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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tevis Details IV - (Boots and Gear lists)

My ride and tie essay is submitted!!!!  And....I had a revelation.

Did you know that the scholarship award is exactly the amount of a used Solstice saddle?  Which, as of 2 years ago, did not hurt my knees when I rode.  And it fit Farley well enough. 

Of course, it’s also the same price as a lot of other endurance saddles that *might* work too - and who knows if the Solstice even still fits Farley.....but at least now I can borrow saddles from friends to try without the awful feeling that if I like it, I can’t ever afford one. 

The issue is my lack of rides of course.  How am I suppose to test out a saddle if I’m not riding 50’s every month? 

But the point is, I think it would be ENTIRELY appropriate to use money of this sort to buy a saddle.  Does my Dear Reader agree? 

*sigh* I don’t even know if I agree. There’s all sorts of more responsible things to use the money for. for the trailer. and groceries when no one hires me out of vet school because I have no practical talents beyond obsessive research on equine performance topics. 

Moving onto Tevis! Yet more details about the big race that everyone but me is sick of hearing about :). 


I could not have done Tevis this year if it wasn’t for the generous sponsorship of Renegade hoof boots.  And I’m not just saying that - With a $450 entry fee (and I actually paid $550 because I waited until after Wild West to enter) there’s is absolutely no way that I can even afford to ENTER Tevis as a very very poor vet student. So, in the interest of full disclosure, Renegade paid for my ride entry and gave me some very spiffy orange tack and boots.  Additionally, I’m a dealer for the boots. 

You should know me well enough by now to know that if I can’t be honest and say what I believe here on the blog, than I won’t post it.  I’m not good at the “smile and nod” game .  Nope.  I’d rather lay it all out for you and have you, my Dear Reader make your own decisions. So you can rest assured that when I post something here on a subject like boots or anything else, it really is the whole story, not a version that I’ve “prettied” up because I have a financial or personal incentive to do so.

So, here’s the bottom line: I would ride Tevis in strap on boots again even if there was no financial incentive to do so.

Of all the options available today, I truly believe that the strap on boot - specifically the Renegade, since as far as I know is the only strap on boot to have complete the Tevis without modifications multiple times - is the best.  Not perfect....but the best.

I’ve ridden Tevis three times in three different hoof protection options. 

The first year I did it in shoes with pads.  Compared to the synthetic options, predictably the steel shoes did not have as good a traction.  I had pads so it was a comparable to boots over the rocks. I didn’t like the pads under the shoes and how it changed the angle and height of the hoof, she didn’t seem as sure footed as usual, and I was not thrilled with how her feet looked 6 weeks later when the shoes were removed.  I only shoed for races and didn’t have any races coming up, so I didn’t put shoes back on right sheer coincidence those were the last shoes I ever put on Farley.  I switched to Renegades shortly after.

For the second attempt I used glueons.  I’ve expressed my views on glueons, but if they had stayed on I would have considered the hoof prep acceptable for a once a year “big ride”.  They didn’t.  I started losing glueon boots around mile 15 and they came off one by one as I rode and finished 100 miles. That year at Tevis I rode a lot of miles in the strap ons not by plan, and completely barefoot.  Some of it was my errors in prep......HOWEVER, even when professionals from boot companies glue them on they come off at Tevis.

The glue ons perform well when they stay on....but honestly, if I’m going to ride in strap ons anyways when the glueons fall off, I’d rather just start the race with them and skip the whole “sand off the outer wall” of my horse’s hoof. And, there’s the removal of the glueons -  if the glueons do stay on ‘til after the ride is finished, I struggle to take them off in the first few days after a ride, when me and my horse hate each other :) [I spend a lot of time in disbelief at how awesome my horse is DURING the ride, but AFTER a ride we both need our alone time - she’s not a pony that enjoys pampering and while she deals with the fussing during a ride as part of her job, afterwards she needs her space and I need mine].

So let’s talk about the strap ons. The strap ons were GREAT.  I put them on the morning of the ride, I took them off (or maybe my crew did?) after we were done that same night.  Her hooves looked great before and after. I also got all the benefits of the glueon over steel - increased traction, significant concussion absorption and protection from rocks - without the downsides of a sanded hoof wall or time spent prepping or removing boots.

Also, unlike the glueons, if I was concerned there might be an issue with the boot - such a rock or debris - I could take the boot off and make sure everything looked good.  Removing a glue on to see whether you got some glue under the sole that is making your horse sore is not quite so easy.....

What about losing boots?  Yes, I lost strap on boots this year.  But....I lost less strap on boots this year than I did glueons in 2010.  I did less miles barefoot this year than I did the year I wore glueons.  So, not perfect.....but I really felt like strap ons are the best option for tackling that trail at this point. I could chose a nail on option and likely not to have to any of the trail barefoot....but I think the consequences of going back to steel for this ride are worse than the possibility I might have to go a couple of miles with my horse (that is sound over rocky terrain without boots) barefoot.

Will I ride next year in strap ons?  I hope so. So much of it depends on her hooves - while there is flexibility designed into the boot to adapt to a hoof that isn’t quite perfect, the Tevis trail is HARD on boots and demands the best performance out of boots, which is achieved by a hoof that is ideally trimmed according to a “natural barefoot” trim, with relatively normal biomechanics.  I’ve had some challenges with Farley’s hooves over this year - thrush in a hind bad enough to make her look like she had an abscess, high/low syndrome in the fronts that I let get out of hand that takes time to correct, and a hoof landing that wasn’t quite as solidly heel first as I’ve seen in the past.  I still chose to go with the strap ons because of the 3 options available to me (nail, glue, or strap on) I still felt like it was the best way to support my horse’s hoof health, and I felt like even if I did have issues, she could go significant distance barefoot if we had too without an issue.  If I did glueon in the future because of a hoof issue, it would likely be the hinds, since because of the additional stress and thrust going up the heels, it seems like if my hind feet are not in ideal shape, they punish the boots the most.

Was Tevis the hardest ride on the boots themselves I’ve ever done?  Nope.  American River was much harder because of the presence of mud and water combined with erosion ditch single track and hills.  There are some boot eating parts of Tevis, but I’ve done worse trails in the boots. If you are thinking about doing Tevis booted, I would encourage you to think about your strap on options. It’s doable and the boots just keep getting better and better. There would have to be SIGNIFICANT reasons for me to chose to NOT ride in strapons next year. 

Let’s end our Tevis discussion with some more lighthearted topics!

Things my crew did that absolutely made a difference
  1. Washing my girth at each check.  My sensitive, thin-skinned arab really appreciated this and because this detail was meticulously attended to, Farley doesn’t have ANY girth sensitivity or rubs.  Incredible. (adding the crupper was a factor too - but a clean girth was key).
  2. Getting my leg boots really really clean
  3. Icing Farley’s legs post ride (I always have good intentions...)
  4. Replacing straps on the boots every time I took them off for some reason
  5. Glow bars - putting them on, convincing me it was a good idea. It made me so much more visible on the trail and how they expertly placed them I couldn’t see them at all (I HATE catching the light out of the corner of my eye).
  6. feeding me at vet checks, and bringing me a delicious hot meal at Foresthill, and making me fill out my food charts.
  7. Getting the best crewing area EVER at Robinson Flat
  8. Not laughing at me when I was butt naked in the middle of Foresthill taking a sponge bath and for the life of me, couldn’t figure out what parts of me was suppose to go through what holes in my shirt
  9. Keeping me accountable to my rider plan.  What’s a rider plan you ask?......

The rider plan

One of the pieces of advice on the new100milers yahoo group list was to make a rider plan for nutrition and elytes and stick to it. I developed a plan from doing my 50’s at the beginning of the year, and seeing this advice on the email list solidified my resolve that I would ABSOLTELY STICK TO THE PLAN. 

  1. Every hour take a mouthful of goop (nutella+almond butter)
  2. Every hour until noon take 1 elyte capsules. Every hour from noon until 6 take 2 elyte capsules.  After 6pm, take 1 elyte capsule until done with race. 

This food and elyte protocol worked PERFECTLY.  At no point during the ride was I ever nauseous or had a headache, or didn’t feel good.  My adherence to the chore of popping elytes and goop every single hour without exception totally worked.  I actually came into each vet check ready to eat instead of nauseous.

I’m not sure why I believe in elytes for myself and will literally fall apart in a ride just a couple of hours in if I don’t take them....but I’m really hesitant about putting my horse on an elyte schedule. 

I haven’t done a lot of research into human elyte supplementation so maybe it’s just as haphazard and confusing as the horse research....but my horse just doesn’t seem like she’s suffering from a lack of elytes during these rides, as long as she’s eating and drinking and is heat conditioned.  I can’t get my elytes solely from food during a ride, so why should my horse be expected to?  I’m not sure.  However, there’s no correlation between how she looks and feels based on differences of I’m supplementing her with elytes. 

I just don’t know. 

There’s a lot of similarities between horses and humans and how they sweat etc but there’s a ton of differences too.  And I don’t know which ones may be significant to the elyte question and which ones aren’t.....and caution has to be used when extrapolating from human studies and applying to our horses. 

The acid-base balance post is on the draft list and maybe I’ll have some giant revelation about horse versus human elytes during my research for it, but for now, I have to just live with the hypocrisy of the fact I need regular elytes during physical activity, but my horse does not.  Stay tuned, I’m sure my views on this will continue to evolve and change.  

Next up!

I’m posting my gear list in case anyone is interested in the specific equipment I used or what I carried.

Gear List
  • Equipedic pad - got this pad used and only use it during rides to try and make it last.  Really like this pad.
  • Wintec saddle - Didn't work out so well :(
  • webbers - continue to use and like these.  They wear out faster than other options, and I get nervous about them coming undone inside my fleece covers, so I electrical tape them.  But over all best no-bulk leathers I've found.
  • Fleece over stirrup leathers/webbers - Sleeves without velcro.  If I had to do it over again, I might get the ones that velcro. 
  • American Trail caged stirrups - LOVE the cages.  Don't like the stirrups as much as my composite fillis irons, but love the cages.  And I'm so glad I went with the blue and green instead of orange or black.  Although orange and purple is quite tempting don't you think?
  • mohair string girth - this type of girth rubs Farley the *least* but if anyone else has a magic no-rub girth, I would love to hear it.
  • American trail crupper - Best crupper on the market that I've found.  Love it. 
  • American trail breast collar
  • 4 snugpax boot bags - Used 2 for boots, one to hold my platypus water bottle, and one for my misc small stuff.
  • American Trail halter bridle - absolutely gorgeous :)
  • Myler kimberwick double joint bit - Decided on this bit so that she could absolutely not pull on me going down hill, which kills my knees and back faster than anything else. 
  • round rope reins - with sisscor clips.  Really like these reins and have used them for years.  Perfect length.  Do wish I had a way to easily secure to the saddle when I'm dismounting and running or tailing so they won't slip to one side or the other.  Maybe a ring in the middle?
  • Renegade boots - :) I wore vipers on the fronts, and the standard model on the hinds with viper captivators.
  • Griffins leg boots - all around.  I only do that at Tevis and I was so glad I did.  There's so many rocks and stuff that are just waiting to bang up the legs.  Griffins were recommended to me early on and I've used them ever since. 
  • Grittins large sized velcro ditty bag - This is how I carried my ride card, data sheet (with cut off times and list of checks), my elytes, horse elytes, and goop.

Pack contents
  • 1 front spare boot - in a snugpax boot bag
  • 1 rear spare boot - in a snugpax boot bag
  • platypus 1 liter bottle - with a hose, turned upside down in a snugpax boot bag on the front of my saddle.
  • elyte pills in mento gum container
  • squeeze bottle of goop
  • datasheet with checks and cutoff times
  • sunscreen stick - used coppertone sport, which is a brand I've used for years in the lotion.  LOVED this stick.  Didn't melt, putting on was a breeze, more waxy and less greasy and I didn't notice that my skin felt as oily or collected dirt as much. 
  • gloves (never wore)
  • 2 feminine pads (for rubs or bruises)
  • Ace bandage
  • 2 half doses of elyte in syringes with wire cap tops
  • Platypus water bottle with a hose.
  • ????????? I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but this is the bulk of the items. 
Picture of the platypus set up as requested by Ashley: (click to make it larger).
 Here's the platypus bottle (1 Liter):

Here's the hose:

This is what I would buy if I was going to buy something particularly for this purpose because it fills from the top easily with a wide mouth - the reason I use the more normal bottle is because I use these primarily for my backpacking:  This way I wouldn't have to remove the platypus from the bag and screw off the hose - I could just unzip the top and pour water bottles in the top at the gate and goes.

If you want to see a real life picture of how this looks from the outside in real life, look at this picture.  See that blue hose by my right knee/thigh?  That's the hose from the platypus outside of the black boot bag which contains the platypus bottle. The hose is long enough for me to drink from the bottle while trotting, but short enough that if I drop it, it doesn't reach the ground or interfere with the horse if it dangles.  I use the included alligator clip on the hose to clip it to anything handy (tack, breast collar, the boot bag etc.) when I'm not drinking.

OK folks - that’s it for now.  I’m working on a Tevis Tips post that won’t go up for a while - a collection of tips that I want to both remember for myself, and what I would share with other riders that want to do Tevis.  But in the short term we will move on to other topics :).


  1. Fleece stirrup leather sleeves -- I switched from the velcro ones to the non-velcro ones. They're harder to get on, but I sometimes had issues with the velcro not being perfectly lined up and creating a weird pressure spot. And the fleece started wearing out faster along the velcro edge.

    And a saddle purchase is an entirely justifiable use of scholarship money. It sounds like you *really* need a new saddle option. (And make me feel better about the fact I'm looking at a different saddle for a horse I'm not even competing on.)

    Can you do an up-close photo of your platypus-in-boot-bag set-up? I'm curious...

  2. First, excellent for you on providing full disclosure on the Renegade support. I think it's an incredible incentive they gave to their riders (totes jealous!!!) and I wish other bloggers would be more open and honest about receiving free/promotional items and/or sponsorships. *KUDOS*

    Money spent on a saddle seems totally reasonable. I was sad when my Solstice didn't work for Digs, but do really love my Freeform that replaced it. Finding something that works for the BOTH of you is critical. And it's not like you aren't riding. :)

    Curious how many boots you lost and about where on the trail? Estimate on miles traveled barefoot before you could replace? Digs still has "carpet feet" and can't go bare very happily over rocks so I worry about loosing a boot and not knowing and having an issue, or being in a spot where I can't replace without causing issues for other riders.

    I was curious when your analytical brain would go "electrolytes make me happy = horse ???" :) I think they're a trial and error experiment. More likely to help if you don't overload. Determining where each horse's overload is, is where the problem lies. Interestingly, I think there's a correlation between salt consumed free-choice at home to salt intake needed at a ride. Sinatra had a salt block at home and for SIX YEARS pretty much never licked it. Digs showed up and ate the whole thing in six MONTHS. Guess who needs more elytes during rides???

    Reins - sew a small loop of elastic around the middle, then clip that loop through your breastcollar clip. Or I have one of those paracord survival bracelets on the pommel of my saddle, and that works good to clip the reins in as well.

    1. I like the elastic loop thing. I had thought of a double ring solution, that ashley's reins have too, but the elastic loop is cleaner and simpler with less bulk.

      Regarding the elytes thing - about the time that I stopped riding endurance for school was the time that I figured out my elyte situation. So before this season never really got to do a side by side "comparison" of me versus horse and the elytes. So yeah, it's been bothering me for the last 6 months or so. Because I've come to the conclusion that it just doesn't matter whether Farley gets them or not during a ride. The results are consistent and I've actually had more "better" rides without elytes than with. Like Sinatra, Farley pretty much ignores her salt block. I wish Minx was still alive so I could *experiment* because she's a horse that would chomp down on a block every 3-6 months. She died before I really knew enough to consider the more nuanced parts of "riding the distnace better" other than just trying to finish and keep her sound.

      I'm not even sure that Farley is a good horse to "learn how to do 100's" on because as Funder will attest, she's basically a point and shoot horse, and I didn't have to do hardly anything this year at Tevis with her - she ate, she drank, she rated herself, she timed herself through checks.......sure, I made some management changes here and there that meant she looked better than previous years, but at the very base/bottom/soul of that horse - she's not a hard horse to get through a 100. Besides her gaits. She is a really really really rough ride. :(.

      Doing the boots in seperate comment since this is so long.

  3. Boots: First a caveat. I am not one to mess with boots on the trail. As a result I did a lot more miles barefoot than I had to, because I always waited until the next vet check to replace boots. Farley has tough as nails feet and from my glue on disaster (as well as my booting disaster at American river one year) in Tevis 2010 I know she can do significant miles on that terrain barefoot at speed without an issue. I'm not sure what I would do with a horse that was a little more borderline doing the trail without boots.

    I totally agree with you on the whole "causing other riders issues" thing. In fact, that was the nightmare that I kept envisioning - that I would have a boot issue in a place where I was going to hold up a bunch of people, which I think it totally not acceptable. I have a whole post on the subject that is entertaining, that I want some time to edit before posting since it can be touchy subject, but in summary, while I absolutely ride my own ride at Tevis......I'm just as concerned that MY ride doesn't negatively influence anyone else's ride around me :). Which probably plays into my commitment to just get to the next vet check. What finally convinced me to go for the strapons this year was a couple of things, including how sound she is on a rocky trail without boots, how well the vipers performed at wild west for me, realizing that I could trot for miles with the boot hanging around her pastern if I had to (last year sometime I had one come off on a conditioning ride and decided to just ride for a while and see what happened).....and having used the strapons after my glueons had come off and having them perform really well for me at Tevis 2010.

    I think that answered the question in general, so now onto the specific boot losses (have to split this comment because its too long).

  4. Part 2 of the boot comment
    Loss number one was coming out of the bogs. Farley got a hind leg stuck and yanked it out sans boot. Not as bad as the horse I saw get stuck ahead of me in a different spot, but bad enough I acutally thought we were going down and she was going over the top of me. Scary. Irish horse swept that situation and said she saw the boot in a really bad spot. I'm not sure whether I would have even kept a nailed shoe or glue on through that, so sure this is totally the boots' fault.

    I rode for 1-2 miles before getting to lyons and putting a replacement on.

    #2: You know that spot about 3/4 of the way through California loop where there's no trees and just the bare mountain side down to the river? She started moving her front foot funny and stamping (we were walk/trot). I knew I probably had a boot issue, but I knew the boot would probably break before it hurt my horse, and I was NOT getting off at at that section so I growled at her and we continued trotting. After about 15 or 20 feet she stopped moving weird and continued on as normal, so I knew the boot had come completely off (whew!). I probably *should* have stopped when I got to the road leading to Fransico's and replaced the boot, but at that point I was convinced I was going to RO, and I really didn't care, and I knew she could do it barefoot and so we rode the less than 5 miles (I think?) miles into Fransico's and I put a spare one on. I'm not sure what happened on the trail and was totally the nightmare I played over and over in my mind - on the California loop at night, with people behind me, boot comes partway off on a seciton I can't get off at blah blah blah. In my dreams it always ended with people yelling and screaming and me falling to my death off the cliff. In reality, we trotted on, and it resolved itself. If the boot hadn't evenutally "removed itself" completely, I would have trotted on until reaching a road/wide spot, and taken the boot completely off, and then continued on (probably wouldn't have replaced it with the same boot - but would have put a spare on). Anyways. The boot was a brand new one - I had switched out my fronts for brand new ones at FH "just because" so they weren't the ones that did the first 65 miles and perhaps there was some sort of defect or cable or something. Or maybe there was nothing. No idea.

    #3: Going through the first water on the California loop a hind slipped off. I dismounted (wide section of the trail), removed it, apologized to the 2 riders behind me, and continued on. Instead of replacing it at Cal-2, I just took the other hind off. These hind boots were back ups of the backups and weren't as well adjusted as they should have been, but I had lost both hinds coming out of the 3rd canyon (details below as #3), combined with the one I lost in the bog, meant that for me to use a matching hind pair I had to go back to an older pair of boots. When that first hind came off at the water crossing, I didn't want to risk any more issues on the loop, so I removed both of them, intending to put them back on at Fransico's. Maybe. Or Maybe after the river. Or maybe Lower Quarry. This loss can be chalked up entirely to not having the boots adjusted. This was the only loss that slightly inconvienced the 2 riders behind me - but they didn't mind stopping, were friendly, and we later stopped for a tack issue on one of their horses (that was fixed quickly), so not unacceptable.

    Again splitting comment because too long.

    1. Oops - NOT sure it was the boots fault (#1).

  5. #4: lost both hinds coming up out of the last canyon into Foresthill. Yep. The canyon you have to go through water and then leap up a couple of rocks. the rider behind me (a friend) told me "you are going to lose your boot!". I said "I don't care". I really didn't. My urethra was being slowly reduced to a bloody stump, my knees were killing me, and I was ready to RO. The boots were the least of my worries. My friend laughed and my motto up the hill was "i don't care i don't care i don't care", even as she told me that my second hind was going. Yes, it's not nice to leave stuff on the trail. At the time, I didn't care. At he present, I feel a bit guilty. So I rode from half way up the last canyon, into Foresthill without hind boots :).

    So there you have it. :) I wouldn't have had to ride more than a mile or two without boots if I had wanted to replace on the trail.

    People have done Tevis with the Renegades without a single loss, and I know that Farley's feet do not look as good this year as they have in the past. White line isn't as tight, heels are a bit taller, some flare. So not ideal. But, compared to how I felt in steel, and the diasaster that was the glueon experiment, I felt like the strap ons were totally doable, espcially on a horse I trust with non ouchy feet. Really hoping they have a size in the vipers next year that will fit Farley's hinds!!!!

    1. Have you considered/discarded the plastic shoe options, or is it the nailing you're not comfortable with rather than the metal?

      I've been eyeballing hoof boots at our local rides lately -- seen enough people lose shoes out on trail that I figure I need to get acquainted with booting options this winter so that at least I can slap a boot on a suddenly-bare foot if need be, even if I end up going with steel again next year! -- and so far I'm batting 100% with Easyboot Gloves. Don't suppose you know anything Renegade use on East Coast horses? I'm wondering about performance in our muddy muck...

  6. Some ideas for you on tack ideas
    - To attach reins to saddle- get a "arm extender "(kinda like this , I made my own by chain knitting some thin rope and loop it through breast collar/pommel on western endurance style saddle if you get off. I feel safe doing this because if the reins get caught or my horse does something stupid, the reins are not actually tied in place and will come loose, but they stay put for normal hiking/ tailing with horse.

    - magical no rub girth - I won't claim the one I use is magical, but is worked for my ridiculously sensitive to galls mare and doesn't require cleaning ;). It doesn't have a breastcollar d-ring , but I was able to get a tack repair guy to sew one on.
    This might not work for an english style saddle, but if you end up with a more western style endurance saddle, look for a center fire or 3/4 rigging position. I have found that it keeps the girth farther back and my mare doesn't get rubs as easily. I have my saddle set up like this ( ) and I love it.

  7. I think we need to bring you onboard as an American Trail Gear spokesperson, too >g<

    Speaking as an unofficial spokesperson for ATG, (I don't work for them, but sometimes they give me stuff), I agree with your assessment of their gear: it's tough, it fits, it's pretty. And if I had more money, I'd buy more of their stuff.

    BOOTS: You know my history with booting the Dragon...but my farrier is turning 70 years old next month, and putting shoes on her is getting hard for him. I will probably reconsider boots, at least during the winter months.

    The Renegades stayed ON her, which is most of the battle, but they didn't protect her tender soles as well as steel shoes with pads...unless there have been new changes? Or perhaps there will be another experiment in the works? I'm always up for an experiment. Talk to me.

  8. As a matter of a fact there are some pad options Thatvare homemade that I'm dying to have someone try......I'll email you when I don't have a tiny keyboard.

  9. Thanks for the info. As a newbie I'm trying to learn as much as I can. I can't wait to get renegades for my mare. I have to send you pics of her feet but she needs a trim first and I haven't found a new farrier since we moved yet.


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