We continue to be amazed by Jackson this winter. The winter has been dry by "normal" Northern California standards but the mud has not dried in the donkey/Jackson pasture. Water continues to travel down the neighbors' hillside properties, through the stream in their pasture and into their pond. Jackson is not worried about puddles or ponds. Back in his full-time trail riding days, we rode through a lot of water and he never hesitated. So, of course, he has been tromping through the mud and water in his pasture. The biggest challenge has been keeping his trail boots relatively clean. The velcro closures on the boots don't work when they are caked with mud -- and they are always caked with mud. Knock on wood, the trail boots have not come off all winter except for the day he was chased in the upper pasture by Mufasa and Flash. Needless to say, we won't be putting him in that position again.
Jackson has not only managed the winter without any abscesses, he appears to be getting more sound on his sensitive feet with each passing month. Instead of walking slowly in a straight line, limping when turning, and never trotting he is now walking fast, turning seamlessly and acting like the relative youngster that he is (10 years old).
Last weekend I was hand walking Jackson around the ranch looking for tasty bits of grass for Jackson to nibble. Jackson walked at my shoulder at a good clip, not at his usual slow shuffle. Hmm, I thought, let's see what happens if I try a bit of a jog. The second I stepped up the pace, Jackson launched himself into trot. We stopped after a handful of strides; I suddenly had a very happy forward horse trotting next to me and I didn't trust him to hold it together. Despite having excellent ground manners, I could feel Jackson's exuberance getting the better of his good behavior.
Monday morning was cold and frosty after the rain moved out. Brett called me at work to share Jackson's behavior at feeding time. Jackson is given his hay last so that he has time to finish his bucket of vitamins. Jackson does not love his vitamins; he's a picky picky horse. Carrots are good. Apples are okay if you don't change the variety on him, and he only likes one brand of horse cookies. If hay is delivered to his pasture before he finishes his bucket, he will leave the bucket for the donkeys and go eat hay. So he always gets hay last.
Brett gave all the horses their morning buckets and then pushed the hay cart out to the oak pasture, past Jackson who trotted over to the fence line as he went past and tossed his head in objection to not getting hay first. Brett delivered hay to the boys and then headed over to the mares' pasture, again passing by Jackson. This time, Jackson bucked three or four times, getting serious air time. Then he kicked out sideways at the fence.
I guess he was hungry for hay.
And feeling good.
And I'm wondering if I will be riding him when the ground dries up and his feet harden. Summer is the soundest time of year for Jackson. If he is like this now, I can only imagine how he will feel when those annoying, clumpy trail boots come off.
In the meantime, we just shake our heads in disbelief and smile.