Thursday, February 7, 2013

So many rocks. So Much mud.

I have to admit that I’m missing the sands of Madame Dorion right now. With Blue barefoot, I have to carefully mete out our time riding on gravel. The bad white hoof is in the process of shedding its frog. It is also losing sole concavity to the point that it is almost perfectly flat. (I pray that this is one of those it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better kinds of setbacks.) The flatness means that he feels every single stupid little rock with that foot. There are many rocks. The only thing that we have more of than rocks is mud. And there is a lot of mud. And it means that if we are outdoors, we are walking. 

“Walking” makes it sound bold. We are not being bold. We are tentative. Mostly we are walking very carefully. Picking our way through the rocks and mud, of which there are many.
So many rocks. So much mud.
Our choices for conditioning right now are somewhat limited. They would be markedly less limited in Walla Walla, which is annoying. I used to complain about my lack of options there. Ha. It was a winter conditioning paradise.
Kara very sweetly invited us to the beach for a long ride on Sunday, but I am a wuss. Low tide was at 10:30 a.m., meaning that I would be getting up at 6 or so to drive to Silverton, hook up, load, turn around and drive to Corvallis, then trailer-pool over to Newport to ride many miles in an environment my horse isn’t crazy about. So basically it would be an endurance ride without the points accumulation. It was shaping up to be a very long day, and in the end I just couldn’t face it.
I did take Blue out for a very short road ride Saturday—his first since we moved. Heather and I used to try to do at least one long road ride a week in the winter, but it is different when you’re by yourself and the roads don’t have shoulders. Which, by the way, the State of Oregon should really look into. Shoulders are nice for those of us who like a buffer between our fragile bodies and the logging trucks.
I was pretty nervous heading out to ride on the road. Blue is a very good road horse, but we’re out of practice. I picked a time of day when I thought traffic would be minimal and visibility would be good. I was wearing a neon road vest. I told someone where I was going. I had warmed my horse up and put my game face on.
We turned off the driveway and onto the road, went roughly two steps, and an enormous coyote bounded out of the clear-cut and onto the road 15 yards ahead. Blue, bless his heart, didn’t move a muscle, but it really didn’t feel like a great way to start out our experimental road ride.
Coyote returns to the brush. I take a deep breath and ride on. Blue is absolutely fine except I can tell he is unhappy with the footing. I don’t want him on the pavement because the road is narrow and winding. Trucks come blasting around bends and the last thing I need is an upset horse on blacktop. So we’re on the foot or so of gravel beside the road before it drops off into the ditch. Blue is not thrilled with the gravel; I am not thrilled with the pavement. So it goes.
We made it back in one piece, so road rides are back on the table for conditioning. 
On Sunday we stayed on the stable’s property, trying to find mud that wasn’t slick or rocky. With those parameters, it was a very short ride. Toward the end, Blue began to refuse to walk anywhere but on the slick green grass. He was actively lame on gravel. Back in the barn, I hosed off his feet and found bruises on the white ones. The bruises are fairly small and shallow, but they are there.
So I went home and ordered a boot fitting kit, two rides too late.

My customer service experience with Easycare so far has been the polar opposite of my experience with the Specialized people in Texas. A real human being answered my emailed question within 24 hours. I ordered on Sunday night and had the kit in my hands by Thursday afternoon. 
Tomorrow I'll do a quick rasping and then try them on.
I'm still not giving up on shoes, though. (Sorry, barefooting friends!) I want him to stay bare as long as I can this winter, but I can't condition if he is lame on the gravel. If I can get the boots to work, I think they will be a good compromise that will allow us to continue conditioning barefoot through February and March regardless of the footing. And if he loves them and they aren't constantly twisting or coming off, well, it wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong.

Oh, man. Speaking of wrong. Laurie had this to say on Facebook this morning:
"Otto ran out with me yesterday on our fourth official training ride of the season. I mean ran out. Flat out. Bat outta hell out. I knew there was a cut coming up soon on the right, that rose steeply into wheat fields, and decided to turn him there. I readied for it, grabbed the right rein with both hands, pulled hard right while kicking hard on my left leg and yelling "Turn!" He blasted right on by. I thought to myself, "I'm just going to have to ride this out" For a split second my scared self said "I can't! I can't!" then my strong self said "do it, stupid, or you die." (that was good incentive) So I urged him on, if it was possible for him to go any faster. He didn't like that, so pretty soon he slowed enough to start bucking. I made him go on. Finally he tired enough that I was able to sit back a little and start jerking up on one rein. He stopped, panting like a mad dog. I made him move out, trotting circles the next half mile. Then we settled to a lovely walk and were able to enjoy the ride home. *whew* And I wonder why I fell asleep at 8:00. There's always a moment or two in spring when I think to myself "I must be insane. I could die like this," then I remind myself that all he and I need is rides and more rides, and we'll be fine. P.S. For my endurance friends...he was doing the most amazing extended trot ever right before he broke and ran...I felt it coming of course but was unable to stop him. Like Forrest, he just felt like runnin'....."
So glad he isn't my horse anymore. So, so glad.  
So glad.
I'm sure there's a scripture about the devil appearing in a beautiful, tempting form.


  1. I agree with you re: Easycare customer service. They are the best. Alas, the dang boots won't stay on the Dragon's feet, and Renegades stay on but don't offer enough protection for her widdle tender toes.

    So, I feel your pain...and uh, also Blue's pain.

    This is the second winter that I've left her in steel shoes, and I gotta say it's working well for us (sorry, barefoot friends). As you say, the winter trail options available here in the Swamp are mud and gravel.

    RE: horses we are glad we don't ride anymore, yeah, I hear ya. Wouldn't go there again for the world!

  2. Even if you go back to shoes, I think his hooves have improved so much from their break from shoes (from the pictures) :)