Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carrots for All

Back to the Routine

I am back to doing all the feeding and cleaning as of tomorrow. I have to go get some bedding and do a few minor chores as well to keep me busy for the day.

I have a lot of tree branches I need to get off the lawn at some point, but they may just have to wait for a while. The big one in the back yard has some priority and I am sawing parts of it off a little at a time. It is stull currently to wide to drag through the paddock gates to get it out to the woods with the tractor, so I have to trim it down. Since I am not brave enough to try a chainsaw, I am sawing by hand. That does take a bit of time and effort.

I am slowed by my knees, of course, and a cold. Bummer. I went to the doctor this morning just to be sure there was nothing else going on, and according to her, I have a viral respiratory infection, so there's nothing to do except the standard, "Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest."

OK, so I take natural supplements as well including vitamin C, zinc, ginger, and other herbal formulas. If anyone out there has a brilliant suggestion I haven't tried yet, please let me know. At this point, I need to be able to sing for the church service on December 11, so a cure by then would be good.

The Boys are not neglected. Today they were hanging out in the paddocks near the barn, so I gave each one a nice fat carrot. I  love watching them enjoy treats like that. I the scope of things, a carrot is a very small offering, but to a horse, it is a treasure to be savored.  We should all learn a lesson from how much pleasure and satisfaction our horses can show for simple gifts.

Life for us humans often seems too complicated for us to "stop and smell the roses."  A horse, a cat, a dog, just doesn't see the world in all that complexity. To them, the here and now is what really matters, and they use all their senses to perceive and appreciate the world around them as it happens.

I think that's why I  like feeding time in the barn so much. The bucket of grain and flakes of hay are always anticipated and appreciated with such equine delight. To my horses, every meal is a thanksgiving feast.

It's just something to think about.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Slowly But Surely

Getting Back to Normal As I Can Be

Note the "I can be" part of the title, please. My knees are still not perfect. Both of them still have some stiffness and a bit of soreness in them due to the internal swelling and, of course, all the "stuff" done to them during surgery. I don't want anyone to think that going on three months from my surgery I am 100% free from any discomfort.  I have been told that it will be at least 6 weeks before my left knee is fully recovered--that from my surgeon. But I'm not sure what that means. Already, my knee is nearly where it was before I went off the horse. Does that 6 weeks mean it will be wonderful?

I'm walking a little slowly still, and I'm certainly not ready to run. However, I did push the nearly full wheelbarrow yesterday and it was OK, although my knees complained a bit more last night than I would have liked. But, like exercises in rehab, that is the consequence of using muscles that just aren't in shape. To some degree, the phrase, "No pain, no gain," does apply. But that does not mean you should be feeling pain during the exercises. Pain is a warning that something is being overstressed. But "soreness" after proper exercise is expected. Muscle tissue has to be stressed, and often 24-48 hours after exercise will experience soreness.  (We need to remember this for our horses too, by the way!!)

The good thing about my knees is that, in general, if I start off again slowly and get the blood flowing into the joints, most of the soreness goes away and I am able to continue on my merry way.  I have already noticed that each day, I can do just a little more with each leg. For example: My right knee was always the worst one of the two before surgery. As a result, I became very "left leg dominant."  After surgery, my left leg was the better of my two legs, so the left leggedness continued. Now, however, because I fell on my left leg, my right leg has had to "take over" as the strong leg. At first, depending on my right leg was a challenge. Now, however, my right leg pulls me up the step into the barn just fine, even with a few flakes of hay in my arms. Then too, I caught myself using my left leg to go up one of the steps as well, meaning that my left knee is pretty well recovered from the fall. And all this after being back off the crutches for less than four days.

Another bit of interesting information is that standing up taller and with good posture also helps walking. The same is true when using the crutches, which is why the elbow crutches work so much better for me.
I am much less likely to bend over using them and I have much more mobility than with crutches that go under my armpits. 

And....I have also found that Skechers Shape-Ups are really good shoes for my joints. I discovered this on a shopping trip many months before my surgery when I was so knee sore after walking a lot that I was about to give up on going into the last store I needed to visit. I'd bought a pair of Shape-Ups and decided to give them a try. Suddenly, I was able to walk again with hardly any pain. Amazing. Now, they also seem to make a big difference with my new knees. The rocking/rolling action of the foot really seems to help ease the concussion of walking. 
I have these in several colors at this point and wear them all the time. They are not exactly the most elegant "dress shoes," of course, but for slacks and jeans, they are perfect. I know pointy toes and heels are the fashion, but I'd rather sacrifice in order to be stable on my feet, safe, and comfortable.  Obviously, they are no good for riding--might even be dangerous in the stirrup--but my Ariats work well for that and have built in support too. 

I still have my horsesitter coming in the afternoon to clean the stalls and feed the Boys, but as of today, I am doing both morning and late night feeds again. I'm not sure the Boys missed me, but I'd like to think that my appearance out there means just a little more to them than buckets of grain and hay. *lol*

I brushed everyone off the other day, but it's kind of like trying to hold back the ocean. They looked just as muddy as they'd been by the next day.  I guess rolling in the dirt--fortunately mostly the sandy arena--just feels too good. The problem is that with their winter coats, the dirt gets pretty deep and it's almost impossible to get them really clean. Tucker, the bay, seems to be the easiest to make presentable. Chance is in second place, and Toby is in third tending to look like a "dustball" no matter what I do.  I do have a horse vacuum I can use if need be, but as long as they are happy, what's a little dust?  

Soon we will be into blanket season anyhow and then I stand a chance.  We're not planning on going anywhere formal anyhow, so it's just fine. 

After all, what's a little mud between friends? 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back On Two Feet

And So I Start All Over Again

Right now, both my knees feel about the same, so the left one has pretty much recovered from my fall. I'm not sure how it will be after I go out to feed the Boys, or after a bit of walking around, but so far, so good.

I did find the last couple days rather interesting. Not doing a lot of walking for the two weeks of my recovery was not good for either leg.  My right one had gotten pretty stiff and gave me so pain again. Nothing too terrible, but certainly a setback from where I was before I went off my horse. Just goes to show how quickly our muscles will lose their strength if not properly exercised.

It makes me think of horses...what doesn't?  In particular, of horses kept in the stall for most of the time. I've heard of many situations where perfectly sound horses are in the barn all the time except for the hour or so they are exercised or ridden.  Aside from being incredibly boring for their minds, what does it do to their bodies?

In a natural setting, the horse is a grazing, relatively nomadic animal. Even on the lushest grass, you will see a horse move about from place to place as it eats. You will also see a horse take off an run for no reason at all except to move at speed. I was told my PJ used to walk all the way to the far end of the pasture at one boarding stable and then gallop back several times a day, as if he were engaged in some kind of self-exercise program.

Now, I do understand that some horses need specialized turnout--individual or limited--due to personality or physical issues, but that is most often the exception. Personally, I believe a horse needs to be in a herd situation, or at least with a buddy, turned out for the better part of every day in order to be healthy, sound, and content. Otherwise, it's just not natural.

And here's where the lesson of my knees come into the equation. If two weeks of limited activity made my legs weaker, what would days of confinement in a stable do to a horse's legs/muscles?  Somehow I can't imagine that an hour or so of exercise can quite make up for hours of freedom and movement in turnout.

My Boys have 24/7 turnout here. Sometimes they are muddy messes, sometimes they just hang out in the stalls and run in sheds instead of wandering about the paddocks. Tucker loses shoes, and turnout sheets get ripped.  Now and again we get hoof abscesses (this year was a bad one), and dings and cuts and scrapes. My Boys rarely look acey deucy "show ready," on an average day, but they do seem happy.

I'd rather have that than a perfectly groomed horse any day.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

No Matter Who You Are, or Where You Are

Thanksgiving is a US holiday, but its wishes should be shared throughout the world.  We need to remember the blessings we have and give thanks for all the good things in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Only Those Who Never Ride....."

"....Never Fall"

That's an old horseman's saying that always echoes in my head after I've gone off.  And in my riding career, I've gone off a lot of times.

I've been hurt a few times too, with a broken wrist, some kind of damage to my shoulder, back pains, cuts and other bruises, and the worst injury of all, bruised pride.  I've had some embarrassing moments on the ground for sure, most of the time with only my horse as witness. One of those moments came when Toby pulled one of his fast sideways spooks. I rode with it, but when he slid back into place I simply slid out of the saddle to end up landing softly in the briars with Toby looking at me as if to say, "What the heck did you do that for?"

More spectacular moments included having my horse fall with me, leaving me not much more option than an unplanned dismount. I've gone off over fences, gone off because my horse has bucked me off, gone off due to spooks and bolts, and just generally for no reason at all.

The key to riding is keeping the horse between you and the ground. Generally, keeping one leg on either side of the horse works well. (Something I should have remembered this last time when I decided instead to swing off Chance's back instead of trying to ride out his reaction to the minibike.)  I did ride sidesaddle for a while and never did go off that way, although I didn't really try too much exciting riding and stayed in the arena on my "hunter on the flat."  Some people claim it's really easier to stay on a horse sidesaddle, but I'm not so sure, unless being kind of "hooked in" by the upper and leaping pommels really does give you a more secure seat. (Never got the hang of jumping sidesaddle myself.)

The fact is, once you climb on the back of a horse, seating yourself five or so feet above the ground and then decide to move the both of you, falling off is always an option.  My trainer used to tell me not to think of falling or getting bucked off when I rode Tucker. He felt the power of negative thinking was not going to help either of us get any training done. When I really focus on my training and riding, I don't think about falling, actually.  And, for the most part, I don't ride with fear as my companion.

But as I've gotten older, I also know I don't bounce quite as well as I did as a youngster. As much as I loved jumping, that's one of the reasons I gave it up. Now, I try to avoid the situations that might get my horse and me into situations where one or both of us might run into more than we can handle.

That's why I was out riding on a Wednesday afternoon. The woods should have been quiet and free from the scary weekend, after school and holiday ATV/Minibike riders.

But alas. The best laid plans.....

I'm off my crutches in the house and will soon be walking outside on two functional legs with no added support--I'm a little cautious of my balance and muscle security on my left let still.  That means I'll be back in the saddle in a few weeks.

This time I plan on staying there once I mount up. *G*

Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting Around on Crutches

And I Can Drive Just Fine

I went to church on Sunday and sang Bach's "Gloria" from his "Heiligemesse," (Joyful mass...sort of.). At any rate I love singing it and didn't want to miss the chance. It turned out to be perfect for the service as the minister's sermon was about singing LOUD to God. And, the our choir did a beautiful job of singing it.

We are a relatively small group--fewer than 20 voices (Often many fewer) but everyone is a good vocalist and we have a pretty full sound for so few. I'm glad I managed to get there to join in.

The big breakthrough was that a managed the whole trip using my crutches. My left knee is finally able to support my weight with minimal pain. I wouldn't want to have to move suddenly on it, or twist it too much, but it's working again.  I know people manage to get around on crutches all the time on only one good leg, but it was a rather daunting challenge for me. Part of the problem was that my injured leg did not want to stay behind me, but rather seemed to "have a mind of its own" to swing ahead of me with every step. This throws off my balance so that I am in constant danger of falling backwards--scary.  I don't know if I needed more practice or whether there was something about the knee pain itself that was causing the problem.  That's why the wheelchair was such a lifesaver.

I figure I will be out feeding the horses again, at least in the morning, before the end of this week--maybe tomorrow. I still will not be able to push the wheelbarrow--probably by next week, though--so I will need help with the afternoon chores. And, at some point, I need to get some hay to hold me over for the weekend. Again, I can get the hay loaded into either the car or the truck, but getting it unloaded when I get back home is an issue.

Ah, well. There is always a solution to a problem. You just need to look for it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Right On!!

The Knee is Just Fine

My doctor looked at my Xrays, looked at my knee, and declared me just fine.  "Go ahead and do anything you want and get back to riding," he said....with only my pain to stop me. He figured I might want to wait a while to ride again, but there was no physical reason I couldn't if it didn't hurt too much.

I love this guy.

His intern thought the boss would tell me to get out of the wheelchair, but the doctor himself said that if the chair helped, it was perfectly OK. He also said I wouldn't do any damage by walking on my leg either, so it was all up to me.

On the downside, he did say it would be probably six weeks before the knee would be fully healed. No biggie on that either because "Good" is rather relative at this point. I will definitely be walking on it with no crutches much sooner than that and then we'll be back to just stiff and sometimes a little sore like the right knee is now.

As to the ligaments...I was 100% right. The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments are gone (my ACL was gone anyhow, so that's no loss) but the medial collateral and collateral ligaments are there and I probably strained the medial collateral (Inside of the knee) in the fall. Everything else is perfectly funtional and my knee bends and straightens just fine.  The rest of the pain is either from bruising or interior swelling, as I figured.

I was easily able to get down the two steps out of my house on my crutches and can walk pretty well on them, so I now feel able to get out and about on my own. Since it's my left knee and my car is an automatic, I can drive with no problem.  I did have a friend go with me today since the drive was very long and I wanted the option of the wheelchair.  Mark was a big help and we had a lot of laughs on the trip. Fortunately I had a minimal wait at the doctor's office and it took less than an hour for Xrays and the consult.

More later about my discoveries traveling about in a wheelchair. Despite claims to the contrary, "Fully handicapped accessible" is not exactly an accurate term.  I have a lot more to say about this, but I will save it for a later post.

For now, I have the "all clear" to get into more trouble. (I'll try to be good, Muriel. *S*)

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Maybe I Understand

OK, so I have new knees. While I will wait for my doctor to confirm, I may well still have some ligaments left--collateral ligaments. These are the ones on the side that help stabilize the knee side to side. If I do, that explains the pain I have now after my fall.

I am quite puzzled otherwise, because my knee feels almost exactly as it would have felt before the replacement if I had fallen and twisted it. Of course, added to that feeling is the extra soreness from some already damaged and not quite healed soft tissue there and "voila!" I have an explanation  for what I feel.

Now, of course, I am going to the doctor who will confirm or deny my assessment.

I can now put weight on the leg and step a bit with the crutches, although I don't feel sure about pushing off with the hurt knee or any kind of sideways motion. Still, slow progress is better than none at all, so I am hopeful the next week will bring some noticeable improvement.

While I could navigate about without the wheelchair, I still think it's a good idea, mostly because ligament and soft tissue injuries do not improve by being overused, so the less I stress them, the better--for now. My doctor may have another view.

More when I find out what's going on.

I catch glimpses of the Boys outside now and then. They look fine and happy. Have to wonder sometimes if they miss me--I mean as long as there is plenty of food. *G*

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Barrier Free???


Well, I suppose now is as good a time as any to learn about how well my house is set up to be barrier free. If I am to stay here into my old age, this is a lesson well-learned.

Area rugs can pose an obstruction to wheelchairs. My larger ones are OK, but if I were stuck in a chair for a long time, I might want to get rid of them.

Furniture is in the way.  Passages from one place to another are made difficult by chairs or other pieces of furniture in the way.

Other "stuff" on the floor is a barrier. Anything set on the floor that might get in the line of a wheel poses a problem.

Narrow halls and doorways at angles are a challenge. I have a narrow hall to the back bedrooms. The bathroom and one bedroom are at the side of the hall. It is very hard to turn the chair in the hall to get into these doors.

My bathroom is not accessible. A very narrow space, my bathroom is not wide enough for the wheelchair.
Now, I can use my crutches at the door to get in. I have no idea what I would do if I were stuck with just the chair.  A remodel would be the only option.

Stairs are problematic. My house is one floor of living space, so that's good. But the furnace is i the basement as is the washer/dryer. Obviously, I cannot get to either. The furnace needs water every couple weeks in the heating system. I need to get someone else to fill if for me if I cannot get downstairs.

The house is on one level, but there are two small steps up to the back porch so I can get in. I haven't tried to go outside since the day I fell. I'm not sure just how well I will be able to go down them to get to my doctor's appointment. (Yes, I am going to see the doctor just to be sure everything is OK.)  I will have a friend here to lean on. My head is roiling with ideas. I may come up with some method to get down the stairs without walking, but I will see. I don't think getting back up them with the crutches will be an issue, but "down" is a bigger challenge.

So, I am gradually understanding the challenges of mobility in an unfriendly world.....

I got a call back from the doctor today. We decided an X-ray would be worth the effort just to be sure I didn't wreck anything in my knee. Actually, it's a tiny bit better each day, so it's probably fine, but having an expert look at it is a good idea.

Stay tuned for that adventure, currently scheduled for the end of the week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Have A Wheelchair

Need a GPS

I bought a wheelchair on eBay for $40 US.  It is virtually brand new and I have it already.

How?  The seller lives about 3 miles from me. I plugged in an eBay search for sellers within 50 miles and the first listing was the next town over. They had a low starting price and since it was local pickup only--no shipping--no bids other than mine. The auction closed at just after 4 PM today. I paid by PayPal and my friend picked up the chair two hours later.

A regular wheelchair is much better than an office chair on casters! However, navigating around my little house is a challenge. There are a lot of sharp turns, doorways, and narrow passages. I am learning how to manage the driving, but it does take some skill. Maybe an indoor GPS would help!! (Turn right....NOW!)

I'm pretty sure most of the problem with my knee is soft tissue strain/trauma, so resting rather than trying to limp around on it is probably better.

I did call the doctor today but no one was in--I think Monday is one of his surgery days.  I am mostly interested in how long I should expect having trouble walking before I really need to have someone look at it for me. Every day it has gotten a bit better, but it's hard to assess what kind of recovery I should expect.

Meantime, the weather has been gorgeous and I am stuck inside. I catch little glimpses of the Boys when they are near the barn, but that's about it.

Frustrating, but part of the whole mess.

One more test of patience.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reviewing the Situation

A Disability Is an Interesting Thing

Nothing like an injury to remind you of how hard it is to face the world with a disability.

Getting around on one "sort of good" leg is not easy. Actually, it's proof positive that doing both knees at the same time was wise as neither one of my natural knees could ever have done the job my new right knee is doing now while my left leg is essentially non-functional.

I can put some weight on the left leg, but as soon as I try to move with the weight on it, it hurts like h---l.
But I can bend it just fine and there is minimal swelling, whatever that means. If I don't see significant improvement tomorrow, I will probably call the doctor again, just to see if I might need to have it looked at.  Since I don't quite completely understand what tendons, muscles, or bones might have been traumatized, it's hard to tell what might be wrong.

Meantime, I have eased my getting around the house a little by using a wheeled office chair for transport. A Small wheelchair would be perfect about now, but I don't have one. The elbow crutches work much better than the under the arm ones, so I use them to navigate the narrow way into the bathroom. For the kitchen, my office chair works great.  All I've been doing it traveling from couch to kitchen to bathroom to computer and hardly anywhere else.

The biggest challenge of the day was when I went out to the kitchen, still on the crutches, to find the floor covered in water. A bucket I'd left by the door during the power outage---leave it to me not to empty it out--was spilled all over the floor. (Kitty adventure, I presume.)  Trouble was, my crutches slipped like crazy on the wet floor. Fortunately, I discovered that potential disaster way before I fell into it.

The water sort of mopped up with a dishtowel and some paper towels, but not dry enough to make the crutches safe, so there I was, banned from the kitchen until it dried. That was what inspired the office chair.

Hopefully, it will only be a few more days before I can actually get around with enough weight on the left leg to move at a pace even a snail would consider slow.

Heck, I can even type faster than that!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bummer. I am Cursed

I Take a Tumble and Land...on my Knee!

I took Chance out on a trail ride yesterday. It was perfect weather and all was well until I hear the sound of an engine from somewhere behind us on the trail home. My brain went into survival mode and I decided to get off, not at all sure what Chance would do if confronted by an ATV and equally not as sure my seat in the saddle was up to par to ride out a big spook or buck or whatever.

Mistake. The motorcyle appeared around the bend, Chance bolted, and I fell off.  Of all the body parts I could have landed on, fate chose my left knee.  OK, there I lay, there went Chance galloping off for home, and there came the totally distraught cyclist, full of apologies.

Note here. The cyclist did not do anything wrong, except that riding on State property is illegal...He shut off his bike as soon as he saw us and was really upset about what had happened.

I bent my leg a few times--the knee still worked just fine--and managed by kind of doing a "plank" (for you Muriel) managed to get back to my feet. But as soon as I was upright, I knew I was in trouble. It hurt like the devil to put weight on my left leg.

With the cyclist's support, I managed the what seemed a really long walk home and sent him on his way after he let hysterical Chance back into the arena from the woods where he'd been locked out.  The bridle was broken, but he looked none the less for wear.  I took the broken tack off, leaving the saddle on only because all I really wanted to do at that moment was get into the house to call my doctor.

My surgeon's lovely nurse was pretty confident I hadn't done any major damage.  As long as my knee was bending OK and there was no huge swelling, it was probably OK, but I'd be "Seeing stars " for a few days from the pain.

With my crutches, I managed to get back out to the barn where I took the saddle off and then took nearly 20 minutes to get it safely inside as carrying something while on two crutches and only one functional leg was nearly impossible.  I fed the Boys rather painfully, and dragged myself back inside.

My night was misery.  I resorted to the full crutches as my left leg would not bear any weight at that point.  It wasn't and isn't easy. As a matter of fact, just to add insult to injury, at one point as I was turning to leave the bathroom, I fell down.

Cute. I had to scoot myself out to the living room so I could plank myself back up onto the couch where I ended up spending the night.

Curses.  I simply cannot do anything right now except hobble precariously about the house.

I have called the horsesitter to come back to take care of the Boys for a few more days and my neighbor will be doing the late feed until I recover.

Hopefully, I will get better and not need to go to the doctor. My leg is a tiny bit better tonight, so it just might be OK.

Nothing like a major setback to ruin a lovely recovery. *sigh*

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tucker Wants to Hold Hands

Rode the Big Horse

It was a stunningly beautiful day, with temperatures in the upper 60's F. and plenty of sunshine.

I had to be careful not to be captured by the lure of all kinds of outdoor stuff. It was Election Day, so I went to vote in the late morning.  Before that, the electric company guys came to trim some branches off my wires.  

As much as the residents and I have complained about their customer service communications during the storm's power outages, I must admit that when they are not in emergency mode, they are really responsive. I was afraid I was going to have to hire a tree surgeon to get rid of the branches, but a call to PSEG (my electric company), brought a same day response. A workman came by to look the situation over. He then called the central office and was told they would send tree trimmers to take care of my problem.  That was yesterday. Today, the trimmers were here and sure enough, they took down the offending branches and trimmed a few more that might be a problem later on.  I am delighted and it takes a big worry off my mind for the time being.

Voting done, I decided to hold in my enthusiasm and limit my riding to one horse.  Yesterday, my knees were rather sore and "tight,"  probably as a result of my trail ride on Chance. No biggie, but definitely some protest from the joints.  As much as I might like to ride more, I am trying hard to be conservative here. The exercise of wrapping my leg around a horse, flexing and using my muscles to either post or absorb the horse's movement, and just the general exercise of riding is surprisingly taxing.  I've never quite stopped riding and stopped some kind of vigorous exercise (such as swimming) for so long before. I have to face the fact that I need to build my overall fitness back up gradually. (Speaking of swimming, I think I may go this week. Have to be careful not to overdo there too!!)

So, today I decided to get on Tucker. Interesting. My knees are not quite as comfortable on him as on Chance. They have to work a little more to shape themselves around him.  But I didn't have any major seat or balance issues.

I was a little less confident on him, mostly because of our long history of rather "explosive" rides.  He's been a good boy for quite a while, with just minor protests about cantering due to his chronic hock issues, but those bad moments are never quite erased from my memory.  I just take a deep breath when I get on, focus on relaxing so I can ride the horse I am on today instead of worrying about yesterday.  As usual, it worked out just fine and Tucker was well behaved.

We worked quite a bit at the walk, and I added some leg yield and half pass to the mix to keep it interesting. Then we began to trot.

Tucker wanted to "hold my hand."  He was not at all content to go around on a loose rein, but pushed out into the bit looking for contact.  Once again, interesting.  I took the rein, with some fairly heavy contact, and he pushed forward with some energy in the trot.

He was using my hand for balance to some degree, so I would not give him high marks as a properly working second level dressage horse, but his wanting to be on the bit was a positive. In the trot, we did a little leg yield, and shoulder-in on each rein. He was very willing to give me lateral movement off my leg in both directions.

After about 15 minutes or so, I dismounted unsaddled him, gave him his obligatory carrot, fed everyone, and then went out to do some chores.  I set two goals: to poo pick the arena, and to trim some of the weeds and branches away from the interior of the arena fence.  I guess I spent an hour or so trimming and picking.

The falling sun reminded me of how much I dislike that change back to Standard Time.  When I was still working, I'd have to rush home from school to catch the last of the daylight for a quick trail ride every fall. Now, of course, I can ride almost any time of the day I choose. But, like the memories of naughty Tucker, the memories of racing to beat quick sunsets lingers still.

Sometimes it's not so easy to forget.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Happy Trails to Me

And Chance, Of Course

I took Chance out for a short trail ride (hack) today. The weather was nearly perfect and he was quite a happy camper. He'd made it quite clear yesterday that he really wanted to go out of the arena on an adventure, so I decided to indulge him.

We walked the whole way except for a little bit of trouble in the cornfield. A huge tree had fallen at the edge of the woods,blocking the dirt road. I had two choices: to go around it from the woods side through the underbrush, or go around it through the uncut corn stalks.  I decided on the corn. Maybe that wasn't the better choice since the darn stuff flapped and wrapped itself around Chance's legs and body, riling him up a bit. He wanted to run, but held back to a bouncy trot as he hurried along. He settled back down as soon as we were out of the corn, so no big deal.

There were a number of trees down in the woods as well, but they were not hard to get around. Chance was totally calm about them, even though they changed the landscape quite a bit. He just moved along at a nice forward walk and enjoyed himself.

When I got back home, Tucker had knocked down a rail to get into the arena and was working on getting through the gate out into the woods himself. Toby was on the other side of the arena fence, running back and forth, whinnying hysterically. He was sure he was forever separated from Tucker and that Chance had simply vanished into the trees. He is very herd oriented and really worries if he doesn't know where the other Boys are. He could have easily stepped over the low rail where Tucker had gone into the arena, but apparently, it never occurred to him. To him it was "fence" and "barrier" not to be crossed.

Once I was back, and he was able to join up with his pals, everything was again quiet and calm at Follywoods.

My trail ride was lovely, but strangely enough, I was really tired afterwards. I certainly didn't think I was doing very much, just sitting on a horse for 20 minutes or so, but I guess riding, by nature, requires a lot more physical effort than I think it does.

Good ride. Good day, and once again, a good horse.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Chance, the Nearly Perfect Horse

I rode. That is nearly enough to say. I am so delighted.

The weather was nearly perfect, and I decided today was the day. I did not have someone else here to help, but I did take my cell phone out in my jacket pocket, so in case I needed help, I could call someone.

I picked the nearly perfect Chance as my mount of choice. He is by far the quietest of my Boys and hardly every gets too excited about things.  I fit him well too, which makes a difference to my knees. When they were still bad, I was most comfortable on him.

He was a little fussy about standing next to the high mounting platform, so I had to work him just a bit to get him where I needed him to stand. That platform is really a little high for mounting him as I almost have to go down to get on--not quite but it's definitely not up.  Next time, I will do some thigh stretching before I get on as I had a little trouble swinging my right leg over his back.  Bless his heart that when my foot brushed his rump, he didn't even flinch.

Once in the saddle, I had to find the stirrups and that too took a few seconds. But Chance's motion massaged my legs just enough and by the time we were on the other side of the arena I had both feet in the stirrups and felt just fine. I've ridden enough without stirrups that it's usually no big deal, but I didn't want to risk too much of that first time out in a while.

I did not feel any pain in my knees beyond the little ache from their stiffness--still a little swelling in there. My surgeon had told me I might feel pain on the inside of each knee, but it just wasn't there.  I fact, I felt pretty darn good.

We walked a few times around in each direction and then I decided to try some posting trot. Wonderful! My knees worked perfectly and it felt like just the right kind of exercise for them. We only went around in a large circle twice in each direction, but it was just right for a first time out.

I worried a bit about dismounting, but the little bit of riding had loosened me up and I was able to take Chance to the center of the arena and do a proper dismount with no problem whatsoever.

I gave him a huge "Thank you" hug and a second later, burst into tears. The enormity of the whole thing--bad knees, the decision for surgery, surgery, recovery, and now riding again--hit me all at once. And here was this sweet, gentle horse, unridden for perhaps five months, behaving like a perfect angel for me. (Well, I fib here. Twice Chance slowed WAY down when we got to the gate to the woods. He wanted to go on a trail ride, and I had to persuade him we were only going to stay in the arena today....maybe a short one tomorrow??)

After I finished up with Chance and gave him his first carrot, I captured Tucker and gave him a very short lunge session. I'm sure he will be fine to ride as well, but he is a little more unpredictable than Chance so I will wait a bit until I feel a little more certain about my physical abilities.

After the lunge session, everyone, including Chance, got a carrot.  I told Tucker his was for being such a good boy, and I told Toby his was just for being himself. Chance?  Well, one more "thank you" seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Snowstorm Helps Out!

Early Farrier Visit

Since the storm knocked out power to so many places and so many tree branches were still down, Scott, my farrier had open time yesterday (Tuesday). He was planning on coming on the weekend but when he called me and found out I had both power and a clear span to the barn, he came right over.

Perfect timing. It was exactly what Dr. Klayman had hoped for. That meant Tucker's hoof would get a good going over, trim, and treatment.  Sure enough, Scott worked on the hole in Tucker's sole, trimmed much of it and medicated it. He then said turning Tucker out was fine. I should wrap the hoof first--even knowing a wrap would not stay on--then clean and wrap it again when I brought him back in.

Then Scott pulled Toby's shoes so he'll be barefoot again, especially for the winter. I will have to watch him for any signs of laminitis or soreness, but he was fine before, so I am not really expecting any problems. I'll just pay special attention to him.

That left Chance. Scott was half way through the trim when he called me over to show me a hole in Chance's sole--near the front hoof wall--in almost exactly the same spot as Tucker's abscess. Chance was fine for the hoof testers, but the hoof was decidedly "squishy" there and now we think his lameness was indeed caused by a hoof abscess--just like Tucker.

I am now theorizing that I have a magic hoof boring parasite on my property who has a taste for right hind feet only!  I will be on the alert in case it makes another assault. *VBWG*

Since I'm pretty sure the hoof issue was the cause of Chance's lameness, and he was already allowed some turnout, I surrendered and put him out with the other two for the bulk of the day. I've closed them off in the riding arena and pasture so they will stay out of the mud.  They have both water and shelter, so it's a good situation.

There hasn't really been any running about either. I spent about three hours out there doing some chores----and no horse even so much as galloped a stride. It is a lovely, sunny day and I think they were just enjoying the freedom.

Kubota and I

My tractor and I spent the afternoon working. First order of business was to remove the huge tree limbs that had fallen on, around, and in front of the horse trailer.  I am ever impressed with Kubota's power and, if I attach the tow line just right, how efficiently it can move some pretty big objects.  I dragged the limbs out to the west paddock and pushed them into the briars and bushes that have overgrown my fence. I can't clean the undergrowth out as it starts on my neighbor's property line and is an extension of his heavy undergrowth. In this case, the tree limbs will serve as additional fencing along that side. *sigh*

I then decided to put some sand around the water trough in hopes of getting rid of some of the mud there. I also scooped a drainage path so water would run away from the trough instead of just in front of it.  I'm not sure if the sand will do the trick, but I made it pretty deep so if the mud does dry up without water to "feed" it, the sand might work. I really need some gritty quarry screenings for places like this, but at the moment, I can't afford them.

Then, I used the front end loader to clean out under the east run in shed.  It wasn't bad yet so if I keep cleaning it maybe I can keep it from becoming a huge job the way is usually does.

On the way to and fro from the manure pile, I began pushing the more spread out sections of the pile into the center. I didn't do as much as I need to in order to satisfy myself, but it was a start and I was having fun tackling a bunch of different chores rather than sticking to just one.

Which then led me to hook up the arena drag to groom my riding surface.  I had moderate success here because in a number of places grass and weeds have grown up since I hadn't used the arena all summer. But, if I keep at it, especially as winter ticks on, I should be able to clean the bulk of that out.

So, my little farm looks a bit tidier, my arena is ready for me to finally ride, and apparently, I have at least two horses sound enough to ride.  (Toby's back seems OK, but I don't want to push it.)