An Epic Era

42 years ago when Dr. Neil Glass developed the first Easyboot, I doubt he knew the impact his vision would have on the worldwide hoof care market. 35 years after the Original Easyboot was developed EasyCare released the Easyboot Epic.

The Epic took a revolutionary product and made it much more versatile and user friendly. These two horse hoof boots have created the foundation of what EasyCare is today. That foundation is so strong and so well thought out that these boots were able to serve thousands upon thousands of horses/owners with only modest improvements over the years. EasyCare has always been the type of company to push, dream, research and developed new products or make product updates that suit every discipline, condition, size and shape of hoof. 

I am proud to announce the beginning of a new Easyboot/Epic Era. 

New Tread
The new Easyboot and Epic tread is designed after the Glove. Boasting enhanced grip and a faster breakover, it also offers improved frog support. The new tread design can tackle any terrain and sheds mud because of its flexibility and depth.

 

A Brand New Buckle
The new buckle system prevents wear on the cable and prolongs boot life. The forged buckle is now free of sharp edges and hard corners, yet still retains three adjustment options and three buckle settings from the original buckle design.

The Original Easyboot and Easyboot Epic have traveled more miles and seen more trail than any other hoof boots in the world and still provide the benchmark for every hoof boot in the world. Here's to another 42 years of service. 

Brian Mueller

easycare-sales-manager-brian-mueller

Director of Sales

As the director of sales, I am responsible for identifying new dealer opportunities and building on existing relationships to foster ideas and create additional growth.

 

What To Do With That Foot?

I titled this blog “Hoof Love Not War” because I hope to embrace all aspects of horse and hoof care here. In my own hoof care practice, I believe it is critical that we maintain an open dialog, even if all we do is agree to disagree. I have learned never to say 'never” when it comes to my horses and their care no matter how foreign the idea may seem. We are constantly learning and growing, and in order to do that we have to be receptive to new ideas. Even if sometimes all you learn is what you don't like!  

 

Recently I had a fellow hoof care practitioner tell me that she was afraid to do certain things to a horse’s foot because she didn’t want to experiment on the horse. My question is, aren’t we always experimenting to some degree? How do we make value decisions for our horses since what we’re doing to the foot is based primarily on anecdotal evidence? How can so many people be wrong about an idea and yet so many people be right with the same idea? At the end of the day, the horse tells us what they like and don’t like, and yet they tolerate so much. How do we decide?  

 

The only way I feel I have any confidence in my hoof care protocol is to study everything. I take nothing for granted and document everything I do. That way I can evaluate the impact of the decisions I make for the horses I work on over time. I am completely accountable for the results of the choices I make for the animals I work on.  

 

 

In my opinion, there are no rules when it comes to hoof care, more like guidelines. And when it comes to the actual work on the horse’s foot, I have only 2 guidelines:

  1. a 3-8 degree Palmar P3 Angle  (bottom of the coffin bone angle in relation to the ground which allows for healthy soft tissue in the back of the horse’s foot)
  2. a 50/50 base of support from toe to heel around the center of rotation of the hoof (which allows for neutral input from the proprioceptive nerves of the foot to the body of the horse)

Here is an example of a healthy sound foot on a horse in our practice that demonstrates these basic principles:

 

 

 

How you achieve those two guidelines is open for discussion. Ideally you would achieve the guidelines in the trim on the foot, however sometimes you need a prosthetic support to get there, like a hoof boot and hoof pad, a glue on horse shoe, metal horse shoe etc. 

Live Sole and Then Some

Springtime trimming can mean uncovering the past winters secrets. During the spring months, horses hooves grow about twice as fast compared to the growth we see in the middle of winter. Sometimes hooves can grow so fast, that the dead sole does not get shed, even when the horse is ridden bare over rocks.

This hoof below is scheduled for a trim.

Previous trim 5 weeks ago. Horse was ridden about twice a week, always bare, without any protective horse boots. Footing was sandy with rocks. On first sight it looks like low heels, maybe underrun, toes somewhat long. Let's examine that sole a little closer.

Heels now look high, grew forward quite a bit. The sole looks polished and like live sole. The front part of the frog has grown together with the sole.

The collateral grooves have  disappeared in the front third of the hoof, but soil and water have found a way below that overgrown part (red arrow). Notice the heel height again (blue arrow) and how polished the whole sole appears, just like live sole (black arrow).

It is necessary to open the collateral groove and break the adhesions from the tip of the frog to the sole. Bacterial growth could fester below. The frog cannot function properly when grown into the sole.

The visible sole looks like the live sole, yet, when evaluating the whole picture, it just doesn't seem right. The sole is way too thick, the bars are mostly straight, but appear too high. I'm suspecting a false or double sole.

Exploring between the sole and the bars with the hoof knife, it now becomes more obvious. There is a visible separation between the bars and the sole. Possibly a  bacterial invasion. Confident that we are dealing with a false sole, I start lowering the heels in increments to the widest part of the frog. It looks like live sole, yet we are still far away from the actual live sole.

Slowly peeling away with nippers and hoof knife, we finally reach the real live sole.

Where the tip of the nail points, there is the separation line.

The chalky layer between is dead sole. Beneath that layer is the actual and true live sole. We can trim the hoof walls then to about 1/8th to 1/16 longer than the live sole. That depends on your preference, some of you might want it trimmed to the same level as the live sole or even let the sole protrude some. I will not get into the middle of that discussion, there are just too many real strong opinions out there and I'm sure all of them are based on some good reasons.

A valid question, however, might get asked: What's wrong with a false sole, can we not just do true Natural Hoof Care and let nature take care of it till it wears or falls out on its own? Here are some possible detrimental side effects when failing  to remove the false sole:

- The hooves will be getting too long, increasing breakover and compromising their ability to support the scelettal structure

- Bacterial invasion with considerable damage to the sole and frog

- Bruising of the live sole through the harder false sole, the horse might come up lame

- White line separation, because the long bars and false sole are pushing laterally against the hoof wall from the inside.

If in doubt, consult an experienced Hoof Trimmer or farrier. Always remove hoof material in small increments and take your time. You might be wrong. I certainly have been sometimes.

Good luck with spring trimming!

Your Bootmeister

Keeping the Endurance Gods Happy

Subitted by Karen Corr, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

I have tempted fate - in my last blog about Endurance Riding in the UK, I upset the endurance gods by mentioning that Looey would do a 65km ride soon. Don't you know that planning endurance rides is bad: the gods then rain down all the bad luck they can throw at you and you end up watching TV all weekend So what happened to my plans?

Because we had a viral lurgy going round our horses, I decided to wait until I was 99% sure Looey hadn't succumbed and took a late entry for a ride in Cumbria. That was ten days before the ride. Eight days before the ride, I took him on a 20 mile training ride in the Pennine Hills which surround our home - he coughed twice - maybe he had some hay stuck or had swallowed a fly (yeah right, trying to kid myself). However, he flew round 20 miles of tough going in his Easyboot Gloves and felt great. 

Many of the tracks are littered with stones like this, hoofboots are essential!

The following day I had planned (yep, don't remind me, plans are bad) to take him to the gallops for some fast work on a decent surface. We haven't been to our local gallops for nearly two years - they used to be great - 1 mile long and undulating with a couple of straight stretches to let rip. I'll usually do about 10 miles of circuit training type work to help with cardiovascular fitness. This time we decided to take my partner's five year-old old mare to keep Loo company. I was going to ride her and Bond would ride Looey - a couple of stone extra on his back would make him work harder too.

However, disappointment number one = the gallops had been shortened - in fact, halved in length. Disappointment number two = the hire had increased in price. Disappointment number three = the surface hadn't been maintained recently and was very uneven and only suitable for trotting/cantering carefully. But, we were there, so decided to get on with the job in hand and then the penultimate happened - the minute we asked the horses to trot, they both convulsed into a fit of coughing - Hamra was much worse than Looey but Bond said he felt like the hand-brake was on, so we packed up and went home with heads hung and tails between our legs. The following day they both had mucus and were congested - vet was rung and copius amounts of antibiotics and mucolytics prescribed.

However, I still had an entry to the ride and we had one horse (actually, a pony) fit to go - our little coloured cob - Squiggle. She had only been back in work for a few weeks after recovering from the "lurgy", so we downgraded to a non-competitive distance. Yeah, on an upper again - we were going to one of my favourite rides and the forecast had changed from rain to sunshine.

What could go wrong now? The endurance gods rained down some more bad luck - my 4 x 4 power steering had been leaking, it is a company car which is leased and the lease company decided that it was dangerous to drive and took it off the road two days before the ride - grrrr. The garage were not going to give me a like for like car as a replacement i.e not a 4 x 4 with a tow bar, but the guy from the lease company must have felt sorry for me and somehow persuaded my bosses boss to approve the hire of a Landrover for me for the weekend. Talk about cutting it fine - 5.30 PM on a Friday afternoon, I end up driving home from the garage in a brand new, top of the range, all singing, all dancing, Landrover Discovery - maybe all the prayers were starting to appease the powers that be. Thanks, Rick.

I did have one more dilemma, to boot or not to boot: we had used the Glove Back Country boots on Squiggle but she's got a lot of feather and trying to tuck that lot in was an issue.

Squiggle after a ride with BC's behind and Gloves in front - too much feather!

I knew the Gloves were ok but we had to put athletic tape round her hooves since she dishes and the boots twist. I hadn't used power straps on her Gloves yet and thought she'd be OK without them. In the end, I decided just to boot her front hooves with Gloves.

Sunday dawns and it's ride day - off we tottle up the motorway into to Cumbria and two hours later arrive at Tebay. Squiggle was very excited - this was her first journey in the trailer on her own since we'd bought her last year. We were very early for our class, but we slipped to the vets while they were quiet. Lynn took her heart rate - it was 50, yes, she was excited. I tacked her up quickly, and we were off.

Squiggle all "dolled" up in her endurance gear! (borrowed from Looey!)

Squiggle turbo-trotted the whole way. The views were spectacular and the weather perfect.

Everything was going great until we got to a ford about 2/3 of the way round. I happened to look down into the ford since it looked as if it could be slippy and it was then I noticed her front near fore boot had twisted - damn! We crossed the ford and I got off, undid the gaiter but by then her hoof, tape and Glove were sopping wet - I knew it wasn't going to stay put if I put the Glove straight on her wet hoof.

There was a long section of road up to the checkpoint and I figured that if I left the boot off, her hoof would be dry by the time we got there, I could put more tape round her hoof (I had taken some with me) and hopefully the Glove wouldn't twist for the rest of the route. And that is what I did: someone's crew held her for me. It was obvious when I was putting it back on that the Glove shell had become more pliable with the increased ambient temperature and was flexing more, hence it was twisting round with her funny action. I used all the tape on the spool and still the boot went on easier than I would've liked - power straps are definitely required! However, we didn't have far to go and the going was all ancient, springy turf on the way home. She was then rewarded with a slurp of sloppy fibre mash. 

She soon learned that snorting it up through her nostrils got lots of laughs and attention.

 

And the moral to this story is - keep going, don't give up, it'll turn out all right in the end, so long as you keep the Endurance Gods happy. Oh, and remember the booting mistakes you've made in the past and don't think you'll get away with it second time round! 

And the next ride is?


Karen Corr

Worth the Bruises

Submitted by Susan Gill, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

At the last endurance ride, I got "bricked" badly. At my latest event, the Buchan Tall Timber Endurance Ride, I proved that the bruises are usually worth the bricking experience.

Affectionately known as That Buchan Ride (say it, don't just read it), BTT has the lot. It's a relatively new ride that I've helped organise for two years now, so still in it's infancy and building a reputation. So far it's known for being a challenging track, but achievable when ridden to the conditions. Conditions include rural and bush tracks, hills, river crossings, rocky sections of road, but plenty of good going too - lots of variety to keep both horse and rider interested.  

Joby contemplating the next section of track.

Last year was unseasonably hot. This year was unseasonably wet. We had some areas of track that got marked at each end and that was it, because a vehicle could get bogged going through. The last thing we needed was to waste valuable time pulling out a stuck vehicle.

Stopping to glance down for a boot check after a boot-sucking, shoe-grabbing patch of track.

So hills, rivers and bogs, slippery uphill and downhill sections, and potential to move along in other stretches - all situations destined to pull off Joby's front boots. My ideal Plan A - use my recently acquired experience and ride her in Gloves with customised Sikaflex pads on all four feet, accessorised with Powerstraps on her fronts.  My realistic Plan B regarding opportunity was to swap the Sikaflex with worn-in comfort pads on her forefeet, and use plain Gloves on her hinds which haven't been a problem.

One of Joby's front boots, post-ride with a minimal amount of debris considering they'd done 80km all up with quite a few mudbaths included. The comfort pad is a bit mangled but the imprint shows it was still providing some extra cushioning and stimulation to her hoof.

The ride was fantastic. Joby completed her 3rd novice ride so is now eligible for Open Endurance Status. And I didn't have to get off once to even adjust a boot, let alone replace one.

Yep, being hit with a brick can pay off.

Susan Gill

 

My Easyboot Trails Are Camouflaged

Submitted by Terrin Turner, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

My Easyboot Trails have served me well, they have stayed with me through thick and thin mud, rough and smooth ground, up and down hills. When the terrain got tough and the ground went hard I turned to my boots the most. They didn't fail me, it was over the tarmac roads with gritty loose stones the trails offered the best protextion for my heavy ponies thin flat soles.


Left: Ang and Womble. Right: me and Argy. My Trails are under that mud somewhere.

I don't use boots all the time: I do enjoy riding barefoot and like to judge based on route or hooves if I boot. It is great to have the choice - a Plan B sitting on the shelf so there is never a day he can't be worked.

Sometimes the time comes and like all horses' tack, you need to show it a little love. Getting the brush out and looking after the Trail boots doesn't take long. Once the mud is dry, it simply brushes straight off. The Velcro just needed some hairs to be pulled out; the soles of the boots had a little wipe with a damp sponge. A very quick tidy reveals the boot like new underneath. This will keep the boot working to its best.


One down, one to go.
 

Close up photograph, hard to believe how well the mud brushes off.

 

Both Trail boots done! Look how well they scrub up.

 

Terrin Turner

That Andalusian Can't Go Barefoot

Submitted by Lisa Morris, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

Has anyone ever told you that your horse has hooves that can’t be barefoot? 

I was contacted earlier last year to help out a very experienced horse person, Jennifer D, who had a lovely new Andalusian, Amigo, with some serious soundness issues. Her hope was to use him for Classical Dressage and Pleasure Riding. He certainly had the conformation and the breeding for the discipline, except he wasn’t sound. He looked like he could star in a movie as a Spanish Baroque Warhorse but I wonder if anyone would notice that he wasn't sound? Jennifer was deeply concerned for her new friend.

Amigo in CA

Trying out Amigo in California. His training was California Charro and Pleasure riding.

Jennifer D purchased the horse after flying from San Antonio, TX to California in late 2010 to see him based on sales pictures that took her breath away. He wasn’t in great physical shape (unless round is considered a shape), nor was he totally sound, but her gut instinct was to bring him back to Texas and to help him. He is gorgeous and he has a wonderful mind. She couldn’t wait to work with him. When she got him back to Texas she began working with him to develop relaxation, his previous riding had been rather opposite of the supportive classical foundation she was providing Amigo.

Amigo seemed sore in his rear end, he would twist in his hocks rather than moving solidly. He had very unbalanced shoulders with one much larger and higher than the other, this made saddle fit very challenging. Amigo was in steel shoes and was being maintained by very well respected farriers, but he had a lingering high/low issue in the front hooves.

Jennifer D working on relaxing Amigo at the canter in Texas.

To Jennifer D’s credit she was very open and persistent about getting to the root of Amigo’s his physical problems. During this period she worked with vets to monitor his hooves with x-rays, and documented his hooves by photographing them after each farrier visit. She kept meticulous records. She worked with bodywork and saddle fit professionals to try to get him as comfortable as possible physically while remaining in work.

This was Amigo's "flat" under-run hoof shortly after Jennifer bought him.

This was Amigo's upright hoof - quite a difference in these two hooves, but both toes are quite stretched.

When she contacted me, she said that her gut instinct was that he would be better off like their other Andalusian, Paz who is sound barefoot. The response she received was that Amigo couldn’t go barefoot. The first time I saw them, we met for a consult at the local soundness wiz-vet for a full workup. The Vet confirmed the twisting in the hocks as being possible arthritis. He also blocked the LF (low) leg and confirmed that he had joint pain in his fetlocked. He performed Shock Wave Therapy on the affected fetlock. Amigo was prescribed with injectable or oral joint supplements. The X-rays that were taken of Amigo that day were a good guide in developing a plan to take Amigo barefoot.  We made no hasty changes, I simply offered some suggestions.  Meanwhile, the treatments didn't seem to help much.

Here is the LF low hoof - How do you pull these shoes and remain in work? Look at the unhealthy central sulcus butt crack in the frog. This is never a healthy situation. Jennifer treated the suspected central infection effectively with cattle mastitis medication. Amigo was sore if you inserted a hoof pick into that crack.

I suggested that one of Amigo’s biggest problems were his hoof form. He had always been in steel shoes, probably without a break. Horses like this often have very little digital cushion development. He had very flared hoof walls and his toes were very long and his heels under-run. He had deep cracks in the central sulcus of his frogs that made me suspect there was an infection in his frogs, despite frequent use of that purple thrush treatment. The vet prescribed a wedge pad in the front hoof to try to match the higher hoof. I suggested that she begin treating Amigo’s frogs for infection using an off-label product that treats mastitis in cattle. I suggested that she should request that her current farrier should back up the toes, while preserving the height of the toes from the bottom. I also suggested that we could try removing the back shoes first, and try to get him comfortable in that situation before removing the front shoes. 

We  discussed his feeding program.  Andalusian horses are typically “easy keepers” and can not tolerate high starch diets. Amigo had been maintained on a diet that was too rich for his metabolism in his prior home. Jennifer D changed his diet to a very low starch ration balancer that would compensate for what was lacking in coastal Bermuda hay. Our typical hay needs to be balanced with more Copper, Zinc, Biotin, Amino Acids, etc to encourage healthy hoof growth.  

Lf sorta oblique

7 months later, this frog is still a bit stretched forward in the "flat" LF hoof, but it is so much healthier!  The good, balanced, low starch nutrition and movement has helped as well.

This would be a process over time rather than a quick fix. The ultimate goal was to grow in new, healthier hooves that were better lamina attachment. We wanted to keep him sound for work and help him develop a stronger digital cushion so he could comfortably land heel first and flat in a correct manner. Easyboot Gloves would be prescribed to help him to stay comfortable as needed during this process.

Easyboot Gloves are a suitable hoof boot for dressage training.

When the rear shoes were removed, we noticed that Amigo was growing the medial (inside) of his right rear hoof much longer than lateral (outside) of his hoof wall. This was the hock that was twisting upon landing when he moved. The farrier suggested using Superfast to build an extension of the shorter wall. That was not a lasting solution, so I took over care of the rear hooves and the farrier maintained the fronts. For a time, we met frequently to tweak the back hooves as needed. I put a steeper bevel on the lateral (outer) hoof wall so it wore a bit faster and started to keep up with the wear on the inner wall. With keeping the hoof balanced, Amigo started to become much more comfortable in his movement and the twisting hock began to resolve. We were very encouraged. I do think the joint supplements and bodywork were helpful in this regard as well.

6/11 - Amigo's front shoes were pulled after 2 cycles in a corrective frog/heel support pad shoeing package. His back hooves had the steel shoes pulled a month prior and naturally trimmed in preparation for going fully barefoot. Transitioning in steps is a great conservative way to approach going barefoot.

Eventually, it was time to remove the front shoes. I gave Amigo a conservative set-up trim, focusing on bringing the toes back so the rest of the hoof could grow in more correctly attached, rather than forward.  We fit him in Easycare Glove hoof boots and I encouraged Jennifer to use them anytime that she was going to ride outside of the well groomed indoor arena. His soles were very flat. I also suggested that she consider riding him in the indoor for a time with boots to offer him additional comfort and support so he would use the back of his hoof correctly. 

We tested the boots at all gaits with Amigo at liberty in the lovely indoor arena. He put on a show that proclaimed he felt great with gorgeous Spanish movement, playing in the indoor. We asked him to make frequent gait changes, rollbacks at the canter, etc to test the boots and to accustom Amigo to wearing them before asking him to use them under saddle. I suggest everyone test new boots this way before saddling up.

lf 3.2012

This is the LF about 7 months after we pulled his shoes. We took the X-ray when he was due to be trimmed in case the vet needed us to tweak things. This is his flat hoof and he has grown in a much better attached hoof wall. Because he is due for a trim, his toes need to be backed up. I would like to see him grow a bit more heel, but it is still much improved. He trots sound across gravel for the vet for his check up lameness exam. No more hock twisting unsoundness issues were noted in the rear end at this checkup!

RF later

This is the LF about 7 months after beginning this barefoot journey, again he is due for a trim so his toes need to be backed up/break over trimmed. This is a much healthier hoof than the first  X-ray.

Over the past few months, we have continued with monthly hoof trimming and Amigo is no longer a lame horse. His saddle fit is no longer an issue because his shoulders match better. His high/low syndrome is no longer problematic as each hoof has grown in toward it’s potential, although they will never be a perfect match. Amigo is progressing beautifully in his classical dressage work and he is a pleasure for Jennifer D to own.

I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with them and I give credit to Glove boots for being a tool to help Amigo's successful transition from steel shoes. Jennifer D was tireless in finding the solutions to help her horse.

This horse can go barefoot! 

Amigo Stars

How have Easycare boots helped your horse through a tough transition? Do you have any other tips to consider for those that are thinking of trying to go barefoot with their horse?

Lisa Morris

Endurance Using Easyboots in the UK

Submitted by Karen Corr, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

I love reading the reports from endurance riders from other parts of the world but there seems to be a lack of reports coming from the UK, so I thought it was about time I put fingers to keyboard and attempt a blog for the first time.

I've been competing in endurance rides for about 15 years and have only managed to sample endurance outside the UK once - the President's Cup in Abu Dhabi, crewing for a British rider, whose horse was spun after 25 miles. But we got to see the rest of the race in full flow and followed some of the horses along the course in the desert - an experience I'll never forget. We have travelled the length and breadth of the UK to compete in endurance rides but with the ever-soaring price of diesel, we are becoming more selective as to where we go and how far we're willing to travel. The furthest we'll travel now is a maximum of three hours to get to an event. That's probably just down the road for a lot of riders in the USA. My favourite rides are in the North of England - they tend to be a lot hillier and more varied in terrain and generally more of a challenge.

Over the years, I've tried a number of different boots for endurance riding and until 2010 I was undecided as to which worked best. However, in 2010 I was sponsored by the UK distributor for Easyboots - Trelawne Equine - this was an amazing opportunity to try out the Gloves and Glue-Ons throughout the season. My gelding was eight years old and at Advanced Level - in the UK this means he had completed two 65km rides and one 80km ride at a set speed. The aim for that year was to introduce him to some faster work at this level and aim for his first race rides. Upping the speed was no problem for him - he had the base of distance work behind him and at the beginning of July he completed his fastest 65km ride to date at the Wirral (fast and flat on the West Coast) in Easyboot Gloves (see picture below).

Looey completing 64kms at the Wirral in the UK

One month later, we decided to try Glue-ons for an 84km Performance Formula Competition in North Yorkshire - the results are based on a formula of HR and speed, so the faster you go and the lower your horses HR at the end and the more points you achieve. Despite being covered in glue (us not Looey), the boots stayed on really well and we came 3rd in much more experienced company. In fact, the boots were glued on so well that we left them on for a week afterwards - they then began to separate from the hoof wall and it was easier to prise them off. We weren't worried about thrush since we'd used Equipak CS to pack the gaps between the boot and his sole/frog. We used Adhere around the cuff on the boot. The farrier at the ride predicted that they'd stay on for about two miles and once we hit the thick red clay they would all come off - fortunately he was very wrong. We had lots of interest from other riders of barefoot and shod horses - none of them had ever seen Glue-Ons in use before.

He looked so good after this we entered him for his first race two weeks later. This race was to be held over the fells and ancient turf hills of Cumbria. The one thing I'd learned was that the tread on the Gloves/Glue-Ons was quite slippy on short wet grass, so we decided to increase the traction on the sole by routering some extra tread - a bit rough and ready but he didn't slip!

Easyboot glue-on with extra tread

This would hopefully give us the extra traction and be able to compete side by side on a more level playing field with the shod horses. We used Glue-Ons again and had slightly less glue make-up this time! The farrier at the ride was very interested in the Glue-Ons and said he'd be watching with interest as to how we got on.

I was a nervous wreck on race-day - I hadn't raced for a few years, since I'd started Looey from scratch four years previously and had lost my FEI horse to cancer. Loo is normally a pretty chilled character (he is 50% Bahraini which helps!), although no-one can predict how they are going to react to a mass start. My original plan was to warm him up out of the way of the other horses - watch them set off down the field and then follow on at a distance and settle him into a nice pace. However, he was being such a good lad, I threw caution to the wind and set off with the leading group. The pace set was reasonable but started getting out of hand over some rough going into the first vetgate, so I pulled back - the leading group disappeared into the distance very quickly. The landscape had changed, the fells were now littered with slabs of limestone which is like riding on a surface covered in soap when it's damp - so if you hit one of those at speed you're a goner!

We had just got through this stretch and started to pick up speed again when I saw a group of riders and horses in front of me - someone had fallen. No-one could get hold of an organiser on their mobiles, so I rode to the next road crossing and collared a crew to send for help, they were in a 4x4, so headed out over the fells to see what they could do. Luckily, both horse and rider were fine - just badly bruised. In situations like this, whoever stops to help is given a time allowance - this makes things a little complicated when trying to work out who is now in the lead during a race.

So I continued on to the vetgate knowing there were two horses in front of me and some behind, who in theory could still be ahead. Looey passed the first vetting, and made good time to the second vetgate - both lead horses were vetted out here - so I was in first place. Or was I? Two riders had retired on course, one due losing a shoe and ripping off a big chunk of hoof and the others were miles behind. It turned out that the second place rider was in first but only just if you took the time allowance into consideration.

So back out onto the last loop on our own, with riders constantly heading towards us going home - Looey made a stirling effort to keep going on his own and picked up when we turned round and headed for home. We crossed the finishing line first and vetted well, but it all depended on how far behind the next rider was - she ended up beating us by two minutes. It would have been so different if we'd been riding together but was still exciting in a very different way. Again my horse and proved himself in good company and the glue-ons worked a treat. Interestingly, the winning horse was completely barefoot, so a well-deserved win.

The new style gaiters have made life a lot easier, we no longer have to think of ingenious ways of wrapping his pasterns to stop rubbing from the rolled edge - I still do trim the lower edge of the new gaiter just to make sure we don't have any pressure points. Another learning point for us in 2010 was using athletic tape round the hoof under the boot. The tape sticks to the hoof wall, heats up and then the glue seeps though and sticks to the boot. You do need to use good quality tape, we've found that cheaper alternatives tend to disintegrate. We always put power straps on each boot too.

2011 was a very different endurance year, we were selected to represent Team Easyboot for the first time and were now able to keep in touch with other members of the team from all over the world, pick up tips and share our experiences with other Easyboot users in the UK. The recession hit us pretty bad in the UK last year and my partner and I made a decision early on to have a year off endurance. We had two four-year old arab fillies to back and start, so that took up a lot of our time.

Looey and I had dressage lessons to improve his way of going and work on his core muscles to help him recover and hold himself better. We both loved the lessons and he is a different horse this year. I also had the opportunity to crew for my filly's dam, whom I used to own. Shannon's owner lives in the South of England, but wanted to attempt her first race ride in Southwell which is mid-way between where we both live.

I couldn't wait to see her again. Shannon has always been barefoot, I did her first endurance ride on her in boots, but since moving to live with Janet she has never had boots on - much to the disgust of some of her mentors in the Endurance world down where she lives. Shannon looked very fit and was definitely up for the job in hand. Janet needed a bit more organising, though, and this was a big learning experience for her.

She nearly blew it at the first trot up - Shannon sort of waddles like a duck if her trot isn't moving forwards from behind - I did the next one and the rest of the trot-ups throughout the vettings and she was fine scoring A's for action. There were only three starters - the race was open only to horses who had never raced before, we call them a Tyro. The three competitors stayed together all the way round the first loop.

However, at the vetgate the temperature soared and the other riders struggled to get their horses HR's down below 64bpm. Shannon's recoveries are amazing and I knew we'd make up loads of time and get out in front of them. She ended up with a lead of nearly 20 minutes going onto the second loop. But, Janet let her do her own thing and said she wanted to go slower (she was actually doing a " I can't be bothered cos I'm on my own now" stunt!) - at the frist crew point she had nearly lost all of her lead - but after some motivation from me which consisited of "if you don't get your act in gear, you'll be doing the rest on your own!" - they both upped the pace and came into the last vetgate in the lead.

Again, Shannon vetted very quickly and they set out on their last loop which they flew round at their fastest speed all day, finishing first on the all weather racecourse and walking calmly over the line. Shannon vetted straight away and passed with flying colours - I was so proud of them both.

Shannon & Janet at the start of their first 80km race

One thing I noticed was how many more people were now competing in hoofboots - the majority being Easyboot Gloves - and at a high level in races. More people were also trying the Glue-Ons, so there was much discussion about technique, how long are they left on for etc. So despite not competing myself, I still managed to get out and about and help and advise others on using boots.

2012: again I've been most fortunate and have been selected onto Team Easyboot. Again, funds are tight, we're trying to sell our house and have lots of other projects on but due to the winter in the UK being a lot milder than the previous two years, I've managed to keep Looey quite fit. He did blow two massive abscesses (one hind, one fore) in early January which put him back a few weeks - but boy do those boots come in handy when they are growing out - they provide such great protection.

My partner has been getting his five year-old quite fit and our little coloured cob has been getting out and about a bit more too. When the Easyboot Glove Back Country was launched we decided to get a pair and give them a go.To be honest, at first we thought they were great on Squiggle (our cob) but she has so much feather, that it was impossible to tuck it all in or let it stick out the top of the boot and so we've been using them on the five year-old mare's hinds with Glove on her fronts. Again, we've adapted the Back Countrys slightly by extending the velcro to ensure debris doesn't creep under the straps and stop them sticking together. Hamra moves extremely well in them and considering this is the first year she has worn boots, she doesn't seem to realise they are there.

Of course, there is always something which happens to scupper your plans - the first one was when Bond took Hamra out on a hack with his mate riding Squiggle - they were having a mad dash round the woods (no boots) and disaster struck when Hamra punctured her sole on something very sharp but blunt. So that was one down and big lesson for Bond about wearing boots for protection. Then Squiggle started coughing during a training ride - she picked up some sort of lurgy and ended up with swollen glands and snots. She had a course of treatment but has only just stopped coughing. I've been watching the others like a hawk especially Looey since he was entered into his first competition for 18 months! Looey has stayed clear of infection - he went and did his first ride of 40kms in April and stormed round with the fastest speed of the day - see picture below of him relaxing after the ride - his boots are still on since I'd taped his hooves and couldn't get them off after the ride!.
 
Looey relaxing after his first competition of 2012
 
 
What's missing?
 
I was lucky with the boots - another lesson, remember to tighten all the screws before setting off.
 
We try to vary our training and occasionally take the horses to a cross country ride where they can jump obstacles. The course is very undulating, so is great for fittening.
 
Great hills for fittening work
 
It's approximately eight miles long, I go round once with Looey and do the jumps (which he loves) and then go round again passing the jumps but up the speed and use it for hill training. On our last trip, Hamra even had a go at some small jumps for the first time - we do get some strange looks jumping cross country jumps in endurance gear.
 
Hold on tight! Hamra's first time jumping...
 
Our other filly has now come down with the lurgy - swollen glands, cough, snots, so she's getting away with murder. Touch wood the rest are still fine, so we're taking each day as it comes - if all goes well Looey will do a 65km ride soon and then be entered for races depending on what choice there is at the time.
 
Unfortunately, a lot of rides hosting races have been cancelled in the UK this year, so choice is limited. Hopefully, I'll be able to do some more blogs reporting on our successes in boots later in the year As yet we have to try the Goober Glueing technique, so must give it a go soon. Watch this space.
 
Karen Corr

Our Second Natural Hoof Trim

Submitted by Carol Warren, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

I rasped Newt's hooves for the first two weeks after his first trim as planned. I don't know if I really did much, but his cracks did not get worse. We had a big ride the third weekend so I did not want to rasp that weekend. By the time I was able to get to him, it was ten days after our last rasping. I knew we had an upcoming ride about two hours from Trista's normal trimming territory the following weekend.

I called Trista to see if she could trim Newt while we were at the Valley Mills Texas Trail Challenge. Turns out Trista had to give a demonstration at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine Open House and could not meet us there. Since we were both planning to travel through Waco, Texas on that Friday, we decided to meet up in Waco. We met in the parking lot of Office Depot at the corner of I-35 and Hwy 6. Now if any of you know the area, that is a high traffic interchange. We decided to meet there since it was easy to get our loaded horse trailers in and out of there and plenty of places to eat lunch. 

The new hoof growth. This picture was taken four days before I met Trista in Waco for the trim. The hoof cracks are smaller.

We got Newt's feet trimmed with only a few stares from people.  Not sure if people were used to seeing horses in general or if we were not as "out of the ordinary" as we thought. Trista said Newt was only one of a few horses she would ever attempt to trim with so much activity around - he is such a good horse.  Trista said he was getting a little sole concavity already. She really worked on getting his toes back to the water line to help get rid of the toe crack. I had not been rasping off as much as I thought. Trista showed me again how to rasp at a 45 degree angle and how far to go back.  We could see about 1/2 inch of new growth from the coronet band and could tell his hoof angle was already beginning to change some.  

Trista Lutz trimming Newt in the Office Depot parking lot in Waco, Texas. I normally hold the horse, but just could not pass up the photo op.

Newt was a little sensitive over the rocks during the ride, even with his boots on. I have ordered pads to see if that helps until his his soles have a chance to toughen up.  I have been rasping once a week since then, and he seems to be doing well. I am gaining more confidence in how I am rasping. Newt is gaining more confidence and patience with me as well. It is now taking me about half of the time to rasp as when I first started. He is not as sensitive on hard, uneven ground so hopefully he is adjusting well.   

We are going to try our first NATRC ride and ride in the novice division. We have been training pretty hard for the last six weeks: lots of trotting and trying to figure out our pace.  I'm sure glad we have our Easyboot Gloves.

Carol Warren in Goliad, Texas

Light Globes and Bricks

Submitted by Susan Gill, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

Revelations, epiphanies or just flashes of clarity - I often experience these moments while out riding - I'm relaxed, enjoying myself and my mind is free-wheeling in thought.  All of a sudden the light switches on and I realise that a problem I haven't been consciously thinking about is solved.

The other end of the spectrum involves moments I class as "bricks". The process also involves recognising a solution but only after my barriers of pre-conceived or rationalised ideas have been totally smashed and I surrender to the inevitable.

I had a successful weekend with my mare Joby despite catching a few bricks. With the first reports of the Glove Back Country boots, I was pretty excited with the  possiblity of using pads in a new version of my favourite Glove boots. Joby is pigeon-toed, paddles and is very good at flinging off or twisting her boots. She also seems to really feel the difference between hard and soft roads even in boots so it would be great to use hoof pads. After using Gloves for so long I have started struggling with just the thought of all that extra hardware and fiddle by substituting Epics - pathetic I know. And I haven't been keen on power straps to help tighten up the fit of the Gloves either - my attitude: a good fit is hard enough to get on without adding power straps to the mix.

So we start our 86km ride with Back Countrys and hoof pads on her front hooves and Gloves on her hinds. Luckily I was riding with two friends who also ride their horses in Gloves because I had a few hiccups that only special friends would understand. Within the first 10km both pads were out of the boots and in my stowaway - Joby hadn't lost either boot but they'd twisted badly. Without pads they stayed in position nicely for the remaining distance of the first 43km leg without apparent rubs so I decided to keep using them for the second leg as well.

Similar to the first leg, one of the Back Country boots twisted again - possibly that little amount of stretching from near-new to more used, made the difference. This time the wrong position caused a rub on the back of Joby's heel. If it had been a Glove I possibly would have lost the boot, maybe torn the gaitor in the process, but avoided the rub. I was ready to pull Joby out, not wanting to risk the rub getting worse.   My two riding buddies stepped in - Ms. Years of Experience plus Ms. Meticulous Preparation had Joby's heel taped over in duct tape for protection, then her whole hoof wrapped in adhesive tape for extra grip, and my spare Glove exchanged for the Back Country boot. Then we taped her second hoof for extra grip and reapplied the other Back Country boot 'cos I was only carrying one spare...  Neither boot moved further, we finished the ride and vetted through, and Joby's rubbed heel was no worse than the minor rub first noticed.

It was soon after my rescue by my riding buddies that I felt the bricks hit - ouch! I'd wanted the easy option instead of trying a bit harder to get things right. I thought I was embracing new technology - I actually was looking for an easy fix. I thought I had a relaxed attitude - post-brick I realise it was just lazy wishful thinking.

My friend who is never sure whether the boots will stay on her horse, takes great care to prevent problems by wrapping the hooves with adhesive tape. She never loses a boot. Appearing to be worried and distrusting, she is actually extremely meticulous and conscientious in her preparations.

My other more experienced friend doesn't lose boots either, but from experience she does have a more relaxed attitude. She will wrap her horse's feet, uses power straps, uses other boots such as Epics or do whatever else is appropriate for the occasion. She hasn't just experienced the problems, she learns from them. What can be seen as lucky with boots, is the result of years of constructive use. While me at home, I've been too busy to think about what is going on, just wanting to use my time to ride, not to take the time to figure out how to get the best ride.

My quick-fix to a boot that wasn't fitting so well? Duct tape. I just hoped I didn't get seen by anyone while out riding: a safe bet at 5 AM when it's dark but not so good on a sunny afternoon - double ouch.

Power straps, mini Sikaflex pads left permanently in the boots, wrapping in tape when appropriate, and recognising the difference between covering my bets and crossing my fingers - I hope this time I use my bricks as constructive building blocks. That way I'll get some quality riding time done next time and maybe switch on a light globe or two.

I attached power straps last night supplied courtesy of Ms. Experience, and used them on Joby this morning.  That brick must have needed to be industrial size because I can't believe it was still easy to get the boot on, how effective they were, and how nice they looked - and I've been avoiding it ever since Joby arrived in my paddock.

Susan Gill