Natalie Herman is one of those riders who just stands out in a crowd. She is forthright, she loves to ride, she treats her horses well and she stands up for what she believes in. Those are commendable attributes indeed.

By day Natalie is a barefoot trimmer. By night she is an endurance junkie, with well over 1,000 competition miles per year for each of the last three years. Most of her miles are accumulated at multi-day events.

Natalie and Cheyenne.

Natalie first started riding limited distance events in 2003. Unfortunately, nobody told her the six hour time limit included the lunch hold. She would complete three LDs that year – and not ‘complete’ any of them because she was over time.

She went to farrier school five years ago, but when she and riding friend Terri Tinkham lost their shoer, she decided to experiment a little with barefoot at the end of 2006. She doesn’t shoe at all any more – she believes wholly in natural hoof care.

Natalie is humble about her impressive achievements. She does not think Cheyenne – now 21 and with more than 4,600 competition miles – could have kept up his diet of high mileage years without being barefoot and using Easyboots because of the concussion on his legs from steel shoes.

With Storm.

When asked about the lessons learned along the way, Natalie has never had a lame horse from transitioning to boots, and has never had a set of boots flying off while she was going down the trail. She encourages people to take the time to work with the boots and to get to know them. The learning curve was a little steeper with the Original Easyboot because of the hardware and various components. “It used to take 20 minutes for me to put a set of Easyboots over shoes before each ride. Now I can put on a set of Gloves in five minutes.”

“Muddy conditions shouldn’t stop people from using boots. The boots stay on, even in sticky, sucky mud.” Natalie knows mud: living in the Humboldt guarantees more rain than most of us deal with. Her strategy for the temperate winters is to keep the horses off the wet ground as much as possible. But the reality is that their feet get soft and wet and she relies on boots for her training rides as well as her competition miles.

Natalie has yet to find the solution to effectively managing Thrush in wet conditions. She is having some success with Hooflex Thrush Remedy made by Absorbine, available in many tack catalogs.

Natalie and Storm on the beach.

“If the fit is right, the boots can go anywhere.” And to achieve that right fit, Natalie recommends a new user to work with someone who has already fitted boots or works with them – either a rider or a trimmer. “And the boots will stretch a little over time as you ride – so if you are in between sizes, go for the smaller one.”

It is also important to re-evaluate fit during the transition process. Shape and size of the hooves might change in the first three to six months.

Natalie uses a combination of boots depending on the horse and the conditions. She estimates she can get 600 – 700 miles out of a set of Epics and 400 – 500 miles with Gloves.

Her plans for the coming year are to focus on getting her stallion, Storm, ready for 50. In the meantime, she will continue working with Chey and Hoanna. Her training strategy is to keep things simple. She just gets out there to ride as much as she can every week – and sometimes the rain means that only happens once a week.

There’s a lot to be said for taking a simpler approach to life. If you happen to see Natalie out on the trail – tell her I said “hi”.

Keep up the bootlegging.

Kevin Myers

PS You can read some of Natalie’s adventures by following her blog.