Monday, August 25, 2008

Renegade Hoof Boots

There's been quite a bit of talk of late about the Renegade Hoof Boots going around - they're becoming a lot higher profile, and are now readily available to the public. With this, us Renegade users are getting a lot more questions about them, so I figured now might be a good time to sit down and write up and in-depth post about my experiences with Renegades.

First off, I want to say that I'm not a distributor for Renegade, or a farrier, trimmer, or any person with "proper" hoof trimming, balancing, shoeing, not shoeing, etc. I'm just a regular horse gal that knows what I know through experience limited to my own horses, so I shouldn't be considered an expert in the field. It's all been trial and error testing, and all I can hope to do is pass on some of my experiences to other people. I have no monetary interest in Renegades, save for I love these boots and I want them to stay in business, so the more people that get interested in them, the better!

I started looking into the alternate shoeing/barefoot/hoof boot direction right about the time I started distance riding, and played with alternating between boots and shoes for about four years. At the time, I was competing in NATRC, which doesn't allow any type of leg protection over the coronet band, which meant if I wanted to use boots, I had to glue Easyboots on.

Well, Mimi's alwys been somewhat Easyboot-challenged. Even foamed on, she has the ability to lose them. I believe I've permanently lost three or four boots over the years because of this, and had countless other come off, only to be retrieved and crammed back on again. Lather, rinse, repeat, and you see why I was becoming frustrated.

Then along came endurance, and the ability to take advantage of these wonderful things called gaiters. Which opened the door to using Epics, and when they came out, Bares. They worked quite well for a time, especially the Bares, but I could never get the fit dialed down quite tight enough on the front Bares, so they would always fill up with sand, and every so often, they'd get heavy enough that the gaiter would tear, and off goes the boot.

And we were constantly plagued with gaiter rubbing problems right under her fetlocks. I believe I bought out all the local Walgreens of their moleskins in an effort to combat the rubs. Temporarily solvable at rides with copious amounts of vetwrap, but that wasn't exactly practical for every time I wanted to go ride. Still, they worked well enough I kept experimenting, and she was much happier with those than shoes.

And then along comes Renegade. Dad had been using them for awhile now, ever since they became available, and he'd been having good luck.  Up to this point, I hadn't tried them because I thought they were too big - the smallest size they made were 0s, and Mimi needed 00 for her fronts, 000 for her backs. Tiny feet.

On a whim, I grabbed one of Dad's size 0 boots (Beamer's hind boot size, 1s in the front) one weekend after riding, and as an experiment, stuck it on her foot. It was a little sloppy, but with the adjustable cables and velcro closures, I was able to tighten it down around her foot so that it actually fit! We were in business!

All of this was only a few weeks before the Man Against Horse race in October of last year (2007). I picked up the phone and promptly placed an order for a new pair. Granted, they were too big for her back feet, but I would keep using the Bares on the hinds, and the Renegades on the front. We did the 25 mile LD at that ride and finished, despite Mimi's hock fusing issues showing up at that ride, and then in January, we did our first 50 at Land of the Sun using the same Renegade/Bare combination.

Renegade now has size 00, which are actually too small for Mimi's front feet, but fit her hind feet great, so we're in Renegades all around, and have been since February.

To break it down into some pros and cons:

-Super easy to put on and take off. The straps are velcro, so they're really easy to adjust and get just right.

-Adjustable, recessed cables. The cables are recessed, so they don't bang on rocks and start to fray, thus eliminating the "sharp, pokey cable" problem.

-Lower profile on the pastern. Because of this, I haven't had the rubbing problems I had with Easyboot gaiters, which bumped right up against her fetlock and rubbed the underside.

-Fairly long-lasting. The longest we've gotten out of a pair of boots is ten months out of a pair of hind boots...maybe 1100-1200 miles??? A lot of training miles, I know that, which I'm not as good at diligently tracking.

-Flexible. They really wrap around the foot nicely without trapping it in place, which I believe allows more hoof flexion and shock absorption.

-Worry-free. In the last three years or so, Dad has only ever lost one boot, in a deep, deep sand wash when Beamer stepped in a hole with his front foot, and pulled the boot off with his back foot. Would have pulled a shoe if he were shod. In the last year I've been using them, I only lost one, when the side cables inexplicably snapped at the Devil Dog ride in June. I still haven't figured out why they snapped at that point, the only conclusion is the boot possibly got torqued in an odd way. But that's the only time I've ever lost one, and even then, it was still around her pastern by the captivator strap.

- The velcro fasteners are the "weak spot" if you ride in terrain like where I ride. We have a lot of sand washes, and the sand can wear down the velcro quickly. We usually replace our velcro straps every three or four months, and Renegade sells replacement straps. If you're creative and have access to a heavy-duty sewing machine, you could probably even make your own straps, but I find them easy and cheap enough to just buy premade.

-A bit more creativity is needed in attaching them to your saddle. With the gap between the boot and the captivator strap, the boot can flop around a bit more when clipped off somewhere. I find getting creative with zip ties has been working well.

-The grip on the bottoms may be a bit too aggressive for some gaited horses. Dad's foxtrotter was particularly susceptible to this, and she did best in smooth shoes because of her extreme sliding action of her feet when gaiting. However, I know some gaited horses are doing very well in them, and competing in endurance, so that could come down to an individual horse issue. Again, that's one of those "personal experience" things.

-When the grip wears down after almost ten months of use, the bottoms can be a bit slick, traction-wise, going down hills. I noticed Mimi is a bit more tentative right now, taking slightly smaller steps because the boots can slide on the right terrain. But then, we need new boots and are just holding out until Man Against Horse in October. Again, personal preference...I have a pony that likes a bit of grip, apparently.

-Cost. They're not the cheapest, $170 a pair, I believe, but I think the benefits are well worth paying slightly extra!

I've had to really reach to come up with cons on these boots. This is just what I've experienced with them, and I hope this helps people who are curious about the boots! I lvoe them and think they're a great product!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Drama, drama, drama

Those that know us know that we're people that don't really like that much drama, especially my parents. I'm a little more dramatically inclined (the problem with doing theatre work since junior high school). The ponies are both definitely dramatic. Beamer's personal life philosophy is, "If it's worth reacting over, it's worth reacting BIG over." Mimi tends to just be very expressive, and is not one to hold back if she thinks it's a worthy cause.

So that's the base we're starting with. Last weekend, we skipped riding...I'm such a bad pony mother...but it was way too bloody hot out there to ride. So the ponies started this weekend with two weeks off.

The weather sorta cooperated over the weekend. Saturday was tolerable, as the humidity was down and there was a nice breeze in the air. Mimi was quite happy to be going out...they were both turned out in the small turnout the previous night, and she came scampering over to the gate to see me. Awww, my pony wuuuuvvvvssss me. :) Beamer hid in the corner.

However, he changed his mind after he saw Mimi leaving the pasture, and he hustled over to Dad, lest he get left behind. He was still a bit reluntant heading out from the trailhead...Mr. Lazy. Mimi was, as always, more than happy to go. Y'see, there's a reason she's called the Go Pony.

So we're meandering up this lovely wash, actually catching a nice breeze, which is rather unusual. Typically, this wash doesn't get any air movement - it's sort of narrow, high-sided and twisty. We like it, because it's rather pretty, the sand isn't too deep, and it's a good place to trot. The ponies hate it because it's high-sided, and in an area with high animal traffic. So they're always a bit more up on this trail.

We come around a corner, and there, tangled in a greasewood bush, are bobbing Mylar Balloons of Death!!! OH NO!!! As anyone who has encountered such a thing knows, these are typically beyond most normal horses level of threshold tolerance for Scary Things. Beamer is in the lead, and he slams to a stop (fortunately we were just walking at this point), stares, then attempts to whirl around. Mimi was right on his butt, and the prospect of plowing into her was infinitely scarier than the balloons (good boy, Beamer, you're learning...)

To compound matters, we're sort of stuck between a high bank on one side, and a very dead, cracky, pokey tree on the other side. Beamer turns again, and tries to back away, but the tree poked him in the butt. Heh. So he's standing there, ready to just explode...I get Mimi around his butt and get her to take a few very hesitant steps forward, just enough to get her head in front of his.

She's doing a fantastic Arab impression - neck arched, ears pricked, eyes bulged, nostrils flaring, the Arab Snort - it was beautiful, I wish I would have had my camera. With her head in front (which means she'll get eaten first), Beamer calms down enough for both of us to jump off safely, and I bravely march forward, dragging Mimi behind me. She's still wary (see above Arab Impression) but as long as I'm in front on foot, she'll be brave and face down the Balloon Monsters.

Beamer, Mr. Curious, decides that he's not going to be left behind, and starts creeping along behind Mimi. I stop next to the balloons and start deflating and untangling them, Mimi watching very intently the whole time...she's very curious what I'm doing, and as I start crunching them up, she has to poke her nose forward and sniff them. I get all the balloons deflated and crunched together and cram them in my pommel environmental good deed for the day is done. :) Not only did I protect other horses from the Balloons of Death, I got them out of the desert...even if the horses hadn't spooked at them, I still would have stopped and gotten rid of them. That kind of garbage doesn't belong in the desert.

So, as if this wasn't enough drama...we're on the trail back to the trailhead, and I glance down at Mimi's face and see this bright green twig stuck to her bridle. Upon closer inspection, the "twig" turns out to be a praying mantis, clinging to the side of her headstall to hitch a ride!!! This is only the second praying mantis I've ever seen. My first thought is, "Great, this is the horse that hates bugs." Second thought is, "But I don't want to kill it, they're good!" So, how to get a rather clingy bug off the pony's head without crushing said bug or setting off said pony?

We stopped, and I spent a couple minutes trying to flick him off with the leather popper end of my rommel. He wasn't impressed with my efforts, and proceeded to crawl all over Mimi's face. And she just stood there! This is the horse that went into meltdown at Williams because there were no-see-ums buzzing around her, and now she's letting a praying mantis crawl all over her eyes, forehead, nose, and bridle?

I was finally able to get the leather end under him and gently flick him into a bush next to the trail, and Mimi just stood there calmly the whole time. That sort of thing leads me to wonder if horses can inately tell the different between "bad" bugs - bees, mosquitoes, gnats - and "good" bugs - praying mantis (what's the plural? manti? mantises?), ladybugs, butterflies? Because normally she'd be throwing an absolute fit, and here, she didn't move. Amazing.

That was the end of the drama for Saturday.

Sunday was a lot ickier...humid, with not much of a breeze. We were keep the ride very short, on a loop where we could do more trotting and make our own breeze. Partway through the loop, which is actually outside the park boundaries, we have to cross the road that leads into the park. 2 lane, very little traffic except that going into the park, so not a big deal. As we're approaching, I see two shapes bounding down the road...oh, great, more loose dogs.

Rural Queen Creek is loose dog haven...nobody puts dog-safe fencing up, so there's always dogs running around. Mostly, they stay out of the park, but we've been threatened a couple times, and it always makes me a bit wary. These two appeared mostly harmless - a juvenile-looking Labrador and a Pomeranian. Still, many dogs idea of fun involves way too many teeth for my liking. So I took the offensive.

I turned Mimi right at them and starting trotting down the pavement (thank goodness for Renegades!), yelling at them. They froze, hunched down, and scattered. Headed for the trees and shrubbery to the side of the road, circled way around me, and started slinking off. Mimi and I still followed them until they took off running down the road, back towards the residential areas. Mimi was so proud of herself...she had the "Pony Stare", the kind that makes cows wilt before her...and she was pratically strutting by the time we got back to Dad and Beamer, who were just watching the show from the side of the road.

The most impressive part was watching the Pomeranian take a flying leap off a three foot high bank into the sand wash below to get away from us.

The rest of the ride was quiet and drama free, with the exception of Beamer proving that he, too, can do a Power Trot. "Look at me go, I can extend my legs, yes I can!" When he gets motivated, he can really move. He just needs to learn discretion about when to use said power trot - ie., not on a sort of rocky, slightly downhill, twisting single track. Even if it is going back towards home. :)

And thus ends my weekend drama.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Too hot to trot

There's something about temps of 110*+ combined with 40% humidity that really puts the kibosh on the idea of riding. The ponies weren't complaining, either. Mimi was jsut as happy to escape today with a 15 minute scratch-and-massage session, plus a bath, complete with a Cowboy Magicked tangle-free mane and tail. She looked like a shiny white show pony by the time I was done. That'll last maybe an hour.

Dad and Beamer were the unfortunate victims of a bee attack at the barn today...very weird. The bees only left when I came running out of the barn, frantically spraying fly spray everywhere. Apparently they don't let RepelX fly spray. Aggressive suckers, too, from what Dad said...going right for the face/eyes. Scary.

So I didn't get to try out my new Dirty Girl Gaiters today...they came in the mail last week. I got the black ones with the purple flames on them. I'll get pics the next time I put them on. They go well with all of Mimi's purple/black tack, and they look good when I held them up next to my dove grey tights. What I really need to look super spiffy-coordinated is a pair of purple tights now. Pay tuition first, and if I have anything left over from that, I might hit up Evelyn's Just For Horse'n Around tights, since I've heard many good things about them...the price is right, too!