So. Last Monday, Cory and Jade and Sunny and I headed out to ride at Mt. Madonna, where we go every couple of weeks. We were about 6 miles into our canonical 7.5 mile loop, when I got sidetracked by something at the side of the trail and pulled Sunny off. Jade and Cory stopped, too, while I futzed around. After a little while, Sunny must have gotten too close to Jade because Jade made mare-faces at Sunny, who made them back. That brought me out of my unconscious state, we separated the mares, and rode on, Jade leading, Sunny following – at the NATRC-approved one horse length distance.
After we’d been moving for a couple of minutes, all of a sudden, Jade started backing straight at us, at about 900 mph. She could have reached 950 mph, easy, but she was kicking at every step, which slowed her down a little. (And I might add that Jade is about 40 axe-handles across the butt and about a foot taller than Sunny, so she was an impressive sight as she was plowing into us.)
By the time I processed the situation, Sunny had taken matters into her own hooves: she backed a little, then swapped ends, and started hopping sideways to get out of range. I made it through the backing, and the end-swap, but I came off about the third hop – and on her fourth hop, she landed on my left foot with her left hind hoof. I *think* I stayed on until the 8 second whistle, but not too much beyond that.
I’m not sure what Jade was doing while Sunny was taking evasive action. When I looked up from my prone position on the ground, Sunny had stayed with me, and Cory was off Jade and pulling her away from where Sunny and I had ended up.
I had landed on my elbow and had a scrape, and Sunny had landed on my foot, but those were the only issues. My foot hurt, but not too badly, so I climbed back on Sunny and we rode back to the trailer, with Sunny and me leading the whole way. By the time we got back to the barn, my foot was hurting a little more and in a familiar way: it had felt this way when another horse had stepped on it and broken it during a fire evacuation a few years ago, so I immediately left for home and had The Husband drive me to our doctor.
The Doc manipulated my foot and unburdened himself of the opinion that it wasn’t broken. We’ve been going to him for quite awhile, though, so when I said I thought it was, he respected my opinion and referred me for x-rays. He was pretty humble when he called and told me that I didn’t have *a* broken bone, I had *three* broken bones – stable fractures of the third, fourth, and fifth metatarsals. I immediately wanted to know about timelines for healing and made sure that he knew that, with this switch of diagnosis, he had seriously interfered with my plans. (I’m doing a long bike ride with Esther in March.) So he referred me to one of his buddies who’s a Sports Medicine Doctor, Dr. Warren.
So I take my x-rays and go to see Dr. Warren. When I get into the exam room, he’s sitting at a monitor, looking at my x-rays and shaking his head. I get on the exam table and he starts gently manipulating my foot. After about 30 seconds, he gets more . . . vigorous.
After about a minute, he stops and looks at me and says, “This is amazing. I shouldn’t be able to do that – you should be shrieking in pain and jumping out of your skin. When I hear about someone getting three fractures in their foot from a horse stepping on them, I think of 9 months to a year for healing time. The reason isn’t the broken bones, it’s because the breaks are usually accompanied by serious soft tissue damage; the horse twists as he hits, or just rests a moment on the foot, which is enough to pulverize the ligaments, which take months to heal and are incredibly painful while they are compromised.”
“In your case, it must have been like when someone breaks a board with a karate chop: the board is broken but the hand is unhurt because the energy was transferred so quickly. Your horse karate chopped you and, as a result, you have an 8 week injury, not a 9 month injury – and you can start riding your bike immediately, and as much as you want.”
So – is that how you expected that to end? Me neither. And for the curious, I rode my bike 35 miles yesterday and my foot felt better at the end than it did in the beginning. I guess it’s moving the fluids around? Anyhow, due to Sunny’s untapped karate skills, what could have been a show-stopper for me was turned into an inconvenience – it does still hurt quite a lot to walk and I’m supposed to walk as little as possible for the next couple of months.
It was really, really scary, mostly because it was absolutely unexpected, from my point of view. Sunny and Jade have gone out together at least 100 times in the past 3 years, they’ve even shared a pasture. They’ve done mare-y things, but nothing like this. And we (Cory and I talked about it) didn’t see it coming at all. I guess, in retrospect, maybe I should have taken the mare-ears that preceded it as a warning – but there were minutes between that instance and the explosion. Usually, I think of time going faster in Horseland, i.e. if you’re going to reward something, you have to be *so* quick to do it while the horse is still thinking about it. But maybe because that’s something a human is introducing, not a social status issue with other horses? Also, the mare-ears are a behavior we’ve seen before without this outcome.
And Cory wants to know what she should have done. She says it was the most powerless feeling she’s ever had on a horse: she couldn’t make Jade go forward, and she had totally lost contact on the bit, so she had no tools to influence Jade’s motion until she jumped off and held her by her reins. And I suspect that holding her only worked because whatever crisis that Jade was addressing was over – when her butt was coming at us, it was fully committed and I don’t think any puny human on the end of a set of reins was going to stop her.
So my questions, in order, are:
- What signs should we have looked for to predict this was going to happen?
- What should we have done to nip it in the bud?
- Once it started what could either Cory or I have done to break it off?
- And, most importantly, when did Sunny learn karate? Who taught her? (Marybeth?) And if she knows karate, why didn’t she use it on Jade, instead of saving it for me?
Wanna ride – in 7 weeks or so?