I went out to the barn this morning to work with Toad. She was a spaz yesterday when Trainer K. worked with her and I wanted to get her out working again to try and get her back on track. She actually ran off on me once. Maybe she wouldn't have gotten away but she surprised me so I let go of the lead rope because she was already turned and facing away from me and my first instinct was "Big thousand pound creature running straight away from me ... won't be able to hold on!" She did stop when I went up to get her though and let me pull in the lunge line without trying to run away. I asked her to go back out on the circle and she went part of the way out, tried to bolt, but this time I was ready and dug my feet in to the ground (and she wasn't facing away from me) and held on. The pressure of me holding on pissed her off and she reared and when she came down she started to walk toward me (her way of passively saying "No I don't want to work!") and all I had to do was hold my finger up and say "Whoa. No. Do not come any closer!" She twitched her ears, looked at me like she was thinking for a moment, then sighed and just stood there. I told her to walk on and she sighed and walked out on the circle. Then she did fine, although her leg is still sore from where she cut it earlier in the week.
After lunging I wanted to clean the mud off her belly but unlike yesterday when she stood very still and breathed into it and was fine with it, today she was all over the place, jumping around and trying not to kick but not succeeding very well. Twice she swung her butt around at me until finally I went and borrowed Margaret's crop and as soon as she brought her butt toward me in that aggressive manner, gave her a swat. That of course sent her straight up in the air. Then completely not knowing what I was doing but it sounded good, I gently stroked the crop across her back, then just had it touching her back flank very gently - basically just laying on her back flank - and was able to clean off her belly a little. She was obviously very distressed by it, but having the wall on one side and the feeling of the crop on the other seemed to "contain" her enough that she could handle feeling the distress without exploding. Kind of like how babies calm down when you swaddle them. Or Temple Grandin felt emotional relief when squashed in between two large boards. Toad seemed to be able to handle her feelings of distress better with that feeling of being contained. When I was done she got some carrots and lots of love and snuggles.
I have noticed that she freaks out really badly when I clean her belly on the left side but can handle it really well when I clean it from the right side. I can even reach over and clean the left side without too much distress if I'm on her right side. I'm thinking something really terrifying and painful happened to her coming at her on the left side back in her days when she was on the track.
Then I was putting my stuff away and was in the locker room getting my keys out of my purse to go load up the car with dirty towels and blankets, when I heard that thundering of hooves in the arena. I knew Trainer K. and my friend, M. were riding M.'s Lipizaners in the arena together. I had actually just been thinking "I wish I wasn't wearing jeans because I'd ask M. if I could ride Favio." I thought maybe Gemini had bolted with Trainer K. But just as I heard the thundering I also heard a horrible crashing sound, Trainer K. yelled something and I heard more thundering hooves and whirled around to see Trainer K.'s torso go whizzing by the gate at an extremely fast speed. I heard a less horrifying thud and then thundering hooves again so I ran to the gate and saw Gemini and Favio standing off to the right by themselves, breathing heavily and to the left M. was laying on the ground next to the south gate, which was no longer standing, but laying on the ground outside the arena. Trainer K. was leaning against the wall saying something I could hear to M. M. finally sat up, but she was all hunched up and holding her head in her hands.
I yelled over the fence "Did they dump you? Are you OK? Do I need to call someone?" and Trainer K. said, "Yes, M. got thrown into the gate." I asked again "Do I need to call someone?" (meaning "Do I need to call 911) and Trainer K. didn't answer. I asked again and Trainer K. asked, "Are you alone?" and I yelled back, "What?" and she yelled, "Is your horse with you?" and I said no - this whole time I was wondering why she was just standing there and not going over to Margaret, so I yelled again, "Is Margaret OK? Do I need to call someone?" and Trainer K. yelled, "Will you come in the arena?" so I came in and she yelled, "Will you grab those horses?" So I went over and grabbed Favio and Gemini. Neither wanted to move but after some coercion I got them closer to the end where Trainer K. was. That's when I realized she wasn't just standing there she was leaning against the wall trying to walk over to Margaret but couldn't walk. I asked if she got thrown too and she said yes and I said again, "Do I need to call someone?"
M. stood up and started to weave and waddle over to me and the horses at a very slow pace and I asked if she was dizzy and she said yes and I said, "Then I want you to sit back down immediately. I'll put your horses in the cross ties and call 911," but M. insisted she was fine. Trainer K. said to leave them in the arena because once she could walk she was going to beat the living crap out of them. As it was, she didn't beat the living crap out of them, she shuffled out of the arena, took some Aleve, came back in and road Gemini around at a walk on very short reins, then did some ground work with Favio. I asked why she didn't ride Favio and she said she would not have been able to get on him because everything hurt so badly. M. stayed crumpled on the mounting block for awhile looking awful then holding her arm at a weird angle came over to where I was putting up Favio's stirrups and about to loosen his girth. I asked if she was going to get back on him and she said she couldn't because she'd wrenched her shoulder too badly. But she wasn't dizzy anymore which was a good sign.
They managed to get the horses untacked and put away and I swept out the grooming area because I figured there was no way M. could sweep with a jammed shoulder. Then I gave M. a massage and one of Trainer K.'s other students happened to show up and gave her a massage and there was lots of ice. So, I think they will both be fine. But it shook me up and I didn't even see it. A girl on the south side of the barn saw it and put the gate back up for them. She didn't seem quite as shaken up as me. And of course I wasn't even close to as shaken up as M. Even Trainer K. might've been shaken up but she was more pissed off than anything. She said this was the first time in over 15 years that she's been dumped by a horse. I believe it. I was actually really surprised she came off. I'm glad I didn't see it. Although it sounded scary enough.
Apparently, what happened was Favio freaked out about something and took off at a gallop and M. was staying on ok, but he got to the gate, couldn't go any further so he spun and threw M. right into the gate. Lucky for M. it was the gate and not the wall because she landed on her shoulder but the gate broke and came off the wall so that wasn't as hard on her as the wall would've been. That spooked Gemini who then took off and three Trainer K. off to lighten his load so he could run faster. Trainer K. landed flat on her back and her head hit the ground so hard it bounced up and hit the ground again a second time. Thank God for riding helmets! What is more amazing is that after a couple hours they both got up and walked (and drove) away from the barn. I'm glad nobody got seriously hurt.
But it got me thinking again. What the hell am I doing with this hobby???? It did make me feel better that when Trainer K. was telling some of our other friends at the barn about it she turned to me and said, "Now if that had been your horse doing that you could've stopped her because she's not so strong. But Lipazzans have those crazy, solid muscle necks like pitbulls and you can't stop them." Really all I heard was "If that had been your horse you could've stopped her ..." But still - what the hell??? I guess it's way more dangerous to ski and snowboard. And way more dangerous to have joined The Rat City Roller Girls which I had considered briefly before choosing to get back into horses.
But this week with my huge stress and fears about whether or not I'll find another part-time job and that did get me thinking "If I didn't have horses I wouldn't have to work. We could afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom and I could focus on my writing and house projects and stuff like that." But at the same time, horses are my passion and I am so proud of how well Toadie is coming along. And it's so fun to hang out with my fellow horse-crazy friends. I think something inside of me would be so lost and sad without horses. But for today it did seem like a really good idea not to actually own one and just take some riding lessons once in awhile.