Monday, February 20, 2012

Mouthy Monday

Hold on to your hat for this one!

A Troubadour Tale

For a year and a half I struggled with this extremely hot and motorized horse that just wanted to go. We placed well in the speed race at shows and we could always win the flag race if I managed to pick and stick. We always had a connection. When you're making it around the arena in less than 8 seconds there has to be a good partnership there. In all the races he never, ever let me fall even though he turned so hard more often than not I was dumping dirt out of my left boot.
During the 2010 season we had managed to rack up enough points to go to the state horse show in Little Rock, Ar. We flubbed the speed race when he stumbled just before the clock and ran a slow 8.8 seconds. We had to wait until a few days later to run the flag race. On that day our association was the first to get to go. I just completely missed the flag and was disappointed I hadn't placed at state. As I was down at the trailer getting ready to go home a friend running down to tell me that we get a re-ride. Apparently the barrel crew set up the barrels wrong. I trotted my horse quickly back to the arena and got ready for my final go. I knew as soon as he pushed off we were golden. I reached over and snagged the flag as he shot towards the turn. It was a tight, fast turn and I grabbed my right rein to pull him close to the fence so I could stick. I pointed the end of the flag down and felt it sink deeply into nice gritty sand. I had leaned out extremely far in order to stick and I turned in my saddle to see if the flag was in the bucket. What I had not accounted for was the very sharp turn at the end of the arena. I couldn't get straightened up in time and hit the pipe panel and woven wire gates at 30mph.
Speed Race

Flag Race

What I remember next was coming back to consciousness lying on my side under the announcers stand. I didn't yet feel pain and I looked wildly around for my horse. I could see him being walked through the legs of the crowd of people standing around me. He was screaming and pulling against the man leading him trying to see me. As we waited for the ambulance I asked three questions, 1) Did I stick the flag? 2) What was my time? (3 Is my horse OK? The answers were yes, 8.236, and yes. When the ambulance arrived I rolled over onto my back and tried to stand only to be held in place my an EMT. They didn't want me moving in case my back or neck was injured. As they loaded me into the ambulance my horse screamed and reared his full height and looked right into my eyes. I looked back at him and cried for him, all I wanted was to touch and reassure him.

At the hospital I discovered I had snapped my right arm clean in half and moved it a good four inches, I needed 300 stitches to close the gaping wound in my forehead, and seven staples to put my scalp back together. When they cut my jeans off they found two dull scrapes in my upper right thigh. No one knew what caused it. After I'd been stitched, stapled, cleaned, and settled in a room my best friend's dad called to talk to me. After making sure I was all right he told me "I want you to know how much that horse loves you. When you fell he stopped dead in an instant. When you two came to a stop one of his front feet was resting on your head and he carefully moved it and stood over you. I could see how scared he was but he let me take him and lead him while you were tended to." By this time I was already crying, all I wanted was to see him. My friend's dad continued, "When Shelbe and Kristen led him in to get your trophy he was manic. He fussed and fought and dragged Shelbe to the spot where you fell, knelt down, and rubbed his nose in the dirt. He didn't stop screaming until we got him home and turned him out." I then realized those marks in my leg were from the nails in his shoe as he tried to stop. 
Arm Exray

After Surgery

Right after surgery

After that conversation I was so distraught the staff upped my medication so I would sleep. The next morning I had surgery that put my arm back together with a plate and 10 screws. The day after I demanded my doctor send me home. When I arrived home I begged my dad to take me out and see my horse. In all our years together he's always been the first to greet me. Now he refused to look at me. My dad had to force him to hold still so I could touch him. It broke my heart to see him so scared of me. It was almost like he was ashamed, like he blamed himself. I took a few days to heal and I asked my dad if I could ride. He agreed, saddled Troubadour, and ever so carefully he lifted me onto his back. Troubadour had always been a hot horse, speed had always been the sole measure of his life. But as he walked around like an old lead pony I felt him coming back to me.  

A couple of weeks later my best friend wanted to take him to the Show of Champions in Melbourne, Ar. My dad agreed in order to keep me off the horse. When my friend arrived to take him he loaded like a lamb. As she drove away he realized I wasn't going with him. He then proceeded to try to kick her trailer apart. She ended up having to sedate him. He never ran as well for her as he did for me. He had decided he was a one woman horse.

When I went back to college he went with me. We're apart of the Collegiate Stock Horse Team and he now has a handle on him. We still compete in speed and flag races, currently we're tied for first in my age division. No one else has been on his back since Melbourne almost a year ago. I have some scars and pains to remind me that without a good horse, you have nothing. Troubadour will never be sold. When the time comes he will be peacefully euthanized at home and buried. I will always carry a part of this horse with me. He's my heart, my whole heart.


  1. Horses are amazing, how can anyone ever doubt that.

  2. Stunning. He thought you were as invincible as he. And in a way, you are. Glad you are still together and still running.

  3. Having had a severe fracture in a jackpot with my horse, I can relate to this story. I have a metal plate and 6 screws holding my leg together, but looking at my own x-rays never made me cringe as much as these ones did.
    Glad to hear there was a full recovery for both rider and horse.

  4. All I can think of is the insanity of youth and the total confidence that nothing can go wrong. I think our horses pick up whatever we carry on the ride.

    Now if we could figure out how to ride with insane caution.....

  5. deedee sonnyduo@yahoo.comFebruary 21, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Oh Mugs, I ride with insane caution. It isn't fun for horse or rider. Looking for middle ground. Free open and safe - someday.

  6. Glad you two found each other. Glad you survived, for the sake of both. Enjoy one another. Amazing experience. Best not repeated.

  7. Thank you all for your kind words! We are both doing fantastic and getting ready to leg up for the season. I think the main reason I didn't have more fear instilled in me is that I don't remember being scared or even hurting until I left the hospital. I'm sure that if I had I would be more inclined to be cautious. What do you guys think? Could the lack of memory of impact or pain or fear have kept me from being afraid to get back on or to run again?

  8. WoW for sure!! What a special boy you have there~

  9. What a touching and gripping story! Only one thing I can't believe...These horses are going at a pace that can only be described as "hauling ass" with riders leaning all over the place on purpose...And it's not mandatory to wear a helmet?! Hell, jockeys wear them and they're only going in nice big circles ;)

  10. MushMaster, I very much think the lack of pain contributes to your lack of fear. I'm close in age to you (also in college) and have the same type of thing: the only aspects of riding that scare me are ones that have hurt in the past. I was scared of Arabians for years because I fell off of one when I was 10 (on my birthday no less) and had to be super-glued back together (too close to my eye for stitches), and the only thing that got me over that were two wonderful Arabian mares that are sweet and well-trained and would never take off with me like the one that dumped me.

    I can fully appreciate a horse that loves you and stops dead in its tracks after you fall. I ride a Mustang mare that is similar, she never learned to stop and loves to run. The one time I came off of her it was totally her fault (she ignored my cues) and she stopped almost before I hit the ground. The only other time she stopped so quickly was when someone fell off literally right in front of us, I think she was confused and thought it might be me!

    Your horse sounds like such a good boy and your story certainly brightened my week!

  11. Grey Drakkon you made me laugh out loud! I do wear a helmet now ;)

  12. I always said hmets aren't mandatory in western speed games cuz you're not supposed to come off. The point is to stay on the horse. Or in the words of an old hand who used to run an Arab stud and clean up the ribbons: "if yer that damn scared of falling off you shouldn't be on a horse."

    I have softened my opinion since those days. Still not a big fan of helmets but I encourage the wearing of them and I wear mine more often than I used to.

    I've never had a wreck as bad as this one.

    But I know what you mean, about your horse acting so strange after a wreck. I'm not sure if it's that he's reminded of how scary the wreck was - I do believe sometimes it's as scary for them - or if horses are capable of being emabarrassed/ ashamed. I know I've hobbled out to see my horse feeling rather angry with him, and other situations feeling like it could've been much worse, but he tried to save me and I'm grateful.

    Ahhhh. Non- horse people have no concept of this complicated dynamic.

  13. Mush, I'm glad to hear it. :)
    Heidi, I've seen horses emarassed too! Or at least it was an emotion that was so close it didn't matter.

  14. I think it scares the tar out of them when we come off. We're supposed to be up there guiding!