Into the Equine Heart of Darkness…

Dear Equines and Bipeds,

Hudson here. I am in existential angst.

My life is…boring. It’s a dreary endless round of circles and grooming.

I’m a little cranky.

Jane is furious with me.  Bella is furious with me. Woodrow is…not amused.

I ask you, when you are in existential angst, at whom do you lash out? The people closest to you, naturally.

Well.  Woodrow just happened to be the closest to me at the moment I became overwhelmed with ennui. But this was forever ago.

(Jane said to tell you it was the day before yesterday, whatever that means.)

True. He – ah – might be limping a little on the leg all the antiseptic-smelling people were trying to fix.

And – ah – I might have thoroughly alienated his massage therapist, a delightful woman, who happened to have just finished working on Woodrow’s problem areas.

And – ah – I might have fallen slightly into a habit of lashing out at Woodrow during dinner, which,  if I’m honest, could be a contributing factor into why he’s not getting better according to the vet’s projected schedule. Who knew a little regular slipping and falling could hurt him?

Fine. If I put myself in his horseshoes I wouldn’t be very happy with me either.

I’ve been banished. I’ve also been told in no uncertain terms by Jane that I am not allowed to feel sorry for myself, and you are not allowed to feel sorry for me either.

(No “poor Hudson” comments, please.)

I formally apologize: Woodrow, I am sincerely sorry, from the bottom of my stomach, that I have been a big, mean, bully and caused you both psychic and physical pain.

I do not trust that I would not do it again.  Sorry. I hope you will take this as a sign of my personal failings, not as a sign of any dislike of you.

Jane is taking me to something she calls “counseling”.  I do not quite understand the concept, but she says it involves a long succession of wet saddle blankets, that I will become quite tired on a regular basis, and I will be doing something new.  When pressed to know what this “new” thing is, Jane merely says “I don’t know yet, Hudson.  Please shut up before I hurt you.”

(Hurt me? Why?)

Humans.  So confusing.

I just hope it won’t be as it’s been: circles at the trot on the buckle. Circles at the trot on the bit.  Circles at the walk on the buckle. Circles at the walk on the bit.  Circles of the canter on the buckle. Circles of the canter on the bit. Tiny circles. Medium circles.  Large circles. Giant, arena-sized circles.  Circling the barns on the access road. Circles carrying yourself like this.  Circles of carrying yourself like that. I am not a merry-go-round horse.

I miss all the decision-making I got to do running steers.

I want to know what the new thing is.

Do you know?



Things You Don’t Want to Hear in Your Doctor’s Office

B-52 noseart
Image via Wikipedia

Before Shaun went to the orthopedic surgeon, she had to go to our regular doctor.  Some sort of insurance rule. The day after the accident, the staff squeezed her in at the end of the day. Really nice.

The doctor came in, smiling.  She looks down at the chart, and then up at Shaun.

Thing #1:

“So what happened?”, she says.

We look at each other. Um. ER report? They faxed the x-rays and test results to her office while we were still in the ER.

Shaun dutifully explains.

“Ow”, says the doc, wrinkling her nose at the horror of it, and distractedly shaking her finger, “I bet that hurt.”

Shaun, nodded, asking, “Did you read the x-rays? They couldn’t tell if it was fractured”. She hopes this doctor might be able to give her an answer.

Thing #2:

“Ewwww”, the doc shudders, “X-rays? No, of course not. I can’t look at the pictures.  I’d be sick”, she laughs, stares at her finger, adds, “I read the report.”

We look at each other. A doctor who gets queasy over an x-ray of a dislocated thumb? How did she make it out of medical school?

Thing #3:

“Excuse me”, the doctor says, “this really hurts, I’m afraid I have to deal with it before I see you”.

We stare at her blankly.  Shaun can’t take the medication the ER prescribed for pain: it’s clear she’s allergic. She’s in a lot of pain, and covered in hives.

Thing #4:

“Paper cut”, Dr. says, holding up her finger, so we can see.  “This little sucker  hurts like the dickens.  I’ll be right back.”

She leaves.

We don’t speak. Did she just leave a patient in pain, with a hand the size of a lamb shank, because she had a paper cut?

Shaun can feel me winding up.  “Down, girl”, she says.  “I can’t deal with that and you going off”.


I imagine chasing the doctor with a sheet of printer paper, slicing edge forward. I clamp my mouth shut. Getting mouthy will lengthen the process of Shaun becoming pain free.

The doctor returns, wrapping a Bugs Bunny band-aid around her finger. “Sorry, I know it’s stupid, but these things really hurt!” She has a hard time wrenching her attention back to Shaun: her eyes keep straying to Bugs Bunny.

Shaun stares at her.

“Nothing like yours though, of course!”, she adds, hastily.

I back down. The woman has shame. I do an emotional reboot.

Shaun asks if there is something she can take that won’t give her  hives.  The doctor says, “yes, there is”. We leave with a new prescription.

In the car, we turn to each other while I crank the engine, and say simultaneously: paper cut?!? and start giggling. Shaun says, “Seriously? I can’t actually LOOK at your x-rays, because I’ll throw UP?”

(If there was a disaster calendar, it was hidden, or we were both too deeply in shock to notice.)

Disaster of the Month Club: The Secret Society?

For back story, see Emergency Room Camping.  (in which we discover hospitals have disaster calendars: every month has a huge, full color picture of an impending medical disaster. Photo proof!)

I thought Disaster of the Month Club calendars must be limited to hospitals.  Makes sense.  The Medivac helicopter is advertising their services, and well, it’s a calendar. Graphic depictions of dire situations just on the verge of implosion, with Medivac helicopter  hovering helpfully in the background, will definitely advertise how much the hospital needs them.

That their presence could cause the accident waiting to happen seems not to have crossed anyone’s mind.  Clearly not put together by people familiar with horses.

I took Shaun and her expertly bandaged  hand to the orthopedic surgeon on Friday. It’s easy to determine his usual clientele.  Let’s just say my general practitioner has battered copies of geriatric Ladies Home Journal’s lying around, not glossy editions of Forbes, travel magazines on exotic destinations, and a current copy of The New York Times.

We waited.  Shaun read the NYT. I glanced at the real artwork on the walls, the live plants, huge waiting room, glass atrium, and alcove housing water, tea, coffee and china cups, thinking: “Why didn’t I listen to my mother? I could be a doctor now. Or a Vet.”

The receptionists wore scrubs that were tailored to fit. Is it just me, or does this defeat the purpose of wearing pajamas to work?

I prepared myself for a) homophobia (No idea why? Random paranoia?) and b) dismissively cool doctor with the warmth of a guppy.

Luckily, I was wrong on all counts.

An actual nurse walked Shaun into the exam room, chatting and being quite friendly.  She said, “I’ll need to cut that off”, nodding to the bandage, and then did a double take.

(Yes, I am going to brag.)

“Wow. We don’t usually see a bandage of this caliber from the ER. This is the best wrap job I’ve ever seen, and I’m good. I’ve never seen one better than mine.” She adds: “The ones from the ER are always a complete mess, twisted and uneven. The last one had Scotch Tape holding it on!”

I immediately wanted to slide the bandage, intact, off Shaun’s arm, frame it, and hang it in the living room. Jane’s artistic legacy.

It was hard not to cry when she brought out the scissors.

“This is excellent!  You don’t happen to remember the name of the nurse, do you?”, she says, cutting carefully.

I’m SO idiotically proud.  Maybe I could have a second career as a bandage wrapper in Emergency Rooms?  Daydreams begin. Jane: the most esteemed professional bandage wrapper. If the President sprained an ankle, I would be quietly flown in on Air Force One. I begin giving paid lectures in my head.

Shaun tilts her head at me. “My wife wrapped it.”

“You did a nice job”, the nurse says to me, smiling, unknowingly puncturing my $100,000-a-pop daydream of the bandaging-lecture circuit. “The doctor will be right with you”, she adds, tossing my expert bandage in the trash, on her way out the door.  I sit on my hands, so I won’t snatch my work of genius out of the trash. It’s ruined!

Shaun and I look around. The exam room is huge.  You could host a small dinner party. There’s a medical-quality laminated drawing of a deconstructed foot. Something the doc can point to when explaining what’s wrong.

Shaun says, “Look! On that wall!”

There’s a framed art photo of a bare foot running across a desert. The foot is mid-stride, having just touched down.

“It’s just about to break!”, Shaun adds, cocking her head at the foot’s angle, and the rocks it will soon trip over. She’s right.  That foot is going down.

We. Lose. It.

“Oh. Oh. Oh”, I gasp, choking with laughter, “Next to it, LOOK!”

We look at each other.  They really have them. Doctors and hospitals belong to Disasters of the Month Clubs!


I couldn’t let the chance slip through my fingers. I needed to see what was scheduled for July.  I owed it to the readers of TLH, heck I owed it to the entire sector of unknowing lay people, who might inadvertently show up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I get up.

Shaun furiously whisperes: SIT THE HECK DOWN, as I slide past the open exam door, and lift the page. Ta Da.


All of you!  Back away from the glacier. Something is about to go wrong with your ice axe, or your crampons. For heaven’s sake, do not LEAD the expedition! This guy falls, there’s no one to dally him. Carabiners are for keys or hair-elastic storage, not life or death attachment to a rope.

Unless you live near K2, you should be okay in July.

My apologies for the blur. I knew the second I lifted the page while holding a camera, the doctor would walk in. So I tried to do it quickly.

He walked in while the page was fluttering down. Frowned at my cell phone etiquette.  I should not be making calls!

Of course this would be in an orthopedic office.  Frostbite, ice axes (whoops…did I just miss and stab my leg?) limbs smashing in free fall…it’s…the Ortho version of Disaster of the Month Club calendar.

What’s Black and Blue and Green All Over…?

Thursday, Shaun wanted to see her hand, un-bandaged, before we went to the orthopedic surgeon on Friday.  She was worried it wasn’t “that bad”.

I suspect her thought echos all of our thinking patterns.  “It’s only an [insert injury here], it’s not that bad.”

I jumped at the chance. It’s agony to stay away from an sloppily bandaged limb. (Right?)

Shaun’s hand, unwrapped:

I began to remove the layers of Scotch Tape applied by the ER casting tech. This was stupid: the tape wasn’t holding anything. I just cut it off.

After a good look, a wash, and blow dry (hurt too much to touch) I carefully put the splint back on, and bandaged her up properly, using VetWrap to seal the ends.

Shaun looks at me with awe. She thought wrapping would hurt, because it hurt badly when the tech wrapped her.

“How did you do that?”, Shaun asks, “It was all twisted and bunched up.  It’s so smooth and unwrinkled, and the tension is perfect!”

“I know”, I say, absently, not thinking about how immodest that sounds. A couple thousand horse legs will wipe the modesty right out of you:  it’s just a skill, like learning to use a pen.  I lived through the era of No Horse  Should Be Ridden Without Polo Wraps. Having had three horses, that was 12 legs a day for years.  Add in catch riding for trainer, and bingo. Lotsa Legs.

I vote we hold training sessions for ER staff.  Just think, it’s a way horse people can give back to the community, and protect themselves in the future.

We went to the surgeon Friday.  I’m happy to report the ER, while it had the most conspicuous Disaster Of The Month Club calendar, is not alone.  There was one in the exam room of the orthopedic surgeon’s office. Yes, I whipped out my cell phone and took a picture of the disaster for…


You will never guess.  Not in a million years. (I predict TLH readers will be quite safe.)

To be posted on Tuesday…

(Oh. Shaun does not need surgery.  The fracture should heal just fine without it!)

Emergency Room Camping

Last summer, Shaun and I went hospital camping.  She had surgery, tried not to die, while I comforted her gently: if you die, I will KILL you.

This Sunday, we went Emergency Room Camping.

Holding Shaun’s good hand while she was on the gurney, I said, “Next year, how about Yosemite? Or the ocean? Something less…fluorescent. No one looks good in hospital lighting.”  Bad vacation pics.

Shaun had a horse accident, without the horse.

I get this.  Done it myself several times.

Horse accidents, especially those in which the rider hits the dirt, are distinctive: there’s usually some airborne time, along with the physics of velocity combining with gravity, just before the earth tilts, and the ground suddenly veers sideways, slamming into your body.

I heard the thud, a crack, a cry, and I RAN.

I saw the twisted neck, the thumb pointing the wrong way, the smashed face, and went instantly into horse accident mode.  Luckily, her neck was fine, just twisted funny.  I knew the thumb was grim: either badly dislocated or badly broken. It was a face down landing, with nothing to break her fall (if we don’t count the thumb). She was pretzeled into a scary crime-scene type outline.

Like every other horse person on the planet, I knew she had about 15-20 minutes of shock to buffer the pain, before it really started to hurt. The hospital was 30 minutes away: the last 10 minutes are up a nice windy road, the asphalt pocked with sink holes from the rain.

I might have used a swear word.  Or ten.

She’s hurting badly by the time we ease into the parking lot. I hunt for the Emergency entrance.

What hospital puts a kazilllion speed bumps in front of the ER??

Continue reading “Emergency Room Camping”

A Cell Phone’s Revenge, and Mom is Possibly a Serial Killer

Shaun and the kids gave me an iPhone for Valentines day.  Prior to the iPhone, I had an Android.  I loved my Android.  I set it to give me directions in an English accent. When lost, having an authoritative voice give me directions in an English accent gave me confidence. I would become unlost, soon.  Someone British said so.

The Android broke up with me.  Shaun or the kids could use it, and it behaved beautifully.  When I used it, ten minutes after unplugged from the charger, it died.

I gave you seven minutes to talk.  You should have made your calls then.  I need a smarter owner.  I’m a smart phone.  Please find me a smart person. Us? No magic.

No matter how many times I turned off the Wi-Fi, the Bluetooth, the GPS, the refresh, they would mysteriously come back on, within an hour.

Lee Lee used it for an afternoon.  No problem.

The Android began to gaslight me. It subverted the app I downloaded: Advanced Task Killer.  Task Killer. I liked killing things on my phone. I killed them all.

An hour later, emails arrived.  Hey! I turned those off!  Checked settings.  It says email is turned off.  It’s not supposed to pick up email or contact the internet in any way. Subversion. Stealth. Quitting on me when I needed it the most. My phone was passive-agressive.   And completely out to get me.

It stopped ringing when family members called. I didn’t even get a missed call notice. This aggravated everyone. Thus the Valentine’s day iPhone.

The Android loved Micah, and worked just fine for him.  I wiped the phone, set it back to factory settings, hooked them up. Come to think of it, the British voice was female…

Yesterday, I got a phone call.

“Uh. Mom?”, said Micah.

“Hi baby!” I say, forgetting (again) you do not say this to an almost 16-year-old. “What’s up?”

“You know how you reset the phone?”, he says, “Like so nothing is on it?”

“Uh-huh”, I say, wondering where this is going.  Is the phone acting up for him too?

“I was wondering if you backed up the pictures and stuff”, he says, “so I could delete them.”

There are pictures on the phone?  I mentally file through the pictures I know were on the phone.



I smack my forehead. They should have been deleted automatically.

My phone didn’t just break up with me, it wanted revenge. There’s a couple of pics of Hudson, a few of the kids, Shaun, a few of the dog.


Continue reading “A Cell Phone’s Revenge, and Mom is Possibly a Serial Killer”

The Young and the Liftless

I relate my conversations with Hudson to Shaun.  Normal.  They go something like this:

Jane: You’re never going to believe what happened today.  Hudson is so smart.  You know how he’s been fine with me putting the rubber boot on his hoof?

Shaun: Mmmm.

Jane: He’s convinced he will die if he let me take it off, right?

Shaun: Uh. Mmmmm.

Jane: Today he argued.  He wouldn’t let me put the boot ON, because he’s figured out he’ll have to let me take it off. Smart, huh?

Shaun: Did you say you had an argument with Hudson?

Jane: Not an argument exactly.  More like a conversation with very strong feelings.

Shaun: (putting down book)  Tell me about it.

Jane: I got all the stuff ready, he saw the boot and said: forget it. You know I don’t care if you put it on.  I don’t care if my hoof is in it.  But I don’t like when you take it off.  The rubber touches my leg.  Not working for me.  Figure something else out.  Not cooperating.

Shaun: So did he talk to you like this the entire time?

Jane: Oh yeah.

Shaun: Tell me.

Jane: (surprised Shaun is interested) Okay.  I cleaned out his hooves, leaving the hurt one for last, figuring he’d be in the pattern by then, and I totally expected he’d pick it up.

Shaun: I meant: tell me like you were talking to each other.

Continue reading “The Young and the Liftless”

General Horspital

I expected, on day 3 of abscess treatment, Hudson’s “hoof seam” would be open and draining, like a good little abscess.  We do not have a good little abscess.  We have a sneaky, wandering abscess.

I am not happy to be The Abscess Queen today. Because instead of telling someone else where things stand, I had to tell myself:

  • This is going to be a long one
  • He’s going to hurt
  • I have to make him work while he hurts
  • I have to withhold (within reason) Bute unless it blows wide open. If I mask the pain, I won’t be able to help him, or I might work him too hard.  It’s a balancing act.  You want blood pumping through his legs and hooves, cleaning things out, and exercise does that.  But you also don’t want to torture your horse and put them in big pain.
  • I had to reassure myself of my qualifications: You have ten years of doing this balancing act. You know what you’re doing, so relax ma’am, you got it covered. You also know when it’s time to call the vet.
  • What reassures other people is not reassuring me.  How unfair is THAT?
  • What I want to do is cry.
  • My boy is ouchy.  He has a boo boo!  It hurts!
  • This is just the beginning of the pain
  • Doctors are not allowed to work on family members?  Get it.

The abscess is migrating along the outside of the hoof wall toward the bulb. The opening closed up.  Not skinned over: sealed.  Another seam had opened an inch or so behind this one.  I soaked that sucker.  Tried gently to open the seam.  Not skinned over. Sealed.

When I was finally able to convince him the soaking boot was not a magical gravity boot, and get it off, the right bulb of that hoof was twice the size of the left.  I think that’s where it’s going to open.  Better, pain-wise, since the bulb has some ability to expand.

I’m trying not to think how much harder it will be treatment wise, given the rain, the mud, his hatred of stalls, and pray for a nice little dime sized opening up high, that will drain right out, and be easy to keep open and clean.

Hudson’s farrier, Dane, was here Friday shoeing other clients.  He really likes Hudson, so took a look. Said he’s seeing a lot of abscesses this winter.  And this year, they are being sneaky, going underground and then blowing open a week later.  At that point, I felt we were seeing the worst, and Hudson had a straight-shooting abscess.  Nope.  Proceeding just like other horses in the area.

I learned a new thing:

When it’s someone else’s horse, you do your job, know it’s going to be okay, and go home and sleep like a baby, happy you are helping save your friend a big vet bill.

When it’s your horse, you wake up at 2 am, and wonder if you soaked it long enough, if it’s draining yet, if he’s okay, if you should call the vet.

But you don’t call the vet, because the vet would tell you to do exactly what you’re doing (and wonder why you called).

Therapy.  I would call for the kind of psychotherapy only a vet can give: he’s going to be fine…

Magical words when spoken by an authoritative veterinarian.

Sucky words when spoken by your brain TO your brain.

(I hope you can hang in with me, it’s going to be a long week.)

When A Hitch in the Giddy-Up Isn’t What It Seems

Hudson has a recurring muscle spasm in his shoulder, right below the withers, but above the shoulder itself.  He hasn’t been lame.  He’s been…off.  I have used massage, Sore No More, heat, stretching, and work.  It gets better, even goes away.  Next day: it’s back. Hard and baseball-sized.

I started worrying.  Bute helped a little.  It should have helped much more.  I checked his hoof temperatures, they were even all the way around.  Looked for soft spots on his sole, just in case.  No bruising.  He’s trotting out and putting his weight normally on that hoof. Unlikely it’s an abscess.  They usually come on quickly, and are immediately painfully obvious.

But he’s not right.  I put an oversize (waterproof) heating pad on his shoulder, slipping it under his blanket.  It’s a chilly day.  He loves the heat.  I can’t leave him for a second (electricity) so I decide to thoroughly brush his legs.  Stimulate circulation as well as get the mud off. I scrape mud off his hooves.

I’m brushing the leg with the sore shoulder, all the way down to the coronet band.  Odd. A couple of hairs are sticking up funny.  They don’t brush down.  I feel the spot.  Bingo.

Abscess! I’ve never seen one on an outer hoof wall.  At first I’m not positive what I’m seeing.  Check the bulb of his hoof, a more usual abscess area.  Normal.

Definitely a split hoof where there was not one yesterday.  I shave the hair away.  Get the soaking boot, epsom salts, betadine, and start boiling some water.  Luckily, thanks to Tiny, I have no abscess fear.  I can fix this.  I call Bella to check protocol on treating an exterior hoof abscess, I’ve never seen one on the outside wall of a hoof this far from the bulb. Needed to make sure it was the same treatment.

Last time he had an abscess?  Hind hoof, exterior wall, just below the coronet band. Good to go: this is within normal parameters for him.  It also explains the recurring muscle spasm in the shoulder.  He’s compensating and his shoulder is sore.

Photo of (black) abscess seam below.  Red is betadine, not blood.

Poor Hudson.

He’s terrific about the Davis boot and the soaking.

He’s horrified when I want to take the boot off.  He’s convinced the boot May Not Be Moved for any reason.  His hoof is in there, and it’s going to stay there!  I tried everything, including an elbow in the stomach.  Nope.  He grit his teeth and planted that foot.  He moved all the others for me, to show he wasn’t being bad, he was willing to move hooves, just not THAT one.  Had I not noticed THAT one was now attached to the ground?

It took two of us to get the boot off.  One to “untrack” him, leading him forward or sideways, while I stood like a quarterback ready for the handoff. The instant his knee was bent, I whipped the boot off.

As Bella said: this is why we wait a few days, (when there is no heat or swelling), because it might be something easy, like an abscess!

Whew.  A good lesson in the thing that presents, a locked up shoulder, might simply be a symptom of the real problem: a hoof.




When Hung by the Neck On the Saddle Horn of a Bucking Horse, Helmets Can Make you Nervous

I don’t ask why often enough.

If I am open and curious, the answer to why is frequently eye-opening, and if I’m lucky, humbling.

I asked Kimber, a highly experienced horsewoman, why she chose not to wear a helmet when riding.  When I heard her answer, I asked if I could share it with you.  Very generously, she said yes.

Because wearing/not wearing a helmet is such a hot topic, this is a risky thing for her to do.  I’d like it if we could not debate her choice, and use her answer as a springboard to ask each other more whys. Why do you choose to wear one?  Why do you choose to go without?  When would the scales tip for you?

I’d like to see if we could suspend judgement, or feeling ‘right’.  I’m not being holier-than-thou.  I’ve had a rigid position on helmet wearing, (if you missed Jane’s Decree: Everyone Should Wear One All The Time) and broadcast it ad nauseam.  I’m a bit ashamed of that. Not because I changed my mind on my personal preferences.  But because it totally shut up all dialogue with rational, interesting, experienced, and decent people. And I was a judgmental moron. (Sorry to my long-suffering, rational, interesting, experienced, decent friends and readers.)

I realized in her shoes, I might make the same choice.  I don’t know how you ‘get over’ something like this.

Kimber’s story:

One summer, I was working for a reining horse trainer, helping him with his green colts.

He was careful.  Everyone that worked for him had to wear a helmet.  This was no big deal to me.  My mom always made me wear one when I was little.

We were working in the big arena one day.  There were about six horses being worked, all at the same time.  I was on a new colt that had been there about a week.  He was a little fresh, but nothing out of the ordinary.  One of the other riders, a little way away from me, was working on the rail doing roll-backs on a mare that had a reputation for having a bad attitude.

At some point, the little mare started bucking and raising a commotion, and she bolted in my direction.  This was the last straw for the colt I was on. He went to bucking. Nothing too bad at first.  But as I got him away from the fence, and toward the center of the arena, he really went to bucking.

Now please let me clarify – this trainer hired me because I am good at working with green horses – I can handle a bucking horse better than most – but there are always horses that can unseat their rider.  When I finally got out of rhythm with the colt’s temper tantrum, I came off.  Unfortunately I was not thrown away from him.

I ended up with the chin strap of my Troxel helmet caught on the horn of the reining saddle.  Not good.  I was hung up there by my head.

Continue reading “When Hung by the Neck On the Saddle Horn of a Bucking Horse, Helmets Can Make you Nervous”