April 2015 - Horsey Humor
Written by Bob Goddard
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:28

Mud is a Dirty Word

by Bob Goddard

You would think that as winter releases its icy grip and temperatures rise, equestrians everywhere would celebrate. However, the change of seasons only seems to frustrate and depress my riding Sensei.

“I hate this time of year,” she grumbles.

Wow. Sensei never uses the word “hate” for anything.

“Karin, cheer up. It’s getting warmer. Spring is in the air!”

“Yes and mud is on the ground. We’ve already lost two shoes.”

Whoa. I haven’t seen her this frustrated since she tried to teach me the subtle nuances of the half-halt. I still don’t get how you make a horse stop and go at the same time. And my pointing out that the half-halt is a classic case of logical disjunction merely agitated her all the more. This is another good reason why weapons are not allowed in the riding arena during instruction.

But I hear her about the shoes. I lost a tennis shoe in the pasture last week. It happened in the bad part, near the gate. The mud just sucked the shoe off my right foot and the poor thing disappeared into the earth. I had to finish mucking Goldie’s stall in one shoe and one sock.

Of course, when Sensei heard about it, she blamed the victim. “I told you to wear boots out there. And why don’t you have them on now?”

Well, aren’t we being Little Miss Critical today? You would think that she was the one who had to function with two left tennis shoes.

However, as I study my immediate environment - my physician told me that I need to do this more often - I begin to understand why she’s so crabby. Yes, it’s above the 32 degree Fahrenheit mark, but not much. Aided by a nasty breeze, the rain and mist penetrates deep into your bones. A few horses huddle around the lean-tos like refugees in a relocation camp. Most are in their stalls, bored out of their minds. Windy nipped at me as I walking by. The mud is creating hazardous footing and soon all the horses will have to be brought in.

The cruel tyrant, Old Man Winter has passed, but his psychotic heir, Despicable Mud, has taken up the reins.

Onslaught of the Offspring

The causes of mud are clear. As temperatures go up, the ground thaws from the top down.  This leaves a frozen barrier beneath the ground, effectively trapping water at the surface. With nowhere to go and nothing else to do, the water mates with dirt, thus producing their obnoxious offspring, mud. In fact, that’s a great name for this in-between season: Offspring.

While science tells us that mud is perfectly natural, Sensei believes that there is a sinister element at work here. Dermatophilosis sounds particularly ominous when spoken with a German accent.

“Mud does more than take the horses shoes, it can actually attack their feet,” she explains.

Aggressive mud? Clearly, someone is punishing us.

“Rain rot is caused from a bacteria in the mud. It can infect pasterns or even the whole body.”

Makes you not want to go outside anymore.

“And the constant wet-dry cycle can cause sloughing of the frog.”

Sloughing the frog? Sounds like an indelicate euphemism. Or perhaps a good name for an alternative rock band, like Panic at the Disco or Cage the Elephant.

I’ve noticed something else about mud. It doesn’t leave you alone. It follows you into your house, forming a little beachhead just inside the door. You try to contain it with a Take Your Boots/Shoes Off Here “cordon sanitaire” area, but it always finds a way to penetrate deeper and deeper into your house. We eye our dogs, Mud’s Best Friend, with wariness that sometimes flares into panic:

“NO!  NO! YOU CAN’T GO IN YET! ... oh crap…. GET BACK HERE! …oh no… no… not the Barcalounger… oh no … GET BACK HERE NOW!”

The Biped’s Respond

But we are not helpless. At the height of Mud’s heavy-handed siege, the counterattack begins. A large dump truck arrives bringing wood chips and hope.

“It’s the third load today.” Sensei’s depression has been replaced by grim determination. “And we’re laying crushed gravel near the entrance gate.”

Too late for my shoe, but it’s nice to know we’re fighting back.

“And this year, we’re fencing off the sections in the back. We’ll be able to rotate pastures and that will cut down on the mud.”

A long-term strategy. Excellent.

We decide that instead of a lesson, we will use the time to take the horses out of their stalls in small groups and bring them into the arena. There, they can roll around in dirt and romp a bit. Within the walls of this Fortress of Dryness, we all can, at least for a while, forget about mud’s gloomy grip.

Freelance writer Bob Goddard lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Jenny, and assorted pets. His book is Horse Crazy! A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide for Parents of Horse-Addicted Girls. To order, and to read his humorous blog, “Bob the Equestrian,” visit www.horsecrazy.net.