If It’s Good Enough for the Duchess…

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It was one of those beautiful fall days, recently, in which the weather (not too hot, not too cold) and the sun (and nothing but the sun) conspire to make you wish that the day would last forever, or, at the very least, for a few weeks. I had just done some riding on Bit – which is exactly what beautiful fall days are made for – and was standing by while he grazed. Letting him graze is his reward for a good ride. I stood off to his side, allowing my thoughts to meander through my mind until I chose one to examine more closely, the one about my new Spanish Riding Boots.
I’ll start at the beginning: I had seen a great pair of boots on the then-Kate Middleton, years ago, and coveted a pair for myself. When I looked into the matter, though, they turned out to be far more expensive than I had imagined. So I shelved the idea for a time, while making the occasional search for a used pair on Ebay. Naturally, my size and color were never on offer. Typical.
Mind you, it’s not as though I want to be Kate Middleton, or look like her, necessarily. I simply have a tendency to want an article of clothing if I’ve seen it on someone else and thought it looked good. Indeed, I might’ve been just as taken by the Spanish Riding Boots if I’d seen Katie Hopkins wearing them, although, happily, this was not the case.
At any rate, more recent photos of the Duchess wearing her by-now 12-year old pair of Spanish Riding Boots as she and Prince William trekked about Bhutan reminded me that my lust for them hadn’t diminished in the least. Back to Ebay I went. And what do you know – there they were, my size, and my color! And – the best part of all – the seller was willing to bargain for that coveted pair of “worn once” boots. There is a God! After a small amount of haggling, the boots became mine.
(Author’s note: Please don’t tell my husband about this. He has no idea that I bought Spanish Riding Boots. Or those two fabulous pairs of Ralph Lauren boots. Or the…oh, never mind.)
So as Bit continued to munch on the grass that barn co-owner Ronald hadn’t gotten around to mowing yet, I thought about whether I wanted to wear the Spanish Riding Boots for actual riding. That may seem like a silly question, but consider this: if I did wear them for riding, causing them to wear out sooner, then I’d be back to Square One, lusting after the Duchess’s footwear again. Heaven forbid. On the other hand, I would cut a stylish figure, traipsing about the countryside in outrageously-expensive boots that I didn’t pay an outrageous amount of money for.
(I know what you’re thinking: what has any of this got to do with animals, Kelly, the animal story writer? Bear with me, I’ll get to the interesting bit soon.)
Not having made up my mind on the Spanish Riding Boot issue yet, I called Bit to attention and walked him over to the courtyard for a few final exercises. We had ridden bareback that day, using a phenomenal bareback pad made by Best Friend Equine Supply (www.bestfriendequine.com). The older I get, the worse my sense of balance gets, and I find that riding bareback every once in a while helps improve my riding balance tremendously.
The ride went well, although it was clear that I needed to spend more time riding bareback, working on the aforementioned balance. The weather had been perfect, I hadn’t made any unscheduled dismounts, and Bit had behaved like a perfect gentleman. The only issue of concern was the fact that, due to the changing seasons – and, consequently, changing temperatures – Bit’s EPM was rearing its ugly head.
This usually appears in the form on increased tripping and stumbling, even when I’m not on his back. A few years ago, barn owner Wendy put him on several herbal supplements (Hilton Herbs, in case you’re wondering), and they worked a treat. Every now and then, though, the dosage needs to be tweaked. But Bit had done well on our ride in spite of the EPM symptoms; it was as I lead him around the courtyard that I particularly noticed him stumbling. I made a mental note to let Wendy know.
Meanwhile, I paced him in some of the niceties of good horse manners – primarily because he likes to pretend that he’s forgotten them – and he did very well. He did very well, that is (and here’s where we get to the interesting bit), right up until something spooked him and he jumped, landing squarely on my big toe.
Oh, dear God, the pain!
I could manage nothing more articulate than, “Ow! Ow! Ow! GetoffgetoffGETOFF!) as I tried to push him off my foot, and he gave me a look that said, “So I stepped on you. What’s the problem?” When I finally managed to remove him from my toe (which had been encased in the usual sort of riding boot (as opposed to a Riding Boot), I could do no more than lean against him, right foot held up in the air as several thoughts collided in my brain at once:
1. How am I going to get him back into the paddock if I can’t walk?
2. How am I going to move the mounting block back to its storage place if I can’t walk?
3. How on earth am I going to do anything at all if I can’t walk?
4. Oh, dear God, the pain!
Bit stomping on my feet was not an entirely uncommon thing. What was notably different this time was that, rather than his weight being absorbed by more of my foot, it was absorbed by one solitary toe. And while I did manage to get him and the mounting block where they needed to go, and get myself home without much difficulty, the problem became clear after I took my boots off: discoloured and swollen, the toe began to throb with an intensity that very nearly made my eyeballs pop out of my head. Walking became an exercise in learning not to use any part of the foot but the outside edge, causing, naturally, a certain amount of peripheral pain because my foot wasn’t made for walking in such a way. I decided to see what condition it was in in the morning.
In the morning – a Friday morning, of course (because anything serious requiring a doctor always seems to happen on a Friday) – the condition of the toe warranted an x-ray. And while I managed to get one taken that same day, the results would not be available until the following Monday. That left me with a weekend of gorgeous fall weather and nothing to do but sit on my butt, resting my toe. I couldn’t even take a decent walk with the dog. Indeed, the size of my swollen toe required two different types of footwear: a normal closed shoe on the uninjured foot, and an open summer sandal on the mangled one. It looked ridiculous, but what can you do?
Forty-eight hours of down time gave me plenty of opportunities to ruminate on any number of subjects – all the fun I was missing out on; the fact that I had a column due for The Sussex Newspaper and didn’t know what I was going to write about; whether I could talk the hubs into going down the shops for a Cadbury treat or two; riding boots vs. Riding Boots. The last, of course, being the most pressing.
I had assumed that my customary riding boots would be more protective than they actually turned out to be. That might not be the fault of the boots, but rather more the fault of the skittish nincompoop who hasn’t yet learned to chill out and trust his human. Either way, I knew that, short of wearing steel-toed boots (and I’m not ruling that out entirely just yet), my current boots were definitely made for wearing around horses, while I’m not convinced that my Riding Boots are.
Despite the name, lacking, as they seem to be, the type of sturdiness that offers the most protection against stomping horses, Spanish Riding Boots appear to fall more into the category of fashion boots. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Indeed, Google “Kate Middleton riding boots photos” and I think you’ll agree that she looks fashionably fabulous in them! And so will I, just not when I’m riding Bit.
The good news from the doctor, in case you’re wondering, is that the toe is not broken. I should be back in the saddle in a week or so, depending on whether the toenail decides to jump ship or not. Now if we can just do something about that skittish nincompoop!

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