Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Looking Back................ a Little Trail

Part 1

The healing from this injury took forever. Notice I didn't say it "seemed like" forever. In the realm of healing times for bones, the docs said I healed like a 90 year old woman and I was not much over 40 at the time.

I was on the far side of six months before the bone was finally mended and physical therapy could begin. That was six months of sitting in that dumb chair zoned out on soap operas wishing my life away. All I wanted was for time to fly by faster so I could get back to my horses and riding. I was suffering some serious withdrawal since it wasn't even safe for me to go to the barn for fear I'd get bumped and break the tentative bond forming between those two pieces of bone.

That day finally came when the bone was firmly bonded together and I allowed to begin physical therapy. By then my arm felt permanently planted in that pose required for the gravity cast. The only movement I had was in my wrist and my fingers and just a little bit of movement in my elbow. My shoulder was locked down tight.

In the beginning I went to physical therapy five days a week. If the appointments were spread out farther I wasn't making any progress at all. my arm seemed so planted to my body I wondered if I was ever going to get back to normal again.

Breaking lose the scar tissue was, of course, painful but by now I didn't care. I would have endured anything to be cleared to ride a horse. I'm pretty sure my PT would tell you I was a model patient. I wasn't about to do anything that might make it even longer before I could ride.

Some time during this early physical therapy entries for the Region 5 All Arabian Horse Championships were due. Even though I hadn't even been back on a horse yet, I figured I would be by show time.
Since my horse, Malachite, was already qualified from showing the year before, I took my chances and entered in both western pleasure and in trail.

I think it was just a couple of weeks before the show that I was even allowed to get back on a horse. At that time the movement in my elbow had improved dramatically and I was beginning to get some movement in my shoulder but my arm was still a long way from being functional.

Getting on a horse with little use of my left arm proved to be a challenge at first. Not being able to grab a handful of mane or the horn to help pull me up wasn't my only problem. For some reason I was off balance with my left arm tucked so tightly against my body. Even using a mounting block I was a total klutz.

I should add here that this horse, Malachite was my first show horse. He was pretty ring sour so I'd decided to begin doing trail classes to give him something else to think about.

As much as the horse hated going around in circles, he hated trail more. The horse was terrified that everything and anything was going to eat him but he was obedient so he did what he was asked. The result was a horse that was very careful with his feet and he always, always looked closely at the obstacles. The horse never crossed a bridge he didn't put his nose down onto and snort.

To this day I remember that regional trail class, well, part of it anyway. There was one obstacle that sticks out in my mind. They had an elevated chute approximately five and a half feet high and about twelve feet long with branches laying across the rails. The branches went from one end of the chute to the other.

We were supposed to walk through that chute throwing the branches out of our way as we navigated the chute. I had never schooled this kind of obstacle with my horse and I wasn't really sure how he would react. Without the use of one arm, I wasn't sure this obstacle would even be safe for us to try.

I spoke to the steward about my immobile arm and the possibility I would not be able to navigate the obstacle at all. I wanted to see what my line of travel should be if I couldn't complete this obstacle knowing I could be scored "off course" if I didn't go around the obstacle the appropriate way.

The steward's response was to ask the judge. I hadn't been sure if it was OK for the judge to know I was riding with a handicap or not but since the steward said "talk to the judge" that's what I did. The judge told me I could opt out at any point if I thought the obstacle would be unsafe for me. His requirement for me to still be on course was the line to the next obstacle needed to be to the left of the obstacle I was avoiding. Armed with that information, I was ready to take on the course.

After all of my concern about how Malachite would deal with this obstacle, the horse just walked right up to it. He took one look at it and snorted. Then at my insistence he move forward, the horse dropped his head underneath the branches and slowly walked through the chute.

I had to ask him to stop several times so I could throw the branches out of the way. Because I didn't have the use of my left arm, I set the reins down on the horse's neck. Then I used my right arm to throw the branches aside.

The horse didn't even flinch at those branches dropping to the ground. He didn't take a step until I had the reins back in my right hand and cued him to move. Then he proceeded slowly and carefully, totally taking care of his injured rider.

There was something screwed up later in the course so we did not get a regional top five. Whatever it was, the mistake was not something naughty. More likely than not it was pilot error but I will never forget how easily that horse dropped his head and took on what proved to be the most difficult obstacle in the course for most horses. That day he was a star!

To be continued.................

The pictured horse is Malachite, barn name Mark.

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  1. What a great horse! And super ambitious of you to ride that soon after starting PT.

  2. He sounds like a super trail horse, observant, yet obedient. I know some of those trail class obstacles can be really tough!!

  3. Reading about your injury took me back to the 8 months I spent waiting for my clavicle to heal. Not a happy time. So glad you made it through the trail course safely.

  4. How funny that some heal so quickly while others seem to take so long. Curt, in his mid 70's, healed up so fast his doctor was amazed. Wouldn't it be nice to be like that?

    I saw something today that reminded me of your trail horse expectations here: My horse only spooks at two things. 1) Things that move. 2) Things that don't move. I had a quarter horse who fit that description perfectly. Such a joy to ride...not.

  5. He sounds like a great horse who loved you and took care of you.

    PT is not my favorite thing and I know how much it hurts to break up scar tissue. Good for you for breaking through and getting back on.

  6. He sounds marvelous - and thank for stopping by!

  7. WOWEE...been catching up here and you are my hero! What a difficult healing process . The triumph is your riding that trail class though...I love hearing of your wonderful Malachite!

    My mare is afraid of one thing-though she may give a snort to many- one item in it's many form on the trail give her cause to pause...LOGS! The leg getter kind!