Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Sunday April 10
It's a warm, sunny day. I take off the horses' blankets so they can frolic naked in their paddocks. Of course, with their blankets removed, one of the first things they do is roll in the mud.
Murray's blanket's going to have to go back on as the temperature drops at the end of the day, so once the mud dries, I figure I'd better spend a few minutes cleaning him up. So, as Murray suns himself in the centre of the paddock, I start flicking a shedding blade across his fuzzy coat, sending dusty clumps of chestnut coloured hair swirling through the air. By the time I'm done, much of that hair is clinging to my own clothing, hands, and face.
In the past, there were times when I refused to use the shedding blade on Murray's thin, bony body, afraid I'd actually hurt him. But this year, I have to press into his flesh to find his ribs, and his hip and shoulder bones have lost their angular qualitites. He's also developed a low-hanging hay belly.
I kiss Murray's velvet muzzle, then step back to take a better look at his condition after the long, cold, storm-ridden winter. Last year, when spring arrived and I lifted off his mud-caked winter blanket, Murray looked old. This year, at 23, he still looks old. Grey hairs continue to spread across his face, and his lack of muscle means his back is starting to sink. But, at the same time, he looks, well, he looks good. In fact, for the first time in the fourteen years that I've had him, he's come through a winter without losing weight. Actually, I think I can legitimately say that he's fat.
There are probably a few reasons for his weight gain. First of all, all winter long, we offered him as much high-protein second-cut hay as he could eat. And, for the first time ever, he had the winter off (with the exception of a few rollicking romps together in the snow).
But it's not just his weight that I'm happy with. I worried that with the winter off, he'd be stiff, sore and arthritic by spring. But that's not the case at all. He's certainly unfit, but he's feeling great. I've given up on trail rides since I can't seem to contain his overabundance of energy when we're out on the road, but the few rides I've had with Murray in the ring have been fabulous. His trot is a springy and fluid as ever, his canter stride is big and bold, and he's as sound as he's felt in years.
There was a time before we moved here that I thought I'd have to retire him for good. His stride was uneven, he kept stumbling, and his right knee would completely give-out during almost every ride. But since moving to Nova Scotia, our new farrier has made some changes to his shoeing, and I can't believe the difference those changes have made to the way he moves.
I'm knocking on wood as I write this because it's early spring, and who's to say whether his soundess will last into summer. But I'm hoping it will because it's going to take quite a few rides to work off that hay belly of his. And, I haven't told Murray this yet, but Dave's been busy building jumps in his workshop, and if Murray's a good, sound boy, maybe he'll get the chance to try them out before the end of the summer. He won't be jumping any four foot oxers, but with any luck he can step over a few smaller fences just for fun.