From rockstar to rock bottom, let's face it, that's how I am feeling. On March 17, 2018, I was on cloud nine, after receiving the phone call that my childhood dreams were coming true: I was getting a HORSE!
On April 14th, he arrived from Nashville TN to a stable in Louisville, KY. When he walked off that trailer, every ounce of him was trembling. It was spitting rain, kind of chilly, and as I held his lead rope guiding him through the pasture I remember thinking, "This is it. This is REALLY happening!" I had begged God to have the rain hold off that day and guess what--moments after he arrived the skies opened and all the rain cleared. I'll never forget how high I was on Cloud 9 that day. I was excited, nervous, scared, overwhelmed, a little hesitant, but mostly, in love. I was also relieved that he calmed down so quickly, adjusted super well to the mare he is living with, and in all hindsight, we had zero issues!
I had all the questions in the world but I didn't know how to spit them out. I've never done this horse ownership thing you see, and all my horsewoman friends and acquaintances seem so well polished--they are put together, calm, resilient, and just kind of badass in general. Will that ever be me? I wonder.
Every day I've driven the 'whopping' one mile down the road to see Mr. Paddy. He has an array of nicknames: Paddy Cake, Pads, Paddington, Paddy Bear, and then, of course, just plain Paddy. Classy O'Prado (his registered name) is one giant and beautiful boy, standing at 16'3 hands tall. We've started small--me walking him around the pasture two times, one in each direction. I started to loosely drape the lead over his neck and teach him how to follow me, and quickly stop. Follow me, and turn, then stop. Follow me, slowly jog after me, stop. And for the most part, he has it down so well. When he stops and I praise him, he puts his gigantic head into my chest and blows out a deep, loving breathe.
Even on day one, I had zero fear of riding my majestic boy. I hopped on him after he had been in the field for less than an hour and slowly trotted around his pasture. I never thought it would or could be any different. I've learned just how naive I have been in this whole owner/horsemanship deal. You don't know what you don't know, right? The same goes for motherhood or any ownership of ANY new animal. How can you predict what will happen? Maybe your baby will sleep through the night and maybe they won't. Maybe they'll fall and have to get stitches--you can't predict that. Maybe your new dog will get potty training down pact right off the bat, and maybe they'll be terrors who chew every single thing in sight into shreds. Maybe your horse will be calm, well behaved, sturdy and quiet, and maybe, just maybe, he'll buck you off.
You can't predict that.
There's one thing that I have been 100% honest from the beginning of this: I have no clue what I am doing. I thank God for Rene who has owned horses for 20+ years [the lady who owns where I am boarding], because she, honest to God, is my calm. I have gotten into a routine of feeding Paddy his grain (dinner) between 6 and 7 pm each night. Usually, before he eats, we will work on groundwork with the lead rope or I simply spend time brushing him; and then he gets his grain. There were a few days where I attempted to lunge him (again, having NO clue what I was really doing). I knew the basics, how to start and stop, how to stand (or so I thought) and how I should be positioned. I realized really quickly that he despises going clockwise on the lunge line, and one day I spent over twenty minutes trying to get him to listen. Thank GOD I found an amazing trainer who showed me what I was doing wrong, how I was confusing him (I'm so sorry, Paddy!) and it started to go SO well after that. She encouraged me to have him go a few times around, and as long as there were no temper tantrums or little fits while he worked, praise him and move on. End on a good note. Always.
This year for Mother's Day, I made it pretty clear that I largely wanted to spend the day with Paddy. My husband packed an AMAZING and beautiful picnic, and after church, our whole family went out to the field and enjoyed the spread. Paddy even joined us periodically and stayed real close while we ate; he smelled us, snorted, and took some peppermints happily. The kids then went on to play on the swing set at the house, and I wanted to show Asa how well Paddy was doing lunging. He lunged for me at a walk and trot both directions--with no real issue whatsoever. He seemed, calm, put together, not anxious, and I had no reason to believe that he would be any different once I rode him. I knew that I didn't want to trot him...lately he has been throwing "mini fits" (I call them) with a half-buck and fast run when asked to pick up a trot. This happened a few weeks after he arrived. The first couple of weeks he trotted with zero issues, but he was starting to show signs that something had changed. I'd actually gotten so scared a little while ago when he did it and took off to one end of the pasture, I ended up sobbing atop his back, asking him WHY. He stood perfectly still while I had my mini-meltdown. (I hadn't yet met my trainer yet when that happened, but she came just a few days later). She came and worked with me, watched me ride some, and I admitted to her that I was already experiencing some deep fear riding. (How did it flood in so quickly? When in the beginning, I had none?!) She encouraged me to only do what I felt comfortable doing, so on Mother's Day, my plan was to walk him only. I wanted to show Asa the exercises she had taught me, like small circles, the pressure release with the reins he was learning, and honestly, that was it.
My husband recorded a video of me walking, I was beaming ear to ear and said, "Happy Mother's Day!!" at the camera. Split seconds later, Paddy put himself into a small trot (I should have stopped him) and I remember thinking, "Okay, just go with it." I was going to let him do a small circle when suddenly, my face smashed into his neck and I was catapulted into the air. "Please don't die," I remember thinking. For whatever reason, I put my right LEG out to stop me and landed on my tailbone and butt. As you can imagine, my brain was in warp mode. "Can I move?" I thought. "Is anything broken?" I wondered. I felt liquid come out of me from down there and wondered, "Did I just pee my pants?" I rolled onto all fours and watched the blood pour out of my mouth. I felt like I was going to black out, vomit, and then suddenly, I lost all feeling in both of my hands. I started to yell, groan actually, and I can remember snapping at Asa when he tried to touch my back. "DON'T TOUCH ME!" I screamed. I was so scared, so petrified, and so angry. I looked over slightly to see Paddy with the reins kind of loose on his neck, saddle still intact, and his head was down. Asa said he had walked into the stall to check on Addie (the mare he resides with who was being stalled), and then he had walked over to me. Pretty quickly the owners came out and checked on me, Rene prompted her husband to call 9-1-1. Within minutes, the EMT and firetruck arrived, and I was loaded onto a stretcher. My poor kids watched, wondering I'm sure if Mom would be okay, what happened, and what this meant for the rest of their day and night. Both of them were so brave and stoic, which made me weep even harder behind the closed ambulance doors. We definitely did not end on a good note this day.
Long story short and after eight hours at the ER, we discovered I ripped my perineum and needed three stitches. (The liquid after the fall was blood, I just had no idea yet.) That has happened before, in childbirth, and I remember back then thinking it was no big deal. I also was able to hold the really cute brand new babies when I got those big shots and the stitching occurred--not so much the case this time. The feeling came back to my hands shortly after being in the ER, but they did a full body CT anyway, which thank God was clear. I have a giant gash on my lip, that they literally 'forgot' to stitch up, and I am hoping that it will fully heal. I look like a monster for the time being. It has been three days and I am still experiencing slight bleeding and am in an incredible amount of pain 'down there.' The first day (Monday) I cried on and off all day. I have had moments of paralyzing fear and anger, feelings of hopelessness, and I feel very, very broken in all aspects: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I have laughed (and cried) over the fact that this thirty-year-old is only comfortable in adult diapers because hello, this is basically like postpartum all over again.
I haven't had many falls prior to this one. I can remember one when I was a kid on the Arabian I grew up riding, and I honest to God think I MADE myself fall off because I wanted that 'cool story' behind me. Wow, Ashley...
Everyone tells me that I'll fall again. That more than likely, he will probably buck again. He is a five year old Thoroughbred, who and how can you predict WHAT will happen? Will you laugh if I tell you I NEVER THOUGHT this would happen? You don't know what you don't know. There is a LOT to figure out, and I am not allowed to ride for at least four weeks. My trainer is going to come and work with him, ride him, and we are going to brainstorm together things like a round/circular pen where he has more confinement. I am sure there are lots of factors involved here--maybe he wanted to get to Addie who was in the barn, maybe his saddle pinched him, maybe, maybe, maybe...but I can tell you how I'm feeling right now. And that's that I don't feel strong enough. 72 hours since the accident, so my emotions are probably still on high alert. But I am fearful. I don't want another ER visit (I can't AFFORD another ER visit), I don't want to be paralyzed, and I am a mom to two very young children who need their mother.
Emotions aside, I promise myself and you this:
I am not giving up. I am not throwing in the towel. I am not giving up on my childhood dream. I am going to pray around the clock and ask my prayer warriors to join me, that Paddy will calm down and get used to pasture riding. I will get strong again. I will not be sore forever or have a busted lip forever. I don't know when, but I will be able to walk without a limp. I will be able to do groundwork with him and lunge him. I will get back up again. Yesterday was the first time I spent over an hour with him since the accident. I fed him and brushed him, sponge bathed him and held the lead rope as he grazed. I hugged his face and scratched his ears, I kissed his nose and I told him that we WILL get there.
Life lately? Not at all what I would have predicted a month ago, but I will rise.
**I want to say a huge thank you to EVERYONE who has helped during all of this. My sister-in-law Jana stopped what she was doing and came to the hospital on HER Mother's Day. Our kids went to our pastor's house and played with his children, and it was their mama's Mother's Day! The care packages, tips and tricks on healing, the supportive messages from the girls at the Horse Rescue Paddy came from, my parents who have prayed nonstop, co-workers who have been checking on me. But especially I have to thank my husband, Asa. He has been with me every step of the way. While I was on all four's in the pasture groaning, I yelled at him, "PRAY!" "I am!" he said. "PRAY OUT LOUD!" I yelled louder. So he did. Oh goodness the tears are starting to flood as I write...I couldn't have married a better or more Godly man. After seeing his wife launched in the air, he has assurred me that my dream is worth fighting for. Asa Glass, thank you. Just thank you.**