Sunday, July 16, 2006

Blue Toe Blues

Sunday July 16 2006

Well, it wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t feel good this morning, but, I was able to get a shoe on my left foot over my blue and purple and red and black little toe, and I was able to ride! I let Gretchen fetch the horses; I hobbled around saddling Spice, and Gretchen loaded her and Buddy. We hauled down to our usual parking spot, and waited for Jackie to ride and meet us on Star. Today we were doing the lower Buckeye loop, meaning Buddy would be crossing Buckeye Creek at a new crossing, and he’d be going over a bog. There are some creek crossings that he just has refused to cross, and whoever was riding him at the time didn’t have extra encouragement along. Today I wasn’t going to be able to use my left leg much, so Gretchen rode Buddy, putting on a pair of spurs, and carrying a whip for forward encouragement, if necessary.

My foot didn’t give me too much grief (much less pain riding than walking) as we trotted up the Buckeye road and through the campground, heading for the creek crossing, and then on up Buckeye Canyon. It was a warm day, but we had a stiff breeze blowing up the canyon. There’s still a ton of snow on the peaks – hard to believe, as hot as it’s been the last week. Star kept up a good trot along the trail, and Spice and Buddy, used to plodding along with Raffiq, had no trouble keeping up with her. They all took turns in the lead, and all was well in the canyon of Buckeye.

All was well with Spice, till we came upon the cows grazing back there. Now, Spice had lived with cows a couple of summers, but these cows for whatever reason unnerved her. Maybe she had hated living with stupid stinky squirty cows, and she was afraid we were going to turn her back out with these.

When we got to where we cross upper Buckeye Creek, where we normally stop for a horse snack in the grass, or a picnic, it was filled with cows. Big cows, little cows, and a big bull. Spice was getting more and more freaked as we got closer to them, and she tried to hide close to and under Star and Buddy. Now Buddy, who had never crossed this part of the creek, we thought might give Gretchen some trouble, but he walked right on in (no encouraging aids necessary), followed by a near panicked Spice, who practically leaped onto Buddy’s back to get away from the cows. Only problem was, there were more cows where we had to climb out of the creek, and she had to walk by those stupid stinky squirty cows too. We left all those bovines behind at the creek, but now Spice was convinced a Horse-Eating Cow was going to get her from behind. She kept spooking, and goosing forward, and running up on top of Star’s butt. I kept talking to her and telling her she was fine, but she was sure I was so wrong.

Then we came to a nasty boggy spot in the trail – a new place, that the high river had caused – and it was strewn with mud-drowning logs and sticks, and was full of ankle-sucking mud, and it very probably had some Horse-Eating Cows either under the mud or waiting to spring on unsuspecting horses from behind. Spice was afraid to step in the bog, started to panic, didn’t know whether to leap forward or rear or spin (but the Horse-Eating Cows were still behind her) and finally she leaped forward and pronged through the bog in a panic like a springy antelope. Meanwhile, it’s been ol’ Buddy in the lead, walking forward tranquilly as if he’d been crossing rushing creeks and bogs all his life, followed by a calm Star.

Finally after a mile or two Spice calmed back down and I was able to pay more attention to the trail. It’s been a year since I’ve been on this trail on horseback, and that last time, Gretchen and Hiromi and I were saving the life of a very dear endurance horse, Zayante, who had suddenly colicked badly back there at the creek crossing. We had 6 traumatic miles of leading him back to the vet check – he kept trying to go down on us, and by the time we did get him to the vet, he was in terrible shape. (Another chapter in my book). In the end, he lived (and now he’s a big white healthy retired butterball endurance horse), but bad images kept flashing back to me of that ride – certain turns in the trail, where Zayante almost went down, places where I just didn’t think I could keep holding him up anymore, where I just didn’t think we were going to make it, where I thought Zayante was just going to die out there.

But anyway, Zayante made it that day, and today we had a fun zippy ride along the trail that successfully replaced some of those uncomfortable memories.

My toe hurt the whole ride, but nothing like yesterday, (and of course I forgot to take ibuprofen this morning), and it was all bearable… until a tree grabbed my foot. A little Jeffrey pine, just the wrong size - as tall as my ankle, sort of ran into my left foot as Spice breezed by it. The thought crossed my mind that I should left my foot out of the way, but I didn’t, and had to yelp us all to a walk for a few minutes.

Pain abated, and foot carefully repositioned in the stirrup, we continued trotting-cantering on down the trail, back to our trailer, just about when it was getting too hot to be riding. A nice 15 mile loop, with a great showing by Buddy. Now we just have one more iffy rushing creek crossing to get him across, and he’ll be able to do the limited distance ride here August, the Eastern High Sierra Classic, one of the more scenic rides around.

Me, I slithered off Spice at the trailer and couldn’t put my foot down for a while. Gretchen got to unsaddle and load the horses up, while I sat like a queen on my throne. I’ve got my blue-black toe on ice while writing this. Maybe I should go ahead and soak my right foot in Epsom salts, as with the extra weight I’m putting on it hobbling around, it’s getting sore now too. Hmmm… don’t think I’ll be able to get my hiking boots on this week. Maybe I can change all my hikes to rides?

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