Sunday, May 2, 2010

Shoeless Joe Bastian

*sigh*  This hasn't been my week horse-wise and yes, I totally realize in the grand scheme of things, this is nothing, this is a drop in the proverbial bucket, but still it makes me sad.

I finally made it back to the barn on Tuesday, saddled up and had a lovely ride.  Bastian's gaits felt huge and elastic, I was having trouble riding his trot, that is how good he felt.  Then all of a sudden, bam! 3-legged lame. :(

So I get him untacked and start looking for a cause, I find two lovely rub marks on his left heel and I also think that he may have clipped himself hard enough to bruise during the ride (which is I think the real reason for his lameness, the rubs weren't bothering him in and of themselves.  (I've had a few days to think this through now so my theory has evolved).  Here are his rubs:

So I discuss some options with different people and decide to go for front shoes, he is wearing the heel of his left foot way different than his right heel, so it was the right thing to do regardless.  Wednesday is usally the farrier day.  Not this week.  So I go back out and he is still shoeless and ouchy.  Friday has become the farrier day this week.  Except he didn't come out Friday either.  Again, I realize it is hardly the end of the world, there are a lot worse things that could be going on with my horse, but nonetheless I'm frustrated.  I've got my fingers crossed that  Monday will be the day and I can get some practice in before our dressage schooling show at Grand Haven on Saturday. 

In the meantime, I'm going to go through the quick rundown of my history.  (You're all enthralled, I can tell).  I've ridden for almost 20 years at this point.  I got my first horse, Goldie, when I was 12.  Goldie is an Arabian mare and is currently 30 this year, just like me.  Everyone should be as lucky to have as brilliant a horse as her as their first horse.  She was a handful, but she taught me so very much.  I started out showing western pleasure, switched to games and then (yay!!) to english, aka Hunters.  Arabians don't do well in the hunter ring in my area, which is heavily saturated with Quarter Horses and Paints. That isn't to say that we also didn't place because I had no clue about what I was doing, but to a certain extent, the deck was already stacked against us. 

I did some dressage with her back when I thought dressage meant riding a hunter equitation pattern.  I scored a 42% on my first ever training test (and was eliminated for using a Kimberwicke).  I took her Baby Novice when Baby Novice was the new division in eventing, she was a cross country machine, I couldn't have gotten her stopped for love nor money, we got eliminated on the first stadium fence  though because we refused it three times.  Stadium has since been my downfall.  I can't even remember how many fences I have jumped without her, as in she stayed safely on the take off side whilst I cleared the jump successfully alone with a not so pretty landing on the other side.   Here is one of our more successfull Hunter Hack classes.  Note how BIG I am and how tiny she is, I was too big for her from the start, which also did not help us in the show ring, I looked ridiculous.

So realizing how HUGE I was, I finally got the okay to look for a new horse from my parents.  I wanted something that would event, that was all I wanted to do, I loved cross country.  So I was thinking thoroughbred or draft cross.  I almost got an off the track thoroughbred, we had given the deposit check when my mom talked to someone and they scared her to death about off-the-track thoroughbreds, she called and put a stop payment on the check.  I was devistated, but who knows how it would have turned out.  I found an ad for a two year old percheron/morgan cross in the paper.  And my mom pulled me out of school without my dad's knowledge to go look at her.

We bought her that day, but had to pretend like we hadn't and bring my dad there that night to "look at her."  My mom bought me that horse.  I had purchased Goldie with my college savings ($600).  But my mom bought Darby for me.  That was the name she came with.  Eventually after two years, she became the Moose.  (I mean, just look at her noggin and you see the resemblence).  The Moose was a sweet, sweet, baby and I couldn't have gotten luckier for my first horse to break/train on my own.  Sadly, she never grew past 15.2 Hh and she was long.  I mean super long.  There was an extra 8-ish inches between her last rib and her hip.  In hands, she was 20 hands long back to front.  She was actually coming along really nicely and then I decided to take Goldie to college my senior year instead of the Moose and to let her have a few months off to just grow and mature.  She never quite came back right after that. 

I think she just lost so much muscling that to get her fit back to the point where she could compensate for the extra length in her back was just too much.  I did get the chance to event her BN once before I sold her.  This is the only jumping picture I have of her. You can really see the extra length in her back, look at all the space betweent he back of the saddle pad and the white pole on the jump, it looks like it should be two different horses.   She was so much fun to jump, she loved it.  But she was a freight train and would pull the dickens out of your arms. So my solution was to ride her in a chain combination bit for jumping.  It was pretty much the only way I could get her to come up and balance.  She currently belongs to a sweet lady who trail rides and occasionally leases her out to a 4-H member who wants to show. 

Next on the list was Melkor, aka Melvin the Mighty.  He was bought from a friend who had started out showing him as a hunter, then switched to contest riding.  Melvin was a sorrel appendix quarter horse and he was 14 when I bought him.  Correction.  My dad bought him for me.  He was a jumping machine, just point and shoot and he would get you to the other side.  Perfect.  He was also a conformational trainwreck.  He was under in the knee, knocked kneed, had small quarter horse feet, his hocks almost touched, etc. etc.  Basically you looked at him and said "Why?  How?  How can this horse possibly do anything?"  But he was so athletic despite that. 

But his heart was golden and he safely got me over more fences than I deserved, including at the height of our craziness, a 3'5" triple bar (at least a 5' spread), without even blinking.  Which was good, because after about three years he was completely blind in his right eye, so if he blinked goodness only knows he might have missed the fence.  This is us going Novice at EHSC, one of my favorite pictures, the jump was max height/width. 

We competed recognized at BN (7th place at Waradaca) and Novice (no placing, Erie Hunt and Saddle Club).  Melvin had a stopping issue, as in he didn't stop.  So again, I bitted up.  I used a double twisted wire gag.  After about a year of schooling I had him going in a slow twist D-ring, and at the end in a french-link loose ring.  So we worked our way through.  He's the one I miss the most.  I was just a few weeks away from taking him Novice at Difficult Run when he started landing funny off his jumps, just a little to the left.  I took him to Charlestown for x-rays and they revealed arthritic changes in both front fetlocks.  The vet gave me two choices.  Bute him and event for a year, then put him down because he'll be crippled or retire him and let him be happy.  So he was retired.  He eventually made quite a comeback in dressage work and was going very beautifully.  But I had too many horses and not enough $$$$$$ so he went to a new home.  He is currently owned by a lovely women who trail rides and positively adores him.  I still miss him and had his current owner not left such a strong impresion of love and caring on me, he would be back in my possession. 

Next on the list was Craige.  Crazy Craige.  He was a mistake from the start.  Melvin was still mine at the time, I didn't have a horse to ride/compete.  The barn manager approached me about a school horse we were getting in that would need to be re-schooled in order to be included in the lesson program.  He was a 6 (?? 7 maybe 8??) year old Irish Sport Horse Gelding.  Cool.  I had always wanted an awesome horse like that.  He had schooled through prelim eventing (cool again).  I was to take him on as my project and if he could be reschooled, he would be a lesson horse, if not, I had the option of a free and clear adoption. 

Now, just three sentences of background.  The same person who was donating Craige had donated another horse to the school, Colonel Mattox, a grey thoroughbred that had some serious mental issues and had evented through Training.  I had done a large portion of his reschooling (basically I thought he was awesome and had the guts to ride through his buck/spin/spooks) and he is now the best school horse they have.  I figured, Matt worked out, why wouldn't Craige?  Big Mistake.  Huge.
So, long story short.  There was a major debaucle over me adopting Craige.  Lies were told to me and I ended up purchasing him.  Again, big mistake.  Do not buy horses out of spite for liars.  (also, don't buy a horse because they are pretty)

Craige destroyed all the confidence Melvin had given me.  Craige broke my ankle.  I was in a jumping lesson, I got a titch ahead (all it took was a titch with him) he ducked out, I came off.  The result was a shattered fibula and a broken tibia.  I had to have corrective surgery and now have a steel plate and several pins in my right ankle. It took me three years to break through that things mental problems and convince him that working under saddle was okay.  He was really a gem on the ground and very sweet, but under saddle he would just panic and there was nothing you could do.  He was a rearer, but his rears were kinda slow motion so easy to stay with.  He spooked at everthing, but he was athletic and had the potential.  So sad. 

 I've got lots of great crazy Craige stories, including one where at a combined test he panicked halfway through our stadium (x-rails) and reared and backed up out of the ring.  The people running the show were nice and let me go back in with a friend and her horse who trotted with us as we finished the course.  By the end of our time together, he was going quite nicely.  He was sold to a woman who wanted him as a hunter, now she is just doing dressage with him and I look for them when I go to schooling and dressage shows, but haven't seen him yet.  He could be cute when he was being good.

And that is it until Bastian.  When I sold Craige I was horseless for a month (except for Goldie).  Then I found Bastian.  Two weeks after I had bought Bastian I came off of a friends horse and broke my back.  I had a burst fracture of my first lumbar vertabra.  I was life flighted to the hospital and had two surgeries within two days.  I am mostly okay, but nerves were severed that affect some different systems along with my feet.  I have no feeling in my left foot from about mid-calf down and limited feeling in my right.  I can't move my toes or my ankle on my left, its kinda just like dead weight.  Because I can't feel/use my ankles I don't have balance so standing still doesn't exist for me anymore, I have to be able to hold onto  something for support.  I am able to walk, but no jumping, running, skipping, hopping, or standing on tiptoe anymore.  If you've seen American Dad on Fox, I walk kind of like Roger the alien.  I've gotten strong enough that I don't need to use a cane anymore, but I do have to wear a brace on my left ankle or it just kinda rolls over and I lose my balance and trip more easily than normal people.   

This translates into my riding by not being able to always keep my stirrups or get them back again if I should lose them.  I also can't always control my lower leg properly, although I am making a huge effort to do so and am slowly but surely seeing the results of that effort. 

Then just a year and two months after that, Bastian spooked and my left foot got caught in the stirrup,  I came off the right side, but my foot didn't come out of the stirrup until it was on the opposite side so I had a rotational fracture of my femur on the left leg.  This was the most painful of them all.  The best part is that I was on a trail ride with a friend and had to give the ambulance directions on how to get back to me and then back out to the road once I was in the back.  So another surgery and another plate, this time in my femur/hip. 

Bad things come in threes, so I figure I'm set for the rest of my life because these three were bad.   I still get on my horse, although I'm quicker to get off if I think something is going to go wrong.  Lots of adjustments in training and behavior for Bastian and he tolerates it all.  He is a wonderful horse, even if he doesn't have shoes on. 

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