Submitted by Easyboot user Joe Ford.

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with boots. Basically, I love to hate them. Smiling, happy people and “ever so enthusiastic” manufacturers make them sound super-duper. However, for those of us out here plodding along on our own, the learning curve is a bit steep. Lots of trial and lots of error.

Due to issues with farriers I finally started taking matters into my own hands and trimming my own horse. I haven’t gotten to nails yet but I am getting decent with trims. After more laps around sandy Broxton, SC AERC ride barefoot than I care to admit, I decided that if I was going to expand my ride venues I needed to give hoof boots another go. After some trial and error I settled on the Easyboot Gloves. Mine were getting a bit ‘long in the tooth’ so I figured it was time for an upgrade.

Easyboot has come out with a couple new designs that are worth looking at. For Skymont, TN AERC, I went with a combination of home, “pieced together” boots and the 2016 rubber Glove gaiters. If you are familiar with the older neoprene gaiters, the new gaiters are much sturdier. Although the same basic design, my boots were assembled with some basic T nuts and pieces of dog collars for Power Straps. New gaiters and a pair of complete Glove boots from Distance Depot. One of the boots was actually a Glue-On shell left over from earlier experiments that didn’t go so well, I am not great at gluing. Have you ever seen a horse running around with a boot glued to his tail?

Placing holes in the Glue-On shell are easily made with a soldering iron. One dog leash is about $10 and can make a bunch of power straps.

I am about 12 hours away from this ride so I arrived Wednesday afternoon for the Friday ride. I think this worked very well for us and will be my plan from now on. Just so much less stressful not having to cram in camp setup, vet check in, ride meeting, ride preparation all in one evening. Plus it is better for the horse. Sunny was happy pigging out all day.

Although the shells are the same ones that come on the 2016 Glove, the new stiffer gaiters are quite a bit harder to get on. I learned my lesson at an earlier ride about putting the boots on the night before instead of the morning of the race. I discovered at 4 am that it was going to be more difficult to get the 2016 Glove on while my horse was dancing around excited and wondering what all the commotion was about. For Skymont, I decided to boot the night before the ride. People leave the Glue-On shells on for multiple days and these boots are about the same thing. So figured couldn’t hurt anything. I have to say this worked way better, horse was relaxed, I was relaxed, it wasn’t dark and I was able to take my time.

A technique I picked up from a neighbor at Leatherwood, NC AERC ride involves wrapping the hoof a few times with cotton sport tape, then putting the boots on with a big rubber mallet. The heat from the hooves bleed through the tape and basically glue the boots on. I had been using CVS and Target store brand tape, figuring tape was tape, and that brand had serrated edges making it easy for my nerve damaged fingers to tear. Nope, not tape is created equal. EasyCare recommends Mueller brand. I haven’t tried it yet but did end up with a roll of Johnson’s “Coach” Sports tape. I now have a case of it. After the ride it was all I could do to get the boots off. I had to use an 8-inch pry bar I fabricated from a tack puller for just this issue.

The ride itself, consisted of gentle hills, over all about 2k feet of up, 2k feet of down, four pretty even loops. There was only a trot by and no hold after the first loop. Trails were a mix of single track trails, cross country non-trails in the woods, a bit of dirt roads and some pipeline clearings. One area I was glad to be on a 14.2 hand horse as there were some tunnels of tree branches to traverse. Last couple miles of last loop had some really nice green grass we took advantage of. Having dialed in foot gear, an in shape horse (both mentally and physically), and non-brutal weather and trail conditions, all contributed to this being my most enjoyable, relaxed ride ever. Trails weren’t brutally rocky but I don’t think I’d want to do a 50 mile barefoot. Probably wouldn’t stress over trail riding barefoot there though. We were just off the “midpack” time and all and all had a great time at a great ride. Thank you EasyCare for your hoof protection. See you next year Skymont.