Freedom’s abscess from hell has taken its toll on our hunting season. He’s been sound on the foot, but the location of where the abscess came out of the heel bulb has been problematic because he cannot tolerate his hoof boots.
I’ve thought about just putting shoes on him but haven’t for two reasons: first, I worry that there is residual soreness in his hoof (he’s sound on grass but still a bit gimpy on harder ground) and that with a shoe on I might push him too hard and end up with a more serious injury. Second, I remember how truly bad his feet were with shoes. Sure, his hoof walls are nice now but I cringe at the thought of going back to crumbling feet and epoxy.
Last Tuesday the hunt was in my town and the cast was a 25 minute hack from the barn. I decided that I’d hack over with a friend and say hello to everyone, then hack home. What I hadn’t quite counted on was just how much he wanted to hunt.
Freedom was quite excited when he saw the horses and the trailers at the meeting spot. When he heard the hounds he was beside himself with anticipation. I quickly realized that watching the cast would not be a good idea. Not unless I wanted to gallop off with the rest of the field.
I decided to take him off to a beautiful large field that I’d been wanting to ride in for months. That was my idea. Freedom’s idea was to get back to the rest of the field at all costs. Leaving was not pretty: it involved a lot of spinning and backing up but we did finally get across the street.
I decided to put him to work. I bridged my reins and put him into a trot. That worked for awhile, but I suspect he heard the hounds off in the distance and he proceeded to throw a tantrum of epic proportions. He doesn’t buck (thank goodness), but he was hurling himself into the air, flipping his head, and running sideways. I really, really regretted that I did not think to put a breastplate and martingale on that morning. And that I had not thought to use a neck strap. I would have liked to have had something to hold onto. I did take the precaution of taking my cell phone out of my saddle back and putting it in my pocket — it was one of those rides where it was better to have it on my person.
I suspect that what kept me on was the fear that if I fell off Freedom would have gone off and hunted by himself. A few one rein stops and time outs and we were finally ready to leave the field. I took him home a different way so that he wouldn’t be looking for the hunt.
In retrospect, it maybe wasn’t such a great idea to hack over to the hunt but it sure provided to be an excellent training opportunity.