by angela fotheringham
When I took the decision to go barefoot with my old boy, I had just found and bought his successor who had been barefoot for most of his life. Jura is a Highland X TB of rather striking appearance who collects compliments like dogs collect fleas. With beautiful natural paces, I did not want to impede him or risk altering his swinging stride.
However when I became involved with a team of Native ponies, to enter and compete in the Silver boot ride, a ride with no start... only a finish, there were many who voiced their misgivings about his barefoot status. Sages nodded and stroked their chins but I was determined. Jura wore Cavallo boots for his Endurance rides and happily clocked up 20 or 30 kilometers without turning a hair. This would be different, the tracks we would follow over 6 days were the flinty, granite strewn Landrover trails and winding drove roads that traverse the Scottish Highlands.
Jura shares his paradise paddock with Cooperdene, it is a small billiard table of a paddock into which I have put stones and poles to encourage them to traverse different terrains and obstacles.
Longer distances day after day would tax their feet to the maximum and using boots was a sensible precaution. The boot I chose was the Equine Fusion "jogging boot" a flexible horse trainer... Nike for horses.
We planned our ride to traverse the glens of Angus starting at Glen Isla, via Glen Prosen to Glen Clova. This section was easy going over farm tracks and heather moors. From Glen Clova to Glen Esk, covered the most brutal hill climb over cruelly sharp granite and a descent through bog. Still, the boys were up for it, so the next section began over moorland and soon put us onto hard gritty and stony deerstalking tracks all the way to Aboyne.
Shod ponies were beginning to feel their feet but Jura was still fresh and led the way throughout. From Aboyne the variety of tracks put us through tarmac roads, estate tracks and more flinty rough track to Ballater. Now we were seeking the softer verges but to be honest, shod ponies were doing no better as the tracks took their toll. Ballater to Balmoral and beyond was 48 Kilometers and now we were all beat! With 40 more to go from House of Mar to Blair Atholl... the humans were finding it tough while the boys were ploughing stolidly on. That final 2 kilometers was agony but ahead lay the soft grassy paddocks we had prepared for them and they lay down, rolling in ecstasy before nodding off for a well deserved sleep.
Over the next days I would have understood if he was foot sore but tapping with a hammer to see if there was any bruising or tenderness, Jura looked sounder than the shod ponies. 196 Kilometers. Sound. Happy... and a winning third place! Brilliant!
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