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Horse Shoeing in Kodima 16/04/2007

(CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES OR VIEW RELATED PHOTOS) Upon arriving back at the farm my heart sank. My horses were covered in dried mus and manure, their hooves were long, jagged, and very soft. Blackie (whose actual name is Taskonir in Kazakh by the way which means 'brown stone') had an infection around the stomach and penis, and after almost five months of standing around they had turned a little wild. Two weeks on though, I must admit my spirits have lifted, and so too have the horses! two days of cleaning, blood taking, vaccinations were followed by regular time in the outdoors where their hooves quickly began to dry. I wormed them, brushed them, washed them down with warm water, rode them, and when the grass began to grow a little last week they were even able to graze a little during the day! The biggest task was of course trying to shoe them. In kazakhstan and Russia I had no need to have them shod, but with so many roads and hard surfaces ahead in this 'settled steppe' I had no choice. Gena, who was a farrier and good friend from the city of Nikolaiv agreed that he would come and help me. I met him in the city of Odessa, and together we lugged his anvil and other many tools on the train back to Kodima. For him and I it was with much trepidation that we set about the task last Thursday of shoeing. If a horse jerks or kicks in the process of banging nails in, then horse and man can be severely injured. Having horses that will stand still is therefore imperative...... yet ogonyok, my big red shestnut packhorse was as wild and scared as they come in character. Three days in the steppe is usually enough for him to turn wild, let alone five months. The locals had not even been able to take his old shoes off or even get close to his hooves, let alone contemplating shoeing. We started with taskonir (blackie) and Kok. To refit their old horse shoes we had some extra metal plates welded onto the shoe where it was alredy wearing thin. We also cleaned the thread to put in new studs which catch in the mud and ice and stop the horses from slipping (see photo in relevant new photo gallery). We distracted the horses with grain in their feedbags, and it only took about two or three hours to clean and shoe both Taskonir and Kok. 'Now your horses won't have to walk on high heels!' he said. Upon looking at the hooves at first he cried out 'karaul' which basically means that the hooves were in a very terrible state Then, the moment we had been fearing: approaching Ogonyok. It took about half an hour before he would even let Gena near him to stroke his neck, let alone touch his hooves. Ogonyok lets me into his space without any problems but he has an intense fear of anyone or anything new. Gradually, bit by bit we worked with him until he would let gena hold his hoof while I stroked his neck. He calmed down and was rewarded with barley whenever he stood still and did as we wanted. Over the next three hourse we managed to remove his old shoes, clean and cut back his hooves, and then finally the moment of truth- banging in new shoes. Gena was too scared to shoe in the normal postion (bent over with the front leg of teh horse held between his legs) and so I held Ogonyok's hoof while Gena banged away with nails. There were a few hairy moments, but at 7pm it was all officially over when gena announced... 'its just about time for a beer.' The locals who had been too frightened to poke a stick at Ogonyok were very amazed indeed. I knew that Ogonyok was in fact harmless, but to many his natural reactions of backing away, jumping, flared nostrils can seem agressive, and fair enough! In fact, like all horses Ogonyok is a natural coward, always ready to run at the first sign of a predator- that is in fact how horses have survived through evolution after all. Ogonyok unlike other horses though is a very wary and very careful learner who never trusts 100 percent in anything it would seem. With ogonyok care an patience is the key... which is what this whole trip has been about anyway! Today I actually received the last documents that I need to be able to move on. So, tomorrow (Tuesday), after a five month break from the road, we will hit the trail again. Ahead lies the carpathians in western Ukraine and again unknown territory. By GPS the border with Hungary is about 500km as the crow flies! Tim.

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