Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wild Thing

So, I took a pretty spectacular tumble off Cool the other day.

And by "tumble" I mean that he bucked me the hell off, which was truly about as pleasant as it sounds.

Of course I was wearing my nice (and newly monogrammed...thanks Personally Preppy!) Charles Owen helmet and Tailored Sportsman breeches and (since I have no indoor arena) I was riding outside and therefore landed on the ice and snow. But whose counting anyway, right?

The worst part of the entire ordeal (aside from the fact that Cool legitimately tried to get me off his back, which is not okay with me) is how sore I am in the aftermath of it all. I swear, when I was a kid I used to splat off horses all the time and I just kind of shook myself off and got back on. I might have been a little sore the next day, but nothing like this.

But let me back up to how this all started to begin with, that is, how I ended up in this sad state of bruises and swelling and muscles so sore that I can barely get out of bed in the morning.

I've been trying to get Cool out ever other day or so on the lunge line to work him a little in an attempt to get him back into some semblance of "shape." Show season comes early around here, and since I have some major show plans for the fall and no place to ride all winter, I need all the help that I can get. While most people's horses are ready for show season in May, I'm still at home watching the weather and praying for drought so that the arena dries up. When I sat down at the start of the year to line out my plan (...which I actually never shared on here come to think of it...) I knew that I couldn't spend all summer getting the horse fit and then hope that everything works out at our biggest show of the year in October. I was going to need to go into May's first rated show with a horse that wasn't a sloppy mess of jello and googly, wild, I-haven't-been-ridden-in-4-months bug eyes. So, as the weather and footing continues to deteriorate, I've turned to lunging to help keep my horse at least half fit.

Or at least I thought.

I've been careful with Cool for months. He went mysteriously lame last June, something that has baffled the vets, farriers, and anyone else that I have look at him. There isn't particularly anything obviously wrong with him. He jogs dead lame one day and totally sound the next. In fact, the last time the vet performed flexion tests on him, he got sounder as we went on. By the end of the lameness exam, my grade 3-4 lame horse was suddenly, completely sound.

Yeah, explain that one.

I've tried all routes of treatment: stall rest, hand walking, icing, Bute, name it. Nothing particularly makes him better (well, except the Previcox...but that's not a solution.) When weeks of icing, wrapping and babying didn't work, I said to hell with it all and just turned him out. For 30 solid days, he did nothing but go out and eat grass, and then come back into the stall. On our first ride after that month, he trotted two sound laps around the arena before he started limping again. He wasn't any worse than before, but he certainly wasn't any better. So the question became, what do I do? What do you do with a horse who doesn't get better with rest, and doesn't get worse with turnout? After hundreds of dollars in vet bills and no answers, my solution was nothing. Nothing. I was going to let him sit around for the rest of the year and do nothing. My wedding was quickly approaching, and my coffers for the Cool Vet Fund were empty.

So, after almost 7 months with no answers, he finally seems to be doing better. My new job at the vet office has it's perks, I get a pretty solid discount on products, procedures and diagnostics. I have plans to fully x-ray his legs in February (something that we didn't do before because we couldn't keep him consistently lame enough to block, and therefore had no idea where to even begin x-raying.) but in the mean time, he seems to be pretty sound (knocks on wood.) I've been extra slow to bring him back into work, and extra cautious to take care of his legs afterwards.

And clearly, he's feeling well enough to spook and buck, because that's exactly what he did when he threw me off. I lunged him lightly before riding him, which was uneventful. In fact, he seemed lazy. Eager to work, but he offered nothing to me on the lunge line. In fact, our first few minutes of riding were very uneventful. He put his head down once for a little hopping thing, but that was all. His trot work, though limited, was beautiful, with his head stretching down and his neck arched. He was pushing forward and reaching through the bridle. I  was just starting a celebration in my mind, dancing around in my head and rejoicing, thinking to myself my god he remembers!! 

And then it happened. So quickly that by the time I realized what was starting, there was no stopping it. We trotted through a corner to the left (having already trotted and cantered to the right)  and I asked for canter. He went once stride and his head suddenly cocked to the outside, I saw the white of his right eyeball, and thought oh shit.

He EXPLODED. One huge buck which almost unseated me. He never bucks, not with his hind legs actually. His usual M.O. is to drop his head all the way to the ground and leap up and down in the air with his shoulders, but in all reality, the hind legs never really come up. This time, they did. He bucked so high that he almost unseated me, but that wasn't the bad part. When his hind legs came back down to the ground, he dug in like a racehorse and bolted. Not a scoot, not a spook, a bolt. A flat out, head down, dead run back for the barn. I dug my heels down and pulled up against the reins. It was like pulling against a rock, I had absolutely nothing. I pulled the left rein in an attempt to circle him...nothing. It was probably one of the scariest two seconds of my life, because I literally had no control of him and he was headed straight for the small pathway that runs between the barn and the semi-trailer that we store our hay in. I had a split second where I thought to myself, jesus christ...this is going to be bad.
As we neared the edge of the arena I made one final feeble attempt to pull him up, hailing back on his mouth as hard as I could. Cool, in response, threw his head down and leapt into a series of bucks that would make a rodeo bronc proud, front legs leaping off the ground and then hind legs extending in a buck that rippled through his body like a wave, tossing you backwards first, and then snapping you forward towards his neck. I think that I sat threw at least three of them, each time finding it harder and harder to keep myself in the tack. I was clinging to the side of him, only two more strides from the corner of the barn.

It's amazing how fast the human brain can work. How, in a split second, you can assess a situation and make a decision about it. Thinking back on it, I remember seeing the barn wall approaching and knowing that there was no way I was going to stay on this horse. The way I saw it, I had two options, try to hold on, and fall off into the hard barn siding, or accept fate, and let go.
I chose the latter.

It seemed like it took forever to hit the ground, but when I did, it was knee first, followed by my elbow, shoulder and lastly my head (thank god for my helmet!) I had so much momentum coming down that I actually had to try and stop myself from sliding and rolling over. The very first thought I had as my body impacted into the snow was how much I had underestimated the firmness of the ground. Riding in circles over the snow covered ground had packed it down to a near ice like state. It was hard as concrete, and as I looked up to see Cool bucking across the arena, reins dangling around his neck, I was instantly aware of how much pain was radiating from my leg. It was instant pain, something that I've never felt falling off a horse before. By now, Cool had stopped his escapade and was standing in the middle of the arena looking at me. I scraped myself off the ground slowly, testing my leg to make sure that I could actually stand on it. I could, but from the hip down my entire leg was shaking uncontrollably, and I was on the verge of tears.

I'll spare you the rest of the details, as it would make for a very long post, but I did manage to get back on and trot and canter again, and then I promptly put Cool back on the lunge line where he played rodeo horse again, running and bucking like an idiot. I have no idea what's gotten into him lately, he's been so wild, so uncharacteristic of himself. I lamented over it with my husband last night, telling him that I just don't even know what to do with him anymore. I can barely ride him, and I sure as heck am not going to get majorly hurt over it. I was lucky that my fall wasn't worse, because, thinking back on it, it could have been. What if he would have slipped and fallen down with me? What if I would have held on, only to have him barrel down into the barn and throw me into the barn wall? Or even worse, throw me into the semi-trailer? My husband (who is by no means a competent horse person, but sticks like glue and has legs long enough to wrap around a horse's belly) says that he will get on Cool and ride him before I do again, but I'm still worried.

What happened to my horse that needed a firecracker to make him canter? I know that he's been out of work for a while, but shouldn't he be unfit and lazy like he was when we first got him? The horse that laid down with me on his back when he decided that he was too hot and tired to work anymore? Where is that horse?

It seems like we have a long way to go, and a short time to get there :(

'Til next time,


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