Last week Billy and I started out on a beautiful day for a beautiful walk. I put his bareback pad and his hackamore on just in case I decided to ride. We walked for over 3 miles, meandering up, up, up into the hills. The day was warmer than I thought it would be so we were both pleasantly sweaty by the time we got to the top of the hills. The dog was happily bounding around us, searching the sage brush for bunnies, gophers and voles.
I checked Billy out with the pre-flight check, walk/trot/canter and a jump and he was calm as could be. Super connected and responsive. I took him over to a steep incline so I could shimmy on up and he patiently waited while I struggled up and on. What a good boy.
We turned and started down the hill sides. Just walking slowly, taking everything in. There were deer here and there, browsing, out in the sage brush. There was a little breeze which felt nice on my sweaty face. Billy was blowing out, licking and chewing, sighing.
As we moved down the road, after about 20 minutes he seemed a bit agitated. I did many many hind quarter disengagements and he would finally turn loose, lower his head and lick and chew. The thought moved through my mind, “Maybe you should just slide off…” but I ignored it and kept on going. When we got to the irrigation canal Billy’s head went up and he watched, tense and worried, as the dog played in the water. I did some more hind quarter disengagements and he finally sighed a big sigh, blew out his nose, licked and chewed and lowered his head.
In the next millisecond his head flew up and he took off at a dead run. From a nice relaxed breathing calmness to a flame breathing dragon, 0-60 in less than a second. He plunged across the gravel road heading straight for a fence. I had both hands on one rein trying to bend him, but his head was so high his neck could not bend. I quickly assessed the situation and decided bailing in the grassy ditch beside the fence looked like the better of two evils. It was that or falling off on the hard-as-concrete gravel road. So off I went.
My face, arm and shoulder took the brunt of the fall. My face broke my glasses and my glasses broke my face. My wrist and lower arm hurt, but I could move my fingers and rotate my wrist. Phew. Doctor’s visit avoided! As I sat up everything started to hurt. I could see Billy running as fast as he could go, gravel flying up behind him as he left me, literally lying in a ditch. Samson was high tailing it after him, thinking that we were going for a little run. I’m not sure when he realized that I was no longer on Billy, but he showed up to help me out of the ditch just a few minutes later. Just in time to give me something to grab onto as I stood up. I picked up my shattered glasses and bloody visor and that’s when I realized I was bleeding heavily from my face.
My phone was zipped into the cargo pocket on my pants. I tried to call Handsome Hubby, who had just got home from work, but I didn’t have any cell service. I figured either he would see Billy or I would have to walk the 1/2 mile home. He happened to look out the window in time to see Billy racing down the middle of the road, riderless. He ran out to the truck and was pulling out of the driveway as Billy was turning in. Handsome Hubby said he had never seen Billy so afraid. The whites of his eyes were showing, he was running so fast, with his head as high as he could hold it and kept turning his head to look behind him as he ran. This scared Handsome Hubby as much as the fact that I wasn’t riding Billy anymore.
He soothed himself with thoughts of me leading Billy and he just got away from me. Then he spotted me walking down the road and thought, “Good! She’s walking. So she’s not dead or being eaten by a wild animal.” (Who could say what would scare Billy so badly?)
As he got nearer he saw all the blood. When I climbed into the truck with Samson all Handsome Hubby kept saying is, “Is your nose broken? Is your nose broken?” There was so much blood.
I sat there on the truck seat, hurting, not knowing if my nose was broken, bleeding and feeling my heart break as I contemplated ever riding again. Why can’t riding just be fun? Why does it have to feel like such work? Why have I spent 100’s, no, 1000’s of hours preparing Billy for this over the last 4 1/2 years only to have it end this way? Is it over?
What a heart breaking thing. To see your horse running for its life. Confidence shot. His and mine. All I could think was I had failed him. Honestly I also felt he had failed me. Where was my perfect partner? The one that would be there with me? Stand by my side or at least carry me safely down the trail/road? Was everything I had worked so hard for over?
Handsome Hubby cleaned me up. He got all the dirt and grass out of the cuts on my face and sat on the edge of the bath tub holding me while I sobbed. All my hopes and dreams had been dashed. At that point I wasn’t completely sure I was going to be able to keep Billy. And to make matters worse we had just accepted a free warmblood filly, 4 years old, Trakehner/Quarter horse cross. She was supposed to show up at our house later that week. I didn’t really want her before this happened. Horses are so much work and I already have a green broke horse that needs more of my time. It didn’t feel right to add to that work load. Turns out I was right!
I sat in gloomy silence most of the night. Heart broken, sore, and tired. I didn’t share my heart break with anyone except my Mom that night.
The next day my arm was very sore so Handsome Hubby made me go to Urgent Care. There I found out I broke my Ulna in my right arm. It’s really a fracture. Obviously no bones sticking through the skin. And luckily a simple break that would not require surgery.
It’s been a week and a half since my “accident” and I am now sporting a lovely black cast on my right arm and learning to do all kinds of things with my left hand.
I still haven’t done a thing with Billy yet. But after receiving a phone call from my father-in-law in which he stated, “This might hurt your feelings, but I have to get it out there. If you quit on that horse I will personally drive over to Ennis and break your other arm! You have come too far to quit on him now. If you quit on him what else will you quit on?!” I realized that I can’t quit on him. I will be taking a 4-week “break” as I heal and start to work on another plan. But I will not quit on him. (Sorry Karlie Kafka! I was thinking he could go live with you, but I guess our story is not done yet!)
So, my story has hit a bump in the road. A definite speed bump. But now is the time to sit down, re-group and start making a plan. Ultimately it comes down to time. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get Billy even more solid. 1 month, 1 year, 6 years. It just simply doesn’t matter. I may get him a pack saddle so he can carry all our food, water and gear when we go day hiking. I will be taking many many walks with Samson to work out things in my mind and my body. I do know that I need to double my time spent with Billy. Oh! And I called and told the filly’s owner that we couldn’t take her. I just can not divide my time that way.
So here’s to overcoming the bump in the road and taking the time it takes.