Huey’s BFF The Amazing Dr. P was out this morning. I observed that it was exactly a month since we’d seen him, and we both just missed him so much that Something Had To Be Done. When he drove up, I was still doing the Morning Hose of The Wonder Leg, so it was pretty clear what had been done, in a general sense.
Somewhere in this experience, I had a Revelation.
Rule One of Horse Ownership: Only have your own horse if you must. Some people must have their own horse. It’s not a matter of Willpower or Strength. It is also evidently not a matter of Money. If you must have your own horse, you pretty much know that, probably from a very young age. Like birth. There are plenty of people who are fine going through their lives riding other people’s horses or <shudder> not riding horses at all. It’s super if you’re in that category, in fact, you’ll have a lot more restful existence than if you’re not.
Rule Two of Horse Ownership: If you must have your own horse, make sure that when you bring that horse home, you also get a prescription for Paxil. Or Valium. For yourself, not for the horse. Better off, get those a day in advance. You won’t be able to sleep the night before your horse comes home because you’ll be so excited that you are getting a horse tomorrow!!! And then you won’t be able to sleep any night after that either because you have a horse. And any moment that you spend tucked snugly in your bed is a minute your horse could be coming down with colic, or burning up in a barn fire, or breaking out of his stall, or trying to kick his neighbor over a 4-foot-tall wall and through a grill of metal bars and getting a gigantic open gash, or developing laminitis from all the grass he ate this afternoon, or she might be receiving the Amorous Attentions of the stallion that the irresponsible guy down the street keeps because it would offend his personal manhood to get the horse gelded, and now it caught wind of your mare’s heat and jumped the fence, and in another month or so you’re going to realize that the mare isn’t going back into heat, and you’re going to be a Grandma (or Grandpa) in another ten months…if the mare doesn’t die or otherwise get damaged during birth. Because, you know, this is just a sample of things that are going to be running through your mind at 3am on a regular basis.
It doesn’t have to be dramatic stuff either. You’ll wake up at 2:30am with a mental vision of the chip you noticed on your horse’s hoof that morning when you were picking his feet out, and you’ll think to yourself “Did I notice a line heading up from that? Does he have a crack there? Should I call the farrier first thing in the morning, or wait until he’s scheduled to come out in two weeks?” and the next thing you know, you’re going to be looking online at the most appalling assortment of ghastly hoof injuries – quarter cracks, missing heels, white line disease, seedy toe, thrush – and because it seems that Horse People love to be with their horses best, and failing that, love to talk about their horses, all of these photos are going to be accompanied with terrifying narrative directed strictly at veterinarians and farriers…or various and sundry anxious discussions or handwringing blog posts, all of which appear to have been made at 4am local time (whatever that is).
This is why I, personally, have not had a good night’s sleep since Saturday night. That is because it was on Sunday morning that I realized that The Wonder Trot was “off”, so I put my trainer in the loop, lost sleep Monday night, had my fears that it was “off” confirmed Monday and discovered a Mystery Lump on his Leg Formerly Known As Good. It being a barn, and everyone being vitally interested in distracting themselves from whatever sleepless anxiety-ridden hell that their own horses are currently putting them through, there was no shortage of speculation. Or, for that matter, shortage of opinion about What Should Be Done Now.
Fortunately for me, there was a general convergence in that opinion: cold treatments. And therefore, I have been trucking out to the barn three times a day all week, while the semester is getting underway and faculty meetings are coming off, etc. so that I can hold a hose of water against Huey’s leg for twenty minutes at a time.
This is possibly the most boring activity I have ever undertaken with my horse.
Usually, I can stand around for hours gazing upon The Wonder That He Is and admiring him. But not if I’m having to pay attention to where that water is going, and make sure that my boot is not in the drip from the sprayer head, and keep one hand firmly wrapped around his lead rope because even though he is in the cross ties, he is every bit as bored as I am, and there is grass not four feet away. And the only thing that is keeping him from that grass is the pesty baling-twine breakaway cross ties…which, I should point out, he has already broken once…to get grass. That was before I owned him, or I’d have had to repair them right along with repairing the hitching post that he blows through in a panic attack every six months or so.
Huey, he’s a little bit…hot…you know. Spirited. Got the finely tuned, highly sensitive nervous system of a professional athlete. Still.
So there’s me, with one hand on the hose, one hand on the rope, eyes flicking steadily between rope-horse-hose, which leaves no hands available for Insect Control. And it’s been rainy lately, and the bugs are bad. At least the horse is coated in bug spray. I can’t do that, because it is also hot and very very humid which means that any bug spray I wear will inevitably make it into my eyes. And having both hands busy and bug spray in the eyes turns out to be worse than having both hands busy and bugs flying all around and landing on me and trying to bite me.
For twenty minutes.
Three times a day.
I was pretty glad to see The Amazing Dr. P this morning even though I had to stretch out and warm up my checkbook in advance. My Super Secret Hope, the one that is too scary to utter, was that he was going to tell me that the puffy warm bump was something that would go away and that it would do so soon. My Super Secret Fear, the one that is also too scary to utter, was that he was going to tell me that the puffy warm bump was a damaged tendon, or damage ligament, which would not go away any time soon. And continue to afflict The Wonder Horse until kingdom come.
And also mean that the sixty total minutes of hosing an exceedingly bored horse in the middle of a swarm of biting insects would need to continue indefinitely.
In a turn of what might be Good News, although I am too cautious to proclaim it as such because the Karma Demons are always hovering just out of sight, Dr. P thinks that the puffy warm bump is probably a bee sting. There were a lot of bees that day, enough that I had to carry my epi pen right on my body, always a complicated proposition when we’re talking about where to put it in my riding breeches. So he thinks, given the way it looks and the way Huey is actually using the leg, including comfortably putting weight on it so that he can get his face closer to the ground and grab some grass while my attention is distracted by talking to the vet, that it is probably a bee sting. Which would be the Best Possible News.
So I will refrain for another day or two from riding him, and on Saturday, will mount up and send a heartfelt and intense prayer winging its way up to the Horse Gods that he doesn’t limp at all when I ask him to trot. And if he doesn’t, it’s a bee sting. If he does, it’s something worse and he needs to get an ultrasound to look for tendon or ligament damage.
But for now, I’m going to be burning the Horse God Incense and making Horse God Offerings of Carrots and Apples, and just starting on on that praying to the Horse Gods thing a little early. Because bee sting…well, that would let me get a good night’s sleep, at least for a few days until I start wondering about that chip on his hoof….
In the meantime, I had a lesson on another horse this morning. Which is great, because, really? I’d like to learn how to ride horses, not just horse. And I need to keep my ridin’ muscles tuned up while Huey is still turfed out.
What can I say about that experience?
That’s a good start.
Other Horse is a very sweet, very cute horse that has had significantly more Actual Dressage Training than The Wonder Horse. Other Horse is highly sensitive to leg aids that mean “move over”. Huey is highly sensitive to leg aids that mean “go faster.”
When you put a leg aid on Huey that means “move over” (leg yields, turns on the forehand, shoulders-in, haunches in, that’s what I mean) he takes his Best Guess as to what you’re asking for, only because he’s a show jumper and not a dancing horse, he usually guesses they mean “go faster” or “stop”.
This means that with Huey, when you want him to “move over” in any of those ways mentioned, you have to ask VERY LOUDLY and often, MORE THAN ONCE. It’s not his fault, he really doesn’t know. Hasn’t had to do that, you know.
It also means that since I have ridden no horse other than Huey since February, and since the horse I rode a few times for lessons in the winter doesn’t listen to leg aids at all it means that I’m like that elderly woman with her elderly spouse who obviously refuses to wear a hearing aid, and in the restaurant, I’m shouting SHE SAID WHAT DO YOU WANT TO EAT? DO YOU WANT WATER TO DRINK? A GLASS OF WINE? HAROLD? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO EAT?
only this morning, I’m doing it on a horse that does wear the hearing aid, as it were, and responds instantly to a whisper.
So, among other things, I spent my riding lesson swaying laterally around the arena like a drunk on a five martini bender.
In Huey’s favor, he really listens to the smallest whisper of leg aids that mean “go faster”. Not so much to aids that mean “slow down”, but definitely “go faster” is a big part of his equine vocabulary. So unlike the “move over” aids, which I am accustomed to deliver with verve, enthusiasm, and repetition, I am not accustomed to delivering “go faster” aids at anything above the smallest nudge. And never more than once.
Other horse, here, is the old man who refuses to wear the hearing aid. So the conversation with him went
“I said, go faster.”
“I meant, go faster and stay going faster.”
“Stay going faster.”
“GO FASTER AND STAY GOING FASTER?”
“ARE YOU SURE?”
“I said YES.”
The result of this portion of the dialogue with Other Horse meant that as we were staggering drunkenly around the arena due to my numerous and excessive cues to “move over”, we were also staggering forward at a pace reminiscent of a first-time manual-transmission driving student. Jerk, stop, rev, roar, screech, jerk, stop. Rinse, lather, repeat.
The result of that combination of factors meant that I also had to keep bringing Other Horse to a halt either because I was posting onto his neck, posting off his side, or laughing too hard to see where I was going.
“Good job,” my trainer said, in failing tones.
After a half hour of this, I felt like I’d gone three rounds in a ring with Claressa Shields.
I’m really hoping that The Wonder Horse is sound again on Saturday. It is clear that I need to take lessons on other horses regularly, like twice a month. But I really REALLY miss The Wonder Horse. There’s a reason we picked each other, you know.