Thursday, March 16, 2017

One-Legged Weather

You may remember that it was last spring that I began struggling to dismount my horses and noticed a pain in my right leg that eventually needed the assistance of a cane in order to walk.  The doctor diagnosed it as arthritis, a common deterioration of the joints that comes with age.  Even with the help of anti-inflammatory medications, the pain was great enough that I figured this was my last year of riding horses.

You may have also noticed that I've been riding a lot and haven't mentioned any leg pain in a while.  That's because I didn't have any.  I figured the whole arthritis thing was just a temporary inconvenience, and it was safe for me to resume life as usual.  However, this week my leg pain returned with a vengeance and I found myself struggling just to walk a few feet.  Yesterday, I was feeling panicked because I couldn't even take the dogs out without nearly collapsing.

My doctor said to not take any additional medications for inflammation and pain because they would "just ruin my stomach".  I decided to test that out and took two additional Ibuprofen.  As soon as I ate something, I threw up.  Okay.  The doctor was right.  To top it all off, I was so sleepy from being drugged up that I couldn't do anything anyway, and the whole reason why I was trying to keep the pain at bay was so I could ride a horse.

I thought things through and made the connection that my arthritis is exacerbated by hot weather.  That's why I'm always a cripple in the spring and summer.  We've had temps in the 50s and 60s all winter, and that's why I wasn't feeling any pain.  This week we skipped right past the 70s and 80s, and have been hovering in the 90s.  I think the extreme jump in temperature kind of sent my body into shock.

I usually don't stop riding horses until May.  I should have three more months before my summer hibernation begins.  I needed a game plan to work around my pain, but couldn't take more medication.  I knew that if I went to the doctor and asked for a different medication, I'd probably become a vegetable who sleeps all the time.  So, I decided to work around the heat instead of working around the pain since my energy is such a precious resource.

Normally, I feed my horses before sunrise and they eat until noon.  Then I ride.  However, now it is too hot by noon for my leg to behave.  So, I gave the horses half of their breakfast rations, and rode at 9:00 to 10:00 AM.  That did the trick.  I definitely found myself racing against the sun and several other factors, and I kept making mistakes like getting the cinch stuck under the saddle and crossing the reins.  It was trash pick-up day, so I was racing to get out into the desert before the trash truck arrived.  The driver always parks in front of the gate I need to ride through, and sits there with his engine idling for a long time.  A lot of business people have found that turnout to the bridle trails to be a good place to pull over and to call in communications to headquarters, but it's frustrating for me, because they are in my way when they do that.

My other big obstacle is the home shoppers.  They always show up in mass right between 9:00 and 10:00 AM every morning, and they either park by the gate to the bridle trails or stand around out in front of the house and distract and spook my horses.  I want to avoid them all together, especially if they have little kids who want to run up to pet the horsey, or if they want to pick my brain for information about the house and neighborhood.  No.  That's my riding time.  Nobody takes my riding time away from me.  It's hard to explain to people that I've only got so much energy and so much time before I lose the use of my leg, so I need them to get out of my way and let me go while I've got the chance.

Lately, there's been a man on a motorcycle driving past the house multiple times a day.  His engine is so loud that when he is simply idling at a stand still, not accelerating at all, I can feel the vibration through my house, and can't hear anything over the noise.  He toured the house for about an hour yesterday morning, and returned today with another man on the back of the motorcycle.  Instead of just turning off his engine and showing the guy around, he idled in front of the house and the two of them yelled back and forth to each other.  I heard them talking about how far back the property goes.  When you consider how quiet our neighborhood normally is, having that motorcycle buzzing our area several times a day is incredibly disruptive.

So, here I was trying to race out to the trails before motorcycle guy came back and the trash truck picked up our trash and the heat set in worse than it already had.  I got out into the desert and started hearing a hollow banging behind us.  It sounded like my horses kicking empty water troughs, only this was a rather frantic sound, like a horse had gotten its legs caught in the metal water trough and was struggling to escape.  I turned back, ready to cancel my ride in order to rescue some idiot horse back at the barn.  Then I saw the source of the noise.  A long dump truck was at my neighbor's house dumping something.  If it was that loud when I was out in the desert, I could only imagine how loud the dumping would have been if I were still at home.  I was so glad to get out before that thing showed up.

Rock totally impressed me on this ride.  He listened much better about the unwanted snacking along the trails.  I figured that since he only got half his breakfast, he'd be fighting me all the way for grass and branches, but he was pretty good.  He also kept a purposeful pace.  No lollygagging.  I think not having a full stomach helped him keep his energy up.  No food coma.  He was gawking a lot, but I didn't see or hear what he was seeing or hearing.  He can sense people and horses that are half a mile away.  He was also showing signs of becoming a seasoned trail horse, because once whoever was distracting him had moved on, he was paying attention to the ground, watching where he stepped, and choosing the wisest path around cactus, bushes and rocks.

I was paying close attention to the ground myself, because it was super snaky out there.  There was a news story last night about a fire department that had 60-something snake removal calls just in this week alone.  I suspect Rock picked up on where I was focusing my attention, so he too started watching the ground.  That helped me to relax a little.  I think we did walk past a handful of snakes in bushes, because I kept hearing sudden movements when we passed that were more along the lines of snaky movement than lizard or bird movement.  When you hear wildlife all the time, you learn subtle differences in sounds.

Oh yeah, that reminds me.  I spotted a baby bunny under my haystack last night.  I'm hoping to introduce myself to this litter when it is young enough that I can maybe have another wild rabbit friend to sit with me in the evenings.  I miss Charity.  Nobody comes when I call anymore.  All I see are ground squirrels gathering hay for their nests and swishing their tails at me as a warning to stay away.

Pink flower buds on a cactus.

While approaching the road on the way home, I tried listening for the trash truck, but planes kept flying overhead, drowning out any chance for me to hear the truck.  I took my chances and crossed the road.  Our trash never got picked up.  Perhaps the truck broke down.  Amazingly, no one was looking at the house next door either.

I did struggle to dismount.  My leg got stuck on Rock's rump again.  He wanted to lower his head to graze, and I was alternating between keeping his head up and trying to drag my leg the rest of the way over.  I swear, I couldn't ask for a more easygoing horse than Rock.  He'd let me use him as a jungle gym if I wanted.  He'd make a good drill team horse, because he can tolerate his rider hanging off of him and doing flips or whatever.  There have been plenty of times where I had to just fall off him and land on my rump because my leg couldn't hold me up, and he has no reaction whatsoever.  I totally adore this horse...

I was hopping on one leg by the time I did get off, but I still managed to make sure that everyone got the second half of their breakfast.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I feel bad for you with your leg pain. Could it be your hip that's causing the pain. I only ask because it sounds similar to what my sister struggles with. If it's a hip,that can be replaced, get a second opinion with a different medical group.

I wish I had a horse like Rock! He's wonderful. Maybe you could train him to lay down when you get on or off. Like in the Horse Whisperer movie.

Camryn said...

Bad enough having riding time put aside by weather, neighbors & pain keeping you from the saddle on top of it 😖😖😖. Have you ever tried tumeric for your arthritis? You can google tumeric golden paste to read up on its benefits if you haven't. I've used it for skin problems with major success, Hubs uses it for arthritis in his feet and it's helped. I had Camryn on it for her sweet itch as well. A friend has just started using it on her gelding for arthritis too.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

GHM - Long story short, I suspect my hip, but the imaging place mixed up my x-rays with someone else's. My father had a hip replacement, immediately got cancer, and then died, so I'm wary of major surgery. My father actually walked worse and was in worse pain after the surgery. I just don't trust doctors.

Camryn - I just looked up tumeric. It's sounds like an interesting, versatile resource. I saw that I'd have to go off my current medication to use it, because they can't be taken at the same time.

Crystal said...

Glad you found something that works for you. In the summer here I have to get up and ride before 10 too cause otherwise its just too hot and it stays that way till long after dark.