Friday, June 24, 2011

Just an hour or so to be safe from fear

I had my third physical therapy session today for my broken ankle. I actually got to pedal a bike and it didn't hurt! I have been doing the prescribed exercises, like stretching, writing the alphabet with my toes, and scrunching my toes, and I think it's working. In the last few weeks, I have gone from using a wheelchair to two crutches to one crutch to none. I've gone from a surgical splint to a walking boot to a reinforced ankle brace and now I prefer going bare. I push my ankle in all directions just to the point of hurting and try to maintain it for several seconds. Then I release and try again. I still have heel pain and my ankle is still extremely swollen and tight most of the time, probably from me always working at it. The only shoes I can wear are crocs, because they have cushy heels, or snow boots around the barn because the swelling and metal(?) in my ankle extends down almost to the sole of my foot. I hope that I can wear regular shoes soon.
I can touch my ankle all over but when I lean against things with my ankle, like laying against the bedsheets, it hurts terribly.

I made a personal goal of riding my horses as soon as I could and I did ride last week for a short time. It was hard to climb on board and even harder climbing off, but every day, I get stronger. The other day, I couldn't stop singing an old Chumbawumba song, " I get knocked down, I get up again, no one's ever gonna keep me down." I intend to get this experience behind me as quickly as possible.

More and more, I am taking back my life. Every day, it's getting easier to walk out to the barn and feed the horses. This evening, I brushed them all down. Then I decided to ride Nadia. I put the bareback pad on her and used Annie's thin halter, snapping on a set of nylon reins to the side rings of the halter. I put on my helmet and climbed up on the rails in her stall and scooted onto her back. We rode all over the neighborhood but I was reluctant to ride out back where the accident with Scout took place. It was a very pleasant evening and I wouldn't have been surprised if they were out walking their dogs. Instead, I rode along the gravel roadways in my little neighborhood and to the highway and back. We watched a fire truck go by and it never even phased Nadia. The next time I rode out towards the highway, there hadn't been any traffic for some time, so I decided to cross the road to a little grassy area and then come right back. However, Murphy's Law happened and as soon as we crossed, there was suddenly a car coming at us from each direction. I couldn't cross back before they arrived so we stopped and stood, waiting, with our butts to the traffic. I had wild thoughts that Nadia was going to freak out and run across the road in front of the cars. I could see myself falling off and hurting my ankle again. Where did that fear come from? Nadia has always been good along roadsides. Once, I had to ride her along a very  busy highway during a terrible thunderstorm for several miles. Now, she gave no indication of being stressed. Still, I was terrified for a few seconds. On another horse, I might have caused a negative reaction. They just might have gotten panicked from my thoughts. Why would I get so unreasonably afraid and how do I control my thoughts?

While we were riding around, Yalla! and Scout were running up and down the arena calling to us. He has a loud trumpet-like call and Yalla! has a shrill baby-like neigh. Nadia just ignores them as she walks along with her ears pricked forward, sometimes speeding up, sometimes slowing down. I went into the round pen and let her graze some of the weeds. Then she did the strangest thing. She stopped eating and stood still for a few seconds. Then she laid down. I was so surprised; I climbed off unto my bad foot- OW!!- and then she rose up again. I worried that she was going into colic. I walked her back to the barn, watching her, and put her back into her stall. Good thing I can walk better now.

Nadia went straight to her hay and mash and began munching. I have seen her do this before while eating. She just walks away, lays down, gets up and starts eating again, like nothing happened. Does anyone have any ideas as to why she does this? I don't see any signs of discomfort. I think she's getting senile. I wanted to watch her some more so I decided to ride Scout. He was still calling to us (me?) and was standing by the gate watching me. I really think he was feeling anxious that I haven't ridden him yet since the accident. He readily came to me and I haltered him. Then I led him over to the railing and carefully climbed up. I carefully stepped across his back. I am so careful at this point because I know that all they have to do is move away while I'm throwing a leg over and I'll fall and probably get hurt. Anyway, as I settled onto his back I could almost feel him sigh (with relief?) and smile. We rode around the arena and he was the perfect gentleman. My ankle doesn't hurt when I ride except for the feeling of the boot against the skin. I am still wearing my snow boots and the fleece inside should help, but it really doesn't. I even jogged him.

My neighbor came up to the fence to chat with me and his large dog came bounding up to Scout and I. I panicked, thinking, "Oh no! dogs are what caused Scout to rear up!," but at the same time I was glad for the test. Scout stood his ground and didn't even flinch. Of course, there was a fence between us. But, I have often ridden Scout with Sandy running alongside and she goes into the arena and 'bothers' the horses more times than I would like. I still ponder over the events that caused Scout to rear that day. I think a lot of the problem was the strange bit he was wearing. I had him in a low port curb but I usually ride him in a simple ringed snaffle. This is why, tonight, I rode him in just a halter. Yes, Sydney, I am seriously ready to go bitless on all of my horses. I never use the reins very much anyway. The dogs riled him up, but I think the different bit, combined with the uneven ground, caused him to lose his balance and go over backwards on me. Even though I didn't pull on the bit, he was causing himself discomfort by raising his head causing the bit to shift in his mouth.

The neighbor and I had a little chat and Yalla! came over to join in on the conversation. She never showed any signs of agression towards Scout, of which I was glad, and I rubbed her head as she lay it on top of his back, in my lap. Yalla! has become a terrible two year old, terrorizing all the other horses. I've seen her double barrel Scout AND her mama just because she wanted to. She needs a good put down and unfortunately, her doting mama doesn't seem willing to chastise her, rather, she backs off from the little monster's threats. Yalla! therefore, thinks she is queen of the herd now. Unfortunately, she also thinks she is above us, humans. She has kicked out at my son, daughter, and myself, on numerous occasions. My son smacked her really good on the head when she kicked out at him. I told him that was okay because she is exhibiting very dangerous behavior, but to "rub" it out afterwards, by petting her so that she doesn't develop hatred and fear of him. Then she will REALLY become dangerous. Right now, she doesn't know any better. Any suggestions? I almost always carry a crop around with me when I am on the ground, working around her, or a bucket, or something that can shield me or smack her. However, timing is everything. When I am most vulnerable, directly behind her, I will not be able to smack her because I fear retaliation. Especially now, since I am not walking well, I am extra careful around her, usually avoiding to go around her at all.

Anyway, after my ride on Scout, I carefully climbed off, using the railing, and gave him several head hugs, as I released him from the halter. He seemed extra content and I think that our ride was just what we both needed.

Just an hour or so to be safe from fear - song: Black Tie, White Noise, artist: David Bowie, album: Black Tie, White Noise


Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

Val, you know what Betty went through after her accident. What you're experiencing is normal and part of the healing process. You have to experience the fear and go through it to get to the other side, put it behind you. If you don't, it will always be in front of you. It took Betty a long time of riding with fear to get through it, but she persevered because she loves to ride. I won't say it's totally behind her, but she's much more relaxed when she rides these days.

Be patient with yourself most of all.


Shirley said...

Fear can be crippling. Time will help, and the good attitude of your horses will be the best help and therapy you can get. Hang in there!
Yalla! sure is in the terrible twos! The only thing I can suggest is that you do whatever works to get her to respect your personal space- don't avoid the issue, take it to her.
Tough to do at the moment because of you foot though.

Tammy said...

Glad you got to ride both of them! I have a lot of fear around highways. My horses are fine; its me. I always think about The Horse Whisperer and the semi....

fernvalley01 said...

so glad you rode Scout again , he sounds like such a sensitive guy! Yalla, just need consistent reminders that You anf all two leggeds are WAAAAY above her in the peccking order , carry a crop ,and when she challenges you , and even when she crowds your space without invite , first raise your hand and sharply say her name or NO! if she doesn't back off , giver a sharp snap with the crop on the shoulder or neck (essentially a boss mare nip)you can use your hand , but with your injuries just healing I would worry about being that close and losing your balance . when she is respectful and "asks " to come into your space , reward.It is not the be all end all way to do things , but teaching good boundaries is essential with youngsters.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Yeah, it's a long journey but life is a journey. I feel better having ridden Scout now.

Annie was a kicker when we first got her at four years old, mostly other horses, but I didn't trust her at all in those days. Now, I feel completely at ease around her. Hopefully, this is a phase Yalla! will outgrow. I just wish the other horses would help out a little and not give in to her so much.

That scene in the Horse Whisperer leaves me crying my eyes out.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think it's normal for you to have some fear after your accident. Especially, since you're not really healed yet. Be careful.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

You know, I suspect you'll never know why Scout reared that day. Horses are anything but consistent in their reactions to things. I suspect it just has to do with whether the thinking part or the reactionary part of their brain is being dominant in that moment.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You are so much braver than I am. Just the fact that you get on up there all alone is impressive.

Good for you getting back on Scout again. Sounds like it was just what the both of you needed.


Lori Skoog said...

You have a lot of guts doing this, but it sounds like it worked out ok.

Breathe said...

I'm catching up here. I agree, by pushing thru the fear gets smaller and the triggers less intense. The most important thing is to face them. I'm about two steps behind you, but moving forward too.

Merri said...

I'm so happy you got to ride again! it will help with the healing. I think that, just like your body is healing, everything else will too. and the horses will only help.
- The Equestrian Vagabond