Friday, June 1, 2012

In Search Of An Arena

One of the interesting things about the new place is that it's forcing me to be very creative. There are no fenced in arenas or round pens (although the latter may change soon), and at first I was rather happy about that. One of my frustrations about the old place was how limited I was in where I could go. The indoor was tiny (maybe 60' x 100'), the round pen always seemed to be either flooded or like concrete, and while I could put my jumps in the front paddock, the footing was really inconsistent and I couldn't use it half the time. It was also really hard to do any trail-riding beyond the little dirt road unless we trailered to a park. Now, in a place with a huge former cornfield and miles and miles of dirt road for trails (plus a HUGE trail park less than 10 miles away), the possibilities are much greater.

Except when it rains. All that rain last week turn the field into a swamp/lake. And the pasture. And every other crevice in site. Everywhere I looked for a long time, I made the Three Stooges "Gah-ooh!" noise because all I saw was water.

That's supposed to the the riding field, halfway through the rainy week. Obviously it is underwater, which is not conducive to riding. Even the parts that weren't underwater were really really deep, and Royal was sinking almost up to his hocks and knees. I tried it again today, since we haven't had any rain for a few days, and while it's much better, it's still not safe. Royal was still sinking a good five to six inches, even without me riding him. So, that's out for a while.

In the meantime, I'm looking for other places to ride. The road is fine at the walk, but the rain seems to have made both the ground harder and lifted the rocks out more. Which has suddenly become a MAJOR problem. Remember when I said he was wincing a bit if he hit a rock, but otherwise seemed fine? Yeah, not anymore. Pedicure day was Monday, and he got the normal amount of sole and wall removed, which was not a problem before. Now, the combination of that with a very wet pasture meant that his hooves softened up and he's now VERY sore on any kind of gravel. To the point of taking tiny little mini-steps while appearing lame on all four feet. Put him on grass, rock-less dirt, or even asphalt, and he's fine. But gravel, oh no. Not good. At first I was flipping out and thinking he was foundering, but he didn't have any abnormal heat or strong digital pulses in any of his feet, and I would think that trotting on asphalt (which we did for a little bit) would not be possible for a foundering horse. All this means that the road is not our friend in the foreseeable future. We can stay on the edge and walk in grass/"soft" gravel in some places, but not everywhere. So what's left?

This neglected baseball field caught my attention. It's got plenty of space and isn't too far away from home. Obviously nobody's using it, and it's really overgrown, so I'm not sure how safe it is. What doth the grass conceal, I wonder. But a bit of mowing could make it a really good grass field for dressage. Problem is, I have no idea who owns it (private citizen? The city or county or state?) or how to find out. Even if I did/could, what would I say that wouldn't make me sound like an entitled brat? "Dear Sir/Madam, I am in need of a place to ride after the rain floods out my usual riding area. I have noticed your baseball field and think it would be satisfactory. Would you be willing to mow it so that I may ride there? My horse and I would be most appreciative." Yeah, don't think so.

There's also this grass field next to a local church. It's also close to home and looks very ridable. Plus I have a pretty good idea of who owns it, namely the person living in the little house next to it, which is probably whomever owns/runs the church. But again, how do I ask them? "Dear Pastor/Minister/Deacon, I am quite enamored of the field directly next to your house that looks to be an extra parking lot. Would you and/or your organization be willing to let me ride my horse there occasionally? I would be forever in your debt." Don't think that's happening either. They, and the person who owns the baseball field, would probably be worried about the liability if I fell off and got hurt while riding on their property, so it doesn't seem like asking either person/organization will end well for me.

Royal posing
I also learned of a small park, about a mile down the highway south of the house. Apparently, a lot of horse people ride there and it contains a small grassy area which would be suitable for a temporary riding place until the field dries/firms up. On Wednesday, I decided to take Royal down there, which ended up being quite the adventure. First, that was the first time I'd seen him since his pedicure and it took me a while to figure out that he was sore on gravel. I thought he was just being spooky, so I got off and we walked about a mile down the highway to the park. He was mostly okay and we made it to the park safely. We walked all the way down to the waterfall and bridge, which he thought was quite odd, and went back to the grassy area. We rode around for a bit, and he seemed to like it. There are a lot of trees with low-hanging branches, so it's not good for anything more than trotting. But overall, it seems like our best option for doing flatwork. 

Will you be my replacement arena?
 I still have no idea what we're going to do about cantering, galloping or jumping. My jumps are still in the almost unnavigable field and even if I can get them out, where would I put them? At this point, I'm getting desperate almost to the point of panicking. Unless that field packs and dries out really quickly, I don't know what I'll do to get ready for Birchbury or Roebke's Run. The thought of missing either of those because of weather issues makes me really sad. I hope something works out.

The other big headache that makes me want to down a gallon of Pepto-Bismol is Royal's new soreness on gravel. Previously, he's always had hooves of iron that never met a surface they couldn't conquer. But now, not so much. Was it the stress of moving and then going to a show? The rain? Did a little too much sole get taken off? Who knows, but right now I need to figure out what to do about it. We can't avoid it, since to get anywhere, we need to go over gravel. My main strategy is to get some hoof boots. I debated whether to get Renegades or Cavallos, but think Cavallos are the way to go. They're about cheaper ($40 less per pair) and seem popular with fox-hunters. I figure if they'll stay on for fox-hunting, they'll stay on for my purposes. I'll be ordering those soon.

The other thing I'm trying is a sugardine soak. I still have lots of it left over from the abscess and it can help harden feet. I've heard good things about Durasole and Keratex, but those cost money and my sugardine mixture is free. I soaked them two at a time, using my Rx boot and an old IV fluids bag held up with Vetrap.

 Front feet soaking

Back feet soaking.

He was very confused about this

All in all, he did very well, and it seemed to help a bit. When I had to bring him out later to pick ticks off of him, he walked over the gravel a little more confidently, but I would rather not have that be my main form of protection. There are too many huge and jagged rocks for my comfort and I don't want to risk another abscess. So, boots it is for now, and eventually I'll figure out where to ride. Hopefully it all works out.

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