Amateurs Like Us: On Pause For The Moment

Apr 19, 2017 - 4:42 PM

In my last blog I outlined some of the things I’ve been struggling with, in terms of my riding and ability to get back into the show ring. I injured myself, my truck broke, I’m busy…blah, blah, blah.

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Steve on stall rest.

Every single one of us, I’m willing to bet, has dealt with some or all of those challenges in our riding careers. I have been oddly lucky in the horse injury stakes lately and I guess my number was up, because my newest issue is Steve sticking his foot in a hole some weeks ago.

A couple of jogs up and down the driveway and an ultrasound session later and it turns out that the gift Steve gave me is a (thankfully) minor injury to his front leg. Enough to put me out of the saddle a few weeks, and to further delay our triumphant (hah hah) return to the show ring, but not enough to cause anything more than a feeling of being bummed out on my part.

My vet was very chipper about the whole thing, and as he pointed out the area of concern on the ultrasound I nodded knowledgeably even though in my head I was thinking: “I see nothing. It looks like static. I have no idea what is going on here.” Someday maybe he will catch on to the fact that I never have any clue as to what is going on with ultrasounds, but after years of hiding that fact I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

So now what? I am no stranger to being out of the saddle—one of my horses, Happy, was a genius at creative self-injury. Once he threw a tantrum about something random and stuck his entire back leg through a 12’ wide paddock gate. He then freaked out, lifted the gate off its hinges and dragged it into the middle of the field. By the lucky/unlucky star under which he was born, Haps only had surface abrasions and swelling, but it kept us from going anywhere for a while.

Then there was the time my baby horse Warren got cast and pulled something in his back. That was great.

Herbie once was off due to a suspensory injury for several months, most of it spent gently loafing around in his field or his stall. On the day I showed up to take him to aquatread for a few weeks of rehab, he came in from the field with a freaking puncture wound that went very, very deep into his freaking hock. So, instead of rehab he went to New Bolton for a couple of weeks and THEN to rehab. OK, I need a second—all of these memories are making me anxious.

Well, so, yeah—I’m no stranger to horses needing some time off, for both major and minor things. A friend of mine told me that her non-horsey husband describes riding to other people as: “At any point in time the horse is injured, the rider is injured, or both are injured.” Sounds about right!

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Repeat after me: Hand walking is fun.

One of my bad habits when I’m out of the saddle is to start obsessing about updating my tack and equipment. Retail therapy is not a good idea when horses are involved, because everything horse-related comes with an inflated price tag. When I dislocated my elbow last summer I ended up with a customized helmet (it was Helmet Awareness Day! Discounts!), three new pairs of daily breeches (they were on sale!), a new bridle (sale!), a new girth (100% NOT on sale, but I needed it! Sort of!), and a variety of lesser items. I now have, for example, about 25 tack sponges. Hey, I got free shipping! You always need tack sponges, right?

I’ve been doing my best to avoid that this time around, especially since I need to save up for a new truck. So far I have filled about 12 virtual shopping carts and then forced myself to (virtually) walk away, but the temptation is strong. What is really going on, to pop psychology myself for a minute, is that I’m feeling helpless and frustrated so I’m trying to regain control by buying things that I can then futz around with and use to help me reorganize my horsey life. I know this is what I am doing, but Veredus introduced some new horse boots with colored liners, and the light blue is one of Steve’s colors…surely I need those?

The other approach I can take is to suck it up and keep going. So, I ride as much as I can, get out to watch my friends compete, and keep myself in shape (ugh, the treadmill). My sweet Herbie is moving up to training level with his kid soon, so I’ll be there clutching a friend’s arm in fear and hope as we watch their big debut.

To clarify: I’m not worried about injury to either of them or anything like that, I simply want Herbie to do well and it manifests itself, somewhat embarrassingly, in severe anxiety when he competes. My trainer, Packy, has a bunch of babies for me to play with, so there is another outlet, plus it’s the chance to get yelled at while riding a different horse than Steve—always fun!

But…it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for myself, once again sidelined—this time until Stevie is all healed and ready to go. He’s on the way to it, though! I dropped him off the other day at the aquatread place (aka Swim Camp), where he will spend 45 days turning into even more of a beefcake than he already is normally. After a month and a half stuck in his stall, Steve is (according to the reports) super happy to be doing something again.

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I handwalked him nearly every day for most of his stall rest but the last few weeks he was leaping in the air like a giant, angry rabbit—and one wearing steel shoes, to boot—so I decided to put the kibosh on further outings due to fear of re-injury (him) or maiming (me).

Now Steve’s steel shoes are swapped out for fancy French therapeutic fronts, he’s aquatreading fit to beat the band, and I’ll just wait. When he is ready we’ll work our way back to the ring, eventually. Right now, I just miss my little red horse and I can’t wait to have him home again.

We’ve all been there, right? Good luck to everyone dealing with horse injuries—keep your (collective) chin up, we will make it through this, one way or another. And to everyone else who is out having fun with your horses—save a post-ride cider for me, I’ll be joining you guys again soon!

Susan Glover is an assistant professor in the Department of Government at American University (D.C.), specializing in comparative politics. She shows her Argentinian Warmblood The Red Spy in the adult amateur jumper division in the Mid-Atlantic area. Read all her COTH blogs

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