Kathy & Winston (L) and Christine & Tomas on our lap around the field
Steph & Cricket using the bareback pad
I booted Rhio in front (only have 2 functional boots right now – I’m waiting on a “fit kit” from Easy Care to determine what size Easy Boot Gloves to order – they have a trade-in program where you can send in up to 2 boots and order a new style of boot for 50% off, so I’m sending in my old Bares that have the gaitors torn off in favor of moving to their latest model, the Glove) and off we went. I currently use Easy Boot Epics on the front hooves – this pair is Red’s but actually fit Rhio ok as well. According to the Easy Care fit charts, Rhio shouldn’t really be successful in their boots – his feet are almost perfectly round & don’t fit their size measurements very well. But, I have found that he does fine in the Epics on his front hooves. I haven’t tried hind boots on him in several years, so it will be a learning curve this year. If worse comes to worse, I can shoe his hinds and boot his fronts. Kevin & I don’t think we will be able to shoe his fronts because of the hoof crack emerging from his injury. Rhio doesn’t have much tolerance for rocky going, and since I travel the gravel roads for most of my conditioning miles, he requires some hoof protection. I’m really excited about trying the Gloves because they are very lightweight, hoof-hugging boots with no hardware. Most of the reports I’ve read from other endurance riders are extremely favorable about this boot.
Rhio modeling the Easy Boot Epics post-ride
Our trail ride was highly successful and granted us several opportunities to teach our horses new things (or, to remind our horses that they could still do these things). The first challenge was a water crossing through an area that in the summer is swampy & impassable. Currently, it is a large puddle over frozen ground – so I knew the horses wouldn’t get bogged in it and we could safely school them on water crossings. Rhio ambled right into the water (I didn’t test it, but it had to be only barely above freezing!) and proceeded across with no difficulty. He has typically been quite good about water, but I was happy to see that that hasn’t changed. Winston went next, and required a tiny bit of encouragement, but crossed quite willingly. Tomas was definitely refusing at this point, but Cricket came across easily (with a look of disgust on his face, I do admit – he didn’t enjoy it, but he did it!) and now he didn’t have much choice unless he wanted to be left behind. So Tomas made the right choice and crossed the water in a controlled manner. Good job everyone!
Cricket showing Tomas the ropes on the water crossing
The rest of the trail ride provided smaller challenges such as ice in deeply shady areas, sucking mud in soggier areas, and a few downed trees to step over. All the horses get gold stars for their good behavior and willingness to learn new skills! We even crossed the water with no real hesitation on the way home. Steph had the “Cricket Grin” that everyone gets when they ride him – and Cricket was puffed up & proud of himself. Winston was gaiting smoothly and walking out readily. Tomas only had a few minor incidents of frustration/confusion, but nothing that Christine couldn’t handle. And Rhio was a good boy – although his challenges were yet to come. First, Rhio & I continued right down the driveway when we got back, even though the other horses were headed back to the barn. He didn’t like that much, but continued on when I asked him and didn’t give me too much guff. We turned west and headed down the road into the stiff wind. I dislike riding in the wind because I can’t hear traffic as well and am not as aware of our surroundings. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to ruffle Rhio much at all. I zipped my jacket up tight to my chin to keep the chill out, and away we went. I had my GPS on, and although Rhio gave me a very pokey 5.7mph trot, he was trotting. Rhio very much prefers to ride with another horse, and to start a ride with his buddies then leave them was really a challenge for him. He did great! We continued along the freshly graveled section of Pioneer & Church Roads; he was definitely seeking the softest footing he could. His hinds were not only bare, but he was freshly trimmed, so the new gravel was not to his liking. The deer obviously couldn’t hear us coming, because we scared up three of them who ran parallel to us for a while before cutting across a hay field. Rhio just kept trotting along, looking at them with interest. I concentrated on changing my posting diagonals, since we were trotting slow enough that I was actually posting. I really tend to forget to switch diagonals, and at our faster trots I do a two-point “hover” kind of thing instead of posting. We got to the “minimum maintenance road” portion of Church Road (a favorite spot) and headed down the now-open road, prominently posted “Road Closed in Winter.” It is closed to vehicles but open to snowmobiles, so we typically run across some interesting things back in there – this time it included a severed deer head lying in the middle of the road. Yuck! Rhio was more concerned with the funny-shaped melting snowbanks (looked like fossilized creatures sticking out of the ground to me) than the head, and Kelso trotted right past it. We turned around at about the 3 mile mark, and Rhio quite happily bumped his trotting speed up into the 7.5mph range (or, as I like to call it, the “going home” trot) and away we went. He cruised along, tossing his head and eager to head back to the barn. We stopped along the way to visit with 3 little kids and their mom out playing in their yard. The little girl is clearly horse crazy, and I love to encourage that – plus leave a good impression on the non-horse folks in the area since I ride on the public roads so much. Rhio was very amenable to having his nose patted and obligingly lowered it to 4 year old height. It was school bus time as we were nearing the barn, and 2 went past us very courteously, slowing way down. Of course, they don’t bother Rhio in the slightest, but I am very appreciative nonetheless. At the driveway, I fetched the mail from Rhio’s back (a first – took a couple attempts to get him close enough that I could reach, but only because he REALLY wanted to go down the driveway) and then hopped off at the wide wooden stairs leading to the farmhouse. I am not sure why, but I got it in my head that I was going to teach him to walk up and down those steps. He was having none of it, and kept staring off longingly at his pasture mates. I probably didn’t pick the best time for a schooling session on stair mastery! But, we did 1 step up, and 1 step down, and crossed several stairs horizontally back & forth a few times, so I was happy with that. Something to work on!
Look! Three feet on the bottom step!
Overall, we did 8 miles today, Rhio’s first in boots this spring. The boots stayed in place, he had no rubs or marks from the gaitors, and had only 1 tiny interference mark on the back of his left hind fetlock. It clearly had only been hit once, not repeatedly over the course of the ride, so I’m not going to worry about it. Several years ago when I first rode him in boots, he interfered so badly that we came home from our first booted ride bloody on all four legs. Granted, he was only wearing front boots today, but I was pleased anyway, as I hadn’t put any leg protection on for today’s ride (I’ll often use splint boots on him when he’s in the Easy Boots just to be safe). If the weather forecast is right, I probably won’t get him out for a ride again until next week – it’s actually going to be a below average high (and 20+ degrees colder than today!) for the first time in March.
(note: ride was Wednesday March 24)