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Sunday, January 31, 2010


Endurance Granny asked whether Farley's feet were still transitioning, and whether or not I would start doing rides without boots.

My first instinct was to shoot off an e-mail stating that doing 50+ miles out west is not usually possible yada yada yada. After sending it, I realized I hadn't actually answered her question.....

Question: Are Farley's hooves still transitioning?

Answer: The short answer is yes. I was lucky Farley didn't go through a period of sensitivity when I pulled her shoes. Apart from a short battle with thrush, she has never shown sensitivity over any terrain, but I still consider her transitioning because the quarters on the right front are still have some dirt at the white line (it's not completely tight). I'm also watching her right hind closely. As we continue to work and condition, the old injury has changed as the hoof has gotten softer in this wet weather. The farrier looked at it and did some digging around on Thursday and it's fine so far. I'm also monitoring her LF (club) foot closely. It has a toe flare, and I noticed some stress rings last week. On Thursday, during the trim, there was also the 2 bruises on the front toes that I blogged out previously......I will only be content that I have addressed the problem that caused them if I don't see another set of toe bruises for the rest of the year. Overall, I'm very happy - her hooves are round and concave and there's no sign of thrush - but I don't consider her fully transitioned quite yet.

I have a feeling that being barefoot and dealing with the ever changing foot is a ongoing process, however, once I have 4 tight white lines, I will be more comfortable declaring her "transitioned".

Question: Once she is transitioned will you compete barefoot?

Answer: Again, the short answer is no. There are a couple of reasons.
  • For those of you that don't live in the western region, it's rough country. While there are a few exceptions, most rides are rocky rocky rocky. Where it's isn't rocky, it's usually hard packed jeap roads with little pieces of gravel. Because there's so little good footing, you have to make up time by trotting sections of not-so-good trail. My rule of thumb is to trot rocky sections as long as the rocks are no bigger than my fist and don't roll around......Having the extra protection of boots in terrain like this (or shoes) is worth the cost. I do ride my conditioning rides barefoot, however I can get away with it because anything that isn't perfect footing I can walk without risking overtime.
  • Am I willing to risk my $100+ entry fee to go If I lose all 4 boots in a ride, can I finish the ride with a sound horse? Absolutely, if I don't hit absolutely dismal footing. Because how the old injury is on her RH, it has a higher probability of breaking and peeling off the hoof like a hangnail, if a rock hits it just right. Not worth it if I have an alternative.
Other thoughts:

So far I have done my entrance and exit vet exams barefoot. I would consider pulling the boots if I did a ride in the Pacific Southwest with excellent footing, such as Git-R-Done. I will continue to condition barefoot, and I will consider Farley unsound if she's only sound in boots.

However, just like anything else I post, my opinion could change! When I started endurance, I decided barefoot and boots were not for me. It was only after the renegade boots became available to the general public that it was doable. Something might come on the market or some other new development might come along that convinces me that I can start doing some of my rides barefoot, but for right now, even if she was transitioned, there's just too many strikes against going fully barefoot on the western region rides. I could probably get away with it if I went slower and was willing to complete a ride with a minimum of trotting and walked as much as I could.....but what if I got behind time and needed to make up time? and I really don't like walking - it's hard on my back. And I get bored. And honestly - after 8-9 hours for a 50 miler, I'm ready to be done. I don't feel the same way on the longer races so it's definitely mental. And I don't think a 12 hour fifty is necessarily easier on the horse than a 7-9 hour fifty.

Anyway - you get the picture. For a multitude of reasons, I'm not ready to go bootless at a ride.


  1. I think your reasoning is sound, Mel. You're right about the terrain--although I'm even further west, where the footing is generaly rocks-covered-by-mud, I think that it's often too rough for a barefoot horse at speed.

    That's not to say that some folks don't do completely barefoot endurance rides here. However, even if they complete the ride, I think the wear on the tissue is excessive; riding barefoot on our kind of rocks is like using a power sander on the feet for 50 miles. Eventually, the horse will run out of foot. Not a pretty thought. Boots prevent excessive wear and are a perfectly acceptable alternative to shoes in our area.

  2. In a ride, it just makes me nervous because it's a whole 'mother level of riding. Terrain that a horse may be fine over for conditioning is just not the same
    during an endurance ride at speed , with the confusion of other horses etc.

    I know that farley doesn't watch her feet as well during a ride and is more likely to be clusmy.


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