It was a day for all barefoot horses. A day that will help the practice of keeping horses barefoot be less challenged in the future. It was a day that Dr. Neel Glass (the inventor of the Easyboot) would have been proud.
There are countless equestrian sports available to horse enthusiasts and different types of competitions within each discipline. From dressage to eventing, to cutting, to reining, to jumping, to driving and endurance to name a few. Each sport is exciting, competitive and invariably has its own event of significance within the discipline: like the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event for eventing, The Kentucky Derby for Thoroughbred racing and the Tevis Cup for endurance racing. These historical events define the sport segment. It’s where horsemen and horsewomen take their horses to measure them against the best.
The Tevis Cup 100-mile horse race is unquestionably one of the most difficult equine events in the world. It has a deep tradition and its 55 year history defines the sport of endurance racing. The challenging trail stretches from North Lake Tahoe in California to Auburn, California. Riders and equines climb over Emigrant Pass at nearly 9,000 feet; traverse canyons with swinging bridges and ride in temperatures that often climb over 100 degrees. Average completion rates run in the 50% range year after year after year.
The winning horse and rider team is presented with the “ Tevis Cup”. Winning ride times average 15 hours and the course record of 10:46 was set by Boyd Zontelli on Ruchcreek Hans. The list of Tevis Cup winners reads like a legends of the sport list and is an award that most endurance riders can hardly imagine.
Although many look at the Tevis Cup as the ultimate achievement in endurance racing, others argue that the Haggin Cup is more prestigious. Dr. Richard Barsaleau, a veterinarian who joined the race in 1961, was instrumental in creating this distinction, which he saw as an objective award that would recognize horsemanship, conditioning and respect for the health of the mounts. But it would also honor great performance. Starting in 1964 the top ten horses would be judged for the Haggin Cup. In her book, “The Tevis Cup: To Finish is to Win,” author Marnye Langer wrote: “Many people, especially noted horsemen, have come to regard the Haggin Cup as the most prestigious honor one can earn, and the award remains unique in both the sport of endurance and other equestrian pursuits as well.”
Over the 55 year history of the Tevis Cup the majority of finishing and entering horses were fitted with steel iron horse shoes: horses required shoes to finish the grueling course. In 1970 Dr. Neel Glass developed the Easyboot and rode the Tevis Cup five years later to show the world that his alternative hoof protection could complete the event. Neel successfully completed the 1975 Tevis Cup and gave horse people everywhere an alternative means of hoof protection. Neel’s Easyboot invention was quickly adopted as the “spare tire” for the horse. Trail riders, endurance riders and equine owners across the world in all disciplines now carry a spare in case they ever lose a horseshoe.
Just as the Tevis Trail has changed over the years, so too has technology and the equipment used to compete at the event. Saddles have become lighter and more flexible; feed and electrolytes have improved and hoof care has evolved dramatically. Steel shoes are now seen next to urethane shoes and next to advanced versions of Dr Glass’ original Easyboot.
Natural hoof care and booting the endurance horse for tough events is growing faster than any other type of hoof protection. What was once thought to be impossible is now common practice for the barefoot horse fitted with Easyboots. The 2010 event had at least 34 horses officially start in Easyboots and 20 horses finish: a 59% completion rate. In 2009 the event had 20 horses start the event in Easyboots and 15 horses finish: a 75% completion rate. Comparing the finish rates of the barefoot booted horse to the average overall finish rate of 50% suggests that barefoot booted horses are here to stay and that their numbers can only increase.
The Haggin Cup has been won in the past by horses wearing Easyboots over iron shoes. Sandy Brown and Ruby (The Wonder Mule) took home the Haggin Cup in 1998. Heather Reynolds and Crystal’s Charm repeated with Easyboots in 1999.
The Haggin Cup, however, has eluded the barefoot horse until now. The 2010 Haggin Cup makes history for the barefoot horse. The Fury raced five 2010 endurance events leading up to the Tevis Cup in Easyboot Gloves, recording two Best Condition awards along the way. Easyboot Glue-Ons were selected to protect Fury’s bare feet during the 2010 Tevis event and to help the barefoot horse make history.
The 2010 awarding of the Haggin Cup to a barefoot horse marks a historic point in endurance racing and technological advancements. One of the most difficult and demanding equine events in the world was just completed by 20 barefoot equines and the most prestigious award in endurance racing was just won by a barefoot horse. It marks a significant change and proves that if an endurance horse can complete the toughest event in boots, so can most horse owners complete their back-country trails and equine pursuits successfully.
Congratulations to The Fury for making history and establishing change. Thank you Dr. Neel Glass for inventing the Easyboot and giving horses and equestrians a choice!
Click here to see The Fury showing for the Haggin Cup.