Guest Author - Susan Hopf
Springtime in the northeast US brings melting snow, rain, blooming bulbs of crocus and daffodils, and MUD thick, sticky, clay-filled, manure tinged muck. Before the frost completely evacuates the barren ground the melting snow and rain sit on top of the frozen and pocked wasteland, created by the piercing hooves of half-ton pogo sticks (aka horses), making a fabulous haven for pools of ice, water and sleet. Add in the earthy matter of soil and half-composted manure and the ground soon becomes as slick as snot on a doorknob. Always the worst around the gate and water troughs it is impossible to avoid this mire while putting horses in and/or out of the pasture hopefully a pasture sacrificed for this nasty time of year so that your groomed and grass grazing turnouts are spared this sort of ravaging.
Fetching your horse for your daily ride becomes something similar to surfing a mudslide. You wallow in hoping to wallow out with both boots still on your feet. You stick your left foot in, you pull your left foot out of its boot and then, while frantically trying to balance on the other leg, make a grab for it with your big toe the more practiced you are the more likely of success. To those uninitiated in the finer art of mud-walking and foolish enough to think that walking normally will get you where you want to go the momentum will probably be too much, which means that you walked right of your boot and the next step will inevitably place your bootless foot directly into that lovely mixture of yuck ooohhhh thats cold and sooooo gross!
So now this is where the surfing comes in you spread and flap your arms for balance and hope your knees are supple enough to take the twisting and turning of your body mass while trying to avoid falling splat right onto your butt or worse your face. You cannot rely on either of your feet because as you were struggling they sank even further into the unyielding substance and are as stuck as a fly on flypaper. You finally do manage to get your, now frozen and totally slimed, foot back on the edge of your boot, take a breath and relax but for just an instant because it only takes that long to become aware of your next challenge what to do with said slimed foot place it, and the attached gobs of goo that have adhered to it, back in your boot which of course will then become just as gross as your foot or brave it out, grab boot in hand and walk out in your stockinged foot? This is not an easy choice so you continue to cling to the edge of the rubberized island and weigh selections.
As you stand there debating you glance up to calculate just how far away your horse is from you and if there is any possibility of assistance from your equine chum hey horsy do you think you could come on over a lend a hoof? Come on sweetie Ive got carrots!!!! Your horse perks up and starts over. This attracts the attention of the other four-footed pasture mates. They head your way but become waylaid with the tempting lure of a good old mud bath just the thing for an equine spa day. One by one you watch the herd plunge to the ground for a great group roll. No, no, no, sweetie come on yummy carrots come on you plead. No good the beautiful dappled gray hits the ground, rolls onto one side, then the other, lingers to rub both sides of the face, ears included. The dappled gray now resembles something akin to a four-footed troll that has not bathed for at least a century grime and hair compete for attention and the effect is really quite disturbing you really cannot tell where the horse ends, the hair starts and the mud begins. As you lambaste yourself for falling for the allure of a pleasant ride, spit out yet another bit of wet dirt you suddenly realize that all of the horses have jumped up together and are now dashing your way in order to be the first in line for a carrot or two. Thankfully your survival instinct kicks in and you quickly abandon the boot and starting running for the gate yup there goes the other boot and one sock. You slam the gate shut just in time to prevent the horses from escaping as well as for you to realize that the rest of the barn crew has been enthusiastically video-taping the entire messy event that you have no doubt will wind up on You tube before day's end.
Slimed and shamed the thought of riding no longer exists. You instead limp to the tack room, wipe your feet on a towel and then wrap them up in a pair of lovely pink polo wraps. You head to the car, stop beside the pasture to tell the horses a thing or two about cooperation. Unfortunately you cannot find the horses only beastly looking hairballs that bear a striking resemblance to something equine. You pick some more mud out of your teeth and head home for a beer, a bath and a few hours of web-surfing just long enough to convince yourself that the barnies might be displaying an unusual amount of mercy and that the video will be reserved for the next barn party only second beer, more browsing, no video, some relief and just before bed there they are 47 emails all exclaiming various levels of hilarity with regard to the afternoons barn time that is now available for all of the world to see third, fourth, fifth beer a promise to give up horses some day as you fall asleep on your computer desk with just a bit of muddy drool dripping from your twitching lips yeth a nice clean life with no horsessssssssssssssss