Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Amputee on Horseback Salad

(A virtual gold doubloon to the one who identifies that extremely obscure movie reference.)

This is my mare Laredo, pintaloosa extraordinaire. She's a very unregistered 14 hand chestnut with snowflake appaloosa patches on her rump and a lot of roaning going on. Technically graying: her mother was a pinto. Crossing pintos with apps tends to bleach color out of appies and fades them whiter as they age. The Potato is almost eleven. I got her as a three year old. (I'll tell you that story another time. Suffice to say I decided to buy her while I was in mid-air as my then-horse evaporated out from under me once too often.)

I started Laredo  under saddle myself, patiently and thoroughly. I knew my steps on two legs were limited and I wanted a solid mount. She was already a smart, sensible boss mare, exactly what I wanted. A confident horse. 

I climbed back on her six weeks after my leg was amputated, even before my first prosthesis fitting. Was I going to quit riding just because my left leg had been cut off above the knee?? Hell, no!

Gifted Potato Princess Laredo and yrs truly

This was the last remnants of my machismo. I was running on the fumes of my nerve. (Apparently  courage is located in the knee.) I waved goodbye to my invincibility after a ride or two. It had to do with my age, too. Forty-five don't bounce like twenty. This was why I'd settled down with the Potato. I use to pride myself in climbing on (almost) every difficult horse I met; with one leg, I decided to stay in the shallow end of the pool. In the ring. Or the pasture. Always with a friend. It was a new definition of limitation. But it was appropriate. I was ready to go slower.

My method: I wore jeans with snaps all down the outside seam of one leg. When my mare was focused and ready to mount I led her to the wooden fence. I unsnapped my jeans leg, took off the prosthesis, leaned it against the fence and tied my pant leg in a knot. Then I climbed onto the fence, had Laredo step to the right spot and stand so I could slip right into the saddle. (At the local horsemanship clinic I went to every year, they got a big kick out it when I went as a uni-ped. "OK, everyone get mounted. Hold on a minute, Liz has to take off her leg.")

I missed the weight of my leg. I experimented with bean bags, cuff weights and things. The part of my left calf muscle against Laredo's flank was played by the long dressage whip in my left hand. I also found how well I could ride by my thighs, seat bones, weight and intention. And Laredo was great. She really enjoys being ridden; granted, she'd rather not be enclosed. (She wanted to be a cutting horse when she grew up.) But she definitely likes being in my herd and being given a job.

I rode those first few summers I was an amputee. Now it's been almost three years. I moved and I don't have a riding ring anymore. Still, no excuse. A thousand days without sitting on a horse? I've never gone that long in my life, not since my first pony ride when I was three or four. I wasn't out of equine commission more than eighteen months when I had osteomyelitis as a kid.

And now it's May. I need to get back on my horse. And look: I'm putting it in writing. I'm going to climb on my mare, even if we stay in the kiddy-pool of my homemade round pen. Laredo's game.

Hold me to it, OK?


  1. Ooo! I wanna play!!!
    "45 don't bounce like 20" still giggling.....:-)

    1. And fifty is probably damn ugly...I don't want to know. :-)

  2. I'm a new AK & am 41. Thanks for the encouragement! And ps- nothing bounces lile 25, lol