Going the Distance: It’s Gotta Be the Shoes!

How does one care for the hooves of an endurance horse that’s covering hundreds of miles for conditioning? What about a HUMAN endurance athlete? Biz Stamm shares the scoop on our featured endurance horse Shae, plus her own shoeing snafu.

This year at Horse Nation we are following endurance rider Angela Gross Kemerer and her horse Shae as they prepare for one the longest running 100 mile rides in the United States, the Vermont 100, in our Going the Distance series. I have also temporarily lost my mind and decided to tag along on foot by participating in the parallel-run 100 mile ultra-marathon. Whether human or equine, when covering such vast distances, having the right footwear is of paramount importance. As Shae, Angela, and I prepare for Vermont 2019 we are putting in hundreds of training miles (possibly thousands!), and as we do we’re making sure our feet are properly equipped for the long journey ahead.

Shoes for Shae!

When it comes to equine foot protection, there are three main options: shoes, boots, and au natural (barefoot). For Shae, a horse that spends many hours covering rough and sometimes rocky terrain, going barefoot would put her hooves at risk of chipping or bruising.

Hoof boots are a great option for many horses. They provide excellent protection and are incredibly cost effective when compared to traditional shoeing. After testing out several brands, however, Angela can’t seem to find a set that stays on Shae’s particular shape of hoof.

Shae in a pair of hoof boots. Photo courtesy of Angela Gross Kemerer.

So shoes it is for Shae!  In addition to the shoes, Angela adds a cushioning pad to Shae’s setup to provide extra support and take the beating that would otherwise be endured by her soles in competition.

A new hoof pad. Photo courtesy of Angela Gross Kemerer.

Shae’s shoes, and what was left of her pads after an endurance ride. Photo courtesy of Angela Gross Kemerer.

The difference between the right and the wrong foot protection can be the difference between completing or not completing a ride, or more importantly a sound or an unsound horse. Do your research and be sure to consult your farrier in order to make the right choice for the horse.

Shoes for Biz!

The old saying goes,”you fit the shoe to the horse, not the horse to the shoe.” I’m finding the same is true for people as well. My current training plan has me running 50-60 miles per week to train for the 50-mile race I need to complete in order to qualify for Vermont. Most sources recommend replacing running shoes every 300-500 miles, so you do the math. I’m going through A LOT of shoes!

Being a horse girl, I typically try to be ultra thrifty in all other aspects of my life so I can provide my ponies with the life of luxury they demand. As a result, much of shoe shopping has been done by finding online clearance sales and praying to the running gods that the deal of the day will carry me safely through the trails. The results have been hit or miss — quite literally (see photo below for an example of an extremely tragic miss).

The results of my last tumble due to some ill-fitting shoes… and possibly also my ungodly levels of poise and grace. Photo by Biz Stamm.I would never slap a pair of random, internet-purchased shoes on my horse, so why would I ever do that to myself? When it came time replace my trail shoes, especially in light of my latest mishap, I decided it was time to consult my local human farrier, AKA shoe salesmen.

I went down to my local athletic shoe store and had an expert help me pick out an amazing pair of kicks! It turns out that despite having size nine feet, the shape of my foot is quite narrow, meaning that your average size nines give me too much blister-inducing wiggle room, and going down a half size leaves me with cramped toes! After trying on several pairs, I found the perfect pair of Brooks Cascadias to tackle the tough trails of the Pacific Northwest!

They truly are a thing of beauty. Photo by Biz Stamm.

Well now that Shae and I have properly fitted our feet with the right gear, we are ready to hit the trails! Join us next time when we talk about the similarities and differences between human and equine endurance training plans and try to figure out if it’s possible for human power to out-perform horse power in the realm of endurance. Be sure to follow us on social media by following the hashtag #ShaeMeansBizness.

Go riding!

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