(Left: First day in MI. Below: Unloading off the trailer from PA.) She was by no means a joy at first. She was difficult, headstrong, opinionated, and the complete alpha. But it was clear she'd be an event horse through and through. Within two weeks of her arrival at my home barn in Michigan, I had her hopping up and down off the banks in the jump field like she'd
been doing it all her life. Of course, in doing so, she pulled a shoe coming down off the bank. Hm! Well, I was heading off to school anyway, so we'd see what happened when I got there. I had been in contact with Sherry the Amazing, my soon-to-be barefoot trimmer, for quite some time at that point, asking her a thousand obnoxious questions and telling her that I was interested (although still skeptical) about giving this barefoot hoodoo a try. I contacted her again after Gogo threw the first shoe, letting her know I'd need her a bit sooner! Gogo being who she is, less than a week after she tossed the first shoe, and probably only her second day in the turnouts at college once we returned for the fall semester, she tossed the other one, this time leaving it torqued with pad still intact somewhere on the other side of the paddock.(For the record, I still have these two shoes. One is decorated and hanging in the office at my last job, which I still consider a part of home. The other is in my room, too twisted to do anything with, but still a good desk ornament!)
Sherry came out to meet the both of us for the first time that week, and trimmed Gogo for the first time. I was exceptionally lucky in that she was only slightly tender over gravel for about two days. After that, she marched over any footing I took her over, and I was thrilled. Had it been a harder transition, I might not even be writing all this out. I was so skeptical at that point that I might have gone back to shoes. I was not sold enough on the majik to blindly believe anything. (I have to say, though, over the past three years I've seen some amazing hoof transformations with my own eyes, and I'm now a total believer.) Thankfully, and luckily for everyone involved, the transition was easy and fun. Gogo was almost well-behaved for those first few vital trims, only pulling back and breaking her halter into a thousand pieces once (and then leaving), and throwing Sherry's hoofstand all over the place every five minutes. I spent that first half-year of ownership with Gogo just starting her over and taking my time getting her flatwork and over fences work solid. She went from only having really trotted obstacles to jumping small courses, complete with skinnies, rollbacks, combinations, and gymnastics. She lost her pudginess, and started to gain some muscle. All was going smoothly, Gogo's new barefooted-ness included. She was sound, surefooted, and happy to crunch over gravel. The 'risk foot', you ask? Turns out it was a disguised club foot. As soon as the shoe came off, the foot clubbed right up, right to the angle it wanted to be at. On radiographs now, the hoof wall and coffin bone match each other again. All along, the foot had been forced into a more 'normal' look, when in reality it needed to be a little different in order to be comfortable for her. She has the typical warmblood high-low syndrom, standing perpetually with the club foot back and the other forward. It is a constant uphill battle to keep the heels down on the clubbier foot, and the toe from running forward on the other foot, and in those early days, it wasn't easy. The toe cracks gradually started to come down a little, but never really went away. I wondered if I'd have to fight them forever, or if they'd eventually grow out.
Gogo even went to her first little event, a green beans division at South Farm where the dressage test was walk-trot, the stadium fences were tiny crossrails, and the XC was 6"-12" high, all tiny sticks on the ground. We trotted the entire course, and actually had to walk most of the second half of it because we were too fast! She finished on her dressage score of 39.0 to earn her first ribbon, a 3rd place. Her beautiful bare feet performed fabulously, and I was delighted with how she did. Well, mostly:
(Right: Gogo learns some dressagin' in the fall of 2006. Below: Gogo learns her changes.) And then came New Zealand. I had been planning my amazing endeavor with Nicole for nearly a year, long before I ever got Gogo, and suddenly found that the time had come to leave my mare in training and head halfway across the world for a five-month stint. I was a complete mess, half excited nerves and half severe nausea, completely worried about my horse and not wanting to leave her for such a long time. The trainer I had picked for her was one I liked and thought would be a good match, a woman who specialized in OTTBs and hotter beasts. She was quiet and correct with her animals. Perfect, I thought. Though I was nervous, I shipped her over a few days before my depature and said a tearful goodbye, kissing her sweet nosey and bidding her a fond five-month farewell.
This is what I returned to....
A skinny, dirty, frightened, claustrophobic, damaged, rearing mess.
To be continued!!