In this blog post, we delve into the world of endurance riding by interviewing one of our Flex Boot ambassadors, Jessica from Scotland.
Hi Jessica! To begin with, could you introduce yourself and tell us how you got into endurance riding?
Hi, I’m Jessica and I live in the beautiful Scottish Highlands and I am lucky to keep my horse Cody at home. 5 years ago I was left some money and I decided to buy my dream horse. He has always been very forward going and we would hack for miles. A friend mentioned endurance riding to me so I thought I would give it a try! We haven’t looked back, he is a natural and I love the bond it gives us both.
What is endurance riding like, and who is it suitable for?
Endurance riding is for everyone and every horse. We have met lots of different breeds doing well at different levels on our endurance travels. It is a fantastic way of building a great relationship with your horse! We started out doing pleasure rides with our local club in Scotland. These are shorter rides usually between 16km -22km and you have to do them at a specific speed, between 8-11kmph.
Most horses that are hacking 3-4 times a week will be fit enough to do a pleasure ride. You get a map and a talk around and the routes are marked too. Horses are vetted before and after with a trot up and heart rates are taken; horse welfare is very important. We have found the endurance club members so friendly and encouraging and have made many great friends through the sport. Even if you don’t want to go above pleasure rides it’s a great way to meet new people and ride in some stunning scenery!
There is also competitive endurance which ranges from 30km- 160km in a day and also multi day rides too. The longer distances have vet gates to make sure horses are fit to continue as well as the pre and post ride vettings.
What is it that excites you about endurance riding?
For me I love being out in the countryside with Cody and the challenge of getting him fit for the distances we do. I love reaching our goals and the endurance community are so encouraging and supportive. It’s also great to see other members reach their goals too!
What are some of your highlights or greatest achievements regarding endurance riding?
Our highlights have to be finishing a 50km ride at the Scottish Championships last year with a gold award, the feeling when he passed his vetting was amazing and I was so proud of him. I never once had to ask him for more, he really knows his job.
We then got accepted for the Scottish team and went to Yorkshire with them. It was a fantastic experience for a Novice rider and horse. We learnt so much and met so many amazing people. We completed a 40km ride over tough terrain and won his class also gaining a grade one. I will treasure those memories forever.
Has your horse always been barefoot, or was he shod at any point?
Cody was already barefoot when I bought him. His toes were a little long and he had flares on his fronts too. After trying and experimenting (long story short hahaha!) with several methods I started to trim him weekly and this has made a massive difference to his hooves. They are still not perfect but we are getting there! I am lucky to have a great supportive equine podiatrist and she comes and checks on them for me and keeps me right. Minna from the Flex Boot team has also been a great help and has given me more confidence too and some great guidance.
Is it any different doing endurance riding barefoot than with a shod horse? What would you say are the pros and cons?
This is a difficult one for me to answer as I haven’t owned a shod endurance horse! I can tell you that Cody’s Flex Boots give him superb grip and protection while trotting over lots of varied surfaces. They also protect all of his sole.
Another pro is you can carry a spare should you lose or break one, whereas if your horse is shod you may have to wait for a farrier to replace the lost shoe! Our boots have now been in use for over 1100km (680 miles) mostly on rough forestry tracks and are still going strong! I doubt I would get 1100km out of a set of shoes!
As a barefoot endurance rider, what do you have to take into consideration before, during and after a race, that shod horses’ riders might not need to?
Mainly that I have remembered to pack all his boots haha! Vettings are done with the boots on and sometimes they will check they are fitted well and there are no rubs.
We have never had a rub or a problem with his Flex Boots. After a ride I remove them and give them a quick rinse in a bucket of water and they are good to go again!
Why did you decide to use Flex Boots on your horse?
I had been hearing really good things about Flex Boots and my trimmer had also told me about them. It was my trimmer that tagged me in the brand ambassador post on Facebook so I took a gamble as I had never used them before. We were delighted to be picked! I was slightly nervous before they arrived as if they didn’t suit I didn’t want to waste Flex Boots’ time. I shouldn’t have worried as the boots have exceeded all expectations and the Flex team have been incredibly kind and helpful. All three of my horses now wear them and they make a huge difference to them! They have all thoroughly tested them out in all gaits on all terrain and I have been really impressed with them!
How long have you been using Flex Boots on your horse, and how do you find them? Have you seen any benefits when using them?
We have been using Flex Boots now for 11 months. I have found that all three of my horses go incredibly well in them. They give enough support over tough terrain but my horses can still judge the ground as they do have some feel too. I have found issues with slipping in the past with other brands of boots but Flex Boots offer super grip. They are easy to get on and off at competitions and are light too. Very easy to clean and they dry in minutes!
What would be your advice to someone who is interested in getting into endurance riding, and especially wanting to do it barefoot?
If you love hacking and exploring and a bit of a challenge, give it a go! It’s lots of fun and I have found the other members supportive and encouraging. There are also loads of barefoot endurance horses out achieving great things! Most countries have endurance clubs and local branches you can get in contact with for help getting started. I would certainly recommend a good set of well-fitting hoof boots to protect your horse’s hooves over varied terrain.