Fear

Fear, it can stop you in your tracks, literally. Fear was with me yesterday, I woke up with it this morning, and has settled into the pit of my stomach today. It can appear when you least expect it and hang on to you like a burr. Yesterday it not only snuck up on me, but I literally was frozen by it as I looked down the 1,463 foot drop off that I was about to ski down. Wait, wait….. I am exagerrating about the drop off, but in my mind it really was terribly high.

It seems really high up here….

I woke up yesterday a little nervous about going skiing, I hadn’t done it in at least 24 years. Skiing is not something I grew up doing, even though I’ve lived in Minneosta most of my life. We just didn’t do it in my family, and once I got married we didn’t do it either, until….one year John and our friends decided to go skiing in Lutsen. Being an athlete myself, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. John set me up with a local instructor at Wild Mountain, I took a few hours of lessons, and went off into the sunset with my new found skills. A few weeks later we went to Lutsen. For those of you that don’t know about Lutsen. We call it a mountain here in Minnesota, to those out west, I’m sure you would laugh at our mountain, but we think it’s pretty cool and really big!

We rented skis and proceeded up the mountain, got off the ski lift, turned left and John yelled out for me to follow him. I noticed a sign on a tree, it had a big black diamond painted on it. I went up to John and asked him what that sign meant, and he said, “it’s a black diamond, but don’t worry about it, just follow me.” So in my infinate wisdom I started to follow him down what looked like a gentle slope, but then it became steep, in fact it was straight down! I tried to do what my instructor told me to, and snow plow to slow down. It didn’t work too well, and I shot past John. I couldn’t slow down, couldn’t stop, so I tucked down and did what any normal person would do in that situation, I bombed the hill. When I got to the bottom I fell over, I was shaking and relieved I didn’t die. Our friend Pat, came over and asked if I had ever skied before, I told him of my lesson at Wild Mountain, he then asked me if I would like to learn how to properly ski, John had finally reached the bottom of the run and answered yes, for me. I guess I scared him as much as I scared myself.

Pat took me over to a small run and proceeded to teach me how to ski back and forth across the hill instead of shooting straight down. In the ski world they call that traversing the hill. I quickly learned how to do that and did enjoy my trip to Lutsen. But keep in mind that I was young, only 30 years old, and my body worked much better at syncing with my brain.

Now, today I’m 54 and I feel much older, but I guess not much wiser. That wisdom thing seems to elude me at times. I agreed to go skiing in Utah. Here is where the lack of wisdom comes in, I haven’t skied since Lutsen which was 24 years ago, yes you read correctly, 24 years ago!

But wait………before you totally write me off, I need to tell you something. I decided that maybe we should try to ski before we go, just to make sure we still can, and that is why I got so scared yesterday. We loaded up all our ski stuff and made our way out to Wild Mountain. We got our trail passes and headed over to the chair lifts, it takes me a few moments to get my skis on, by the way in case you are wondering, don’t point your skis down the hill when you try to put them on, it doesn’t work very well. I’m just sayin.

We get to the ski lift, my heart is pounding with exertion, or maybe fear? The lift comes behind us, hits me in the back of the knees and I flop into the chair. John lowers the safety bar, and I find my heart beating faster, ok, I guess it’s not the exertion, but fear making it do that. Danielle, John, and I chat for a bit then it’s time to get off. Getting off, really? It doesn’t seem easy, I lifted my ski tips up, let my skis touch down onto a mound of snow and then fling my body off the lift, which causes me to shoot down the mound and to reach out for Johns coat to steady myself. I let go of John and snowplow to a stop, my heart is beating so loud I’m afraid everyone can hear it. I look behind me and see how little that hill was and my heart almost stops. I couldn’t control myself on that little thing, what will I do now? I follow John and Danielle down a little incline and over to where we can see the signs. I see a black one, a blue one, and a green one. “Black, blue, and green, that’s how my body is going to look at the end of the day,” I mumble under my breath. We wisely chose the green trail, John and Danielle in the lead, and me behind.

At this point of the story I need to tell you, skiing is not like riding a bike, it doesn’t come right back to you. As I am going down the trail, I’m trying to remember how to do the back and forth thing, ok, I know I have to turn, lets see, plant my pole and pivot around it? Nope did’t work and I wobble and almost fall. Ok, here maybe I lean on my right ski, and lift my left ski, oops I turned but the wrong way, lean on my left ski, lift my right ski and turn. Whew, I did it, now I have to go back the other way, lean on the downhill ski, lift the uphill ski. Got it! I turned again. Now the run levels out and I have to push myself forward with my poles. I look up, Danielle and John are waiting for me and as I push myself to them I start to smile. I’m feeling a little more secure and stable. We finish the run with me getting smoother at traversing the hill and feeling more in contol. I’m even able to use the snow plow effectivly every once in a while. When we reach the bottom of the hill we have to ski over to the lift. I say “lets take a break, my legs are shaking.” but John replies, “your break will be on the lift, lets go again”. So against my better judgment I line myelf up at the chair lift and my behind makes a smoother contact with the chairlift aswe are swept up the hill. I look around this time, it’s actually pretty up here. Danielle takes out her phone and snaps a few pictures and a video.

A moment of relaxation.

I am actually smiling and my heart is slowing down a bit. But before I know it, we have to get off. My heart rate increases as I look at the dreaded mound as we approach it. I panic at the last second and can’t figure how to hold my ski poles as I get off, my skis hit the mound I shoot down, arms windmilling with my ski poles whipping around next to me, my right arms makes contact with John, I hear a grunt as I shoot down the little hill and I holler, “I’m sorry!” I snow plow to a stop and fearfully turn around, I’m certain that I knocked John down and he’s laying in the snowbank. But he’s not, he is skiing up to me with laughter in his eyes. He turns to Danielle and says, “Watch out, she’ll take you down.”

John and Danielle escort me down the slope once again. I really get into the groove now, traversing when I need to, and snow plowing when I need to. The fear is retreating and I actually feel like I can breathe. Skiing is actually getting better and I can say I almost am having a little fun and feeling a little proud that I did it. We go to the lift again and head up the slope. This time I’m next to Danielle and I get off at the mound much better, I didn’t hit her or knock her down. My 54 year old body is starting to listen to my brain and I feel like I have better control of it. Then the ski lift for my little easy rider hill stops. John turns to me and says we can’t go down that way because there won’t be a way up again. We’ll have to do a blue run. I freeze, my heart rate instantly shoots up, and breathing has pretty much stopped. I can’t do it, I know I can’t. I tell them to do the run without me and check it out, come back up on the chair lift and let me know if I can do it. They left me there on the hill, and I ski over to the maintinance guys on their snowmobiles. One of them chats with me a bit as we watch tiny little kids shoot down the slopes at a million miles an hour. I tell him I’m afraid, he makes me feel better because he says he doesn’t ski at all and he has found as he gets older he has become fearful of the things he used to do so easily. I can’t believe how that little conversation with him helped ease my breathing and calm my nervous heart.

John and Danielle show up again, much too soon in my opinion! They reassure me I can do it, but the ending is a bit hard, it’s a hill that goes pretty much straight down, but if we stay to the right it is more gradual. They escort me to the edge of the trail, and I start to follow them, the trail is nice, the slope is very gentle and I’m able to traverse, I’m able to center myself, and take a few deep breaths. Then bam, the gentle slope turns into a hill, with jumps! John and I stop, he tells me to go to the right and follow him. I have deja vu back 24 years and following him down the mountain. I want to close my eyes and just bomb it! Just get it over with! But instead I snow plow, and traverse my way down the hill. When I get there I turn to John and Danielle and tell them I’m done for the day. My legs are shaking, my knees hurt, and my heart feels like it will jump out of my chest. They protest a little bit, but I know they want to ski, and I really don’t mind hanging out by myself at the truck or on the chalet. I finally convince them it’s okay, and then I hobble to the truck. I put my skis in the back of the truck, change out of my ski boots and sigh with relief at being able to walk like a normal person again. In the car next to me a woman is sitting with her window down. She gets out and asks me if I was done for the day and if I enjoyed myself. I give her a nervous smile and tell her of my day, then I tell her we have plans to ski in Utah next week and I don’t know if I can do it. She proceeds to tell me she is a ski instructor and works with women like me. She told me I’m pretty normal for someone my age who has little or no ski experience. We chat some more and I tell her I work with women my age and their horses and this experience will help me be a better teacher. I tell her of my fear, and the fear we sometimes have with our horses. She then offered some great advice. Take lessons on the mountains, don’t try to conquer your fear without help from a professional. Then she finished getting her ski gear on, and I jumped in the truck to warm up and ponder what I went through. Danielle finally called me, they were done and we met in the chalet to have a beer and talk about our day. We ended with smiles on our faces and pretty good memories and I was happy to go home in one piece!

This morning I woke up with the fear still with me, I still have to go to Utah, I don’t want to wreck everyones vacation by not skiing, but every time I think of it I panic, there was a lump in my stomach that won’t go away and I am afraid. The fear affected how I was handling the horses, I couldn’t put meds in Addies eyes. She felt the fear in me. Buzz rushed ahead of me, the horses don’t want to be around me when I’m humming like this. Shoot, I don’t want to be around me. When I came in from chores John was here, he helped me book lessons on the mountains. The fear is still there, but it’s different some how, there is some excitment in letting someone teach me and give me the skills to stay safe on the mountain.

Just Living the Dream

Most of us have blurted out in a sarcastic way, “Just livin the dream,” and we absolutely do not mean it in a positive way. It’s usually after something negative has happened. For me, it’s because my skidsteer broke down yesterday. Here is the story:

I woke up slowly, started to stretch and my hand reached out to search for Lainey. I touched her soft fur, felt her breathing and settled in for my morning talk with God. I really need Him now, because this is the time of year I struggle with depression. I dread going out for chores. It’s below zero, lessons and training are cancelled, chores are hard and it seems like everything we do is painfully cold, and our physical endurance is sorely tested. Everything is frozen, we have to chip away at doors to open them, walk carefully because hidden ice under the snow can take us down, and our hands are painful because often times we have to remove our gloves to take care of the horses. So yeah, getting up in the morning and looking forward to the day can be hard. I would rather stay in the house and avoid it all!

So I pray, “please God, give me the strength and the joy to get through another day.” I flip the covers off, slip my slippers on and head to the kitchen for my coffee. I warm my hands around my cup, pick up my knitting, and listen to the morning podcast I enjoy. An hour later, I’m dressed and ready to head out. Joanie’s here already, she comes out a bit early to spend quiet time with her horse. I know she enjoys that so I slow down a bit as I dress for the weather.

My heart sinks as I check the weather. Another below zero day, I sigh as I walk over to my outdoor gear. My shoulders slump as I shrug on my heated vest, snow pants, heavy winter coat, scarf, two sets of gloves, hat, and heavy winter boots. It feels like I’ve got the weight of the world on my shoulders. Literally, the gear I just put on has to weigh at least 1,463 pounds, well, I guess maybe just 20 pounds. I tend to exaggerate a little bit…….

I open the patio door and step out, it’s so cold that even though I have on all that gear, I feel the coldness wrap around my body and try to get in. It succeeds in a few places, in the space between my neck and the scarf, the gap between my wrist and my gloves, and my right ear that is exposed where my hat was pushed up when I bent over to tie my boots. I make adjustments on my walk to the barn and I muttered to myself, “just livin’ the dream.”

I walk into the barn, start making up morning feed, and put food for the horses in each stall, Joanie comes around the corner, we say good morning to each other and proceed with morning chores. We have 18 horses to bring in for their feed, water tanks to fill, hay to take out, beet pulp to soak for night feeding and then sweep and clean to barn and office so it’s ready for the next round of chores.

Starbucks make us smile.

Kristin shows up with our Starbucks order and we hurry to the office for a little break and warmth. Ahhh, my heart smiles as we sip our apple cider that Karen sent us. It’s nice to be appreciated like that and it lifts our spirits. We smile at each other as we sip our warm treat. We chit chat a bit. Discuss the horses and any changes. We talk about the blankets and who may need them and who doesn’t any more. We make our game plan then carry on. It’s so much easier when you have good friends to talk to and share with. I walk out of the office with a lighter step as we banter with each other and continue with chores. I actually find myself smiling under my mask.

As we near the end of feeding, Kim shows up with a smile on her face and a gift for us of knitting needles. We pile into the office again and our conversation changes to our newest passion, knitting! We talk about patterns, our current projects, and our favorite yarns. Once again, I leave the office with a lighter step and a smile on my face.

As we finish up feeding we check the hay levels in the feeders and decide to fill them all up for the weekend. That’s five, 900 pound bales we have to take out with the skidsteer. Joanie and Kristin chip away at the big barn door to open it and I finish sweeping the barn and office. Joanie goes to start the skidsteer and it doesn’t start. It doesn’t even turn over. My heart sinks and I panic a little bit. The horses have to have hay to stay warm, they can’t handle the cold without it. I don’t understand because we keep it plugged in at all times in cold weather to prevent this from happening! I open up the door to get access to the engine and can’t find the battery. Grrr, it’s so frustrating, why isn’t the battery right there so we can see it? Joanie suggests we take the side panels off and look there. The skidsteer is parked so close to the bales that I can’t get to the right side, but I can the left. I peel my outer gloves off for better dexterity, and the cold quickly attacks my hands. I get the left panel off, and of course no battery. I go to the right side and squeeze my hand between the hay bale and skidsteer and pry the panel off with numb hands that feel like wooden blocks. Sure enough, the battery is on that side and I bonk my head on the skidsteer as I try to see the terminals to attach the battery charger. I back off and try to see it from the top and I must have gotten my face too close to the metal bar on the back because face mask gets stuck. I peel my face away from the cold metal as tears of frustration well up in my eyes.

Joanie and Kristin come over to help. Joanie takes the clamps from my frozen fingers, Kristin holds the flashlight and they successfully get the charger attached. We go back into the office to warm up and let the battery charge. 5 minutes later we try to start it, nope, 15 minutes later we try again, we wait a little longer and try again. It’s just not starting! We say a little prayer together and try again. Nope, not gonna happen.

We put our heads together again and decide to bring my truck in and jump it. The ladies direct me into the barn, which is such a tight fit for my mighty Tundra. We hook up the truck to the skidsteer and try to jump it. Nope, no go. I mutter to myself. “Just livin the dream.” My hands are frozen blocks again as the ladies help me navigate the Tundra out of the barn. We meet in the office again to warm up and make a game plan to get hay out. First of all I call John and ask him to get a hold of the John Deere shop and see the they can come get our machine and haul it to their shop to fix it. Then we decide to haul small squares to the horses, since there’s no way we can take out the 900 pound bales without our machine.

Joanie climbs up on the hay stack and throws down 10 bales. We load 4 on the wagon and the three of us pull the wagon out to the boys pasture, we fill one feeder, haul the wagon to the barn again load it up, and repeat the process. On our way back to the barn John calls me to let me know the shop is giving us a loaner and picking up our broken machine tonight. Yay, we will be able to take out hay tomorrow! We load up the wagon again, take hay out to the girls and head to the barn one last time.

We have a lighter step and feel pretty good about the day. We chit chat with each other as we gather our things. We decide that God was looking out for us. I had small squares, I rarely buy small squares, but this summer a woman contacted me with hay she had cut and it was a great price and I ended up buying 200 bales over two cuttings. Karen supplied us with a warm drink to start our day, and we were offered a loaner! Then, the most incredible gift I received was the friends I have in Joanie and Kristin, they stayed by my side in terribly cold weather for 5 long hours to help me insure the horses would be okay. They didn’t have to but they did. Under my breath I said, “Just Livin the dream” and I smiled. Yes, I am livin the dream with the help from God, my friends, my husband, and community. Livin the dream indeed!

The loaner skidsteer!

Nora colicked Today…..

Nora colicked today, as I write those words I have to choke back tears fear, relief, and joy. Colic is one of a horse owners worst fears. Its heartbreaking to watch your horse struggle with pain like that, it feels like a cruel game of Russian Roulette. You don’t know if this time it will be deadly, or if it will be okay…….

I saw Nora’s lip twitch and lift up as I tied her in the indoor arena. I was going to give my friend, Mary, a lesson with her today. I stopped what I was doing and watched. She relaxed and took a deep breath. “Ok,” I thought, “it must have been a muscle spasm, or gas, she’s okay.’ I went to get Mary and asked her to groom her as I helped with the rest of morning chores.

The barn was busy, horses were hungry, and my friends were enjoying helping me feed. I walked by Nora again and saw her lips twitch and her move like she felt some pain. I stopped again to watch, but then she relaxed. I moved off to get the saddle and saddled her up. I left her there for a few minutes to let her soak up the warm sunlight and for her saddle to warm up before I tightened the girth. After a few minutes I returned to her, she looked sleepy and quiet, she was taking deep breathes, and her eyes were half closed, but as I untied her she stretched down like a dog bowing and let out a big yawn. I handed her to Mary and asked her to walk her around before she mounted up. I finished a few more chores then asked Mary to go ahead and mount up.

Nora moved out like she always does, a little slow but willing. After a few minutes I asked Mary to trot, my heart sank as I saw Nora’s lip lift up again, then she stretched out her neck, this was not just a muscle spasm or a gas pain, something else was going on. I told Mary to stop, and get off quickly and Nora took that opportunity to try to lay down, we kept her up and got her saddle off. I quickly drew up some banamine and shot it in her mouth to see if I could help with the pain, then I called the vet and asked him to come out, and uttered the dreaded words, “Nora is colicking.”

We led Nora around, we could see every time a pain shot through her body, her lips would lift up in a grimace and she would paw the ground. We decided give her a break, she stood in the sunlight and put her head down to rest, I could tell the banamine was starting to take the edge off, but she was still in pain. She became dull, and sluggish. I put my forehead against her back and waited with her as the sunlight warmed us both.

The 20 minute wait for the vet started to feel like hours. Finally! I hear the barn door open and footsteps coming towards us, Nora shifted her weight and lifted up her head. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that help was finally here. He took her temp, listened to her heart and lungs, then he moved to her gut where he heard an increase in gas sounds. Her heartrate and other vitals looked good, he tells us it’s probably a gas colic, which is good news! We decide to tube her with mineral oil, give her some pain meds and see how she does. She wasn’t too happy about the tubing, the vet had to put a tube in her nose, run it down to her stomach, make sure it’s in the stomach and then pumped warm water, electrolytes, and mineral oil into her stomach. The hope is that it will settle down the gas, pass through, and she will be right as rain in a few hours. That feat was accomplished pretty quickly and now we just wait and see and pray. We left her in the quiet barn with the hope that in a few hours I would be turning her out in the herd with her health restored.

I went back to the barn at 3:00 to check on her, she was pacing in her stall, ears alert, eyes bright, and manure everywhere! I have never been so happy to see poop! I brought her out to her herd as she danced beside me. Her daughter, Sassy, was down at the other end of the field, standing by herself. When she saw Nora her head lifted up and she yelled as loud as she could, “Hi Mom!”. She literally squealed with happiness and ran up the hill to greet Nora. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Many have wondered if animals know they are related, after seeing their joyful reunion, I know its absolutely true. Sassy was joyful as she kicked up her heals to greet her mom. Then Ditto, Nora’s best friend, saw her and let our a little squeal as he trotted over to her. They all three went to the bale together and Sassy swept all the other horses away so the three of them had the bale to themselves. I almost took my phone out to snap a picture of them, but this was too special, a picture couldn’t capture the joy that was there. Today Nora colicked; but I got to see joy and love in a place I didn’t expect it.

My Nora

Strands of Yarn

My eyes open as I wake from sleep. The world is hazy, foggy, and soft until I put on my glasses and bring my world into focus. I stumble into the kitchen, let Gunner out and make myself a cup of cappuccino. The coffee slowly wakes my other senses, I feel the warmth of the cup, I smell the wonderful aroma of coffee, and as I swallow that first sip, my waking up is complete. I look over at my table, my knitting bag awaits me, so does my phone which will play Joyce Meyers for me as I have my morning time, knitting with God. I recently took up the art of knitting and have found it to reflect so much in my life. I have to take it slow, I can only knit one stitch at a time, I can’t rush ahead, and at first my project looks haphazard and ungainly, but as I continue the pattern and knit the yarn together, I begin to see something that not only functions, but is beautiful in its own way. Learning how to knit has helped me become better at teaching, my horsemanship, my relationships, and improved my view of the world. As I learn this new skill, I have days I’m frustrated with myself, days I don’t understand what I’m doing, and then days it all comes together and makes sense. That sounds a lot like life, Doesn’t it?

I walk to my table, I lift out the new skein of yarn. It’s going to be a hat for my sister, Chauna. I smile as I think of her. She is beautiful, she has long dark hair, a darker complexion than I do, and her smile can light up a room. I think the colors I picked will accent her coloring, and her brown eyes. I pick up my winder, attach it to the table, and begin the process of winding the yarn onto my thumb to make a ball. I hold Chauna in my heart and think of her as I begin my project. I do this for all my projects, I hope they bring joy and smiles to the people I knit for. This is one of my favorite parts of knitting. The anticipation of starting a new project, the feel of the yarn as it slides over my hands, the formation of the yarn ball, and the love I feel for the person I’m knitting for. At first it’s ungainly, wobbly, and looks like a mess, but it quickly takes formation and I smile as I notice the variations in color of the hand dyed yarn as the ball forms.

As I finish my yarn ball, I want to tell you how God works through my learning how to knit. I chose to listen to Joyce Meyers, who is a preacher on Spotify, the sermon that queued up for today was titled, “Ways the Devil Deceives Us”, I was listening to part 5 which was about Gods time. And His time is not like our time, the changes he makes in our lives are slow, but over time we see a picture coming into focus, and the mess we thought we were in slowly untangles and we see the changes and how it has shaped our world. All of this swirls round and around in my head, and finally comes to rest. In our lives we may not see the whole picture, what we are experiencing at the moment may seem a hot mess, but over time we grow, we take little steps towards our goals, and the picture looses the fuzziness, becomes sharper, less chaotic, and more complete and eventually we find that our journey does make sense and our lives are woven together like strands of yarn, alone we are weak and boring, but together we make something beautiful.

A Message from Trinity

I had a dream last night, take a deep breath and follow me into it.

She was rearing straight up. Her mane swirling around her like a tornado…

It was late fall afternoon, the sun was on its way down and I walked up from the pasture towards the barn. I heard a hose snort, and then a grunt that was human. I looked up to see Trinity with her owner, Jane. Jane was astride her, and Trinity was an impressive sight as she was rearing up and reaching for the sky. While fully extended up,Trinity shook her head, her mane spun like a black tornado around her and then she touched down. She tossed her head up and down before rearing up again. Jane was clinging to her, her eyes were as big as saucers and her mouth open in a silent scream. I looked up at them and asked Jane if she needed help. She nodded her head yes, and slipped off of Trinity and landed in a heap at my feet. I gently took the reins from her and gave her a hug. “It’s ok,” I said, “she just has something to say.”

The next thing I knew I was on Trinitys back with the reins in my hands. I touched her mouth and up, up, in the air she went. I leaned forward and removed her bridle as she was in her way down and dropped it to the ground. I then leaned over her neck and let her go.

She took off in a run, stretched out and smooth. I could hear her breath and barely felt her footsteps. She had her neck stretched out straight and her ears pinned back. Her long, black mane surrounded my face like a cloud, and I had my fingers tangled in it, my arms moved with her neck stretching and relaxing with each jump forward in her her long, beautiful stride. We we completely connected, she turned when I thought about it and she felt her own power and reveled in it as she ran up the hill. We circled the property together like that until I started to feel tired. The rhythm of her stride, the sound of her breath and the way my breath matched hers started to lull me to sleep.

We floated into heaven. Gods love and peace around us.

In my twilight state before sleep I felt her slow to a canter and then it seemed like we were floating. Maybe even riding up in the heavens with God cocooning is in his light and love. I felt myself finally drift off to sleep, a beautiful, dreamless sleep floating in the clouds of love. Love surrounded me, light surrounded me, and peace filled my heart and I slept. I slept so deeply that I didn’t feel Trinity stop. I knew nothing for what felt like just a moment. Then, I slowly regained my senses. I felt pressure on the left side of my face and shoulders and it was very dark. I panicked for a moment and started to struggle but as I opened my eyes I saw Trinitys legs stretched out in front of me. I felt warmth and pressure on my back, neck, and top of my head. I realized I was laying under Trinity, my back against her stomach and the back of my head against her udder. Her left rear leg was over me and my head was supported by her right leg and was a comfortable pillow. I became more aware of my surroundings and saw my friends and Jane looking over the stall doors at us. Trinity still had her saddle on and they told me she laid me down like that and laid down around me. She then nuzzled me into place and let me sleep. She covered me not only with her body, but with her love, peace and acceptance. At this moment I woke up fully in real life but the cocoon of love and peace stayed with me. In fact it’s several hours later and I still feel wrapped upon the cocoon. Peace and love are out there my friends. It really is. Trinity promised me that in our ride through the heavens.

The Beginning

It was the year 2002, or maybe 2003. I received a phone call from my neighbor asking me if I was interested in a horse she knew that was for sale. His name was Odyssey, and he turned out to be the horse that introduced me to the world of giving lessons. If I wouldn’t have picked up the phone, or told her no, my adventure into teaching probably would have never been started….

Odyssey had a full, fancy Arabian registered name, Aladdin’s Odyssey. He was an older gentleman that ended up with me because he didn’t live up to his blue-blooded pedigree and become a winning show horse. He had training as a halter horse, and then again more training in western pleasure and lucky for me, he wasn’t good enough in either show ring.

I will never forget meeting Odyssey, he was a golden bay in color, but his fur was patchy and he was totally bald on his chest and only had patches of hair on his neck. He also was missing his two front teeth, and when he nickered to us, he had a bit of a lisp. He was a gentleman on the ground and rock solid under saddle. We bought him to be our “extra” horse, and for John to ride out on the trails.

He was a great trail horse for us, and when other people came over to ride we would saddle him up for them. He had the most rough trot anyone here had ever ridden, but his canter was rock solid and it felt like you were riding a rocking horse. I have countless of pictures of different people riding him and have heard many boasts of them being able to ride the Odyssey trot. I told you his trot was rough, right? I’m not kidding! More people fell off of Odyssey at the trot, than any other horse on the property, at any gait! It was something else.

Everyone loved riding Odyssey

He also was a little bit skittish, and one day I found out he was a great jumper. I don’t know why I had a lunging whip in my hand, or why I cracked it while standing right behind him while he was tied up to a green panel fence and eating his morning grain. Maybe my brain left my head, or I just wanted to see if I could crack a whip. It doesn’t matter why, I can tell you I have never done anything like that again, because when I cracked that whip, Odyssey came unglued, he lifted up his head and took off, dragging the panel from the fence with him. He turned towards the driveway and jumped our 4 foot high wooden fence with the green panel attached, ran down the driveway got to the house, turned around and ran back towards the barn and jumped that fence, again with the green panel still attached, then he stopped about 200 feet from where it all started. I hadn’t even had time to move, I was too busy standing there with my mouth hanging open, looking at him, then at the whip in my hand. I had never seen anything like that before and I hope to never see it again. That was one of the first of many lessons Odyssey taught me! Never, never, never crack a whip behind a horse. Never do it, unless you want things to get a little “western”!

The infamous green panels are pictured here behind Odyssey. Don’t ever tie a horse to one!

A few months after Odyssey came to live with us, another friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to donate riding lessons to a local theatre for a fund raiser. At first I said no, I wasn’t interested in teaching people how to ride, and quite frankly, I was a little shocked that people didn’t know how to ride from birth and had to learn how to do it! Boy….. did I have a lot to learn!

Eventually I relented, mainly because I thought whoever bought the ticket probably wouldn’t call me and schedule a “lesson”. I made up a certificate and sent it to the theatre, and then pretty much forgot I donated.

Fast forward a few months later and I get a phone call. The person that “won” the certificate wanted to collect the lesson for her daughter. We set up an appointment, I hung up the phone and panicked! Then I thought of Odyssey, he had all kinds of fancy training! I bet he could help me teach a little girl how to ride. The day of reckoning came, the girl and her mother showed up and Odyssey and I proceeded to show her how to groom a horse and then I put her up on his back, and Odyssey took over. The little girl seemed to love it, her mom was smiling, and Odyssey and I had a good time too. After the “lesson” the girls mom asked me if she could come back. I answered, “sure”. We set up a weekly appointment and our lesson program began. I can’t remember what we did during that first lesson, I mostly remember being nervous, then the laughter and smiles on mom and daughters face. I saw Odyssey “strut” his stuff as he moved around the arena and it seemed as though he enjoyed it. He was the center of attention, regal, and beautiful. He did everything that little girl attempted to ask him to do and introduced her to the world of horses in a gentle and safe way. I most definitely was not the teacher in that lesson, he was!

Well, Odyssey and I were hooked. I started working with other kids in the neighborhood, then adults started coming to us, then we started working with owners and their horses and doing a little bit of training. All of this happened because he didn’t “make it” in the show ring, but he did make a difference in this world. He showed countless amounts of people how to develop a relationship with horses, he gave people confidence, and he gave us his heart. He truly was a trusted friend, companion, teacher, and partner. He has been gone for 11 years today, and I still miss him. I carry his imprint in my heart, I feel it when I teach, and I hope I am able to show my students, my horses, and anyone else I come into contact with, the gentleness I learned from him. Here’s to you sweet Odyssey, I hope someday I meet you in heaven and I get to hear that sweet nicker again, I miss you, and I always will.

Going Solo

Going solo. The first time for both of us.

I’ve always told people and have firmly believed that you should always go trail riding with someone else. You never know what’s going to happen and if someone is with you they’ve got your back if things go sideways.

I’m not sure when my view started to change or what caused it. Maybe it’s the fact we have cell phones and can call for help, maybe it’s because I’ve been craving being alone with my horses with nothing to distract me, or maybe it’s just time to face my fears.

Every time I’ve been out on a trail ride lately I’ve wanted to do more. I’ve wanted to explore a new trail, I’ve wanted to pick up a trot or canter, I’ve wanted to stay longer, I’ve wanted to stop and have a snack with my horse and rest. It’s really hard to do any of the extra “things” when I am with a group of people, even harder when I am the “one in charge.” So today I decided to go out on my own. Explore a few trails, pack a snack for myself, and bring a halter and lead rope so my horse can have a snack with me.

I started planning yesterday, secretively, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by going off by myself. Sometimes people don’t understand my desire to be alone. I know I’m weird in that regard, without my alone time I cannot function very well. Groups of people, while I enjoy them, make me feel very tired and I often have to go off by myself to recharge my batteries. Being with horses also helps me recharge, a solo trail ride may just be what the doctor ordered! I’ve been feeling really punky lately and am not sure if it’s mental, physical, or a combination of both.

I let Kim and Danielle know what I was doing today, the route I had planned, and shared my location with them through my cell phone. This morning I fed Nora, loaded her up in the horse trailer and we set out on our journey. As I drove down the road my stomach clenched in fear, “what am I doing? What if I fall off? What if I get hurt? What if Nora gets hurt?” I almost went around the block to go home. Then I thought, “ Is this how I’m going to live from now on? Fearful to do anything on my own? Fearful to try?” I found myself praying and asking God to stay with me, took several deep and cleansing breaths and kept going, knowing that God has me no matter what. If I died on the trail today at least He would be waiting for me and I was doing something I love to do. Can you ask for a better way to go? Then I laughed to myself at how morbid my thoughts were getting. I’m not going to die out there. I’m going to live!

At the mounting block. Here we go!

Crow-Hassen Park isn’t far at all and we were there In 20 minutes. I was excited when I arrived because only one trailer was there and my favorite parking spot was wide open! I unloaded Nora, and my phone rang. It was my mom on FaceTime. We always talk on Saturday mornings and I blew her off. Uh oh, oops. I answered and she saw where we are. We talked while I groomed and tacked up Nora. Now I had another person who would make sure I would be safe out there, and what a great way to start my ride! It was nice to talk to mom right before I mounted up. Made me feel safe and secure and by talking to her my doubt was gone and I was actually looking forward to my ride!

I closed up the trailer, locked up my truck and Nora and I walked over to the mounting block to begin our ride. The first thing we encountered was a family of cranes. Nora just gave them a curious glance and we continued on our way. It’s beautiful out there in Crow-Hassen. We started our ride in the prairie and spent most of the time on the open grassland enjoying butterflies and flowers of every color. The birds were singing, my saddle was squeaking, Nora was stepping out at a nice steady rhythm and there was a gentle breeze. The skies we’re such a beautiful blue I could hardly take it all in. My soul drank deeply of the beauty. I could sense Nora sending a connection up to me with her essence and it all brought tears to my eyes. I thought about a trot and she followed me into it. Her head sweeping a little from side to side and her beautiful ears flicking back to me and swiveling to the sides to take it all in. Then her head lifted up, I asked her to soften back to me, she tried but something was up ahead I couldn’t see yet, we decided to walk and soon after, off in the distance we saw a pony and a cart with 4 people. “Oh great, Nora and my first ever solo trail ride and we run into a pony eating contraption.” Nora and I continued to approach, they were stopped and taking pictures. When we got close enough to say hello I told them it was our first solo ride and I was going to go to the right off the trail and get off just in case Nora needed me on the ground. They were so nice and said no problem and stayed where they were as I dismounted. Then as we walked closer we started talking. Nora and I stopped and we had a really nice conversation and discovered we knew each other and were neighbors. By the way, Nora never batted an eye at the pony and buggy and we continued our ride. I was smiling from ear to ear because Nora is pretty amazing. I was very proud of her and feeling pretty good about our partnership.

The prairie

We continued on and as the area opened up, Nora and I did too. I had a blast asking her to trot and canter. I’ve forgotten how great it feels to canter out in the open like that. No arena to fence us in. Cantering to get somewhere and enjoying the beauty around me without being fearful someone would fall off their horse was mind blowing for me. I could feel Nora’s feet with each stride, my body matching hers, her breath was my breath, her freedom was my freedom and we were two souls enjoying Gods gift of a beautiful earth. It’s been easy to forget the beauty in 2020 but today Nora and I not only got to see the beauty, but we got to feel it, smell it, and after our canter we got to taste it when we stopped for a snack. (Well, Nora got to taste it, she ate the grass, I had a protein bar)

We had more adventures this morning, we saw another pony and buggy, we saw two tiny humans in a buggy being pushed by their father, and we ran into two cowboys that stopped to make sure I was ok since I got off Nora so we could have our snack. The cowboys had some fun stories to tell me. I wish I would have snapped a picture of them. They reminded me of being in Oklahoma with Grandpa and Uncle Ed.

Our snack time.

All in all it was a great morning. Going solo allowed me to deepen my relationship with Nora, open my eyes to our beautiful earth, feel God holding me, and meet some really neat people.

I’m Home

As I finished up chores, my anticipation was growing. I felt nervous tickles in my stomach as I walked out to the pasture to get him. His rear was facing me as he was helping himself to the hay bale, I smiled as I saw his rump between Raji and Jethro who are the two large draft crosses here. He looks like a little boy hanging out with the big guys. I slowed my pace and took a deep breath, as I approached him I softened my hands and gently laid my right hand on his rump and slid it up to his shoulder as I approached his head, he turned his head towards me and I handed him a horse cookie which he gladly accepted. I took off his fly mask and slid the halter over his face. We walked up to the barn together, side by side and at peace with sharing each others space. He stopped at the tank for a long drink of water and we then headed on up to the barn and out to the trailer. He started to load right up next to me, but then stopped, put on the brakes and backed out. We had to work together a little bit but eventually he decided it was ok to be loaded up, Kim brought Sisco in and we headed out to the trails. The air conditioning is out in my truck and we have to travel with the windows down. It gives you a different perspective to travel with the windows down. You hear the noises of the road, the cars revving up their engines, the trucks whizzing by, how the trailer squeaks, how the truck squeaks, and the horses if they call out. You also notice the smells of the road, the way the wind is blowing, and how hot it feels when you stop. It makes me more mindful of what the horses are experiencing back there in the trailer. I find myself driving differently; more quiet, softer, and gentle in the way I guide the truck and trailer where I want to go. I find myself trying to make it as pleasant as possible for the horses back there. It’s so easy to forget what they are going through with the windows rolled up, stereo on, and the temperature constant and comfortable.

When we get to the trail head Buzz is very relaxed, he comes out and sniffs my hand to see if I have a treat. I can’t resist his request, and as I reach into the trailer to get the brushes to groom him I hand him a cookie. I love to groom him, he enjoys it when I scratch his neck and rub ointment on all the itchy places the gnats have been biting him. Saddling him up is a breeze and he takes the bit from my hand. I sit on the edge of the trailer while I wait for my trail buddies to get their horses ready. I drop my head down and Buzz brings his head to my face. We stay there in that quiet place and enjoy the moment. I feel his breath on my face and the softness of his muzzle as I reach up my hands to caress his face. He is such a horse of my heart and just being in his bubble makes my heart relax. It’s been hard to let things go lately. The United States sure doesn’t feel united anymore and Covid scares me so bad because of Danielle. My heart has felt like a dead weight and upside down with sorrow, fear, and worry. Buzz in this moment helps me feel openness, kindness, and unity.

I look up and everyone is ready, we all head to the mounting block, Buzz is right next to me and I feel his curiosity. We are riding with Sisco, a horse from his heard, and two mares, Viva and Gypsy, who live the in the other pasture. He is curious about them and interested. He also is connected to me in a way he hasn’t been before. I feel his questions through the reins as I lead him over to the mounting block. There is a small hesitation I feel through the bit and into my hands and it tickles the back of my mind. I’ve felt that before, the question before we do and I leave it there because now it’s now my turn to use the mounting block and time to head out with my friends. I settle onto his back and he stands to wait for me to get my right foot in the stirrup and my hands connected to him through the reins. He says hello to me and we move off, first Kim and Gypsy, then Kelli and Viva, then Buzz and me, and bringing up the rear is Kim and Sisco. We all start up a conversation on how beautiful the day is. In the background I’m talking to Buzz. It’s a rhythm, a feel, a sensation, a thought. I feel his question come through the reins again, touching me and then my response is “a bird, stay straight”, a rhythm, a feel, a cadence a walk. His ears flick back and forth, I feel his breath, his ribcage swings from side to side, I feel his legs under me, I feel the opening between his footsteps and ask him to move over within the rhythm of his walk. My body moves with him and I can feel each footstep likes it’s my own. I find myself sinking more into him, I feel safe, my heart opens more and the veil of unease that has settled around me starts to lift. I feel our rhythm but can also feel the world around me, I’m still having a conversation with my friends, but I see the butterfly and identify it as a monarch, I see the wildflowers and note the way the wind is blowing as they nod their heads. Our rhythm never changes, but he hesitates through his bit and I feel another question, “it’s a bird”, I say “keep going this way.” He follows my answer and we keep going. Then I feel something else, the safety I felt as a child when I rode Dunny. Tears well in my eyes, the little girl I was is with me again. My heart opens wide, it’s huge and tears well up in my eyes, and I feel safe and sure footed. My body doesn’t hurt, my arthritic knees don’t ache, I feel free and able to do anything. We keep going, Buzz and me, along with my dear friends. Buzz and I move to the front. I’m not talking much except to tell them how I’m feeling. My heart fills with so much gratitude I don’t know what to do with it. It’s beautiful out there on the trails, the beauty is so stunning I can’t describe it. Buzz is curious, strong, brave, and so willing. His rhythm doesn’t falter but he asks another question. I answer “I’ll make going down this hill easier for you”, as I shift my weight back and lighten my legs in the stirrup. It’s become second nature to talk to him through my mind and body and he responds every time. It comes to me in that moment, why this feels so familiar. It’s the way JJ and I were together. My heart swells again because it feels like he is there with us. My body moves so well with Buzz because it’s familiar. That strut JJ had never let me down and Buzz feels the same. Tears well up in my eyes, I’m glad I’m leading so the others don’t see it, because the tears feel good and I want to let them flow, but I do say out loud to them, “I feel like I am home.”

Love

She told me he was coming with anticipation and joy written all over her face. “He’s from my camp, but I don’t think being a camp horse is for him.” She said as she asked me to board him here. Her joy was contagious and I looked forward to meeting him.

The trailer pulled up and I could hear him announcing his arrival with a loud neigh. He came off the trailer with his head and tail held high. A proud specimen of a horse. Regal in carriage and gentle in demeanor. A beautiful horse that looked wise and a little scared under all that pride. I looked at his girl and she was one big grin as she proudly led him to the round pen where he would stay until he was ready for the herd.

I watched the two of them as they developed their relationship. She spent hours at a time out here, just hanging out and learning what she could from him. They bonded quickly and a partnership developed that would teach them how to communicate with each other. She took lessons with him and learned how to teach a horse how to let go of the past and enjoy being with a human. They both learned how to breathe, she learned how to be in the moment and he learned that humans were kind.

Skipper and Krissa

I fell in love with him too. Maybe it was because he would ask me for help when he needed it, or maybe it was because he had beautiful eyes that reflected a spirit that was kind, or maybe it was just because he loved all the humans here. I’ll never know why, but that doesn’t matter. He was who he was and he showed love.

He loved her more than I can even describe. He knew when her car would pull into the driveway and he would be so excited to see her that I would hear his greeting even when I was in the house. I wish they had more time together but their story ended too soon.

Today she gave him the ultimate gift. The hardest gift she may ever have to give. She released him from his failing body and let him go. It was peaceful but certainly not easy. I saw the pain of grief overcome her, and felt the pain wash over me as I held her in my arms. He was not just a horse. He was her friend, he was our friend, and he was love. Goodbye sweet, sweet Skipper. We love you and we already miss you.

The Hush

Last Wednesday our governor issued a shelter at home edict for all activities that are non-essential. We all knew it was coming, but when the words were finally spoken, my heart began to race, and I knew I had to let my boarders know they couldn’t come out. How do I do such a thing, tell them they can’t see their trusted horses who are their companions and trusted friends? Hanging out with their horses gives them a sense of tranquility, of enjoying shared space with another being that is gracious and forgiving. The barn is the one place that feels uncontaminated by the virus that is attacking our world. But then again, the feeling of security is being yanked away from us because now the experts have determined the virus lives on pretty much everything that the infected person comes into contact with. And to make matters worse, an infected person doesn’t always feel sick as they spread the virus around like a wildfire. I feel like I’m in a sci-fi movie for the end of the earth. Anybody else?

Wednesday night was long. I agonized over how to let everyone know. I drafted several emails until I finally had one that spoke from my heart and pressed send and exhaled. The few responses I got were very kind and supportive. We had two days before the edict would go into effect. All the boarders came out to groom, ride, and love on their horses and say goodbye for the next two weeks while I hid in the house because in here my daughter is in the high risk category and I cannot risk carrying the virus to her. I know there were tears as they left and I understand. I would be crying too, it’s not just the saying goodbye to our horses for two weeks, I think a lot of it is because this is one more thing that this awful virus is taking away from us. Just one-more-thing……….

I’m alone now here at the barn. Saturday was my first day, and I could hardly get out there. I was so down and hurting for everyone that I had to call my mom. My poor mother, she answers the phone and I was already sobbing that I couldn’t do it. It felt like I was breaking so many hearts and I wasn’t ready. Of course being the woman she is, she got me turned around and I was able to pull myself together and head out to the barn. The geldings were up and ready for breakfast and I peeked into the pasture to see who was at the gate. It was Jethro, so I went into the barn and made up his breakfast and put it in the stall. I walked out and he was waiting for me, he gently put his head in the halter and quietly followed me to the stall where he immediately got to work on his meal. The next horse I wanted to bring in was Sisco, I thought about him, pictured him in my mind as I made up his breakfast, when I went to his pasture he was standing at the gate saying hello. The whole morning went like that. It felt like they knew something was happening and they chose to make it easier for me. There was no fighting at the gate, no rushing me to their stalls, and no kicking out at each other while in their stalls. There was quiet communication happening all the time and the hush went from feeling claustrophobic to feeling calm and gentle. I’m starting to appreciate the hush, to welcome it and the gentle, quiet communication from the herd. I hope we all get through to the other side of this pandemic and maybe also learn how to appreciate the hush and the quiet slowing down of our lives.