I was looking forward to the Lake Sonoma 50 on November 1 with great anticipation. It’s a beautiful and challenging course around the lake and a well-managed event. I think I’ve competed at this ride five or six times. Unfortunately, a significant rainstorm was in the forecast for Thursday night into Friday morning. A good rain would make the trails dangerous and unusable. Ride manager Dennis Sousa informed me that the decision to hold or cancel the ride would be made by mid-week.

Jenni Smith on M Dash Czoe and Ann Hall on Dreamm On (“Reve”)

Fortunately, the ride was not canceled. However, the forecast created another dilemma for me. Even if it didn’t rain enough to force the ride to be canceled, wet trails would be slippery. The red clay-based soils provided ideal footing in dry conditions but would be as slick as ski slopes if wet. My riding partner Jenni Smith and I had lengthy conversations that week leading up to race day about whether or not to go. Furthermore, I was reluctant to apply two sets of Glue Ons without certainty of being able to ride. On Thursday, we decided that we would go and we would use Easyboot Gloves instead of Glue Ons—something I haven’t done for a race in probably three years.

The rainstorm pelted the greater Bay Area and Napa Valley on Friday, but the race site, although just an hour north, received only a moderate amount of rain. By the time I arrived to base camp mid-afternoon, the skies were clearing.

Jenni and I decided to boot our horses before vetting in and then leave them on overnight, rather than booting in the morning. Our rationale was twofold: It meant NOT having to boot in the morning in the dark (and getting to enjoy a second cup of coffee instead). More importantly, it meant not having to boot wet hooves if it rained again during the night.

I haven’t had excellent luck using tape. It seems to work great when the hooves are dry, but as soon as they get wet from water and sweat, the tape bunches up and works its way around into the bottom of the boot. I know I’m doing something wrong in applying it. Part of the problem is that some of my horses have low heels and I can’t get a good wrap around the back of the foot and then get it to stay. We applied our Gloves without any tape. As I mentioned in last month’s blog, my horses’ hooves have changed over the past few years and are now bigger and rounder. Unless I do something careless (carefree) and blast up a steep hill, I don’t have any trouble keeping Gloves on during training rides.

Much to my dismay, Stella did not trot out well for the vet in. I was quite surprised, as she had been training so well. The vets couldn’t agree if it was left front or right hind, because it was slight and intermittent. At that moment, it didn’t really matter to me. Although I could have asked the vets to let me start and see if she worked out of it, I didn’t. Stella would sit this one out.

 Ride management’s offer of “food” at the vet check for riders. Can you say “sugar coma?”

So Jenni on Czoe went out in the morning and I spent the day crewing and visiting with friends. Jenni sped around the course, completing the first loop in 1:30, the second in 1:00 and the third in 1:40, ultimately finishing third with Ann Hall, who was second, and just a few minutes back from the winner Paul Rink. This is a very fast pace for a steep and technical trail (albeit slightly short). Her Gloves performed fabulously. Jenni reported that the trail had received just enough moisture to provide a little bit of “give,” but not so much to make it slippery.

Czoe’s boots at the lunch vet check. A little muddy on the outside but clean and dry under the gaiter.

Ann Hall remarked several times about Czoe’s hill-climbing ability. I acknowledged the compliment, but what I was thinking was “And her boots stayed on …. Yeah!”