Wednesday, December 20, 2006

TEST (Again)
Just moved into the new Beta Blogger. Things are going to be wierd for a while. If I don't like the results, I might move to my own DIY blog on my own server. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 27, 2006


No Fear

Today, it was absolutely gorgeous outside, so I headed to the barn. It took some effort, though, as does everything these days (mentally). I told myself I didn't need to do anything, that it was OK if all I could muster up the energy for was to visit with them (I have two: my Paint mare is Shaveya, horse #3 if you're keeping track). Lately, just thinking about going for a trail ride or having a serious play/study session wears me out. It's the depression from this past year; it'll pass (I hope). I spent a little time in the mares' pasture with Shaveya, then went over to the boys' pasture to do the same with Cheerios. When I say spend some time, I mean hang out. Literally. Scratch them, pet them, love on them, walk beside them, demand nothing of them. No halter required. (This Parelli stuff is A-MAZ-ING.)

After a long session of catering to my horse's scratching whims, I felt this overwhelming urge to just sit on him. I haltered him (rope halter), checked his brakes and made sure he looked "ready" to ride (he was, they were all pretty laid back today), tied the 12-foot lead line into "reins", found a ditch to put him in (so I could be up higher), and hopped on. Bareback. With him wearing a halter and lead rope. No bit. No saddle. Naturally. Like a wild Injun (I'm part Cherokee so it's OK for me to say that).

And, there we sat.

As I was drinking in the sunshine and the quiet peace of being on my horse's back as he casually grazed in the pasture with other horses about 100 yards away, it occurred to me that:

  • I was sitting on Cheerios

  • bareback

  • no bit, not even the hackamore, just a rope halter and lead line

  • in the 10-acre pasture

  • surrounded by other horses

...and not the least bit afraid.

That, my friends, is HUGE.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

OK. I think I've finally fixed the issues with my template. This is the test to find out...

A Bit of Horse News

FINALLY. A day with horses.

Thursday was sunny and gorgeous with 60-degree temperatures. Not that I'm a fair-weather horsewoman; but it was a good motivator to get me out of the house and away from the sorting nightmare for a bit. Besides, the farrier was coming.

Shaveya received a great report. After a year and a half of careful barefoot trimming by an AANHCP-certified practitioner and a complete dietary overhaul, my beautiful little Paint mare has finally developed the deep concavity of sole that she needed. No wonder she's been cantering around the pasture rather than barely able to walk two feet. She finally has good feet!

I'm so glad that I followed my gut rather than listening to the naysayers. So many told me to put shoes on her to "protect" her tender feet. My gut said, this is wrong... pounding nails into her foot can not be good for her hoof wall..." I know what repeated nailing does to the integrity of drywall—logic told me it would be the same with the hoof: it would eventually weaken the hoof wall and cause more harm than good. Thankfully, the barn doesn't allow hind shoes. I say "thankfully" because it gave me the excuse I needed to search for non-shoe alternatives. I just said I wanted to treat the whole problem not half of it, and shoeing only the fronts IMHO would only solve half the problem.

Others thought she was "done". Wouldn't ever be rideable. Probably had navicular. Likely that she'd have to be put down.

All untrue. Since discovering Jaime Jackson's methods based on the wild hoof model, I've found information backing up my instincts, and have learned that pretty much every problem can be solved with the right trim, NO shoes, and the proper environment, diet and exercise program. My mare is living proof of this.

Shaveya has insulin-resistance. It's like being a diabetic. Too much sugar makes her feet hurt, plus someone chopped her too short and at the wrong angles so she had heel pain and a thin solar base. Basically, her P3 (coffin bone) was too close to the ground. It's like quicking yourself when you trim your nails too short. It was especially apparent on soft ground such as grass or sand. She could walk fine on gravel. Isn't that the opposite of what you'd think with a horse with sore feet? The reason, as I discovered while taking a two-day Pete Ramey hoof care clinic this summer, is that the soft ground allows the hoof to sink in and the ground surface comes into contact with the sole whereas the harder gravel surface provides support so there is less solar contact.

In addition to the trim changes, her diet was changed. All sugar was removed. That means no more SWEET FEED!!! No molasses. Do you know how many horse products, treats and whatnot, contain molasses? ALL of them! She's been on a strict diet of whole oats mixed with Purina 12/12 and Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. She also no longer gets chemical wormers. I use a product called N.O.M.S. Powder that is a natural method of killing worms. It works. She also stays off the grass early in the spring when the sugar content is highest. After mid-summer it's okay for her to graze again. She grumbles a bit about being banned from grass (grinds her teeth) but it's for the best. If she eats early grass she goes lame.

Cheerios is also on the diet. His hooves were already good except for the quarter crack on the right front. That's all changed, too. He blew a huge abcess last fall in that same hoof at the coronet band. Eventually the abcess site grew down and met up with the crack to form a T. It looked AWFUL. About that time, I stopped leasing him and got him back under my control. I put him on the same farrier schedule as Shaveya and changed his diet, and the crack is gone. His hooves look even better.

OK, this is boring talking about medical stuff. The fun part: playing and riding! I played with both of them a little bit, then turned out Shaveya and saddled up Cheerios. A couple friends met up with me around 4:00. Yes, it gets dark early. But we went out anyway on a sunset trail ride, which was fun and a little creepy being in the woods at dusk. It was pitch black when we were coming back down the lane but the ride was good. We didn't see any deer. Well, we didn't actually SEE anything because it was too dark. LOL!

What tickled me the most was something that happened when I first was bringing him in for his trim, down the lane from the pasture. There are two mini-ditches in the grassy area that borders the lane between the pastures. They are so small it is easy to step over them. However, I got it into my head to see if I could ask Cheerios to jump them even though he could span them with back hooves on one side and front hooves on the other and not have to stretch. The first time, I stepped across one then sent him over (directed him to cross). I sent with a bit of energy. He tilted his head at me, then jumped it lightly. Yay! At the second one, I paused. I looked at him, then I made a big show of hopping over it. He hopped right over it, mimicking me. Such joy. After trying SO HARD to communicate with him in so many sessions and getting nowhere, to have him just mimic me like that without any forethought or serious work was hilarious to me. Can it really be that easy?

Sometimes, the Good Lord blesses you with a moment like that, to remind you that sometimes what you think is so difficult to accomplish is really very simple.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And Happens, And Happens...
It happened. I'm alone. I'm an orphan.

It's been a little over a month now.

Mother succumbed to her illness at 11:42 AM, Saturday, September 30, 2006. She'd been in the hospital with weakness for a couple weeks. They'd done surgery to implant chest and feeding tubes to help her feel more comfortable and had every reason to believe she would go home the following week and be blessed with several more weeks or months ahead. Mid-week following the surgery, her urine output diminished. She ended up suffering the same fate as Dad: renal failure. Complicated with a compromised liver, her body was unable to handle the toxins coursing through her. There is a condition that I think is called hydroencephaly (something like that) where the toxins swell the brain, causing confusion and eventually coma. I was with her from Friday morning when she was still coherent until she died. Over the course of 24 hours, she gradually stopped responding to stimuli and slipped into a coma. She left us peacefully, almost unnoticed, it was so subtle. I held her hand until the very end.

She was laid to rest next to Dad on October 3rd.

The unanswered questions will remain that way. Funny how you can't think of what to ask when they're right there, but later, when it's too late, odd questions pop into your head. The more I analyze our relationship, the more questions arise. Realizations such as perhaps her own mother reacted to her dreams and ideas much the same way she did to mine. Mother only just started telling me the "dark side" of Grandma. Apparently, Grandma was controlling and manipulative. Hmm.

It's occurred to me that Dad was the one I should have gone to for advice, but that I often wound up talking to Mother instead. Dad was so reticent. Dad was like NPR; Mother was Monday Night Football on a widescreen at a sports bar. Conversations would begin with me "listening" to NPR, soft, quiet, soothing tones. Then someone would turn on Monday Night Football, and drown out Dad with the noise. Dad would discuss things with me but Mother would always interject and eventually override him with sheer volume and exuberance. And Mother was always quick to jump in with HER opinion, which soon became YOUR opinion, because there was no getting around it once she'd made up her mind.

I've realized that all of my decisions were made for me by my Mother.

I would go to them needing help researching an idea. Say, college majors or career planning. I'd go to them and present my initial idea: "I've been thinking of majoring in fibers in college, getting a BFA." Before I could even spell out reasons why or present any data to back up my reasons, Mother would jump all over it. I'd state my sentence. Dad would open his mouth to say something, and Mother would blast out "Why? Why would you want to major in that? I thought the whole idea of going to college was so you'd be able to get a job at the end. What can you really do with a major in fibers?" Dad's mouth would clamp shut and my defensiveness would begin to rise. The further the conversation went, the more defensive I would become, because every attempt to support my claim sounded feeble, and she'd jump all over that, too. Pretty soon I felt like an idiot for even suggesting it.

She could have reacted differently. She could have shown polite interest, listened to my reasoning, and then allow ME to make the decision. Even if she didn't agree. She could have phrased her objections more positively. Example:

"Don't be ridiculous. Nobody ever makes any money doing THAT. What are you going to live on?!? We can't support you forever!!!"

"It's very difficult to survive on an artist's salary. You'll probably have to get another job outside of that to support yourself"

"Well, you've certainly chosen a challenging career, but if you work hard enough, you'll probably do all right"

"Well, you'll have a bit of a challenge, but you're smart, capable, and talented and I have faith that you'll do well"

At least she could have said it's gonna be a challenge, but give it a shot and see where it goes.

But she didn't. She usually blasted me before Dad even had a chance to speak. For some reason, I had many conversations alone with Mother with Dad elsewhere, but not as many with just Dad. Mother was always there, to the point that the prospect of a few hours alone in the car with Dad on a road trip was agonizing to me, because he was SO difficult to talk to. It's hard to talk to someone who remains silent and doesn't say what's on his mind. Like driving with a rock. His mother never let him talk. Funny, neither did Mother, come to think of it. Wonder if that's why he married her? Because she was "familiar"?

That's what my mind has been occupied with today. Where will I go from here? I have a few ideas I'm tossing around. For now, I'll stay put. The house where I'm currently living (theirs) is paid off, free and clear; my house will soon be gone; once the Will goes through Probate, there will be a tidy nest egg for me. There is time to decide. Time to grieve and time to heal.

To everything, there is a season. My parents' season is finished.

My season has just begun.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Life Happens

"Life Happens."

Pat Parelli often says this to people who find themselves sidelined from their once-obsessive PNH studies for a time, whether it be due to illness (human/equine), loss (same), school, work, family, or other events. Many people set up a goal planner—such as, "I'll finish Level Two by the end of this year, Level Three by 2008, get accepted into the Professional's Program in early 2009 and start my third horse at the same time, and by 2012 I'll be working as a 3-star Instructor". Ta dum.

Then life throws a curve—or five—and those goals get scrapped... because "life happened".

Well, life certainly has happened to me. Can it really be three years since Wildflower and I passed Level One and received our coveted red string? It seems a lifetime ago now. And Wildflower's been gone since March 2005. I had to start over, so I bought a new mare (Shaveya) rather than give Cheerios a whirl (wasn't quite ready for him, I thought), then Shaveya immediately went horribly lame—forcing me to face my fears and make Cheerios my new Levels horse. I thought, "ok, I'll be delayed for a few weeks while I bring him through L1", and adjusted my goals accordingly.

Then life happened yet again, and HARD this time.

Forget Level Two. For now.

Dad fell in December, broke his hip and shoulder, spent two months in a nursing home, recovered fine, came home, had about five good weeks, then began the spiraling descent that ended with his death on June 7th from bacterial pneumonia, atrial fibrillation, and good old "old age". He was 88. I don't think that's old, really. I thought he'd be around another 10 years because he was hardly sick a day in his life, unlike Mother, who has always been ill with something or another and survived breast cancer in the 1950's far beyond the doctor's predictions (she's still alive and 86 years old).

So Dad died after a harrowing six months during which every one of my goals was pushed not to the backburner but completely off the stove and into the fridge because somebody had to take care of Mother and step in to handle the finances and household management, and because I'm the only close one, that somebody turned out to be me.

Dad was buried June 13th with full military honors. He was an Air Force Captain that had served two tours of duty, and a well-respected college professor. After the funeral, Mother and I discussed the possibility of my moving in while we adjusted to our New Reality without Dad.

A month later, Mother was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the esophagus, spread to the liver, and given a very grim prognosis. I moved in immediately. My goals moved from fridge to deep freeze. My horses have been languishing among the lush grass with rare visits from me. My saddle has a thick layer of mold on it, and my carrot stick is rotting (not really... just feels like it... carrots... rotting...). About the only success I have to show is that I've ridden Cheerios a handful of times now in the woods, on the trail, saddled but wearing only the Parelli Hackamore. No bit, no bridle—in between it all, we forged a relationship strong enough that I feel safer communicating with him in a "skinny rope bridle and lead rope" than a leather and brass bridle with a piece of iron between his teeth. I've also taken Shaveya on two trail rides, when her lameness abated temporarily, and she was fantastic.

What the future holds, no one knows. Mother's prognosis is "three months to three years, it all depends". We're focusing on years rather than months, but living with the awareness that it could be less. It shifts priorities. People have said, "be sure to ask all the questions you ever wanted answers to, while you have the chance". The interesting thing is, Mother and I have had so many heart to hearts in my lifetime with her that I find I have no unanswered questions left. Or, the questions that she has not answered yet are questions she never will answer, because her personality and way of thinking is such that she'll never be that forthcoming. Confused? I can't ask her why she behaves the way she does because she firmly believes "no such thing". In her mind, she's right, or fine, the way she is. Her character flaws are not visible to her and unless she has a brilliant wave of insightfulness (not likely, knowing her), they never will. My job is to accept her, flaws and all, and love her until she leaves me.

I had more questions for Dad than for Mother, but he was another story. I asked. I really, really tried to dig it out of him, but Dad was very reticent. Opening him up was... harder than getting the clam to spit out the oyster. It was sometimes painful to try to have a conversation with him. Mother told me that Dad's mother never let him talk, so he learned not to talk. She claims he opened up to her... leaving me to think that he only opened up to those he trusted implicitly, and that Mother was one of the rare few he trusted enough to open up to. He was a great father, though. A kinder, gentler, more sympathetic and conscientious man one will never meet. He provided well for us, took great pride in all of us, and his wisdom and intelligence will carry us through till the end. Still... I mourned more for the loss of the relationship I thought we should have had than for the one we did. Then I accepted it, finally.

I was with him moments before he died. He was in the ICU, in renal failure, and they were having trouble keeping his blood pressure up. His dying wish—though I didn't realize this at the time—was for me to "take care of Mother and make sure she's all right". Of course, Dad always said that to me in those last months—it had become our routine. I thought nothing of it, yet as I always did, I reassured him again that I would. His breathing was labored and his eyes were looking at something past my shoulder (what, I don't know). I said I'd go see how she was and that I'd be back in a little while. He said "OK". I turned to leave his room, intending to take a break and go check on Mother in the waiting room. I was at the doorway when something made me pause. I half-turned back and called over my shoulder, almost like an afterthought, "I love you, Dad".

Dad called out feebly "I love you, too".

While I was downstairs calling my sister to tell her she really ought to consider coming in tonight rather than tomorrow, Dad coded. When I returned, I was being paged to ICU. They got him back. They prepared to put him on a ventilator. He coded again. They couldn't get him back. At 3:31 pm, he left us forever.

I'm still not used to it. But I feel blessed that I was able to see him, conscious and coherent, one last time before he left. What better way to say goodbye than to say "I love you"? I'm trying to remember every day to tell Mother I love her, too. Just in case she forgets. This has been by far the worst year of my life, losing Wildflower, then Dad, then being given Mother's prognosis. I've moved out of my house, I'm selling it, and my life has dwindled down to playing caregiver 24/7.

One day, it will change again, and I will be alone. Where I'll go from there, I don't yet know. How this will ultimately change me, I also don't yet know. I only know that I'm still here, and that I will somehow find the courage and strength to go on, after life has finished this round of happening.