Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tragedy, Triumph and Whatever

Towards the end of September, DH's Mom asked if I wanted to go offsite.....and I said yes!  She invited R. and Harmony to join us.  I was excited.  The day arrived and it couldn't have been more beautiful.  In fact, it was unseasonably warm.  It's a lot of work getting ready to go offsite!  Hay, tack, water.  I was sweating before we even got in the truck! 

All three horses loaded up fine, with Gem first because he's the biggest.   It was when they unloaded that I sort of ...well... panicked.  I was in a strange place with my horse!  Holy crap!  Deep breaths...  Although it was her first time offsite with Harmony, R. was cool as a cucumber.  Because her daughter Mary competes all the time with Ringer, R. knew what the routine was for loading, unloading, tacking up, etc. etc.  I felt completely inept, but DH's Mom was very patient with me.  I stood on a rock to mount and off we went.  

 It was awesome.  Gem was fine with everything and was relaxed and snuffling as we walked through the lush greenery.  This forest has gullies and little streams, some with bridges.  Gem and I rocked going up and down the steep gullies, but we didn't do the bridges.  He wasn't fussy and I didn't want to push it.  When we left after 2 hours, I was elated.   I went twice more to the park with DH's Mom before she put her trailer in storage - just the two of us - and Gem and I did the bridges on those rides.  :-)

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In early October, I noticed that my Silky Terrier was limping.  I checked is paw and decided that it was because his nails were long.  He was due to see the groomer, but I wanted to make sure the limp was gone first.  The limp lingered.  After a few days of it not getting better, I took him to the vet.  The examination did not yield much, but he was sent home with an anti-inflammatory.  The limp seemed to be getting worse, so I took him back a week later for an x-ray.  The results showed that he had a tumour on the bone under his shoulder.  The usual treatment was complete amputation, followed by chemo and radiation.  My Silky was not a candidate for such aggressive treatment because of his age (14) and his past pancreatic issues.  I managed his pain and carried him everywhere so that there was no danger of his leg breaking.   He still asked to go out (I carried him in and out of the house) and ate like a trooper, he still barked at the door bell and when he greeted me when I got home, his tail wagging.   However, I could actually feel the tumour growing and pushing out his shoulder; his pain medication were upped a couple of times.  As usual, he seemed content with the situation as long as it meant being with me.  One morning in early December, I looked at him....I mean REALLY looked at him... when he didn't know I was checking him out.  If he had known I was checking him out, he was have put on a brave happy front because that's what dogs do.  I could tell he was very "tired".   It was time.  I had the vet come to my home and as I held him in my arms as the process was initiated, I couldn't help but think of Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain.  My Silky Terrier was ready.  The transition was done on his big pillow with his life-long buddy, my 16-year old Cairn Terrier, and me beside him.  It was peaceful.  He was such a sweet, gentle soul.  I miss him every day. 

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My middle sister continues to drag out the closing of my mother's estate.  It's well over a year since my mother passed away, and because she has not been forthcoming with any information after repeated requests, I fear that she is covering for some bad behaviour on her part:  we could be looking at many more months before the estate is finalized.  It's a sordid story, one that smacks of elder abuse by middle sister, financial cover up and one that I would never have thought would have been about my family.   After loosing my parents and now having to deal with lawyers on a regular basis, my physical and mental health have been negatively impacted.  This winter was a real challenge.  I am not riding as much as I would like to; getting motivated to get to the barn has been difficult.  I am terribly out of shape.    

While work has been a refuge for me, the business plans over the next 18 months will increase my workload tremendously.   Instead of being a refuge, works is now starting to add to the stress in my life.  I may not have much control over the situation with my mother's estate, but I do have control over other aspects of my life.  I am going to retire!!   

My Husband will continue to be semi-retired, working through the winter and golfing in the summer.  It is a set up that works for him.  I want to surround myself with activities that give me joy and self-satisfaction.  I have a beautiful garden that needs some TLC.  I also have a couple of places that I would like to volunteer at (therapeutic horse riding program, chronic care home).  I would actually like to read my Book Club books at a leisurely pace instead of cramming it into the last week before the meeting.  I picked up some canvases and paint and will try my hand at trying to create "art".   And, more importantly, I would like to spend more time at the barn and riding, which was my retirement plan all along.  :-) 

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In January we had our first few days of snow.  The horses get frisky after the first snow.  It reminds me of when I was little and I would wake up to that first really big snowfall and couldn't wait to get out there and play.  I love riding in the snow and eagerly hit the trails with DH's Mom.  The snow was quite deep in some areas, but the herd had already laid some trails for us.  Gem and DH were frisky!  I actually positioned myself behind DH's Mom to keep Gem at a slower pace.  DH would break into a prance every now and then, with Gem right up his butt egging him on.  As we came to a clearing in the bush near the orchard, I could feel Gem wanting to GO.  As I wrestled with him to keep him in check, he reached out and bit DH on the butt!  DH started to prance out of the way.  Gem and I were still wrestling when he decided to put an end to it.  He kicked out his hind legs twice very high, catapulting me on to his neck.  I recovered enough on the second kick to be able to push myself off to the side instead of flipping over his neck.  I landed in soft snow and other than the pain in my thigh from hitting the horn as I flew off and a sprained finger, it was the best fall I have every had.  :-)  Gem stood there and looked at me.  DH's Mom was able to get hold of his reins.   

Just as I was dusting myself off, LA and a student came riding up to us.  LA offered to give me a leg up, which Gem stood patiently for initially, but lost patience when my obvious lack of upper body strength to haul my now generous body into the saddle became embarrassing to him.  He quietly started to walk off, with me hanging on to the horn trying to will him to stop.  No such luck.  He trotted back to the main gate, leaving me to walk back through the orchard and across two fields in snow up to mid-calf.  The more I walked, the warmer I became.  I started undoing clothing, removing scarves, gloves.  Do you know how hard it is to breath when you have a sports bra on!?  By the time I got to the gate, I was sweating, my face was red and I sounded like some sort of wild version Darth Vader, huffing and puffing.  A barn worker was holding Gem when I arrived.  I put my clothing back on, got back on him and jogged/walked him around the turnout area.   Some might think that I got back on him to teach him that he can't get away with dumping me.  However, I was grateful that I was able to sit on him while I caught my breath before the walk to the barn.  :-)

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While at the barn yesterday, a fellow rider asked me how big Gem was.  I taped him again to check his weight and he's a fluffy 1365 lbs and he still stands a smidge over 16.1hh.  It seems like yesterday that I was terrified of being that high off the ground.  :-)  Well, it was confirmation that both Gem and I have to work on our girth size.... the plan is to slim down together.  :-)

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Admittedly, I have been in a funk.  But sometimes out of the funk darkness comes a bright light.  People that I haven't connected with in a long time or friends that I haven't seen in a while have contacted me out of the blue.  These gestures lift my spirits.  There always good stories and memories.  Delightful!   Some of my father's good friends invited me to the Naval Officers Mess for drinks just before Christmas.  And, a couple of months ago I had dinner with the son of friends of my parents.  I had not see Kent in 50 years!!  It was great fun.  :-)

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There is a new boarder at the barn.  I met Shannon a few years back when I was taking lessons.  Her lesson was right before mine and being of the same age, we started talking.  She rode a lot as a young adult and then stopped for 25 years.  Lessons were her way of getting her confidence back.  We had the same retirement goal (riding horses).   I stopped lessons, so I didn't see her again until recently.  She just bought a horse!  A lovely Arabian/QH cross and is starting to get into shape so that they can compete in endurance!  Wow.  She's retired now and has the time.  She rides 3 times a week.  She took her mare out on the trails for the first time this weekend by herself.   She is confident and focused and enjoying her horse.  She mirrors my hopes for Gem and I (well, with the exception of the endurance thing), and I am getting excited about it.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Warning!  Some graphic photos!!

Back in January, I had my vet look at a lump on Gem's chest.  It was located on the fatty area of his breast.  I noticed it last September and actually thought he had been stung by a wasp.  My vet looked at it and recommended that it be removed and a biopsy done just to close the loop, but his first impression was that it was nothing serious.   I trust my vet.  I booked the surgery for the end of April.   All went well.

Beautiful, even stitches.....
The 2nd morning after surgery, barn staff arrived to discover that Gem and Noah were loose in the barn and had been eating, pooping and pulling stuff off the racks during the night.  They were also shocked to see that the top door of Gem's stall was still locked!!!  The bottom door, however, was wide open.  What the heck?!   Yep, Gem limbo-ed under the top door to escape...and then he let his buddy, Noah out.  As far as they can figure, the very tall visiting horse in the stall next to Gem's, reached over and unlocked the bottom door bolt.  Sigh. You cannot trust Gem when it comes to containment.

Of course, he pulled out all of his stitches during his escape leaving a huge, gaping hole.   So, I hosed it (couldn't be restitched because it had been open too long), flushed it with iodine and then coated it with honey.  Eventually, I stopped hosing it but continued with the honey for a few weeks.  It was a very deep wound and has taken a long time to heal, but it has healed from the inside out with no complications.  Yay!   Thank you honey!  I do appreciate that he's robust and a good healer.

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Our bridge was like this one.
This horse does not like the noodles!
By early June, Gem's wound was nicely scabbed over and I was able to join some friends on a trail ride.  I love that I can trust him to be sane after a long absence from riding.  He lived up to his name and we had an awesome ride, staying out about 1.5 hours.  On the way back, we walked by the obstacle course.   A long "tippy" bridge caught my eye, a leftover from the clinic earlier in the week.  DH's Mom started to tell me to let Gem walk up and sniff it and allow him to ease into stepping on it, etc., etc.   Pffft!  Gem and I walked up to it and just walked across.  Even when it tipped forward, he didn't hesitate.  We turned around and went back over it again just to prove it wasn't a fluke.  :-)   Then we walked through the hanging noodles.....DH's Mom was, well....impressed.  :-)  I know that I can trust Gem to have the confidence needed when it comes to things out of the ordinary.

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In July, DH's Mom asked if I would go offsite with her and ride a local trail (what?!).  Apparently, TS and SS are not interested in going offsite this year.  I declined; riding in 30C weather has no appeal to me, but said that I would go later in the year.  I did however, agree to allow Gem to go offsite with another rider.  MC rides a Clydesdale, but the owner (she leases) would not allow the horse off the property.  I volunteered Gem as her mount so she could go with DH's Mom.  I looked at this as an opportunity for Gem to experience another location without risk to myself.  :-)  MC is a more experienced rider than I, more physically fit and confident.  I showed her his tack and then wished her a good ride.  I trusted her to take care of Gem and she did.  He actually loaded and unloaded with ease and rocked it when they were on the trails.  The only time he refused to walk on was when they came to a big puddle.....strange...  But they did not force him because this ride was for getting both horses familiar with the trails.  MC couldn't say enough good things about Gem.  :-)

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One of my goals this summer was to get comfortable riding on my own.  I don't want to be dependent on others.  I have been out on Gem "by myself", but usually within sight of others.  There is still a safety net, so to speak, when you can see other riders.  We needed to get out there alone.   I tried!   There were a number of times that I did not make arrangements with my riding buddies to meet up so that Gem and I could go it solo.  The best made plans....sigh.  People I hadn't seen in weeks seemed to jump out of the woodwork when I arrived, asking if they could join me on the trails....of course they could... :-)  Eventually, the day came when Gem and I were alone.  There was no one, with the exception of LA's mother, at the barn.   I was excited...this is it!....not a nervous bone in my body!  What the heck?!   No issues with mounting; stepped right up and on.  Off we went.  Well, sort of.  Gem started off fine, but once he realized it was just him and I, he walked vvvverrry sloooowly and kept looking behind us, searching for our usually riding companions.   I could almost hear him say, "Wait a sec...where are the others??"   :-)  He eventually came around, after a lot of encouragement, and we walked around the open fields (I wasn't quite ready to go into the orchard or forest).  One thing about riding on your own is that it's quiet....really quiet...  So I chatted a lot with Gem, just to make sure that the critters could hear us and nobody got spooked.  Strangely, I think he sort of liked my chatter. Note to self:  Find Gem's bell necklace.   My heart really swelled as we headed back to the barn and I had a big smile on my face.  I think our partnership was truly sealed with that ride.  I trusted him and he trusted me.  I felt that we could do anything after that ride.   What a wonderful feeling....