Friday, March 19, 2010

When I was about 12 or 13, my family used to volunteer for a place called Reins of Life. It's a place for therapeutic horseback riding for disabled people. We would feed the horses every Friday morning. My brother and I only did this in the summer, when we were out of school or if we had a Friday off for some reason. I think it's the only thing we ever did as a family. We had been doing it for quite some time and were in a routine. It wasn't unusual to spend a couple of hours feeding 20-30 horses and we had gotten used to being around them and knew their personalities. One horse was not used for therapy. He was the directors horse. I'm still not exactly clear on the details as to why the horse was there but I believe it had to do with the fact that they couldn't afford to pay her the salary she was asking and they compromised by letting her board the horse there. I remember it was warmer than usual, even for an August morning. It had also rained over the days prior, leaving the normally hard and dusty paddocks to be slightly squishy but not exactly muddy. We were on the final paddock of, I believe, four with an average of five horses per paddock. We were hot, tired and getting cranky. The directors horse, Sully was a stallion and impossible. I usually tied him down as I seemed to have a bond with him. One of the most awesome and dreamlike moments of my life was with Sully. It was just him and myself in the field. I was running and suddenly, he was next to me, galloping beside me. I ran several times around the field, him next to me the entire time. It's strange but that is the most "free" I ever felt in my life. He must have been feeling just as cranky as we were because he just would not allow me to tie him to the lean-to. Each time I would almost get the knot and he would jerk his head as if to hit me in the face with his jaw. After about five minutes of this, I became frustrated and made a mistake. There was a tiny voice in the back of my head screaming as to why what I was about to do was idiotic. But as I said, tired, cranky, hot. So I bitchslapped the voice and continued on. First off, I put myself in between a horse and a solid object. Not the best place you want to be with a 1500lb animal. Second, I went behind him, knowing the state of agitation he was in. As soon as my left foot was behind his right hind hoof, He stepped back onto it. And then he shifted his weight onto the foot. It seemed very intentional and to this day, I believe it really was just that. I'm sure it was only maybe twenty seconds but it seemed like a lot longer that he was standing on me, my foot sinking further into the soggy ground. I was punching his hindquarters and telling him to move, but not quite as nicely as that sounds. On the third shove, he stepped off of my foot. It was at that moment that my dad came around the corner. He had no idea why I basically said to hell with this horse, YOU tie him down. I just walked out of the paddock as if nothing happened. I felt not pain. The tears that stung the back of my eyes were not from pain but frustration and anger at myself. I walked to another pasture with one of the other volunteers as she was there to give some medication. All the way there, I was pissed at myself but on the way back, I was beginning to wonder how I had escaped with not pain. When I got to the hay barn, I removed my shoes and socks to see if there was any damage, since I couldn't feel anything. My foot had a goose egg growing on it and was a nasty mix of purple and blue. I have never seen a bruise before or since. My mother wanted to take me to the ER, my dad said I was fine. Therefore, I decided I would BE fine. We gathered the rest of the buckets after everyone was done eating and headed home. Again, still not really feeling much but maybe a dull ache like a sore muscle. As I did every week, I immediately went to get into the shower to wash away the sweat and smell of horse manure. The exact second the first water droplet hit my foot, I felt extreme and unbelievable pain. I showered quickly and with my foot elevated so as not to get any large drops of water hurled at it as they felt like hot coals being hurled at light speed. By now, my foot was grotesquely swollen and even more bruised. I still refused to go to the hospital. It was so swollen that I couldn't even put a flip flop on to hobble to the neighbors house later in the day. I had to go barefoot and hop. Six months later, I was still bruised, visibly. I never received any treatment for my foot and have no idea to this day exactly how badly injured I was but I'm sure I should've been to an ER as I am still, approximately 13 years later, bruised. You can only see it if I've just taken a really hot shower or it's ridiculously hot out but the bruise is there. Major changes in temperature cause my foot to be very tender. I cannot have that foot massaged as it's painful to have any pressure applied to the webbing between the big toe and his skinnier neighbor toe. I don't even like to have that foot touched to be honest. One of the toes on that foot no longer bends. It should be no surprise that I am overly cautious around horses now. I never saw Sully again after that day. I know many other volunteers had gotten to the point that they refused to feed any horse in that paddock. Our family was one of the last to still be willing to feed him. And I only went back to volunteer a few more times that summer before I was back in school. I will never forget Sully. Not just for the very painful lesson I learned but also for the few fleeting moments of freedom he gave me in the pasture that day.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Thanks for sharing that memory. I think that feeling of freedom is something few people every truly experience. As for the foot, sometimes we pay a deep price for being stubborn.

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Louise said...

Such an amazing story- Our family used to foster puppies for RAGOM (retrieve a Golden of Minnesota) and it was such an AMAZING experience. We also adopted our dog from there.

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littlestitious said...

just happened upon your blog - the name struck me. always wanted to rescue animals. thanks for the inspiration.

vishu said...

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he helps,sacrifices beside taking care of his own family

this is for u --an animal rescuer

vishu said...

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in any state of happiness and sorrow

hestiahomeschool said...

OUCH! Nothing like having something that weighs over a thousand pounds stomp on your foot. Shelby still runs around barefoot in the pasture with the horses and I am always telling her to put some shoes on because once she gets stepped on it will REALLY hurt...but she ignores me. One of these days I will end up in the ER with her, I know.

I am getingtoo old to run with the horses. I do like to just go sit in the field with them while they are eating...