Mops, aka It’s-all-Good the Challenge colt, is the first of the horses to call a greeting, always, as the back porch door opens every morning. Ears curved sharp forward, eyes watching too as I move around the property. Visitors have commented on the bond, the constant deep nickering when we start working together.

Those calm eyes of trust come with a price of responsibility and one that’s sat heavily recently was getting his feet trimmed. A wildie, trotting up to 13-15 miles a day tends to do his own trimming! This boy, however, kept in a round pen from the March capture until he trailered down here, had feet beginning to grow and crack out at interesting angles. There was absolutely no doubt where the breakover points were; they were that obvious!

After Sundai chiro-worked his neck and back alignment, getting those feet done was prime-time important. I also know this horse’s mind, he stores up bad experiences in his own personal VIP file and remembers every single detail. So, trimming his feet simply had to be an “it-s-all-good” experience in the seriously plus scale.

This being Alberta, patriarchal men with their take loom large on the home-gates. ‘Make him yield to pressure’ was common, then explanations on tying legs up with ropes and running w’s, and ‘He has to accept, Pam,’ were all things I heard as I asked around. Meanwhile I was picking up feet, they just didn’t want to stay picked up for very long (!), and the idea of someone who wasn’t into horse-body-talk demanding the pick-up and then hanging on…I didn’t think he was going to tolerate it. In the wild, something clamped around a leg is a pretty sure indication that death or injury is high on the urgency list. That’s the way they think – they know very-bad-things will happen.

So, in preparation for the farrier’s visit, I started moving him in and around the shelter. In backwards, sideways, frontways, then just standing there on the deep shavings. The next day a girlfriend and I heaved one of the big open metal panels alongside, and we tied up with fast release knots to the great thick shelter corners. Then more walking in, turning around, standing in this tighter, more controlled space, being groomed, fingers being pressed into his windpipe – as practice for IV line placement – and then getting a mouthful of nice oats within this enclosed small area. He stood, I stood. We thought about peaceful things.

It was a perfect weather morning, no wind, when farrier Bryan Schoures arrived with all his trimming gear, and ranching veterinarian Alyssa Butters from Burwash Equine Services worked out the best, safest angle to get the IV line in. He didn’t even notice, as he was more fascinated with her blue surgical gloves! It wasn’t long before he was flat-out.

Wildies’ feet are known to be hard and tough. Bryan, sweating mightily, confirmed that fact with a quick ‘mmmfm!’ kind of exclamation, while Alyssa admired the nice broad frog and shape of the foot. All done, everyone standing carefully back, the colt started to wake up, looked around, quite calm, before shaking shavings off and standing four square.

“What was that all about?” we imagined him thinking. “Seemed to have dozed off or something.” Ten minutes on, he was drinking water and munching hay. Alyssa made a nice quiet point of stroking him goodbye along the neck where she’d earlier stuck the needle – a nice touch, I thought.

By the afternoon, he was pointing his toes out into a true extended trot in the working corral, the strides straight and true (and no longer resting that hip joint), one leg, then another, ready to trot miles! Now, peacefully, slowly, I can start picking up and picking out, brushing, beginning to rasp and tap those feet with comfortable weeks in hand until the next proper trim.

I can also start working with ropes around logs to pull and flapping tarpaulins, without a remote chance of a negative feet-rope-bad memory. It’s not what everyone would do, particularly here in the wild west, but luckily I can be a strong-minded woman! Creative methods can work, like this deal with a wildie colt, who didn’t pick up one single negative memory of the first time his feet were trimmed.