Jenny C. helped move Marathon to the trainer so he could take dressage "boot camp" while I'm on the human version of stall rest. Having great friends is a good thing.

Photo: Michelle N. Anderson

My dressage horse, Marathon, has struggled with soundness issues over the past couple of years. But with a new set of shoes and some veterinary help, he’s stayed sound through the spring and built back his strength. We even started incorporating collected canter and canter pirouettes back into his training.

And, wouldn’t you know it, unsoundness struck again. But this time it wasn’t the horse. No, I’m the one who’s lame.

I don’t have a good story about how I got hurt. Marathon didn’t kick me. My Quarter Horse Jack didn’t spook and dump me after flushing a pronghorn from the brush. My filly didn’t squash my toes and grind them into the dirt. Nope. Basically I got bucked off the sofa and broke my foot, and even that makes it sound more exciting than what really happened.

Here I am, almost summer, unable to walk or drive, let alone ride, groom, longe, clean paddocks, feed, pull weeds, mow, scrub water troughs … You get the picture.

So, what do you when you’re an at-home horse keeper and you can’t care for your animals yourself? That’s what I’m still trying to figure out. Fortunately, I have a lot of help.

Feeding

Feeding the horses on crutches is out of the question, so instead my husband, Seth, has taken up this chore. He’s severely allergic to hay and grass, so twice a day he dons a respirator mask and bundles up head-to-toe, looking like he’s headed on an arctic expedition in June. Meanwhile, although they’re still complaining about the change, the horses have pretty much adapted to receiving two meals a day instead of three. Sometimes the best we can do is the best we can do.

Cleaning Paddocks

After a week, I couldn’t take the manure pile-up any longer, so I hired the neighbor kid to strip them down, so at least we can start fresh. My friend, Jenny P., has offered to help with maintenance on her days off, and Jenny C. also offered to scoop poop. I’m not one who readily accepts help, but I’m grateful to these ladies and their offers. It might be the only reason we don’t all get buried alive with manure.

Marathon

Rather than watch Marathon’s last three months of work wither away and waste an entire shoe cycle (I won’t even tell you what that costs!), I’m sending him to my trainer, Natalie. Or, as our news editor Erica calls it, “boot camp.” This solves two problems: He gets ridden, and now there’s one less horse making a mess at home.

Natalie doesn’t ride Marathon often, so I’m excited to see how he does under a consistent professional hand. My guess is that she’ll get as much out of him in five weeks as I would in five months. Honestly, looking forward to his progress after Natalie rides him is the best part of having a broken foot.

Now, you might wonder how Marathon got to the trainer, since I can’t drive? The thanks go to Jenny C. and her little girl, Viv, who spent their afternoon getting the big guy to the barn. My contribution? I waved my crutch to encourage him to load.

Jack

I’m glad that I enjoyed my last ride on Jack with my friend Katie a few days before my accident. We rode through—nay, galloped through—the Oregon Badlands on an afternoon when the desert had just bloomed her understated yet beautiful wildflowers. Can you picture it? Now throw in a sunset. I’m not kidding--we had one last beautiful ride. I’m bummed though, that after a spring of dealing with Jack’s behavior issues on the trail, he’d really turned around and become a pleasure to ride. As our editor Stephanie says when things don’t go to plan, “blast it.”

Jack has stood in wait since Marathon departed in the trailer yesterday—Jack really, really misses his big orange brother. What do the next five weeks have in store for my bay boy? First, I’m taking him off his expensive anti-anxiety supplement once he stops mooning over Marathon. I mean, really, how stressful can standing around for five weeks be? Once she’s back from vacation, my friend Laura has offered to ride him.

Atty Girl

Atty, who just turned 3, is bored. If horses could spell, she’s write “bored” in all caps with three exclamation marks. “I’m B-O-R-E-D!!!” The few times I’ve hobbled out to see her, she’s eagerly met me at the gate and pawed and pawed and pawed as she banged against the gate. She’s lost condition from missing our regular long-lining sessions, and her mane is ready for a good tidying. But, for the most part, she’s fine. My friend Jenny P. has a penchant for ponies (Atty’s still around 14.3 hands), and Katie loves quirky Arabian mares (for this purpose, we’ll consider Olderburg Atty, who’s half hot-blooded, an Arabian). Between the two, I’m hoping Atty gets plenty of grooming and hand-grazing, her two favorite activities.

So, I have a plan for my horses over the next five weeks. Now, what is my plan for me during the same period? Good question. I’m B-O-R-E-D!!!

Have you ever sustained an injury that kept you away from your horses? How did you cope?