After the ordeal we went through with Paco’s pulled muscle and injury at the coronary band, we are finally out of the woods, so to speak, and back on the trail. At the end of April, Paco will be twenty-seven years old, and I don’t have to tell you I was very worried about whether I’d be able to bring him safely through those problems and get back to riding. He’s always been a strong, tough boy whose appearance belies his age. Most people assume he’s about fifteen. I had begun to think his age was catching up with him.
We spent a lot of time rehabbing–so much, in fact, that he gained weight. When Dr. Hoover was out for Spring shots a couple of weeks ago, he measured Paco’s weight at 1272. That’s a lotta horse! I thought he was a pretty big boy at 1158. Of course, during his layoff from riding the trails, we had not changed his diet, so that would account for weight gain.
We started out slowly, building him up from short, flat rides of 30-40 minutes, to an hour with gentle slopes–not hills per se–and no trails that were rocky. Finally we were up to an hour and a half with the gentle slopes and even riding for two hours. He has managed all of that very well, physically; he had reverted to some barn sour behavior on the trail, which we’ve dealt with, but I’ll save that for another post.
He’s been stronger and building his endurance very well, so now we’ve tackled a long, uphill slope on a trail that heads back home. It’s not steep, but it’s long. It goes up first, then it evens out for a very short distance, and then it’s up again–not rocky at all. And the view from the top is spectacular. I’ll get a picture to add here sometime soon.
We call that hill, by the way, Hopalong Cassidy Hill because one morning we met a couple of pilgrims coming down it as we were going by on the lower trail and the guy looked exactly like Bill Boyd. We all said it at once after they were out of earshot. (I guess I’ve just given away my age and the ages of my riding partners. If you know who I’m talking about, then you’re giving away your age as well.)
Paco’s done that hill three times now and is doing fine. He starts to blow a little where it evens out, but then just hauls his butt up the rest of the way. We stop at the top to blow a little more, and give him and the other horses a chance to catch their breath.
When we get home, I rub him down with a mixture of witch hazel and water–it cools nicely as witch hazel evaporates. (I got that tip from Rene Noriega, whom you’ve read about here before.) I’ve been taking him down to roll again, too. I had quit doing it while he was struggling with problems in his hindquarters, but between the Legend shot Dr. H gave him the end of January and the rehab work–massage, stretching exercises, hand walking–he seems to be over the issues he was having. The first day I turned him towards the round pen (where it’s sandy and safe for a good roll), I thought I was taking a kid to the candy store. He actually looked excited to be headed that way.
So now we’re back to our regular routine, riding out into the gorgeous Spring desert, with Mexican poppies, lupine, chia, desert marigolds, blue stars, chicory, and owl clover growing along the trails and on the hillsides with a beautiful blue sky above us, and then coming back to cool off and have a roll. What could possibly be better than that?