Helmet Evangelism

Work: day off.

First of many rants on the subject.

A few years ago, I decided to go on a short, quiet walk at home on my husband’s horse. Who needs a helmet under those circumstances? I did.
Matilda was 25 years old at the time.
We’d owned her for 18 years.
She had lived on this property for 15 years.
She was known to be a nutcase & IMHO not the most talented horse on the planet.

Since she is round & comfortable, I bridled her & hopped on bareback. The intention was to walk around the edge of her pasture 2-4 times. We did this regularly for cool-downs & brief rides. She could get a little stupid, particularly in one corner of the field. I kept at it, hoping she would eventually associate the walk with relaxation.

We had gotten past the scary bits and were walking, strolling, meandering along the calm part of the pasture. She was on the buckle with her head down and relaxed. I don’t remember if I was holding the reins or not. If I was, it was in a loose grasp with one hand. We were headed slightly downhill.

Suddenly the front end disappeared downwards. She had tripped. I grabbed on with my legs, partly out of instinct, partly waiting for her to sort herself out and stand back up, but mostly to avoid pitching forward and rolling off. She shuffled and stumbled forward a few steps on her knees. Then she displayed the talent I always suspected she possessed, gave up the battle, and rolled over on her side. Her front legs had pretty much folded up by then so it was a slow roll more than a sudden flop. My feet, leg, and hip gradually got steamrolled under her side. When my hip/thigh area was on the ground, the whiplash (leverage? torque?) took over and snapped my trunk and the side of my head to the ground. It was less than a fall from a standing position and certainly less than a fall from the top of a horse. Yet, I was surprised at the resounding whack my head made when it finally smacked down.

Results: Nothing broken. My foot was squashed flat with eventual stellar bruising along the sides. Head safe and sound inside my ASTM-approved helmet.

I was in the most harmless, most likely for someone not to have a helmet situation and yet I still hit dirt. It could have been much, much worse. I did have a moment where I looked along the length of my torso to see a horse lying on my leg and thought, “This can’t be good.”

Every ride, every time.

[This example was originally written up for “It’s Only Your Brain After All” by Kathie Mautner, published on the Chronicle of the Horse website on 6/4/10. It didn’t get used there & I wanted to talk about helmets here.  Fortunately, I’m a pack rat and I could find it.  I hate to see text go to waste.  Hence the excessive length of today’s post.]

Ground Exercise 4: Plank

Work: PM heat therapy/walk, 1/4 of pasture

Set up: 24″ x 30″ plywood board.
Exercise: Stand on with both front feet.
Saturday was our first day with this.  As I suspected, he came right over to chew and paw.  With a modicum of convincing, he put one foot on & then both feet. Sunday, he walked up, plonked both feet down, and did his statue impression. I can think of many horses who would still be giving the plank the hairy eyeball. Rodney’s willingness to investigate new things gives me hope for his boldness should we ever make a cross-country debut. Future exercises with the plank will include rotating while keeping both front feet on it & possibly getting all four feet on it. Who knows, I may get him turning on the spot like an circus elephant.

What is the weirdest – while still safe – thing you have ever asked a horse to do?

Ground Exercise 3: Weave Cones

Work: AM heat therapy only, rider [a courtesy title] on disabled list. Cough. Sniffle.
Grade: n/a

Set up: 4 orange highway cones in a row, approximately 5′ apart.
Exercise: serpentine around cones.
If we ever get into the jumper ring or out on cross country, Rodney will have many winning virtues: stride, power, boldness. However, catlike agility will not be his go-to move. ‘Zippy little sports car’ will never describe him. Therefore, I had to work at staying supportive rather than laughing while he maneuvered his oversized carcass and hay belly through a series of 180o switchbacks. Yesterday, he did it on the first go, albeit with consternation evident on his face.

If your horse was an automobile, what kind would he or she be?

Gentlemen …

Work: AM heat therapy/walk, PM groom/ground exercises [box, plank, weave cones, reverse poles]

Engaging in what is becoming an annual tradition (BTR Jan 2011, final paragraph) of renaming my horse. Rodney as a stable name is here to stay. His show name is now Start Your Engine. Getting rid of previous show name because with less stomachache there is less Perpetual Motion. He’s still a Thoroughbred. No one is ever going to mistake him for calm. But he’s not hyperkinetic. SYE has nothing to do with him personally. During the season, our TV is permanently tuned to NASCAR. The call is my favorite part. Similarly, my favorite day at Rolex is the jog on Wednesday. I love the feeling of hope and good fortune, when every competitor is going to have a fast, clean, safe run. I’ve long thought SYE would be a cool name for a horse. If not now, when? Of course, nothing is final until a) I get a new Coggins & b) he starts his show career.

What is your favorite show name, real or imaginary?

Fear! Fire! Foes! Nevermind.

Work: AM easy walk (even for us), PM ground exercises

Rodney and I are back to work, making progress at the speed of stalactite formation.  In rereading the blog, I realized that last Tuesday was only his fourth afternoon session since our restart. It doesn’t matter how inexplicable I find his fears. The gremlins are real to him & they’re not going away quickly.

Meanwhile, when my husband Greg served the evening meal last night, his arthritic, geriatric mare refused to eat. Wouldn’t touch her food. Wouldn’t touch her hay. For her, this is DefCon1. Alert the man with the backhoe. First order of business was to get her dinner out of the field so Rodney wouldn’t steal a second dinner during diagnosis. As Greg lifted the bucket, he realized that it was full of horse poop. She wouldn’t eat her grain for obvious reasons. She wouldn’t eat her hay because she ate her grain first, thank you very much, and would someone from room service please come clean up this mess so that she could eat her dinner?  It took a while for his pulse to stop redlining.

What was your most recent equine false alarm?

[Thanks to my Anonymous Critic for the idea to go graphic and to ClipartPal for the art.]

Peace Horse

(Apologies for the inadvertent preview this morning.)

Work: 1/2+1/2x, heat therapy/groom
Grade: n/a

Not gonna see War Horse. I have enough issues with separation as is. Watching an entire movie on the subject is not my ideal afternoon. Plus, if I want to invite the devastation of war into my life, I’ll watch the news. Instead, allow me to offer what other folks have said. Warning, it was not a happy time, so discussions of same may not lead to happy dreams. Bob’s movie reviewSharon’s statuary commentary. Fran’s hoof level POV. If you want a fun horse movie, I recommend Sylvester. Gotta love watching The Gray Goose galloping around in the KY sunshine.

What is your favorite horse movie?

Resuming the doom spiral.

Work: 1/2x heat therapy only
Grade: n/a

Our pattern is to groom before the afternoon session. On Tuesday, he was grazing next to the ring. It seemed silly to bring him into the barn just to turn around and come back. So I haltered & went directly to what passes for work. Mistake. Despite the fact that he was 10′ from where he had been grazing, that the mare was in the ring with him, and that the “work” consisted of wandering about at the walk, he – as my grandmother used to say – had a fit and stepped in it. He started to pull, rush, toss his head & generally demonstrate protomeltdown. When I let him go, he galloped back to the barn as fast as his hooves would carry him. This lack of a hint of a sign of a shadow of progress cast me once more into the wallows of despair. We are sticking with heating pad sessions, which generally put us back in charity with one another.

I am waiting until I find the enthusiasm to try again. So far I always do. At what point does this go from admirable to idiotic?