We have had the worst luck this week. I won’t go through the list because who wants to attend a Debbie Downer party, but just trust me.
On Thursday we had our first visit with a large animal vet. We had thought that Lucy had fallen victim to Autumn allergies. But soon it become evident that only one eye was affected. Lucy held her left eye closed in the bright sun. Her right eye was wide open. Time to call a vet.
We don’t have a horse trailer so the vet has to come to us (at a travel rate of $5 / mile). I was working during the visit but Buck said Lucy was phenomenal. Our fussy, bratty Lucy! She stood for procedures that require sedation in most other horses (poking around in the eye with stains, lights, etc.). Thanks, Luc, for saving us a few hundred dollars on that part!
We went away with two oral medications: one general pain reliever, one gastric ulcer prevention (horses under this type of stress apparently develop stomach issues). The other two medications were for treatment of a corneal ulcer (read: tear in the eye). It could have been caused by anything – a piece of hay in her eye or a low branch. The medications are applied to her eye 3 times a day (eye numbing med and antibiotic).
Lawd oh mighty and it was a pricey visit. But you know what is priceless? Lucy’s vision.
The mini horse on the left is Jelly Bean. He is one year younger than I am and is in perfect health except for the fact that he is blind in both eyes due to eye infections gone untreated. We will try our hardest not to have that happen to Lucy. Most owners would probably put a blind horse down but Patti (Buck’s sister), who owns Jelly Bean, keeps him around. Luckily that little baby stallion Bronson thinks Jelly Bean is a god so the Bean is in good company.
On Saturday I began teaching Cinco how to canter. I don’t know why I just thought I could do this without reading up on it. My ego got the best of me. I mean, I read for hours about how to teach him to walk, a much more natural gait for the horse anyway, when I first got him. Why would this be any different?
As I lay in bed yesterday recuperating, I read up on green horses cantering.
First, they almost always transition into that gait from a trot at too fast a speed.
Second, there is a big difference in balance based on which forefoot they lead with, especially when circling.
Third, green horses are clumsy with their big bodies at fast speeds and often carry too much weight forward.
Fourth, cantering should be done first in a round pen, then in an enclosed area with tack on, then on straight lines only with a horse and rider, and only then with curves.
Fifth, it doesn’t take a horse person to know that moving objects accelerate around curves.
So this is what happened.
Cinco and I were trotting and walking along beautifully. We did a few laps in the arena. Stopped on voice commands. Backed on voice commands. The natural choice seemed to be to canter next.
So I made a kissy sound and kicked a wee bit and Cinco transitioned beautifully into a canter for about 4 strides. And then we settled back down to a trot. This seemed good to me. Maybe he felt uncomfortable at the fast pace so he was sort of self regulating himself.
We did this for about 5 minutes. I reinforced ‘ho’ commands to make sure he’d stop when asked and he did fine. Finally I kicked him up into a canter again a little too early around a curve.
It was sort of surreal. I remember his head being impossibly low to the ground. Like we were both going downhill.
I remember struggling to lean back without pulling on his reins.
As we rounded through the turn I remember seeing the arena wall and thinking if I fall now, I’m going to crack my face right into that.
His head got even lower. The front of his body was so low that the thought entered my head: he’s running on his knees! (Crazy, I know).
Finally his body turned left (we were making a left turn) which left my body to go right (into the arena wall). Eventually I couldn’t even see his head, neck, or forelimbs. He sort of melted into the ground as he turned the corner and I was propelled over his right shoulder.
You know how when you have braces when you are a teenager you are scared of anything hitting your mouth? Like when I was playing baseball as a kid with braces I’d stick one arm out to catch the ball and the other one over my lips just in case the ball hit my face. I still retain that fear.
So I did some sort of contortionist-worthy twist in the air so that the back of my body hit the arena wall rather than the front. I was bundled up like a rag doll, apparently, so that the part of my upper body most protruding was my neck. I do remember hearing my helmet knock the wood and bounce off. Thank goodness I was wearing that!
But it wasn’t over yet. I was propelled in front of Cinco’s path. By the time I hit the arena wall and bounced off into the dirt, Cinco was just ready to take his next step. I remember being face up on the ground. I remember making eye contact with Cinco as he took his next step. I remember his face seeming so close to mine and his nostrils looking so big that they could envelop my face (I know, what a description).
His right hoof landed in the narrow ground between my body and the arena wall. It bore most of the weight of his body, I think. His left hoof came down on my pelvis.
Right after his hoof came down on me and he stepped aside my first thought, of course, was “am I paralyzed?” I wasn’t. I had so much adrenaline then that I was able to pop up to get out of the way of a next blow from Cinco.
Buck was on the tractor in the next field over and I crossed the arena to flag him down. Cinco followed me as if I was leading him with a rope. I wasn’t.
I tried to flag Buck down but he thought I was just waving at him. While waiting for him to pass again on the tractor I folded my body over the arena wall to support my weight. Eventually I got the message across that I needed him.
When he got to me I wasn’t sure that I could walk anymore and I was so full of adrenaline that I couldn’t even form a sentence. Cinco was dazed and confused, too.
With Buck’s help, I limped home and he set me up on the couch with ice and ibuprofen. He went back outside to turn the tractor off and remove Cinco’s saddle from his body. Buck said Cinco was standing in the arena, just neighing and crying. We rarely ever hear Cinco neigh. After Buck removed his tack, Cinco walked into the barn, stood in the barn hallway but placed his head in the doorway of his own stall, and stood there. What emotion was he feeling?
Anyway. The fall could have been much worse. And now, since I’ve been bedridden, I’ve read up on how you actually teach a horse to canter so my next attempts will be better. I hope.