Saturday, September 1, 2012

These boots may be working too well!

Why? Why on Earth would I say something like that? “Too well? You’re kidding, right?”

No, not kidding. Not when they’re working so well that yesterday Commander bolted when I was leading him, dragging me willy-nilly along on a Nantucket sleighride, dry land version.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me plod through the story preceding the wild climax, yes, at my usual length, but this time with pictures.

First, some photos of the boots themselves. Here’s a view of the outer side. You can see the opening along the side that lets air flow in to hold down the yuckiness buildup, and the rubber circlet that helps keep the Velcro end in place. There’s an inner strap that Velcros down forward onto the front flap; then the visible strap Velcros up over it. If the boots fit perfectly you wouldn’t be able to see any of the understrap.


And here’s a view of the inner side, helpfully without the S-R logo, so that one can be sure to put the right boot back on the right (or left, as the case may be) foot:


And here’s a view from the front. It’s hard to see in this picture, but the toe is rockered to make breakover easier.


What’s that you say? Is that my foundered horse with his face in grass? What’s up with that? Am I crazy?

What’s up with that is that I am giving Commander limited – and when I say “limited” I mean like maybe 45 minutes per day – turnout in the tiny-paddock-and-run-in area, which does have pathetic remnants of greenery along three sides. There isn’t much there to begin with, even reaching under the fence; it’s August and midday when the grass is most likely to be dormant, least likely to be churning out sugars; but yes, it does run the risk, however minuscule, of triggering another laminitic flareup.

And yet I have done it for the last few days and intend to continue doing it on nice days, hopefully even expanding his time out, so long as he’s comfortable. Why? Because he’s got to be able to go back into turnout. He can’t spend the rest of his life stuck in a stall. If he had to be locked away forever, never seeing sunshine and the outside world, never breathing fresh air, never chumming with Ben save through the bars of a stall front, it would be kinder to put him in the ground.

And so, starting Wednesday, I have been turning him out with Ben when I arrive for midday chores, and the two of them are loving it. The first day, they grazed at first, then interspersed that with fierce grooming sessions. After about half an hour I brought out their mashes and they spent the rest of the time in the run-in munching hay and schmoozing. Commander came back into the barn without fuss when chores were done and got tucked into his afternoon stall.

Thursday the routine repeated without incident. Friday I remembered to bring my camera along. Here are the boys, together and happy:


Ben tends to get nudgy about “Hey, let’s groom, okay? Wanna groom, huh?” while Commander is more single-minded about finding something green and good to eat.


Commander’s been thriving on his new liberty. Also quite comfortable despite the hardness of the surfaces he stands on out there: hardpacked stone dust, mat-covered concrete, and just plain concrete. He’s moving in the Soft-Ride boots with a freedom I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Even allowing for the lousy angle of this shot, you can see what big strides he’s taking:


What’s further heartening is that he’s picking up his knees in a normal stride now, rather than taking stiff straight-kneed steps. His whole body language in motion has changed.


He’s standing foursquare, not favoring one forefoot or the other.


Even standing downhill, so hard on a horse in pain from a rotated coffin bone, doesn’t faze Commander in the Soft-Ride boots:


Make that even standing downhill with one forefoot taking all the weight doesn’t faze Commander in the Soft-Ride boots!


But hey – *smacks forehead* -- I was supposed to be telling you about Commander bolting with me.

So, anyway, Friday things were different. For starters, Counterpoint, one of the pair of grays living in the other side of the run-in and fields complex, was three-legged lame from what turned out to be a stone bruise or abscess when I arrived at midday; after conferring by phone with his owners, I brought him hobbling and lurching into the barn. His buddy Cholla came in to keep him company (and to assuage my own worries at leaving the old guy out all alone and unsupervised for hours when his humans were away and I wasn’t there to keep an eye on him). That left Ben and Commander outside by themselves, which they were fine with at first. They grazed, schmoozed, snarfed their midday mashes, and hung out in the run-in as I worked in the barn.

But then something changed. Something caught their attention, seized it with disturbing force, away southward toward the next farm down the road. I learned later that farm was haying; perhaps that routed some animal(s) whose panicked flight my horses perceived. Whatever it was, it put them on high alert, and kept them there, drew them out of the run-in to stare that way, to circle back inside, to come out again and again, on guard.


Meanwhile, I was done with chores and needed to get both horses back into the barn – Commander because he’s still on limited time out, and Ben because he can’t handle being out solo. I waited a bit, hoping they’d settle down, but no. Still on alert.


It’s hard to say who was more keyed up: the timid Thoroughbred or the spirited Morgan, but There. Was. Something. There. and they couldn’t get their prey animal minds off it.


Oh, well, nothing for it but to do what must be done. I took Ben first, since he’s more inclined to have a meltdown over being left all alone and abandoned to the wolves. He came in nervous, staring and sidling a bit, but without too much trouble; turned free in his stall, he strode to the window to stare southwards at whatever the impending doom was still lurking over there.

I hurried back to fetch Commander, who was circling, anxious, taut with worry. Drat – the leadrope clipped on the halter I’d left hanging on the fence had a simple snap, not the chain shank I use under his chin to keep him from hauling me off course for grass. He’d been so polite lately, I’d gotten careless. Well, no time to run back into the barn for the other leadrope. I haltered him, got the gate open, pointed him through it....

Commander surged out, stared south, and bolted up the drive. Galloping? Just trotting way fast? I dunno; I was too busy flailing along with him at a stumbling run, desperately clinging to the last bit of the leadrope that he’d yanked through my hand, trying not to get slammed into the fence we were careening past.

Commander swerved left after the fence, onto the lush grass under the huge elm that shades the back of the farmhouse, and feverishly grabbed at it. I tried to haul his head up and barnward; got whipped around as he circled and plunged back to frantic grazing; hauled again on his head, slammed my shoulder into his and led, shoved, out-stubborned him the rest of the way into the barn. Got him into his stall, whipped the halter off, and bolted out, sliding the door shut in his face.

Then I went to the entrance and sat on the step till my heart rate dropped and the shakes wore off.

I’ll give those boots credit: Not only is he comfortable enough in them to run away with me, he’s so well cushioned that all that craziness didn’t hurt his feet at all, nor did the boots shift even a bit. Commander was moving just fine that night at bedcheck, and went out today looking equally good.

With the chain shank threaded onto his halter.

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