We’ve been lucky the last few weeks and had some glorious sunshine and warm temperatures. This means that my goal of getting Uno out every weekend (currently the only time I can ride) has been successful. More usually, this plan prompts three months of pouring rain meaning the trails are in such bad shape that it’s safer to stay at home.

Two weeks ago we left home in lovely sunshine and drove 20 minutes down the road to Cool so that we could ride in thick, peasoup fog.

In the fog at Cool

OK, so that wasn’t the exact purpose of the exercise, but…

It was a bit like riding in Wuthering Heights as the mist blew across the moors. No matter, it gave us excellent practice in negotiating the swamp-like terrain while not being able to see much. I was glad that Uno was barefoot as I think he was better able to feel his way along the sloppy trail. Even with this advantage, we nearly went down once and I was impressed by his ability to keep us upright (previously not a skill I’d thought he possessed).

Last weekend’s excursion went much better. Both Fergus and Uno were barefoot as usual and we managed to get in 15 miles, including some long-trotting by virtue of the drying trails and careful choice of route (round here, we don’t have much by way of long-trotting trails – mostly it’s trot 10 feet, walk 20 feet, repeat).

Uno and Lucy above the Confluence
Uno and me tailing Fergus near the American River Confluence. Uno was less thrilled at having to go “Fergus Walk Speed” (5+ mph) than I was.
Owing to the number of beach-goers on No Hands Bridge, I opted to get off and walk for a while.

I’d like to say that the pones were both barefoot because of my commitment to toughening their feet. In reality, it had more to do with lack of time. We’re still living in Slop Land and everything is still liberally covered in mud.

Provo's Feet... (use your imagination)
Look carefully, there are feet in there – honest… Luckily, these belong to Provo, one of the non-workers

Rinsing the mud off their hooves wouldn’t take long, but removing the dangling mud-balls* affixed decoratively to their fetlocks is likely to be an afternoon’s worth of effort (or at very least, a non-stylish haircut hacked at with a pair of scissors) so wrapping gaiters around pasterns is out of the question. (* Those mud-balls always bring to mind the 25 bells on the back of Queen Elizabeth II’s pink Silver Jubile hat. …but I digress).

In Roo’s case – delicate flower that he is – care is needed. Removing the mud can also mean removing the top layer of hair – an exercise that, strangely, he isn’t at all keen on.

Roo masquerading as a seal-point siamese
Roo. This colouring is known as “seal-pointed arab”.

On the schedule for next weekend is to get Uno fitted for his 2011 season’s boots. We’re due to go to the 20 Mule Team endurance ride at the end of February and I need to make sure what boots I have are going to work for him. Back in September, I finally realised that he’d graduated to a size 2 Easyboot Glove in front, and need to ascertain if his trend towards bigger feet has continued through the winter.

Unfortunately (for me) Trimming Day (like Wash Day or Bath Day) is also coming up next weekend, so my toilet brush is coming out of retirement. Every barefoot rider living in mud should have their own toilet brush. The long handle means less time stooped over a recalcitrant horse, and less soaking for the operator from the inevitable fidgeting and leg flailing. And, eventually, the mud should come off revealing the bald clean legs beneath.

It could take a while, though.

Lucy Chaplin Trumbull – Northern California