horses, horsepower…

January 16, 2012 Comments Off on horses, horsepower…

A big weekend–a great weekend, really.  The highlight for O was Saturday’s horse show up at the barn.  She was mostly thrilled about being around horses all day, but her instructor put her in a couple of competitions, including formal dressage, that added some challenge.  OK, she put her in two competitions, but she ended up in three, meaning a far longer day than K and I had planned.  I got the easier, morning shift, and I have a feeling this has been duly noted.

Anyway.  O did great.  She finished third in her division, out of four, but the competition was mostly college kids, so she was up against some pretty tough opponents.  And it has to be said, the “competition” at a local horse show is pretty friendly, really.  Not to mention that it’s as much down to the horse as it is to the rider.  That’s Kirby there, who is no match for the recently departed-t0-Kansas Casino, but is loved nonetheless.

O likes dressage because it’s all about how you communicate with the horse, and this she does phenomenally well.  It’s also more athletic than it looks, and she’s got the abs and the lower back to prove it.  But it’s mostly about empathy, and patience, and understanding the power that you’re riding.

And on that note.  She’s celebrating MLK day today with an all-day Harry Potter marathon at her friend K’s house.  Personally I think this is the one day a year when school should really count, but no one’s complaining about the three-day weekend.  We had some errands to run before dropping her off, but when those went quicker than planned I made good on my threat to spend some time in the college arena’s parking lot.  “I can’t get my learner’s permit for another five months, Dad,” she complained.  “If the cops stop us, this is your fault, OK?”

OK.  But for lesson one we’re not going to be moving anyway.  She just sat in the driver’s seat and I showed her where all the bits were.  She looked pretty natural sitting there, in what will, in a couple of years, be her car–assuming that Dave the Car Guy can keep it together, that she can keep it in one piece, and that she doesn’t make straight A’s for a year, in which case a blue pickup will be her car.  And yeah, that’s pretty frightening in a lot of ways.  But having just seen her move a half ton or so of horse around, I’m more and more convinced that this stage won’t be all that big a leap for her.  We’ll actually start the car next time.

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new cast!

March 2, 2011 Comments Off on new cast!

The orthopedist’s office called this morning at 8:30, which was a good thing since I’d been up since about 4:00 worrying (and cleaning the fridge, which is now spotless.  I mean you could eat off of it.  Oh, wait…) Nothing struck them as odd or problematic, and they had an opening at 1:00 if we wanted to get the girl’s wrist the official checkout and cast/no cast decision.  YES, I practically shouted.

O managed to mangle her splint in the night pretty good, so this was well-timed.  “I’ll come get you at 12:30,” I said.  “It’ll take an hour, we’ll pick up C because he has an early start, and then we can drop you back off at school for the last hour of the day.”

She shot me a look of cold, hard contempt.  OK.  An afternoon visit to the orthopedist means the rest of the day off.  I’m with you, kid.

The extraction procedure from the middle school is pretty byzantine, and i completely botched it.  Fortunately, O had taken the initiative and managed to find me as I was trekking between offices, trying to find someone who could get her out of class and get her form filled out to leave the campus.  Never mind, Dad, she said.  I figured you’d need help.

The orthopedist was quick and to the point.  Torus fracture of the radius, just like the ER doc had thought.  Super minor, but uncomfortable and three weeks in the cast.  Oh, and he has a daughter O’s age, too.  And she fell off a horse a few years ago, and he hasn’t let her ride since.  Like a sensible parent, he seemed to say.  O pointed out that she’d had four falls, but only (only?) two broken bones.  She showed him her scars from the busted elbow four years ago, and played the punch line perfectly.

“Wow, did you break something in your forearm, too?” the orthopedist asked, noticing the fading but still impressive scars there.

“Nope.  They had to operate three times because I had compartment syndrome.”

The doctor practically fell over.  This, we’ve found, impresses the hell out of medical people, because it’s both rare and exceptionally dangerous.  Then he looked at me and the expression on his face clearly said and you STILL let her ride horses?

Damn right, O would want me to say.

She picked a blue cast so that I’d buy her silver Sharpies for her friends to sign with.  All of them are super impressed, especially K, who has broken or sprained limbs in sequence with O for years.  Her family is, I’m sure, wrapping her in Nerf as we speak.

Both of us went to pick up C, and every teacher who walked by remembered O and was suitably impressed that she’d busted an arm again.  To buck her up and to reward C for being a patient little brother we did homework at Stomping Grounds and they each got sandwiches and Italian sodas.  Spendy but worth it.  And we’re watching Godzilla vs. Rodin tonight.  She’s feeling a bit better now that the wrist is completely immobilized, and other than three weeks of an itchy forearm I think she’ll get through this with her usual aplomb…

busted wrist!

February 28, 2011 Comments Off on busted wrist!

Riding today, and it was another gorgeous afternoon.  That’s Emmett to the O’s immediate right, there.  She’d ridden him before, but this was sort of another introduction, since she’s outgrown her favorite pony, Casino.  Sun shining, new horse, what could go wrong, right?

About halfway through her lesson, while I’m quietly reading in the observation room, C goes “oh, that’s gotta hurt.”  I look up.

“Um, what’s gotta hurt?”

“O just got thrown.”

My stomach knots up.  I jump to my feet.  “Bad?”

“The horse bucked and she FLEW over its HEAD!  It was AWESOME!”

Now I’m about to throw up.  I run out of the room, and she’s walking out of the arena with her instructor, covered in dirt and obviously shaken, holding her wrist, but not crying.

At this point I should mention that in 2007 she fell off a horse and broke her elbow.  As badly as you can break it.  I was the parent on duty then, too, and the frantic rush to the ER was, without question, the worst ten minutes of my life.  She ended up in the hospital for four days and three operations.  K stayed by her side the whole time, and I’m not sure any of us ever really recovered–except, of course, O, whose first question in the car was when she could ride again.

But this was clearly not as bad.  Dana and I figured it was badly sprained, probably, but deserved a trip to the ER.  It was, to put it mildly, an easier drive.  O was in good spirits, she could wiggle all her fingers, and there were even a few good thoughts, like how this would certainly get her out of P.E. for a week or two.  When we got to the hospital and the triage nurse was interviewing her, O said yes, as a matter of fact she’d had several surgeries.  What for?  Falling off another horse.  “Man,” the nurse said, “working here, I can tell you I would never let my kid ride a horse.”  O and I looked at each other and almost asked for a new nurse.

As you can see, it was a little more serious than we’d thought, but not much.  A torus fracture, which if you have to break your wrist, the ER doctor said, is pretty much the best way to do it.  She’s in a splint, she has to go see the orthopedist later this week, and she’ll probably be in a cast for 2-3 weeks.  Bummer, but from the sound of things it could be worse.  We e-mailed Dana tonight to tell her O was OK, and she wrote back to say, basically, good–because she’d heard something snap really loud when O hit.  But some takeout Chinese (with fortune cookies in Spanish–stellar), an ibuprofen, and a hot bath and the girl is resting comfortably upstairs.  She scoffed at the idea of missing school tomorrow, mostly because she wants to show off her latest combat medal to her friends.

One of my Dad’s favorite quotes comes from a graduation speech by one Mavis Lehrer, age 83.  “Life’s journey,” says Mavis, “is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting “Holy sh*t, what a ride!”

The girl is a big believer in this (minus the s-word, of course).  And my guess is that by the time she’s done, she will be sporting a few more dents.  It’s not every kid that has a favorite X-ray machine in the local radiology department.

riding–beautiful day

February 22, 2011 Comments Off on riding–beautiful day

K texted me this morning while I was on the quad machine at the gym to say that O’s riding instructor could make up this week’s lesson this afternoon.  I was quietly pleased, though I knew her brother would be beside himself.  He thought for sure he was getting the week off.

And a few weeks ago I would have been right with him.  I have a confession to make.  Ever since O fell off the horse in 2007 and broke her elbow, I’ve been petrified by her riding.  Both K and I took her fall hard–K because she was in the hospital with the girl while they operated three times, me because I had to scoop her up, put her in the car, and drive her to the ER.  Neither one was a great experience, and I think both of us have suffered mild PTSD ever since.  For me it’s always been the stables themselves that have been the problem, and out of everything in the daily routine, getting O to and from riding was the one thing I dreaded the most.

But over the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten over that, and I’ve really come to enjoy it.  O is really proficient at getting the horse, tacking up, and getting on her way–she likes having a grownup there just in case things go screwy, or for muscle, or to rewind the stupid polos, but she can really do the whole thing on her own.  I’ve come to like the horses, too, especially Casino (above, the one not in the blue jacket), who is O’s favorite.  And while watching her ride still brings a bit of a lump to my throat, it’s also pretty awesome to see her at full tilt.

As you can see, today was a spectacular Iowa day.  Cold, but crystal clear, and after last week’s thaw there was precious little snow on the ground.  Even the pastures, which are full of horse poop, looked kind of good, and the walk out to get the horse was really beautiful.  It’s been a mild winter, but we’ve had just enough snow to get tired of it, and even though we’re likely to get hit a couple more times, there were hints that spring is out there somewhere.

O had a good ride, too, but a sad one.  Her instructor told her that she’s getting too big for Casino, and that she’ll probably move up to a larger horse in a week or two.  O knew it was coming, but she was still a little heartbroken, and gave the guy a few extra pats on the way back out to the pasture.

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