Monday, April 4, 2011

Derby postmortem

  • The boots were great! I didn't really realize it til I was talking to EG in the comments on her latest boot post.

I've pretty much always had barefoot horses. My first horse, Champ, came to me with shoes on, and I actually tried heavier shoes ("lite shod") the first time I had him reshod. I didn't like it. He didn't magically move better like everyone swore he would. He was clumsy as a drunk sailor, and he slipped on pavement - and to get anywhere, we had to get across a four lane divided highway and a couple hundred feet down a quiet road. So I had his shoes pulled, watched the (not particularly good) farrier nip and rasp, read absolutely everything on the internet, and started trimming his feet myself. One horse turned into four, and I had all their shoes pulled when I got them. They all quit tripping, quit slipping in the mud, and quit sliding around on asphalt. They were all a bit footy on gravel, but fine on dirt where we did 99% of our riding.

Dixie was the only one left when I moved to Reno. She was slightly hesitant on gravel, but she had a mediocre farrier working on her in Ohio. I got with my current Best Trimmer In The World and after a hoof cycle she got really extraordinarily sound on rocks. Eventually, after hundreds of miles of riding on sand and gravel at whatever speed she was comfortable at, I decided I was wearing her feet to nubs and tried out a few styles of boots. I ended up going with Renegades, because they work well for her hoof shape and they're Not Made In China. But I never really liked them. Because I'd started without boots, with a horse not adapted to mountain life, I let her make the decision to slow down on iffy footing. We did so many miles that way that I really started to trust her about that, before I ever trusted her about anything else. She didn't have a good chance to get used to moving in boots because she was so astonishingly sound without them, so she never moved as well in boots as she did bare.

I was bound and determined to boot for the Derby, and I did. I very patiently got all four Renegades on her and off we went. She moved out pretty well in them early on (I guess she's finally getting used to them) so I quit thinking and worrying about them, and she was just fine. She scrambled up and down some pretty steep slopes on the first loop, including that puckering descent down the smooth gravel boulders. No rubs, no gait changes, and only an incidental amount of sand in the boots when I took them off.

  • I did ok taking care of myself. Not stellar like at Rides of March, but I knew I was only going 25 miles. (Yes, it still seems weird to me that I can say "only 25 miles" with a perfectly straight face.)

I used my Camelbak liner, and again it frustrated me to no end. I alternate between the Camelbak liner and the knockoff Wal-mart liner, and they both make me mad and neither one works worth a damn. The knockoff sometimes quits working for no reason at all (like at ROM), and the Camelbak has a pinhole or something and you suck half air half water. Gulp burp gulp burp. I guess it takes your mind off of the miles when you're constantly annoyed at and fiddling with your water, but I'd love to switch to something easy. Not water bottles, I'm bad at those - I'm just going to buy a new Camelbak liner or a different knockoff brand.

I used my same weird hippie human electrolytes. I was really hardcore primal when I found these ("no sugar at all under any circumstances!") and I've gotten used to the strange taste. Now I'm less hardcore and I keep meaning to try other brands, but it's kind of easier to stick with what works.

I cheated on saddlebag food and just brought two of the bars I like. Again, I found them when I was in a "no unnatural foods under any circumstances!!" phase, but now I'm used to them. They are legitimately tasty - but on a really cold ride, they're quite hard to eat. Usually I try to bring some more normal food, but again, ehhhh it was only 25 miles.

I remembered to slather on the anti chafing goo and I think it did work. My thighs were noticeably less irritated and puffy. My calves never get irritated because I have the good sense to ride in a saddle with cordura fenders, not those silly leathers yall all like so much. ;)

  • I really need to buy my very own Myler curb bit. I've been using one I borrowed from Dressage in Jeans for like a month now and OMG I loffs it so much!

I know. I used to be such a snaffle purist. I feel like a dirty cheater slapping a curb in my horse's mouth to rate her. But there's so much less pulling! She can feel when I raise my hand vertically off the pommel, and most of the time she'll rate off of that. If she's particularly determined to forge ahead faster, I can just vibrate the reins and she instantly slows down! It's a competition (even if I'm not competing), not a schooling session. Maybe as we both get more experienced, I can start subsequent loops in a snaffle and do some lateral work on the wider bits of trail... but for now, lateral snaffle work is strictly an at-home thing and I'm delighted to have a loose rein horse going the speed I say.

  • Speaking of going at the speed I say, I am finally starting to get a tentative feel for rating my horse. I did the first loop of the Derby faster than I should've - but that's in retrospect. I did the first loop at the speed I felt was right, not the speed we just happened to go. And the second mini-loop, I decided on a pace before I remounted and by god we went that pace.

  • Screw the sunburn, I'm bringing alfalfa next time. I think she's perhaps starting to get the hang of eating and drinking. I will baby her and cater to her every whim. If she wants to eat Honeycrisp apples and leafy green alfalfa at vet checks, then that's what she'll get. I'll bring even more kinds of hay and different fruits next time. And Desitin. And maybe I'll order some Horse Quencher.

  • Dixie's certainly not sleek yet, but she's mostly shed out. I'm not quite so worried about the heat at this point.

I think we're in pretty good shape. I'm sure I learned some more lessons, but that's all I can think of tonight. Maybe there'll be a Postmortem Part 2 if I think of anything else worth adding!


  1. Going barefoot was, in my opinion, the best thing i have EVER done for my horse. He's always had great feet but was shod on all 4s. Then one winter $ was tight and i had his shoes removed instead of the $200 winter shoes put on. That spring his feet looked so good i said screw shoes and he was given a barefoot trim instead. Most horses his size break down well before his age, 17.2 and in his early 20's. I give 90% of the credit to him being barefoot! Even after his suspensory injury and the god awful bump left behind he is still sound on pavement and dirt roads. I will NEVER have a shod horse again!

  2. Yay for boots that fit! And is so nice, and so much easier, but if things get sticky (or rocky) boots are a nice insurance policy to have on board.

    You know I'm gonna be really internally pissed when you beat me to a 50...but I'll cheer for you any old way :)


  3. Sounds great! Congrats!

    I didn't realize how gently you can use the curb. It seems that you're doing nothing but sending a vibration or a slight change in angle up to her, instead of the hard yankety yank that caused Gene to flip.

    I have given up trying to find boots that fit Peanut, but he is also starting to be a rock star on the parts of the trail that used to make him mince. Glad it's working out for you (especially after you got to endure my barefoot ramblings early on). :)

  4. Valuable lessons.

    I'm with you on the curb bit vs. snaffle thing. I ride with a snaffle until I NEED something different. I have found it is often just a phase and usually end up going back to the snaffle when that horse learns whatever I need him to learn. My #1 used bit is a twisted wire snaffle. It's about as thick as my pinky and I have yet to use it on a horse that didn't like it.

    When I first started running my horse barefoot, I was a little worried (it was for lack of a decent farrier that I did that). I heard how barrel horses cannot run barefoot, they will slip...blah, blah, blah. Do you know...Moon has never slipped one single time? It doesn't matter what the ground is...muddy, deep, sticky, slick...Not a single slip around the barrels. Even in ground where other girls were slipping like crazy. I don't even think about it anymore, we just go. I love the ease of just keeping my own horses trimmed (although it does get a little overwhelming keeping up with everyone sometimes.)

  5. Thanks guys :)

    East Bound - is that him in your profile? What a lovely fellow! He sure doesn't look 20 :)

    EG - if you were out here in the dry air, you'd be doing 50s. I sooooo don't envy your humidity!

    Sara - yeah, it's all loose rein riding unless I'm actually asking her to do something. And she really seems to like the curb ok, no headslinging or chomping at it. Glad to hear Peanut's going better over rocks!

    BEC - Everybody told me TWH are naturally clumsy and they just trip and slip a lot and it's just the way they are. After taking 3 TWH shod to barefoot I'm pretty sure it's just long toes and clunky shoes that make a horse clumsy, no matter the breed. It takes a lot of courage to try something so different from what everybody else is doing, but sometimes it pays off. :)

  6. Sounds like you had a nice ride. I must admit "only 25 miles" makes me laugh just a bit. I'd be falling over dead.

  7. Well, here's another vote for "do whatever works"! That's why my mare wears shoes AND pads--because nothing else works as well for her. But boots are fine for off-season, and I do love those Renegades.

    Same with a bit: at rides and anywhere that I suspect might get a little bit "western", I use the kimberwicke, which has a teenie-weenie curb action. Otherwise, it's a french-link snaffle for us. Because that's what works!

    Same with alfalfa: fresh green grass is always Fiddle's first choice for ride-food, but that gets scarce at some rides, so I bring alfalfa. It's also good for picky eaters and for later in the day when the horse needs a boost. Alfalfa is also easier on the stomach than regular hay, which is important while feeding electrolytes.

    So: it's all good stuff!

  8. Sounds like you've really figured out what works for you and Dixie. Yay!

  9. Enjoyed "riding with you". Good recap. Amazing how one piece of equipment (the camelback) can be such a pain! LOL!

  10. Yup! that's my old man. that pic is about 2 years old but he looks just as good now! They sure did breed horses differently back then :)


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