"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Saga of the Wandering Orange Boot

Lily had all of last week off due to the horrible weather and the trip, for a total of 9 days. So this week has been:

Monday: 3-4 mile trail ride in the back woods at a walk with Kathy and Queenie. We were out for an hour. Lily was SUPER forward-she would have trotted the whole way if I'd let her.

Tuesday: speed-ish workout. Lily was lying down in the field when I went to get her, sunbathing (not unusual for her), and happily got up when I approached her and came to me. We did the back woods loop 3 times, 5 miles in an hour. Walk, trot, and a little bit of canter, letting Lily choose what gaits she wanted to do when. It was an effortless workout for her where she finished as peppy as she went out.  She coughed 3 times and snorted several times at the beginning of the session, which did concern me a bit because she never, ever coughs or snorts like that. Sometimes she'd cough in the dusty indoor at the old barn if the weather was bad and they'd been kept indoors in the winter. But now she is an outside horse and there is no dust in her field. The round bales are as good as they come - not dusty at all. I turned her head to check her nose while still on her, and there was no discharge, so I made a mental note and continued. We worked barefoot, because the footing back there is much kinder now with the softened clay and leaf covering.

We made it out of the woods as shots started to ring out. Lily didn't even bat an eye at the sound, but the shots continued nonstop until I left to go home!

I hosed Lily's legs off from the mud, threw her cooler on, and, since the stalled horses had been brought in for the night, I fed her her dinner just outside of the field fence, where the other horses couldn't bother her.

Walking home.
Wednesday: Lily was eating from the round bale when I went to get her. She seemed a little dull and disinterested, and I was surprised to note that all 4 legs were slightly stocked up. We've done harder, faster, and longer workouts than what we'd done the previous day and she's been fine, especially given that it was chilly out and she is now an outside horse. There was no heat in her legs and she was 100% sound w/t/c on the lunge. The puffiness decreased immediately just from her walking from the field to the barn. So I chalked it up to stocking up from just standing around at the round bale, but made another mental note, as I felt this was still highly unusual. I would have expected it in the summer but not when it was 45 degrees outside.

We were riding with Jane and Natalie on their older QHs Ace and Newton, respectively. These are the ladies from TROT that know all the trails in this area. Kathy on Queenie was coming, and so was Mary with Willa. We were meeting up with Drew on her chestnut QH mare, Boots. She boards at a neighboring barn. This was the largest group of us that has gone out together yet.

I booted Lily all around, knowing we'd be riding at the park across the street where it is rocky but hunting is not allowed, especially given all the shots heard the previous day.

The ride started out uneventfully enough. I'd say the only horse in the group that wasn't a solid, bombproof horse was Willa, who has a tendency to randomly get riled up over things, but has been really good on the trails lately and Mary is very good at handling her antics. 

Natalie and Jane stopped to do a bit of trail maintenance. That's them in the background in yellow jackets, working on a tree branch that was blocking the main trail. Kathy is on Queenie, the chestnut with the blaze, Mary on Willa the black mare, and right behind me was Boots with Drew on board.
We took the trail across the river, which winds around to a quiet back road which we would follow for about mile. This route leads onto the main road to the barn for about 100 feet, then back into the park.

Up the long hill after the river crossing.

Ace and Newton, Jane and Natalie's QHs, are much slower than the other horses. We stopped to wait for them to catch up. That's them in the trees.
It seemed easy enough. We made it onto the back road without a hitch. 

Back road. Further up this road, we encountered a miniature donkey. In a paddock. That was pacing.
Lily was not happy.

We survived The Cannibalistic Mini Donkey.
Turning onto the main road, we ran into trouble. 

Directly across from us, there is a big farm with several acres and 6 horses out in the field. All 6 horses came running up to the fence when they saw us. Lily, who was leading, got very "up" and froze. Boots didn't care about the horses so Drew offered to go first. I happily told her yes, and Lily followed along behind Boots, significantly calmer.

Willa, however, started canter piaffing in the street, getting Queenie extremely upset. Kathy tried to get Queenie under control, but the little chestnut mare decided to back herself right into the street...just as 2 cars were driving by. Thankfully there was enough room for the cars to swerve to avoid hitting Queenie. We walked/trotted the 100 feet to the trail head leading back into the park and made it in one piece.

Willa and Queenie never settled down after that. Lily was directly in front of them, and she was alternately feeding off of Boots (calm) and them (worked up!). We took a different route to the trail that winds around the pond.

The lily pads on the pond have all died.
On the final stretch of trail in the woods, Lily was trying hard to trot, almost jigging, while Willa was chomping on her bit and breathing fire right against her butt and Queenie was raring to go. We let Queenie go in front, with the result being that the horses didn't get worse...but they didn't get better either.

At this point I was not worried but I just wanted to get home already, as the ride had ceased to be enjoyable.

Drew, Mary, Kathy and myself turned towards home while Natalie and Jane decided to continue. Around then, we noticed that both of Queenie's saddle pads were about to slide completely out from underneath Kathy's Western saddle. We stopped so Kathy could dismount, get the pads straightened out, and tighten her girth while I held Queenie's reins from my position on Lily's back. It took a minute to get Lily to just stand. When she realized I wasn't going to let her go forward, she tried to back herself down the trail!

Kathy successfully got Queenie's tack sorted out, then took her over to a fallen tree on the top of the hill by the trail so she could re-mount. (Kathy has back problems; it's just easier and safer for her to mount from a higher surface.) I rode Lily over to the tree with her so we could block Queenie to keep her from moving away from the tree. Willa and Boots followed, so we must have been quite the sight - our little procession in our assortment of brightly colored tack, standing in fetlock-deep leaves by the big fallen tree on the side of the hill.

Queenie didn't even notice when Kathy hopped back on, as she was too busy trying to nuzzle Lily (cute!)

We turned around and had almost made it out of the woods onto the meadow trail out of the park, when Drew suddenly called out; "Lily is missing one of her boots!"

What?! I looked down and realized Lily was missing her left front Renegade.


We turned around and went back onto the hill where Kathy had mounted up. Both Drew and I scoured the carpet of leaves for the bright orange boot. Nothing.

Willa and Queenie were getting antsy again. I told the group to go on ahead; I was just going to re-trace our steps to the last river crossing to see if I could find it.  Drew offered to come with me so we wouldn't be by ourselves. The day was overcast and it was almost 4:00 pm. Only an hour and a half left until dark.

Kathy and Mary trotted off on the way home, while Drew and I turned our horses around.

We had just made it around the corner when Boots suddenly pulled up lame. Drew jumped off and checked her front hoof, which she was refusing to put weight on.

She had stepped on the shoe and twisted it; the shoe's clip was digging into Boots's white line. Ow.

We were 2 miles from the barn. In the woods. With a horse that couldn't walk, and night fast approaching.


Drew was able to call Jane and Natalie. They had a multi-purpose tool in Natalie's saddle bag that might be helpful in wrenching the shoe off.

Drew told me to go ahead and check the trail while she waited for the two ladies to come back; I told her I'd only be gone a few minutes. Boots remained calm as Lily and I walked away.

Lily asked to trot and I let her. She was thrilled to finally be able to move faster than a walk. As we came upon the river, we crossed paths with a very nice gentleman in a yellow jacket like Jane's and Natalie's, riding a lanky dark bay with a bright star on his forehead. The gentleman smiled, greeted at us, gave us right of way, complimented Lily's own star, and wished us a good ride. (People on the trails here are SO NICE!!! OMG! Still not used to it!)

We made it down to river's edge. No boot in the mud. No boot in the water. We crossed the river and went up the other side for a short ways. No boot on the trail there, either.

I turned Lily around and we trotted back to find Drew, scouring the trail a second time on our way back. No boot.

The gentleman had come across Drew and Boots. As I came up even with them, Natalie and Jane showed up. Turns out they knew the guy. His name is Robert and he is also a TROT member. Not only that, he had trailered in and had hoof nippers in the trailer! He trotted off to go get it.

Drew in the orange coat, and Natalie with the orange helmet cover with Boots. That's Newton with the blonde tail, standing ground-tied with his leg cocked. Jane on Ace are closest to the camera. She wears a helmet under her hat.
Newton and Ace are both almost 30 years old. You would never, ever guess by looking at the incredible muscle and body condition of those two horses. Best trail horses ever.
Natalie did not have any luck with the multi-purpose tool and Boot's shoe. They were able to get the clip out of Boots's white line, but the shoe was still displaced enough that Boots was gimping on the foot if she attempted to walk.

Drew has a full set of farrier's tools at the barn, so she called up her husband. They live within 5 minutes of the park and he was at home; their barn is right next to ours.

Her husband would bring the tools, but he had to meet us on foot of course, and he wasn't sure which trail was the Hidden Pond trail (the one we were at).

We had not heard from Robert yet, so Jane called him to see if he had been able to find the nippers. He was on his way back, but had chosen what ended up being the longest way back. We guesstimated Drew's husband must be in the park by then, so, having the fastest horse, I got sent to meet him so I could show him the trail.

Lily and I trotted off and indeed, Drew's hubs was jogging up the meadow trail, carrying a backpack full of farrier's tools.

I walked back to the Hidden Pond trailhead with him and gave him directions as to where the group was located. I dismounted to tighten the 3 remaining boots on Lily's feet and debated removing them, but she had been uber-comfortable despite one missing boot so far. I decided to just leave them on.

We made it back to the group just as Drew managed to get that damn shoe off of Boot's hoof with Robert's help. We then all rode/walked back to the barn together as a big, relieved group, just as dusk was wrapping itself around us.

In the middle of all that fiasco, we had covered about 7 miles.

I fed Lily her dinner with a gram of bute, thanked her profusely for being SUCH a good girl, and cold-hosed and poulticed her legs for good measure. All four legs were tight and looked great. Lily didn't look tired at all; she was perkier than she'd been going out on the trail.

The barn vet, Dr. L, was checking on another horse. I like Dr. L - she is young, experienced, and very knowledgeable. When I was finally able to catch up with her, she was explaining modern deworming protocols (fecals and worming depending on the egg count and type of worms present) to Kathy.

Dr. L is very approachable and I've talked to her before. I asked about testing Lily for Lyme's disease and Dr. L explained that we could do a Lyme Snap, which is only $40, and if Lily tested positive, we could then do the more expensive send-out test to Cornell to differentiate between antibodies and antigen exposure (both of which are picked up by the Snap test.) I explained about the odd transient lethargy and the stocking up. Dr. L mentioned that there is a mild respiratory virus making the rounds that causes some vasculitis in the legs; she said to wait 2 more weeks, which is about how long it takes for it to work out of the horse's system, and then test for Lyme if she seemed the same. Okay, that made me feel better, as it matched all of Lily's current symptoms and made sense given Lily's coughing/snorting on the trail on Tuesday. She has not coughed/snorted again since, and she has had no nasal discharge.

Lily was napping in the field when I went to get her. All 4 legs slightly stocked up again despite the poultice. Again the fill went down as we walked to the barn, and was 75% improved by the time I had finished rinsing the poultice off. She looked a little dull again. She's usually quiet coming in from the field, but there was just something different about it this week. I checked her temperature. 99 degrees: normal.

We had absolute control over this ride, so Kathy and I tacked up. I let Lily munch on hay while I got her ready. She had a normal appetite and a normal bowel movement while on the cross ties.

We crossed the street into the park again, and re-did the whole trail backwards, going across the river that last time and winding all the way back to the street. Lily's legs were again 100% normal within 5 minutes of walking.

There was no trace of the boot on the last leg of the previous day's trail.

Orange boot?
Orange boot?
We turned tail. Both of the mares were feeling great, so we made our way across the first river crossing to do the first leg of the previous day's ride. No boot in the river. No boot on the trail. We rode all the way up to the street in this direction, too, and then retraced our steps.

Still no orange boot.
We saw various other things. Red plastic cups. Neon yellow paper scraps of flyers. Bright blue beer cans. Dark brown beer bottles.

No orange boot.

We ended up being out for a good 2.5 hours in which we covered a surprising 9 miles; I turned Endomondo on the minute we got on, and off the minute we dismounted, so the long driveway was included in that mileage. We strictly walked and the horses barely broke a sweat despite winter coats and almost 70-degree temps. It was a long but very easy ride for both of them. Like the day before, Lily was happy on the trail and perkier upon our return than she had been when we left. We didn't find the boot but it was still a great ride for all four of us, horses included.

Lily dug into her grain and forage mash with a good appetite. I gave her bute again and added some probiotic powder. I had to mix a little sweet feed into the last dregs of her meal so she'd finish it; medicines always seem to settle at the bottom of the mash no matter what I do and she tries to avoid eating it. (This is normal for her ever since I've had her.) A handful of sweet feed + holding the bowl up for her always does the trick.

Spoiled mare is spoiled.
Interestingly, our calico kitty Astarte has always done a similar thing. She likes you to sit with her and pet her so she'll finish her canned food!
Kathy offered to drive me to the back road we had ridden on the day before to see if we could find the boot on the side of the road.

We drove at 3mph, each of us scouring the sides of the road. More bright blue cups and beer cans and random colorful objects among the dry leaves and grass.

No boot.

I even got out of the car and walked through the leaves next to where the Cannibalistic Donkey was at, thinking maybe Lily had stepped on the boot when she got upset over the donkey.

Orange Boot, where are you???!!!
Kathy and I decided that the freaking boot must've sprouted wings and flown off into a tree. Seriously. I'm sure it was in plain sight, hiding under a log or a pile of leaves, and laughing its cables off.

(not my photo - it's from the Renegade website)
Jane and Natalie had said the day before that they would look for it, too. They frequently go on that same route we'd done, and if we can't find it now in the winter, I'm sure we'll see it come spring when the 6" carpet of dead leaves is gone and the green grass starts growing in.

In the meantime, I ordered another boot.

Positive note: when we find the missing boot, I'll have a spare!
(Because I'm sure this is not a matter of "if", it's a matter of "when"!)


Lily gets the next four days off. If she's not better by Monday, I'm calling a vet out to pull blood for at least a CBC to check her white count and hematocrit, and do a physical exam.

On another note: if any Lander reps read this blog, PLEASE GET THEM TO MAKE A NEON BLUE BOOT! Please, please, please? Those bright blue beer cans sure glowed against the orange and brown leaves and green grass! I may spray paint my boots Day-Glo blue after this.

Plus: they'd match Lily's bridle...hmmmm...


  1. So sorry you lost a boot!!! What a bummer. And the shoe thing is scary. I find that depending on what the terrain is, the neon green sometimes shoes up better and the orange sometimes shows up better. (but neon green is only on the vipers). Anyways - I can't believe all the trauma and drama packed into this one post.

    1. It's okay. I had heard about the neon green in the Vipers. They should consider brighter colors though, especially given this type of situation happening. I guess orange will always be more visible than the black that seems to be the only color available in other hoof boots! :) We honestly all had the time to search for the boot, so we did! I'm grateful for such wonderful, helpful trail friends. It was actually Kathy that suggested yesterday's ride to go search for the boot. We didn't find it, but we had a great ride nonetheless. They were upset for me over my boot, but thanks to the blog I was able to keep a pretty positive outlook: "This has the potential to make a funny post". I'm pretty sure it will show up eventually; we stayed on the trail the entire time so it has to be under the leaves somewhere. The other positive note is that when it pops up, I'll have a backup boot! If anyone can find it, it will be Natalie and Jane.

  2. It still sounds like a good time, though a bit frustrating, both rides! Sorry about the boot loss, but good to know your horse is comfortable enough barefoot that you didn't even notice. I have done the boot search before, and actually made a "lost boot" flyer after one ride (never got it back though). http://trails-and-trials-with-major.blogspot.com/2012/04/quarry-ride.html Orange tends to shows up good here, but you could try that plastic spray paint.
    But as for the bladder issue, I've just gotten over it. At endurance rides you see all the ladies everywhere, really, no one wants to watch you! Plus, so much more comfortable!

    1. Good idea on the lost boot flyer! I would have thought the bright orange would show up against the brown-orange leaves. I still think it got buried under the leaves by the trail at one of the spots where the other horses were acting up. There were spots where the leaves were deceptively deep.

      On the bladder issues: totally agree! I knew we were due for that at some point, especially with our rides getting longer, it just hadn't happened yet. It was good to know Lily will stand still for it! :)

  3. Aww, poor Lily! So sorry to hear she's NQR - hope the mystery illness leaves as quickly as it arrived.

    Yes, just pee when you have to pee. I am still partially civilized and I will yell "I have to pee don't watch," but a surprising number of my friends don't even bother with that anymore, lol!

    1. FUNDERRR!! I've lurked on your blog for the last year and a half; reading it has been life-altering in many ways. I was SO excited to see this comment from you!

      The little girl seemed better today; hopefully whatever bug she has is on its way out. The vet is coming out to check on another horse, so she'll be around anyway just in case!

      Yup, I'm definitely not thinking about peeing so much next time! Haha...

    2. So I'm one of those people without any modesty at all and during a conditioning ride, in mid conversation I'll just squat and pee. I aplogize in advance if I ride with you and do this.....I have to actively remind myself that this is NOT what civilized people do........

  4. Did any of your friends take pics? Of you and Lily? Have you looked through them to see if you could tell where or when you lost it?

    Might be worth a shot.

    Seems like you got to do a lot of riding. I hope whatever is bothering Lily isn't Lime.

    1. I hope so too! We'll see how she feels come Monday. I'm going to keep tabs on her temperature and heart rate in the meantime.

      The photo idea is a fantastic one, but sadly I'm the only nut that's always taking photos of everything on our trail rides. :(

  5. Ha. Need to get you riding with Dee and I. We just get off and pee without warning. Mary too.

    Lime. Green. Your situation is one I've dealt with enough. I'm switching lol

    1. Yup, I thought of you and your lime green boots a LOT during this misadventure! The problem is that the lime green boots are the Vipers and they fit different...I really don't want to go through the boot-fitting odyssey again! Lol

      Charles dared me to post the thing about peeing when I told him about it. I'm still laughing that it brought on so many comments! Hahahaha..

  6. I'm not sure where you are located but a horse I have on lease up in VA also came down with a viral infection this week. Hope Lily is ok!

    1. I'm in MD, so it's not far from VA. And yeah, our barn vet said there is a weird mild virus going around with similar symptoms to what Lily has been having.