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The Rider’s Inner Monologue: Vet Check Day

Today’s the day. It’s been six months of stall rest due to a tendon injury and today is judgement day after endless hours of hand-walking, icing, and wrapping. You’re nervous, you’re sweating, you’re looking at your breakfast like it’s something that just crawled up out of the pond near the outdoor ring, you’re- wait. This isn’t you, this is me, sorry. My name is Jenna and I’m a SmartPaker. I’m also a long-time horse owner/rider and a semi-professional overthinker. I’m here to take you through my inner monologue so you can laugh, cringe, groan, and beam along with me. (The laughing may be at me sometimes and that’s okay, too.) Are you still with me? Awesome, let’s just forget about breakfast entirely and get to the barn so we can panic in a different setting, that always helps.

Pull into the barn driveway and check the time, it’s only two hours before the vet is due to arrive, which feels like barely enough time to get my horse ready. Hershey, my 20yo Dutch Warmblood gelding, hasn’t seen the inside of a show ring in four years, but you can bet your bottom dollar that his legs will be washed, tail banged, mane shortened, ears and whiskers trimmed (to an appropriate length for a retiree), and generally buffed and polished to maximum shine for his appointment. Just because we’ve had soundness issues doesn’t mean we have cleanliness issues, after all. Granted, all of that shouldn’t really take two hours, but considering whenever I touch a leg I have to obsessively run my hands over it, it ends up taking a bit more time than the average groo- OH MY LANTA WHAT IS- oh no, he had that scrape earlier this week. That’s not new, no worries. (Cue nervous chuckling to myself.) The horse looks great, I look a mess, and that’s how I know we’re ready.

Now comes the fun part, waiting. It’s time for the appointment, but as vets do, mine is a bit behind schedule due to a fussy client earlier in the morning (no judgement, I’m definitely that client on other days). I do a top-notch job pretending like that’s totally fine and I’m not a nervous wreck, but I can sense my barn manager watching me and she gently reminds me my horse’s miniscule forelock doesn’t need to be fluffed… again. She’s right. While I wait I really work to find inner peace and calm through meditation, and for 17 glorious seconds it works. Until a horse snorts and I start thinking of all the things that could happen today. Hershey could be supremely naughty, he could get loose and we could have a major setback. Or maybe he’s just getting too old to make a comeback and my vet will have to give me some tough love. What if I’ve done a bad job and he could have made a comeback but instead he’s going to be on stall rest even longer because I’m incompetent? Okay, stop. This isn’t getting us anywhere. Let’s brush Hersh’s tail out one more- IS THAT A CAR PULLING IN?

It is. It is a car. It’s the vet’s car. The vet is driving the car. Okay his assistant is driving the car but the vet is in the car and he’s going to come look at my horse and OH HECK THE HORSE. I left the horse! Okay, no big deal, no one noticed. Go back to the barn and grab Hershey (put on his nice leather halter, we have company). Present him proudly and nervously to the scrutiny of the vet and assistant. Wait with breath held, don’t make eye contact with your horse. Walk Hershey this way, then that way, then trot him- internal gasp. They want me to trot him? That has to be a good sign right? He must not look horrible at the walk if they want to see him trot? Or what if he looks so bad at the walk they need to see him trot to- Wait, aren’t we supposed to be trotting? Crap. Wipe blank look of horror off of face and gently cluck the horse-suddenly-turned-kite into a trot. Growl once under breath so the vet can’t hear me threaten ‘less carrots’ (not ‘no carrots’ though because I’m not a monster). Subtly/frantically pull Hershey back into a walk desperately before running vet over on the way back.

Let the vet finish writing things on his clipboard. Let him finish. Wait. Patiently. Is he writing the next Game of Thrones book? What is happening here? How long has he been writing? Why is no one saying anything? He’s been writing for so long I’m starting to get lightheaded. Remind self to breathe, oh right, that’s why I’m lightheaded. Vet starts talking, but it sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown, what is he saying??? Breathe again and words start to form “-looking great, I’m so pleased with his progress! We can start having him walk under saddle this week for twenty min-“ Am I hearing this right? My horse isn’t lame forever? We can actually tack up and ride? Am I being punk’d? Ashton Kutcher, where you at? The vet gives Hersh some big pats that are almost slaps and tells me how great he looks multiple times and how he can’t wait to come back to see us in a month to see how we’re doing. He shakes my hand, gives me a smile, hands me some papers with all his notes and instructions and a baggie, and moves onto the next horse. I feel like it’s been years since I got to the barn this morning. Check my watch- the appointment took about 22 minutes, so maybe not years. Something warm brushes my arm and I jump- oh right, sorry, Hersh! Give him a million pats and all the carrots before putting him back in his stall. Lean against the stall door. Actually breathe.

I’ll check the paperwork and baggie later, but for now it’s time to try and get my resting heart rate back to normal. Is this typical for other horse people? Do all riders and owners worry like this? Why do I get so worked up? Oh right, because Hersh isn’t just a pet, he’s a four-legged family member. That makes me feel a little less crazy. Well, now I have a month to mentally prepare (and maybe do some cardio) before the next vet visit. Even better, though, in-between these visits my horse can get out of his stall and be ridden again! I’m choosing to focus on how exciting that is rather than how terrifying it could be. That’s a panic for another day. Today is a win and I’m in desperate need of some kind of chocolate and a nap. Oh wait, are you still here? You made it through all of that? You deserve chocolate and a nap, too! If you’re heading out to the barn, though, pat your ponies from me. I hope your barn visit is less stressful than mine was. Phew.

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