It Depends 😀
The longer that I am fortunate enough to be owned by a varied herd of equines, and ride and board others,’ the more certain I am that there is no one straight recipe for success with horses. Okay, yes, they all benefit from movement, good forage, basic healthcare. But beyond that, bigger picture, in the epic minefield that are the “What is the best…” Questions, I can only say: It depends on the horse.
Case in point: Kenny, Sir Kenneth of Crookshanks, my Little Red Flyer, a Morgan/Welsh Pony cross who in the year and a half that he has been in my life has had me turn my routines and suppositions and skills upside down. He sounds like such a simple thing (if you don’t know Morgan/Ponies): now-12ish, just over 14 hands, a gelding who will pack kids and husbands, technically. Ah, but little Kenny is so much more. He’s toed out in front quite epically, has a particularly crooked right front hoof, and a very strong opinion on pretty much everything.
Once home, booting him in Renegades for conditioning was immediately a challenge; while the oval profile and forgiving Captivator shape of the Classics could accommodate his upright Morgan style hooves, I couldn’t seem to cut them back short enough to prevent him from forging with his massive over-stride. With his knock kneed and toed out front conformation and therefore in-swung movement (which is actually incredibly smooth and a pleasure to ride), the bulk of the Renegades clearly bothered him.
Viewing his crooked hoof capsule and “tall” hooves when I brought him home, I had quickly resolved to “even out and normalize” his angles. I fussed with his hooves almost weekly, and was excited as they started to look more as I thought they should.
We completed the Whiskeytown Chaser LD in April 2016 in Renegade Glue on boots with plenty of pony to spare–and when we next rode, Kenny was lame on his wonky RF that I’d been busily “bringing down to normal.” I immediately took him to a local well known and respected veterinary clinic, worked with a podiatrist/lameness veterinarian, x-rayed, and on his recommendation and by his farrier had one of my horses steel shod for the first time in years. Then watched Kenny stand more crookedly than ever and rip off his right front shoe in one day, and then the reset in a day and a half, despite wearing the recommended bell boots 24/7. As that was clearly a fail, I pulled Kenny’s one remaining shoe and left him in the pasture for a few months, no trims, just horse time.
And then after some months of being a horse in pasture, he was sound. And cranky as ever. With a dental and chiro done and constant attention to saddle fit (he muscled out of his semi QH bar Big Horn before long and I have had to adjust shims in the Specialized Trailmaster now on him 3 times already), I decided to try Gastroguard for the first time ever in my horsey career to see if any of Kenny’s attitude was ulcer related. While it was err, enjoyable? dosing a snarky pony every morning for 14 days, I saw zero difference in him and on vet’s recommendation didn’t pursue the entire (pricey) 28 dosage.
Ever seeking to do better and suspecting it was my own trimming and angle tampering that had lamed Kenny early on, I had a local trimmer with barefoot training trim him a couple times in mid/late 2016. Things seemed fine but with trimming skills myself, I can’t legitimize paying outside professionals for long unless absolutely necessary. And so I kept riding Kenny, and letting his hooves grow as they wished, conditioning entirely barefoot on rocky trails from Oroville to Redding throughout the winter and into this year. Every time I went to trim his feet there just wasn’t much to be done, feeling and seeing that Kenny was sounder and moving better than ever with the angles that he was rocking on his own.
With a year and a half of LSD, one successful LD in rough terrain under our belts, and a sounder and stronger pony than ever in the early months of this year, I began to pick out Kenny’s first 50 miler. He does well in the cold and with friends egging us on that it’s a good First 50, we have set our sights on the upcoming Rides of March in Nevada, and/or good ole Whiskeytown Chaser closer to home (April). Conditioning barefoot is a lovely thing, but I’m simply too paranoid to attempt 50 miles+ barefoot, so the inevitable What Will He Wear question came roaring back to the forefront once I had settled on potential events. I had of course proven that Renegade Glue-ons work for Kenny, but I think we can all agree that it would be lovely to have a strap-on option for our horses and not have to rely on gluing for every event, especially for relatively good footing.
And so this latest blasphemy was born:
To backtrack briefly, I first took my horses barefoot in 2011 when I could not secure a reliable and skilled farrier. An Easyboot trimmer and dealer took over my horse’s hooves, and was kind enough to teach me my early trimming skills as well. I even bought my mare, GE Blazun Haatdesire, from Global Endurance, some of the top Easyboot users and dealers in the nation–and could not keep Easyboots on her for anything. Or if I did, they rubbed her raw. Taping and whacking them on with a mallet, then controlling my mare’s gait so she wouldn’t lose boots, the various incarnations of anti-rub attempts(baby powder, desitin, stockings anyone?) if she did retain boots, Oh, it was an aggravating journey, culminating in using 10 Easyboots and 12 hours to complete Cache Creek 50 2012, a notorious water+hills boot eating ride. And then I found Renegades. They seemed to magically stay on despite not needing to be tight, they didn’t rub, and they came in pretty colors. Sold. I became a Renegade rep not long after, and have used them successfully on so many horses and client horses that I have lost track.
all pro photos by Baylor/Gore
And then there was Kenny.
SO, back in current-times, a couple EB buddies and I conducted a boot test with water and hills last week that was entirely laughable. The boots were old and didn’t have power straps, and Kenny shed all 4 in under 2 miles. I can’t tell you how little I ever wanted to hear that rubbery WhompWhomp of an Easyboot hanging off it’s gaiter like an anklet again, but as it wasn’t a fair test due to the boots’ condition, we headed back out a few days later in new Gloves with powerstraps.
And oh how we romped, through sucking mud up over the boots, across countless streams, and then ZOOOM, up hills, trotting and cantering with ease and endless “Do I have boots?!” questions, as the wind roared, drowning out potential WhompWhomp sounds. Yes, You’re good, You’ve got 4 tires, I was reassured continuously, and 13 brisk, muddy, and speedy miles later, we had 4 Gloves, a frisky pony, and a Renegade Rep ready to buy her horse some Gloves. Because it just depends on the animal, and if you aren’t willing to step outside the comfort zone of what you know or like best (coz let’s be clear, this works for Kenny–me? I’m whining all the way to the mallet and athletic tape sections), you might never have that beautiful AHA moment (on that same ride, the +/- 10th bit that I’ve tried on Kenny gave me another AHA moment: Ported Pelham wins!).
Go forth and experiment my friends. May we all have deep toolboxes!