From Endurance to Dressage
How dangerous can dressage be that it requires so much hoof and leg protection? Fortunately, my boys seem to be sufficiently covered with strap-on leg boots and haven't required the use of time-consuming polos.
I competed in every endurance distance possible on four different horses over 16 years, and I never used as much hoof and leg protection as I do now. And it's not because I was lazy or didn't know about hoof and boot protection; my horses just didn't need a lot of coverage.
All of my Arabs were shod, but since Montoya was so terrible for the farrier, I ultimately kept her barefoot in the back which meant she wore Easyboots for competition. If we were doing a 100 miler or a particularly rocky 50 miler, she wore Easyboots on the front hooves as well. I used the same strategy for my other horses too.
I think all of my horses used front splint boots. They had a tendency to interfere in the front. Arabs can be a bit narrow in the chest which means that when they do a lot of trotting, their front legs swing very close to each together. Over the course of 50 to 100 miles, a whack here or there is going to add up to a lame horse.
You'll never see an endurance horse in polo wraps for obvious reasons. They travel through sand, mud, brush, tall grass, and water. Polo wraps would do more harm than good. You also won't see any fleece-lined boots for the same reason. And as a general rule, you won't see bell boots. Things may have changed in the ten years since I last competed, but we always considered bells boots a dangerous piece of tack.
Riding through the conditions that endurance horses travel through means that a lot of debris can get stuck under the boot and cause rubs and irritations. The boots can also get hung up on wayward sticks and other trail debris like nails, wire, or metal shards. I've actually had near misses with all of these.
So I ask again: how is it that riding in a level arena with finely combed sand can be so dangerous as to require so much leg protection?
Both Speedy and Izzy live in front bell boots. Speedy wears them because his stride in the back has gotten so much longer that he started whacking the sides of his front hooves with his back feet, causing painful bruises. Izzy is just so rambunctious in his paddock and during turn out that he was ripping off shoes left and right.
I guess that 10 and 15-meter circles combined with lateral work like leg yield and half-pass (someday) are somewhat risky. We're asking our horses to move their legs in a direction that is not always forward. We also ask our horses to take a longer stride in the back and to occasionally work on three and four tracks. I suppose this creates more risk for injury.
Just to be on the safe side, my boys now go in leg wraps on all four legs, and the boots are lined with cushioned fleece to ensure maximum safety and comfort. Sheesh.
I hope my dressage divas (ponies) know that they're being laughed at by their endurance cousins.
I don't think extra leg protection is *laughable*, exactly...but I have wondered why it's considered necessary.
12/5/2015 11:14:57 am
It does make me laugh a little, AareneX. Endurance horses are pretty danged tough! They have to be to do their jobs.
Um. My horse doesn't interfere. He is 90% more likely to whack himself doing dressage, either from an emotional flail or lateral work or hanging a leg in a change. In dressage I'm asking him to move his legs in new and difficult ways, the least I can do is protect him from a minor mistake.
12/5/2015 11:18:30 am
... which is why my horses now go in boots all the way around.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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