Old Age is Not for the Faint Hearted

It all started with the most innocent of texts…

My son and I were trying to squeeze in a barn visit, before he leaves on a business trip. Every time he goes away, there’s that heightened apprehension that disaster will befall me like it did so many years ago, when I came to the barn in the morning to find my beloved gelding cast in his stall and unable to rise. When the vet, and the many helping hands arrived, I found myself faced with news that no owner wants to hear - my gelding had broken his hip - and there was no saving him.

Even though I told myself that being a veterinary assistant in my former life, would prepare me for this moment, nothing prepares you for the time it happens to you

I had attended many euthanasias, and I always felt so powerless. Either to fix the situation for the owner or the patient. I loved my own animals fiercely, and knew in theory what the clients were gong through. The horses were always the hardest, because even though in some cases we couldn’t put them down fast enough to ease their suffering, I always felt sadness at the passing of this majestic animal from the earth. Death brings an indignity to these animals that can’t be helped, due to their size, that, I think compounds the sadness of it all.

After a day that included any euthanasia, dog, cat, horse, or any beloved pet, I would be sure to hug my horses and my cat extra tight and revel in the joy that that they so naturally gave to me.

Which brings me to today, a beautiful sunny summer day, that you would imagine would be filled with the ease of summer. Picnics, swimming and enjoying the beauty that only belongs to July in New England. Instead I got this innocent text from my son, in between firming up a date for the barn, a casual mention that my horse had trouble rising in the paddock. He explained that the staff had no trouble getting him up and he seems otherwise fine. To give him ultimate credit, he knows what a worry wart I can be, and so he tends to downplay things, so as not to work me up, and he tends to be very zen himself (don’t worry unless there’s reason. I pre worry about everything!)

So here I am, with this news in my lap and trying not to worry too much. Which for me is hard, not to go off in gales of hysteria. I guess that comes from knowing how these things can go from nothing to sideways in a heartbeat. My son is tied up with appointments, but will check on him on the way home, so we wait

I’m very grateful to the staff that keeps an eye on him in my stead. For now all I can do is hope that we are not starting down the road that ends in a place where no owner wants to go.

Sharon

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A Perfect Day for a Not So Perfect Mother

I had no formal plans for Mother’s Day…

My son likes to have his weekends free, if possible, and spend his quality time at home, with his girlfriend (if she’s not working) or doing projects around his house. (This from a boy I despaired of fulfilling his responsibilities in high school!) I guess a leopard can change his spots, it just requires falling in with the right crowd! Now he’s the epitome of responsibility, running two successful businesses, juggling a home, and being very attentive to his recovering Mom.

I’m happy to spend a lazy Sunday just poking around the house, if nothing is going on.

The cosmos aligned just right and my son was not only free, but able to meet me at the barn!

As everyone in New England knows we have five official seasons: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring and the highlight of the year - MUD accompanied by the arrival of myriad bugs - yuck! The barn staff has shuffled everyone around to give some of the paddocks a rest and let the empty paddocks dry out (hopefully)

They had just smoothed the access road, great for walking, but a scary prospect for driving on! So my Mom drove around the property and parked up by the indoor arena, which is at the top of the hill. (less likely to be a squish fest)

My son and I carefully headed down the hill towards the paddock, avoiding the mud, and with our trusty bag o carrots. When the carrots were spied, no amount of mud was too great to ford, and we were met at the gate by two starving and muddy orphans! (Or so they like to tell everyone who passes by)

My horse and a friend that had been paired up with him, much to my delight. (My philosophy is everyone needs a friend!) Turns out they found him the perfect friend, one who is missing both his eyes so as to be non threatening, but gives my horse the appearance of a job. Still a no nonsense friend who won’t put up with the malarkey that my horse tries to dish out, in a very firm yet gentle way. The half blind leading the blind!

Trying his best to push his new friend out of the way, (all is fair in love and carrots, I swear he could live on carrots!) my horse soon discovered that his new friend was having none of that when the holy grail of goodies were involved!

While we were happily visiting and marveling over my horse’s new friend, we exhausted our golden goodie treasure chest. There was only so much visiting to be tolerated, when the carrot supply had run dry and the mud was knee deep! With our empty bag in hand, we were summarily dismissed by his majesty and court by turned rumps and cold shoulders.

We spent the rest of a very special day spreading sunshine to someone who landed themselves in the hospital, much to our to our dismay! Providence was smiling on us once again, because the hospital happened to be the convergence point unexpectedly for our whole family!

We spent the rest of the afternoon all together laughing, talking and generally enjoying each other’s company.

It just goes to show, that the most unexpectedly beautiful things appear seemingly out of nowhere! Just when I thought the day was going to be ordinary, but turned out extraordinary. All that was needed, was the essential ingredient- of family- to embrace the richness of life. Seeing all those faces, smiling and laughing, brought home the true depth of our connections, and made my Mother’s Day,- extraordinary!

Sharon

Falling Up

Yesterday began with a bang so to speak.

I was getting up, as I usually do around 3:30, to visit the bathroom. While I was putting myself back together, the urge to sneeze came out of the blue. I did have the foresight to hang on to the bar next to the toilet, (in the words of my sister, “that must have been some sneeze”) but the combination of sleepy and sneezy twisted me around, knocked me off my feet, and I hit the bathroom floor before I knew what was happening!

Realizing now that a disaster of circumstances had occurred. I didn’t have my phone because it was on the end of my bed with the flashlight on to see by and no watch because it was charging. I usually put my watch on when I come back from the bathroom, I guess now I’ll have to change my strategy. With the watch at least I can access my phone, and use talk to text.

So, here I was in the wilderness, so to speak! No phone, no watch and my mother down the hall, sleeping the peaceful sleep of someone who’s deaf without her hearing aids. She’s always slept like the dead anyway.

When I was a kid sharing a room with my sister, I would stubbornly refuse to get out of bed and take her to the bathroom, even though that meant I had to endure her calling for our Mom for a good hour or more! She would lay there and call each time getting a little louder, until my father finally heard her and poked our Mom to see what she wanted. If I’d just taken her myself, I would have gotten a lot more sleep! It seemed justified at the time (I’m going to hell, I know).

After assessing the situation, I decided that the best pan of action was to crawl out of the bathroom to my phone. (Duh! I was getting colder and stiffer on the hard floor every minute!)

Gritting my teeth, I was able to inch like a snake until I finally made it out of the bathroom, onto the carpet, by using the cupboards, doorframes and anything else I could get my feet on. (Having only one fully functional leg and hand is really a drag! (Literally) I was able to get to my phone and TRY calling Mom, hoping maybe the dogs had heard me, and might alert her to my plight. No such luck! I just tried over and over, hoping that the repeated ringing would penetrate her unconsciousness. That was when I started to panic!

In my frenzy, I called my sister by accident. Once I realized what I had done, the words tumbled out in a jumble. She is the soul of calmness now as a nurse who’s seen everything. She talked me off my precarious ledge, said she would throw on her clothes and get in the car, coming to my rescue. In the mean time, someone was watching over me, because the constant buzzing had finally roused Mom!

My sister was already en route, so Mom just waited with me. My sister arrived as well as emergency services, who helped me get back on my feet.

I’m so grateful for all of them to be there when I needed them!

When I was lying on the floor, (this time,and others) it has really brought home the helpless feelings that the horses must have when they’re down and can’t get up, for any reason. Most of the time they have to wait hours for someone to discover them. If something happens in the night, which most grave things do. In a situation where you have to put your very life (because that’s what it feels you are fighting for, equine and human) in someone else’s hands, is a great act of trust.

The next time you’re faced with a situation where your horse is down and can’t get up for any reason, please remember those panic feelings, and address them, either with chemicals, if the vet has come, or just a soothing presence when the vet is on the way. Go to the zen place inside you, and find your calmest demeanor. Just because someone is coming to help with the physical problem, doesn’t automatically make the feelings go away, especially if they’ve had time to really get a hold. They also have a physical after affect including shaking, sweating and fatigue from all the adrenaline. So don’t forget a little pampering after the fact.

As for me, I went on to have a great day, in spite of the rocky start. Cooler heads than mine prevailed, making my panic, a distant memory. I’ve got some bumps and bruises but overall I’m good. I can definitely say that the calmness of those around me made all the difference between a scary situation and a manageable one.

The next time a scary problem crops up, manage your horse’s feelings as well as his body. His trust will be the reward, and his bumps and bruise will fade. He’ll remember how he put all his trust in you, and you didn’t let him down.

Sharon

Born to be Wild

I just watched a beautiful movie the other night called “Dare to be Wild” starring Tom Hughes and Emma Greenwell, as the main characters, and directed by Irish director Vivienne de Coursy. The story chronicles Mary Reynolds, a young Irish landscape designer, and her seemingly impossible dream to win gold at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, the most prestigious flower show in the world. The film’s overriding message encourages everyone, but especially gardeners to make room for a wild and natural life, by not being so caught up with order, symmetry and the idea of order over chaos. The total submission and domination of the landscape to our wishes and whims.

This got me thinking of the whole concept of wildness that we embrace every day as horse people. All of us are familiar with the spook or shy, whether on the ground or mounted, at some imaginary monster or other. The absolute terror of a plastic bag or a blowing leaf!

I happen to have a very spooky horse who thinks the world is out to get him, real or imagined. He is the embodiment of wildness itself! A 1200 pound kite on windy days, and something he’s walked by a million times, now becomes a flaming fire breathing monster on the millionth and one time.

I do have to give him credit where credit is due though, the things I’m SURE he will react to, and be the end of me, he just takes in stride, like it’s another day at the office.

One particular time, a goose that I was trying to herd out of his stall, (she ran in while I had the stall open getting the boys) using a lunge whip as a shepherds crook, (it was all I had) ran out of the stall honking and flapping and right under him! While I had him in hand (of course). We were both so stunned by what had just happened, that we stood there looking at each other and shaking with relief! I praised him up and down while we recovered from our fright and composed ourselves.

He always proves my point that he seems to know when I need to count on him, whether then, or when he’s injured himself being silly, and needs to be looked at by the vet. He’s done some amazing things without anesthetic, and he’s usually very good about meds and treatments by me, or now the staff at the barn. He seems to know when someone is trying to help him.

Although, that wasn’t to be the case, when my son and my poor vet were trying to do his teeth recently. I swear sometimes he get a stubborn bee in his bonnet, because he was having none of it! They just did the best job they could, given his state of behavior, and called it a day.

Everyone who knows him, knows that he is the most mercurial and strange horse they have ever come across. In the words of my son’s classic trainer, “you can’t force this horse into anything, you have to discuss it with him a little bit”.

He has his good days and his off days. On the good days you can draw blood and vaccinate and do all manner of things with no lead rope in the paddock. And on the off days, its better to leave him be in the paddock. If you have any notion of an agenda, you may as well turn around and change your plans now. Because on those days he barely tolerates being touched, never mind complying with your silly rules, like getting shoes on. In his opinion, appointments are nothing more than suggestions. Never mind that any of the professionals have a schedule to keep!

He once nipped a massage therapist every time she told him he was a good boy! She was very amused by all this, knowing how he is, and thank goodness for it, because I was mortified with his expressing his opinion with his teeth. He didn’t hurt her, just grabbed her jacket, thank goodness. Most of what he does is bluff and bluster, and show you that he could do it, if he so chose. He never misses, if he wanted to bite you he would, and damn the consequences. (But it’s still scary, when that monstrous head comes around like a viper, to let you know that he’s displeased with whatever you’re doing!)

The point of all this is to remind me that in his heart, he belongs to the wild.

He carries it as a badge of honor,unapologetic and proud, for every one to see.

He’s perfectly happy being out and swamping, in all winds and weather. Enjoying what it means to be alive, to fully experience life in all it’s richness, both good and bad. It’s meant me trudging through the blinding snow, or him coming in covered in mud, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

He has taught me so much about acceptance of myself, and others, and walking the long patient route that has served me well in this time of recovery.

It’s a reminder for all of us that our horse have wildness in their heart, no matter how deeply it’s buried, and no matter their great spirit of cooperation. Something that should not be punished or corrected for, but ultimately embraced as part of his natural being. Especially when you think of your horses having up and down days like you.

Maybe the thought of working in the arena doesn’t appeal to him on a certain day. Give him a chance to express his opinion, and really listen.

For that is truly where trust, cooperation and love, truly live.

Sharon

Source: Photo by Heidi Brunelle Rochester NH

Mindless Motivations

Scrolling through my Facebook page this morning over coffee, I came across a posting of a positive affirmation in one of my myriad stroke groups. You know the ones, blah blah blah, keep your chin up or some such platitude.

Whether you’re a stroke warrior or not, we all go through times where we need some words of encouragement, to get back on the horse, so to speak. We all know what it’s like to work hard day after day, whatever our goal, with seemingly no, or minuscule achievement. It’s very hard to accept that progress is sometimes only seen in the hind sight of where we’ve been, and can be mind numbingly slow. I liken the progress of my stroke recovery, to the artist who once said that sculpting was simply removing the marble to reveal the statue within. i feel like I’ve been encased in marble and I’m just chipping away, ever so slowly, to reveal some new version of me.

My journey has not been without it’s ups and downs, and I’m grateful that everyone has stood by, and stayed as passengers on this trip, that hasn’t always been easy. There were days when I so wanted to lie down in the road and give up. Tears by the bucketful, came on some days, but by the next day I drew on the strength that the farm had given me and soldiered on. That’s just what you do.

Now I’m at a place where some affirmations, not all, have begun to have some sort of meaning to me. They never seemed applicable for one going through the greatest daily struggle of their life.

Again, there were the horses to lead me where I needed go

It’s in the voice of horses that I have found strength.

‘Spur yourself on to greatness’, and ‘Take life’s hurdles in stride’, are the wisdom that keeps me going. There is also the soft voice of my horse, that tells me he loves me for who I am right now, broken parts and all. To him I’ll always be what he sees beyond the broken parts - perfect - and that’s just fine with me.

So from now on, take your affirmations from your pets lives, and see yourself through their eyes, - perfect.

Sharon

Source: www.equestriantaichi.com

A Time of Soul Searching

I’m finally back after an extended winter long vacation, where I spent my time cocooned from the winter winds and snow.

Of course I still kept up with my exercises, my daily dose of Jeopardy, and sneaking in some very important visits with my pony!

More importantly though, is that I used this time to reflect on where I’m going and where I’ve been, in relation to this blog, this website, and my life in general.

While my stroke was a defining and pivotal time of my life, its grip is gradually losing its hold. Although there are still moments in every day when it reminds me of my limitations, especially typing this one handed, those moments are becoming further and further apart.

I’ve finally come back full circle to what really defines my life, and what it has always been, horses. followed closely now with a renewed sense of family.

I find what the stroke has given me, if it’s leaving parting gifts, is a renewed sense of gratitude for even the simplest things in life. I’m grateful for waking up in the morning, the beautiful gift of nature, and the myriad things in between that for so long I couldn’t do. I had always tried to be grateful in my heart, but this is much deeper. Someone asked me why I climb the stairs, when it’s obviously such a struggle, and I replied that when that simplest of abilities has been denied you for so long, climbing the stairs is a milestone that I never thought I would achieve! I realized how much I had failed to appreciate, until it was taken away. I even was talking to my son yesterday, (when I propped myself on the stall wall and attempted stall picking, my aim is still not good but I haven’t lost my touch!) that I would love to have the purpose of working everyday. You never know what you’re going to miss until it’s gone!

Oh well, no time to dwell on the past!

I now have granted myself the freedom to think of nothing but the future, and it’s allowed me to come back to the land of my dreams. I have even found a group on Facebook that is dedicated to the particulars of homesteading for “disabled” people! It’s made me realize that there IS room in my life for my dreams.

All this leads to the conclusion I’ve realized, that still in my heart I’m first and foremost a horseman, who just happened to have a stroke. So I’ll be concentrating on the equine aspect of this blog and website, but still adding in a sprinkle of stroke tips and healthy lifestyle, for everybody, really. It’ll be like me, a hodgepodge of ideas, opinions and new interests that above all center on my life with horses.

So hang on for the ride, it’s bound to be interesting!

I remain, ready to embrace my future,

Sharon

Source: Photo by Mateusz Baj Poland 2014 Sony ...

What A Blessing: A Found Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving more than the holidays in recent history has really brought the idea of thanks, into my life. Thanksgiving was always one of those holidays “that other people celebrated.” Don’t get me wrong my family has always had a Thanksgiving celebration, but I never really felt a part of it. I would have been just as happy with a turkey sandwich and the company of the horses as dinner companions! 

I did the cooking and hosting in between my horse chores - and drove myself crazy - until I relinquished it all back to my mother - who lives to cook and is more experienced anyway. I would happily show up and eat after everyone else, as to me it was just another day at the barn.

When I had the stroke however things changed in ways I couldn’t anticipate or imagine. The prospect of planning and cooking a large meal was overwhelming to my mother who was my main caregiver. In an unexpected turn of events, my sister’s good friends reached out and volunteered to cook and host the big meal! I wasn’t sure how my mother would handle it, not being in control of all the logistics. She surprised us all, by loving having someone to take over most of the chores and enjoyed herself tremendously! A good time was had all, and our hosts didn’t run screaming for the hills, after all was said and done. They volunteered for the following year and again they outdid themselves! We had an even better time than the first, if that’s possible! My mother has gotten a much needed reprieve, and our hosts have graciously opened their beautiful home, happily, to our ragtag collection of family and friends.

That for me, has brought home what, Thanksgiving is truly about. The unbound joy and wonder of virtual strangers opening their hearts and home to the pleasures of sharing and possibilities. I don’t think Thanksgiving will ever be quite the same for me. I hope not!

With Thanksgiving Love,

Sharon

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What Hygge Means to Me

Hgygge is the concept of the moment whose principles have had meaning to horse people since recorded time. We just didn’t know it.

Hygge - pronounced Hue-gah in English is a Danish word that describes a mental state of happiness, contentment and togetherness in the heart of winter.

Hygge is not directly translatable into the English language. Pity.

Every time we enjoy a hot shower, or a warm cup of coffee and wrap up in a blanket, after doing our chores, morning or night, in the winter, we experience Hygge. I have often tried to describe this elusive quality to my family and now it has a name.

The feeling of putting your hands under your horse’s warm blanket or in their fur to warm up, or wrapping yourself in a cozy cooler is one we know and love so well, that is hygge

Even though we’ve all been familiar with this idea for all of our horse lives, I thought about what this means to me as I bring this feeling into my life as a stroke patient.

The first and most important is the atmosphere - start a hygge nook for yourself even if it’s just a cozy chair. If it looks over the landscape, even better. A place to relax, read a book or a magazine, or just look at the lovely pictures if that’s all you can do. A comfy foot stool, warm socks, a throw blanket, and you’re well on your way! Add a candle - I’ve recently discovered the flameless faux candles and boy are they wonderful! I can have candlelight whenever I want it - even breakfast - no mess, and no worries about accidentally leaving it burning, or knocking it over. Mix in some long underwear - easy to get in and out of -put on some relaxing music and maybe some comforting food cooked- by someone special - in the crockpot, and sip your favorite hot beverage. You can even play cards - good for coordination and counting as in scoring, watch movies, play games, or decorate the tree as a family. You can even entertain by having a potluck, with everyone bringing their signature dish - no fuss, no muss! The joy of togetherness is the key. Over consumption, awkward conversation, fluorescent lighting and stress are definitely not hygge!

So embrace the idea of hygge and improve your health with reduced stress and more contentment.

I have noticed that since I’ve come to this way of thinking, I’m much more relaxed about the changing of the seasons, and that’s a good thing! I will be trying to bring as many of these concepts as I can into my own life. Wish me luck.

Whatever hygge means to you it is in the feeling of small everyday moments that make you happy. Because the simplest lovely moments in life, like companionship, comfort, and love are free!

Sharon

Source: www.unsplash.com

Providence Saves The Day!

I finally got to see my pony today after delay and delay!

My lovely veterinarian texted before leaving on her vacation to let me know that I was running out of my horse’s medicine and needed to refill. Great! She checked me off her list, and went on her merry way, secure in the knowledge that she had fulfilled her professional responsibility, and left to indulge in a hard won vacation. I being the - perceived by me - neglectful owner as of late, thought Great! here’s a chance for me to finally do something to help out with the care of my horse.

So I diligently called for a refill, and wouldn’t you know it - no refills! Hating to interrupt her personal time, I did break down and texted her. Much to her credit - even while barging in on her time off ,she replied to me promptly and assured me she would call it in for me. She let me know that he wasn’t out so that made me feel much better!

During all the rigamarole involving time zones and what nots, I finally got the prescription in my hand, ready to take it to the barn. All my planning came to naught, and after waiting for convenience’s sake for someone else - as I’m not driving - yet, it was decided on a day and time.

Needless to say, by the time everything everything worked out, she was back!

Oh well! Even with all this go around, and the best of intentions, I finally connected the horse and the medicine.

It just goes to show that the consequences of stroke are many faceted and effect things you don’t even expect.

My visit is always too short, but magical non the less. My family has really been made to understand the deep bond that I share with my horse, and that in turn that has brought them closer to me. Getting to spend the time, with all of us together - family and horse, is magical in itself. Especially since I spent so much caring for the horses alone, they’re finally getting to know the horsey me. It has even deepened the relationship with my son, who was involved with the horse side of my life, but my bond with him has become even deeper. I’ve learned that in the tangled ball of trying to progress forward, always expect the unexpected!

Sharon

Source: www.unsplash.com

Try To Remember That Kind of September

September ushers in the end of summer and the start of fall.

Although, I dwell among a family of polar bears so I really haven’t felt the deep baking heat of true summer. Unless I go outside, and at this point it’s still too much of a project. I do get out more than last summer. Last year I felt like a shut in.

This year I’m thinking about all the pleasures of autumn that are within reach and dreaming of the ones that still aren’t.

My son has finished building his house now, so I’m hoping to get to the barn more. The weather has finally turned horse friendly- cooler temperatures and no bugs!

I’m also thinking of apple picking. Maybe I can’t get out in the wilds of the orchards yet, but a trip for some fresh apples and lunch at the orchard will still fill the bill. Oh and who can forget apple cider donuts! The orchard that we go to has the best I swear! Mmm so warm and sugary but I’ll just leave that here for now!

The farm stands and farmer’s market have transitioned from fresh juicy tomatoes and ripe cucumbers to autumn squash and earthy beets. The hustle and bustle of summer has been replaced by a slower feel as we prepare for the season of downtime and the cozy comforts of winter.

We’ve been making lots of apple somethings to break up the wealth of blueberries this year (thanks to my wonderful cousin). It’s wonderful to eat with the seasons and really live through the passage of time.

Maybe you’re not ready to do a complicated project but something simple like making rice crispy treats or picking and carving a pumpkin (with help) or getting some cider to enjoy warmed up on a cool evening will certainly help to celebrate fall and give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Even a ride in the car to take in the leaves locally can be breathtaking.

So brainstorm what you can do with your kids, grandkids or even your spouse to remember the joy of fall.

I never really embraced the concept of “live in the moment” until now. I tried but I thought there was too much to do. In truth my to do list is my life and it will always be there tomorrow. I’m trying to use this time of forced relaxation to delve into what I thought I didn’t have time for before - to craft (some what with help), cook (also with help), and maybe indulge my passion for classical horsemanship.

We survived something that was supposed to break us so let’s embrace the beauty and wonder of a life renewed. Different but renewed.

Sharon

Source: www.unsplash.com