I had this plan.
My friend and coach Ali Brock was scheduled to come to Aleco and Sandra Bravo-Greenberg’s gorgeous Rutledge Farm, just a short hike away in Middleburg, Virginia, for a clinic as part of their Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series. The clinic was not only a chance for me to get some lessons on Elvis, who is 2.5 weeks out from the U.S. Dressage Finals, but also an opportunity to get some nice press coverage of my wonderful horse who is, ahem, owned by a syndicate with shares still available.
And then, as Ali would be stopping at her Virginia base for a few days before returning to Florida, I thought I’d seize the moment and bring Puck down to her, to have lessons in the privacy of her own farm on my horse who’s not always ready for public consumption.
Swell plan, right? I even had a blog in mind touching on the differences between riding in a public symposium versus a lesson in private.
What I didn’t plan for was the broken hand.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Elvis was, per usual, really marvelous for Ali. He’s been on a roll, and while he needs reminding that no, seriously, self-carriage isn’t just a place we visit—it’s a lifestyle—he’s on his way. The work feels great. He’s feeling particularly great in the double bridle, which I used on Day 2, and that afforded us the opportunity to talk with the audience about Ali’s philosophy on double versus snaffle, and when and how often (introduce the double slowly, be thoughtful and prepared to experiment, treat each horse as an individual, user results may vary).
My biggest takeaways are that I am nowhere near the finish line on corners and half-halts, that I can’t spend enough time making a real point about them, and that the corners, in particular, need to be ridden like Elvis is on ice—carefully, so that he doesn’t skid out or bear down—because the corners are where all my prep for each movement of the test lives.
My student Liza, riding my wonderful old friend Midge, also had fantastic lessons, and other than foul weather on Sunday (leading to the discovery that I didn’t do as good a job as I’d thought installing my own windshield wiper blades on my truck … at 40 mph. Made for an exciting drive!), a wonderful time was had by all, and we can’t wait to go back.
Home, laundry, cooking, and back to the farm Monday to load Puck up and head to Charlottesville. Puck, for those who don’t know him, is also 8 and has a lot of talent. It’s just entangled in 17.2 hands of Anger Management Challenges. Getting Puck to keep himself together hasn’t been an easy row to hoe, and that’s been particularly true off-site. Finally, this spring he went to a show and (mostly) behaved himself. Because horses are horses, he sustained a minor injury after that, which healed beautifully and completely, and he’s been back to no-holds-barred work for a month now, but he obviously hasn’t had any outings in that time.
A chance to go to a beautiful indoor (with walls. Nice, tall walls.) for his first outing, rather than the great wide open of Wellington, Florida, two months from now, was too good to pass up. He shipped the quietest he’s shipped solo and was puffed up when I hopped on, but not egregiously so.
And as I made my way around the ring, at the walk, he spooked and twirled. Fast, but not very far. It really was a non-event except that my right hand smacked my saddle … and I heard a loud, sickening pop.
I rode my entire lesson, and it really didn’t hurt unless I tried to open my fingers, which one shouldn’t do anyway, so no worries. Until I dismounted. And could barely get my glove off. And couldn’t grip anything.
Ali’s wonderful staff put Puck away for me, and Ali took me to the ER, where everyone was terribly nice, and where a lot of the staff were riders, so they just laughed when I was impressed by my own X-rays, knew which narcotic was my favorite, and asked how long before I could ride again. I’ve broken my right fifth metacarpal, the bone inside the palm the becomes my pinkie finger.
As of this writing, there’s no answer to the riding question. I might need surgery (oh goodie), but I need to follow up with an orthopedist, who won’t want to see me for a few days because there’s going to be some swelling (and it was impressive that night, lemme tell ya). So, I’m on hold. I’m feeling a few things: annoyance, mostly, because there was this plan. Pain, for sure. (I’m afraid to take the narcotics because I know that I’m the sort of doofus who would say, “Whee, I feel great!” and then do too much.) And no small amount of gratitude, because while this sucks, I didn’t break anything bigger, or fall off and hit my head. This’ll heal and be fine.
But dangit, there was this plan.
Lauren Sprieser is a USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist making horses and riders to FEI from her farm in Marshall, Virginia. She’s currently developing The Elvis Syndicate’s Guernsey Elvis, Beverley Thomas and her Ellington, and her own Gretzky RV and Ojalá with hopes of one day representing the United States in team competition. Read more about her at SprieserSporthorse.com, or follow Lauren Sprieser on Facebook and Instagram.