The planned first endurance ride of the season is the Eagle Ranch Spring Fling held April 10-11th. I plan on doing the second day 50 mile ride. I chose the second day because, generally, it has fewer entries and I think we can use fewer distractions at this point!
The vet is scheduled to come out on Monday to pull coggins, give rabies shot, and write up health papers.
I have ordered a full set of Renegades (pair for rear and 2 spares) and plan on doing all of our road rides in them until the race. Until they arrive, I have been tinkering with the pair that I currently have (will be used as fronts) and they seem to be working as far as fit goes.
I have decided to try this ride with boots rather than shoes for a number of reasons.
- First, Boomer doesn't need shoes for most of what we do. Even walking and trotting down the gravel road doesn't bother him unless the gravel is spread out so thinly that it is one rock per inch of road or more- where most of his hoof is on flat road with just one piece of gravel under it. He is fine going over even fist sized rocks. This is not to say that he can handle 50 miles of trail with unknown conditions, but that he can condition at home without protection.
- Second, I *hope* to be able to do a ride per month from April-October and I don't want to keep him shod for that long since he really doesn't need it! I don't want to compromise the quality and strength of his hoof by putting so many holes in his hoof wall. From what I understand, putting shoes on for a short period is not going to damage the hoof irreparably. However, wearing shoes for an extended period of time can cause 'changes' that take a while to grow out. I don't want to shoe for half the year and then spend the next half of the year doing 'repair' trims. Plus, I enjoy doing his trims myself and really 'knowing' his hooves.
- Third, scheduling the farrier is kind of a stressor right now with all of the mud we have. I would want shoes on a minimum of two weeks ahead of the ride to be able to grow out any tender spots, etc. However, horses are pulling shoes left and right out in the pasture right now. The mud is so thick it will literally suck off my boots when I walk out there. Luckily, it is a 24 acre pasture and only the front acre is muddy from heavy traffic and the horses aren't standing in it all day. But, they still have to walk through it to get to the gate and water and other people have been loosing shoes. So, I don't want to pay for a full set of shoes and then lose one right before the race and have to have the farrier back out at late notice or even risk showing up at the ride with a loose shoe.
- Fourth, and the least important factor is cost. There is no way of knowing how much use I will get per boot, but at $300 for a full set it would only take 3 sets of nail on shoes to offset the cost.
- Speed- Of course, we are just shooting for a completion but I would prefer to spend a little less time walking this ride. The Thanksgiving Ride was our first ride and I wanted to stay at a walk for as much of the beginning of the ride as possible to teach Boomer not to race early. Well, I'm not sure that was the best tactic. He had a really hard time being passed over and over again and I think that was hard for him mentally. We walked basically the entire first 17 miles and then again for about 6 miles about 35 miles in. So, we pretty much walked for half of the ride. I think that we could manage our time better by alternating walking and trotting and aiming to walk for 25% of the ride. I think this ride I will go out at a trot as long as he is behaving.
- Food/water- I want to encourage Boomer to eat and drink more on the trail. I plan on putting carrots in my saddle bag and I want to try to give him one every few miles to keep his guts moving. I also want to work more on finding green grass to graze on in the event he isn't drinking well. He doesn't seem to like drinking out of streams and lakes, so the next best thing is to let him graze on grasses at those water sources. If he is still hesitant to drink at this ride, I will start thinking of carrying a collapsable bucket with a handful of grain in it to entice him to drink.
- Crew- John and I have been working on a plan to be more efficient at the vet checks. I am going to have him bring a halter and lead rope, cooler, carrots, and small bucket with sponge. I think that if we untack for the checks he will trot out more willingly and get better scores. This is a fine line for me because I am from the school of thought that you never unsaddle a hot horse. So, I will just have to focus on walking in to camp, and getting the cooler on right away. I have a great idea for a sponge and bucket. My most recent SmartHoof supplement came in a bucket that holds about 4 pounds of pellets. It is a rectangular bucket with a hinged, non-removable lid, and a handle. I think it will hold about a half gallon. I plan on clipping a sponge to the handle. It should weigh less than 5 pounds when full of water.
As far as human camping goes, I have made up some plans and a 3-D diagram (yes, really) of an idea for shelving in the trailer. John and I are going to try to build it next weekend. Last time we went camping we had about one square foot of space to move around or change clothes and John had a space heater stacked about 4 feet off the ground balanced on buckets, boxes, and horse blankets. Not safe or efficient. I want to have a box/step under the nose of the trailer to store the Jiffy Jack and other tire changing items that are large, clunky, and rarely used. Using that as an anchor, I want to build two shelves along the adjoining back wall. They will be four feet wide and 18" deep. The first shelf will be 30" from the ground and the second shelf will be 24" above that. Each shelf will have a 4" lip around it and dividers in it to keep things from moving. I want to bolt a blanket bar to the bottom of the shelf and bridle racks on the support posts. There will be room for my 30 gallon water tank/saddle rack under the shelves. I love being organized and I think this will really help keep things tidy. I have not found anything commercially that will suit my needs or fit perfectly. Part of the beauty of my plan is that everything can be bolted to the floor through the frame of the shelves and box- no drilling holes in the metal walls!