Monday July 7 2014
His stomach dominates his existence, though I like to think I occupy a little corner of his affections, squeezed in behind the hay, rice grass, kosha weeds, and treats.
I think he loves me, even though, since he's FAT, I lock him up at night and restrict his hay intake. Even though I saddle him up and make him work every day. Even though I make him huff and puff and drip sweat.
Dudley's 12, and has only a single 55-mile completion on his endurance record, back in 2008. He road-foundered after that one, and has had bouts of laminitis and a tendency toward FATNESS over the years. Steph raised him, sold him in 2011, and he came back here in 2013 because, well, he's kind of part of the family, and you just can't help but love Dudley.
We were pretty good buddies when he left in 2011, and when he returned here last year, I was happy to see him, but he seemed… sad. As if he felt he'd been abandoned by us. He wasn't mistreated by any means in his new home, but I think he felt we didn't like him anymore, so we sent him away. (Oh, if he only knew how much it broke my heart to see him go.)
In the trailer ride back here in 2013, he bit a horse in the back rendering him un-rideable for a while. (I think Dudley was feeling rejected yet again, being sent away in the trailer again; I think he was acting out.) Back in the herd here, he was no longer herd boss but was chased around by many of the horses, and he often spent time standing off by himself away from the herd. My welcome-back pets and my hugs didn't really seem to sink in for a while. I swear his feelings had been hurt, and he didn't trust that he'd be staying here.
Over the months though, he regained some status in the herd, and over the winter he slowly morphed back into the old Dudley, as his confidence grew that he'd be staying here. He once again became the old Dudley forever scheming how to Get More Food, plotting how to escape his Fat Pen so he can Get More Food, working those big brown eyes and innocent expression so we'd feel sorry for him being so hungry and he could Get More Food.
After he got FAT over the winter and I started riding him again in February, every day, we've developed a strong relationship. Even though he can sometimes be lazy on a ride, even though he can spook, even though he can bolt, even though he can be a chicken occasionally and not be thinking of me (and would instead run to save himself, not me, if, something scares him), Dudley loves me again.
My modest goal for him is to ride him in and complete a 50-mile ride at the City of Rocks ride in August. If we make it, great; if we don't, I'll keep riding him every day, because The Dude needs it, he's my pal, and I know he loves me, almost as much as food.
Attentive Dudley studying a trail map Steph is drawing in the dirt.