No Boots, No Go

The heat and humidity are not letting up much down here in NC.

Since forgetting to put on my Q30 collar I now put it on before I leave the house. At least my brain is protected from moving around in my skull as the car moves over the sometimes bumpy roads and driveways. It felt tight at first but by the time we got to the stable I forgot I had it on.

There was the usual confusion of me and Debbie getting MJ groomed. I had started with the curry comb then Debbie took over grooming his body as I brushed his lower legs with the Haas Fetlock Brush, making sure to get his pastern CLEAN. Then I went to the magic cupboard in her office to get his Smart Therapy Exercise Sheet and his boots and lower leg wraps. I found his exercise sheet quickly, but HIS boots were nowhere to be found. Then Debbie looked for them and she gave up quickly, saying that MJ's leaser had ridden him the day before and probably took his boots home AGAIN to wash them.

This is my second lesson where this has happened. Last week MJ was worried about my hands which were worse because of me wearing my BOT ankle brace which apparently increased my core body temperature enough to make my nervous system incapable of good contact, but at least Debbie had put all his boots and wraps on his front legs and he had no problems moving out on sagging reins. This week? I asked for him to stretch his stride at the walk and he just did not react. I asked him again, same response. We walked around a little bit more in warm up—curves mostly, and I asked him again. No response again, and I realized that since we had not put on his boots MJ's front legs did not feel comfortable enough to extend his stride, that extending his stride without his boots on would hurt his legs.

OK horse, I understand. 28 years old, navicular disease, and a sort of bum knee, MJ NEEDS the comfort and therapy from the BOT Exercise Boots, Fenwick Leg Wraps and the Fenwick Pastern Wraps to move at the level that I want him to move. I was not irritated at MJ, that would have been totally pointless, but I was irritated that his leaser had taken his boots to clean yet again the day before my lesson so I could not properly gear up MJ so I could get a good lesson and a good ride. Debbie was not thrilled about it either though both of us do appreciate that the lady realizes that stuff should not have caked on dirt. I just brush the dried mud and dirt off, Debbie just brushes the dried dirt and mud off, and so far that has been enough to prevent sores on MJ's lower legs and pasterns.

A horse can be deemed completely sound when he can perform all that the rider desires without any pain or physical limitations. Lesson horses tend not to be completely sound in this way, they have little aches and pains that they learn to deal with if the rider does not demand too much from them, like jumping a lot of fences, jumping fences over 3'6”, galloping real fast, or doing work that requires a lot of sharp turns. These horses are serviceably sound, they can get their mostly undemanding jobs done well without much pain as long as the riding teacher and the rider realize that the horse has limits. Stay within these limits and you get a good ride, go beyond these limits and you could end up calling the veterinarian for a lameness examination.

Without his boots and leg wraps MJ is serviceably sound to do walk, trot, and canter (no poles) for a regular hunt seat ride at an advanced beginner to a lower intermediate level ride, but NOTHING fancy or beyond his norm. Even just at that level MJ ended up having some problems with his front legs because of the effects of his shoeing job for his navicular disease. The biggest signs of this were his constant thrush in his front feet and the fact that his right knee had become painful, enough so he refused to do the right hand lead at the canter with his leaser (I am not cantering him right now.) Debbie got a new farrier, got the veterinarian out to do X-rays while the farrier was there so they could come to an agreement of what would be best for MJ, and while his new shoeing job has improved various things with his movement it just takes a while for the tendons and ligaments of a 28 year old leg to adjust to this new way of doing things. The fact that he is allowed to toe out a little bit just because that is how his pastern bones line up means that the tendons and ligaments in his pasterns have to get used to this new alignment. This is where the BOT Exercise Boots, Fenwick Leg Wraps and Fenwick Pastern Wraps come in, the far infra-red therapy helps relax the leg tissues, these boots and wraps help reduce the pain, and in combination with sane riding they help the tendons and ligaments to heal. Without these boots MJ is not serviceably sound enough to do much with advanced movements, with these boots MJ cooperates with my demands because he does not hurt. He goes from Not Quite Right to good enough for the job.

My goal at the walk is “simple”, I want the horses to give me what used to be called a “flat footed walk” in hunt seat circles. This walk is unrestrained, 4 to 41/2 MPH, usually on light contact, with the horse proceeding freely and confidently covering ground, while his relaxed back “swings” and his hind feet overstep his front feet. Debbie often calls this a “marching walk”. It is a far cry from the normal lesson horse walk, shuffling around at about 2 MPH without any “swing” to his back, and never extending the stride. Since MJ had been a lesson horse for years and years he has the lesson horse shuffling walk down cold. All I have to do is get him to extend his stride and relax his back, but if it hurts him to place his extended front leg hoof down he just will not extend his stride. I don't blame him, I find a way to get him comfortable enough to do what I want him to do.

When I got home, realizing that if I wanted a decent ride on MJ he HAS TO have his boots on his front legs, I went ahead and ordered another set of boots and wraps (BOT Exercise Boots, Fenwick Leg Wraps and Fenwick Pastern Wraps). I am only doing his front legs, and it cost me almost $150.00 US to get this gear. I will donate the ones he has now to the stable just to use on MJ when other people ride him. The ones I just ordered are going to live in my grooming bag unless they are on his legs. This is the only way I can guarantee a chance at a decent ride with this horse. He may not really need them every ride, but I'd just rather have them on since they are not doing him any harm and they probably feel really good on his ancient legs (especially in the cold winter winds which will be coming soon.)

Debbie, Shannon and I have come to BELIEVE in the efficacy of this combination of boots and wraps to help an elderly horse become serviceably sound enough to give a decent walk, trot and canter ride. The horses show their appreciation by obeying my driving aids better and by striding forth cheerfully rather than picking their way gingerly across the ground, shuffling around and refusing to do anything more than the bare minimum. We mere humans believe in this gear, the horses KNOW that this gear helps them move comfortably.

At least this week MJ was completely fine with my hands. He reached for contact, he accepted contact, and he maintained contact for as long as I desired. When I checked with Debbie about my hands she said that MJ looked happy with my hands and my double bridle.

My gear is on its way. Next week I should have a decent ride, I hope.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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