Friday, November 5, 2010

My experience with horses last week (duplicate post)

Let me just tell you a story about animals and farming from my own life today.

We keep a few cattle around the place (the Bale compound). The purpose of these animals at some point was to raise show calves to sell to 4-H'ers and other kids who show at fairs. But as I moved off to college and the sheep became a bigger and now more successful part of our farm we've moved most of our efforts to raising sheep. Let's just say the cows haven't gotten a lot of interaction the past year or so.

We've got 3 cows out in the field; Joy is definitely the mother figure in the bunch which is lucky for us because she is a greedy pig when it comes to food and she is also tame around people. She wouldn't hurt you intentionally, or at least not without warning. Kiko and Bubbles are a bit more tricky, but following Joy, it didn't take long to trick all three of them into the pasture behind the barn where my cousin keeps her horse. This is where it gets complicated. We just needed to get some heat detection patches on them.

Horses and cattle inherently just don't get along. It's like Dems and Republicans. It's bred into them and they haven't a care in the world for each other, unless they can both get fat at the same party. But horses being bigger like to pick on cattle and push them around. This is a problem when we're moving cattle around, especially through a horse pen. Let's not be fooled, Joy is easily near a ton in weight, but since the horse is taller, she's still programmed to flee because she doesn't like being picked on. With the gate open for the cattle, who were scared of the horse but hungry for the feed I had my hand on the horse's head pushing her away when broke into just a few steps of trot with my hand still against her.

I can't say whether she meant to kick me before she broke into the trot or she decided to after I still didn't move, but my general policy is not to run away from animals. It has worked out positively more often than not and I settled into this attitude once I became too big to cross a fence in under 2 seconds anymore. Most of what an animal does is for show purposes to frighten you, but this time she wasn't joking.

I saw the kick coming before it happened. She hit that right front leg hard and the muscles rippled down her back so I had enough time to bring my right arm around to block what I expected to be a kick in the face. I would really hate to lose my teeth. Because I was planning to block with my forearm, I got kicked in the elbow as I realized she was going after my rib cage instead. Even with the kick deflected by my elbow, I absorbed the blunt impact in the rib cage and I can't really remember if I fell, was knocked over or just slowly collapsed to the ground. All I can remember at that point was knowing that the horse had run off and I had cows loose that needed in, and that I couldn't breathe at all.

I've done stupid things like riding a sled face first downhill on a ramp, and knocked the wind clean out of me. This wasn't the same. For half a minute there, I couldn't get breaths in, but I could see Amanda freeze in her place, and Mom moving the horse. Every heartbeat was wild pain while my chest ripped with every breath. Stretching out on the ground helped ease the pain and breathing. I think the adrenaline from something like that always acts as my first level pain reducer because I just wanted the job done at that point and didn't think again about how much I hurt until afterward.

Am I sore now, 5 days later? Sure, I'm sore, but I think that laying there on the ground a minute and taking it easy the whole next couple of days helped speed my recovery. I can't quite unbend my elbow and basketball will be a bit challenging for a while, but I'm still able to think about playing again next week, so at this point I'm obviously not in that bad of shape. I had just finally started healing up the bruised bone I had in my rib area from some foolhardiness in the past, so it's going to be sore for a while, but sparing some sparring competition with Tony, I should be just fine. Nothing broken and limited bone bruising on my elbow and lower ribs/sternum seems like a small price to pay for getting out of that one.

It all goes to show how unpredictable animals can be and why people who have little or no experience around animals should be extra careful in their mannerisms near animals. Animals can often mistake what you're trying to do, it even happens to me and I've been working with them since we moved back to Ohio. Talk about misunderstandings, I have definitely come a long way since those days, but there is no behavior problem with animals (or humans) that couldn't stand a little patience in the solution. Accidents happen; this is just one more to chalk off to God having some better plan for my future. I can honestly say that I have only been kicked by a horse once before, in the head, but the difference was that kick was unintentional or it would've done serious damage, whereas this was grumpy and malicious.

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