Saturday, April 13, 2013

When Life Throws Rocks At You

Hey look! I'm alive! I'm unfortunately not particularly well though, at the moment, which is why I actually have time to sit down and write. Last Tuesday, I was mowing my lawn when a rogue rock shot out from underneath the blade and cracked me in the ankle. Hours of agony found me sobbing in the ER, taking radiographs and rolling around on the hospital bed in horrible agony. The PA decided there was no break, but that I'd "be fine" in two days... three days later I was SO NOT FINE, and went for a second opinion. While the second opinion guy agreed that there was no break, thank god, he did say that I have a massive contusion involving both soft tissue and bone, which is just as painful and long-healing as a break or fracture would be (just without risk of re-breaking the bone). I suppose I will take that for what it is worth.... right now I am still on crutches and high doses of pain meds, and feeling in general sort of miserable.

Thankfully, this injury has given me time to actually SIT DOWN AND WRITE! My life pre-injury was at the breaking point, absolutely on dangerous overload and I was nearing short-circuiting rapidly. Now, I suddenly have time on my hands to just sit on my butt and HEAL.... and I'm not really enjoying that very much either. I WANT to be up and doing things!

I need to do two huge things to catch up on blogging:
1) Monthly Goals
2) Updates on O-Ren!

So we'll start with the O-mare! 

O has now been with me for not quite two weeks. I picked her up on the last day of March, gave her a day off to chill, and then set her to work on the lunge. While she is outright adorable and in your face and pocket all the time, she needed some serious boundaries set, since she had absolutely no idea what Proper Horsey Behavior Around People really was. Given how outrageously she overreacted at some of her corrections - shooting to the end of her rope, panicked, flailing around and throwing her head in the air like she expected to be smacked in the face - I can only conclude that somebody was really, really mean to her, but gave her absolutely no parameters or reasons as to why they were being really mean to her. She was punished, but not at the right times, and had no connection at all from behavior to punishment. She kind of just had no idea what was going on, or what was expected of her, so she probably just continued to do whatever she felt like doing and dealt with the random beatings as they came. Her personality is 100% opposite of Immy's, so this doesn't seem to have affected her friendliness in any way, but it has somewhat dampened her willingness. She responds BEAUTIFULLY to praise, and goes out of her way to be told she is a good girl, and this will make things easy. She wants to do the right thing, she just has no idea what is actually expected of her.

The girls, by the way, all hit it off perfectly:

And they all had baths as well.... look, I found a fluffy red horse under all that hair! (She is in desperate need of a mane pull... yikes.)

The first day on the lunge, I outfitted her in a surcingle and some really loose sidereins, and kept it short and sweet (since she is way out of shape). Mostly I just wanted her to listen to voice commands and be obedient, since she had been so obnoxious on the lunge when her old owner lunged her (running around, pulling, doing whatever she wanted at whatever speed she wanted, stopping and coming in to her whenever she felt like it). I got some definite attitude, some face-making, some outright ignoring, and some running around in funny oblong ovals with no regard to the person in the middle of the circle. I was stupid enough to not have my whip with me (habit, I think, as I never use it with Immy), so I made due with some Very Angry Body Language, most of which was ignored. There was nothing mean in her behavior, she just did not see any reason to listen to me. This was more or less what I expected, and while she did finish on a very good note, I made sure to remind myself to remember the lunge whip the following day.

(O-Ren... welcome to Boot Camp Hell.)

And Miss Perfect, of course!

There was also a LOT of mannering the first few days during mealtimes... she ties well, thank god, but there was a TON of gnawing on the pipe fence, pawing, and general wiggling around when she finished her meal and became bored. This has since subsided, and while she does pick up a foot every now and again, she is quick to put it down with a word from me. The fussing, wiggling, gnawing, and eating things has since totally stopped. She's not stupid, that's for sure!)

The second day of lunging, S wanted to take her big yellow horse to a local indoor to ride (since it was raining and muddy out), so I opted to toss both Immy and O-Ren in the trailer and go along with her. Her second day of lunging started out much the same as the first, and went along the same lines (surcingle, sidereins), only this time I had my whip. She oogled at the cows penned up on the outside of the arena, moved in some oblong circles at first, and then settled into a good workout. Immy was an absolute ANGEL, standing on the tie line like a lady while I worked O, and was a general foot-perfect superstar under saddle. We only walked and trotted and worked on steering, no cantering, but this was the first time I've ridden her anywhere but at home, and this was also the first time she had been in an arena with horses trotting and cantering around her and directly at her. She didn't bat an eye. She was SO AWESOME. Also, I mounted her from the ground for the first time... THAT was also a huge deal, seeing as she tends to still be a little stiff and tickling around the girth area despite all the desensitization that we've done. She stood like a rock! What a champ!

(Immy being perfect, O being really, really obnoxious in the background. Yes, those are tie lines from the ceiling, attached on pulleys! Awesome because the horse can wiggle around and be silly and not be able to dig holes or chew on the wood!)

Both O and Immy had the following day off, and both went back to work on Thursday. The girls were out in the pasture when I went to go get them, and I brought them in and fed them dinner. I decided it was time to test O's issues under saddle, and lunged her first, just to make sure she was quiet. I saddled her up, headed out, mounted up, and made the unfortunate discovery that I had forgotten to close the girls' gate, and both Immy and P came bolting back out to the big pasture again. O, being in flaming heat, watched them take off with alarm, and stood on high alert. Hmm, I could use this to my advantage... this mare absolutely refuses to go faster than a walk, as I understood it... maybe this would encourage her to move somewhere!
I was right. She was more than willing to trot! She was NOT, however, willing to steer or stop. Right... well, I suppose that was to be expected.
We went back in the arena after some walking around, and it only took a gentle nudge to bump her up into the trot - none of the fuss that I had experienced before. I did have an anxious, fussy, worried mess of an in-heat mare on my hands, and there was a lot of head-tossing, teeth grinding, and moments of loss of steering. (She has not done any teeth grinding before or after this incident, with that same bit and with different bits as well... we'll have her teeth looked at shortly, for sure, but I think it was an isolated incident due to her anxiety about her friends leaving her at speed and being suddenly alone. If it continues under saddle, I'll break out my short shank hackamore and see what we have. I don't do the teeth grinding thing, since it reminds me of nails on a chalkboard, so it was all I could do to hold it together and not start screaming bloody murder and putting corks in my ears. I HATE IT.)
I hopped off the second I was able to get her to stop and stand for more than a nano-second, and called it a day. Next time, I will ride her with the mares tied nearby and see what that does. I was SUPPOSED to be riding her all last week, but obviously, I have been on crutches... not exactly an ideal situation!

On Friday and Sunday of her first week, she went back to lunging and groundwork, with Saturday off (so we could go to Dallas and do the Color Run!). I worked her in sidereins the first day, and my Faux-ssoa the second. She did very well in both, although the Faux-ssoa was not rigged properly due to a certain brown mare (ahem: Gogo) breaking both the rings on my surcingle for lunging equipment attachments. I wanted to rig it low, but had no option other than to make up a new and imaginary setting... it effectively rendered the backstrap totally useless, but it served the purpose I needed it to serve, so there you go!

Immy, the perfect one, showing O how it is done. It kind of bums me out that the only pictures I ever really get of her are lunging ones instead of riding ones.... there's usually no one around to take any pictures!

Part of the reason I opted for the Faux-ssoa was that she did not want to take a consistent contact with the sidereins. That is perfectly understandable, so I decided to switch it up and try for something different. It worked pretty well, despite the useless backstrap!

A little deeper than I'd like to see, in theory, but this mare holds all her tension in her back and neck, so getting her to lengthen out over her topline is a good first step. 

In just those four lunge sessions, she went from belligerent, face-making, unresponsive, and unable to stay in the gait she was directed to maintain (or stay on a circle at all, really), to listening to walk-trot-canter-whoa and staying out where she belongs on her circle with no fuss or attitude. SMART cookie, this one, despite her tinge of red-mare-ness.

And then, of course, I blew out my ankle. Bah.

So, I've been out a week. I'm on some very heavy-duty painkillers and steroids, which isn't exactly my first choice but is making a huge difference in the amount of swelling and pain I am dealing with. Today was the first day I felt strong enough to lunge both girls, just in halters and just to stretch their legs a bit while I am still lame. They were both lazy and quiet.... I like it!

Tomorrow, more lunging and groundwork, in equipment this time. I am hoping by Monday that I will be strong enough to get back on, but no guarantees. We'll see.

Either way, I have some goals to go over! Stay tuned for an update tomorrow!


  1. Ooch, you poor sossidge, and just what you need when you've a lot on your plate and want to get going and work these girls. I bet you've a splendid bruise, though the downtime sounds not all bad given how hard you were working yourself. I hope the pain settles down soon so you can just chill enjoy that happy little sweet spot between being officially too weak / barely healed to work, but able to get on with some personal things and enjoy the space from normal duties.

    O sounds a real sweetheart despite having some scars herself, and I'm so glad you've posted as I've been dying to hear more about her - you've become a real Mare Mama! It's just amazing too to see how well Immy's doing.. she's still trying so hard for you yet quietly waits her turn and shows no jealousy or rancour that this ginger tart has rocked up out of nowhere! So sweet, that 'niffing noses pic between them.

    Hey are you doing much with P lately? I miss hearing about her, but I assume she's in a kind of pre-retirement and happily pottering around.

  2. I hope your ankle heals more quickly than expected. You work with horses and all their hazards and a rock takes you down. Isn't that how it always goes? At least you do not have to worry about "re-breaking" something. Feel better.

  3. Sorry you're hurt :( That really blows! Can you do an entry on your homemade Pessoa rig? That thing looks awesome and I am too much of a cheapie to buy the real thing!

  4. Hope your leg gets better. The mares are looking great :)

  5. More wishes for a speedy recovery, but take some time to heal up and rejuvenate while you can:)

    The mares are looking great... hopefully having the three will help with some of the upset mare-boundness that Immy and Pangea have had at times.

  6. Hah, well I should mention that Immy IS jealous of her a bit - she comes barging to the gate now first when I show up, pinning her ears and knocking O out of the way! She doesn't really want to share momma!

  7. Wow O-ren is so nice! And smart to boot. Sad to hear about the ankle =/ sounds nasty. That is funny about Immy getting jealous of O-ren

  8. Oh! My mower did that to me on the driveway, bloody thing. It flung a hefty piece of #57 right into my shin bone. Good thing the motor was running so the neighbours didn't hear what I yelled, LOL! It made a hellacious deep bruise though, I feel your pain!

    I'm laughing at "Faux-ssoa," love it, hahahahah!

  9. I was going to ask about P too. :D

    O and Immy are both such beautiful movers! I have to ask, how in the world do you take pictures while longeing?? Which hand do you hold the camera in? Line or whip hand?

    Sorry you're hurt! That sounds horrible and painful!! I hope it heals more quickly than the doc said...