Riding King in the Snow

This was taken right after Christmas when the snow was a really nice consistency and the footing was perfect. The camera is a helmet cam with some anti vibration technology built in. It’s not so great in the flat white light of winter/snow. But I think it’ll be a lot of fun to take it to competitions in the spring.

Icy Footing

Every year at this time, and sometimes for the entire winter, the footing goes all to hell. It poured rain a few days ago. Which saturated the snow, but didn’t melt it completely. Then it got cold again. It’s not as bad as some years (there’ve been times the horses couldn’t get safely out of the barn), but there’s no way to ride safely when it’s like this. 

It always seems to happen when I’m really motivated to ride. So then I fuss and fume, and worry that King is going to gain weight again (putting the miniscule few pounds I managed to work off him right back on again). He is a big horse anyway, especially for an Arab. But he’s also an easy keeper with a voracious appetite. So it makes him just that much bigger. He’s been teased his whole life about being “part Arab, and maybe part Percheron?” he’s not. He’s just a plain old Arab (Polish/Crabbet… he’s an Azraff grandson). It’s just that you’d never know it under that layer of fat.

This year I’m absolutely determined to work it off him. It is not just a cosmetic problem.  Carrying that extra weight slows him down, makes him sensitive to the heat, and tires him out. If I could ever get him down to normal size, I’m sure it would make him a far more competitive horse.

Figuring Out Boots

King has been barefoot for his whole life, with the exception of a couple of months when he was four. He has a groove down the outside wall of his left front hoof. It’s from a nasty wire cut that left a deep scar through his coronet band. Mostly the groove is stable and stays closed. But if he hits a rock hard enough and just the wrong way, it will split open. Once it split so badly that the entire outside heel came loose. i thought perhaps shoes would help that. But shoes didn’t work very well for him. He seemed to torque them off regularly. Sometimes within a few hours. Sideclips helped. But in the end it just seemed way too expensive and way too reliant on having a capable farrier somewhere nearby to make it worth doing. So long as I manage the foot carefully, daylighting the groove and taking off any rough edges or chips nearby, the whole thing seems to stay closed and stable. And ripping shoes off that hoof regularly sure does not help it.

So we started using EasyBoots for particularly difficult footing. But boots haven’t always been a perfect solution either. We’ve had two boot incidents that were a bit disastrous. The first was at a ride years ago, when he was admittedly still a complete hooligan. A couple of horses passed us on trail, and he thought racing after them would be an excellent plan. I disagreed. He tried to bolt. I tried to block all that energy. So he went up and kinda sideways. Quite explosively. Then he abruptly tipped over. I smacked my head on the ground when we went down (yep… another smashed helmet… and concussion #2). He jumped up and ran after the horses that had passed him (he does like to have his way). I saw his boots on the ground. Somehow he’d managed to hook one boot up with the cable on the other boot. Literally got his feet tangled up, and that was why he’d fallen down. Trust King to come up with something that convoluted.

The second incident with regular EasyBoots happened just last fall. I tried Gloves instead of the old style boots for the summer, and they worked well. But then, in a fifty, the gaiters rubbed his pasterns very badly. He developed scratches that were still healing by the time Oktoberfest came around. So I went back to the old boots. The trail had a few minor washouts from rain. He got himself going around one corner too fast (okay, I know… I’m supposed to be the one in control here!) and sort of slithered sideways into a washout. He scrambled and bobbled hard. I slowed him up, but he seemed fine and we carried on trotting after a while. We were just a few miles from the end of the loop, and he was going along very well. Then perhaps a mile from the check, I felt a little bob for a few strides. Then it went away. We got into the check, and he was off at the trot out. It was very mild and looked initially like a hind end lameness. But once he stood around a while it became obvious that it was the front left. Then I had a closer look at his boot. All the screws had been ripped out of the inner wall of the boot. He’d apparently stepped on it during that scramble through the washout. And his ankle was swelling a bit too. He was completely sound and all the swelling gone in 24 hours, so luckily it was nothing serious. But it’s obvious to me that this horse really needs a low profile, form-fitting boot that he can’t catch with his other feet.

So. I’ve done some research and have ordered the newer style gaiter. EasyCare is supposed to have improved the gaiters so they don’t rub. Hopefully that will be the case and I can ride him in those for shorter conditioning rides. I also found some suggestions on Chris Martin’s Goober Glue blog that might help fix the gaiter problem. But for actual rides I think we are going to have to go to the Glue On boots. I just hope I can get that all figured out so that they stay on and work for him.

And of course… it just occurred to me that Brooke is riding Dressy this year. Ack!! I have to figure out her feet too now…

Today’s Ride

Sunday today, so Brooke was here to ride Dressy. Misha came, crippled up from a fall in her driveway, but rode with us anyway. It was a pretty good ride. Six miles in around two hours. I used the GPS, but neglected to turn it on until we’d been out for about 20 minutes. The snow was not too deep, but was very wet and heavy. So it was hard slogging. We walked almost all of it. King has been doing this all winter and he’s showing obvious improvement in his strength. He really plows through even big drifts without much effort.

Dressy had the heart rate monitor on, and she’s actually running a bit lower than I expected. Though she definitely started running a bit higher towards the end of the ride. And Diego is looking very good. He’s put on weight through this past winter and is looking much rounder and not so weedy as he did originally. He doesn’t like the heavy snow, but he is still pretty fit considering how little he did through the fall and winter.

GPS Track

Not Riding

I feel kind of guilty that I haven’t ridden since Monday. I’ve been on a roll up until now. I’ve ridden King an average of three times a week since mid-December. But I’ve been feeling like hell all week. At one point I started thinking it must be food poisoning when the nausea got really bad. Couldn’t eat for three days. On the plus side… I lost about 4 lbs.  And I’m starting to feel a bit better today. Brooke is coming to ride Dressy tomorrow, so I will probably try to ride. Hopefully King won’t be too sprightly. Famous last words.

I’ve been tinkering with his saddle for the last few weeks. It’s an Australian saddle with the wool flocked panels. It’s supposed to adjust to fit him over time. But it’s been dropping down way too much in front. I took an awl to it and shifted the wool forward. It took a couple of sessions of adjusting and then riding on the shifted panels, then adjusting again. But it’s definitely starting to fit him better now. The cantle has dropped down some. It’s sitting more correctly over his shoulder, giving him room to move. And it’s stopped rubbing hair off his loin. I took out the pad completely for this, and have just been riding him with the saddle directly on his back. It’s completely covered in white hairs now of course. But he’s not sweating a whole lot and he’s not particularly grubby since it’s a snowy winter so it shouldn’t do the saddle any harm.

Jasper Goes to Town

Yesterday our racehorses at work all shipped down to Woodbine for the beginning of the racing season. Seven of them are experienced racehorses. But Jasper is brand new to the big time.

He loaded up on the trailer with no real fuss. His eyes were big, and he zigzagged a bit in apprehension. But he loaded up and stood quietly. I heard later that he’d handled the trip fine, and unloaded calmly at the track. The biggest issue was that he thought it was completely CRAZY to have his hay tied up in a net hanging outside his stall gate.

He went out this morning for his first tour of the place. To the sand ring, which is quieter and slower than the big track or the training track. My boss tells me that he was absolutely fabulous. He went with Soupy (an older, and very calm mare) and jogged around about half a dozen times.  Three horses cantered past at one point, and he got a bit alarmed and stopped. But otherwise he never put a foot wrong.

Jasper is a bit of an interesting case. When he was seven days old, he fractured his shoulder. No one saw it happen. He just came in lame from the pasture.  He had to be kept on stall rest until he was a year old. He tormented his mother constantly while she was still in the stall with him. She was so sick of him by the time he was weaned that she never called to him even once when they were separated.

When he arrived at the farm (from the foaling farm), he was the scrawniest, weediest looking little guy ever. His head was much too big for his body. He’d been kept on very short rations to try to keep his energy level below explosive. So he was quite underweight.

Once he was cleared to be turned out (carefully), we started feeding him more. And he grew. And grew. And grew some more. He’s three now. And over 17hh. Grey. With a great huge long stride. He doesn’t look particularly fast when you watch him gallop. Too big, and too long-strided to give you an impression of speed.  It will be fun to see how he comes along as he gets fitter though.

Winter…. bleh.

I’m getting pretty tired of winter. We had a little taste of spring last week, but we paid for it with a winter storm right afterwards.

I have, however, been virtuous and have ridden King quite regularly since the end of December. Mostly walking through the snow. It got quite deep, and even after our big thaw, there are still some leftover deep sections. At first, he seemed to find it quite hard work. But now he ploughs through it like a big freight train.

Today I put the heart rate monitor on him for the first time in about a year. It was only reading intermittently, but the highest that I saw was 110. He does get quite damp, but he has a very heavy winter coat, so it’s not surprising.

Speaking of the winter coat…. holy cow. He’s starting to shed, and it’s like a great big exploding down filled pillow. There is hair everywhere. In the barn, on my clothes, in the house. Up my nose…