Royal's soreness on gravel bothered me so much that on Saturday, I headed out to an unfamiliar tack shop to get a pair of Cavallo Simple Boots. I ended up paying much more than if I had ordered them online, but I was just so desperate. The next day I was able to try them on him, and they fit! Royal didn't seem to mind them too much, apart from a few high steps at first. They look a little clunky, but he plowed over the gravel like it was made of grass.
He's still a little tender with his hind feet, but they're too narrow for the Simples, so I ordered a pair of Sports. They should be here soon, but we have still been able to get a few trail rides in. On Monday, we went back to the park. He's still a little unnerved by the odd changes in ground texture and all the cars that fly by us (although most give us a nice wide berth), but is getting better. We made it to the park, but just beyond the trees boarding the grassy area, out of sight, was the Lawnmower of Death. It would get closer, then go away, then closer, then go away, on and on. Royal was not happy about this at all, and it took some figure-8s around the trees with serious bending before he started to stretch and sigh. Good boy, so we continued on our way. My sister told me that the road that runs through the park eventually goes circles back to the highway, and we could just do a single loop instead of doubling back down the highway. Sounds perfect, so onwards we went.
It was very beautiful.
But after going for a while, I started to wonder if we were lost. The road had split three ways: left, straight (dead end), and right. We took the left fork, but I started to wonder if we should have gone right. We kept soldiering on, although I kept wondering where we were going and Royal seemed really happy to be exploring.
Nice cornfield, but where's the highway?
We did eventually meet up with the highway, just on the other side of a river. Which is big, and the bridge has no shoulder, so we were forced to walk in the middle of the lane. Which was scary enough as it is, but Royal was also worried about the sound of the river. So he wanted to walk reeeeeaaaaaally slllllllllooooooowly across the bridge and I wanted to go fast to get to the shoulder on the other side. So we compromised with a regular walk, and Royal was probably wondering what I'd gotten us into, but we made it to the other side safe and sound. Getting back on the gravel road was tough for him and he winced every other step on his hind feet. But he seemed mostly cheerful about the adventure, and once the hind boots get here, we'll go on more.
Today we went back to the field, which has (mostly) dried up. It'll rain over the next couple of days, but with lots of help, I've scouted out the high areas that will probably dry and pack the quickest. One is close to the edge of the ridable field (the other half is owned by someone who is growing corn there. No touchy.) and it's about the size of a small (20 x 40 meters) dressage arena. Right now, I don't have any rails or letters (and those will eventually be in the form of poles and cones), so we made our own arena out of hoof prints.
Pretty sweet, no? Royal was a bit confused at first, but as the "trail" began to appear, he got it. We played with the Game of Contact, which he haven't done in a long time, and he picked it right up. He still has a tendency to slow down and curl up behind the bit when I pick up the reins, but at the end, he was holding the contact steady down the long side with no bounces or bobbles. We also popped over a couple jumps at the far end of the field, which he seemed to enjoy.
We cooled down by going onto a side street. It's very quiet and not very gravely, which both of us appreciated. I even offered him the option of going back early, but he wanted to keep going until we reached the woods at the end.
He seems very happy, and my frustrations about riding places are greatly diminished. With the boots, I don't have to worry about soreness and they even have a mild snowshoe effect in the field, helping him not sink too much. We can work on GoC stuff almost anywhere and I think we'll be fine with a one or two jumping sessions a week. Things are definitely looking good.