Acey’s second pair of 00 Back Countries arrived last week, and we took our first test ride on Wednesday. Here she is, all ready to go in her new boots and Stonewall saddle. Isn’t she CUTE?
Sorry, couldn’t resist. Back to the boots:
1. The LocTite worked. I had no further issues with screws coming loose (on the boots, anyway…) while riding.
2. Something about Acey makes the velcro on her hind boots come unfastened very easily. The top two layers of the 3-layer velcro system kept coming undone on the near side, leaving the gaiter flapping along as she trotted. I couldn’t get it to stay put for more than a couple strides. This happened just once on the off side boot. Maybe she’s catching it against the opposite boot, which would explain why the off side wasn’t as much of a problem, as the boots are identical so each top layer of velcro points the same direction. Acey handled the flapping gaiter just fine and the boots stayed on and didn’t twist, but obviously we need a fix for this. Duct tape all the way around the gaiter? Not ideal, but it would probably do the job.
3. Acey trots really, really fast with all four feet booted.
Yes, I tried it. Yes, I know you aren’t supposed to. Yes, it worked.
Those of you who are familiar with Easyboots know that the Gloves and their Back Country cousins (which use the same shell with a different gaiter) are supposed to be used without pads, though it is commonly observed that the 6mm pads work just fine. The 12mm pads are intended for use with other boot styles whose fit isn’t as precise.
I wouldn’t have attempted to use 12mm pads in Acey’s BCs if I hadn’t ordered them by accident. But, since I had them on hand and it didn’t seem worth the cost of shipping to return them, I figured it was worth a shot. You’ll recall that because Acey is so tiny, even her 00 BCs are bigger on her than I’d like. They’re probably a full size up from a nice, tight fit.
I’ve observed in the past that the 6mm pads crush quite a bit, and quickly. I find that a single ride smashes them to practically nothing around the hoof wall. This doesn’t seem to be a problem, as padding remains in the sole area, and I thought the crushing might come into play favorably in my 12mm pad experiment.
By the way, I’m not the first to try this. Easycare rep Alayna Wiley offers this blog post on the subject; it didn’t work so well for her. The boots twisted.
But what the heck. I cut the medium-density, 12mm pads down to 00 size and stuffed them in Acey’s boots. They certainly looked thick, coming up high enough to cover half of the heel screw. Without overlarge boots and significant crushing, this would never work.
Overlarge boots? Check. Even with the thick pads, the BCs went on Acey’s feet easily. I walked her around a bit to make sure they were seated, then double-checked the gaiter tightness. So far, so good.
Now to crush the pads. I saddled up and we hit the road for a few miles at a walk and bounding trot. (It was windy and Acey was, er, more enthusiastic than absolutely necessary.) I checked the boots frequently for twisting or other issues. Nothing. The only change seemed to be positive: reduced “slop-and-clop” from the outsized boots.
Acey seemed to feel really, really good! Even better than usual. Was it the weather, or the pads? Oh, and she was also a few millimeters taller.
At the end of our ride, the boots remained perfectly in place. I removed them to find the pads crushed down to where they looked about like brand-new (un-crushed) 6mm pads. The screw in back was now fully exposed and the pad had settled down to consume less room all around.
Hmm. This could work.
Now, I’m not advocating the use of 12mm pads in Gloves or Back Countries under normal circumstances. I have yet to decide whether I’ll continue with them for Acey. Further tests will tell us more. But, it does seem that under peculiar circumstances such as ours, it’s at least a possiblity worth mentioning.
Acey wore her Easyboot Back Countries for another, brisk, 8-mile ride yesterday. Having learned my lesson last time, I tightened all the screws that attach the gaiters to the shells.
We had no problems at all with the boots during the ride, but I dismounted at home to discover that, once again, the front two screws (the “Power Strap” section) had come completely loose on the left front. I’m amazed that we haven’t managed to lose a single screw or washer yet!
I know Easycare tests their products thoroughly, and they apparently haven’t encountered this issue — at least, not frequently enough that it required a manufacturing change. I suspect Acey’s boots are being subjected to a greater-than-normal amount of vibration because they really are on the outside edge of the sizing flexiblity.
My plan is to take Funder’s suggestion of applying some Loctite Threadlocker. I was concerned about the idea at first because I didn’t want to preclude my ability to replace shells or gaiters, but Loctite’s website claims that the Threadlocker bond can be broken using hand tools. I reckon it’s worth a try.
Acey nearly got eaten yesterday. By cows.
These were not ordinary cows. Acey doesn’t mind ordinary cows. These were Scary Weanling Cows in Crackling Brush. They were another animal entirely. Just ask Acey.
We were in the middle of a road test for her new Stonewall saddle and 00 Easyboot Back Country boots. I decided not to haul out to the BLM land for the test, in case something went wrong and we had to cut our ride short. Instead, we left from In the Night Farm and rode a loop that gave us plenty of opportunities to turn back if needed.
As it transpired, the saddle fit comfortably with almost no adjustment. Custom built for Acey, this saddle is narrower than the old one and felt much more stable on Acey’s tiny frame. I’m sure she found me easier to carry. She certainly had plenty of energy and a free stride.
I forgot to take a photo of the new saddle on Acey, so here it is modeled by the lovely Ripple Effect. Blessedly, Ripple’s back measurements are almost identical to Acey’s and the new saddle fits her nicely, too.
The boots are about as big as they could possibly be on Acey without crossing the line to ridiculous. Outfitted as Gloves, the 00 shells would never stay on her feet (yes, I did try once). As BC’s, they clung to her little feet through walks, trots, extended trots, canters…and a gallop. Which leads me back to the cows.
We were six miles from home. I’d dismounted to let a massive tractor roar by. Acey scarcely looked at the tractor, but before I could get back on, something in the deadwood at the side of the road went *crack!* She jumped. Her eyes bulged. We stared together into the brush. And from it emerged…a young holstein.
Well. That would have been okay, except that there wasn’t just one cow. There was at least a score of them, all half-spooked and half-concealed by the crackling brush. They moved like clumsy ghosts, in fits and starts, and Acey couldn’t get a clear look at any of them. Her tiny ears positivly quivered, and I swear I could hear her heartbeat as I tried to lead her past the long gauntlet of terror.
That was working fine until one of the cows jumped a small ditch. The sudden movement sent Acey right over the edge. She bolted, and her biothane reins slipped right out of my hand. (Incidentally, I’ve been having that problem with biothane reins. On hot days, in sweaty hands, they get awfully slick if you actually need to keep a firm hold on them for any period of time. Maybe I need to either wear gloves or go back to my cotton rope reins.)
Anyway, I had to laugh as I watched Acey’s little bay butt tearing away down the road. I wasn’t terribly worried about her. It was a little-traveled road with fences on both sides, and we were a good mile away from the next intersection. There wasn’t much for a running horse to do but stop. Eventually.
A nice guy in a farm truck happened to see the incident, and he saved me the quarter-mile walk to where Acey decided to stop on the shoulder, looking baffled. I retrieved her easily and checked her boots. Surely if they were going to come off from speed, that would have done it.
Both boots were still there. Hooray! However, as I handwalked her along waiting for her brain cells to reboot, I noticed that the near-side gaiter was shifting up and down. Further inspection revealed that the two screws in front (the “Power Strap” portion) had come loose. They were still there, but no longer attached to the shell. Only the triple-velcro attachment at the back of the boot had kept the gaiter (and probably the shell, too) from soaring off into the wild yonder.
In all fairness, Easycare’s instructions do say to check the screws before every ride. This is not something I usually do (bad me!), and considering these were brand-new boots, it didn’t occur to me. I swore to mend my ways. But promises weren’t going to save the present situation.
You’ll recall that I was riding in a new saddle. With new saddlebags. New saddlebags, that is, into which I had put nothing but my camera and a bottle of water. I hadn’t transerred my usual assortment of “just in case” items including chapstick, sunscreen, Larabar, hoof pick, and multi-tool. Guess which item I needed.
MacGyver time. I explored my tack for a screwdriver substitute and came up empty. No scraps along the roadside appeared to help, either. Spinning the boot around the screw got one side attached, but that obviously wasn’t going to work for the other side. I ended up using my thumbnail (ow) and got it tight enough to proceed.
We finished our ride with no further adventure. Back home, I removed the saddle to find a nice, even sweat pattern and no ruffled hairs. The off-side boot, though, now had a loose gaiter! Hmm.
So about the boots: Tighten the screws when you take them out of the box. I’m guessing this is not a product problem — just user error. I’ll check the screws before my next few rides and let you know if they come loose again.
Today, we’re off to test the new Stonewall on some steeper hills across the Oregon border. I’ll pack my saddlebags properly before we go.