When Stealth was younger, he and his owner, Diana, competed in a lot of endurance races.
Sometimes - usually in transitions between gaits - his left stifle would lock up. Although it corrected itself pretty quickly, his vital stats would shoot through the roof, and he'd get eliminated at the vet check. On the advice of her vet, Diana started giving him monthly hormone shots. Between that and his eventual transition from race horse to trail horse, Stealth hasn't had a problem with his stifle in more than a dozen years. In fact, it's been so long since it happened, Diana never thought to warn me about the possibility.
A couple weeks ago, Mary Jo, Karen, Therese and I decided to skip our usual morning ride in favor of an evening outing.
I rode Stealth and he was his best self - alert, forward, responsive and enthusiastic.
The light is different in the evenings.
Our usual trail - which I know so well - looked different, magical.
It was truly a picture perfect ride.
Rides like that should last forever, so instead of getting off when we got back to the barn, Karen and I took our horses into the ring. We did a little trotting, but Stealth was eager. He stepped into a canter, and he felt so good, I decided to roll with it. We made a lap of the ring without incident. Then I felt him get just a little unbalanced behind. I sat down in the saddle to ask for a trot, and his whole back end fell out from underneath me.
I bailed off, and he was standing on three legs, head down, nostrils flared in pain. It was his stifle, of course, but I didn't know that yet. I was sure that one of my biggest fears had come true, and I'd broken someone else's horse. It took ten minutes for him to put his foot down, then another ten before he bearing any weight on it. Fortunately, after that, he got better quickly. By that time, I'd talked to Diana. I knew what had happened, and I knew he was going to be okay.
I've ridden him several times since then. We've trotted, we've cantered. He's fine. I'm fine. We're all fine. Thanks for the scare, old man. That was far and away the most memorable ride of the month. Let's not do that again.