Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Lucky Break & Thumbs Up For Safety

It’s time to practice typing so what better way to do so than to write my latest blog entry?

So…. Saturday morning, Lynn came to pick up Coconut and I to go on a trail ride down in Orting along the river with Kim. I got all my gear loaded up and went to lead the princess into the trailer & she bolted backwards. I’ve heard that term before but never fully understood what it meant until then.

Normally she walks right in any trailer and I have never had a problem since day one that we hauled her home to KCJ. We’ve been on plenty of adventures with many different horses and trailers. While she’s never hauled with Kitty or Lynn, she’s certainly met them both before so this was nothing new. I’ve replayed the whole thing in my head over and over and I can’t say what caused it…We walked in pretty calmly, the trailer tie safety hook was closed so I draped my (safely “folded”) lead rope over my arm and reached up with both hands to undo the hook from the sliding safety latch. Kitty, who was happily munching on hay & already clipped in turned her head to us and let out a greeting but it didn’t seem all that aggressive and Coconut’s reaction wasn’t immediate so I’m not convinced that was it either but she went flying backwards and I reacted by reaching back with my right hand to grab the lead. I caught it thumbs-down and she managed to pull it through my hands, stopping behind the trailer.

Of course, I’m thinking “NO WAY!” and reached back again with my right hand to grab the rope but my hand couldn’t grasp it. I thought maybe it was stunned for a moment and reached with my left hand to grab the rope to lead her in and she stepped up but again bolted backward. This time I took a deep breath to clear my head and try to figure out how we were going to get past this and happened to look down at my right hand…it wasn’t looking right. In fact, my pinky finger was bent to the left and poking my ring finger at an odd angle. I looked at my left hand to compare and they did not match at all.

I asked Lynn what she thought and she thought it might be just the joint and maybe if she pulled it and put it back, we could tape it and still ride. In a sane world I don’t think I’d let anyone pull my finger even it if wasn’t injured!! But at that moment, all I wanted to do was ride and so I held my hand out to her, granting permission…the moment she pulled (very gently, I might add) I knew it was not the joint. I felt movement in my bone between the base of my finger and that large knuckle. I informed her that she was going to have to go on to the ride without me and I was going to head to a doctor. We unloaded the gear and put Coconut away. Lynn splinted my finger with supplies from my Equine First Aid kit and then I called Kim to apologize for not making it. I assured Lynn I was fine and that she really should go. I was REALLY annoyed with myself at that point...but surprisingly calm!

I have this total hate-affair with the Emergency Room at St. Francis so I’ll do just about anything to avoid it. I remembered that the UW Clinic had Saturday hours so I called to plead with them to let me come in for an x-ray but that I was sure it was broken (they tend to get annoyed with me when I call and tell them what’s wrong with me and what they need to do…they’ve told me in the past that “they’d” like to diagnose my problems themselves, please…but I’m never wrong, fyi!) so the first thing out of the coordinator’s mouth after she pulls up my record is “My, you seem to have a lot of home injuries!”… Realizing what she’s alluding to, I correct her…”NO, I have a horse” (besides, my husband is out of town and these things often happen when he’s no where around!) She goes on to tell me how she’s afraid of horses & amazed she is at how funny I am considering I have a broken finger and all…what was I supposed to do? Cry? It donned on me that it hadn’t actually hurt yet…

Unfortunately, it turned out that their x-ray machine was not working so she was going to try to get me in at the Kent-Des Moines clinic and would have them call me if they could fit me in. She wished me luck and was practically laughing when we hung up…I don’t think I was that funny…. but she was amused & that was at least keeping things lighthearted. So I continued home as it was on they way to the other clinic and I’d wait there for their call. When they finally called their coordinator was not as amused with me and actually delivered the news that they really felt that this was more serious than they were equipped to resolve so instructed me to go to the ER at St. Francis. Boo-Hiss! This is not how I wanted to handle it. I thought my plan was so much simpler.

My biggest problem with St. Francis has nothing to do with the facility or the staff…in fact; they’re all very nice and helpful there. My issue is that there are some people who practically live there. They use it as their main medical office and clutter up the waiting room with their troop of (slightly?) ill kids. I don’t mean several families…I mean one mother with her four kids…who all have the sniffles today. The last time I was forced to go there (practically kicking and screaming!), I had burned my hand at about 10pm and waited there for FOUR hours behind a woman who brought in her kids, one who had been hit by a car in their apartment parking lot (ok…. I’m not being insensitive here…even the mother claimed it was at a slow speed!) at 4:30pm…but since she was coming into the ER anyway, she brought all of her kids in to be checked out…they had coughs. nasty coughs that they didn’t seem to care to cover…. but no one looked like they were dying or in pain. They were chasing each other around the room and causing problems. Meanwhile I AM in pain (the kind that did make me cry) from a burn to my hand. The misuse of the ER just gets my typically low blood pressure way up. This was probably a Monday or Tuesday and they could have easily gotten an appointment with a Pediatrician the next day…or taken the kid who got hit by the car to the ER at, say 4:45 – 5:00pm (that’s what I’d do…ya know…if it were MY Kid!)

So I grabbed Corey to keep me company but when we got there I honestly didn’t have to wait more than 5 minutes and there were only two people in the waiting room at 11:30am. I got in, the took some x-rays & I managed to whack my head on the overhead x-ray camera, which is still a little sore (I know…I know…can’t take me anywhere!) but we were able to determine that, YES! it was broken. They showed me the break…a diagonal starting from under the big knuckle on the inside and continuing across down toward the outside of my right Pinky to the base. The PA did remark that who ever did my splint did a nice job! YAY!!

By this time I was loosing my sense of humor. She said the adrenaline was probably wearing off and since I seemed a bit grumpier than when I arrived she asked if I’d like something for the pain…it was sore but didn’t seem to hurt but then I have kind of a high threshold for pain (must be the practice!) and it occurred to me that it just might start hurting really bad at some point very soon so I opted for a local nerve block which would numb it for 8 hours and I figured that would probably keep me pain free until almost bed time! YAY! They splinted it with a softer splint than the tongue depressor that Lynn had snapped in half & sent me on my merry way with a referral to Orthopedics on Monday.

As we were getting ready to leave the staff was discussing a Mom and her brood of three kids with colds who were there again…for the millionth time this week (I have to wonder if it was the same Mom from several years ago but it’s probably just another family who’s learned to use the ER as their general practice office.) I was in and out in less than an hour so my timing must have been perfect because the waiting room now held 20 or more people (or maybe just three families…who knows! blog, my rant...sorry...)

The block worked great and I actually went out to lunch with Corey & then headed back to the barn to hang out. That night, however, I could tell the block was wearing off so I nested with the home pets, Lola, Buddha & Captn’ Jack and took something a little stronger to relax. The plan to sleep through the pain actually worked. I KNOW… you’re expecting a better story than that…but this time it went just as I planned.

So Monday comes along and I go to the Orthopedics appointment and Dr. Wells tells me that we did such a good job of splinting that we avoided surgery. I promptly gave all the props to Lynn for pulling it and Dr. Wells said she should into Orthopedics because she did a great job of resetting it. Normally that type of break…spiral AND diagonal…would have required resetting and pinning! YAY Lynn!!!!!! Whew!!! Yay for me too. I was worried about that.

Dr. Wells offered me the choice of a “petite” cast or a two-finger splint. I told her that I intended to ride and that I had a show in 2.5 weeks so she bargained with me that if I would agree to the cast, she’d remove it prior to the show and evaluate afterward. Typically she would like it immobilized 3-4 weeks. So I have a cast…a bright pink one that I’m having a challenge in trying to color coordinate with! Today I just ignored it and went with my favorite black/red winter wear!

Oh...and the irony of it all...One day I win a national contest that's centered on Safe Riding with Helmets and the next day I'm in the ER with a horse-related injury....It could be worse, as someone pointed out, it could have been a brain scan instead!! does take me down a notch in my Coconut Week High...but mostly I was upset that I missed the river it's kind of settled in and life with a cast is not as fun as it could be if I was actually trying to get out of doing something. Age & life have a way of changing how you see things. There's not much I'd prefer NOT to do....I'm living my life pretty full and this slows things way down!

I have asked myself what did “I” do wrong in this situation. I folded, not looped, my lead rope, I walked into the trailer and she followed but somehow when the unexpected occurred I got injured and I’d like not to do that again so here’s my take…

I’m calling it “Thumbs Up For Safety”

Normally when I hold a lead I have my hand between the horse and the rope, my fingers closed around the rope with my thumb on top. I’d never given it much thought and when I passed the thought by my trainer she didn’t really have an immediate reaction either…but… when my horse went backwards, my reaction was to follow the horse in a sweeping motion away from myself and toward the horse, placing my hand ahead of the horse and rope, with my fingers closed around it and my thumb pointing down.

A "Thumbs Down" to the Thumbs Down Hold

I do have a bit of history with this particular pinky…it was injured (yes, a totally separate injury from many years ago) in a glass accident where all the tendons to my right hand were severed. After having them all surgically reattached, the tendons to the pinky and ring finger welded together as they healed. They don’t work completely independent from each other and the pinky basically has no strength on it’s own.

So when I caught the lead rope and tried to give it pressure…while she was pulling back…she, being the stronger of the two, yanked the rope harder and it drew my weak and defenseless little pinky back across the top of my hand…it twisted & snapped.

What would I do different?

To start off with, we’re going to work on some trailer loading just to be sure she’s still good. I, however, will focus on keeping my thumb pointed up when I have hold of the lead rope and I will try to remember that I do not possess the strength and power to physically stop a fast moving horse with my hand. It’s going to take trying to keep control of the situation & being safety conscious. I actually thought I was being safe but I’ve also learned that safety must be practiced before it’s performed in a stressful situation...Like all those one-rein stops Chrissy had me practice have come in several times! I’m glad I didn’t have to think about it…we drilled it until it was second nature. Coconut learned it too. One day when she broke into a canter that she wasn’t comfortable with, we took about four strides before it occurred to her that we were cantering and she turned her head all the way to the left and basically one rein stopped herself when she lost her confidence and got scared. I had to laugh at her…but her heart was beating fast and I could tell it wasn’t just defiance…it was her way of correcting something she scared of, but there she was with her nose on my boot, just as we’d done so many times before.

Probably the better hold!?

And maybe you don’t have a weak pinky and are just fine with the thumbs down hold but I’m sharing this with you because when I mentioned it to Ken, he said lots of horse people break their pinkies in the exact same way…so maybe it’s a coincidence but I’m not taking any chances, especially now that I’ll have a weakness there anyway because of this break…a “Lucky Break”? Maybe…. but I sure to have to “Hand” it to Lynn for saving me from surgery!

I’m giving her a big PINK thumbs Up!!


  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your photo explanations! Awesome!

  2. Dontcha love the look of humiliation on Coconut's face in the demo photos? like..."really must we go over this again!?"

    I asked her to pretend she's all crazy and stupid for the photos but she swore she wasn't "that kind of horse!" right, Coconut and that's a fake cast on my hand!!!