Hoof protection might be one of the most important things to consider for a long ride. Riding in Nevada is especially tough on the hoof, as the terrain can be incredible challenging. It's amazing how much the footing can change mile to mile -- from decomposed granite to boulders to gravel to dirt to pavement. We saw it all on our recent ride, and that's why I was very careful to make sure Sage's hooves were protected.
I have nothing against traditional metal horse shoes, but Sage has been barefoot his whole life. Instead of shoes, we use boots on tough trails. There are many companies that make hoof boots. I've tried several of them, but ultimately used Easyboots from EasyCare Inc. for my 2013 and 2016 rides.
There are a lot advantages to hoof boots. They're removable. You just put them and take them off each day. They're relatively custom fit, as they come in different sizes. If you send your horse's hoof measurements and photos of each hoof to EasyCare they will recommend which style of boot is best for your horse. Sage wears the Easyboot Epics, which have a semi-aggressive tread - perfect for extreme trail conditions. For our recent ride, I recycled some of my old boots from our 2013 ride and purchased several sets of new boots. Nevada's terrain did not disappoint and the boots were certainly put to the test. Sage wore the boots every single day of our 1,100+ mile ride, in sand, dirt, rocks, mud, snow, water, and more.
Overall I love Easyboots. There is no question that they have protected Sage's hooves on both of our rides. With so many other things to worry about on the trail, it's nice to not have to worry about chipping of the hoof wall, stone bruises, punctures, or any other hoof ailment. People we met on the trail were often shocked we weren't using traditional horse shoes! But they were very intrigued when I showed them the Easyboots.
Despite the name, these boots are not easy to put on - but I suppose that's a good thing since you want them to stay on once you do get them on. They're especially hard to put on when it's below freezing. We lost a few boots early on in the ride, which was a result of me not putting them on properly. We also broke some boots during the ride: snapped cables in extremely rocky terrain, broken buckles, and torn gaiters. We actually wore through the toes of some of the boots! But they're meant to take a beating. Better the boot than your horse's hoof! Easyboots come with repair kits. Snapped cables, broken buckles, even torn gaiters can be repaired, which is great.
Easyboots aren't cheap, especially if you need as many I did for our long ride. Because of the investment, I went to great lengths to not lose them! I had to turn around a few times to retrieve boots that had fallen off. Several times Sage stepped into boggy areas and the suction would pull off a boot -- I went elbow deep in the muck to pull them out! Mud was always a problem to ride in. Even with the good traction on the Easyboots, Sage was slipping and sliding.
But I really credit the Easyboots for getting us through tough country with no problems. If you're interested in trying them out, you can use EasyCare's dealer search online (http://www.easycareinc.com/Search/Dealer.aspx) to find a rep near you. But I also recommend trying other boots from other companies to find the right product for your horse.
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.