It’s winter in Australia, and on the south-east coast it gets cold enough for us locals, although not usually below freezing except the occasional night. Most winters I moan about the lack of daylight and the lack of nice weather – yes I have got in the habit of being a fair-weather endurance rider lately. It was a few years ago when I first became aware of natural hoof care and started bare-booting with Easyboot Bares and Epics.
At the time I had a cruisy horse (read "lazy") that wore through his boots quickly and required socks or other inventive ways to prevent gaitor rubs. I lacked confidence applying the boots in the dark, and always seemed to take so long to put them on even in daylight, so in winter developed the very restricting habit of riding less because I didn’t have big time slots available to ride in. We overcame the booting issues with time and practice but my habit remained.
New easier boots like the Easyboot Glove have become available in the last two years but the habit remained… until this winter! The motivation of working towards a couple of riding goals has kicked in.
I’ve got past that mind-set of my original booting experiences and know its just as easy putting Gloves on Joby as it is to put Ariats on myself. Having a horse that enjoys going out, stays sensible and focused but forwards-moving without constant pushing is certainly worth getting out of a warm bed for.
Now a few days a week I get up at 4 am, however cold, wet, windy or combination weather it is, to go riding. Joby usually comes to me so she’s keen to go out too. Otherwise I have to scan the paddock in the darkness, hoping to pick up a pair of reflecting eyes with my headlamp. After catching her, I clean her feet out and whack on a pair of Gloves on her front feet, hinds are usually bare - too quick and easy! I saddle up while the Gloves are settling in to the final position, check and tighten the gaitors, and off we go.
Recently I’ve used them with dome hoof pads for some extra cushioning because of her soft frogs in our amazingly continuous wet weather we have been experiencing. And lately they’ve been on in the paddock as well, keeping her feet slightly drier and keeping a paste of 50/50 copper sulphate and vaseline on her frogs to try and beat the thrush that is creeping in – how versatile is that!
The standard rewards – a fitter horse, a warmer me (I freeze in winter and usually wear about 6 layers, but this year I have stayed at 3 layers max so far), a positive feeling that I am beating winter by ignoring it, physically making my day 3 hours longer than “normal” people, seeing nocturnal wildlife like wombats, wallabies and possums. The special rewards also include watching an eclipse of the moon on horseback, and wishing on a shooting star or two.
The 2 photos are of my mare Joby – the first one is at a beach we visited recently.
The second one is looking between Joby's ears up at the moon fully eclipsed at about 5am in the morning - if you squint you might see it.