Tuesday, November 15, 2022

My Next Big Goal

 My Next Big Goal

As I have been recovering from wrist surgery, I keep setting little goals.  In the very beginning, the simplest things were very difficult such as, turning a faucet, cleaning Thunder's litter box, opening up a can and I can't tell you how hard it was to change clothes.

As time went on, I graduated to carrying a plate, preparing vegetables, bridling Cole and cleaning his hooves.

I have finally reached the point where all the day-to-day things I do are easy.  I have to keep reminding myself how far I have come when I get disappointed that I am still trying to meet certain measurements when I visit the physical therapist.  As my range of motion improves, I realize my grip still has a way to go.

I only have one big goal left, and right now I can't work on it.  It is mounting Cole from the ground.  I am currently using a mounting block.  I have a 10 pound limit on my wrist, and my hop isn't good enough to propel myself up without a little help from my hand on Cole's withers.

Why is it so important to me?  Because I am the only one in our group who can still do it. Whenever any of us drops something, I hop off and get it for them.  That includes me.  Also, if Ellen needs to dismount to lead Dante across the ford--or any reason at all, I dismount and hold her stirrup so she doesn't have to look for a log to help her back up.  With colder weather approaching, I can't just hop off and lead a while to get warm, either.

I love being able to mount from the ground!

Once I get approval to start mounting from the ground, I will be working really hard on it.  My arm isn't as strong as it was, and I'm not even sure if I have a strong enough grip with my hand.  That is why I have been working so hard to improve my grip.  

In the beginning, I plan to have Ellen hold the stirrup for me.  It really helps if you aren't worried about the saddle slipping if things go awry.  Also, I will probably start from the bottom step of the mounting block to help me out.

Ellen wants me to be able to mount from the ground, too.  She tells me she lives in fear of dropping things when we are out on the trail!

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Back in the Saddle

Back in the Saddle

Early in November, I went back to the surgeon for a follow up on my wrist surgery.  The x-rays looked good.  It is healing fine, and my new weight limit is now 10 pounds.  She was very happy to see how my range of motion was improving.  I have been diligent about doing my physical therapy exercises 5 times a day, and it is finally paying off.  

I decided it was time to start riding across the river and going on “real rides.”  Up to this point, the most I was doing was having Ellen lead me down the hill, and then I would trot back and forth on the bottom.  Most of the time, it was with one hand, since my other hurt to hold the reins–let alone ride with contact.  Also, I only had a 5 pound limit, and I worried about what would happen if I really had to take a hold of the reins in an emergency.

My first big day across the river was that evening after seeing the surgeon. I was wasting no time getting back in the saddle. The ride was with Kevin. I would be lying to say that I wasn't nervous--but at the same time, I was excited. It was 2 and a half months since I was on the other side of the river--riding independently. Kevin was nervous, too.

The plan was to keep Starry in the lead, because Cole always behaves better if he is following instead of leading. When Cole is in the lead, he likes to go fast, but if he follows another horse, he will match that horse's speed.

The problem was Starry was so slow...Starry hates leading...

We mostly walked. I trotted briefly just once. It went well. Cole stopped when I wanted him to. There were a few times that Starry was just walking so slow that I took the lead.

I was smiling a lot after that ride.

The next day, I went out with Kevin again. This time, I trotted a longer stretch of trail, and Cole was perfect. I also led a little more in the sections of the trail where I felt more confident. Cole was doing great with one-handed riding. (He is an English-trained horse, and I ride in a snaffle.)

The following day, I had Kevin and Ellen. With my whole support team with me, I felt much more confident. This time, I followed Ellen with Dante. Dante has a slow trot, most of the time. I would either trot slow behind them, or I would let them get ahead a bit and trot to catch up with them. When they did go faster, Cole just followed along.

After that, my rides kept getting better and better. I was doing a lot more trotting in the lead to help speed the other two up. The riding must be helping my hand, because each day, it felt a little better. Now I can ride with both reins comfortably. On the weekend, we increased the length of our rides to be just what we would have done if my wrist wasn't broken. We are pretty much back to normal.

I am still riding with my splint, and they recommend continuing to do so for the next couple of months--just in case I fall off. I'm not planning to, of course. Who ever does? I am also wearing it when I go hiking.

I can't lift Cole's saddle, so Ellen and Kevin are doing that for me. I also have to use a mounting block to mount with one hand--and I can't hold the reins while I do, so they are holding Cole for me. He is great for standing while I mount, but why take any chances?

It is so nice to be back riding on the trail again. I was afraid that Ellen wouldn't give Cole back to me--they were doing so well together at the end. I really appreciate her taking such good care of him. They are a good team, and Cole probably wishes she was still riding him...She gives him lots more treats.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Beautiful Morning for Riding

 Beautiful Morning for Riding

Sunday, October 16, 2022

There is Always Hope


There is Always Hope

Since I broke my wrist, Ellen has been forced to do things that she might not have otherwise done.  The other day, she had an extraordinary ride--and the most extraordinary thing about it was its complete ordinariness.

She took Dante in the park by herself.  Kevin couldn't make it out to ride with her.  If she wanted to go on the trail, she had to do it by herself, and she did.

I walked with her to the river's edge and sent her on her way while I waited for her; reading a book.

She rode out to the second river, turned around and came back.  The ride consisted of a lot of trotting and very little anxiety.  At the end of it, she confessed that she has more anxiety taking Cole out by herself, (something she has done quite a few times in the last few weeks,) than she did on her solo ride with Dante.

That doesn't give me much to write about.

And it doesn't surprise me.

Dante is a great horse.  He is very quiet, spooks at very little and isn't likely to go dashing off.  He takes care of his rider.

Ellen's anxieties got in the way of truly believing it.

Ellen is also a very skilled rider who rode a far more challenging horse on the trail for many years before she got Dante.  Ranger was a lot of fun, but he wasn't always an easy horse to ride.  He was spirited, spooked at many things and really liked to go fast.  He trained Ellen into the talented rider she is today.

Ellen's anxieties got in the way of believing that, too.

She rode Dante a few times by herself the first summer she had him, but her anxieties got the better of her.  The following spring, she could no longer do it.  It didn't matter at the time.  She still had Ranger to ride in the park by herself.

Each year, she seemed to get a little worse.  Eventually, it was hard for her to stand outside with Dante all by herself--let alone ride him alone.  Just riding him on the driveway was really tough--but she kept pushing herself to do what she could.

She never gave up.  A lot of people would have, but Ellen loves riding and loves riding Dante.  In the last few years, she has gotten better, little by little.  Moving to our new barn seemed to help her a lot because it gave her a new start.  It wasn't long before she was able to ride Dante outside at the barn with no one--not even on foot--to help her.

She became braver on the trail rides--even to the point where she could ride Dante without other horses on the hill if I was walking with her.  This may not seem like much, but it was a really big deal for her.

When Cole cut his foot at the same time that Starry was dealing with a lameness issue, I was able to walk with her on the trail rides.  (It was warm enough for me to walk across the river.)  Once Starry got better, she went out riding with Kevin all the time.  It had been years since she had ridden without me, her security sister.

Then, when I broke my wrist, she was the one who had to ease Cole back into riding.  That was not an easy thing to do!  He had a lot of pent up energy, and it literally took weeks for him to settle down.  She rode him with Kevin and Starry a lot, but quite a few times she had to ride him by herself.  I don't know many people who could have done a better job getting Cole back into work--and I don't know many people who would have been brave enough to do it.  He is a lot of horse.

It only seemed natural for her to eventually get up the nerve to ride Dante alone.  Surely he would be easier than Cole--and he was.  He was a dream horse.

There is always hope if you lose your riding confidence.  It may take a long time, but never give up.  Keep doing what you are able to do, and don't beat yourself up about it.  It happens to people all the time.  Keep moving forward--there is always hope.

Just ask Ellen.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Back in the Saddle

Back in the Saddle

Four days after I broke my wrist, I was scheduled for surgery.  They tried to set it when I went to the emergency room, but they couldn't get it close enough so it would heal well.

When I met the surgeon, I asked her how long it would be before I could ride, and she told me 3 months.  It would take that long to get my strength and flexibility back.

Tears just started falling when I heard that.  When the surgeon left the room, Kevin told me not to worry.  He would get me in the saddle sooner than that.

The surgery went excellently.  At that point, I had a smaller, more comfortable splint.  I was soon back to the barn, walking with Ellen while she rode on the trail and telling her what to do with Cole.  I counted the days until the stitches would be removed.

The day the stitches were removed, they sent me right to physical therapy.  I asked her about riding, and she said that the big fear was that I would fall.  Of course, that is the big fear we all have whenever we ride our horses.  That is nothing new.  Still, I sure didn't want to mess my wrist up--and I had very little mobility at all in that hand.  My fingers were only able to hold the smallest things--and not very tightly.  I saw the logic of avoiding riding.

A few days later, I decided to ride.  Well, not real riding.  Due to the risks involved, we decided I could sit in the saddle and someone could lead Cole from the ground.  I would ride one handed--with the reins in my good hand.

Kevin had the privilege of doing the first ride.

My left wrist is broken, which is good for a right-handed person--except for mounting.  We really need to left hand to mount.  Of course, I wouldn't even consider trying from the ground, as it would have been impossible.  We led Cole to the mounting block.  I had to figure out how to do it without putting any weight on my left wrist.  

I figured out I could put my right hand on the far side and grasp the flap.  That way, it would help keep the saddle in place and also be out of the way when I swing my leg over.  I have to confess, I was a little intimidated, looking down at the saddle, getting ready to put my foot in the stirrup.

But, I was determined, and I did it.  It went smoother than I expected.  I settled into place and told Kevin I was ready to walk.

It felt like I never ridden a horse before.  Ellen said it was because I was nervous, and that heightens the senses.  Cole swayed back and forth, and I felt very disoriented.  He was a little hyper, and after 8 minutes, I decided it was time to call it a day--and then I realized that I never even thought about how to dismount.  Ooops.

Well, I knew I had to do it one-handed, so I threw my bad hand in the air and swung off.  It worked.  Since then, I modified it so I slide down and hook my elbow on the other side of his withers to stabilize my landing.

I was so happy that I rode!!!

Ellen helped me with many of the future rides.  She would get back from riding Cole, and let me ride immediately after.  That helped because he wasn't so fresh.  Cole seems to like the routine--because he has 2 of his people with him.  He likes having his people.  One day, I even rode Dante after his ride.  Dante was actually better than Cole.  Ellen let me trot him, and since he is pretty slow, she could trot right next to him.

We then decided to try that with Cole.  He was amazing.  Ellen couldn't go very fast, and Cole matched her stride for stride,  (I taught him to do that at a walk--and that morphed into his silly walk.)  We would just go short stretches, since I didn't want to tire Ellen out.

The next time we tried that, she hadn't ridden him first--and he was in too spunky of a mood for it.

Between Ellen and Kevin, I am doing a little riding, and I really enjoy it.  In the meantime, I am very serious about doing my physical therapy in hopes of being able to ride like a regular person.

A Broken Wrist

 A Broken Wrist

In early September, I slipped while hiking with Kevin and broke both bones in my wrist. They tried to reset it, but they couldn't get it quite where they wanted it, so I had to have surgery.  I now have 2 plates and 0 screws holding me together.

I'm doing well.  It is healing.  I am doing physical therapy to get my range of motion back.  Each day, I can use it a little more.  Best of all, I now have a removable splint.

The worst part of it, because this is me, is that it interferes in my riding.  Not just any riding, but the best time of the year riding.  Ellen has been very busy.

Cole can be an intimidating horse--particularly if he had 3 weeks off to recover from his hoof injury.  He is a lot of horse in a small package.  Was Ellen up to the challenge?

Ellen's first attempt was in the arena, where she learned that his "show trot" was not for her.  After a few attempts, she decided she would just walk.  He was a bundle of energy, and a walk-only ride didn't do much to change that.  A few days later, she tried it again.  Cole was a little better, but he wasn't getting much exercise.

I think the next ride was up and down the hill, and there Ellen was able to trot him.  That helped.  There is a flat part at the bottom, and they just went back and forth.  We were in a rainy spell, and he was refusing to do any self exercise when we turned him out.  He hates mud.  He really needed to trot, and the hill was a much better way to do it than the arena.

Ellen's next attempt was to take him across the river and go for a ride.  I met her on the other side and walked along.  When she got to the good part of the trail to trot--she was off.  Since I could only walk, I didn't get to see how it went.  She said he just kept trotting faster and faster and faster.  She said she just had to trust him.  When she got to the next river crossing, she turned him towards home and started walking back to me.  She didn't dare trot him towards home when he was in that kind of mood.

When I saw her, she did look a little pale.

Cole calmed down when he found me.  He loves walking with his people.

I asked her if she had fun, she paused and finally said, "I think I did."

Since then, Ellen has been riding Cole regularly on her days off.  She has been taking some vacation time each week to help.  If he gets too much time off, he goes really fast.  It helps when she can ride him with Starry.  (Kevin has been so wonderful, that sometimes, he rides Starry with Dante and Cole on the same day to help Ellen out.)  He seldom wants to pass another horse, so she can just follow Starry.  This weekend, he gave her a couple of marvelous rides.  They are getting used to each other, and I think that now she is having as much fun with him as he is having with her.

Of course, Dante isn't getting neglected.  She is riding him quite a bit, too.  They had a terrific ride in the arena the other day.  Everything is starting to fall into place with them in there.  Riding Cole has exposed a few weak spots in Ellen's riding.  In order to stay with him, she has to adjust her seat.  When she tried the same things on Dante--magic happened.  I might not be benefiting much from having a broken wrist, but Ellen sure is.

Of course, Dante is always good with Ellen on the trail.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Monday, September 5, 2022



Well, Ellen had 2 more solo rides in the park, and one solo trip on the hill.  It all went terrific, too.  Then, much to her happiness, Starry recovered and they have been riding together ever since,

Cole had his stitches removed, and his foot is nearly healed.  The same day, I was hiking, slipped and broke my wrist.

Stall rest for Cole is over, and Ellen and Kevin have been leading him around.  I have been walking with him, and it's just nice spending time with him outside.  He has been an angel for them, and I am so proud of him.

Next weekend, when she doesn’t have to work, he will be rideable.

By then, I will know if I will need surgery on my wrist.  I am glad to say that the pain has greatly subsided, and I am working on how to do things one handed.

I have yet to figure out how to brush my cat, Thunder’s teeth.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Ellen and Dante--Solo


Ellen and Dante--Solo

Could it be true?  Did I really just type those words?

Ellen hasn't ridden Dante alone in the park beyond the first river crossing since the year she bought him.  That fall, she was leading him on the street, he spooked, knocked her down and she broke her ankle.  Ever since then, her riding anxieties took over.

Of course, if you have been following her adventures, you would know that she is getting braver all the time, and this summer, in particular, she has been outstanding.

Still, there really wasn't any reason for her to go riding on the trail by herself.  Since I retired, if I know she is planning to ride, I want to be there with her.  We have too much fun together to miss out on a ride.

So what happened? Bad luck.

First, Starry came up lame.  We were hoping it was an abscess, but instead of getting worse, it started getting better.  Abscesses don't do that.  Kevin called the vet out, and she diagnosed a sprain and/or arthritis.  She gave Kevin some anti-inflammatory pills and told him that if he improved, start light riding after the farrier came out.  It was on his club foot, of course.

The following week, Cole got cut crossing the river by some fishing line.  Though it wasn't a deep or long cut, it was in a terrible spot--the back of his leg--just above his hoof.  There was a flap, and as he stepped, the wound would gape.  I called the vet, and she gave him 4 stitches, wrapped his leg and told me that he needed stall rest for 2 weeks until the stitches came out.  Even with our precautions, she still couldn't guarantee that the stitches would hold.

That left Ellen without her riding buddies.  Shari has a different schedule than she used to, so we only get to ride with Bella on Sundays.

If Ellen wanted to ride on the trail, she had to go solo.

Well, not exactly.  Since I didn't have a horse to ride, I could go with her on foot.  The river isn't too high, and it doesn't bother me to get my feet wet.  This would be the first time that Dante would be crossing the river and riding on the other side without another horse in 8 years!  Plus, I certainly couldn't keep up with them when they trot and canter.

The day after Cole got his stitches was the first day of Dante's independent rides.  Cole was not happy with the situation, and the people at the barn had to give him extra hay to quiet him down.  Starry gave us a little neigh, too, when he saw us walking down the driveway without him.

The ride was such a non-event, that there really isn't much to write about.  Most of the time, Ellen wasn't even nervous.  She trotted off to the second river where she was going to turn around.  It was there when the only scary thing happened on the whole ride.

We always see a lot of high school boys that are on the track team running down the trail in late summer and early fall.  Our horses are very accustomed to them.  They must have been told by their teachers to always stop for horses, because they do--every time.  That is, if they actually see us.

When Ellen stopped at the river to turn around, a large group of them decided to run through the river!  They made a big ruckus, and they must have looked scary to a horse, but Dante didn't care!  I'm not sure how Cole would have been.  Even Starry might have been startled.  I'm sure Bella would have been halfway home before they even got across.  Dante is a superstar.

Ellen caught up with me, and we went home.

Day one was great!

Thursday, August 25, 2022