Using Solar Support and Boots for Endurance and Trail Riding Racesby Larkin GreeneWhen gearing up for endurance and trail riding season, there is a lot of training andpreparation that go into it for the rider and horse. Both have to be conditioned to facethe 25, 50 or 100-mile race that lies ahead of them. Because a horse will be on theirfeet in rocky terrain for long periods of time, it’s important that hooves are properlyprotected, supported and prepared for any possibilities, such as uneven, loose footing,stepping on sharps, cuts and hoof impacts.Endurance Racing ConditionsWhen racking up miles on difficult terrain, horses and riders endure challengingconditions. For safety and concern for rider and mount, participants must check in atvarious points along the course where veterinarians and farriers make sure the team isin good enough condition to keep going. It’s usually about finishing an event, more thanwinning. The saying, “To Finish is to Win” is well known. While there is certainly a firstplace finisher, an equally impressive award is winning “Best Condition.” This awardmeans that the vital stats, fitness and condition of the horse are best among the top tenparticipants who finished the race. In other words, it’s the horse fit enough to continue.The ability to connect with the horse, and keep it healthy, calm, and focused areimmense accomplishments for riders and support crews during exhausting events likethese. Many riders discover that the mental demands can be as challenging as thephysical ones. Riders often must ride at night and sometimes find themselves alone ona trail, or their horse might want to go faster than they do to keep up with other horses.It’s a full body, full mind experience.In correlation with a horse’s well being during an endurance competition, the hooves arethe foundation it all rests upon. If a horse’s feet are not properly protected and they stepon a sharp rock along the course, the horse can become immediately lame, or thelameness can show up a few miles down the trail. With shoes, pads, pour-in urethanepads or boots for protection, a horse will be better prepared to face the difficultconditions of an endurance or trail riding competition.Protecting Hooves for an Endurance CompetitionMost horses in the endurance world are shod with steel or urethane shoes, however,recent improvements in both glue-on and strap-on hoof boots, provide riders anotheroption for hoof protection.One of the limitations of hoof boots has always been fit, especially the short length inthe heels, and gaps in the fit that allow the boot to shift and possibly come off. Vettecadhesives can be used in three different ways to improve the performance of a boot:adding adhesive externally to add support where it’s needed, adding a soft urethanecomfort layer to the inside floor of the boot and filling gaps to create a truly custom fit.For a shod horse, products like Equi-Pak and Sole-Guard are also useful. Sole-Guard isa popular pick among pour-in pad products for endurance horses because of its
durability and ease of application. Sole Guard is commonly used as a fairly thin,protective layer and should last through the toughest conditions. Equi-Pak is best whenadded support is needed; it can be injected under a pad, or used as a pad itself since itbonds well to the sole and frog.ConclusionWhen training and preparing a horse for an endurance race, it’s important to have ahoof care plan and regimen in place that is consistent and reliable for the conditionsfound on endurance courses. Whether a horse is shod, unshod or booted, solar supportand pour-in pad materials can provide the support, comfort and durable protectionneeded for these kinds of events. More than ever, veterinarians and farriers have theability to use materials that will not only help maintain hoof function and integrity, butalso give the horse and rider confidence that the hoof’s sensitive structures will not becompromised; one less thing to worry about.