Yesterday I went out to catch Red and found him snoozing comfortably in the sunshine with his buddy Rusty watching over him. He wasn’t in too big a hurry to get up, and we spent a little time saying hello while he munched the carrot I brought him. Carrots are absolutely his very favorite treat. On our walk in to the barn, he stopped to pee a small amount. This has become a fairly regular habit for him – I’m not sure if he really has to pee, or he’s anticipating a long ride, or it’s just a stall tactic to delay the inevitable being tied in the barn & then work. Really, though, he definitely enjoys his work! Another habit of his is to poop pretty much as soon as I tie him to start grooming. This happens every time, unless I actually want a manure sample for a parasite test!
When I tied him, he could not stand still and even whinnied for his buddies a few times. “Uh oh!” I thought to myself, this is going to be a “fun” ride. It was very windy, and that typically makes my spooky boy Red even more spooky than usual. I think the wind provides two challenges: 1) he can’t hear as well to locate sounds & get early warnings of things approaching (like traffic) and 2) objects in the environment are very mobile and the movement startles him. Even on windy days, though, he usually stands very quietly when tied. After two passes up & down the barn aisle to retrieve various things from the car, I discovered why Red was so jumpy in the barn. There were scary monsters living in the stall across the passage from him! Scary monsters that say “baa!” Carol picked up a few lambs yesterday to raise for meat, and they’re in the stall next door. They’re little enough that I couldn’t see them when I walked past, and they hadn’t made any noise, so I was surprised to discover them. Apparently Red didn’t even want to come in the barn for dinner last night because of them.
I struggled a bit to get the Easy Boot Epic on his right front, which for some reason has gotten much wider since last fall. His left front foot has always been less round and therefore narrower than his right front, and so the boot went on that foot relatively well. It is still a tight fit, even in these broken in boots, and I use a rubber mallet to bang them into place. I still don’t have a 2nd set of boots for hinds (although I have a “fit kit” in route from Easy Care so I will be able to pre-fit the Easy Boot Gloves before I order them), so he had to go barefoot back there. Red’s feet are tougher than Rhio’s and he doesn’t usually complain about the loose, sharp gravel on the road like Rhio does, so barefoot behind isn’t usually too much of an issue for him. In fact, I have done individual loops and several entire limited distance rides entirely barefoot with Red, depending on the course. He really just needs the hoof protection for all our conditioning miles, the majority of which occur on the gravel roads.
We’re finally ready to ride, and head out down the driveway sans Kelso. Kelso no longer chooses to come on rides down the road, although I force him to sometimes when he really needs the exercise. Today, I declined to torture my dog because we did a long hike yesterday, and let him stay in my car to wait. I don’t know whether he gets out of the car to play with the farm dogs or wander around while I’m gone, but he’s always laying in the back when I return. I leave the back open for him and make sure my interior dome lights are off so as not to drain the battery. He is happier being left in the car than being left at home.
I was pleasantly surprised as we started out that Red seemed calm & steady – not at all what I was anticipating. The wind was at our backs for most of the first half of the ride, and although we were startled by a few vehicles that we didn’t hear coming and by a pair of ducks that flew up out of the creek, Red was his normal self. Normal for Red includes shying from puddles, wet gravel, deep tire marks, cracks, culverts, remnant snowbanks, and the like and we travel down the road in a “drunken” line. He was also particularly fond today of gazing down driveways and drifting into them as he did so.
All was well until we started running into more scary monsters, albeit inanimate scary monsters this time. The first was an abandoned shopping cart. How it made its way to a quiet gravel road 10 miles from the nearest store with shopping carts is beyond me. It won a concerned stare as we trotted past, but went better than I expected.
The second scary monster was by far the scariest and actually required me to dismount and lead Red over to it and then past. Someone has dumped a twin mattress & box spring right at the corner of Church & Pioneer roads, where we make the turn to start up the “sheep hill.” Red was quite sure this scary monster was going to eat us, and put all senses on high alert despite my assurances that we were not about to be devoured.
The last scary monster (of course, we had to pass them all again on our way home, so it wasn’t really the last) was a pile of cut & split wood right beside the road. From the sawdust in the road, it was clear that the tree had been down across the road and someone cleared it. This scary monster was on the minimum maintenance road portion of Church Road and was very near our turn-around spot. Red loves to turn for home, and always give me a big, bold trot when we do so. Amazingly, his fear of scary monsters also quite diminishes on the way home, and we were able to trot past both the pile of wood and the shopping cart, although we still walked as far away as possible and stared intently at the mattress & box spring.
I didn’t spend nearly as much time growling at him to “Knock it off!” when he gets goofy & spooky as I had expected, my helmet stayed on my head despite the wind’s very strong effort to remove it, and we got a nice, slow 8 mile ride under our belts, so I was pleased with the day. I wasn’t so pleased, however, with the tiny, nearly imperceptible “offness” I could feel in his gait. Red has had some soundness issues in the past with his neck (something I acupuncture him for on an ongoing basis) and a hock, so I am hyper-vigilant about anything that seems not quite right. Red got an acupuncture treatment when we got home, and I hope to ride him again Wednesday to assess how he’s feeling.