While riding with a friend last weekend, it came to mind how my outlook has changed in the past couple years about riding my horses over rocky ground. This thought jumped into my mind while I was watched her gelding travel across rocky roads and washes in his Easyboot Gloves, while Chief was going bare.
Chief was a pony horse at a Thoroughbred track in New Mexico before he came into my life. He had been kept shod all the way around his whole life, had been worked over soft surfaces and kept in a 10' x 10' stall when he wasn't working. Taking him to a sound, rock crushing barefoot horse has been quite an adventure. About a year after taking Chief bare I could tell within a few steps if a boot came off because he would immediately gimp down the trail. Mind you this was on a pretty nice surface with not many rocks. Obviously I did not have his boots fitted properly which is why he kept losing them, but that's another story.
About 2 years ago I started riding with an endurance rider that has 16,000 competition miles under her belt. She showed me the primitive ungroomed wildlife trails the Spring Mountain Range has to offer, rocks everywhere, but as Claire puts it, "it's soft rock", meaning it moves when your horse steps on it. I started booting Chief on all 4 feet and started learning to trim my horses myself because the various farriers I tried over the years weren't doing what my horses feet needed.
Plenty of turnout time on dry lot which isn't a problem in southern Nevada, 20-35 miles of riding a week getting those feet to work the way they should and I could see major changes taking place. After being barefoot for four years, I couldn't believe the difference a proper trim made in the way his feet progressed. There came a day when he could move comfortably with no hind boots and then the day came when we could hit those same rocky trails totally bare and comfortable. Now I boot when we're going to be on rocky hard pack for any period of time and go bare when possible. It's simply amazing to be able to "feel" your horse striding out happier down the trail!
I actually caught myself telling someone there wasn't much rock on the trails we were using, and the next time we hit that trail I said oops, I lied, there's plenty of rock, in fact the trail is covered with rock but I don't pay attention to it anymore because my horse is finally comfortable traveling over them. No stopping Chief now, no matter how much rock the trail has to offer.