I promise there will be update pictures of Fawkes soon.  Every time I’ve set aside a morning for horse work something, namely rain, has conspired against me.  My optimistic daily habit of wearing breeches in the hopes of an impromptu ride have long since faded… I feed in slip on Keens now… I’m not even sure where my boots and chaps are anymore.

Honestly, other than setting up feed I haven’t been doing much with the horses.  My late evening rides have been hijacked by the boys evening Doodle trail rides on their bikes.  I’m very proud of them and how Beckett has progressed to riding a geared bike and is forming dreams of riding the Tour de France.  I love seeing the fire of passion in his eyes and dimly remember that feeling myself when I was 9… All those dreams… just waiting for my time.

At some point “my time” slipped by without my notice.  Admittedly I made choices that ended my wild and carefree days of youthful freedom.  And I do not begrudge them… much.   I was 25 when Sophie was born, firmly ensconced in a tiny riding career that had allowed me to work with local horses and teach lessons.  Sophie turned the world upside down, in a good way, and I was slowly figuring out how to do horses and be a parent when we discovered that Sophie wasn’t exactly typical and I felt that I needed to focus all of my attention on her situation and what it meant for the future.

So slowly, without me really noticing it at first, my time started slipping away.  Equestrian me took a backseat to parent me as I embraced this new chapter.  I watched my horses age… Spring in his 30s, Aimee just behind him.  We adopted our sons and furthered embraced this new path.  Then my horses began to die and I realized how tied to them I would always be.  Inconsolable depression followed by the realization that Equestrian me had been gone for so long that my riding skills, were dormant and rusty.  A transitional horse was purchased and… oh the joy!! Lady rekindled that fire and drive!! The passion that had taken a backseat to Mommyhood was still there!  I was back, balancing those two halves of my life like a pro… so many horses entered our life at that time and I was so happy.

And then it all fell apart.

With Baxter’s death part of me crumpled up and died too.  Of course I went on to ride again, finding a happy place with Pip after a very hesitant start. Things were good for a while… we rode so much and we made plans of how 2015 would be the year that we would finally SHOW! and COMPETE! and finally go out there and put it all on the line.

Of course that didn’t happen.  Martha became unwell and I could not rationalize asking for the time to go riding.  I could not be so very selfish in such a difficult time.  The stress of trying to keep everybody happy erupted late in the year and I closed the farm, asking boarders to leave which effectively severed friendships at the time.

From Nov 9 to today I’ve ridden 8 times.  I’ve been out to work with the horses, I’ve held them for farrier and vet visits.  I’ve played with the foals… but riding just doesn’t exist anymore.  Those big dreams for 2015 disappeared under the glaring eye of reality.  And the realization… my time has passed.  All those dreams and hopes for what I would do when I grew up… at some point I grew up and forgot to do them.  I was so busy trying to keep everyone else happy that I sat with all the tools I needed for my dreams in my hands, but failed to use them.  There’s a lesson there friends.

So now I sit, admittedly sad, scrolling through facebook pics and memes, maintaining the illusion that I’m still “in” the horse world with witty horse centered posts… it’s all a lie.  I want to be in that club but my time ran out and my dues are late…. I’ll stand here by the sidelines and cheer my friends on as they accomplish their riding goals.  I’ll vicariously ride with them all as they fly around cross country courses and dance in the dressage ring.  I will follow the training of everybody’s baby and laugh and cry with them at their antics and foibles.  I will offer advice when asked and act as the sounding board when needed. I will be available for emergency cavaletti transportation.  I will watch and I will soar with them as they fly so high.

But it’s no longer my dream.

Back at the beginning of February I heard about a gelding that had been relinquished in a high-profile neglect case down in the lower part of the state.  It was indicated that he was an Irish Draught by Rockrimmon Silver Diamond.  Immediately I was intrigued as Guinness is also by Rockrimmon Silver Diamond.  I knew that finding RSD babies around the Carolinas wouldn’t be that uncommon since RSD stood in NC for a while, but I was still curious.   So I called and talked with the vet in charge of his care and discovered that he had been standing as a sporthorse stud for a farm in the Charleston area and was slightly underweight and in slightly poor condition but would be gelded soon and they really wanted him out of their facility as soon as possible.

I was not in the market for a new horse.  Heck, I hadn’t ridden all winter.  So I politely asked if there were any photos and she sent me this:

DSC_0069

Well… doesn’t that horse look a bit familiar?  So I politely asked her to keep me in the loop and quietly walked away feeling that surely some other person would come forward for an ISH.  A week later I again hear from the vet.  The gelding had been done, evidently no one else had come forward and was I still interested??  Ugh…

Tentatively I spoke with M and J and we reached the decision that this boy had been put before us for a reason and started making the arrangements to bring him home.  We rearranged paddocks, set up his quarantine pen and started to fish around for a trailer to use.  I will not go into the horrors of trying to find a trailer to bring home a recently gelded stud horse that I don’t actually know.  Understandably nobody was eager to have him onboard.  So we made the decision to just use the old beat up green trailer.  Our wonderful neighbor David did a quick check over it to make sure it was safe and that all the electric components were working and even tho it was a mess cosmetically, it was safe and tall enough to bring home our new boy.

Valentine’s morning we headed out!  J and I had a good drive down and realized rapidly why the gelding needed a new home asap.  Living between the interstate and an airbase/airport isn’t exactly the most ideal life for any horse. So we pulled up and after parking amid what I think was a dog/cat adoption event and overhearing more than one person ask “how big is the dog you are planning on getting??” we were redirected to the barn were I met our new gelding.

This was my first look at him.

wpid-img_20150307_112341.jpg

What I saw was a profoundly depressed and unhappy horse.  Obviously he and G share a common look, but where G has the look of a horse that has lived the padded life of a privileged, beloved show horse, the new gelding, while polite, looked tired and weary.  As J put it “he looks like he’s seen some things”.

So I filled out all the legal paper work while J changed out his halter and put on his travelling clothes (cooler and boots).  I wasn’t entirely sure what he would have to say about loading up on the little trailer but after a look around he walked up meekly and munched on hay while I secured the ramp.  I couldn’t decide if he was that “OK” with the whole thing or if he just didn’t care anymore.

An so we began our journey back home only to realize that we were insanely hungry and needed to stop immediately for lunch.  J, the intrepid puller of trailers, negotiated several multi laned highways to get us into a large parking area behind a Chik-fil-a.  I decided to hang out with the gelding while J went in to order.  I opened the escape door and stood talking to him, nonsensical blathering of nothingness, just to let him hear me and hopefully keep him calm. Immediately I noticed a change in him.  He nosed all over my face, whoofed through my hair, nuzzled my cheek and really latched on to me as a person he was interested in.  I took out my phone to update M about our progress and this happened…

wpid-wp-1425745593263.jpeg

I continued to talk and babble on to him and suddenly a car pulled up beside us!  I was a little nervous as I had read a lot about his case on our way to Charleston and I knew that there were some hot opinions about it.  The couple in the car stopped to comment on how much my horse must love me because they could see how relaxed he was when I talked to him. I told them that he was a new acquisition and they were surprised as they had thought that we were a long bonded horse and rider combo.  They wished us luck and safe journeys and again I noticed how the gelding was definitely warming up to both J and me.

So we continued home with me asking J every 5 minutes if the gelding was ok.  I think it made for a long trip for J even if he didn’t complain :)

Somewhere along the drive home I decided that Fawkes would be a perfect name.  I did not like the name he came with and I felt like he needed a new name to start his new life.  So Fawkes, the name of Dumbledore’s phoenix, seemed perfect!

Anyway, we made it home before dark and spent a good 30 minutes hand walking Fawkes around to work out his travel stiffness before putting him up for the evening.  He was polite and courteous, even with the wind blowing fiercely.

Then next day we spent shoring up shelters as wintry weather was forecast.  As I was feeding Fawkes his morning feed I noticed his sheath was grossly swollen.  I placed a couple phone calls to the vet and ended up driving to TR as the sleet and frozen rain started to pick up medicine at the vet’s office.

The weather tanked during the night and we awoke to an icy wonderland!

wpid-wp-1425745475469.jpeg

Fawkes didn’t seem to mind at all.  He didn’t even think the children sledding on the ice was all that interesting.  He did spend some time making kissy faces with Noorah.

wpid-wp-1425745505735.jpeg

Already looking like a different horse!!

The swelling in his sheath gave us several days of concern as did his very ugly gelding incisions. I’ll spare you the pictures, trust me they are gross.  I had pretty much daily phone calls to the girls at the vet’s office to make sure we were on the right treatment path.  It was a tough time as my instinct said that I should cold hose his sheath area, but my common sense said that cold hosing in single digit temps was potentially dangerous!

A week or so in Fawkes turned grumpy and moody.  He was unhappy with the horses in his neighboring paddocks.  He was unhappy with me.  He was unhappy with the boys changing his water.  He was unhappy with J feeding him hay.  Everything caused penned ears and unhappy eyes.

I spent some time just observing him and noticed that he was repeatedly pulling at his turnout and biting at his shoulder.  So with a modicum of trepidation, he is a big boy after all, I walked up to him and started scratching his shoulder under his blanket.  Initially he had his angry face on, but then it melted away and he started leaning into my hand as I scratched.  So I took off his blanket and started scratching all over his shoulders and as far down his back as he would let me.  Initially he would let me go as far as his withers but after a few minutes he was ok with letting me scratch him pretty much all over.  Unfortunately in the middle of our bonding session a car pulled up in our drive-way and I had to leave him but as soon as I came back to the fence he backed up and invited me to scratch his butt.  We have daily scratching sessions now and the unhappy grumpy mood has disappeared.

Fawkes has also been having weekly sessions with Nicole of EquiZen Horse Therapies.  I really have to say that these acupressure sessions have worked wonders on all my horses and Fawkes is no different.

Fawkes is learning what it means to be a pampered and loved horse and seeing him really blossom has been amazing!!  He’s gone from being a dull and grungy, unhappy horse to being a shiny, personable, gelding with a little bit of a sense of humor that pops up from time to time.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him!

 

 

Things are finally getting back to “normal” here at the farm.  Coming to terms with Martha’s sickness and subsequent passing has been difficult for the entire family.  I have resoundingly closed many doors and enthusiastically opened others and those decisions have taken some time to sink in.  Closing doors always requires a time of healing and regrouping and this time it was no different… adding Martha’s death to that and I shut down to full on hermit mode which was exactly what I needed.

I am thankful for the friends that gave me space and let me heal.  I’m equally thankful for the friends that showed their true colors and allowed me to walk away with no regrets.  I’m thankful for the friends that have stood waving on the horizon, not pushing or demanding but quietly waiting until I return to the land of the social.  And I’m thankful for the new friends that have popped up, not demanding an all or nothing relationship but letting me hang out and just be a part of the group.

It’s been pretty common knowledge that I haven’t ridden in several months.  This has actually been a good break as it has allowed me to realize a few things about my riding habits.  I have always had a riding companion outside of my household.  I also have a tendency to make that companion’s riding more important than my own.  So many times I would come in from a ride frustrated because the entire ride had focused on problems my riding companion was having, or on goals they were trying to achieve and my riding had consisted of following or keeping up.  The few times I was actively working my own horses semi disastrous, confidence shaking consequences ensued.  So I quit trying.

My hiatus from riding has let me see this more clearly and has also allowed me to set goals which are a little scary, but I think attainable.  I’ve also had time to tweak my horses’ feeding regime, which had a sudden and frightening overhaul at the first of the year when our feed supplier made drastic changes to their pricing that put them well out of our budget.  Days of research, headaches, lack of suppliers, price point issues… the horrors of figuring out how to feed 16 horses so that their nutritional needs are met without breaking the budget followed.  Currently the horses are on a couple different feeds and we’ll see how that turns out (possibly a review in the future).

We did add a new horse to the farm.  I will be blogging about him soon.  He is Guinness’ half brother and came from a neglect situation in the lower part of the state.  I don’t always change horse’s names when they come to me but in his case I felt that a change was in order so I named him Fawkes after Dumbledore’s phoenix.  I have taken some flak for essentially naming him “Fox” but it only takes a few minutes in his presence to realize it’s the perfect name either way.

Tonight the time changes which will facilitate many of the changes we are hoping to see on the farm.  Longer days means more daylight and more daylight means a return to riding!

Due to the things going on at the house between my last “Adventurous Recap” post and today I just haven’t had time to sit down and really recap what happened.

In a nutshell we stayed at the Luray Caverns West Motel, which was luckily within easy walking distance to a McDonalds (yuck I know, but it was food) and within the delivery range of several Italian places.

After an unsuccessful conversation with the local insurance agent we made the decision to go ahead and get a rental car (provided by our insurance) and head down to Michie Tavern for the day while we figured out how best to have the car repaired.

Michie Tavern definitely hit the spot and made up for 2 meals at McD’s!! Even Sophie hit her chicken limit… tho she still had plenty of room for dessert!

We had decided that our best course of action was to have J head up with our flat bed trailer (after getting a tow quote of somewhere near $1600) and M and Sophie to head down in the rental while I stayed at the motel with the car.  I was able to arrange for a friend to hang out with the boys at the farm and keep an eye on things while J and M were in transit but I had not taken into account how stressful this how adventure had been on them.  In hindsight I should have had J pile Martha and the boys into the truck and had him meet M somewhere along the way… however that didn’t happen and ultimately lead to situations that I will blog about at a later date.

I will say that 4 hours that I was solo in the motel with M and J on the road was horrific. My phone was refusing to charge properly and as I was the only female in the entire motel (the other occupants being well intoxicated golfers) I didn’t feel exactly comfortable just wandering around.  I had thought to spend some time sketching or writing but my pens and pencils had been nicked by Sophie for her trip back home.  So I dug out a book I had purchased in Carlisle.  Last Words of Sinners and Saints is not good reading when you’re slightly creeped out and by yourself.

It was a long 4 hours.

I felt so sorry for J.  He drove all that long way up to Luray, slept fitfully in a less than comfortable bed, loaded up the car and headed out again the next morning.  That was a lot of driving!! At least the return trip he had me chatting away in his ear… the whole time…. mostly nonstop.

So… We made it home… dropped the car off at David’s and started the process of getting the x5 back in working order.  Not going to lie but it’s been a serious undertaking.  So many things were damaged from that deer that had to be replaced… things that were damaged that damaged other things that had to be replaced.  At one point I seriously thought the car was going to be totaled but thankfully it was not.

The car was completed and ready to go just in time for our next trip to MD for feed.  Happily that trip went uneventfully and we have since changed feed to a locally available product which works out better for both our horses and our cars :)

Had I been able to write this closer to the time it happened I’m sure there would’ve been more humor but so many things that happened on this trip started the downward decline of Martha that I can’t really look at it with humor anymore.  Martha was always a sensitive person and would fret over perceived issues.  Her worry over us having a wreck, her worrying over M and J driving so far. Her worry over me being alone so far from home. Her worry over situations that happened with the boys while we were away.  All those worries surely didn’t help an already unwell woman.

 

January 6, 2015 around 4am, my aunt Martha passed away.

I am sitting here thinking about how to sum up how one little curmudgeonly woman shaped my life and I honestly don’t know where to begin.

Martha was born June 12, 1944.  She was a wartime baby as well as sickly in her early childhood and as such was pampered to the point of being spoiled rotten.  My mother was born 4 years later and it wasn’t long before she became Martha’s unofficial caretaker and companion.  When the other children ran and played, Martha sat on the porch.  While M was racing Selam around Grandpa’s farm, Martha was sitting with her aunts listening to the tales of our family’s lineage.

One would think that Martha would’ve been meek and mild, non-assuming and quick to demure.  That would be the farthest thing from the truth!  For all that Martha would claim that she wasn’t as smart or clever as “the rest of us” she was quick to let you know what she deserved, required, and would demand!!

Martha lived with my grandparents until we sold their house after my Grandfather’s death in 1992.  My parents built the house we all live in now and moved Martha in sometime in the fall of 1993 or 94 (I’ve never been great about remembering that date exactly).  Martha was unhappy living alone and while it took a little time for us to figure out how to live together as a great big family, we made it work just fine.

Martha’s health was never robust.  Sometime in my early 20s she had a reaction to a beta-blocker that caused her to have vivid hallucinations.  She “saw” armed gunmen at the windows, dancing trees and carried on multitudes of conversations with our dead relatives that were sitting on the couch with her.  Some of our most hilarious Martha-stories come from this time.  Most famously the night that I was alone watching her as D was off driving a bus and M was working.  Martha swept out of her room, head held high, rage seething from her eyes.  She proceeded to the archway to the kitchen, paused and dramatically demanded, “Are you coming to the meeting?”.  She made calls to 911, she tried to bite me, she tried to walk-away (it’s like running away from home, but slower), and she never slept for more than few minutes at a time.  Not surprisingly she slept for a couple of days once we figured out her medicines!

For many years Martha had a habit of getting up before daybreak to go to the local Hardee’s in Pickens to meet up with friends (we called them her cronies).  We all knew that before 6 am we would hear Martha’s car crank up and she would be off!  One morning shortly after she left the phone rang and it was Martha telling us she’d had an accident.  On the phone she sounded perturbed but fine, so we were more annoyed than worried when we left the house to go get her.  Turns out her car had suffered some sort of mechanical failure that resulted in her taking the big curve at the cemetery at about 45 mph!! She went airborne, somehow missing the gas mains and the telephone poles, before nose diving and flipping her Taurus in the yard of the 7th day Adventist church.  The amusing thing about this is that Martha had made a habit of going by the local Flowers bakery and purchasing carts of day-old bread that we fed to the chickens.  So… imagine, if you will, a flipped over Taurus and about 2 shopping cart’s worth of Bunny bread strewn all around it.  The tow-truck guy was the best… as he was hooking up her car to flip it back over he stopped with his hands on his hips and with a very serious face he asked what happened to the bread truck.

So many stories.

Kyle and I always got at least 2 Christmas presents from Martha.  One well before Christmas as she could never wait and one actually at the gift giving on Christmas Eve.  It was a point of yearly contention with my Grandmother.

In our childhood we adored Martha.  If I was ever sick then I could count on Martha to bring me Snoballs, or crayons and a coloring book.  She loved us unconditionally.

As we aged Kyle and I found Martha a bit cumbersome.  We were (and still are) fluent in sarcasm and rapid wit with clever word-play being a favorite game.  Kyle is extremely well read and well y’all know how I am.  So for a time we outgrew Martha.  And then we became adults and once again grew to appreciate Martha.

Martha’s love for us overflowed to our children.  I quite seriously believe that she would’ve caused physical harm to anyone that hurt my children.  The one time we lost Sophie and couldn’t find her after tearing the house to shreds… Martha walked to the creek and through the woods calling for her.  And then the boys.  No children were ever more fiercely loved than my boys.  She could not abide for them to be punished so anytime one of them was in trouble she would finnagle a way to sneak them a chocolate, or spirit them away to her room where they would watch game shows while making paper airplanes and doodling on her ever present yellow notepads.

She was our family informant in a time before Facebook and social media.  She let us know what was going on with cousins, who had had babies, who had moved, who had divorced.  She knew everything that was going on.

I could go on and on and on.

Now, lest my readers who didn’t know Martha think that she was the paragon of serenity and love… she was not.  She was grumpy. And moody.  And if you said boo to her about something she had done then she would yell and fuss and stomp her foot and bite her lip and cross her arms and have a full on, old fashioned pout, while shouting “well then go ahead and get a gun and just shoot me!!”

She did this often.

She had a habit of being in exactly the space you needed to be in at the exact moment you needed to be in it.  Baking a cake? She would be standing directly in front of the oven door.  Making supper?  She would be leaning on the counter.  Need to get to the dryer? She would be sorting her clothes for the washer.  Seriously… it was her super-skill.

She drove us to distraction with her inability to stay on a sensible, healthy diet.  She loved her junk food and her colas.  She loved doughnuts and bon bons.  Chocolate covered cherries were her Christmas time favorites and she didn’t want to miss out on helping the Girl Scouts with their famous cookies.

Late last year Martha’s health took a dive and she ended up in the hospital for 2 or so weeks.  Martha, who loved every member of our family, found herself abandoned.  No visitors (outside of us), no cards.  It was like no one cared and you know possibly they didn’t.  When she was stable enough to move out onto the floor we ran into a new problem… unsympathetic nurses.  We all thought that since J and M were nurses in the hospital that Martha’s care wouldn’t be an issue.  We were wrong.  She was abused by staff, demeaned and made to feel unworthy of actually living by more than one nurse.  That is inexcusable behavior that resulted in meetings with the director of nursing and many conversations with supervisors.  Shameful.

So we managed to get her moved back to CCU where J works and while her care improved her spirit was broken.  Why didn’t anyone come visit?  Why no cards?

So I went on FB and made a plea.  I didn’t think I had the time to wait on people to send her cards so I bought a couple boxes of cards and every time someone gave me a thumbs up I signed a card and taped it to her wall.  When I didn’t feel like I had enough cards to make a difference I started signing cards from my horses, the dogs, the cats, heck even the chickens got in on the signing.  I figured she needed to see the volume and as I had hoped, it worked.  She rallied and started to improve.  Even then she asked if specific family members had sent cards, called, come by… anything… and sadly I had to say they had not and I could tell it saddened her.

After my card campaign Martha stabilized enough to be discharged on Hospice care.  So home she came.  There at the beginning she was more like her old self… curmudgeonly and bossy.

And then there was the ding-dong.

God save us from the ding-dong.  Hospice had recommended that we get a portable doorbell as a call bell so that Martha could retain more privacy and we wouldn’t have to stay right underfoot.  Martha ADORED that thing.  She carried it with her everywhere and declared it the most wonderful invention ever made.

She drove us nuts with it.

One night she literally hit the ding-dong button every 5 minutes.  All night.  Everybody says “why didn’t you just take it away from her?” well that just wasn’t an option… her anxiety would go through the roof at the mere mention of taking her precious away, so we learned to suffer through until she was able to use it more judiciously.

She never slept well.  Matter of fact she spent more time sleeping during the day than at night.  When I asked her about that she said “no ones coming to see me anyway” and how could I argue with her?  No one ever came aside from her Hospice staff.

So we went into the holiday season.  Martha was doing so well that the Hospice staff teased her that she was going to be released from their care.  Then near Christmas she tanked.  Pictures from Christmas morning show a confused and addled shadow of her former self, sitting morosely in a wheel chair while the kids opened presents.  Throughout Christmas I think she had 2 cards.  Sadness.

Then once more she rallied and New Years Eve she toasted in the New Year with a mug of champagne and complaints about “all that racket” outside.  She complained again of how awful it was that the family had not visited her, nor even called.  She asked me, in a tiny, sad voice “why do they think I don’t matter?” and I had no response.

And then it all changed.  She became confused, and forgot who I was.  She referred to J as “her male nurse” and at one point only remembered the name of Fred (her cat).

Suddenly she was the sweetest most compliant person.  No matter what I fixed for her she ate every bite of it.  She rarely complained and while her evenings were still restless she never once rang the bell (at least on my watch).

And then she died.

That was a hard, hard day for our little family.  Beckett who had been her favorite lackey was inconsolable.  Xander was sad, and Sophie was strangely quiet.

Per Martha’s request her funeral was a private affair.  If no one would come visit her in life, then she didn’t want them coming to laugh at her in death (paraphrasing her words).

I’m thinking for all that it was a tiny funeral it was one of the most emotional for me because I never once felt like I had to put on my normal/typical face.  I laughed, I cried, I giggled through the opening of her service only to giggle harder when M and J kicked and elbowed me.  We buried her with her favorite things… bingo cards, her favorite bag, a chocolate covered cherry and her beloved ding-dong bell.

Just before they slid her into her crypt we toasted her life with a 13 chocolate covered cherry salute which induced another round of hysterics but somehow I think Martha would’ve approved.

It’s been nearly a week and the house has been a strange place.  We are slowly going through Martha’s room.  I had to dismantle her coat-rack because it was one of those visual things that I associated with her and my grandparents.

We’ve all experienced phantom Martha sounds.  The clunk of her walker, the shsh of her feet shuffling across the floor.  More than once Sophie has called to Beckett and it’s sounded not unlike Martha.

And sadly her phone now rings with calls from all the people who couldn’t spare the time when she was alive.  Funny isn’t it… they only make time when it’s literally too late.  But you know I feel sorry for them.  All those people that Martha wanted to hear from, they will never know what a wicked sense of humor she really did have.  They’ll never know the horrors of not getting her on your team for Trivia/Timeline night.  They’ll never know how she would move mountains to make you feel better, or at least commiserate the injustice of the world.  They’ll never know…

All they knew was a simple woman that didn’t fit into society… but we know who she really was: a misunderstood princess with a heart of gold, a short temper and indignant ego that we miss very much.

 

 

Categories

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 37,758 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.