There’s a lot of stories within a single Tevis. The horse story, the crew story, the people I rode with, the trail, Farley’s story, and my story. I’ll probably get around to telling some of these stories in bits and pieces as the week goes on, but I wanted to start with what I consider one of the most important aspects of this year’s Tevis – my decision to use boots.
This post is rather long, but I ask that you stick with me. I feel what I have to say is important and worth your time if you are considering boots for your horse.
My boot criteria is simple.
1. Application of the boot must not require any hoof modifications – ie I am not willing to wrap, duct tape or otherwise modify the hoof in order for a boot to stay on. Conversely, the boot must not modify the hoof – ie scrape, cut into, or rub.
2. The boot must stay on and be easy to apply and take off without any “professional” help.
The only boot that fits this criteria currently on the market is the renegade strap on. Boot application takes seconds and can be done by anyone. I could do it one handed if I needed to. Once fitted, the boot stays on. Any fit modifications are done using the BOOT, not the hoof, and involves fitting the different boot components, NOT by adding athletic tape, duct tape, vet wrap, or mallets.
So why did I choose not to use the renegade strap at Tevis this year? I was having trouble fitting the hind hooves. I was confident that my fronts would stay on, but for some reason my hinds, under certain conditions (specifically when they were wet, going up a very steep hill that involved boulder hopping and leaping ledges) would twist off. If I had more time, I could have resolved my issues and used the strap ons. In fact, it only took a 10 minute conversation with Kirt in Robie to identify the probable cause and solution (Need a stiffer captivator and to go back to 0 max cut backs on the hinds). However, even though the glueons do not fit all of my booting criteria, I wanted to experiment with the glueons and I was short on time before this year’s Tevis, so glueons seemed like a good decision. I had good luck with the glueons staying on at Wild West (3 day ride) so I thought I was good to go for Tevis.
I learned the following lessons at Tevis:
1. Renegade is one of THE best companies - bar none - I have ever had the pleasure to work with. The level of service, care, and commitment is absolutely astounding.
2. Glueing on boots may work in the short term, ie for very specific races or during times of transition while fitting boots in an issue, but is NOT the answer for the competing barefoot horse.
3. I CAN trust the renegade strap on boots.
4. I have always believed that the point of having a barefoot horse is to ride barefoot as much as possible. This served me well as Farley had to do significantly rocky parts of the trail without protection.
Here is my Tevis boot story.
This part you can skim through. If you want the “Bottom Line”, skip to the end of the post.
I glued on my boots before heading up to Robie on Friday. I found the Renegade trailer, met Kirt and Chad, who took a look and said that as long as I prepped the hoof properly (ie – sanding) I should be fine. We talked a bit and in addition to boot bags and a polo, offered some very insightful advice on my issues with the hind boots. Kirt said that if I needed any help during the race to look him up at the vet checks.
Which turned out to be a very good thing. If I had thought Kirt and Renegade was helpful before the ride, I was absolutely shocked at the level of commitment and care they showed during the ride.
I lost my first glue on about 5 miles before Redstar (after first trot by). I trotted on (thanking God the entire way that Farley has such wonderful feet and we do 90% of our conditioning barefoot). At Redstar I applied a strap on and continued to Robinson Flat.
I yelled at a crew member to find Kirt and let him know I had a problem. I wanted him to double check my strap on fit before heading into the canyons.
Kirt arrived and told me he would be installing another glue on for me (insert shock and surprise on my part!). As I watched him and Chad install the boot, I saw immediately what I my problem was – I DEFINATLY was not sanding the hoof wall enough. He also recommended that I carry a 0 as my spare strap on for the hinds, not a 1.
Half way down the second canyon I lost another glueon – a front. I continued down the canyon and up the other side into Michigan Bluff, where I installed another strap on. I told my crew there to go to Foresthill and let Kirt know that I was going to need another glueon.
Kirt and Chad were waiting for me as I arrived into Foresthill. I vetted in first to make sure everything was OK and then got another glue on installed. They told me that my two remaining original glueons probably weren’t going to make it, but we decided there wasn’t enough time to replace them before heading out. I lost another glue on (the other front) somewhere in the California Loop, arrived at Fransico’s, and installed yet another strap on. I crossed the river, vetted through Lower Quarry, went across No-Hands, and finished in Auburn at 4am with 2 renegade-installed glueons, a strap on, and a glue on I personally put on. Kirt, Chad and my crew waiting for me. Somehow I managed to schedule a visit with Kirt to discuss boots at 10a Sunday.
I left the strapon on during the vet trot out and while she wasn’t moving perfectly (she was downright grumpy….) it was good enough for a “fit to continue”. I removed the strap on for the night and went to bed for an entire 2 hours.
A crew member told me that Farley trotted out sound for her 1 hour welfare check (Tevis has a second required check 1-2 hours after you finish) so I think she just looked funny at the finish because of the strapon on one foot.
At 10am I headed over to the Renegade trailer where they removed the glueons and spent an hour going over her feet with me, trimming, fitting boots, and giving other advice regarding the barefoot horse and how to maximize the performance of the boot.
The Bottom Line
Gluing on boots is NOT easy and it’s incredibly easy to make a preparation mistake that results in a boot loss. It’s a lot like nailing on a shoe – yes, the layman could do it, but you would rather have a professional do it right? Because there’s a lot to get “right” and whether or not you get it “right” depends on how well that shoe is going to perform at a ride like the Tevis (and you have to get it “right” for each application, unlike a prefitted strap on). And even if you get it “right” there’s still a chance the boot is going to come off – as evidenced by the fact that easy care was re-gluing on plenty of boots at vet checks that they themselves applied at the beginning of the ride.
For those of you that use easy care glueons for rides, and might have even completed Tevis in a pair of easy care sponsored and applied glueons, I want you to consider the following. Could you have applied that boot and had it perfom throughout the race? If it had come off and you did not have the support of the easy care team there to reglue a boot on, did you have a strap on that would have worked for the duration of the ride? Or could you have glued on another in the time allotted at the vet check? Are you comfortable constantly relying on a boot application professional to ensure good boot performance (much like relying on a farrier for your shoes)? One of the most fulfilling aspects of going barefoot is how much control I have over my horse’s feet – and some of that control is taken away if I have to constantly rely on someone else for booting. How many of us in glueons took off the boots right after finishing the ride? I didn’t. Approximately 2 hours later the boots came off, but at the expense of my horse’s discomfort at having to hold up her feet for a lengthy amount of time. Farley was tired and sore after the race. Instead of less than a second per foot required to slip the strap on off right after the race, she had to balance and hold her feet up while the glueons were cut and pried from her hooves.
Armed with my strap on boots that were fitted by Renegade (and yes, the boots were different from what I had fitted…..) I’m going to tackle my next rides – in a strap on. I still might glue on for a ride like Tevis, but I truly appreciate the control and increased welfare of my horse I gain from using a strap on.
Please understand that I am not interested in “bashing” Easy care. However, after doing Tevis, some things are much clearer to me, and as you should all know – I call it like I see it.
Up until this point I have restrained myself from a negativity, chosing to highlight the reasons why I chose Renegade boots and perferring only to respond to comments that I should try Easy Boot products with a vague "I'm not a fan of the easy boot products". However, armed with more information and experience, as well as observing the Easy Boot team at Tevis, I feel that I'm comfortable making my opinion public.
At this point, I see Easy Care promoting a product, that while it can be a solution for the short term, is NOT the answer over the long term. Where is their strap on that can handle the rigors of Tevis? Where is their boot, with no modifications such as vet wrap or athletic tape, that will stay on? (I'm so tired of seeing advertizements for the glove where you can tell the hoof isn't wrapped - especially when I overhead the Easy care reps say that in order for the best chance of the boot staying on, you need to wrap - then why isn't the horse in the pic wrapped? Why isn't athletic tape and the rest of the wraps listed on the side panel under "needed materials"?) Where is their boot, that without professional application, will stay on? I commend Easy Care for encouraging people to try Tevis, the hardest endurance race in the world, barefoot. Now please do us the courtesy of publishing, along with the statistics of your finishers and Haggins Cup results, the other facts such as – All boots were professionally applied, and nevertheless some of those boots came off. Give us th exact number of boots lost - that should give us lay people the failure rate of a professionally applied glue on (which is the best case senerio) so we can make informed decisions on whether glueing on boots is a good alternative.
If easy care or anyone else that is happy with their boots would like to comment or respond, I welcome the dialog. I'm absolutely convinced that Renegade strapons are the answer for Farley and I, but as I have critisized a particular company, it would be unfair to not allow a response and I will honor any comments or correspondence sent to me.
Virginia City 100, here I come! In pretty orange strap ons!