To say the weekend didn't quite go as expected would be an understatement.
Patrick called me as I was leaving work at 8 pm on Thursday evening to tell me that Hopi had a poked eye and it was swollen shut.
As part of Hopi's continuing education, he was to join us on our trip to the two-day Washoe Valley endurance ride as a spectator - to get some ridecamp experience and to be exposed to ridecamp stuff - horses, people and dogs going past at all hours of the day and night; RVs, trucks, trailers, ATVs passing; perhaps a fake vet check if the vets were amendable; and, most importantly for him, food appearing in front of him at regular intervals - no need to share - just stand and eat all day long. Hopi thinks ridecamps are "A Good Thing".
By the time I got home and inspected his eye, it didn't look too bad - he was able to open it and wasn't unduly reactive to us prodding at it, so it was decided we would continue as planned since if he needed veterinary help we were going somewhere where there would be vets, and if he needed regular administering to, we'd be on hand to be his personal slave for most of the weekend.
As it turned out, by the following morning the eye was looking much better, the swelling was down, the watering had stopped, and although you could see a poke and a scrape on his eyeball, he seemed quite happy. Go figure.
Problem #2 occurred about three minutes before loading up on Friday, late morning - Fergus, tied to a post while Patrick went to collect the next horse, managed to get tangled in his lead rope, resulting in him jammed upsidedown against the post, legs flailing. 1100 lb horses should not get into those positions. The result was a cut on one heel and two rope burns on the other pastern, and goodness knows what in terms of tweakedness from pretzelling himself. We trotted him and he seemed sound, applied desitin to his owies, and decided to load him up anyway and see how he was by the time we reached the ride (3.5 hours drive away).
The gang, ready to take on Washoe Valley - L to R: Fergus, Patrick, Hopi, and Small Thing
As it turned out, Fergus passed the vet check with no problems. And Small Thing didn't disgrace himself on his debut appearance in front of the vets. Both were checked in for the 25-mile ride the following day and we retired to the trailer to figure out what we were going to do for footwear.
Originally, I'd intended for Fergus to just wear Gloves, but clearly with his owies that wasn't going to work - the gaiters would be putting pressure in exactly the wrong places, so instead I opted to glue boots on his back feet and, as luck would have it I had a size 2 and a 1.5 Glue-on left over from glueing Uno at 20 Mule Team 15 months earlier. I also had some adhere glue from the same time period and although it had been stored in the cool basement, I was sure that at some point I'd left my booting box sitting out in the sun, so didn't know how effective it would still be. For his front feet, he'd wear Gloves, but I'd put Goober Glue (now Sikaflex) in the bottom of all four boots for extra sole protection from the NV rocks.
Let it be said here and now that I *hate* glueing boots. I have no idea why, but the whole situation fills me with angst and I usually end up suffering from glueing-induced tourettes. This glueing session was no exception.
To start with, it is recommended that you glue on a clean, even surface. That way you can clean the feet and casually put them down while you're relaxedly applying glue to the shells. In my case, Fergus was standing in 2" of fluffy NV dust with bits of freshed-chipped sagebrush mixed in.
Secondly, my glue-gun which works fine when no tube is inserted, seizes up as soon as I put the tube in and start to pump - the handle doesn't spring back making it almost impossible to get any glue out (I suspect, in retrospect, that the plungers are gummed up and catching on the inside of the glue tube and it just needs a good cleaning).
Thirdly, the temperature was dropping quickly in the high desert and it was probably below 40 degrees when I started to glue. I've never glued in anything but warm weather, so wasn't expecting the glue to take as long as it did to set up - resulting in mild panic that the glue had gone bad and I'd just ruined the only Glue-ons that I had with me.
Fourthly, it is helpful to have good lighting so you can see what you're doing. Glueing during oncoming nightfall with no headlamp doesn't help.
And finally, despite having asked for advice, I, of course didn't take it. Which meant that I put the sole-packing glue in the boot rather than spatula-ing directly onto the foot - resulting in a less even layer to protect the sole, and also resulting in excess glue oozing out the back of the boot. And despite being told that I should coat any hairy areas with petroleum jelly to prevent any unwanted adhesion, I of course didn't do so. I did remember to ask Patrick to walk Fergus around once I'd finished applying the boots, to make sure that all the glue in the sole would squish nicely to the right places around the grooves of his feet. But I didn't remember to check for excess oozing glue.
At 3 am I remembered - but by then it was too late. And when I checked first thing in the morning - yup - I'd managed to glue the gaiter to the back of his foot. <sigh> The only thing I could do at that point was very, very carefully snip the glued part of the gaiter away from the outer part of the gaiter with my scissors, so although it would remain firmly attached to his foot, it wouldn't be pulling on it all day.
Fergus' fur-lined boot after removal. You can see where I had to cut the gaiter apart to prevent it yanking on the back of his foot all weekend.
I figured, what the heck, given his hog-tying antics he'd probably come up sore within the first ten miles anyway, so at that point I was fairly fatalistic about Fergus' likelihood of achieving anything much that weekend.
Bundled in their blankies, we make a last lap of camp before bedtime
Because of all the gluing activities, by the time I turned my attention to Small Thing's footwear I was uptight, frazzled, and badly in need of supper. It was 10 pm and the temperatures were dropping towards freezing. But knowing what a fidget-pants the pony can be, despite not having to start the 25-miler until 8 am, I didn't want to wait until the morning to try and put his boots on and result in us "Having Words" - and me starting the day in a hassled state. His boots would be applied that evening so everything would be nice and calm and relaxed in the morning for his debut ride.
To ensure no boot losses would be had, that morning, Patrick had very carefully applied brand new powerstraps to each of Small Thing's brand new Gloves. The result, in the dropping temperature, was a set of boots that was impossible to actually get on his feet. If I'd been on my own I probably would have just given up and stuck his old boots on and called it good. But Patrick came up with the bright idea of setting the new boots in front of the heater in the trailer to soften them up. I took each one out in turn, together with my rubber mallet, and whapped them firmly onto his feet. It worked perfectly. Four smartly yellow-powerstrapped Gloves decorating his dainty feet.
I went in and had supper - it was 10:30 pm.
Ride Morning - Saturday
Because of the aforementioned worry over having glued Fergus' foot to the gaiter, I was up at 6 am and went to watch the start of the 50-mile ride. There was ice on the buckets but it was a lovely clear morning.
Everything went very smoothly during pre-ride preparation, if you ignore the part where Small Thing swung around to look at something just as I was trying to do up the velcro on his brushing-booties and promptly knocked me on my butt and stood firmly on my foot as I was sprawled backwards.
Words were had and he minded his manners better after that. I thanked my forethought at having put on his Gloves the previous evening. Patrick wasn't quite ready to go when we were, so I opted to make a lap of camp to warm the pony up and see how his small brain was dealing with the situation. I'm happy to report that it was a non-event. He was a bit concerned that we'd left Fergus back at the trailer but was otherwise calm and acting like an adult. Score 1 for Small Thing.
Approaching the start line - couldn't have asked for better behaviour
Photo: Gina Hall
Photo: Gina Hall
The head-height difference really illustrates the mismatch. Photo: Gina Hall
Off we went, and about 100 yrds after the start line, Small Thing picked up his usual jog-to-keep-up-with-Fergus-who's-walking - and he was dead lame. Not "slightly funky feeling, maybe he'll warm out of it" lame, but "full blown, head-bobbing, even a non-horse person would spot something was amiss" lame.
Rude words were said.
I hopped off and took off his front boot in case by some fluke some rock had climbed in there during the night, but no... he was dead lame barefoot too.
And as quickly as it started, Small Thing's debut had once again come to an end.
Patrick, bless him, very kindly offered to let me ride Fergus instead (would have necessitated a trip to the ride office to switch our entries), but at that point I'd had enough. I sent him on his way, fully expecting him to end up in the same boat as I was, with a sore Fergus from the previous day's tangle.
Small Thing and I trudged back to the start and vet Karen Hassan took a look at him before we returned to the trailer (Hopi was happy to see us). The pony wasn't reactive to hoof-testers, and Karen complimented him on his flexion (not for nothing is he sometimes known as "Gumby"), but the only thing she could find was slight soreness to his heel.
As best I can figure out, putting a warmed set of brand new boots, with brand new powerstraps, onto his feet and then leaving them on overnight while he stood quietly tied to the trailer in freezing temperatures caused them to effectively shrink wrap onto his feet and cause enough pressure to bruise him.
Erg. It's not like he's a delicate flower, so how frustrating can you get? If only I'd just put on his old, stretched boots. If only I'd been manly enough to put the boots on first thing in the morning. If only we'd just opted for plain boots instead of powerstrapped boots, all might have been well. Erg.
* * *
Approximately 3.5 hours later, Patrick and Fergus were spotted far out in the sagebrush travelling lickety split, coming in from the first 20 mile loop. Huh? What happened to the horse that ought to be sore? the one with the rope burns and the cuts? Yup - he was the sound one, coming into camp at a dull roar with a beaming Patrick on top, telling me he was having his best ride ever.
Patrick and his Golden Boy. Photo Gore/Baylor
Fergus diving into his lunch at the hour hold at 20 miles
Patrick and Fergus completed the last five miles in the same style and both looked like they'd had a lot of fun that day - which was wonderful. The back glue-ons were still firmly attached to his feet, and the glued-to-his foot gaiter didn't seem to be giving him any trouble. Neither the rope burns nor the cut were causing any pain.
Not least was it even more wonderful because I was due to take Fergus out the following day and ride the 50-miler. We would take it slow and aim just to get around. Although, it turned out, Fergus had other ideas.
Photo: Bill Gore
We had a marvellously relaxing first ten miles or so, riding alone in the cool morning air as we climbed to the top of the 7000' mountain. Against my better judgement, I slithered off (the ground is much further away than I'm used to) to hike the long downhill, but gladly found a large rock to get back on again at the bottom.
At the top of the big climb - looking down on the big descent
After the hill, Fergus decided it was time we stretched out a little and demonstrated his finest long-trot. It's not that he has a super-fast tempo, or that he has foot-flipping extension when he does it, it's more that he's just a big boy so his "easy trot" covers ground in a way that months of riding the short-pony-trot causes me to be in awe of. So this is how the other half lives?
The concept of passing people at rides is not alien to me. But the concept of passing them and them staying passed - and not being seen again - is quite unknown. I could get used to this.
Nice heel-first landing... Photo: Bill Gore
Later in the afternoon we trudged up the second long climb of the day and he wasn't quite so eager, but none of his reticence seemed to have anything to do with soreness - more to do with the fact that it was afternoon-nap time.
We came from all the way down there...
Approaching lake-level again he cheered up considerably and on the final few miles in Washoe State Park I had to specifically ask him to keep it down for fear of him injuring himself in the final mile or so.
Looking down on ridecamp at Washoe Lake level
So the weekend turned out to be a success. Fergus handily rolled out 75 miles of training, despite being the horse who should have been lame. I got some unwanted glueing practice in. Patrick had his best ride yet. Hopi got tons of camp exposure and didn't lose an eye. Small Thing showed that he can act like a grown up and will cope very well with a ride start - assuming, of course, we ever actually start a ride properly. So far we're 0 for 3.
And I learned some valuable lessons about cramming boots onto feet. If the boots are that tight, Powerstraps are not needed until new boots have been used a few times. Don't just put them on "because".
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California