Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I had a pedicure on Saturday.  My toes are a nice shade of black cherry and I love looking down at my feet when they are freshly done.  Sandal weather makes me very happy.

In the winter Gem gets his pedicure every 8 weeks.  His large feet look beautiful and shiny and strong.   I love how clean the snow keeps his feet and when I see his big hoof prints in snow it makes me smile.  The summer is a different story.  His feet remain pristine for a week or so after a trim and then the chips start.  Last year seemed particularly bad. How could it be that his feet were so beautiful in the winter but so awful in the summer.  Was it the food?  His diet had not changed, with the exception of the addition of limited grass.  Was it because he was getting older (he's only 11)?  Was it the extreme heat and humidity?  Does he need supplements?

So, last summer Shannon over at It's Quarters for Me offered some excellent advice and information (thank you!).  I took time off work to speak with my Farrier and as he was trimming Gem he pointed out a little bruise on Gem's back hoof - I would never have seen it to be quite honest.   Then he pointed to Gem's turnout area and mentioned how bad the flies were.  I stared at him, not getting it.  He said that Gem was probably stamping his feet on the rocky terrain of his turnout out area, trying to get the flies off of him, which was causing the chipping; 1300 lbs of horse  stamping his feet on rocks pretty much guarantees it.  Geez, that made so much sense!   I brought a spade and started digging up some of the rocks.  I got into the routine of the Farrier tidying up Gem's feet every 3 weeks as damage control.

If rocks were a crop, LA's property would have a bumper crop each and every year.  The back field
Gate leading into the back field.

where the herd is currently waiting to be turned out to pasture is full of rocks.  During the spring, it is a sea of mud, so the rocks aren't of too much concern because the horses don't move around much; they stay glued to the huge pile of hay.  But as things dry out, the rocks become more of an issue.  They stick out of the earth,  laying in wait to trip their next victim or chip their feet.  Little dainty quarter horse feet seem to manage their way in between the edges and damage isn't too bad.  It appears that horses that have shoes on fair much better than those that don't, I am assuming because the metal takes the brunt of the impact with the rocks. 

So far, the bugs aren't bad (knock on wood!).  This could be because we had 25C weather the beginning of April allowing mosquitoes and flies to hatch, followed by snow the end of April killing anything that hatched.  There has also been a constant breeze the last few weeks.  Will he get a reprieve this year?  Will his feet be saved?  His feet were looking pretty good......

Last year I didn't start really going out regularly on the trails until late summer.  The trails offer other challenges when it comes to Gem's feet.  The rocks are embedded in the pathways leading from one field to another and the hills in the forest and bush.  Tripping, stumbling and sliding are to be expected when you go out.  Even the dainty feet of a 900 lb. QH can take a beating when out on the trails.  Sometimes, Gem and I actually go off the beaten path a bit because I don't want to risk him walking on the protruding rocks; this means that we may be picking our way through fallen branches if we are in the forest. 

On the way to the trails

DH and his mom.  Can you see the rocks?
DH's Mom and I went out on the trails Friday and Sunday afternoons.  I noticed on Friday after our ride that Gem had some chunks missing from his front feet.  Sigh.  I wasn't too concerned - he's scheduled to see the Farrier on Thursday.  However, after I dismounted on Sunday and I saw his left hind, my stomach started to flip and not in a good way.

Left hind
It wasn't until I put him in the cross-ties and went to take a closer look that I realized that his right hind hoof was missing.  That's when the bottom of my stomach fell out.   OK, OK... I know I am being a bit of a drama queen, but I started to freak out when I saw two big chips on his right hind, peeled back and sticking straight out.  I checked for blood or bruising - nothing.  What to do?!  The thickness of these chips precluded using scissors.  There was no way I could leave them like that.  The father of two of the Young Ladies was working on repairing  stall and I asked if he had anything that could cut off the chips.  Fortunately for me, this guy's father was a farrier and he used to help his dad.  He went and got LA's snips and hoof file (sorry, I don't know what the professional name is!) and clipped off the chips from both feet and lightly filed the rough edges. 

Right hind after removal of chips.  Half his friggin' hoof is missing!!!

Some of what was removed.
I sent an email to LA the next morning, saying that I was uncomfortable riding Gem when his feet were in such bad shape.  I think I could feel her eyes rolling, but she kindly offered to check his soundness and informed me later that he was fine; there was no "ouchiness".  Whew!

I am anxious for the Farrier to do Gem's feet this week.  I will once again set up the 3-week schedule to have his feet done to help with damage control and I have started looking at trail boot options for him.  I will also be soaking his foot in Oxine AH as recommended by Shannon as I think he may have a bit of funkiness going on with this right hind.  

I sent Jean an email telling her what happened and she agreed that she will probably have the same foot issues with Stu once he starts going out on the trails. It's so great to have a riding friend that has a large horse and understands some of the challenges.   We have agreed to take an afternoon and walk the trails and remove any rocks that we can.  Hope my regular manicure holds up to this activity!!  Yep.....have pick, will travel!  :-) 

Thursday, May 24, 2012


It's been an emotional roller coaster the last couple of weeks.  I didn't realize how thinly spread out I was.   Apparently, I can't do everything for everyone.  :-)  On a particular bad day, I booked the afternoon off and my sister met me for lunch.  We sat out on a patio next to the river, drank really cold beer and talked.  It was wonderful.  She had a great analogy:   We are like wells; we start out full and eventually life starts to deplete our supply.  If we don't do things for ourselves to replenish the well, it runs dry.  She has 5 kids, so you can imagine how crazy her life is. She has to work a lot of overtime to help make ends meet.  But when she gets her nails done or goes on a day trip by herself or spends time with a girlfriend, she has no guilt.  These (very) few items are hers alone and they replenish her soul.  She reminded me how lucky I am to have Gem and if I didn't, the top of my head would have blown off long ago.  :-)

In spite of the crappiness I have been experiencing lately, I have been on a couple good of trail rides over the last couple of weekends and my last two lessons have been pretty good.  Both lessons were outside in the front paddock.  The weather was perfect on both occasions.  The barrels were set up because a number of people have been practicing for an upcoming Games competition.   Barrels are great at testing your balance and turning technique.  My lesson Tuesday before last had only myself and nervous classmate in attendance. Gem actually loves doing barrels and for a big guy, his turns are pretty close.  LA explained what the pattern was and Gem and I did it at a trot the first few times, working up to loping home.  After Gem got used to the pattern, LA encouraged us to do it at a lope.  And, we did!  It was great.  

As you know, Gem doesn't like loping small circles.  Head tossing is his usual way of showing me his displeasure with small circles.   This time I tried a different approach.  Instead of opening up the inside rein to bend Gem's nose around the barrel, I used a slight indirect rein as suggested by Glenshee.  Using this technique helped maintain my balance and helped Gem retain his.  And, no head tossing!  I believe that his resistance to doing small circles was because he was falling to the inside and loosing his balance. Thank you Glenshee and thank you Grey Horse Matters for pointing me in the right direction! 

Gem likes to go really, really fast going home when we do barrels.   Both LA and nervous classmate commented on how I am not bothered by speed.  Oh sure, I am brave when it's in a controlled environment.  ;-)  At the end of this lesson, LA said that I was "courageous".  Courageous?  Really?  LA explained that I wasn't afraid of much (obviously she has forgotten how she had to walk me around on Gem when I first got him because I was freaked out about his height!) and although I have resisted on occasion, I still gave whatever she asked me a try.  She was impressed with our performance and it left me with a smile on my face.

This week's lesson was pretty much a repeat of last week's.  Gem really tried and I smiled a lot.  I was with my other classmate this time, the one that everyone hates (in a good way!) because he is a natural.  This classmate was riding with a sore back and was still fantastic.  When he rides, his upper body doesn't move.  His balance is perfect.  He was loping around those barrels like nobody's business.  It was beautiful to watch.   Even LA said she hates him!  :-)   When he rides, he reminds me of Viggo (be still my heart) in Hidalgo.  Yes, he's that good.

 Jump to 3:15 if you want to see what I mean....... (spoiler alert for those that have not seen the movie!!!)  Lead changes after going around the barrels was on the agenda for this lesson.  Other than correcting my lead, I have little experience in this area.  Yikes!   Gem and I struggled with this.   Of course, my classmate did a couple of flying lead changes that were effortless.  Amazing.

 A parent of one of the young ladies, was watching this week's lesson.  He is a very experienced rider and has gone on many family cattle drives out west.  As Gem and I got more into the routine and he saw how hard we tried and how fast Gem and I loped coming home, he commented that perhaps I was on my way to becoming a real cowgirl.  Giddy up!    :-)

Gem replenishes me every time I see him.   Yes, he can sometimes be a pain in the arse, and yes, he can sometimes be a challenge.  But he's always good for my soul.  He makes me "courageous".   He has helped clear my head.  I am a bit of a control freak and I admit that it is hard for me to let go.  However, I have made some decisions over the last couple of weeks and have had the courage and strength to say "no" and to push back.  The twinge of guilt I initially felt has dissipated and is slowly being replaced with relief.  My well is starting to fill up again. :-)  Thank you, Gem!!  xoxo