Rain and Remodel
Steely clouds hung over the valley, stark against the emerald curve of our sunlit hill, as I turned into the driveway of In the Night Farm yesterday afternoon. I hurried to change into riding tights and boots, but by the time I had my Stonewall saddle in one hand and my helmet in the other, the grasses outside were whipping in heavy wind. The horses whirled and bucked in their pens as the sunlight faded. The first raindrops turned quickly to hail, spattering their rumps and pinning their ears against lowered heads.
I, too, felt a prickle of irritation. Though comfortable and dry indoors, I hadn’t ridden in 10 days and was eager to put in 11 or 12 miles to leg Aaruba back up for this weekend’s LD races at the Pink Flamingo Classic. I considered going anyway, but stepping aboard a young, fit, fresh horse in the middle of a thunderstorm seemed like a good way to break at least one important body part. Better not to risk it.
Instead, I slid my saddle back onto its rack and printed a copy of my endurance ride packing checklist. Between checks to see whether the storm had passed, I measured beet pulp, Senior feed, oats, and salt. I gathered electrolytes, vet kit, and extra Easyboots. (Incidentally, one of my new Bares arrived in a very attractive, silver tin not unlike the ones that usually contain Christmas cookies. I wonder if this is Easycare’s new, standard packaging. I hope so!) I packed Wyrsa’s dog food and miscellaneous supplies and was about to head for the kitchen to brew a batch of marinara to take along when the sun reappeared and the wind let up.
7:00 arrived cool and breezy, but sunny. I retrieved my saddle and headed out to catch Aaruba. Soggy and bedraggled, he was expecting dinner and made his displeasure known when I bridled him instead of serving up his usual bucket of beet pulp and oats. However, a few laps around the round corral warmed and cheered him. I grabbed a hoof pick and Easyboot…only to discover this apparently overgrown hoof!
That hoof was trimmed and mustang rolled just 11 days ago. Travis and I noted at the time that Aaruba’s soles looked just about ready to slough away. This is part of the natural remodeling process that takes place as a barefoot horse adapts. Aaruba’s hoof walls have been a bit too long and somewhat flared for months now, but we couldn’t trim them back as much as we wanted to until his sole receded. Paring away the sole with a hoof knife is a bad idea, as it is a weight bearing structure and is necessary to protect the delicate, inner structures of the hoof until they adjust to extended barefoot work.
With the flexible protection of his Easyboots to prevent overwearing of his hoof walls during many miles of conditioning on hard and rocky surfaces, Aaruba’s coffin bone has drawn up and his live sole remodeled at last. The old sole, no longer needed, fell away while we were away on vacation, so now the wall can now be trimmed back to its appropriate length, thereby eliminating the flare. Here is the same hoof, post-trim.
The hoof wall is still too long, some flare remains, and the balance isn’t perfect yet. We’re waiting now for the sensitive laminae, or “quick” to recede so the wall can be further shortened. This transition phase isn’t ideal for the weekend’s races, but the trimming process (mostly rasping, actually) isn’t painful and this ride features excellent footing. At this point, I anticipate riding with Easyboots in front and bare hooves behind, and we shouldn’t have any trouble.
Having spent our riding time on hoof work, Aaruba and I celebrated his remodel with half an hour of dancing in the round corral. His endurance and balance at the canter have improved dramatically in the past six weeks, as we’ve introduced faster under-saddle work and a few, extended canters on the lunge.
When we finished, I paused to admire the network of blood vessels standing out on his sweaty shoulder. This is one way in which the equine body adapts to increased exercise and the resultant need to eliminate heat from the body’s interior. It should come in handy this weekend, though temperatures for Cascade, Idaho, where the PFC is held, are forecasted at a relatively balmy 85 degrees.