A r t i c l e s A n d C a s e
S t u d i e s
NZ Endurance Nationals - 100k Barefoot
Republished here with
permission from The Horse's Hoof
The Goal, The Ride, A Success
by Thorsten Kaiser, Mowgli Endurance -
The preparation for this ride I would call any-
thing but optimal. Maxi's shoes came off in
February 2002. He now is 13 years of
age, purebred Arabian gelding, and his "real"
name is El Eshkar Mezarim.
At that time, according to New Zealand
Endurance regulations, it was not possible to compete in a ride longer than 25km without having
the horse shod. Nevertheless, having understood
the negative impact shoes have on hooves, and
even on the horse as a whole, the long journey
could only have one direction. The work began
and started showing fruits at the National AGM in
July 2002, when the shoeing rule was withdrawn,
and it became rider's choice to shoe in
Endurance. Logistically there was green light, but
there was one other element--the hooves had to
get right, too.
With no CSHS (Certified Strasser Hoofcare Specialist) in NZ, trial and error was
inevitable. Maxi did a few 40km rides, and in
November, he did his first 80km ride. This turned
a few heads. However, the going was tough, and
after that we had a series of abscesses that put us
out of action. A few more 40km rides followed,
including a win in late December, and then, in
February, I tried to get another 80km ride under
his belt to start in the South Island Champs. I did
several attempts, but every time I withdrew him
after around 40km, as there were underlying
Needless to say, the SI Champs was a no-go. The
feet, though, seemed to be doing their job. I was
getting a bit nervous, as time was running out to
get ready for the Nationals. Blood and fecal tests
revealed a high worm count, which I was very
much surprised about. Maxi is in the same pasture
as three others, yet he had about 3-5 times more
worms. Three weeks prior to the Nationals, some
conventional injected wormer was brought in, and
seemed to have done its job.
Maxi felt great, and
one week later we did an 80km training ride
around home, which he passed with flying colors.
Also, the feet looked great after that, and, as you
can imagine, that left me much more confident.
Just over a week before the National ride, we started the journey to the North Island. The ferry crossing went extremely smoothly and so did the road
travel. Then, the night before we were going to
enter the ride base, Maxi got a serious fright from
a motor boat that drove by near the paddock he
was on. All the other horses were very calm,
except for Maxi--he went pacing up and down the
fence line. Covered in sweat, I took him out and
walked him about--it appeared to calm him down.
Later, back in the paddock, he started pacing up
and down again. I thought he would calm down
quickly, as the other horses in there were basically asleep. Well, the next morning proved me
wrong. Maxi trampled a massive track next to the
fence, and in one of his sharp turns, he got one
of his front legs over a fence wire and cut himself
halfway up the cannon--"Just what I need," I
thought. Five days to the ride, and the leg was
clearly swollen, though no lameness was visible. I
spent a lot of time over the next few days standing him in cold water, and I put him on Arnica.
Then, Saturday afternoon, the leg looked pretty
good, and we passed the pre-ride vetting with a
standing heart rate of 28 beats/minute.
The start for the 100km was on Sunday morning,
5am, with the ride consisting of four phases,
32km, 38km, 2x15km. I knew from the day
before, watching the 160km ride, the ride was
going to be tough, and I had to watch what I was
doing if I wanted to complete. There was another
barefooter at the start, a girl from the North
Island, so it was 2 barefoot out of 44 entries.
Of the 100km there might have been 10km of
flat, the rest was up and down--all the time.
Terrain varied from hard pasture with ruts from
cattle, hard packed tracks with sharp stones sticking out, to gravel road. Maxi felt excellent, and I
am sure he thought he was going to win this race.
Well, due to the less than optimal preparation, I
had different plans and held him right back. We
got through the vet gate quite well and presented pretty much straight away after arriving at the vet
Maxi never put a foot wrong in the whole ride.
Despite being extremely eager in the first two laps,
he looked after himself and watched where he
placed his feet, especially on those rugged pad-
docks. In the last two laps I knew I had to do a bit
of work myself as the course was starting to show
its toll, and Maxi got a bit tired. So, that meant a
bit of running for myself. The 15km lap consisted
of heaps of hard packed farm tracks, and I decided to put Easyboots on the front, as I didn't want
to challenge the Endurance gods too much.
After 9.5 hours of riding, we crossed the finish
line, and Maxi was still feeling good - tired, but
good. Now it's down to the vetting. Later I learned
that the points for the North Island/South Island
Trophy were even--and I was the deciding factor.
As you can imagine, there were many eyes facing
over our way when we presented at the vet ring.
There were North Islanders keeping their hopes
up, as Maxi was barefoot, as well as the crowd
who didn't believe 100km barefoot was possible,
and finally some supporters. Maxi's heart rate was
50 and 52 after the trot-out, metabolics were fine,
he was sound, and the vets gave the thumbs up. I
was thrilled--we did it! It was great to see people
like Brian Tiffen and John Stevenson coming over
and congratulating us (Brian and John rode for
the NZ Team in Jerez 2002).
The other barefooter unfortunately got pulled on
metabolics after 85km; the horse's feet were fine,
though. Furthermore, the ride statistics are pretty
sobering, too: 44 starters, 22 finishers (I got
22nd), 3 vet outs on metabolics, the rest was
lameness. The winner of the 160km ride stated in
a local magazine, "One of the most horse-
unfriendly tracks I have ever ridden; very, very
tough on horses."
A few days later, we arrived back at home and
guess what I had to do before I turned Maxi out in
the paddock? Yes, that's right, I had to trim his
About the author: Thorsten Kaiser lives in
New Zealand and has been involved in
Endurance Riding for the last five years. He has
accumulated several thousands of competitive
kilometers and reached a turning point when
he joined the barefoot community in January
2002. Since then, he has been promoting barefoot riding in New Zealand. Contact Thorsten
via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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