For those of you who weren't around last October, my Hanoverian mare had a bout of cellulitis last October (2009). Her leg swelled up to at least twice its size. She was in extreme pain, and I worried I might lose her. A week later another horse at the barn had the same affliction had to be put down within 24 hours. Gailey survived but not without permanent issues. Her leg is still about 3 to 4 inches in circumference bigger than her other hind leg. I've come to terms with the fact that her leg is never going to get any smaller.
Over a year later, she's off and on sound. She has bouts of stiffness in her big leg and is sometimes off enough, we go back to the stall without doing much work at all.
I haven't been as ambitious about riding as I should be, possibly because I'm coming to terms with the future of my horse and my riding. We're taking things one day at a time. On her good days, she's incredibly fun to ride.
Take yesterday for instance, it was a crisp, cold day in the Northwest. I hadn't ridden her in about a week. The barn help was readying the barn for a freestyle clinic this weekend. The small viewing area at one end of the barn had been cleared of chairs so it could be swept. The chairs were stacked on the track, surely looking like green demons. Now add to that scene a shop vac, a broom, some poles, every one of them not where they were last time she was in the arena.
I both love and dread riding her when she's like this. I love it because she's hotter, in front of my leg, sitting on her butt, mega responsive, and eager to go. I dread it because it's like sitting on a ticking time bomb. Once false move, and it'll blow to pieces. She's never actually blown, such over-exertion is not in her nature. Even in her more energetic moments, she's into efficiency of movement (which is a nice way to say usually somewhat lazy).
On days like yesterday where the stars align just right, the arena looks different, and a lot is going on, she gives the impression she might actually put a little more effort into being naughty. She didn't even want to stand still at the mounting block. Once I settled in the saddle, she strode out at a brisk walk, snorting and blowing and keeping one eye trained on the demons at the far end of the arena. In the meantime, I prayed Mandy wouldn't turn on the shop vac at the exact moment I passed by.
After several minutes of walk, I barely touched her sides with my legs and off we went into a forward, uphill trot. (So this is how it's supposed to feel all the time!) On slight shift of my legs and she softly launches into a lovely canter. I sit up straighter and breathe back to a walk, just like that. Hmmm. A person could get used to this. Oops. Then she bulges out to one side in an attempt to avoid the end demons and attempts to shy, her one bad habit under saddle.
So I keep her at the opposite end of the arena. I know, chicken that I am, but it was less drama, and I wasn't into drama yesterday. I practice my pilates, trying to stay straight in the saddle, equal weight on my seat, and use my weight and breathing to signal down transitions. Everything works like it should because she's tuned in and eager to work. Well, tuned in as long as the demons stay on their end of the arena, and she gets to stay on hers.
Even though a very small part of me is aware of the bomb I'm riding, most of me concentrates on being as light and careful as possible. Considering Gailey's physical limitations, every great ride on her is a gift to be cherished and a reminder as to why I continue to do this.