She’s just a dog they say. But they don’t understand. She’s been by my side the past 13 years.
She has walked next to me in all sorts of weather as I fed horses, she has trotted next to my skidsteer as I have taken bales out of hay out. She has disciplined horses that she thinks are out of line and watches the situation closely every time I work with a horse. She checks in with me constantly, she’s by my side as I sleep at night. In the morning she’s happy to see me. She only eats if I sit next to her at dinner time, she looks at me when she’s in a different part of the room. She’s my sidekick, my friend, my constant companion.
We take walks together, she’s gone to the hospital to visit Danielle, she has ridden in airplanes with me and traveled to both Georgia and Oklahoma as my navigator. She rides shotgun in my truck, and she rides on my horse with me.
She’s so much more than just a dog. My heart aches as she’s getting older. I see the slower steps, the lack of response to sound, and how she uses her nose to find me more than she uses her eyes. But she still goes to the barn with me, she walks next to me, and gives me comfort. She is unselfish in her love. She shows me that love is patient and love is kind.
God must have really thought I was special to put her in my life. She’s much more than a dog, she’s a gift, a gift of love straight from Gods heart to mine. I hope God has a long life planned for her because, well, I just don’t know what I would do without her. She’s not just a dog, she’s my friend.
I looked down at Lainey and said, “do you want to go for a walk?” Of course I didn’t get a reply since she’s going deaf, but I still speak to her, its a habit that is ingrained in me.
I clapped my hands which did get her attention and sat down on the couch which is her signal to jump up next to me. I clipped her leash to her collar and she pranced beside me as we walked to the truck. I bent over, scooped her up, put her on the seat next me and we headed down the road. It wasn’t very long before we arrived at Elm Creek, and walked down the trail.
I noticed Lainey was scooting a bit, and seemed a little out of sorts. When someone or something approached us she wanted to stop, smell the air, and try to see what she could see. Her sight also is going which has made her skittish. My heart sank when I noticed it. She has changed from a dog with a strong presence to a timid little dog. I felt tears well up in my eyes, and my heart broke just a little bit as I watched her struggle.
We continued on our way, with her hesitating and feeling unsure and me determined to help. Winter was losing its hold on the woods and I noticed that the Maple trees were tapped. There were buds starting to show up on the trees and birds were singing. I started losing myself in the sensations of nature, the wind gently blowing, the sun touching my face with warmth, and my little dog next to me.
We found a little walking trail off the paved trail and took it. I looked down at Lainey and noticed she was relaxing. She was panting a little and sniffing the air with curiosity. I felt her energy change and she stepped out with more confidence, there were times she even led me a little. I found my heart relaxing and started to enjoy our walk. Our energy joined together through the leash and we walked forward as one. The feeling of connection is one I know well with her, it’s like slipping on your favorite jeans, you know the ones that fit just right, have your butt imprints in them and the ones you will never throw away. We know each other, and she doesn’t have to hear or see me to know I will always be there for her. We can step out into the world together and count on each other. She is that special dog for me that could never be replaced, the one that knows me better than I know myself and accepts me for who I am. We continue to take weekly walks together and I am so happy to say that each time we go out I see more of the confident dog with the big personality coming out.
I’ve decided to walk more often, and Boomer joined me this week for a walk. Boomer has a different personality than Lainey. He is absolutely certain that the whole world loves every single thing about him. He has no doubt the world is made just for him and no matter what it loves him and he deserves that love. When I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride he was beside himself, his tail was wagging at 100 miles an hour and his smile was huge! He started jumping around so much I could barely put the leash on, and when we were finally connected he started to cry with joy.
I opened up the truck door and he slowly lifted his body up into the back seat, but once in, he could hardly wait for me to shut the door and get going! We headed off to a different part of Elm Creek Park.
Boomer started out with lots of energy, and I had to remind him a little bit of how to walk next to a human. He responded quickly and stayed checked in with me. Every single time we passed anyone his tail would wag, he would smile and say, “hi”. Some people responded with a hello back, some not so much. He even got a couple compliments on how pretty he was.
We were really enjoying the walk, I had never been to this part of the park and it was fun to explore a new area. Spring had progressed a lot in the past few weeks, the birds are migrating back to Minnesota, and the frogs have started to sing. Boomer was taking it all in with me, and staying connected through the leash. He didn’t pull, he stayed right next to me and enjoyed the adventure. We still crossed paths with people, and we both continued to say hi, but our focus was on each other and the earth around us.
We saw a beautiful lake that seemed to appear out of nowhere, and there were a couple spots I think I recognized as the old horse trail. Boomer continued to wag his tail and when I took him off the paved path he enjoyed sniffing around and leading me for awhile. His energy is very calm, confident, and happy and it’s a pleasure to tap into that when we are together. At home he gets obsessed over his ball and toys, out here its just the two of us and I think that both of our hearts were able settle down and allow for relaxation.
Today I asked Gunner if he would like to go and held up the leash, he sat up immediately and could barely hold still enough for me to clip it to his collar. He quickly pulled me towards the door, and almost off my feet before I could gather myself enough to get control again. I had forgotten what a puppy he still is!
We quickly got to the truck and he nimbly jumped into the back seat and we headed to a part of Elm Creek I know well. We were going to explore the horse trail and walk to the bridge. I opened the truck door, Gunner jumped out and before I knew it I was being pulled to a dead animal. My first thought was, “how did he know that was there”, and my second thought was, “I better get control here, or this won’t be a fun walk!”
Gunners energy jumps all over that place. His mind doesn’t settle on anything. He thinks the world is here to explore and anything that moves must be chased. I finally got him under control and asked him to sit. He did that very well, and then my next thought was that I should be using treats with him to help his brain stay on me a little more.
We hit the trail and immediately he starts to pull, his nose twitching like crazy, his tongue hanging out, ears swiveling everywhere and his path is as erratic as a drunk sailor! I tighten my grip on the leash so it’s not sliding through my hands and he hits the end of it which stops him in his tracks, then the leash relaxes, he walks fast again, hits the end and so on and so on and so on. All I can think is “can he even feel the release when he gets it?” I shorten up the leash more so he hits the end of it as soon as he steps ahead of me. The leash pulses with him hitting the end, then the release. Every time there is a release I say good boy. People pass us on bikes and he tries to lunge, but I have the leash short, so instead of lunging he just pulls my arm enough that I’m afraid it’s going to pop out of socket! But we continue.
I’m trying to absorb the nature around me and notice the beauty as the tugging and releasing continues for quite awhile, but before too long I start to notice there are times he is walking next to me, and I feel his energy through the leash. I say good boy, and wham, he hits the end again. But we are getting some release, and he’s learning through the release!
Our walk continues and we finally reached the bridge and proceed to explore it, and a bridge a little further upstream. Gunner quit with the pulling and settled down next to me. We could finally feel each other through the leash, he moved with me instead of against me and I could feel his energy. I like his energy. It’s very open and he tries to soak in everything around him. He does get a little distracted, but with a gentle whisper of a tug on the leash he checks in with me. Walking with him on the trails is an adventure into the wilderness. He senses the movement in the bushes as the birds take flight and calls it to my attention, he watches the leaf as it blows across the path, he hears movement in the bushes and I see his ears and head swivel towards it. It’s amazing that if you allow yourself to connect to him, all the stories he will help you see.
My three dogs, they have a story to tell, and ways to help me see the world.
Lainey showed me trust and comfortable companionship.
Boomer showed me that we all deserve love.
Gunner showed me that life is an adventure.
It’s very easy in todays world to get caught up in all the negativity. I hope you all get a chance to take a walk with a dog and open up your heart to see the world as they see it. You just might find something pretty special in a dogs tale.
As I woke up I felt a slight knot in my stomach, I couldn’t place why I felt it, until my eyes were fully opened and I realized I wasn’t at home. “This is my first day of skiing on a real life mountain.” I thought to myself, and then felt the butterflies take off in my stomach into full spasm mode. I took a few deep breaths and prayed to God under my breath, “Pleae help me to get through this day in one piece, and help me learn enough to have confidence in what I am about to do.”
I put on my glasses, rolled out of bed and headed to the kitchen of our beautiful condo. We are staying at Park City, literally right across the street from the chair lift that will wisk us away to the Park City Ski Slopes, but today we are going to travel to Sundance Resort to start our skiing adventure. There I will meet a ski instructor and hopefully learn that I need not be so afraid.
Eventually everyone gets up and dressed and we gather up all our ski equipment to head to Sundance. It will be about an hour drive, and my stomach will probably feel every mile. My stomach hurts, breathing is a little hard, and I fluctuate between being scared to death, to having faith that I will be ok. It’s so strange how a person can feel this way. One minute pretty ok with things, and the next, pretty much not okay with things.
I try to enjoy the countryside. The terrain is rugged, and the landscape looks arid, it reminds me a bit of the Oklahoma Panhandle. The soil looks red in places and I see a lot of sage brush and small cedar trees. But then I look up; the mountains rise towards the sky, one side brown, red and green with dirt, pine trees, and rock, while the other side is frosted with snow. I can’t tear my eyes away from the peaks, they are beautiful and the sky is as blue as it can be. The sunlight is dazzling and the snow reflects the light in such a way that there is a halo.
I’m dreading our arrival, and anticipating it with excitment at the same time. I try to place this feeling and the closest I come to it is how I felt on my way to all my track meets. Excited, nervous, scared of failure, and hoping for success. My body is tingly and my stomach flutters as we pull into the parking spot. Mary, John, Rob, and I get out of the truck. The three of them are talking to each other and I am unable to talk. My hands are shaking a little bit and I’m concentrating on breathing, which has become hard to do. I literally am shaking as I put my ski pants on, then the ski boots, which seem to be some sort of torture device. How can something be that hard to get on? Then once you get them on you walk like nothing I can really describe. Your legs are bent at an impossible angle, you have to take very short steps, and every footstep is felt through your entire body, especially your knees! I never did get comfortable with walking around in them.
We pick up our lift tickets, and I walk (hobble is more like it), to the shuttle that will take us to the ski school. By the time we get to the ski school and I say bye to my group and watch them ski off to the lifts to begin their day, I’m a hot mess. Of course I have to go to the restroom which puts me more into a panaic mode. What if they start without me? I check my watch and see that I have 30 minutes, so I get directions to the closest restroom and eventually make it back to my skis, get my gear together and walk over to the meeting place.
With my heart pounding loud enough for the entire mountain to hear it, I walk up to the nearest group of instructors (they all are wearing black and red jackets) and ask if I am in the right place. They all were nice, and they answered yes to my question loud enough for me to hear it over my pounding heart. The mountain rises right in front of me, and all I can think is “No, way! If I go up there I will never get down again!” The instructors must have been able to hear my heart pounding, or maybe it’s the look on my face, but they reassure me with smiles, and start asking me questions such as who I am, how much I’ve skied, and reassure me that I’m in good hands.
Eventually 10:00 rolls around and I, along with one other student are introduced to our ski instructor, his name is Lee and his smile is kind. He asks us how much skiing we’ve done, and because we both are pretty new at this he decides to start us over as brand new beginners. I was so relieved to hear that! Quickly he has us gliding around on one ski, then we switch to the other, then he teaches us how to side step up the mountain a little bit, he turns around and skis backwards down the slope and has us follow him, and before I realize it I’m skiing! Then I’m stopping softly right in front of him at the bottom of the slope. Then we side step up again a bit further and do it again. Then he has us follow him and we turn! Then we turn again and stop. At this point I realize that I’m skiing down a mountain slope and it was pretty easy. He got us skiing and we didn’t even realize it because we were so intent on the task at hand we forgot everything else. I was even smiling.
Lee turned to us and said it was time to go up the mountain on the lift. My heart exploded again into that hard fast rhythm, but there was some excitement there too. We get on the lift and head up the mountain. It is beautiful up here, and Lee gives us instructions on how to get off. When we get to the top, I follow his instructions and am able to gently glide off the lift! Yay, I didn’t knock anyone down or fall down myself! Lee skied backwards and just had us follow him. We eventually broke up our group, I went with Lee and the other person went with a different instructor. Lee got to the point he would ski a head of me and I would follow his tracks, then, as soon as I got comfortable, he would add a new skill. I laughed out loud and told him he sounded like me when I teach my students, wait until they get comfortable, then push them a little outside of the comfort zone. He laughed with me and we started talking about how horsemanship and riding is a lot like skiing. Both sports use our cores, breathing is very important, keeping your eyes and your chest facing the goal, keep your center low, stay on task and ski (or ride) the part you are on right now, don’t focus on the whole part, but just where you are in the moment. I learned a lot from Lee, and I hope some day I can return to Sundance and take another lesson with him. He is a good teacher, he kept me focused, gave me rest when I needed it by telling me stories. I got to hear how he had a moose follow him down the slope, and the first time he met Robert Redford. After my lesson I met up with John, Mary, and Rob. We had a great lunch then I skied with them for two more runs! I would get a little scared, but now I had Lee in my head and his voice would come in loud and clear, “don’t panic, get low, and turn until you stop. Ski where you are, keep your eyes down the hill, the backside of the turn is where the g force is hardest and use that outside ski to bring you around.” I didn’t realize how much he really taught me until the next day of skiing………….
We had a day of rest between ski trips and when I woke up Monday morning the butterflies had returned to my stomach. The four of us quickly got organized, dressed, and headed across the street to ski Park City. We headed over to the ski lift and started up the slope, we rode up, and rode up, and then kept on riding up the mountain. The higher up we went, the harder it was for me to breathe and the louder my heart was beating. We rose up so high we were in the clouds, visibilty became very limited and I felt a few tears leak out of my eyes. Even as I write this I can feel my heartrate increase and the shakes return to my body. I started to understand how a cat feels while stuck in a tree. I wasn’t sure there would be a way for me to get down again! By the time we got to the top, I was in a frenzy, I was crying a little bit, my legs were shaking, and I was convinced that this wasn’t going to end well for me.
Rob, Mary, and John saw my distress and I thank God for their incredible patience. It’s very humbling to be the person who is struggling, but the three of them worked hard at making sure I was able to get a hold of myself and ski over to the next lift. Yes! The next lift, we weren’t up high enough….can you belive that?
We get to the second lift and picked us all up together, I do love the feeling of the chairlift as it scoops you up from behind and as you settle back into the chair it whisks you away. We had another long ride up the mountain, and then all four of us struggled off the lift, I almost fell down but John, seeing my mess, pushed me from behind so I didn’t bite the dust. We skied over to the map and found several green runs, we picked the one called Claim Jumper and start heading down. At first it seemed really scary, over to the right is a drop-off, so John tells me to stay to the left. He, Mary, and Rob head off and I hone in on Robs tracks, I hear Lee in my head to follow the tracks, to keep my chest and eyes down the mountain and ski the place where I am. Rob is making nice easy turns so his tracks are easy. Then, Mary crosses in front of me and I start following her tracks, she skis in the middle of the slope, I find there is less ice here. She’s fun to follow because she makes more frequent turns which makes me feel a little more in control. John is going too fast for me, so I don’t follow him down this run. I just go between Mary and Robs tracks. After about 30 minutes we make it down our first run. It was fun, but I’m still shaky and looking for a little rest. We all stop at the lift, and decide to do it again. We are quickly swept away by the chair lift, and whoosh, up we go. When we need to get off I exit before I should and, oops, the chair disappears out from under me and down I go, bam, ugh. I am stuck under the lift and I can’t move. The lift operator has to stop the lift, come over and get me out of my skis so I can humbly crawl away. Yep, that was me, if you were behind me on the lift I am so sorry……..
We head down the mountain again, this time I try to follow John as well as Mary and Rob. I’m starting to breath, I still hear Lee in my mind reminding me of ways to get down, I even play with my edges as he told me to when I want to slow down. I’m able to find my own rhythm and at times it just feels like it’s me, the mountain, and my breath. Turning is getting easier, I try pointing my skis down the hill more and pick up speed. The speed is a bit of a rush, and things get a little easier, but then there is too much speed and I lose control. “Sorry Mary,” I holler as I bomb past her a little too close. I take a breath, get low and start turning until I stop. “Whew, sorry Mary, I lost control there.” I say as she stops next to me. Mary tells me it’s okay and we continue down.
The rest of the day continues just like that. I go out of my comfort zone, then go back in. I try letting my tips angle down for more speed, then back off. I feel the mountain air, I hear the sound of the skis as they glide across the snow. I feel the edges of the skis and how they can change my speed and direction. A rhythm develops, I feel connected to the mountain, my skis, and my body. Breathing becomes part of the the rhythm. I’m on the edge of softness, the skis become my horse, and we move as one, I smile, I’m hooked. I understand how you can find God here and it is good.
The afternoon progresses. We have lunch, do a few more runs, then realize the mountain lifts close in an hour. It’s time to think about heading down. Rob and John head over to the map, and talk to an instructor. Rob lets him know that I am a beginner and we only do green runs. We need to find the best way to get down the mountain and into town again. The instructor tells John and Rob that we will take two green runs down, but to get to the bottom we have to take a short but very easy blue run (for those of you that don’t ski green runs are the easiest, blue is harder).
We start down the mountain, the first green run is easy, we’ve been on it already, then we went to the next green run and it was really nice. We all are in rythm and enjoying ourselves, but then the green run splits off to the left, and the blue run that will take us down it to the right. We go right, and it’s okay at first, but then we see a sign ahead, it says “No easy way down this way.” Now at this time we could turn left and go down a green run, or turn right. The instructor said to go right, so we do. I’m telling you right now, we should have paid attention to the sign!
At first it was okay. A little scary, but I could snow plow and stay under control, but it’s not too long before the little easy path we were on opened up to a hill that was straight down and long! I started side stepping down, but it was icy and I started to slip. It’s amazing how quickly you can go from having a good day to having a very bad day. My heart beat accelerated, my limbs started to shake, and I must admit, at this point I started to cry. I was using all of my power to keep myself from sliding down the slope, my arms and legs were shaking from the exertion. John, Mary, and Rob were all stopped in front of me, searching for a way down. I had given up on searching for anything, I was clinging for dear life on the side of the slope, at an impossible angle. I knew I couldn’t hold on much longer, my legs were burning and my knee was on fire. I hollered and told John that I was going to take my skis off and go down on my butt. I’m not sure how I got my skis off, but I did, and sat down with my skis and poles cradled in my arms and proceeded to slide down the mountain as best as I could. There were times I went pretty fast and had to dig my heels into the snow to keep control, and other times I paddled my feet and hitched myself down, and other times I went sideways like a crab. I don’t know how John, Mary, and Rob stayed upright, but they did as they eased themselves very carefully down the slope. Going the way down like I did took all the energy I had left. My legs, stomach, and knees were on fire, and don’t even get me started on how my backside was feeling. There were times the snow bunched up underneath me, and other times I slid over sideways out of control and then get stopped by a hard knob of either ice or a something else under the snow.
Finally, after getting to the bottom of this part of the mountain, the run turned into a cat track, which caused a bottle neck. A few skiers were congregating while waiting their turn. A woman was there that was struggling like me, we got to talking while trying to figure out how to proceed and she informed me that we could have taken the town lift down! We could have avoided this entire ordeal!
She started to ski down and I continued on the cat track on my butt, I wasn’t going to try to get up on my skis here, it was too icy, and too tight. There was a pretty steep drop off to my right. John was jut in front of me and I watched him struggle, the exhaustion in me was so great, that I wasn’t sure if I could continue, but I somehow reached down deep and pushed myself forward, with my backside and my legs protesting loudly! The cat trail turned tight to the left and we were behind some houses, there was a woman there and she asked me if I was okay, tears welled up in my eyes as I answered yes, and then I asked if it gets any easier. She came out of her yard and walked over to me, she smiled and said, “I can give you a ride down in my van if you would like me to.” The tears in my eyes spilled over, I wanted to lay my head down and let her take care of me in the worst way, but there was a side of me that said no, you must do this. I lifted my head up, with tears streaming down my cheeks, my body shaking all over, and I shook my head no. I whispered, “I have to finish this, I can’t stop now.” I then asked her, “does it get any easier?” She smiled, I noticed how kind her eyes were as they crinkled up into her smile. She said, “yes, right around the next bend, you will be able to stand, put your skis on and ski down the rest of the hill.” I felt energy surge through me, and I smiled through my tears. “Thank you,” I said, “Thank you so much.” She went back to the yard and I continued a little further on my butt, then stood and limped around the corner where I put my skis on, looked up at John and smiled a little bit. I waited my turn since there was a line to cut across to the mountain. When it was time for me to go, I heard Lee in my head again. “ski this part, you can do it, feel your center, and look where you are going.” I turned my skis straight ahead, skied across the hill, made a controlled right hand turn and proceeded to ski down the hill. I saw John in front of me stop and turn, he had a huge smile on his face, I skied towards him and felt the wind on my face, the mountain under me, and for a moment I was one with my skis again. I stopped at the bottom, Mary was standing there and ready to help me, she ended up having to hold me up on my shaky legs until I could get myself under control. Then we slowly made our way back to the condo, with me painfully hobbling behind on legs made out of jelly.
As I write this I realize I learned a great deal on this trip, such as; it’s okay to learn at your own pace, patience is a gift that we can give to each other, when someone shows you patience, you not only feel humbled, but you feel cared for. And finally, it’s okay to find a different way to get down a mountain.
PS. When you see a sign that says no easy way down. You might want to change your course. 🤠
I’ve always loved the airport. My dad used to work here and sometimes he would bring us to work with him. He had a secretary that looked out for us, her name was Kathy, and I have such fond memories of her. I think my time spent here as a child has made this airport one of my happy places.
We would spend the day walking around in the concourses and checking the vending machines. Sometimes they didn’t work the way they should and they would give us free food. Other times we would “drop” our comb next to them and crawl under to find change. It’s amazing how much lose change you can find under the vending machines.
We would watch people as they left, some crying with the pain of leaving loved ones, and others smiling with anticipation of taking their vacations.
We always knew we could at any time return to our dads office and Re group. Yes, I loved the airport then, and I still love it now.
We saw honeymooners, business people, family’s hurting because they were going home to funerals, and military personnel heading off to protect our country with their courageous family there to say goodbye. We saw other children running around their frustrated parents and some with Mickey Mouse hats on their heads and excited for their trip to Disney.
I’m here today to set off on a new adventure. There are so many firsts in my future! This is the first time I’ve ever been to Utah, the first time I’ve ever attempted to ski on a real-life mountain, and the first time I’ve had a mimosa in the Sky Club Lounge.
We’re sitting here waiting for our plane to board and I’m thinking about our skiing plans. I’ve booked a lesson at Sundance Resort on Sunday and I am more excited than scared about the skiing I have ahead of me. You see, I figured since I’ve paid for a lesson, the ski instructor needs to make sure I don’t die. That would not be be good for business, Right? They wouldn’t want a review that started out, “my wife signed up for a lesson and she died.”, yeah not so good for business. So I figure I’m in good hands on the mountain.
John’s moving around, so it must be time to head towards the gate. I will keep you all posted as our adventure continues……
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 successfullyget 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!
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 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.
I had a dream last night, take a deep breath and follow me into it.
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.
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.
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.
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”!
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.