Monday, July 13, 2015

Small blessings; a July-so-far recap

I'm a little behind on posting, so here are current-update snippets!

#1: I ended up as the volunteer coordinator for our very-local ride.  The original plan had been to have someone else take the ride on 'Fetti -- I knew I could not adequately watch everything and coordinate the day-of for the first time while also riding, at least not on a course with limited cell coverage!  Despite some last-minute scrambling, the pony ended up riderless and got the weekend off.

However.. it turned out that for whatever reason, the course rode much harder this year, and I am so, so grateful I did not send an inexperienced endurance rider out with reassurances that the horse could totally do it in time, only to find that in fact making time was really hard this year.  I would have worried, they would have worried.  Frankly, even if I'd ridden it, I would have wondered all day what the hell I was doing wrong that we weren't making good time.  No one was -- but riding back of the pack, I would not have known that until we finished.  I wish things could have worked out differently... but it was good that they didn't.

#1.5: Also, nothing went spectacularly wrong for me as volunteer coordinator.  Yay!

 #2: On a whim, I emailed the saddle fitting folks again, and they got back to me within a few hours.  I have no idea what happened the first time.  In any case, we now have a date set and I'm hopeful I can get some saddle answers.

#3: We're still dealing with the aftermath from that one lesson/training ride fiasco at the end of May.  This really deserves its own post.  Short version: Fetti learned that if she resists long enough she doesn't actually have to go forwards.  This comes up periodically, I've never 100% squashed it, but I 100% lost the discussion in the training ride.  She's now doing this at the barn when alone and pointed out towards the entrance to the trails.  While this sucks, it is consistent and easy to replicate.  If I could afford to fly Dom out and fix this one issue right now, I'd totally do it.  We're a little trainer-shy currently.
I will add: mare is not afraid.  She's stuck in front and quite behind my leg.  Once we get past her 'sticky spot' where she goes sideways/backwards/spin/full avoidance of forwards?  Totally fine.  Battle over.  Where are we going?  Trotting off?  Cool, whatever.

#4: For the first time ever, I have a full set of boots plus spares.  Not that the spares are pieced back together yet, and not that I've put the boots actually on the horse, but I have boots and I'm very excited.

#5: Our solo rides are keeping to a respectable 4.5-5mph overall speed most of the time.  This makes me happy.

#6: I turned Fetti out in the arena yesterday before our ride and chased her around a bit.  It's all a game to her.  This time, though, she'd sprint a lap or a half a lap, then occasionally pause and ask to come in for scratches.  I'd scratch her face, tell her how lovely she was being, back up, and give her a verbal OK.. and she'd sprint off again.  Rinse, repeat.  Eventually she decided she was done and stuck with me when I backed up.  What a good mare.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Renegade boot saga: the problem pony

I went to Wild West with four** full boots and came home with one full boot, one shell, and two captivators.  The question keeps coming up: why am I continuing to use Renegades?

Booting/ride recap:

Ride Bear 2012: First ride ever, first ride in boots (ever), front Renegades only.  No issues. W/T, no water.
Fireworks 2013: Front Renegades only. RF came off cantering uphill after water crossing*, 20-some miles in. I purchased hind boots for this ride, but for whatever reason she didn't vet well in them, so we went without. No good answer for that one.  It was odd and I was reluctant even then to blame the boots.
Quicksilver 2013: Front Renegades only. No issues. W/T, no water.
Mount Diablo 2014: Front Renegades, hind Renegades.  No issues.  Slow W/T, one water crossing.
Fireworks 2014: Front Renegades, hind Renegades.  Cable snapped on a hind boot heading home, so pulled both hinds ~19 miles (attributed to user error; should have checked/replaced cables prior to ride).  RF came off trotting uphill after water crossing (slightly different spot than usual, but within the 'usual hill' mile).
Quicksilver 2014: Front Renegades only.  Both boots came off repeatedly within the first few miles - at which point I discovered the cables were pulling through.  Pulled boots off, went barefoot for remainder of ride.  Probably user error with the cables not seating right in the clamp.
Mount Diablo 2015: Front Vipers only. No issues. Slow-moderate W/T, one water crossing.
Wild Wild West 2015 #1: Front Vipers, hind Renegades. RF came off trotting flat after water crossing around mile 5-6 - cables pulled through as in QS '14.  Hind shells disappeared (captivators intact) between mile 4 and 12.  Fast first few miles.
Wild Wild West 2015 #2: Front Vipers, hind Vipers.  RF shell came off trotting(?) uphill after water crossing (captivator intact).

*this particular water crossing/uphill takes the RF boot off almost like clockwork, so it wasn't really a surprise in 2013.  I think it's stayed on twice ever in training rides there.  We're headed home, she's moving out, it's after water, it's uphill.. it stays on better if she'll trot, but even then no guarantees.

** take spare boots with you to rides, y'all.  It's a Good Idea.

Ride morning: boots set out and ready to go.

The recurring theme is that the RF boot comes off.  This is not a boot problem; this is a hoof problem.  Her RF has a long-standing flare issue that I'm dutifully trying to resolve.  It's slow going and I have not been aggressive enough in dealing with it.

I don't train in boots often.  I do try to ride boots at least once within a few weeks of a ride, but it doesn't always happen.  It doesn't seem to bother her either way.  If anything, I'm more concerned about breaking a cable or doing something terrible to the boot prior to the ride!

Fireworks 2014. There was some creative boot-carrying going on.

For as much as I grumble about losing boots, the track record of my Renegades is not all that terrible.  Four rides with absolutely zero issues.  Two rides with issues I attribute to user error.  Four rides with RF boot issues.  And given I don't train much in boots, if I'm going to have issues, I'm going to have issues at rides.  WWW2015 #1 has been the only ride in three and a half years where I've questioned my sanity and boot use.  Everyone's going to have a tough ride eventually.  That was ours.

Mount Diablo 2014. Four boots!

Have I tried Easyboots?  I have not.  Initially, when I was first looking for boots, the Easyboot Wide line was not yet available.  Fetti has wide hooves; her RF measures wider than long with the flare (128w x 125l from the last notation I have a few months back) and the standard Easyboots were clearly not going to be a good fit for her.  At the time, I was also looking for a boot that would fit throughout the trim cycle; Renegades are more forgiving than Easyboots in that respect.  I'm now doing maintenance trims myself. Fetti is clearly not a good candidate for a boot that will fit throughout the trim without maintenance trims!  I'm not anti-Easyboot, but the problems I'm having with the RF Renegade are almost certain to give me problems with any other boot until I can get a better handle on managing that flare.

Why not just shoe?  I've thought about it.  I'm not anti-shoe, either.  Some horses need shoes to perform well, some situations require it, sometimes it really is the best option.  I'm just not convinced it's the best choice for us.  I have a pony with good feet who has been barefoot for the vast majority of her life.  She's sound over most terrain and slightly ouchy over gravel.  Probably 40 miles this past weekend were done missing the RF boot, and that left her only slightly sore.. and in hindsight, it's even possible the soreness is from having three feet booted all day and one not.  It's hard to say.  Short answer: I don't really want to put shoes on her for the 3-4 rides a year that require hoof protection. 

Renegade customer service is amazing.  I ordered my first boots via Mel, who patiently email-fitted the pony for boots and put up with all my questions, then got them ordered promptly so I'd have them for my first ride.  I've emailed with Ashley about water-crossing/boot-fitting troubles several times over the years - and the lack of follow-through on fixing that is entirely mine and not hers.  I'm not a very good online-troubleshooting candidate when I get boot advice and then forget to do anything about it for weeks to months at a time.  This spring I realized I had Serious Boot Issues that actually had to get addressed (namely: the boots don't stay on at the canter), so I got my act together and pestered Aurora when she became a dealer.  I chatted with both Ashley and Aurora at the AERC convention, pondered Viper sizing, ordered more trial sizing shells, pondered Viper sizing some more, and finally placed the order.  When the boots showed up, we photo-evaluated some more and ended up switching the Viper captivators out for Renegade captivators.  I have sent a lot of boot fitting photos to these ladies and they have been incredibly, incredibly helpful all along the way.

Photo-fitting the fronts.

Renegades are pretty easy to work with.  I can re-boot on the trail if a boot comes off.  I can adjust them myself to fit better throughout the length of a trim, and I have on occasion ridden in boots ~6weeks out from her last trim.  It may not be ideal, but these boots do have the flexibility to allow for that.  I didn't start doing any maintenance rasping until mid-2014.  Renegades also come in replaceable parts: if I break a cable, I replace the cable.  I don't have to replace the whole boot, and while an occasionally aggravating process, it's reasonably user-friendly.  I seriously contemplated fixing the cables in my boot over a 30-minute hold.  I didn't have to, and the boot wasn't cooperating, so I ended up not fixing it til after the ride - but if push came to shove, I could have spent a few extra minutes in camp and gotten it working again.

Most folks don't have the kind of boot issues that I've been dealing with.  I have no qualms about recommending Renegades to friends.. even friends that have seen me come back from rides with only one boot still on the horse.  When they work, they really work.  (That said, I also have no qualms about supporting people in using Easyboots, or shoeing, or whatever.  If it works for you, awesome.)

Fetti and I just haven't quite gotten there yet.  Maybe this season we'll sort out all the kinks?