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.