We were on the best hunter pace of my Dutch Warmblood’s career to date. You know, the first time your horse really carries you to every fence, nails every distance, and flies over all of the solid stone walls and obstacles in the hunt field with ease. He was only three years under saddle despite his age (10) as his breeder had passed away from cancer and he had a bit of a rough go of it for a while so that made this ride all the sweeter. Everything just came together — even when my teammate opted for the go-rounds through the biggest set of livestock fields where once you jump in, the only way out is through a series of stone walls and obstacles until you jumped your way back out several fields over. Our hunt’s terrain is notoriously challenging but the footing was good and Cole took every jump like a seasoned eventer rather than a semi-green hunt horse. It was incredible!
And then we fell. Hard.
Nope, not over a jump. Not even near a jump for that matter. Coming back to the walk following tractor tracks in the short grass of a hay field where the grass was just a touch slick and the ground was a hair hard, and Cole was flat shod in front only. We had spent the summer trail riding and camping and conditioning between work travel and other obligations and the farrier was naturally scheduled for the next day to put back on drilled / tapped shoes all around as hunt season started to get into full swing. Turned out that was a day too late.
Cole lost his footing in front just barely, but it was enough to send him scrambling to his knees and side, landing clear on me. My air vest deployed a tiny bit late, since I was still on him and we fell together, but it prevented my bruised ribs from being much much worse. The pop of the cartridge startled my horse back to his feet in a flash where he scurried off to hide behind my teammate’s horse – mom blew UP! OMG! We all laughed.
Then I realized my ankle was pretty sore. Fortunately, my Free Jump stirrups released so that when Cole jumped up, my ankle came free but the twisting motion of us both falling together combined with the impact of his body and the hard ground made for a less than pleasant landing. Just a few jumps from the finish, I got a leg up, and on we rode. I tried to pick up the pace, but decided better of it, and hacked the last mile or so back at a reasonable speed.We took second and would have won had it not been for the delay in the field. My friend’s father helped with some Advil (and bourbon of course!), my teammate drove the rig home for me, and hey, I was weight bearing – how bad could it be?
Two days later when the color and size of my ankle and prompting from a few friends made me reconsider the initial decision to forego a trip to urgent care, I finally got an x-ray and got an answer to that question. The answer was pretty bad. Spiral comminuted fracture of the distal right fibula. Whoops. I opted without surgery (I already have more than enough hardware thanks to four knee surgeries among other things and am well aware of the long term implications) and promised (sort of) to be careful and take time off to heal (mostly). And since I could lightly weight bear, it was totally tolerable. Right?
The first few nights as the swelling went down and things became more unstable were quite painful, and rather than just lie there and wait to heal I decided to take matters into my own hands. After all, when my horses are injured, they always get the best of care. What better way to see how all of these products really helped my horses than trying them all on myself?
I promptly ordered a hand held laser to help with bone healing, accompanied by a hand held massager to keep the calf muscle relaxed and from cramping (because charlie horse on a broken ankle — OUCH!) from Brandenburg Equine Therapy. I knew Troy from his work on friends’ competition horses and we had met at then-Rolex / now Land Rover several years back and I had been meaning to order for my horses anyway! SCORE!
I dug out the Ice Vibe boots by Horseware Ireland that had made the trek to Kentucky with me annually and had been passed around the barns both there and at Jersey Fresh on more than one occasion. Pro tip: their hock boots are the perfect shape for human ankles, complete with pockets for the ice packs on either sides. Pro tip #2: using the vibration setting on a broken bone isn’t recommended (don’t ask me how I figured that out…).
I also used my Draper Therapies pillow wraps that also doubled as extra padding when icing and elevating when out of the dreaded walking boot, and my sport socks when I was in the boot and they helped with both pain and swelling thanks to the increased circulatory benefits (they are actually FDA approved too!).
As the weeks passed, I definitely noticed a difference on the days I used the laser and Draper vs. days I did not. The massager was a no-brainer, of course that helped. I’ve since ordered Free Jump stirrups for every saddle I own because had it not been for those stirrups, my tibia would have also been broken and surgery would have been a requirement with no weight bearing for some time and even more time out of the saddle. I ordered replacement cartridges for my Helite air vest from Soteria so that I could get back in the saddle and still be protected. And fortunately, my uvex helmet never hit the ground, so I knew I was still covered.
Seven months later, and while my right ankle is slightly larger and boasts a little extra bone than its left counterpart, I’m back to jumping and riding without issue. I still use all of my #eventersolutions products on myself — as well as my horses — after every ride, and yes, Cole is in drilled / tapped shoes or boriums for every ride on any natural footing. Here’s to jumping a whole lot more big stuff in the hunt field and maybe even at a few actual events this year! I hope these tips help
you I mean your horses with any of your healing woes. Go eventing!