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Unwritten
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If someone had a severely sprained ankle, how painful would it be to ride a horse for a prolonged length of time? Any additional details that spring to mind would be appreciated.
Thanks!
Melanie

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Meredith
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Hmm. It's been a while since I did much riding. You certainly wouldn't be putting weight on the foot.

What kind of saddle? And at what speed? If the horse is walking, which probably should be most of the time, I don't think that would be hard. A trot or gallop might hurt more. Not sure.

A western saddle is made to be comfortable for long rides. It doesn't require much of the ankle unless you need to change gaits (speed the horse up). For a good rider, that's usually just turning the heel into the horse and applying pressure, not the exaggerated kicks you see novices use.

And English saddle requires the rider to be more active in keeping their seat. You actually would use the ankle, the calf, and the knee to grip the horse. That might be hard to keep up for long.


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BenM
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Meredith's saddle point is pretty good, I'm sure that the saddles we use here in Oz are different than in the US. Not being a die hard rider I don't know how much foot pressure is truly necessary.

But I've another perspective to offer. In January I fell off my motorcycle in remote country and broke my right foot in five places. I rode it the 100 miles home, despite it being the braking foot and my other (front/hand) brake lever having been broken off. It was bloody painful, and tiring (I spent most of the ride keeping weight off the foot) but sometimes situations push you to do things you don't expect...


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Kitti
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Ok, this doesn't directly relate to horses, but it is at least relevant to the whole sprained thing....

When I broke my foot, I actually found that, at least when I wasn't putting weight on it, it hurt a heck of a lot less than it had when I sprained it badly. The doctors said they were sure it was a break as soon as they noticed the discrepancy between me not able to put weight on the foot but not being in pain as long as I was off it.

I'd add, what I can do with a sprain partially depends on what kind of shoes I'm wearing. I once sprained my ankle right before I had to go teach a math class. I laced my hiking boots up as tight as they'd go, so the ankle was more-or-less immobilized, and managed to limp through class (clinging to the little chalk-catching tray at the bottom of the chalkboard the whole time I was working on said chalkboard, but I made it).

So getting back to your actual question - if the MC has a pair of boots they can use to immobilize the ankle joint, I would expect they'd be able to soldier on through whatever pain they're in while they're riding.


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Unwritten
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Thank you for the different perspectives. This ankle thing has immobilized my character more than I'd expected. She's supposed to be walking across the country, but when I realized that just wasn't going to happen, I was getting worried. I think this might solve my dilemma, at least in the short term.

I'm very impressed by BenM and Kitti's pain tolerance, and glad I have no personal experience in the matter--unless childbirth counts.
Melanie


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philocinemas
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I used to do long-distance running. Every once in a while I'd get a sprain out in the middle of nowhere. It really depends on how bad the sprain is. Your body goes into shock of sorts - the ankle stiffens as it fills up with fluid, and it can become kind of numb. Sometimes I forced myself to walk on it a little and build up to a jog.

Once, while in basic training, it was so bad that my ankle swelled up to the size of a grapefruit - my foot and lower leg swelled with it. I was still able to walk some, but I had somebody to lean on and a stick. I would think that as long as one is not standing in the stirrups, it would be OK.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited November 11, 2009).]


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Unwritten
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I've never had a sprain before, (knock on wood) so it's interesting to hear these stories. I have another question too. I have a character with no self defense skills and a severely sprained ankle who is riding a long distance on a horse with a Western saddle. So, let's say you are giving my character a quick course in self defense, and you give her a knife. Is there somewhere on the horse or saddle that you would have her keep the knife that would be in easy reach?
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Meredith
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quote:
So, let's say you are giving my character a quick course in self defense, and you give her a knife. Is there somewhere on the horse or saddle that you would have her keep the knife that would be in easy reach?

Why is she trying to use the knife while on horseback? Assuming it's not a throwing knife, how is she going to get close enough to use a knife? Off the top of my head, I can't think of any cavalry that has gotten by with less than a sword. A spear. Certain types of bow (but you have to be careful, there. Not all types can be used while in the saddle.)

Most fighting while on horseback is going to require her to put weight in the stirrups--on that ankle. Well, pretty much any kind of fighting will, actually.

I've had several sprains. It usually (and it does depend on the severity) aches a bit when you're not on it, but can hurt or even fail to support your weight when you walk, etc. Compression and support are good. Obviously, she's not going to be able to elevate or ice it, which means it will take longer to heal.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited November 11, 2009).]


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Ben Trovato
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It does vary on the saddle. If the character is using a western saddle, she can take the foot out of the stirrup, which would solve a lot of the problems you get from pressure/twisting.With one foot out of the stirrup, your character would be able to ride at a walk and possibly a lope, depending on the horse and her level of ability. Or, the character could sort of hook the injured leg across the saddlehorn, sidesaddle-style, for short distances anyway.

Also, you might want to pay attention to which foot is sprained, and how the character is going to mount with a bad foot.


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Unwritten
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Meredith, I didn't catch that particular problem until I started planning out the training scene. Now I'm at a loss. I want her to have some method to protect herself, but she just doesn't have long enough to become proficient at anything that might actually be useful. I guess she just needs to get proficient at galloping her horse in the opposite direction.

I wonder which foot I've been saying is sprained...now I've got to go check.

[This message has been edited by Unwritten (edited November 11, 2009).]


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Meredith
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quote:
I guess she just needs to get proficient at galloping her horse in the opposite direction.

Not knowing anything about your story. What kind of horse is she riding? Where did she get it?

Properly trained, a horse can be a weapon, too.

I'm certainly not an expert. However, I have no reason to believe that it would be any easier--or quicker--to learn to fight effectively with a knife than with any other weapon.

I've given one of my female characters a sling. Just a thought.


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philocinemas
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Unwritten, what about a whip? - not sure how quickly she could learn to use one, but it would make for some interesting situations.
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Kitti
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I second Meredith - a sling's a great weapon because it can also double as a children's toy in some cultures, giving a great excuse why your character might know how to use one
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Unwritten
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Oooh. I think I like both of those ideas. My story is about a teenager (probably 17, maybe 18, I guess I ought to decide that) who has never had any need to worry about things like this before. I'm still trying to figure out how she would even know how to ride a horse already. How long would it take to learn to use a whip or a slingshot without hurting yourself most of the time?
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Crystal Stevens
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If the person riding the horse is an experienced rider, a sprained ankle would make it next to impossible to ride in any saddle. A person doesn't just get on a horse and sit there. Riding is done through the rider's seat, legs, and sense of balance. This is what controls the horse. The hands do nothing but tip the horse's head to put the horse in the proper position for the rest of the rider's body to tell the horse what to do.

Even when the horse is going in a straight line over distance, the rider will be flexing his ankles to absorb the shock of the horse's gait. The type of saddle has nothing to do with it. Try this little experiment for yourself: Stand on a level surface and space your legs out to where they would be if there was a horse between them. Point your toes forward and squat so your knees are directly over your feet and balance there for a few seconds. This is where a rider's legs and feet are when riding a horse. Difficult to do, isn't it?

It takes time to develop this stance and there has to be mild pressure on the stirrups or the rider will lose them. Any pressure on a sprained ankle is very painful. So, yes, riding a horse with a sprained ankle will hurt. That ankle will be moving constantly with the movement of the horse. Even if the rider left the ankle out of the stirrup, it would be hanging and moving with nothing to support it, and the longer the ride, the more painful it will become.

As for the dagger comment: I would think most knives or daggers would be belted to the rider's waist and not be kept somewhere on the saddle. If this person just happened to get separated from his horse, he would want his weapon with him and not running away from him with his horse.

I apologize with being late with this response, but I've been working long hours and just haven't had much time to be on the forums. I now have the time. Please feel free to ask me any questions involving horses, and I'll answer them the best I can. I gave riding lessons, trained regional champion show horses, and now just enjoy trail riding and nature.


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Meredith
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Well, a lot of people ride for pleasure, if they can afford it. And in many fantasy-type milieus it would be a common mode of transportation. Even a princess might know how to ride and ride well. Lois McMaster Bujold got away with it, why shouldn't you?

I've never tried it, but I suspect that there's a pretty good chance of hurting yourself with a whip before you master it. A sling or slingshot, not so much. And again, unless she's been totally sheltered, a lot of kids play with slingshots or slings that don't need to. Or they might be the kind of thing kids would use to help out by keeping pests out of the fields.


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Kitti
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Query: is this a culture that has developed the stirrup? We're all assuming her saddle has stirrups on it, but it doesn't have to...
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Crystal Stevens
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Whether the rider uses stirrups or not makes no difference when it comes to a sprained ankle. Every little movement the horse makes would jostle that ankle and be painful to the rider. I know I've tried to ride with just a sore ankle, and it was torture. A sprained ankle would be next to unbearable.

Now that I think about it, riding without a stirrup could be more painful than riding with one. A stirrup would lend some support to the ankle instead of letting it dangle free, but the pressure put on the ankle to flex in the stirrup would be just as painful as riding with no stirrup at all. JMO


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Unwritten
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Crystal, I was hoping you'd get involved in this discussion. You say an experienced rider would have a rough time. How about an unexperienced rider on an extremely docile horse? I'm just wondering if she doesn't have good riding habits yet, if she might find a way to sit that wouldn't put as much pressure on her foot.

My character is thinking about attaching some sort of sling to her saddle that would act like a kind of "super stirrup" so that her foot wouldn't just be hanging there. I've stretched my story out so that she's not riding the horse until she's been healing for a week, but it can't stretch much longer without snapping. Drat that girl for being so clumsy!

I hate to relegate her to the wagon, since part of the purpose of this trip is to toughen her up and make her stronger. When she sprained her ankle and I realized she wouldn't be able to walk, I decided horseback riding would fill the same purpose. My magical character is being quite stingy with magic at the moment, so I've still got my fingers crossed that I can make the horse angle work.

kitti--My country is loosely based on a 17th century France, so unless there is a compelling reason to ditch them, they would have stirrups.

[This message has been edited by Unwritten (edited November 12, 2009).]


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Crystal Stevens
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If she's been healing for a week, she should be able to tolerate the pain better. It would also depend on how much tolerance she would have for pain. Cavalry soldiers rode with all kinds of injuries if they could just stay in the saddle. So how tough is your MC?

Your "super stirrup" would almost have to be stretchy so it would give under the girl's foot. Anything that would hold the ankle without any give would be the same as riding with a stirrup I would think. Is her ankle supported with a splint or some kind of soft cast? This would make a huge difference and ease the pain caused by the movement of the horse. And even the gentlest horse in the world would make a foot hanging loose down his side sway, stirrup or no stirrup.

Riding with a partially healed sprained ankle should definitely toughen up your MC. If she has a stubborn mindset to see this through, I see no reason why it can't be done.


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Unwritten
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Thanks. I'm working on this part right now. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Meredith
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Oh good. The expert has arrived. The rest of us can stop trying to guess. I rode a little like--well, a long time ago. Mostly English saddle in a ring. Very little trail riding. So it was never very far to the parking lot. And I don't remember ever riding with a sprained ankle, although I've sprained it often enough.
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Kitti
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If she's been healing for a week, she might be in half-decent shape by then and able to tolerate the residual pain. Aside from the broken foot (6 weeks), I've never been on crutches for more than a week or so. Admittedly, I'm stubborn and I hate being on crutches, but still.
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philocinemas
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I don't mean to contradict Crystal, but I've ran on a sprained ankle, even the same day. Like I said, it definitely depends on how bad it is and how much one's pain tolerance is. I've had some pretty bad sprains where I was easily able to run within a week - just had to wrap it real well. Even with the worse sprain I ever had, which ended with some torn ligaments, I was able to put a little weight on my foot. Now the pain is enormous, but it can be done.
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Teraen
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RN says: depends on how bad the sprain is. Some people get incapacitated for weeks with tears to tendons or muscle, some people can bear weight same day... so one week old gives you flexibility to do whatever you want. You said she is supposed to toughen up, so basically you can get her to whatever level of pain and activity you like. Also, could you use it to show resourcefulness (first it is too painful, so she splints it. Now it is more stable, and she can bear it.)

Whatever you choose will be simple enough to make realistic.


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Unwritten
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Well, the unofficial Nanowrimo version of this section of the story has begun, and with a lot of input from you all, this is what I did:

First, poor Tess's sprain was about as bad as it can get, with a lot of exposure to the elements thrown in to boot, so she misses her original travel group.

Second, she gets a week to recover before this spot with a horse riding company comes available.

Third, there is this really cheesy scene where I try to force the magical character in the story to heal her ankle against his will, but it will get cut as soon as I don't need it for my Nanowrimo word count anymore. He really wouldn't heal her ankle--magic is too dangerous, you know.

Instead, her ankle will be alright in the mornings but really bug her in the afternoons. The first couple of nights it'll cut into her sleep dreadfully, poor girl.

Fourth, she doesn't take a weapon with her, but tomorrow night something is going to happen to make her wish she had. After that she'll start defensive training whenever she's off that horse.

It is a sweet horse, named after the one my grandpa pretended to give me when I was a little girl.


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Crystal Stevens
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Good points everyone about sprains. And it does depend on the severity of the sprain. I do agree with philo. That's why I mentioned a splint or soft cast. I guess I was trying to think about wrapping the sprain, but would the wraps be stretchy in the 17th century?

Anyway, it sounds like the story is off to a good start and Unwritten has the needed info to pull it off.

Good luck with your story, my friend.


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tchernabyelo
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If the sprain is that bad, I'm not sure what self-defence options she can take every moment she's off it. If, as implied, she can't wak and can barely stand, her training is going to consist of "and this is how you fight off an opponent while you are lying down!".
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Unwritten
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quote:
If, as implied, she can't wak and can barely stand, her training is going to consist of "and this is how you fight off an opponent while you are lying down!"

You have captured my dilemma very nicely. By the time she actually has a need to learn self defense, she's been on the road for a few weeks. Her ankle is her weak point, but she can walk on it again.


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MAP
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Since unwritten has solved her problem can I hijack this thread with a different horse question?

How many horses can two people reasonably take care of if that is all they do?


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Wouldn't that depend on where the horses are and what they are being taken care of for and being protected from? Horses can survive pretty well in the wild (take care of themselves).
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MAP
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quote:
Wouldn't that depend on where the horses are and what they are being taken care of for and being protected from? Horses can survive pretty well in the wild (take care of themselves).

True. It is your typical country setting, not a lot of predators around, and the people train and sell the horses, so I would think training would take up a fair amount of time.


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spcpthook2
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I know Unwritten has come up with her answers but thought I;d include this in case the info may be useful for after Nano rewrites.

As for how many horses two people could care for and train, it depends on many different factors, Like what sort of training you do. Some trainers spend hours one one horse. Others can work two or three an hour. Age of horse also makes a differnce. Some people spend a lot of time handling babies, others turn them out in a field and do mothing with them until they're old enough to start working under saddle or in harness. Are the horses stall kept or pasture kept. Stall kept part of the day gets spent watering feeding and cleaning stalls. Pasture kept you have time spent trekking in and out and depending on the size of the pasture you still need to feed and water if there's not a natural resource. IOWs So many factors can make this answer vary widely. Same as below. As long as you cover the bases, you have wide latitude on what is right.


Response to Unritten-- Would riding with a sprain hurt? Sure. Can it be done? Absolutely. The most major thing IMO would be which ankle is it? Horses traditionally are trained to mount from the left side so if it's her left foot, she's either putting all that weight on the ankle to haul herself into the saddle. Mounting on the off side,or relying on finding a surface to climb up and mount from. Just something to think about.


She'd want to ride with a long stirrup. A long stirrup decreases the angles the leg bends at. It also forces more reliance on the knees and upper leg to balance. Taking the weight off the calves and ankles but leaving you with support if the horse flips out for any reason.

Some horses actually trot smoother than they canter. It all comes down to build. You want a horse with a good slope to its shoulder and fetlock giving it a smooth gait. best bet--if a gaited horse. Talk about a smooth ride. An animal that drives off its backend and eagerly moves forward is going to cause much less pain to a person with a leg injury. A horse needing constant prodding she's either going to have to rely on a stick or a whip to keep the animal moving. So an awful lot of your dilemma boils down to what kind of horse she stumbles across, or if she's buying/stealing one does she know enough to pick a good one. Honestly, I've been on horses I wouldn't have wanted. to ride more than a mile with everything intact

As far as fighting from a horse...You wouldn't be standing in the stirrups to fight. Especially not with a dagger. You'd be laying on the horses neck making yourself as small a target as possible and praying your horse was faster than your enemies. Even if you have no choice but to fight, standing in the stirrups(even with two good ankles) is begging to be unhorsed, you'll concentrate on center of balance dropping your weight into your seat and rely on your knees to keep you where you want to be.


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Crystal Stevens
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I thought about a gaited horse but wasn't sure what kind would be available in 17th century France. Also, how easy would it be to come across a gaited horse in this time period? Would they be harder to come by than your tradition walk/trot/canter horse, or too costly for the common people?

As to the training/caring for horses question; Most modern day trainers that work full time probably wouldn't be training more than 5 or 6 at a time, I would think. The horses would be stalled in a barn and taken out for training one at a time for a few hours a day. I should add that this would be one trainer training these horses. Though he(she?) might have a helper or an assistant to help care for the horses and assist in the training process under the supervision of the trainer.


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spcpthook2
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Early cave paintings depict gaited horses. Several recognized gaited breeds existed in europe as far back as the 1500's the French Trotter (which is gaited) was established in the 1800's but the breeding stock that created them would have been around prior to that date. Gaiting is natural, but finding one would have been hit or miss.
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