Uncomfortable Satisfaction

The genetic ability to do sports skipped me.

This was not a problem until my senior school years at boarding school, where there was no escaping compulsory physical education. I hit upon brillance though, and asked to do horse riding. This ticked the semi-normal box of activity and meant I didn't have to run around a cross country field being chased by a wiry teacher with a long stick.

I have fond memories of the rickety blue pickup that a few of us lurched off to riding in, singing together crowded on wooden benches in the back of the truck, while dust and exhaust fumes poured in the grates on the sides. I loved it. Everything about it. And a few years on, when school academics called louder than fun, I hung up my jodhpurs and veldskoens in favour of Shakespeare.

Until last week.

A new friend and I signed up for a Back in the Saddle 8 week course at this place. Got joddies and boots from a tiny shop tucked into the back of nowhere. And grey riding gloves. My friend's domestic helper looked after Mishie for me and off we went for our first lesson bright and early.

My horse was called Winning Glory. Ha.

He was dry-coated, a condition that sometimes affects post-racehorses who have lost the ability to sweat. This meant he was extremely reluctant to move anywhere very fast. While the instructor stood and called for rising trot, Winning Glory was busy imaging he was fast asleep back in his stall. The pressure mounted. TROT ON! Other horses were needing to overtake me. I felt a flush of annoyance - for goodness sake - just a trot WG, c'mon! My instructor yelled at me to have some attitude and kick the daylights out of him.

I kicked. Most ineffectively, with legs that are used to standing in the kitchen and joggling babies on my knees, not being perched on saddle leather. I felt like a crow, flapping uselessly on the back of a donkey. My thighs laughed at me.

Indignation and humiliation sat one on each shoulder and I forced the animal to move faster. It turns out his trot style was famous for being bouncy. I tried to hold myself in tightly, keeping my legs still and reins the right length, heels down.

But that burst of energy had exhausted my trusty steed. He flopped back to a walk and the more desperate my efforts became, the more he flicked his ears back and chewed with chagrin on his bit. A short struggle of wills ensued. He jerked into a hoppy half trot and my feet came down unevenly on the stirrups. My right stirrup leather snapped where it was worn on the buckle line. And I fell off faster than you could blink, as my other foot had lost it's stirrup too. I did a semi-somersault and landed heavily on the small of my back.

The pain was as close to unbearable as I could imagine, and I've had major surgery this year so I think that's saying something. I lay like a sack of potatoes on my side, unmoving. Saying to myself through hot tears and sand, breathe amy, just breathe. But it was hard to remember how to get air in and out. My head voice took over, talking clearly so as to be heard over my back. you have a spinal injury, do not move. keep breathing. in-out. if you were paralysed, it might not be as painful... But my legs felt like wooden logs. The instructor leaned over me, said Breathe Amy. Can you wiggle your toes?

From my sideways view, face on the dirt, I could see the treeline going vertically up into the blue sky. I stared at the trees between the tears that kept streaming. Kept trying to breathe through the blinding jangle of pain that set every fiber on screaming edge.

After ten minutes I was advised to get up, and gritting my teeth to hold the noise in, I got onto my knees and then feet. That pain did not go. It felt like Winning Glory was standing on my lower back. My legs shuffled awkwardly. I felt like throwing up. There was sand plastered to my cheeks.

What made the entire situation worse was being told by the instructor that it was my own fault for uneven weight bearing and breaking the stirrup leather. It was the final straw. I choked back a childish and teary outburst which went something along the lines of being the client, and the values of tack maintenance. And went into a faraway place in my head.

My friend, who is a nurse, took me immediately to the nearest hospital where several narcotic injections did not alleviate the pain. It was the kind of situation where I didn't care who saw what, or how loud I sobbed when I had to climb on the x-ray table, and have my boots and jodhpurs taken off.

After 4 hours in the A&E it was recommended I be admitted to the ward for further investigation, as my x-rays were clean but inconclusive and they were advising that the next step would be a CT and MRI.

But we opted for the more budget friendly option, and I was wheel-chaired to the Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon's consulting rooms for assessment. After another hour, he injected me with anti-inflammatory medication which at last brought my first break in the level of pain.

We again declined ward admittance and Greg brought me home, where our nearly 9 year old had arrived from school and had to fend for herself for ten minutes. She was brave but emotional from the fright of receiving a call on her cell phone to say we had been held up but would be home soon. It is so distressing to be so new in a place that there are no people who can step into the gap and care for your family at a moment's notice. But my girls are learning to be self-sufficient and of that, I am so proud.

So, the current situation is this. After a follow up to the Surgeon, he says I am fortunate to have only a bone bruise to my sacroiliac joint which after phsyio and more cortisone shots will eventually heal. No more horse riding for a while.

Fine by me Doc.

After all, it was about practicing stepping out of comfort zones. And has reminded me that its okay to step out and fall.

I will hurt but eventually I will heal.

I guess I missed that lesson when I skipped the team sports at school.

Do I regret leaping out and doing something a tiny bit crazy?

Nah, not really.

Because my new personal challenge is not being afraid of getting wet.

And I am so BLESSED to have such a minor injury when I know how much worse it could have been.

Cassandra Frear  – (September 17, 2010 at 3:06 PM)  

So sorry this happened to you. Get well soon!

Gail  – (September 17, 2010 at 3:06 PM)  

Oh Ames!!! What an adventure!! Shucks hon, we say jump and you do it with style!!!!
I hope you heal quickly .... loving the new banner(s), and the soaking pretty dresses...

there is a saying about not working with animals or children... and because you already do the children bit, perhaps lawn bowls may be a bit of nice recreation.. ;)Much love!xx

RockWallaby  – (September 17, 2010 at 5:40 PM)  

Amy, I was so enjoying this post until the fall.
So sorry for your pain. The obvious poor condition of that stirrup leather is a very poor reflection of the riding school.
Hope all is well soon.

Dawn  – (September 17, 2010 at 9:39 PM)  

So sorry Amy!! I pray you have a quick recovery and that your beautiful girls continue to amaze you with their ability to nurture you a bit! I love the new look of the blog too, well done. x

Lyns  – (September 18, 2010 at 9:24 PM)  

Ye-ow!! Poor you Amy. I think you were so brave for getting up on the horse in the first place! Love your attitude to it all. Good on you for stepping out of your comfort zone. Will pray for your speedy recovery x

Penny  – (September 19, 2010 at 9:25 PM)  

Love the new header Amy! That fall sounds horrendously sore, sorry to hear about it. I've nominated you for a blog award, love your writing. Come by and pick it up when you can

MNM's  – (September 20, 2010 at 10:30 PM)  

Hey Amy

Been reading your blog for a few months now.

I just wanted to say uou take the most amazing photos, and have such beautiful insights into life it often takes my breath away when I read your posts.

So sorry to hear about your fall, I pray that the Lord will do a super speedy work on your back and have you back to fighting fit real soon.

Simoney  – (September 21, 2010 at 9:26 AM)  

OUCH Amy!!!!
like you say, could have been SO much worse.
But Ouch.
Backs affect everything :(
I hiope you mend quickly!

Sarah (Chez Lee)  – (September 21, 2010 at 10:41 AM)  

What a terrible shock and hope the pain eases quickly and you make a speedy recovery. You write a good story, even when it's an unpleasant one to tell. Take care x

Anonymous –   – (September 24, 2010 at 7:51 PM)  

Ah you are BRAVE! Jan Ellis

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