April 1, 2015

What To Do During Competitions?

The biggest question on my mind right now isn't "Can Gem complete 50 mile e-rides barefoot" but "Should she?"

I think the answer is NO.

She has performed very well barefoot and I plan to continue to do all my conditioning bare and if I do a LD I would most likely do that bare too. She can do it and she can do it well. I just don't think I want to ask her to do another 50 miles barefoot.

I talked at length to the new farrier about my options. He is not a barefoot trimmer and is very much pro steel. In his opinion, it is more cost effective and no less stressful to Gem to throw steel shoes with nails on her prior to a ride and remove them right after. I didn't 100% agree with that and asked him a bunch of questions about the nail holes, change in strain on her ligaments, weight etc... He stayed firm in his belief that given the rock hardness of her hoof walls and sole that she could easily withstand steel shoes nailed on a day or two prior to a ride and then removed once we got home. Since I only do 2-3 rides in the year this wouldn't be an issue. If I was doing a whole lot more or riding closer together he would just keep shoes on her throughout the season and remove them once I was done.

This route is being held in the "in case every thing else out there fails" category. I just don't want to poke nail holes in her lovely feet just yet.

That leaves with me with a few options:
  1. Strap on boots
  2. Glue on boots
  3. Glue on shoes
Her foot shape doesn't fit boots. I've tried the Renegade/Viper and Easy Care lines and her heels are too high with too vertical a hoof angle to work in either even when her feet were in their prime. I could certainly file her feet down to make them match but that would put so much strain on her ligaments that I would more likely end up with a very lame horse that was retired from e-rides altogether. While the glue would help keep the glue on ones in place, her toe wouldn't seat well into the boot and that wouldn't be preferable. Plus Easy Care lists their glue ons at $104 a piece! Holy crap that's a lot of money for a one time deal. Renegade shows $15 which is more reasonable.

That leaves me with glue on shoes and I have been researching options. After looking at various options I have decided to give the Easy Care Sport shoe a try. I want a shoe that doesn't cover the frog and their other lines all do. Technically the shoe can be left in place just like a steel one for the entire cycle, but can't be re used do to the glue residue. I'd slap them on her a day or two before the ride and remove them when we returned home. I'm not looking forward to the $41 a piece price tag nor the hassle of removing all that glue from her hoof afterward, but I think for now it is my best option.

I asked FD (Farrier Dude) if she would need to have them placed a certain period of time prior to a ride to allow her to adjust to wearing them and he didn't think so. I think I would like to put them on and get some conditioning in them to see how she moves before toeing the starting line and ruining my entire ride.

On one hand I don't want to waste $165 on a set of shoes to ride around the grassy barn. Seems stupid to me. Since they last an entire cycle (supposedly) I could potentially place them on her a month prior to the ride and use them to condition that last month, but if they weaken or start to loosen in that time then I would need to very quickly remove these ones, sand down the glue residue, order new ones and get them placed. Too stressful before a first ride in them.

What I think I may do....

I have a RnT planned for early May on my favorite local trails. The hubby and I will be doing the 30 miler. The trails are mostly single track through the woods with roots, some gravel road, creek crossings and clay. Since I wont have a lot invested in the ride (no camping, less expensive entry fee, minimal gas, no extra food) I may order my first set 2-3 week prior to this ride. That will give me time to get them on her and test them out before hand so that if they are really messing her up I can rip them off and still go to the ride. If they stay on this gives me a great chance to test them out to see how she moves with them on since I am extremely familiar with how she moves on this terrain with them off.

I have a set of 4 boots I don't currently use at all because they were too wide for her hoof and rubbed her. They are the Fusion Jogging Boots which I really like in theory, but just don't fit her. If I sell those I could pay for the shoes for this ride.

This just might work....


  1. If you're worried about contracted heels and frogs, you actually *want* the shoes that cover the frog: those shoes distribute contact between the hoof wall and the frog. The ones that cover more foot surface work even more like a boot: they stimulate the sole as well while protecting it from gravel, rocks, etc. I used glue-on Epona shoes (very similar to the EasyShoes) on Lily for her first 4 months in MD to transition onto the harder ground here, and her feet were beautiful: wide frogs, wide heels, concavity. She stepped out of them gravel-crunching sound, which she had not been prior.

    The Sport shoes basically put all of the hooves' weight-bearing onto the hoof wall just like a regular steel shoe. It lifts the hoof off of the ground so the frog does not come into contact with the floor at all. Doesn't matter how thin the shoe is; a shoe in a traditional horse shoe shape does not allow the frog and sole to touch the ground. Even putting pads under the shoe won't prevent this from happening.

    Glue-on boots are slapped on a few days before a ride, if not even the day before, because they work similar to a boot. A shoe like the Sport Shoe is something you may want to put on a couple of weeks prior because it changes the hoof mechanism. And I'm horrified by your farrier's suggestion. There are a lot of people out there that use nail-on shoes for competition, but they get put on 2 weeks before the ride. You can't nail a shoe to a barefoot horse 2 days before a ride because it is not going to have time to get used to moving differently with the shoes on. Have you talked to Mel? She is an expert on this subject, and she used to compete with shoes prior to boots, so she is knowledgeable about timelines for shoeing.

    I hope this helps!

    1. Saiph - thanks for the advice! I was looking more toward the sport only to avoid anything getting stuck up in the shoe and not being able to clean it out. I've talked to people who had a real issue with this. Of course I am planning on only keeping them on for the actual ride, so maybe that won't be a problem. I will look more into the Performance line. I really, really, really want to avoid regular shoes at all costs. She has beautiful feet and I don't want to ruin that one bit. I hate the idea of nailing shoes on and can't see how it won't affect her mechanics. I just wish the boots actually fit her.

    2. What do you use during rides? Do you keep your horses completely bare or use boots of some sort? I think I may pop over and talk to Mel about her recommendations.

    3. I only boot for rides. Bare the rest of the time with frequent mini trims. After not liking trimmers in my area I jumped into doing it all myself and haven't looked back.

    4. Ah! I understand now.

      I have the same issue with Lily as you, who won't hold a hoof boot to save her life. Why? Because she does not have the ideal feet for boots, as was obvious at Fort Valley when she went through 8 Renegades, snapping cables left and right, and tore the gaiter off of one (or was it two? I can't remember) of the Gloves as well...that's 9 boots trashed in a 50 mile ride. I can't even. Her feet have always been very flat, especially her RF, which has a mechanical flare. I can't remove it: for whatever reason she needs that flare. (This is why I'm loathe to let farriers touch her feet. I have been trimming her 100% by myself for almost 2 years now.) Her hinds have finally gotten to the point where I would have more faith in boots staying on (more concavity, a tiny bit of heel) and her fronts finally have beautiful hoof-pastern angles..but are not suitable for boots. So believe me, I've looked into the glue-on alternative too! :)

      The problem with my location and not yet having a trailer of our own is that the rides that are most accessible to us at the moment are so rocky that hoof protection is mandatory. So I have not yet had the opportunity of attempting a ride bare. :/ If I could go to a ride with more grass/clay trails, I would certainly try her out bare! I've been using Renegade Vipers, regular Renegades, and have a large assortment now of Easyboot Gloves, which I really really love (when they stay on!) because of the lack of cables. I can't tell you how much I hate cables. I've tried Cavallos (similar to your Fusion boots) but they chafe her within the hour, so that type of over-the-coronet-band boot is not an option. I'm still playing around with sizing on the Gloves: I think I could make them work if I can get them to be tight enough around her hooves so that they stick.


    5. So with glue-on shoes that have frog contact, there is a whole WORLD of products that you can use to create a pad under the shoe with the purpose of creating more loading of the entire underside of the hoof, just like you would barefoot, but you also have the bonus of it avoiding any stones or gravel getting lodged between the shoe and the hoof. :) EasyCare has a great article on this here:

      The one thing that gives me pause with glue-ons in my region is humidity: if the shoes/boots are being glued on on a very humid day, it's going to affect the "stickability" of the glue. There is another option to help with this, which is casting. There is a material called Equicast which is made specifically for hooves. You (or your farrier) wrap some of this material around the edges of the shoe + hoof wall to give an extra layer of security. This article shows how it is done on a bare hoof: http://www.hoofrehab.com/Hoofcast.html
      It would be the same on a shod hoof.

      I was very pleased with the Eponas on Lily and have debated learning to apply them myself so I can use them for rides on her fronts. My farrier at the time both glued and casted them to Lily's fronts and they would last anywhere from 3-5 weeks during a very wet, muddy winter here (humidity in winter is about 60%, so I thought they did pretty good considering!) where we both rode on muddy trails through water and did regular work in the sand arena. Epona does have a starter kit that, while pricey at $200, comes with everything you need: 2 shoes (you choose the size), hoof packing, hoof glue, glue gun and glue tips. A lot of that you'll be re-using in future applications. The shoes themselves after that are not expensive: $25 for a pair! They also have an option with mesh in the opening underneath precisely to prevent rocks getting lodged in there, for people that don't want to use the hoof packing. http://www.eponashoe.com/products/EponaShoe.html

      Regarding casting, just casting a hoof without a shoe is an option too, especially if you're not going to be doing a super rocky ride. The possibilities are endless! :)

      If you want to talk more, you can shoot me an email at nicole DOT torrech AT gmail dot com.

    6. I think I will need to email you!!! You are a wealth of information, thank you so much for not only reading, but responding as well.

    7. Always happy to share the knowledge! :) And I love your blog.

  2. I echo everything Saiph said above.

    It's awesome that you were able to not trim Gem for years, but the sad reality of the east coast is that it just isn't rocky enough to help horses maintain their own hooves. With heavy riding over rougher terrain you stimulate a lot more hoof growth (as you mentioned in as past post). Living in a soft grassy pasture and not conditioning steadily on rougher terrain will definitely result in a lot of hoof growth, something else you noted in previous post.

    What you may want to consider is two things:
    - More frequent trim cycle. It'll make up for less frequency with riding or riding over soft terrain like the field. Trimming yourself may be the best bet. It is scary at first, but doing small maintenance trims once weekly will help a lot. They only take a few brief moments and make a world of difference. Or, in contrast to trimming like that, take her on a run or two a week with you on a hard surface road. 2 miles or so once a week will help her self trim. The concussion from the road on her legs should not he detrimental for such a distance at such a pace with no rider. And it'll build your bond! Win win!
    - The terrain of each ride you pursue in the future. If it's sand or something more aggressive than what you train on, pursue a hoof protection option. It it's what you train on, March onward bare.

    Just my two cents. :-)

    1. The trails around me offer a lot of varied terrain from gravel access roads, to hard pack to clay etc...It really does wonders to keep her trimmed on her own, but I'm just not able to put the type of miles on her that are needed. I thought about doing my own trimming, mainly because I don't like the farriers around me, and once her feet are looking better again I just may do that and have a farrier look her over every once in a while for advice. My biggest concern with hoof protection is during 50s. I think it is just too much to ask her to go that far, that fast bare. Plus the RnT Championships are in TN in the Mtns and she will need something for that. That's why I was looking at glue on shoe options. Boots just don't fit her.