Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Not a Matter of If, But When

Guest blogger: Heather

After a wonderful long weekend of spending plenty of time with horses, what would any girl want to do the Tuesday after? Well, spend more time with horses! Hence, it was no surprise to me when my barn buddy calls asking about the condition of the arena after the morning rain. It was drying out nicely but still a little on the gooey side, so Leah decided to call when she was on her way home. Yes, it's true, she's a true horsewoman (aka addict), throws her tack and riding clothes in her truck before she heads to work.

By afternoon, the arena was just damp enough that the dust was down, but it was hot and humid. Isn't that how it goes? But close enough to a perfect day, that we weren't passing up the chance to ride. Nita, my mother, is just getting back into riding after injuring her leg, so I had made plans to give her a lesson on her hands, at the walk, and either bareback or stirrup-less. Something nice and relaxing. So, she pulled her bombproof, retired, foundered, 20-year old mare Keeley up for some attention.

Leah had plans to ride good ol' Poco, and good ol' Poco isn't usually that good with mares. Mom and I had discussed it, and if Poco was too bad for Leah, she had planned to take Keeley up, let Leah get control, and then ride Keeley once Leah was done. With as good as Poco had been this weekend, it seemed like a good time to test. Besides, both Mom and I prefer mares to geldings, so if we can rides mares with Poco then YAY!

Every one headed out into the area, me with my trusty chair and bottle of Gatorade, and the ladies with their ponies. Things started out nice and easy, Poco was being, well, Poco, and Mom was relaxing into her lesson. Leah didn't seem to be having too much trouble with Poco, I mean, he's a goofy boy, but he was listening to her. He was obviously showing off though, making sure that gorgeous mare over on the other side could see how handsome he was. Keeley of course, could care less, so Poco was SURE that she loved him, and he should strut his stuff.

If Keeley went over the ground poles, then Poco wanted to. If Keeley went around the barrels, then Poco wanted to as well. Leah was using this to her advantage I think, and getting Poco to do some lovely work. He was stepping over the rails nicely, going straight, and she was heading around the barrels, picking up speed. Eventually she was rounding them in a trot, and making some very lovely bends. Poco looked like he was getting into the whole deal. Leah seemed to be in control, and while Poco was distracted by the mare, he wasn't out of control. Things seemed to be going well.

Now, I have to mention here, that my arena is next to the road. It's a moderately busy road, and the horses are used to the traffic, for the most part. But on the other side of the road is a hay pasture, and the farmer was out with his mower that afternoon. The horses seemed to have no problem with this, as it's something they see all the time.

So, after about 20 minutes, just as the horses are getting into it, things went bad. Nita and Keeley were on the back side, and Nita was getting the idea of asking her horse to reach down for the bit while on a loose rein. They were very relaxed, and looking good, so I turned to watch Leah and Poco having so much fun. Leah had Poco heading to a barrel, at a quick trot, and he looked very intent on what he was doing. They cut the barrel a little close, and whipped around it. Both looked like they were enjoying themselves, right up until Leah's foot rocked the barrel.

Time slowed, and I watched the barrel tip to it's edge, and Leah correct Poco away from it. Poco turned, and then the barrel thumped back into place with a noticible whump. Poco rolled his Appaloosa eyes back to the noise, and I glanced where he was looking. That farmer in his hay tractor was booking it across the pasture, right at us. I got the distinct impression that Poco heard the loud noise, and saw a large green monster coming to eat him. He panicked.

He tucked his rump under him and tried to take off at the canter. Leah half-halted him hard, but he tried another bolting canter step. Leah corrected that too, and had a good hand on her horn, her feet were down, and she was sitting good.

For a second, I thought, "I think she's got control". And then Poco's fear outdid his brain. He shifted his weight onto his forehand and bounced. Leah sat the bounce, tightened her rein, but Poco was in monster land by this point (and heading right at me, I might add). Poco hopped again, a little harder and a little to the left, then again, more to the left. Leah was still in the saddle, but not in control, and then Poco hopped far to the right, leaving Leah out in the air. As luck would have it, I had recently filled in a washed out spot with 8 inches of new soft sand, and that's where Leah was flying to.

She came down pretty hard, landing on her hip, side and arm. Her helmet and arm scooped the sand, sending it all over (and I'm sure quite a bit down her clothes). I hopped up, watching Poco buck off and calming down. Poco was fine, just scared. When I went to check Leah, before I even made it to her, I asked the age-old question, "Are you ok?" She replied with something along the lines of "I don't know yet". Well, she's speaking, that's good. She hadn't made a move yet, so it was nice to hear her voice.

Any one who's ever hit the ground hard (and haven't most of us?) knows, there's a mental inventory you take. Arms? Check. Legs? Yep, still there. Body? Oww owww owww... ok I still have that too. That's what Leah was doing, and I didn't want her to rush it. I looked up and Poco was running around, trailing a broken rein. Well crap, can't let him tear apart all her tack. I told Leah to take her time, she didn't have to move. Nita and Keeley were standing quietly in the center of the arena, hoping Poco would come over, and stop running around. He thought about it, then took off for the barn side of the arena, where a little hay had been dropped earlier. Nothing like food to stop a spooky horse in his tracks!

I caught up to Poco, checked out what had broken, knew I had another set of reins just in the barn. Looked back, and Leah was getting up. I told her to sit down in that chair I had brought out (which wasn't very far from where she landed) and to drink the Gatorade. Sitting and drinking something sweet has always helped me get the twitching feeling to stop. I walked Poco back over so she could hold him while I got the reins.

Poco had the look of fear on his face. His little eyebrows were tight, his head was low, and his entire demeanor showed that he expected a whoppin'. When Leah took his reins, he looked just terrified, but he stood there, waiting for the punishment. In my mind, there's no reason to punish a horse for being scared. It's not going to help the horse trust his rider, nor will it make any difference that long after the incident. Training fixes the problem, hitting a horse that let you catch him does not. [LF here. Clarification: Poco was handled roughly by one or more previous owners, never by Heather or me.]

While I went to get new reins, Leah calmed Poco, gave him some Gatorade, and reassured him that if he behaved, even in hand, he would not be punished. We snapped on the reins, and I held him while she saddled up. Walking to the mounting block looked like it was excruciating for her. Her hip had taken the main force of her landing, and she walked with a noticeable limp. I held Poco while she mounted, she calmed him (and herself I'm sure) a bit, and then they made a few laps around the arena. Poco was behaving much better, and a lot less inclined to show off.

The ride wound down, the ladies cooled off their horses, and we headed back to the barn. Poor Leah limped around tacking down Poco, but she wanted to do the walking her self, to help ease those muscles out. After every one was settled, I reminded her again of my tricks to keep her hip from being too bad the next morning. I kept thinking about how she had to drive home, and her muscles would start to cool and stiffen. Man, do I feel bad for her.

But, she took her fall like a pro. She did her best to correct the horse and prevent it, but once she was off, she handled her horse with intelligence rather then anger, and hopped back on him with out a second thought. When I met Leah 3 years ago, she was excited and full of questions. Now, she's self assured, but still takes advice from those who offer it, and has her own to offer in return. Ah, how the time flies.

So now the big question is, can Leah walk at all today?

Answer from Leah: very slowly. I am a hurtin' cowgirl.


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Oh no! Here's wishing that you'll be pain-free soon, Leah. I'll have to keep your story in mind when I ride the barrels at the Fairgrounds. Lostine lost it once when a moth flew up off one of those barrels.

Paint Girl said...

I am so sorry Leah! I hope you get better real quick! Cheers to you for getting back on, even when you were hurting so bad.
When Fritzy dumped me I was in serious pain and couldn't physically get back on, I wish I could have.

Unknown said...

Uh Oh! Sorry you got dumped Leah!

Glad you are basically ok, but sorry it happened.

You get a cowgirl prize for getting back on! Chin-up you'll feel better before you know it.

Anonymous said...

Those moments earn you your spurs! Yeeha! Of course, I don't like it to happen to anyone. Glad to hear you are (mostly) okay!

Leah Fry said...

It didn't hurt to sit, even to ride, just to walk.

I called Mike on my way home from Heather's Tuesday night (night it happened) and asked Mike to draw me a hot bath. After that, I iced it, including a good part of yesterday at work. It is MUCH better today. I'm thankful today that my body was strong enough to take the fall and not be seriously hurt, and for that bit of resilience. If you are not middle age, wait, and you will understand the importance of both.

I'm riding Saturday and will serve up some blog fodder. Count on it.

Pony Girl said...

Great post, Heather. You told the story well. Poor Leah, I could visualize the whole thing unraveling, she almost hung in there, but Poco was on a roll. I'm glad he was a bit scared and remorseful afterward, it showed he wasn't intentionally trying to dump her.

And Leah, I hope you are on the mend soon and it sounds like you took your bronc ride like a true cowgirl, even getting back in the saddle after, which will help Poco and you with the confidence next time. Take it easy my friend!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

OH NO!!!!! How terrifying!
My chest kept tightening th entire I kept reading....knowing that something bad had happened....and not wanting it to be true!

Oh man! It's like deja vue reading this. Sounds so much like what happened to me. OUCH!

I hope you go to the hospital just to make sure there are no fractures or torn ligaments. you can make them worse if you use them too much.

I'm just so sorry, Leah. I hope you heal fast (not like me. gah!) and are able to walk without pain soon.


word verification: unstuse

(doesn't sound good)

jacksonsgrrl said...

Leah-Heather had me on the edge of my seat!!! Sounds like you are a much better rider than you give yourself credit for in your posts!!! SOOOOO glad you are alright! It's so important, if you are able, to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back up on that horse! When I broke my shoulder I got right back on...adrenaline always helps as well as the thought that we were 2 miles from home and I DID NOT think I could walk it!!! Of course, finishing the trail ride probably wasn't the wisest idea...but the MAJOR pain had not set in, just the shakiness and that icky adrenaline feeling....PAIN and FEAR came later.
You are awesome Leah!
Heat, cold and Ibuprofen and my nursing recommedations.

taramariephotography said...

Sounds a lot like the involuntary dismount I experienced a couple years ago. Might I recommend the chiropractor!!

cowgirljlynn said...

Glad to hear that Leah is ok. I keep waiting for my day to come for me to go flying off!

City girl turned Country Girl said...

WOW, I just stopped in from "Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind", and I love your blog!! I am reading back to catch up, I am so sorry to hear about your fall! I am so glad that you are OK Leah! I'm really glad you landed in a softer spot of the arena. I too had a fall where I landed on my hip, I was going at a pretty good speed before the fall (well actually I bailed, long story :)) and I landed exactly like that on my left hip. Well I knew something was horribly wrong, and ended up in an ambulance off to the hospital. I broke my back, I was lucky because the area that I broke wasn't a spot that affected my movement. But none the less, it is 2 years later and I still have pain problems. So I am very glad to hear that you were able to get back on and I am glad you decided to take it slow after realizing that it needed time!! Take care and I look forward to reading more!!

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