Submitted by Karen Neuenschwander, Team Easyboot 2015 Member
I have called myself an endurance rider for sixteen years. I got hooked as a college student when I retired my dressage horse at an endurance barn and started training and competing with the horses in training there. Since then however, finding time to condition for endurance rides while juggling career, parenthood and my marriage to an Army officer has been more than a little difficult. It's been seven years since my last 50 miler, with only one LD between then and now. But barring any unforeseen disasters, I'm back! I've been conditioning my mare, Rushcreek Brooke, for her first 50 miler, and the date is set for Leatherwood at the end of March.
My goal for this season is to qualify for the National Championship 50 miler. In order to get it done, reliable hoof protection is a must. With all of the moving around that our military family does, I decided several years ago that it was easier for me to learn to do my own hoof care instead of trying to find a new farrier every two years or so. I've had a chance to learn about hoof boots along the way and have even helped others to choose and measure for boots, but when it comes to my own horses, I am still a newbie. Easyboots have come a long way since I first started in endurance, and there are so many good options for hoof protection now.
I've been wanting to try some Gloves for Brooke, so I measured her and ordered a Fit Kit. Her hooves are fairly round, and my first measurements indicated that a wide size would be the best fit. Unfortunately, when I tried on the boot shells, even the smallest one was too loose. The next size down isn't available in wide, so I called EasyCare, and they suggested I try the regular width fit kit that included a smaller size. In the meantime, I double checked to make sure I hadn't missed any details that would make a difference in fitting the boots.
When measuring for Gloves, EasyCare advises measuring after a fresh trim for the best fit. Well, I had trimmed Brooke a couple of weeks before, in a poorly lit part of the barn. (Thanks to Polar Vortex induced misery!) Upon further inspection, I saw some flaring at the quarters and a mustang roll that needed touching up. A few millimeters really make a difference in how a boot fits, and when the new Fit Kit arrived, the regular size 0 was a pretty nice fit, so I placed my order. First newbie lesson learned: Following ALL of the fitting instructions will save time, and get you the best fit.
Without a Fit Kit, I would not have guessed that this size was the best fit.
With the little bit of flare that Brooke still had post-trim, I ordered Power Straps just in case the boots needed a little more help staying on. When the boots arrived, the allure of playing with my new goodies got the best of me. I got out my tools and attached a Power Strap to one boot before even trying it on Brooke. Fortunately, I didn't attach the others, because there was no way that boot was going on with a Power Strap attached! The other "unaltered" Gloves went on with a few taps from a rubber mallet and were a near perfect fit. Second lesson learned: Don't assume you need to modify anything before you try the boots on.
The Gloves were now ready just in time for me to get in two long "peak" rides prior to tapering down for Leatherwood. The first was at Yorktown Battlefield. We had just endured three weeks of ice and snow, but a break in the weather finally came. And so we headed out into the sunshine, and the deep sucking mud, and the leftover ice. I did a lot of looking down and checking to make sure that Brooke's Gloves were still where they belonged, but I needn't have worried. They stayed in place like they were part of her hoof, and she moved confidently over all the muck.
Looking down to check on the Gloves - Everything still in place.
Enjoying a snack at the top of a long climb at Graves Mountain.
The next test was a 28 mile all day ride at Graves Mountain. Recent snowfall meant lots more slick and sucking mud and ice. And this time, plenty of rocks, and climbs, and descents thrown in as well. If ever a boot were going to come off, this would be the place. Once again, the boots performed beautifully! I finished the day confident that Brooke and I are ready to jump back into endurance with all four (booted) hooves!