Sunday, May 31, 2015

Still horse-crazy after all these years

I spent the past week hobbling around the barn with a broken toe. Poor Ruffy, scared by a Caterpillar loader parked by the pasture gate, tucked and ran past, crunching my foot in the process. I should have been more careful knowing her gate claustrophobia. Ruffy bears a scar nearly the length of her hind leg cannon bone. We surmise she injured her leg in a starting gate accident sometime during her racing career. This wasn't my first horse-related injury, and surely won't be my last. With three hot-blooded Thoroughbreds in my keeping, accidents will happen. It's just one of the hazards of having horses."

As my toe throbbed under an ice pack, I realized my slower reaction times and balance are not as sharp as when I was twenty. Now that I'm pushing 55, I don't mend quite as quickly either! But all the pain has been worth the joy our three horses have brought me, starting with our first horse, Halawa Moon, known around the barn as Harley, and sometimes as, "Gnarley Harley" if he's being particularly opinionated.

On one of my first solo rides, not long after I'd had surgery, Harley spooked and spun, sending me crashing to the ground. He has since sent me to the doctor twice; once with a damaged rotator cuff, and once with a cracked sternum. But I can't lay the blame on him for my one trip to the emergency room. I stupidly tried to move a limb that was caught on the saddle pad and poking him in the ribs. Not realizing it was under pressure, it snapped back, thwacking me in the upper lip. With a handkerchief staunching the flowing blood, I re-mounted, rode back to the barn, turned out Harley, and drove to the ER where the nurse said, "This happened over an hour ago. It took you long enough to get here."

So maybe getting an ex-racehorse as a first horse, after 30 years out of the saddle, wouldn't be most people's first choice, but hey, he was free.  I've yearned for a horse my entire life and this was a dream becoming reality at last. Call it a milestone at 50--I couldn't have been happier. Some women get tattoos, some dye their hair a brilliant shade of pink or blue to mask the imminent grey, some get nose studs. I got a high-spirited, off-track Thoroughbred who was going to be my trail horse--at least that's what I hoped. He's helped me stave off middle-age sagging over the past five years,  helped lose weight, and increased muscle tone. On occasion, he's caused me angst, and made me lose sleep. But now, I cannot imagine life without Harley and the girls.
Snoozy Rolex in the morning

We had a rough winter in Maine; the most snow I've seen in thirty-some years. I shoveled stalls and I shoveled snow until my arms ached from "golfer's elbow". I think the last of the snow disappeared sometime in early April. But I don't dwell on the aches and pains; that would be pointless since it's all part of keeping horses. They depend on me for care, so I just muckle onto the shovel and get the job done.

Four years ago, we acquired two more off-track Thoroughbreds; Ruffy and Rolex. We've decided it's time to find our own piece of real estate to set up our farm. House hunting and house sale prepping consumed nearly all of my free time this spring. But I need to get in the saddle at least once a week, broken toe or not, just to keep Harley in a "working" frame of mind. A Thoroughbred needs to be consistently worked and Harley is a classic case of a horse who needs that exercise regimen. So after waffling about what footwear would be acceptable for riding, a toss up between Crocs or Chaco sandals, I saddled up my flighty horse, donned by stiff-soled Chacos, and headed for the trails. Maybe Harley sensed my worry of having to walk any distance and behaved himself. When he really needs to be good for me, Harley shines.

This weekend, after I finish crawling around on my creaky knees, cutting in the floor I need to paint, I'll grab my britches and sandals (my toe still gets mashed in my riding boots), head out to the barn and take Harley out for an evening ride, replete with spooky woods, scary squirrels, frightening farm animals, and lots of smiles.

Harley in camouflage


  1. I think similar thoughts as I notice the scar from getting a plate installed in my arm courtesy of my (first horse) ottb. Wouldn't change a thing. :D

    Heck - the worst horse-related injury before Val, was when someone else's ornery pony mare double-barrled my thigh (thankfully at close range) as I got between her and a small child carrying an entire bag of carrots. She was fixing to mow that child down, so it had to be done lol.

  2. Ouch to your broken toe :-(
    but a lovely post nonetheless. So tell me, will I be all reflective and thinking deeming thoughts at 55 like I was at 50? If so, I'd better warn my family now.


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