Sunday, January 13, 2013

Emergency Repairs:  Sixty Miles without a Shoe

I don't know about you, but winter at the Parasite Ranch is the time for reflection and talk.  Anyone who engages Ole Dangerous in conversation usually draws a blank look if they ask him about his golf game or church job.  Eventually, the conversation turns to something that really interests him -- riding and hiking.  Most people are stunned to find out a man his age is still backpacking and riding horses.  When they discover how much time he spends outdoors, they almost always want to hear about an adventure or two.  They are usually most interested in what happens when he has an emergency 30 or 40 miles from an oiled road.  He usually tells them that a serious medical emergency that far from help will likely end badly, so he usually doesn't worry about it.  He does worry if his horse gets sick or throws a shoe which means a long walk back to his truck.

Dottie and Dangerous in the Bridger-Teton Wilderness
To the inexperienced eye, this picture looks like most others I have posted -- Dangerous and one of his horses.  However, if you study it closely, you will find some small things that can go wrong on a horse packing trip.  Take a close look at Dottie and not Dangerous.  You can find plenty wrong with him without even trying especially if you know his medical history.
An obvious problem is the hanging breast collar.  In steep, rough country a breast collar is essential to keep the saddle in place.  Walking Horses are naturally narrower than most other breeds which means the saddle will slide back without a breast collar.  A slipping saddle not properly positioned over the withers results in a tired and sometimes sore horse.  As usual, Dangerous forgot to look at his before setting out on a 60 to 70 mile, five day ride.  Overtime, sweat causes the leather to harden and crack.  Fortunately, Dangerous always carries some leather strings to make small repairs.

Steep, Rocky Trails Cause Problems
Take a closer looks at Dottie and see if you can identify the more serious problem.  Enlarge the picture and look at her left front hoof.  You will notice she is wearing a boot rather than a shoe.  Ten miles from the trail head, Dottie threw a shoe, and as you may have guessed, Ole Dangerous left the extra shoes, nails, and tools in the horse trailer -- too much extra weight.  Well, thanks to modern technology Dottie made the entire 60 mile loop on three shoes and an Easy Boot.  Without this wonder, Dangerous would have had to lead Dottie back to the truck, and try and put a new shoe on her.  I'm sure Dottie would have been OK, but Dangerous walking 10 miles in cowboy boots is another matter entirely.  You've seen the condition of his feet in a previous post.

Easy Boot
You probably wonder how a horse can lose a shoe and there are too many causes to mention here.  But, usually on the trail there are two main ones.  Believe it or not a shoe is easily sucked off in deep, sticky mud.  Even though there are eight nails holding it on, the vacuum caused when the horse pulls its hoof from the mud can easily suck the shoe off.  The other way is for horses to catch the edge of their shoes on something which will pull the nails lose, and eventually the shoe falls off.

How do you think a mere dog knows so much about horses?  Well, I have spent all my time since I was a pup trailing one horse or another.  Spending that much time means I have picked up a thing or two about horse husbandry.  So, if you have some questions, you are welcome to ask, and I will try to provide an answer.  Right off, I can tell you that horses eat a lot, and aren't easily house-trained like sheep dogs.  Also, they aren't warm and cuddly like me either.  Love to hear from you!

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