Almost five months ago, I was not "present," while feeding my horse, thinking about other things, and talking to my husband while mindlessly touching her hip, I bumped into her with the hay cart (it was dark, and way past normal feeding time) and suffered not only the physical kick from a horse, but a devastating blow to my ego, as well. In all of my years of caring for and riding horses I have never been kicked like that. Matter of fact, come to think of it, I have never been kicked. I've been stepped on, squished between a horse and a barn door, bucked off, thrown forward clinging-to-the-neck-of-a-crazy-Arabian and had some other sometimes scary, sometimes funny, close calls.
I thought my leg was broken. And I also thought I was going to be able to go to work on Monday. Not-so-much on either thought. What did happen, though, was that I received a kick from the left hind hoof of a Haflinger mare who is a suspected "fear-kicker" - meaning - it's her 'knee-jerk' reaction to something that frightens her. I've now had the opportunity to think about how dedication to horses and a serious injury can make a girl rethink her ability and comfort level around horses. So, for as long as I've been healing, Lanie, the Haflinger, has been living a somewhat neglected life. Most of that neglect stems from being in school with 18 units this last semester (which is over, tomorrow!) and not because of the kick, but it does have something to do with my less-than-motivated self when it comes to working with her. Working 35 hours a week probably has something to do with less hands-on, too.
Don't get me wrong, she has everything she needs; hay, water, salt, treats (carrots, apples) and exercise, access to pasture (supervised - she IS a Haflinger...they are also known as Fatlingers...) and grooming. But.
I feel like have I let her down, as much as she let me down. Let me explain: when a horse bonds to a human, they cannot eliminate their instincts, some of which are stronger in some horses than others. They can control them, depending on the horse and the situation, but there will always be a flight or fight instinct within a horse - always. And when a horse injures their human in this way, it is - to the human - a strange form of betrayal in a sense. What has been interesting, in a strange and heartbreaking way, is that she seems like she got her feelings hurt, too. It's almost as if she knows that what she did was wrong, and that it has caused a rift between us. She has become somewhat aggressive and pushy, yet fearful underneath those two symptoms. I can't yet walk directly behind her. Picking up her hind feet is a huge accomplishment for me - all the while my heart is pounding and my stomach sucked up in fear. That pain won't soon be forgotten.
Catching my breath, at first there came no sound. The thoughts that raced blindly through my mind went something like this; mud, my new scarf is dirty, she kicked me!, oh f@#$ my leg is broken........how did I get way over here? and then I wailed as the pain seared like a hot branding iron from my thigh all the way through my entire body, immobilizing me.
It's a good thing that Captain StrongArms was there; or I might still be there trying to pick myself up off the ground. I was paralyzed by the pain, a feeling that was possibly like eating lightning with extra hot sauce. When I finally saw a physician, seven days later (yes, I'm that stubborn), it was explained to me that I would need: a) to rest, rest, rest and be on crutches b) to NOT take ibuprofen, which was actually hindering the healing process c) to watch for symptoms of blood clots. There was no break, according to the x-ray, but as further explained, a large muscle injury (there is a 1/4 hoof print just above half-way above the middle of my outside left thigh) can sometimes be worse. There was a danger of calcium build-up, fluid build-up under the muscle tissue (hematoma) and so forth. Never mind all the things I couldn't do whilst hobbling to and fro.
As a part of the follow-up, I saw an orthopedic specialist because four weeks later, I was still in a great deal of pain, and so this doctor explained to me that a break would have actually been less painful than what I was dealing with and it would take a year to fully heal. A year? As in twelve months? I wasn't sure I could take my husbands comments about having a farmer's limp for that long....
As I said, it has been nearly five months and I don't limp any more, but my heart is still a bit broken for having lost that unspoken, beautiful, taken-for-granted trust that was there between myself and this stunningly gorgeous animal. Like my leg, this relationship will take time to heal. Maybe it will take a year.
I am grateful to be able to put my own socks and shoes on. I can climb stairs without pausing to remember which leg needs to go first. While there is still tenderness within and an external numbness, and a literal indention, the reminder is this: healing takes time. On the outside and the inside.
As the old saying goes, if you fall off your horse you get right back on. Well, it took me four months, but I did get back on. Because my left leg is the 'mounting' leg, I was worried about the lack of strength, but once I put my foot in the stirrup, I didn't look back. It's a strange parallel to me that I was even anxious once in the saddle, even though I've not had a negative experience with her from that perspective; it just tells me that my relationship with horses is WHOLE. One experience translates through all prior experiences, and becomes current perspective.
While it might be easy to think, for someone else, of selling the horse, it is unthinkable to me on many levels. Some are sentimental reasons, some are stubborn reasons, and some are truth-seeking and challenging reasons.
Now that this semester of school is over and summer is nearly here, let the healing begin.