At around 12:24 a.m. I heard a knock at my hotel room door. Normally, I wouldn’t be answering my door at that hour, but my roommate for the next two weeks, Jill Sivo, had just arrived from Connecticut, after a series of flight delays. We hadn’t met yet, but had become Facebook friends after learning we would be at Cypress Trails Equestrian Center at the same time. Jill was supposed to have arrived at 5:00 in the afternoon on Monday, but connecting flights can always be a crap shoot. I felt really bad for her since I knew we were going to have a full day of adventures on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. rolled around all too quickly (keeping in mind I am still at PST 6:00 a.m.). Soon after, we started moving we began conversing about what we were in for when we finally met up with Darolyn Butler. Almost every internet search we performed on endurance riding, Darolyn’s name came up. Her ranch was only an eight minute drive from the hotel so we were there before we knew it.

Upon arrival, we had our choice of parking spots and the place was rather deserted, except for the 70 head of horses. Around the corner of the barn we came upon the farrier performing a barefoot trim on one of the Arabians. All of Darolyn’s horses run barefoot, unless it is a particularly rocky course, then she would glue on shoes or use hoof boots. The farrier showed us how he will initially file across the whole hoof. This way he could better determine the wear as well as expose any issues with the white line. He keep the frog, sole and hoof wall all on the same level. This way the horse was able to use the whole hoof as nature intended. He cut back the bars as this area was not wearing down evenly. I was surprised to see how solid the white line of the hoof was and how firm the sole of the hoof was. This horse had a completely different structure than my Thoroughbred.

Shortly after, Darolyn appeared to finish the job as she does on all of her horses. She mentioned she had married once in hopes that her husband would take on the farrier chores, but unfortunately he was not that interested in performing the work himself. Darolyn showed us that this horse wore his toes down, which gave the hoof a square shape. She filed from the top of the hoof down towards the ground. This gave the hoof a rounded appearance, exposing the white line and eventually the sole. In all of my shod horses, you always leave enough of the hoof wall to nail on the shoe. She told me this puts too much pressure on the wall of the hoof. The horse was meant to use his whole hoof, including the frog which encourages circulation in a healthy hoof. Within minutes she had perfectly balanced hooves with no excess flairs or long hoof walls. The horse trotted off happily to be put onto the trail riding line.

That’s right. Darolyn has an extremely successful business for trail riding, for all types of riders. Even her highly prized 100 mile endurance racers are put on the trail riding line to work for their keep. If you have ever been to the start line of an endurance race, I’m sure you have seen people hiding their horses behind trailers or turning their horses to face the opposite direction of the start line to avoid excitement. Not Darolyn. Her horses watch all the coming and going and they don’t even blink an eye when their pasture mate trots off. The key to her horses success and soundness is Long Slow Distance. Her horses don’t have any time off, they earn their keep. Every horse is extremely fit simply from walking tourists or endurance trainees around the 25 miles of trails through the public lands past the various airports. They keep their fitness without tempting fate by running. They develop and build tendons and muscles by carrying different loads, keeping calm while trudging through bogs, up hills, past airports, surging traffic and waiting at Jimmy’s Texas BBQ while their riders have their lunch.