This has been an eventful week in the “burning through paychecks” aspect of being an endurance rider.
I took my horse trailer up to Newberg to Hitchin' Post to get some long-needed repairs. These repairs were supposed to be done at TheTrailer Place in Walla Walla back in February, but their service department leaves much to be desired. (Like, for instance, I desired them to put all of my requested fixes on the work order after I told them what I wanted done. And they apparently desired to guess about what I wanted instead of taking notes or calling me to ask.)
I will say this about the Hitchin' Post. Those are nice people. They answered every phone call and email I sent them, which turned out to be a lot. I had questions; they had answers. When I decided I wanted a new hitch to help my trailer sit level, they found one. When I asked about corral panels, they were more than happy to connect me with someone local who fabricates them. (Although they wouldn’t sell me the set of Silver Medals that were strapped to one of their consignment goosenecks—or rather, the owner wasn’t keen on selling the panels without the trailer. Aarene has a set, and I covet them increasingly. But not so much that I would buy a $17,000 trailer just to get them.)
I haven’t seen the official repair bill yet, but I’m guessing it’ll be in the $1500 ballpark… which is awfully close to what the trailer cost when I bought it a couple years ago. Please don’t tell Brian! Anyway, the fixes were for my comfort and safety. You can’t put a price on that. Right? Right?!
On Monday I met my new vet, a nice guy who used to do some endurance and was interested in how I thought a mustang compared to the competition. Since Blue has not actually competed yet, I have very few data points! But I did tell him a bit about Otto and the reasons I decided to switch horses 3 times in 5 years. (I told that story, right? In short: Otto was too hot, Topper was too cold, and all signs point to Blue being just right.)
And before you get alarmed, I should point out that I met the vet under normal-to-happy circumstances. I wanted Blue to get his spring vaccinations well before we start traveling. (Yay, traveling!) I was thinking of possibly going to the Grizzly Mountain ride on April 21. I think, looking out my window right now at the hail bouncing in the puddles, that Grizzly will be very much contingent on the weather report. I heard a rumor there was a winter storm warning for that part of the state this week. Either way, I wanted Blue to get his shots and have time to recover in case he has a reaction.
On Wednesday, I met my new farrier. I know I am getting old because I immediately wondered if they are letting elementary school kids shoe horses these days. Seriously, he might pass for 17. There are no signs that he can grow a beard or vote. But since I don’t need him to do either of those things, I will settle for him knowing how to trim and shoe a horse. And trim and shoe he did!
Blue was overdue for hoof work. How overdue? I’m almost too ashamed to type it. His last farrier visit was Jan. 10. Moving threw everything out of whack, and I was a naughty horse owner not to find a way to take care of the problem sooner. I kid you not, the The Kid, whose name is Cody, probably took a good 2 inches of wall off Blue’s front feet. As it is, he says it will take 2 or 3 more sessions to undo the long toes and underslung heels to the point that he’s happy with them. Right now, he is merely satisfied that the problem isn’t likely to get worse before his next visit.
I am excited that he put Blue into fancy Natural Balance shoes, something that was a little too newfangled for my farrier in Walla. I’m doubly excited that The Kid was using words like medial, distal, deep flexor tendons, suspensory ligaments, and tubules. From the mouths of babes, dear reader.
He didn’t suggest transitioning to barefoot, which I appreciate. (Not that I’m totally unwilling, just that this would be the Worst Possible Time to try.) Nor did he seem too worried about the thrush. He says it pretty much comes with the territory here. I should do my best to control it but not sweat it too much.
So once I paid The Kid, I figured I might as well ride.
Blue and I have been working on control. I have read and re-read Eric Hought’s training articles on this topic. I even put one in the PNER Newsletter this month. I tried to use his techniques with Otto, but we had too many factors against us. With Blue, in western Oregon, the one thing I have is loads of arena time. So guess what? We practiced the crescendo. We’ve been practicing it since I moved to the new barn, and I think we have made huge, massive, thrilling progress.
In fact, Blue’s progress has outpaced my own, so that now I have to police myself constantly. He is so light and sensitive that every slight shift of my weight or movement of my pinkie MEANS SOMETHING. I know that is how riding is supposed to be, but Blue is literally the first horse I’ve owned for whom it was true. And so while my reflexes and I are used to kind of schlubbing our way into a lazy stop, Blue is now stopping hard. At which point I go flying forward and have to remind myself to STOP LOOKING DOWN and actually expect the horse to stop when I say stop.
He’s also rating his trot like a champ, even when there are other horses around. This too is a challenge for me because I am so used to having to haul on a horse to reduce speed. Right now, in the arena at least, all I have to do is lift my hand. I don’t even take the slack out of the rein. It’s kind of amazing.
I am hoping that the sun this weekend will allow us to take some of these skills into the real world, where I can get a better assessment of his fitness level. That, even more than the weather, will make the decision about Grizzly.
Postscript: In the hour or so since I wrote this post, I found a used corral to buy in Salem. It is a JB or HYH style setup, for a fraction of what it costs new. I have decided that it would be foolish NOT to buy it at this price, so now I will be well and truly broke until next Friday. Don't tell Brian!