Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Update on L

The update this morning is that she is in pretty good spirits, considering. Last night she had a reiki session right before bed and was finally able to sleep. The bad news is that every time they get her upright (crutches/walker), she vomits. They hope this is the medication. The good news is that they aren't going to do surgery or send her to Seattle. They think with the type of break that it is, time and physical therapy are the real cure. Right now they are saying 6-8 weeks in bed with short PT sessions. Laurie says that L had been pretty philosophical about things up until now (frustrated and scared about the injury but still eager to get back to riding) but finally got truly angry last night talking about what a dumb "accident" it was for Otto to spook at nothing and then go over backwards. What Laurie said she needs now is practical help. :) I'm too far away to cook for her or play board games with L at the hospital, so I'm going to see if instead I can arrange to get her some hay delivered for the other horses. It sounds like some other friends are arranging another fundraising avenue as well. I will let you guys know if/when that gets off the ground.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guilt. Horror. Responsibility?

So I got some disturbing news yesterday. Today I got more of the details.

On the one hand, this is another “Everybody in life makes choices” kind of post. On the other hand, well, you hate to be the person who made the first bad choice that led to the next bad choice that finally led to the worst bad choice.

The bad news comes from Laurie, back in Walla Walla. 

On Sunday night she posted to Facebook that her daughter L was in the hospital because a horse had rolled on her.  I immediately felt that horrible plunge in my belly—Oh God, Otto—followed by logic. OF COURSE it wasn’t Otto. L is just a kid, she has other kid-appropriate horses that she rides. It was probably the trusty old horse, Nugget. He probably slipped and fell in the mud and broke her leg. Bad luck. Better send Laurie a note.

Yesterday, an update: L’s pelvis is broken. She is in too much pain to sleep, even at the hospital, even with drugs. She needs full-time care. Laurie, who was already in a bad place financially, is facing down massive hospital bills and is looking for home medical supplies for after L is discharged. She will be bedridden for weeks, potentially.

I felt so terrible for Laurie. All the things she has gone through. Her own health problems and life challenges. Her difficult ex. Her problems with her neighbors and the county. She is such a survivor, and yet these things keep happening to her. It’s like she can’t catch a break.

Of course, when you spend a lot of time with horses, you take the chance of getting hurt. I think most horse people have accepted that the odds of never being in a horse-related accident are slim to none. If it wasn't this horse, this day, it would be another horse on another day. Sooner or later, your number is up.


But. Today, I got the news that I had been dreading. I really had shut the possibility out of my mind, because it was just too awful to contemplate:

“People who know us and our horses have been tentatively asking "which horse was it?" NO, it was not any of [L's] most dearly beloveds, Nugget, Jerry, and Scout. It was not any of my lesson horses. It was Otto, my high-spirited endurance horse.”

“She got him out, groomed him....he fell asleep at the hitching post...saddled him, donned the mandatory helmet (good girl!)...and had just been trotting him happily around the yard when "it" happened. Neither of us really knows what "it" was. She had gone by with a big smile saying what fun and how "noodly" he is (he IS noodly, at his oh-so-Arab way he looks around at everything and goes through this little series of back-and-forth sideways spooks before he gets his focus. The first two miles of any endurance race are like that with him, then he goes to work and it's all business. Well....she was passing me for maybe the third time....went right by me...touching distance....when he suddenly seemed to plant and scramble backwards like something had startled him, losing his balance and going up at the same time.”

“She fell off backwards when he hit the vertical, still holding the reins. There was a sick moment where I saw her clearly, on the ground, her legs spread, on her back, still holding the right rein, and him teetering on his hind legs. I remember praying for him to fall away from her. Then his right hind seemed to shoot forward out from under him. It had rained earlier, and the grass and wood chips were slick. So there he teetered, then down he came with a sickening crack. I hoped the crack was the saddle, but it wasn't. He had to roll back and forth to get momentum to get back up, and that roll was back and forth across [L’s] torso and legs.”

Of course I feel guilty. But it is more than that. Emotions are funny things. My decision to give Otto up has been validated yet again. He was always unpredictable and unstable. He certainly did buck and rear when he was upset. Everything was a potential trigger. This "accident" was classic Otto behavior taken to its inevitable conclusion.

Foremost in my mind: It could have been me. If I hadn’t given Otto up, it could have been me in that hospital bed. Me in that pain. Me with the financial burden. Me with the nightmares. 

Second-foremost: I sold Laurie this horse. Yes, she knew what he was like and why I was selling him, but I still feel sick to think that Laurie wrote me a check a few years ago… only to take on this burden.

I feel like I sold her a loaded gun. Yes, she was aware that it was a gun and that it was loaded, but I don't feel like her foreknowledge really absolves me. The safest choice—the most ethical choice, the most socially responsible, love-thy-neighbor, no-man-is-an-island choice—would have been to keep the weapon locked away... or to destroy it.

Because the alternative is to trade it for lucre and live with the consequences.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Bad Idea Fairy maintains my trailer

The Plan was to go to Grizzly and ride the LD. The Plan was to continue putting money into the “place of our own” fund. The Plan was to get my trailer bearings repacked.

Oh, how time makes fools of us all!

I was in Walla Walla two weekends ago for a wine event, and when we got home to Salem, I was promptly ill. Not the kind of vomitous one-night food poisoning illness that comes and goes, but the really unpleasant, sore throat, it’s-hard-to-breathe right, why-do-all-my-muscles hurt sickness that lingers and makes it really hard to get motivated to ride.

But I was inching back toward normal as the week was ending, so I decided to take the trailer in for its spring checkup before hauling over the pass to Grizzly. This is just a normal, relatively inexpensive safety check THAT EVERYONE SHOULD DO.  (If you are not on the spring checkup for vehicles bandwagon, please join me!)

I will be the first to admit that vehicle maintenance is not my forte. I’m mostly oblivious to problems unless there is actual smoke or a loud CLUNK involved. Well, a few weeks ago when I took Blue to the vet to get his teeth done, I noticed a bit of a hot brake smell. The drive was only 15 minutes, though, and I wasn’t totally sure that it was me and not the cars around me. When we stopped, I walked around the trailer, sniffing and examining, but didn’t find any issues.

The next time out with the trailer, there was the smell again, but it hauled fine and I was already on the road, so I listened to the Bad Idea Fairy and kept on driving. And the time after that, there was no smell and no big problems. The brakes felt a little wimpy, but the Bad Idea Fairy pointed out that I could just turn up the controller to compensate. Clearly whatever was causing that smell had worked itself out… (la la la la I am happy in my own imaginary land la la la…)

Note to non-trailer-hauling friends: Horse trailers are not self-healing. What had worked out, according to pictures I received from my mechanic yesterday, is that all the brakes and drums on my trailer are shot. Moreover, two of the tires have been so damaged by the uneven braking that they need replaced. And really, while we’re talking about tires, we should probably replace all five because the ones that are on it were older than I had been led to believe when I bought it. (PS: Trailer tires have to be replaced more than car tires anyway.)

So what had been a feeling of ambivalence about going to Grizzly because of my recent illness has now solidified into staying home and feeling sorry for myself. The trailer is out of commission, my bank account is empty, and I’m still a little sick.

So friends, if any of you are in regular contact with the Money Fairy (mother of the Bad Idea Fairy?), please ask her to come sprinkle some of her magic dust on me this month so I can make it to Mt. Adams.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Model behavior

Don't you guys love puns? Model Blue, much like actual Blue, is making slow but steady progress.

Model Blue needs to be painted and ready to roll in time for Sweet Onion Live II on August 11.

Real Blue needs to be ready for Grizzly Mountain on April 20.