I've been MIA since Lady's race, I'm sure you guys noticed. It's been a long week, add the physical exhaustion to the cold weather... well, you get the idea.
Last Wednesday, a friend of mine who trims my guys now (since I'm killing myself trying to do it all, I've decided there is nothing like delegating some of the chores that I don't absolutely have to do myself) came out to trim Doodle.
My intent was to put some glue on shoes on his front, that are specially adapted to heel problems and believe it or not, restoration. Ian McKinlay (the blacksmith who kept Big Brown running), has developed a way to adapt just about any shoe. If you guys are interested in finding out more, check out his website: http://www.tenderhoof.com
In any case, after a couple of calls back and forth between him and I, Doodle got trimmed to perfection so I could trace his hooves and send those measurements to Ian so he can make up 2 shoes for Doodle.
During said trim, we discover that big boy, who has been feeling particularly well for the last week and not been short-striding in the front, or stocking up in the rear (which he would sometimes do due to staying off his front feet and putting too much weight in back) blew out a huge ... something, originating from mid frog through the back of his frog with part of it actually falling off deep enough below the surface to not be able to tell during daily hoof care.
Lo and behold, this apparently was the source of all worries and discussion, changing training, soaking feet for hours on end, considering shoes (glue on only!) and last but not least, perhaps giving up on racing, in spite of the horse himself nodding his head vigorously when competition is mentioned.
How do you explain to a horse: "Honey, I know you want to outrun those guys over there and I know you really want to keep practicing, but you know, I think it's time to give up and well, retire." ??? Given every opportunity to do just that, the boy keeps coming back and being happier in training than he ever was just turned out.
So, while this explains his shenanigans with Cowboy atop, since Wednesday, I have been wondering, second guessing, those glue ons, I have just for the upteenth time decided to put on him; after all, if they don't work out, well, no harm done, we take them off and the hoof has not been compromised.
Then why is it, that every time I do make this decision, I must fortify myself with advice from friends who agree- yes, try them and you can always just take them back off- and in the back of my head, the little whiny voice is culminating to an alarming pitch while nagging away: "No! Don't you put shoes on that horse! It's not right! What if it ruins the last 4 years of restoring the mess? Ohhhh, this is bad bad bad bad news! "
Ian's shoe seemed to come along at the perfect time and what a God sent concept, not only will he adapt a shoe for Doodle, he actually suggested a - get this- shoe that moves WITH the hoof, and no, it ain't plastic. Wow! This I gotta see. (I know you guys wanna see, too, so here is their website: http://www.racerhorseshoes.com/index.html).
I put everything in motion, accomplishing the goal of getting us to a race sooner (there is an age limit on horses eligible to race) rather than later- all I am waiting for is for Ian to call me and say: It's done, they're on their way.
And just then- just when, again, I am THAT close to ignoring the little naggy voice (no doubt this is not a normal occurence for any other trainers- little voices who scream at them about hoof care) - Doodle turns around and makes me wonder if I am, indeed, on the way to make the right decision or .....
Cold outside. It froze last night. The sun is out but the chill is still in the air.
When I get to the barn, Doodle is hiding in the back of his stall, tucked into his favorite blankie and NOT nickering at me like everyone else.
Hmmmm... wonder why he's pissy?
By the time I feed lunch (or should I call it brunch?) his head has joined the rest of the boobleheads in the shedrow.
After lunch, I go to work on his stall and for this, I move him into the "swing" stall (fancy name for an empty stall).
Well, Doodle insists on holding tight to his halter before I can get it on him.
You guys gotta understand, this boy is just NOT like other stallions. He's a sweet, gentle soul. Ok, so he's a sweet, gentle, lazy soul. Most days. The days when he wants to play "rough" with his halter before you get to put it on, I can probably count on less than 3 sets of hands over the last 4 years.
After I talk him out of grinding a permanent tooth mark into the leather, he decides the shank is just as much fun to play with. By the time I get him moved over and he is prancing like a Lippizaner (unheard of!), both my assistant trainers (Doggins and Tuppin) are of the opinion that this horse MUST be played with! Now I have 2 dogs and a horse jumping around the shedrow acting like the raisins in a heavy Jamaican Rum Cake.
At this point, Cowboy comes around the corner and asks me how long before I want to send someone to the track? (Gotta love a guy who will call a horse a "someone"! And did I mention the time I was running late because of car trouble and asked Cowboy to drive around to my shedrow, roll down his window and tell my guys that I WAS going to be there as soon as I could and they had NOT been forgotten- and he actually did that? All without telling me I was nuts?)
I tell him to give me a little time to at least finish his stall because, well, he's acting like he's really happy and I'd like to see how he goes from start to finish without interruptions.
Cowboy agrees to come back after he catches some other mounts and I slip in that he will probably call Doodle a Common Asshole again, which he laughs off.
By the time I get the Doodlebug ready- who is now so happy that he feels the need to play with the seat of my pants while I pick his feet, then play with the tack draped over his stall door, then play with the hood on my fleece sweater, I'm convinced that there is no way Cowboy will stay on this horse today.
Boy, was I wrong.
No pushing Doodle out of the barn today. No waiting for him to get ready to go up to the track. No prodding, no waving the stick. Doodle heads up there and looks around like he owns the track.
He puts himself into a nice frame and jogs his mile like it's nothing. He's actually got suspension back in his step, which I haven't seen in a long while. He's not flat. He's not short. He's striding out and he is having a great time.
My instruction were to start him off easy when galloping and let him have his speed when he wants it but to rate him back if he tries to go all out on a hell bent gallop.
While I run to the back to get my bath bucket filled with hot water to sponge him, Anne is hollering: "Oh, come back here, you gotta see this!"
I run back and what I see is a PERFECTLY sound horse- no ouch, no umpf, a super nice, very professional gallop with legs flying forward and covering ground like never before, ears forward, speed speed and coming into the turn, his rear end flies up and he semi-wheels in a half-hearted effort to dump his rider but then he continues like it never happened.
Anne: "Boy, he looks like a stakes horse!"
Me: "Well, he is a stakes horse."
Anne: "Doodle is? The one you got out of the killpen?"
Me: "Yup, ran allowance and a stakes, all with broke down feet."
Anne: "No kidding? Well, he is looking better than he ever has out there. He really looks like a stakes horse!"
And that he is.
My boy came back and I laughed at the smug look on both his and Cowboy's faces.
He looked proud. He looked down around him and that look said "I own this place".
He got sponged off and tried to play with my while I did that. I took him to graze and he wanted to play with the puppy (or kill her, with Doodle you never know), he wanted to roll in the grass, he wanted to jump around and act like a young colt and in the end, he actually refused to come back in the barn when I asked him to. Only the largest of promised flakes of alfalfa convinced him to finally come along.
All afternoon, he kept sticking his head out of his stall to grab me while walking past, nodding his head, nickering at the girls going to the track...
By the time I fed dinner, this boy was prancing in his stall, head high, neck arched, that trademark hoarse whinny of his ' hmmmmhmmmhmmmmhmmm' going nonstop and digging at the invisible "thing" half way in the air between the ground and his feed bin.
Which leads to me ask if perhaps I should just keep those shoes in the tackroom for now and see where Doodle leads us, barefoot as he is?
Cold day. And yet I returned all warm inside and feeling like we moved ahead in leaps and bounds.
That's a stakes horse I have in my barn. Did ya know?