effective it would still be. For his front feet, he'd wear Gloves, but I'd put Goober Glue (now Sikaflex) in the bottom of all four boots for extra sole protection from the NV rocks.
 
Let it be said here and now that I *hate* glueing boots. I have no idea why, but the whole situation fills me with angst and I usually end up suffering from glueing-induced tourettes. This glueing session was no exception.
 
To start with, it is recommended that you glue on a clean, even surface. That way you can clean the feet and casually put them down while you're relaxedly applying glue to the shells. In my case, Fergus was standing in 2" of fluffy NV dust with bits of freshed-chipped sagebrush mixed in. 
 
Secondly, my glue-gun which works fine when no tube is inserted, seizes up as soon as I put the tube in and start to pump - the handle doesn't spring back making it almost impossible to get any glue out (I suspect, in retrospect, that the plungers are gummed up and catching on the inside of the glue tube and it just needs a good cleaning). 
 
Thirdly, the temperature was dropping quickly in the high desert and it was probably below 40 degrees when I started to glue. I've never glued in anything but warm weather, so wasn't expecting the glue to take as long as it did to set up - resulting in mild panic that the glue had gone bad and I'd just ruined the only Glue-ons that I had with me. 
 
Fourthly, it is helpful to have good lighting so you can see what you're doing. Glueing during oncoming nightfall with no headlamp doesn't help.
 
And finally, despite having asked for advice, I, of course didn't take it. Which meant that I put the sole-packing glue in the boot rather than spatula-ing directly onto the foot - resulting in a less even layer to protect the sole, and also resulting in excess glue oozing out the back of the boot. And despite being told that I should coat any hairy areas with petroleum jelly to prevent any unwanted adhesion, I of course didn't do so. I did remember to ask Patrick to walk Fergus around once I'd finished applying the boots, to make sure that all the glue in the sole would squish nicely to the right places around the grooves of his feet. But I didn't remember to check for excess oozing glue.
 
At 3 am I remembered - but by then it was too late. And when I checked first thing in the morning - yup - I'd managed to glue the gaiter to the back of his foot. <sigh>  The only thing I could do at that point was very, very carefully snip the glued part of the gaiter away from the outer part of the gaiter with my scissors, so although it would remain firmly attached to his foot, it wouldn't be pulling on it all day. 
 
Fergus' fur-lined boot after removal. You can see where I had to cut the gaiter apart to prevent it yanking on the back of his foot all weekend.
 
I figured, what the heck, given his hog-tying antics he'd probably come up sore within the first ten miles anyway, so at that point I was fairly fatalistic about Fergus' likelihood of achieving anything much that weekend.
 
Bundled in their blankies, we make a last lap of camp before bedtime
 
 
Because of all the gluing activities, by the time I turned my attention to Small Thing's footwear I was uptight, frazzled, and badly in need of supper. It was 10 pm and the temperatures were dropping towards freezing. But knowing what a fidget-pants the pony can be, despite not having to start the 25-miler until 8 am, I didn't want to wait until the morning to try and put his boots on and result in us "Having Words" - and me starting the day in a hassled state. His boots would be applied that evening so everything would be nice and calm and relaxed in the morning for his debut ride.
 
To ensure no boot losses would be had, that morning, Patrick had very carefully applied brand new powerstraps to each of Small Thing's brand new Gloves. The result, in the dropping temperature, was a set of boots that was impossible to actually get on his feet. If I'd been on my own I probably would have just given up and stuck his old boots on and called it good. But Patrick came up with the bright idea of setting the new boots in front of the heater in the trailer to soften them up. I took each one out in turn, together with my rubber mallet, and whapped them firmly onto his feet. It worked perfectly. Four smartly yellow-powerstrapped Gloves decorating his dainty feet.
 
I went in and had supper - it was 10:30 pm.
 
Ride Morning - Saturday
 
Because of the aforementioned worry over having glued Fergus' foot to the gaiter, I was up at 6 am and went to watch the start of the 50-mile ride. There was ice on the buckets but it was a lovely clear morning.
 
Everything went very smoothly during pre-ride preparation, if you ignore the part where Small Thing swung around to look at something just as I was trying to do up the velcro on his brushing-booties and promptly knocked me on my butt and stood firmly on my foot as I was sprawled backwards.
 
Words were had and he minded his manners better after that. I thanked my forethought at having put on his Gloves the previous evening. Patrick wasn't quite ready to go when we were, so I opted to make a lap of camp to warm the pony up and see how his small brain was dealing with the situation. I'm happy to report that it was a non-event. He was a bit concerned that we'd left Fergus back at the trailer but was otherwise calm and acting like an adult. Score 1 for Small Thing.
 
 
Approaching the start line - couldn't have asked for better behaviour
Photo: Gina Hall
 
 
 
The head-height difference really illustrates the mismatch. Photo: Gina Hall
 
Off we went, and about 100 yrds after the start line, Small Thing picked up his usual jog-to-keep-up-with-Fergus-who's-walking - and he was dead lame. Not "slightly funky feeling, maybe he'll warm out of it" lame, but "full blown, head-bobbing, even a non-horse person would spot something was amiss" lame.
 
Rude words were said. 
 
I hopped off and took off his front boot in case by some fluke some rock had climbed in there during the night, but no... he was dead lame barefoot too.
 
And as quickly as it started, Small Thing's debut had once again come to an end. 
 
Patrick, bless him, very kindly offered to let me ride Fergus instead (would have necessitated a trip to the ride office to switch our entries), but at that point I'd had enough. I sent him on his way, fully expecting him to end up in the same boat as I was, with a sore Fergus from the previous day's tangle.
 
Small Thing and I trudged back to the start and vet Karen Hassan took a look at him before we returned to the trailer (Hopi was happy to see us). The pony wasn't reactive to hoof-testers, and Karen complimented him on his flexion (not for nothing is he sometimes known as "Gumby"), but the only thing she could find was slight soreness to his heel.
 
As best I can figure out, putting a warmed set of brand new boots, with brand new powerstraps, onto his feet and then leaving them on overnight while he stood quietly tied to the trailer in freezing temperatures caused them to effectively shrink wrap onto his feet and cause enough pressure to bruise him. 
 
Erg. It's not like he's a delicate flower, so how frustrating can you get? If only I'd just put on his old, stretched boots. If only I'd been manly enough to put the boots on first thing in the morning. If only we'd just opted for plain boots instead of powerstrapped boots, all might have been well. Erg.
 
* * *
 
Approximately 3.5 hours later, Patrick and Fergus were spotted far out in the sagebrush travelling lickety split, coming in from the first 20 mile loop. Huh? What happened to the horse that ought to be sore? the one with the rope burns and the cuts? Yup - he was the sound one, coming into camp at a dull roar with a beaming Patrick on top, telling me he was having his best ride ever. 
 
Patrick and his Golden Boy. Photo Gore/Baylor
 
 
Fergus diving into his lunch at the hour hold at 20 miles
 
Patrick and Fergus completed the last five miles in the same style and both looked like they'd had a lot of fun that day - which was wonderful. The back glue-ons were still firmly attached to his feet, and the glued-to-his foot gaiter didn't seem to be giving him any trouble. Neither the rope burns nor the cut were causing any pain.
 
Sunday's Ride
 
Not least was it even more wonderful because I was due to take Fergus out the following day and ride the 50-miler. We would take it slow and aim just to get around.  Although, it turned out, Fergus had other ideas. 
 
Photo: Bill Gore
 
We had a marvellously relaxing first ten miles or so, riding alone in the cool morning air as we climbed to the top of the 7000' mountain. Against my better judgement, I slithered off (the ground is much further away than I'm used to) to hike the long downhill, but gladly found a large rock to get back on again at the bottom. 
 
At the top of the big climb - looking down on the big descent
 
After the hill, Fergus decided it was time we stretched out a little and demonstrated his finest long-trot. It's not that he has a super-fast tempo, or that he has foot-flipping extension when he does it, it's more that he's just a big boy so his "easy trot" covers ground in a way that months of riding the short-pony-trot causes me to be in awe of. So this is how the other half lives? 
 
The concept of passing people at rides is not alien to me. But the concept of passing them and them staying passed - and not being seen again - is quite unknown. I could get used to this. 
 
Nice heel-first landing... Photo: Bill Gore
 
Later in the afternoon we trudged up the second long climb of the day and he wasn't quite so eager, but none of his reticence seemed to have anything to do with soreness - more to do with the fact that it was afternoon-nap time.
 
 
We came from all the way down there...
 
Approaching lake-level again he cheered up considerably and on the final few miles in Washoe State Park I had to specifically ask him to keep it down for fear of him injuring himself in the final mile or so. 
 
Looking down on ridecamp at Washoe Lake level
 
So the weekend turned out to be a success. Fergus handily rolled out 75 miles of training, despite being the horse who should have been lame. I got some unwanted glueing practice in. Patrick had his best ride yet. Hopi got tons of camp exposure and didn't lose an eye. Small Thing showed that he can act like a grown up and will cope very well with a ride start - assuming, of course, we ever actually start a ride properly. So far we're 0 for 3.
 
And I learned some valuable lessons about cramming boots onto feet. If the boots are that tight, Powerstraps are not needed until new boots have been used a few times. Don't just put them on "because".
 

--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

Small Thing Sells His Soul to the Weather Gods (In Which We Don't Make Our Debut)

It's possible that Small Thing is in league with the weather gods. Last Saturday we were supposed to be galloping across the NV desert (...well, maybe doing a frantic speed-trot) on our first official distance ride. But once again, despite promising forecasts earlier in the week, by Friday the highway over the Sierra was closed from snow and ice-related accidents and the ride had been postponed for five weeks due to the swamp-like qualities of the alkali flat that was supposed to be ride camp (eloquently described as "slick as snot").

So I had to find something else to write about.

Hoof-boot Evangelism

A discussion arose this week about how horse-folk can be very evangelical about their specific way of doing things - their way is the way - and it was suggested that hoof-booters can be a bit overbearing in their attitude at times.

Personally, I have nothing against steel shoes when applied to properly trimmed hooves - they've worked for a long time. On the other hand, I am biased against bad trimming - barefoot or otherwise: - flared feet, long toes - or against a cr*ppy shoeing job - I cringe when I see horses with baked-bean cans instead of feet, frogs up in the air; or more commonly, splayed feet that have little structural integrity (often accompanied by the proud statement "My horse has huge feet") or the other favorite, ski-jump shaped toes. 

'Course, horses with cr*ppy shoeing still do well anyway. Go figure.

This horse did well at a tough 100 mile ride despite its rather alarming shoeing.

To opt to go barefoot is a personal preference and one that requires commitment. There's little point trying to convince someone about its value if that person doesn't share that philosophy.

My personal reasons for using hoof-boots are:

• With hay approaching $20 a bale, I can't afford to pay someone to put shoes on my horse. Sad but true. If I had tons of money, would I pay someone else to trim and boot my horses for me? Probably. Grovelling around in the mud can be fun, but not when you have to do it as a chore and you're already suffering from a severe shortage of time. I can think of a multitude of other things I'd rather be doing. 

•  As with all things that are hard, I get personal satisfaction from doing my horses' feet. Of course it's easier to not have to deal with it and to sit around reading a book, eating bonbons, but not nearly as rewarding

•  If I shod my horses I'd still have to stand and hold them for the farrier, so if I have to spend the time anyway I might as well do them myself, on my schedule.

•  In the old days, whichever horse I shod would always be the horse that didn't end up getting ridden (because of the horse's health, my health, or "life stuff" going on).

•  I like the control I have over their feet. With one toed-in horse and one who grows tons of toe, I like being able to poke at them at regular intervals to keep it under control. If I look at their feet and go "euw" then it's my own fault. 

•  I don't have to worry about trying to synchronize shoeing schedules with ride schedules (just as well, given that my ride schedule is making itself up as we go along).

•  When I get kicked/stood on/ran over the top of, I much prefer the horse to be barefoot.

•  When I'm on pavement, I don't have to scrinch my body in angst convinced the horse will fall down (to reiterate, this is my personal paranoia and has little to do with reality). 

•  If you're going to do lots of miles on a horse, doing it with the least concussion possible seems like a good plan. Boots provide protection against concussion.

•  And finally, the thing that really tipped me over the edge was Roo doing an enormous spook about 50 miles into a 100 mile ride and only half wrenching his shoe off in the process - it was still firmly attached but offset by about 3/4". Luckily it was as we were coming into the vet check and even more luckily, my farrier happened to be doing the ride and was just ahead of us so I was able to interrupt his lunch hold to ask him to reset the shoe (I'm sure he was thrilled). Never again, however, do I want to be in the position where I would potentially have to pull from a ride because of something that stupid. Not to mention the fact that usually when they wrench shoes, the horse yanks out half the hoof-wall at the same time, so there's nothing left to nail to. And even if they don't pull off half the hoof with the shoe, they tweak their leg and go lame. 

Now admittedly, the above reasons may not be sufficient for many to make the switch - that's their choice. One size does not fit all, and if shoes are working for them, then good. If people don't have the desire to mess with boots - without that initial commitment, then, no, boots probably aren't for them.

One time I can see it being appropriate to suggest a change is when people say:

"Look, my horse has [insert foot problem], how would you fix it?".

(thinks: keep the horse barefoot and use boots - being able to work on the horse's foot at every 1-2 weeks would eventually solve the problem, and if it's congenital, at least you can keep it under control with regular trims)

 

With this kind of toe-growth, being able to trim at short intervals keeps things under control

...Or if your horse happens to have been constructed with the front legs stuck on the wrong sides.
When this horse was in shoes, he needed shoeing every four weeks to keep his toed-in front feet from becoming a problem.

"My horse has sensitive feet and gets bruised easily, but I don't want to pad" (thinks: use EZ Boots - voila, instant pad that you can take off afterwards).

Setting the Record Straight

This week I was contacted by Rachel Shackelford who was mentioned in a post I wrote a few months ago concerning Tevis (article here). She wanted to set the record straight regarding her horse Cody's pull at Tevis in 2010.

It is true I wasn't even on the US continent when this event occurred (I was in England attending my brother's wedding, surrepticiously following the ride over the internet while trying to pretend to be a wedding guest). I was enthused to see locals Rachel and Cody doing so well that year (they were running in third place) and bummed when they showed up on the pull list. Afterwards when I asked people who'd been at the ride what happened I was told that Cody had slipped going through Foresthill (the paved portion of the ride) and returned to the vet check and pulled. Seeing in the AERC records that Cody was pulled for "surface factors" (which invariably means abrasions of some sort) I put two and two together and came up with what seemed to me the obvious scenario.

Except that's not what happened at all.

Rachel says she was about four miles out of Foresthill on the dirt singletrack when Cody tripped on a rock and fell on his knees. Although he had no scrapes and was sound, she opted to return to the Foresthill check and have him looked over by the vets. Despite getting a clean bill of health, she still wasn't comfortable with continuing - as she put it: "Cody ...NEVER trips. He is the most sure footed horse that I have been extremely blessed to ride...he gave me a sign that it wasn't his day" - so she opted to pull.

Given the above information, then, no - as suggested in my post - Rachel probably wouldn't feel the need to switch from steel shoes to boots.

And in Cody's case he retired sound after over 4,000 miles of competition so shoes evidently worked fine for him. I applaud Rachel for being able to race a horse with that many miles at that level - no flash-in-the-pan there - something I have great admiration for.

In my defense, I was writing about the train of thought I had that day - that if a horse had slipped on pavement then wouldn't the rider want to switch to footwear with better traction? Since that isn't what happened, it doesn't apply to her.

My apologies for any offense caused.

--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

Team Lurgy Make Their Debut (In Which I Get Quite Sore, But the Pone Finishes Looking Great)

Team Lurgy (Fergus + Lucy) made their debut last weekend at the Nevada Derby 50 miler endurance ride.

Fergus is my husband Patrick's 16+ hh Tennessee Walker/Arabian horse and although I am his main caretaker and trimmer, I'd only ridden him twice prior to embarking on our 50 miles together. Given that he's probably twice the weight of pony Small Thing, and travels at twice the speed but half the tempo, I knew we were in for a very steep learning curve when it came to adjusting my riding to suit his way of going. Couple that with having not done a 50 since May last year, this was going to be an interesting ride.

Fergus has never worn shoes (he's about to turn 10 years old) and his arrival in our lives was the main push to convert all the other horses to barefoot. If I was going to have to learn to trim him, I might as well do the other five horses as well.

He was probably in the very first wave of the horses competing in Gloves. We were at the Death Valley Encounter multi-day endurance ride in 2008 - with Patrick planning for Fergus to wear Epics for their first limited distance ride - when we came across Garrett Ford fitting some other horses for the new Glove boot.

I'd heard horror stories about Tennessee Walkers yanking off shoes from their way of going, so was a little worried that we were using an unproven (for Fergus, at least) booting method - especially given that it would be Patrick and his first distance ride together. Fergus went out the next day in a set of size 3 (fronts) and size 2 (rears)  Gloves and they completed two days of LD that week with absolutely no problems whatsoever. So much for worrying - Fergus has some TWH traits, but yanking boots isn't one of them.

In the years that have followed, we've downsized his Glove size to 2.5s in front and 1.5s in back, but recent changes in his left rear foot have necessitated bumping him up to a size 2. When I listen to him walking, he steps down differently on that foot so I'm considering getting a chiropractor to take a look at him to make sure there's nothing going on which could be causing this slight anomaly.

Back to last weekend.

Fergus and I went out on a 45 minute pre-ride on Friday afternoon and I came back feeling a little shell-shocked. Fergus has a humungous trot with loads of suspension - there's seemingly 5 seconds of hang-time between each stride and he's like steering the Lusitania - not exactly the short wheel-base of Small Thing.

  

As luck would have it, the following morning my riding buddy's horse was having an attack of "I'm so fit I left my brain back at the trailer" so we ended up walking most of the first five miles, giving me a chance to really settle in with Fergus and get used to this new balancing act. Perfect (all those trail miles babysitting Uno and Small Thing were paying off in dividends). The fact that Fergus' TWH genes blessed him with an amazingly big walk didn't hurt any either - I could get used to this travelling at speed without breaking into a trot option.

 

With cattle guards come cattle. Patrick and I discussed prior to me riding him that Fergus had never done anything bad at a ride before... uh, except for when we met those cows on the trail that time. Because of this, we proceeded with caution.

Fergus at the first vet check - having fallen instantly in love with a grey horse he spotted leaving.

The typical NV wind blew... and blew and blew. By the time we'd made the 1800'/550 m ascent to the top of the Dogskin Mountains it was gusting 60 mph, practically blowing us off the horses at times. It seemed like the harder it blew, the faster Fergus wanted to go - a pleasant surprise - I was expecting him to suffer from the "bleahs" from the climb.

Cresting the top of the Dogskin Mountains, before dropping down the other side to Bedell Flat. The steep descent featured several springs that had been diverted into large cattle troughs.

Once down on the flats on the far side of the mountains, it continued to blow and Fergus continued to be far more enthusiastic than I'd ever expected him to be. Unfortunately the muscles in my legs didn't share his enthusiasm and it began to feel like someone was jamming a hot poker into the side of one leg. However tempting it may have been to just let him go and relieve the pain from having my legs tweaked, it was definitely a case of "just because he thinks he can, doesn't mean he should" - his current fitness level was definitely not conducive to finishing a speedy 50 without something going horribly wrong, despite what he might think. So we worked on trying to keep it to a dull roar and get back to camp in some semblance of control.

Back at camp for our hour hold, I quickly checked under each Glove gaiter to make sure he hadn't collected any debris or piles of sand from having slogged through some deeper sand during the descent off the mountains. I was pleased to see that everything was fitting beautifully - he had a small wear at the front of one pastern, so I loosened that gaiter a little, but otherwise his boots were holding up with no problems at all - pretty typical for Fergus (he's not the most interesting horse to write about when it comes to 'boot adjustment').

Inside the back of my trailer, I was confused to discover everything covered in a fine layer of sand. It turned out that while we were out on the trail lamenting the wind, a sandstorm had blown through camp - sand-blasting everyone and everything. I'm going to be washing grit off my belongings for some time to come.

The sandstorm in camp - that's my trailer on the right. Photo: Andy Gerhard

 

Keeping it to a dull roar. Photo: Bill Gore

During the hour hold, the skies opened and began to rain - Fergus disappeared under a rain blanket to keep him and my saddle dry while he ate his slurpie refreshments. 

When it was time to leave, even though the sun was now shining again, we went for overkill dressing - waterproof legs, jacket, gloves and fleecy neck wrap. Just as well - within 30 minutes of leaving camp it began to rain again, gradually degenerating into snow. The horses decided they were on a Death March and we trudged rather unenthusiastically along into the head-wind, icy snow biting into our faces.

 

All bundled up, but good and toasty on the trail. Woolly gloves are perfect for mopping a continuously runny nose. Photo: Tami Rougeau

One thing I was surprised to learn was how sensitive Fergus was to different footing, despite wearing boots all around. I suspect some of this has to do with my neglect of his feet in the last few months and hope that this will improve as the mud dries out and we get back to regular trims. Trotting along the gravel roads, he would veer decisively to the softer (or seemingly softer) outside edges, and once we got back on the soft stuff he would joyfully increase his speed. I may experiment with 6 mm comfort pads in his boots to see if it helps, assuming adding pads will work with his Gloves - results seem to vary with different horses and sometimes they cause the low-profile Glove to come off.

As soon as we rounded the corner at the northern-most point of the loop, both horses brightened considerably from their Death March. They had no interest in eating or drinking from the fare provided by the Ride, but every interest in catching the group of horses about eight minutes ahead of us. That took about ten minutes and then Fergus and I returned to our battle of wills on exactly what speed was appropriate for an unfit horse, given that we still had 8 miles or so still to go.

And it was this portion of the ride where Fergus really shined - a very long straight road for the last six miles - the least interesting part of the entire day. We got up on the soft verge and he showed me his bestest medium trot (the one I didn't realise he possessed) and the miles flew by. I've never ridden a horse that could cover ground quite so effortlessly before and it was a true gift at the end of a long day on the trail. 

We completed the ride dead last in 9.5 hours, but Fergus was still pratting around at trot-out during vetting - displaying his sideways stupid trot and bellowing for his buddies (standing right next to him). Finishing with such a happy horse was the second gift of the day.

Worst part of the day? Having to call Patrick and confess that, yes, his horse *is* the most perfect of all our horses, much as I hate to admit it to him. I'll never hear the end of it now...

--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California