St. Francis-tide means it’s time for the Blessing of the Animals!

It’s been two days since I got out to the barn, and there was quite the dust-up going on when I got there this afternoon after church. A gate that keeps two of the bands of horses separated got left open, so the two bands were busily frolicking together and trying to figure out who was in charge. There are two new horses (Newman and Joey) this weekend, just to make things more interesting—and naturally they (and poor little Rio) were getting the short end of things. Still, it was actually really cool to see so many horses thundering around the tracks—lots of heels kicking up.

I am thankful that Bob and Boulder were both pretty easy to catch, despite all the commotion, as there was a lot to do to get them ready for the Blessing of the Animals at church today (the Sunday closest to St. Francis’ Day, which is actually tomorrow).

Bob cleaned up really nicely. Boulder… well, Boulder had some grass stains. I got most of them out, but there were still several faint green smears in various places. Gosh, but he’s a handsome horse! :-)

I groomed Bob first, and he got pretty antsy in crossties while I was working on Boulder. Fortunately, Mary arrived, along with Mark and his daughter Rebecca and her friend. The two little girls loved Boulder and gave him all kinds of attention while Mary took Bob to the arena and longed him (she said he was quite frisky!). He was so worked up that he worked himself into a thorough sweat from ears to withers. So much for the grooming job, but better that than a hot horse at a church service….

Boulder’s right hind is declared to be free of thrush (despite two days without treatment). Yay! The other three feet still have some work to do, but the central groove on the right front appears to be free of thrush finally (now I just have to keep those craters healthy until the frog grows back in there).

Best of all, though: Boulder’s boots arrived Friday. We put them on him today (fronts only). The left foot was pretty easy. The right foot is a 1/4″ wider, which is really pushing the size limits of the EasyCare Boa Boot (size 8). It was quite a struggle, but between Mary, Mark, and I, we did eventually get the right boot on after a good ten minutes of grunting and a broken nylon heel strap (not a functional part of the boot, fortunately). Boulder was reluctant to give us his front right foot about half the time, which didn’t help. I think the trimmer said that I can expect that hoof to get a bit narrower over the next couple of trims (good!).

Then came the test: the gravel driveway in front of the barn that has been making Boulder wince with every step. He didn’t want to get off of his cushy mat in the crossties at first (as usual), but then we got him moving. The look of surprise on his face after the first few steps was wonderful—it didn’t hurt! While he didn’t kick up his heels with joy (he’s just not that kind of horse), he was clearly happy to walking on a hard, chunky surface without pain.

We loaded the boys into Mary’s trailer with her horse Herc. Bob went first, and got the divider closed behind him. Boulder went next, and Herc last, the two of them sharing the back 3/4 of the trailer. Boulder remembered Herc fondly from his trip down from his previous owner’s place and nickered at him when Mary unloaded him. It’s a good thing, because even though hers is a four-horse trailer, it was full with these three! When we do end buying a horse trailer, it will definitely need to be a three-horse (if it is a slant load) to haul both Bob and Boulder.

We got to church without incident. The horses were blessed last, and Fr. Brandon and the congregation all came outside to where they were. It was pretty cool. Brandon said he had never blessed a horse before—and here he got three in one day! Herc slimed Brandon’s alb, but otherwise everything went well—although Bob was still pretty antsy.

Mary and I had planned to go for a trail ride afterward, but we decided there wasn’t going to be quite enough daylight, so we loaded up and went on back to the barn. Maybe tomorrow’s weather will cooperate and we can get a ride in tomorrow before the rain starts. It was good for the boys to get a trailer ride and get out and have to do nothing more than look pretty and graze on grass for 15 minutes before getting loaded up and brought home. The message: trailer rides do not necessarily equate to work!

We played musical horses and got Bob out and back to his stall. Boulder did great with his new boots—even on a pee and poo covered trailer floor. I left them on him until we got him to the arena barn so he wouldn’t have to walk across the gravel barefoot on his fronts (he is fine on his hinds). I was a little anxious that the boots would be tough to get off—especially the right one—but they came off fairly easily. The broken heel strap means that we know that that boot always goes on his right, which I think will be important as that boot stretches out a little bit.

Here’s hoping for no rain tomorrow morning so we can test the boots while riding!

About Mike

Michael Heggen is a horseman, maker, and thinker who lives in Salem, Oregon with his wife, Kim, and "three to eight cats". He stays quite busy riding, driving, and caring for their three horses, Boulder, Shasta, and Bob. Among other things, Mike has been a fencing coach, police chaplain, computer consultant, aspirant to the diaconate, computer salesman, box boy, carpenter, computer technician, typesetter, church youth leader, copy machine operator, and network administrator. His other interests include juggling, reading voraciously, and (pretty occasionally these days) cycling.
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