Monday, April 26, 2010

State Fair Express

Phew! We are back and (almost) recovered from the State Fair Express 50 mile Endurance ride. The ride is along the Katy Trail which used to be the Katy Railroad. Thanks to a 'rails to trails' program, the state of Missouri now has over 250 miles of crushed gravel trail for bikers, hikers, and horses to share! Well, the horses are only allowed on 25 miles, but thats really all we need, right? I had anticipated this ride to be pretty easy. Flat, straight, no difficult challenges. Unless you count the weather as a challenge. The forecast was for a 10% chance of rain on Saturday. But, I'll get to that later.

In the days leading up to the ride, there was about an inch and a half of rain. Luckily, base camp was at the Missouri State Fair grounds. All of the horses were assigned stalls and we camped in a big paved parking lot across from the stalls. I really liked the ease of mind I had with Boomer in a stall. I didn't feel like I had to 'babysit' him the whole time. I got there about 6 hours before John did and I made friends with some of the other early birds. One couple, Emma and Dave, helped me out with a bag of shavings since I didn't bring any. Another couple, April and Sean, let me hang out in their awesome LQ trailer while it poured rain for about 20 minutes. John arrived and we set up our tent and got organized for the ride. The checks were out of camp, so I packed up everything I wanted in the truck and got the GPS primed and ready to go for the morning.

We got up early and started getting ready. I was a nervous wreck, as usual. Doubting why I even put myself through something that makes me so nervous. The start was uneventful, but Boomer was full of himself and was barely containing his energy. He was going more up and down and swinging sideways than he was going forward. I pushed him up to a trot and then let him canter for a little while and he finally settled in after about 3-4 miles. By that time, I had relaxed and was really looking forward to the day. Little did I know what was in store...

By mile 10, we stopped at the first water stop and the thunder had started. Low, deep rumbling thunder. No lightening though. I asked the water volunteer if it was going to rain and he said that it was just supposed to be cloudy and blow over. At about mile 10.5 it started to sprinkle. It wasn't bad. I wasn't cold and the rain wasn't that big of a deal, even without a rain coat. At about mile 12, it started raining harder and the wind picked up. I was getting to the 5-6 miles of trail where there was no tree cover and the wind was brutal. I still wasn't cold, but sideways rain is never fun. Boomer was a trooper and really wanted to turn his but to the wind, but we carried on. At the first vet stop, he drank a little and ate his beet pulp/grain mash. I covered him with a cooler and kept him walking so he wouldn't cramp. Our vet scores were good with all A's and a B on Gut sounds.

We went out on the next loop and were mostly in tree cover. At this point I had put on a dry sweatshirt and windbreaker jacket. We were still doing well and were in a pocket by ourselves for the most part. The trail was really beautiful, improved crushed gravel footing-8 feet wide, neon green carpet of grass on either side, trees, and a stream. Really enjoyable. That loop was uneventful and we made it back in camp in great time. Again, all A's on the vet score except a B+ on gut sounds.

Out on the last loop home, was when I started having trouble. Boomer was fine, but I was getting cold. The rain hadn't let up and the temperatures were dropping from the upper 60's down into the low 50's. I was so done with the ride by about mile 40. Boomer was still doing fine and I was stopping to let him graze at every mile marker. He would eat 5-8 bites of grass then we would walk about 10 strides while he chewed, the back to trotting. By about mile 47, he started asking to walk. I was so done with the weather that I pushed him on. At that point, I was confident in his vet scores and knew he had been getting plenty of grass and water from frequent grazing and I made the decision to push him to trot for the last 3 miles. Honestly, I didn't really have to push him that hard. He only dropped to the walk twice in those last three miles and I think it had more to do with grazing than it did fatigue.

We arrived at camp and I was so happy to be done. I was soaked to the bone. My boots were squishy, my saddle was squishy, I had water pooling in my sleeves, my helmet was squishy, my glasses were covered in rain. I was done. Luckily, we vetted through right away and Boomer did great! He got a B on gut sounds, impulsion, and attitude. I covered him with a cooler, wrapped his legs and left him with a bunch of hay and water.

This ride was really fun despite the rain. Boomer did awesome and I was SO thrilled with his performance! We finished in 7 hours (8.5 including vet hold times) and were in 10th place out of 20 starters! We legitimately top tenned!!! Boomer kept up a trot the whole ride and didn't need any walk breaks! Because the trail had mile markers I was able to figure up our pace and were were consistently traveling at 7 or 8 minute mile pace!

Of course, I did learn a few things this ride. I seem to learn something every ride. It is really fun to figure all of this out. You can only learn so much from books and the internet, the rest is about learning what is best for you and your horse. So cool! First, I think that the beet pulp at the checks really helped. I didn't feed it pre-ride, but I will in the future. I'm thinking it will be easier to keep his scores up than to try getting them up between checks. Second, we had a minor tack issue. Boomer had two small girth galls develop. They were not enough to lower his score, but he did have some heat and swelling on either side of his rib cage. I use a Pro-Choice Neoprene cinch, so the buckles are not in contact with his skin. However, there were a few things different this ride that contributed to the rubs. One, I only used one pad, so the girth sat at the same place the whole time. Two, I didn't untack at the checks due to weather so the saddle wasn't repositioned between loops. Three, water isn't the best lubricant and I think that contributed as well since we were both soaked to the bone. Currently, I have only one saddle pad but I have two cinches. I will alternate cinches and make a point of untacking at vet checks in the future. I hope to get another pad soon, that will help to be able to alternate.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's Next?

Boomer got his 5 days off followed by two days of trail riding, 2 hours and 4 hours of easy walking on Saturday and Sunday. Monday was a Dressage day (awesome- best lateral work ever! Shoulder In was a breeze, even at the trot!) and Tuesday was just a 'blowing off steam' day in the round pen.

I am really amazed at not only how quickly he recovered but at how much energy he has. That 5 days off was the most he has had off in months (since our last ride?) and I could tell that he needs the work to stay sane. *Boomer says, "Let's GO! Come on, faster! Can we GO please? GO! GO! Now! GO! PLEASE?"*

We are already planning to do our next ride this weekend in Sedalia, MO. It is along the Katy Trail, which I am very excited about! The trail is along an old railway so it will be 'flat and fast' as they say in 'marathon speak'. It goes about 25 miles from one town through a small town and right in to the middle of another small town for the Vet check, then through to another town where we turn around and go back through the vet check and on home! I am curious to see how Boomer's fitness is on this flat, easy trail. I figure this will give a good baseline of fitness as there won't be any hills or climbs to factor in. Clearly, we aren't racing anyone and I would be quite thrilled to be 3 for 3 on the Turtle Award!

In preparation, I have been doing a few things a little differently. As I talked about before, I learned a lot at our last ride and I'm trying new things.

First, my Turtle Award at the Spring Fling was a bag of Ultium. I used it before and it made Boomer... insane. However, I was feeding him 5(!!!) pounds a day and he wasn't really working as an athlete then. Now, I am feeding him 3/4 pound of Strategy plus ~1/4 pound Ultium, and 2 oz Cool Calories 100 for added fat without 'energy'. Boomer has been very 'up' this week which is probably a combination of the lack of work, high energy feed, and fresh spring grass. I'm making him work and the energy is staying fairly manageable. I'm hoping that the energy translates to sustained energy during our next ride.

Second, I am going to start beet pulp Wednesday and feed it through the ride for added fiber and moisture. I think our biggest challenge at the Spring Fling was hydration and I need to do everything I can to stay on top of that in case Boomer doesn't take care of himself and drink on the ride.

Third thing I am working on is a list/plan for the vet checks. They are both out of camp and it will be a new, exciting challenge to be prepared for that! I plan on sending a flake of hay, bucket for milkshake (5 gallons water, handful of grain), pre-soaked beet pulp with handful of grain and electrolytes mixed in, halter, cooler, and people snacks for each of the two checks. My plan is to *hopefully* get him to drink along the trail (there are supposed to be water tanks every 5(!) miles). I also plan on offering him a milkshake at each stop before the vet check and then a beet pulp mash with electrolytes after the vet check during our hold time. I am hoping that this strategy will help him stay hydrated and keep him going strong for the whole ride.

Other than those few things, I am pretty well prepared. The trailer is mostly organized, I need to get the people food ready, I have maps printed out and all of my paperwork in order. I am planning on leaving Friday morning around 10 and John is going to meet me there after he gets off work. It will be my first time hauling alone, but it is only 2 hours away and I will be in easy phone range in case of emergency!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Leg stretcher trail ride!

After five days of 'vacation' Boomer finally got back to work. I gave him Monday-Thursday totally off with occasional grooming and a little feed/electrolytes to get him back up to normal. It only took about 24 hours before he felt like he was recuperated. I am amazed by his recovery time! On Friday I lunged him for about 20 minutes just to see how he was moving and was pleased to see that he looked 100% sound with plenty of energy.

Since starting dressage lessons I have been really studying Boomer's mechanics and trying to figure out where he is crooked. All horses travel a little crooked and it manifests in different ways. Boomer is easier to bend right, but actually travels more correctly to the left. So, his weak side is the right. He prefers the left lead and seems to trot stronger with his right hind, always pushing me up on to the left diagonal. He does lateral work easier from right to left. When I pick out his feet he always hikes up his left hind leg really high. I know these things don't really seem connected, but 50 miles of trail will give you plenty of time to make some strange connections. My conclusion is that Boomer's left hind leg is weaker. I'm fairly certain it isn't pain of any sort, I think he is just trying to avoid 'loading' that leg and really bending it underneath himself. So, part of our lunge work on Friday included some leg yields in hand along the wall. I am going to try to make an effort to build up that left hind and see if it makes a difference anywhere else in his body.

Saturday was our first day back riding and my friend who came on the Endurance ride let John borrow her horse JJ to go for a trail ride! We went to Kill Creek trails and rode for a little over 2 hours. It was really fun to get out with John! I know riding isn't 'his thing' but he is such a trooper to do that with me!

John was changing the water filter in the fridge and Charley had to get involved.

Anybody know what this tree is?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Eagle Ranch Spring Fling- Ride Card

Here is my ride card for the Eagle Ranch Spring Fling. It is a little confusing as the first and last checks are on front and second and third are on back. So, you need to go between both images to see the order of the checks. As you can see, our scores were really all over the place. The second check (after mile 15) was where we had a lot of B's. I think that was due to the fact that Boomer hadn't drank yet, and I presented him still tacked up. I hadn't presented him at his best and it showed. However, receiving low scores really made me pay very close attention after that. So, I worked extra hard to get our scores up for the rest of the ride.

Eagle Ranch Spring Fling- Pictures

I hope you enjoy these pictures from the weekend! It was a truly awesome time and I can't wait until our next ride!

Setting up camp:


Sleeping Quarters:

Family Photo:

Photogenic JJ:

My boy:

Boomer thought it was too early for flash photography:

Morning person:

Not a morning person:

The race is on:

Vet check #1:

John giving Boomer an apple:

Me eating GoGurt, the best race food ever:

Brushing out the sweat during our hold time:

My friend starting the 25:
My view:

We finished!!!:

The boys grazing:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eagle Ranch Spring Fling- The Ride, loop 3

The ride was divided up in to three loops, each about 15 miles.

The third loop was the Blue loop and it was the most challenging one of all. Lots of steep inclines. I tried to be very conservative this loop as we had plenty of time to finish. I got off and walked up all of the inclines as they were steep and long. I let him drink as often as he wanted, which wasn't at every stream, but he did drink a few times. I also let him graze pretty frequently. We mostly walked and trotted and finished the loop in about 3 hours. He was a total champ and I had him on a total loose rein the whole time. I let him pick his way through the trail and we trotted where there were no rocks or mud. I did notice that he was a little more stumbly around rocks than when he was fresher. He was definitely feeling fatigued, but was perky and seemed to be really enjoying himself. He would occasionally get a burst of energy and want to trot faster than I thought we should, but he was pretty steady overall. I was able to take a few pictures on that loop, they don't really show how beautiful the trail was though. The final vet check was a little hectic as John was injured. He had gone for a run while I was out on the loop and fell on a gravel road and got pretty banged up. So, I had the help of the kind volunteers for my final check. Boomer wouldn't drink at that check, but I didn't have grain to make him a 'milkshake'. He did graze and grazed on our way in to the check. He vetted through with all A's, but had no gut sounds. My heart about stopped. The vet passed us with a B overall and let me know that he was confident that the gut sounds would start back up within the hour and that he could recheck him later if I wanted. Of course I wanted him to!

There were only 6 of us who did the 50 and everybody else had left camp already, so I brought Boomer to the ride awards to keep an eye on him. The vet listened to his guts before the meeting and said that they had returned on the right, but not the left. That is the order of the sounds returning, so it was a good sign. I let him graze during the meeting and afterwards his sounds had returned on both sides.

I hosed him off and took him back to our camp area. Because we arrived later than most people, we were at the very back of the primitive area, which was a big fenced field. We also left after most people, so we had the field entirely to ourselves that night! My friend and I let our horses graze loose for a few hours and I was so pleased to see Boomer grazing and moving around. I did see him pass manure and he had two more piles in his pen over night.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eagle Ranch Spring Fling- The Ride, loop 2

The ride was divided into White (~15), Orange (~8x2), Blue (~15)

The second loop was a shorter loop done twice. It was a little more... difficult (for us), as the 25 milers had caught up and were passing us. Boomer didn't get stupid for once, but he did get strong. He wasn't tossing his head and being a fruit loop, but he would lower his head into a dressage type frame and just POWER trot along. I was having a hard time rating him. He did NOT like getting passed. I think he realized that it was a competition. But he is one of those horses that no one likes... you know the type... races to pass you then slows down to a normal pace. Yeah... Not fun for anyone. So, we ended up riding with someone for a while and then I walked and the other guy went on. After that Boomer was much better. However, all of the pulling and excitement got to him and he burned a lot of energy. Not to mention that he still wasn't drinking on the first loop of this trail. By the time we got about a mile in to the second orange loop, I realized that he was hitting a wall. He ate an apple and would graze, but I still couldn't get him to drink. I got off and hand grazed him for about 10 minutes. Then hand walked for a while. We walked the entire second part of the orange loop. About 2 miles from camp he finally drank. I had been stopping at every stream and puddle, dismounting and encouraging him to drink to no avail. Finally, we got to a big puddle and he must have just been dying of thirst because he took almost 30 big gulps. After that we stopped at another stream and he took about 20 more gulps. As we came into camp I hollered at John to bring a bucket and grain to the vet check. John, being the awesome guy he is, brought those items, but he also lugged water from camp and Boomer's feed pan in case Boomer wanted familiar flavors! At this second vet check we took off the saddle but left the pad on for a few minutes to help him cool down slowly. We also mixed some grain into the water bucket and did get him to drink almost 5 gallons of water. We vetted through with much better scores this time. Not sure, but I think we got all A's. That second orange loop was so stressful for me. We were on that loop for around 4 hours. I knew he needed to drink, but he just wasn't. I felt terrible and had decided that if he didn't drink well at the hold that I would pull him. Luckily, he perked up within 30 minutes of drinking on the trail and was looking great by the time our hold was over.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eagle Ranch Spring Fling- The Ride, loop 1

The ride was divided into 3 loops with the vet checks after white and the second orange loop.
White (~15), Orange (~8) x2, Blue (~15).

The first loop was really good. Boomer and I started out in the back and stayed there for the whole loop. It wasn't an out and back, so no passing traffic. Boomer was bouncy for about 15 minutes, then relaxed and got into things. About 30 minutes in I let him canter for a little while and he really settled down after that. For the rest of the loop, we just went along and enjoyed the scenery! It was a very challenging trail with lots of mud, rocks, and steep inclines. It was a challenging and fun trail. It was really well marked, so that was awesome! The loop had 'tokens' out randomly that you had to pick up as you went along and you traded those in for your vet card at each check. The tokens were in buckets which were attached to tree trunks. Boomer let me ride up, pick out a token, unzip my saddle bag, get out a baggie, and put the token away- all from his back. I know, I was as shocked as you are! I was SO proud of him for being a real horse and not a total fool for once!!! He was very professional and businesslike about the whole ride, really. We finished the first ~15 miles in just over 2 hours. We pulsed right in and vetted in right away. I didn't untack, which didn't help on our trot out as Boomer bounces around a bunch if his girth isn't tight enough. Our scores were pretty average, can't remember then offhand, but we had quite a few B's. I truly feel that I didn't present Boomer at his best because I vetted him in right away instead of taking care of him first. Lesson learned.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eagle Ranch Spring Fling- Thoughts

This ride was amazing. I had a wonderful time! I really felt like Boomer was fit enough to hang. The problems we encountered (dehydration/decreased gut sounds) were not too serious and were huge learning moments for me. I felt like I was finally riding a 'real' horse. Boomer behaved himself and was very fit. It was so cool to have him performing at that level. Our ride time was about 9 hours, which was 45 minutes faster than our first ride!

The camping aspect was a blast. The shelves John made really helped to keep me organized. Everything I needed was in sight and in reach. Perfect! Another huge improvement was that we weren't sleeping in the trailer, so that freed up a bunch of space in the trailer. The truck bed tent and cots were really comfortable.

I wish I could describe how soothing the sounds were in camp. We were about 20 yards away from a running creek and I could hear it all night. That, with the constant sound of Boomer chewing hay were some of the most soothing night time noises I could imagine!

We had a friend from the barn come with us and she was a blast to camp with as well. It was her first 25 with her horse and they did awesome! Her horse JJ is a beautiful palomino gelding with a great personality. He did awesome on the trail and made me jealous because he has the 'habit' of drinking from every stream they crossed!

To be honest, finishing this ride really helped to confirm in my mind that this is all possible. In the back of my mind, I have been harboring the thought that we finished the Thanksgiving ride due to dumb, beginners luck. Like it was some sort of fluke! I feel much more confident now and I can't stop thinking about the next ride, and the next, and the one after that... Honestly, I'm just excited in general. My horse is awesome.

Part of me can't believe that Boomer does this for me. I feel so much closer to him after these rides. By the end of the ride, he has my 100% trust. I really try to convey to him that I am working for him too, trying to keep him fit. I hope he knows I appreciate him. He amazes me and I feel like I have a really special horse. I am lucky to have him.

I am also lucky to have John. For not being a 'horse person', he is so good with Boomer and so accommodating to me. I can be snappy and bossy when I am under stress and he takes it all in stride. I am amazed at how much information and knowledge he has picked up over the last few years. I love that he can pick Boomer's feet while I eat. I love that he thinks to bring Boomer his own water when he is dehydrated. I love that he enjoys feeding Boomer apples. I love that he loves me so much that he totally facilitates these camping trips. I love that this sport is something we can do together.

Eagle Ranch Spring Fling- Lessons

What a weekend! Boomer and I completed our second 50 mile endurance ride on Sunday! We had a friend from the barn come with us who rode the 25 mile ride also. It was a seriously fun weekend!

This ride had a lot of learning experiences for me. I'm still trying to organize my thoughts, but I'll give it a go here. I have planned posts that will publish in the next few days about the ride along with a post of pictures.

The area where we are most lacking is at the vet checks, specifically in regards to hydration and gut mobility. Boomer is perfectly fit, but my lack of 'know how' really slowed us down. First issue that came up was that Boomer didn't drink at all until the 15 mile vet check, then didn't drink again until we were almost back in camp for the 30 mile check. Miles 22-30 were at a walk/hand walking and grazing at any chance we could get. Boomer sort of hit a wall and I could tell he was dehydrated. But he wouldn't drink at any of the streams we crossed. As I thought about it, I realized that at our last ride, he didn't drink ground water either- only from a tub and at the vet checks. I don't think he knew he could drink ground water. Finally, after stopping for the umpteenth time, he drank long and hard out of a huge puddle filled with tadpoles. Then he drank again out of a stream. He drank well on our next loop as well. I am really hoping that he learned to drink on this ride. However, I know that it is my responsibility to keep him hydrated and I can't count on him to take care of himself.
The next area that needs work is energy/gut mobility. Even though I let Boomer graze a lot and fed him as many apples and carrots as he wanted, he was lacking gut sounds at the finish. He had A's on everything else, but his gut sound score was a C. Because he grazed during the check and during the last loop, the vet said that he wasn't concerned and would check him again after the ride meeting was over. Within 30 minutes of grazing the sounds had returned and within an hour they were normal. About an hour after that he pooped and has been normal since. It scared me pretty badly though and I really had a hard look at what we could do differently at the next ride.

First change I will make will be to get him used to beet pulp again. He enjoyed eating it if he got it frequently, but it is an acquired taste for him and he seems to lose interest in it if he hasn't had it recently. So, I think he needs to have a beet pulp/grain/salt mash for dinner, breakfast, and at checks. This will (hopefully) help both the hydration and gut issues. Adding a little grain to the beet pulp will help him eat it and a few handfuls will hopefully add a little energy without the stress of a large meal. I really hope that will help.

The next change we are going to make is to not vet in right away. I had previously been of the mind that it was best to get it out of the way first thing, then let the horse relax. However, I think that our scores would have improved greatly had I taken the time to untack and let Boomer eat and drink a little. In fact, we did the second check differently from the first and my scores went from mostly B's to mostly A's.

Monday, April 5, 2010

We won't know until it is over!

... This is how I feel about the upcoming endurance ride. I feel a little... scattered... about the whole hoof protection/shoes/boots/barefoot thing. Here is what I know: Shoes worked last ride, but I'm not too keen on keeping him shod for half the year. Boots haven't worked for me even on a 10 mile training ride. Using no protection is fine for training rides over ALL terrain for up to 10 miles, further than that is unknown. As John pointed out, race day is not the day to try out new racing flats. I am the kind of person who likes to know the answer before I ask the question. I am inclined to agree with John. So, I am going to go with what has worked over the distance we are going and then reevaluate the situation before our next ride. I know that shoeing for this ride doesn't commit us to shoeing forever, but I just feel sad about putting more holes in his hooves. However, my appointment isn't until Wednesday so who knows what will happen in my head between now and then!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Epic Boot Fail

Well, Thursday was both a good and bad day. Maybe not so much bad as revealing.

I have decided to do the endurance ride next week barefoot with boots in my saddle bag in case we need them.

Boomer has always had great feet. He can go up and down hills with tons of huge rocks without so much as flinching or chipping a hoof.

(This pic is from July 2009 at Clinton Lake in Lawrence, KS)

He can go on gravel roads and may flinch only once in a mile.

I have no hesitations about the quality of his hooves.

The reason I am coming to this conclusion is because we had a crazy boot day on Thursday. Now, before I start with the story, I want to clarify that the boots are correctly sized to his hooves and adjusted properly to fit each hoof. They have stayed on for lots of trotting and cantering in fields and on roads. They even stayed on for a hour of trotting in the wet, sandy round pen. I know they fit, but there are just some circumstances where they didn't stay on.

The two circumstances that I have found where they will come off is if he spooks and steps on himself or in deep mud. If he steps on himself, the boot stays attached around his pastern and he flings around so that I notice. Well, he did at first, but he quickly got used to it and stopped 'telling' me when he had lost a boot. The other situation, in deep mud, he just stepped out of the boot and pastern strap as well.

The Kill Creek trail system was open and I went out with two ladies from the barn. First boot loss wasn't a big deal- he stepped on a stick, spooked himself, jumped sideways and stepped on his boot. It took less than 2 minutes to replace it and get back going. Next loss was MUCH more of a hassle. There was a muddy crossing that was about 6 feet wide at one point and 3 feet at the other end. Boomer wanted to go across the wider part and the other horses wanted to jump the narrow part. Well, Boomer has learned NOT to jump obstacles. I rather like it that way. However, this mud sucked off two boots. So, I had to retrieve them while my girlfriends just laughed at me. I jumped onto a tree stump, holding the reins in one hand, and sat down on the stump. The mud was thick and goopy, not watery at all. It was the kind they use in a mud facial. And it stank. I had to literally DIG the boot out. It was so deep that mud had started to suction around it. I had mud up to my elbow by the time I got it out and I had to pull HARD to get it loose. I walked along to a stream a few yards away and rinsed the boots. I reapplied them and we went on. About 30 minute later, someone noticed that a back boot was missing. We back tracked and spent almost an hour looking for it. Didn't find it. So, I took off his other back boot and went on with only fronts. Next water crossing we got to was gravel going into the crossing then mud coming out. I knew we would lose one before we even went through it. Sure enough, we lost a front boot. Sucked right into the mud. So, I had to dig it out, take off his other front boot, mount up, carry them across the river, get off, wash them, attach them to the saddle, and ride back across. Rode the rest of the way without boots, including a mile home on a gravel road with not a single flinch or head bob.

It just doesn't seem practical to ride with boots if he doesn't need them for protection and they are going to be coming off in deep mud. I figure I will carry either 2 or 4 and use them if things get really rocky or he gets sore. I wont have time in a ride to back track looking for boots. Heck, I probably wont even know that I have lost boots unless I am constantly looking for them. That just isn't enjoyable. They are just too expensive to lose and not look for. So, we will start the ride with boots in our saddle bag and use them if needed. If that doesn't work, we will shoe for the next ride. If it does work out, we will go with it.

Now, because every cloud has a silver lining, I have to share how awesome this ride was. Boomer was a rock star. He was nervous for the first 20-30 minutes, but after that he led the whole way for the next 4 hours. He had one or two spooks, but was awesome otherwise! He was brave and stepped over logs and through water like a champ. He stepped carefully through ditches that the other horses jumped. He stood perfectly still when I got off to mess with his boots, waited while I washed them, was polite while I put them back on him, and stood perfectly while I mounted up. He was a gentleman about the mare behind us who liked to rest her nose on his rump- never even flicked an ear back. In fact, his ears were perked up the whole ride, looking around and enjoying himself. He was really great. I was so proud of him for putting up with all of my boot shenanigans. There were two instances (rabbit and diesel truck) where another horse spooked and he didn't even flinch. He was basically awesome the whole ride.

So, I'm ready for this ride next weekend and I'm going in to it knowing that it is an experiment with his hoof/shoe/boot situation.