It’s quite remarkable when you think about it. An animal ten times my weight, a 1000 times stronger than me, and with a mind of his own, would allow me to strap all manners of uncomfortable straps & contraptions onto his body, jump on his back & tell him what to do for an hour solely for my entertainment. Surprisingly, Dandy seemed to enjoy my ambush-style visits on most days. I arrive at the farm unannounced, without making an appointment, without asking what his plans were for the day. And still, he strangely seems happy to see me, not the kind of happy that your dog is to see you, but at least curious to see why I am about. Perhaps it is the treats in my pocket, but I choose to believe otherwise. He comes to me when I call him. On days when I don’t have time to stop in & say hello I would drive by his pasture, stop the car & roll down my window. There is a simple pleasure in just watching horses peacefully grazing. Before leaving I would holler out the window “Hey Danny! How you do’in boy?” His head pops up with ears pricked & trained on the direction of my voice… he knows its me. He looks for a bit, sees that I am not coming, there are no treats, and resumes grazing. That makes me happy. But, it’s when I walk toward the field carrying a halter & he notices me that I love. He looks & goes back to grazing, but he is watching me coming closer. He doesn’t make a move until I get to the gate & call him “Hey Danny! How you do’in boy?”. Not until then does he make a casual move in my direction, taking his sweet ‘ole time coming to greet me. If a pasture mate becomes curious & makes a move in my direction, Dandy rushes to claim me as “his human” and therefore, the rightful owner to any treats hidden in my pockets. He gives me permission to strap a halter around his face by lowering his head, not always patiently, but without an argument, and we walk side by side back to the barn.
I doubt that you could find many things that horses have in common with cats, but there is one thing. They both loved to be groomed. I don’t tie Dandy up when I groom him, he stands patiently in the isle of the barn while I scrub him clean first with a soft silicone curry & then a dandy brush. He is not found of stiff brushes or hard rubber curry combs. His eyelids grow heavy & his head droops downward as he enjoys what is a total body massage. Deep sighs tell me that he is totally in my hands, submissive. When he totally gives in to our interaction his bottom lip drops & he wiggles it from side to side… “aaahhh that’s the spot!”. I comb the knots & burrs out of his beautiful long tail & straighten his mane. Ta da, beautiful! Polo wraps, boa boots, saddle, bridle, let’s go.
It’s beyond me that WHY when you have perfectly good instincts that one would choose to ignore them. I came to visit & ride Dandy on a positively perfect fall day. Bluest of blue sky, warm, fresh smell of turning leaves, autumn perfection! But, he was not feeling it. No nickering when I came into the barn, no twitching lips during grooming & a sour face when I tacked him up. Oh, he’ll get over it once we get on the trails I say to myself to blot out the instinct telling me quite clearing “not a good day for this”. I got this message twice more in relatively short order after leaving the barn, each time it was louder. “Hey stupid, this horse does NOT want you riding him, come back another day before he dumps your sorry ass”. But who’s listening, not me, it’s a beautiful day & I want to go for a ride.
The next thing you know, there’s the pounding of galloping hooves, violent head tossing, bucking, more galloping, a spin to the left, buck to the right, KAPOW! Self-fulfilled prophecy, I’m dumped and this time I’m hurt. God damn it! When will I learn to listen to MY instincts, they’re good ones.
This is not a near fatal injury. Riding accidents have the potential to be horribly life-changing, hell, life threatening, in all sorts of gory, colorful ways. Nonetheless, my injury is respectably serious. A high femur fracture, an injury known to be extremely difficult to heal & fraught with complications. Mine is something like a “reverse sub-trocantoric high velocity fracture with deformities”… the worst kind….. it’s hard to remember exactly what they said when you are in a state of pleading NOT to be moved by the ambulance guys followed by more pleading with trauma surgeons under the influence of a respectably high dose of Morphine with a side of Dilaudid. Femur fractures are often accompanied by bleeding, mine cost me a 6 gram drop in my hemoglobin… which means that my blood count went from my normal of 14 G/dL to 6.3…. that’s a 50% drop & got me the gift of 2 units of packed red cells… thank you Red Cross & anonymous donor. I left the hospital with other souvenirs of my failure to listen to my instincts. These include an 18″ titanium intramedullary rod that was hammered down the shaft of my left femur & a 6” nail to keep it there. I also got a fully equipped make-shift hospital room in the middle of my living room.
The pleasant surprise in all of this was discovering what a loving circle of friends & family I have. They came day after day to care for all manners of unspeakable nursing care duties, to keep me company, to keep me sane. It has been 8 weeks since my failure to listen to good reason. My fracture continues to be unstable, meaning there is a non-union of the broken parts. There is evidence that my bone is ever so slowly beginning to knit that crevice back into solid bone, but will likely take 6 months to do so. No walking for me until then.. but I can get pretty far with my walker while I learn my next lessons: patience & gratitude.