Archive for the ‘aging parents’ category

Autumn Hiatus

October 28, 2015

The last two months have been frustrating. After our last versatility in August, Jigs came up lame.

Marshfield

First an abscess,

Heel

then a case of white line.

September and October- the best time to ride in New England, and we missed most of it.

Arrggghhh….

Naturally I went through the usual paranoia and obsession. Convinced I had permanently broken Jigs, I drove my vet crazy.

Then, thankfully, he was sound again mid October.

Sunday we got to play dress up and attended our first off property ride in months.

Great Pumpkin Ride 2015

It was a great day, with great friends.

I was psyched! Next up, the Turkey Trot…. love riding around cranberry bogs…..

Sunday was perfect- a costume ride and home in time for the Patriots’ game.  I even had time to finish laundry…

Yep, laundry.

Housework gets you every time.

My ankle rolled as I was carrying an EMPTY clothes basket down the cellar stairs and I fell.

Broken Foot

Broken foot and another 6 week hiatus…….  Jigs probably thinks he hit the lottery…..

Heart Human

June 6, 2015

We all fall. It’s an inevitable part of riding.

Last night warming up for a versatility run Jigs spooked and I went off.  He spooked at, of all things, a board in a tire rut in the grass.  The rut must have seemed like a canyon to him. The board?  Who knows what he thought.

We were trotting- a medium trot, not fast, not slow. He stopped short and jumped back. It wasn’t even a massive spook, but I tilted sideward and off I went.

I’ve ridden out bigger spooks.  I should have stayed on.

Surprised by the ground, I mentally checked for injuries. Fat does have a purpose.  I got up and walked it off.  Jigs stood there stunned.  He didn’t move or try to run away, despite all the lush green grass.

This has happened before. He stays by me when I fall and seems confused I am not still on him.

The first time I went off we were cantering up the trail and he jumped to to the side. I didn’t go with him.  He stopped and looked down at me. “What you doing down there?”  He was extra careful with me for months.

I got back on last night and did our two runs before going home. I was a bit sore and distracted. We didn’t do well time wise, but he did the obstacles without fuss.

When I fell off Pepper, he didn’t stay by me.  One time he ran back to the barn causing everyone to go out and look for me. They found me walking back, muttering to myself.  When I broke my ankle Pepper ran off to a patch of grass and began eating.  At least he didn’t go back to the barn.

Pepper

Pepper

On his back or not, Pepper wasn’t interest in humans.

Not Jigs. Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing but Jigs genuinely seems upset when I fall off. He is my heart horse. A part of me suspects I’m is heart human.

Versatility - wagon wheel.

Versatility – wagon wheel.

Snow Bowl

February 10, 2015

Yes, I did watch the Super Bowl and loved the outcome. Dad was probably doing backflips in heaven. Deflated balls seem silly now.

The past week has been full of snow and cold- the trail head is plowed in.  Riding has been limited to a few bareback circles in the snow filled ring.

jigs versatility in snow 2015

Snow Ring

Below is the 5’ fence in my Mom’s back yard.  I don’t ever remember that much snow- even in the Blizzard of ’78!

Snow of 2015

More snow is one the way.

But like all things in this mortal life, the snow won’t last forever.  Spring is coming….

Of Horses, Competition, and Deflate-Gate

January 24, 2015

This year I have made the decision not to “compete” with Jigs and focus on having fun.  I expect if all goes to plan, there will be lots of trails and general fun messing around.

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It’s easy to get sucked into competition, even at the backyard level where Jigs and I live.  I woke up this morning thinking about it because, of all things, the New England Patriots.

First, I need to explain that I love football and the Patriots have been my favorite team since I can remember. I didn’t have a choice.  Dad was an avid fan even before they were in the NFL.  He took a great deal of grief from his brother-in-laws for it.  In those days the Patriots were the bottom of pro sports.

Then came 2001.  Dad and I had great fights about Brady versus Bledsoe. I was still innocent enough to be excited about the romance of a young man from nowhere beating out the star veteran for the starting spot. He said Brady was a “one hit wonder.”

I had a few years to rub in how wrong he was.  Then he got sick. In the last few years of his life, Dad wasn’t interest in football, the Patriots or much else.

Mom and I still watch NFL games every Sunday during the season.  For me, it’s a way to stay close to the father I miss so much.  A Patriot flag flies over his grave.

Back in March I was convinced this was the year the Patriots would get to the Super Bowl again.  Brady is getting older and frankly, the game is changing.  His style of play is a bit outdated. Mom and I still feel the sting of two losses to the Giants. This may be our last chance to see the Patriots and Brady win another one.

My belief in them was strong, even when they were beaten badly by Kansas City.  Mom will refute this, but only because I expressed my fears to her and kept my sureness they would figure it out secret so not to jinx them.  Isn’t funny how fans think they can change the outcome?

I went to bed last Sunday night elated my confidence in them was justified.  I was planning a Super Bowl party for my grandsons, two of whom, play football themselves. They were going to see history being made and perhaps the best Quarterback of all time play in his sixth Super Bowl. Then the next morning I heard the report of deflated balls on the local sport station.

It made no sense to me.  The Colts were no threat to them.  Why would they cheat? Yes, there was Spy-gate, but it is common knowledge all the teams do that. One of the teams this year is being investigated for using camera phones on the sidelines.

And there was Brady. He has always projected the clean cut, boy next store aura.  He wouldn’t cheat in football or on Gisele. It felt wrong.

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But as the week progressed, my faith waned with every new report.

It still makes no sense.  He played better in the second half when the balls were properly inflated.

Did he do it?

I doubt we’ll ever really know what happened.

I don’t even want to watch the Super Bowl now.

There is cheating in all sports.  Lance Armstrong. Steroids in Major League Baseball. Soring of Tennessee Walkers. Suspended race horse trainers. Hyper flexion and rollkur in Dressage. Even an endurance rider who switched horses in a race.

Everyone tries to find the edge. Some go over it to win at all cost.

There is a line between doing things to be better, like getting a good trainer, better equipment, practicing every day, and crossing the cheat line.  Some don’t care.  The Win is everything.  Ribbons and Millions are at stake. But rules are there to make an even playing field.  And in the horse world, more importantly, to protect the horse, who easily can become victim to the human will to win.

And what does the horse think? Does he enjoy competition?  I think some do, especially those who are bred for it.  Cutters cut cows naturally.  Race horses love to run and will continue even when injured. Remember Charismatic?

charismatic-antley-holds-6-5-mm

But it is up to us humans to protect them- and to listen to what they like too. Not every cutter bred wants to cut.  Not every descendant of Seattle Slew wants to race.

Jigs enjoys versatility.  We may do a few this year but not to compete- just for fun.  And he LOVES trails.  We will do lots of trails this year. The goal is for both of us to have fun.

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As to whether or not I will watch the Super Bowl and cheer for the Patriots…. I don’t know. It was a small and petty cheat. Still makes no sense to me.  And I suspect all Quarterbacks try to gain similar advantages.  Aaron Rodgers already stated he tries to get away with over inflation. But it does not make it right.  If they did it; it was wrong.

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I still have the secret hope they will find a non-cheat reason for the deflated balls.  And deep down inside, I harbor the hope of one more Super Bowl win.

What would Dad say about deflate gate?  He’d say they did it, watch the game and root for the win.

2015

January 1, 2015

New Year’s Day. It’s the day I take the ribbons off Jig’s stall door. He had a decent 2014. We managed to get a few first and second places at different small venues. More importantly, we had fun.

For most people this is the time for resolutions and goals for the coming year. While there are some things I will continue to work on (cantering), my real goals are to be kind and have fun. I think if I can manage to these two things, 2015 will be fine.

We can’t control the events that happen to us, nor can we foresee them. What we can control is how we react to the chaos that happens around us and how we treat others. My hope is that I do not forget that in 2015.

Happy New Year!

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Driving Lessons

August 24, 2014

A year ago tomorrow, Dad died. It feels as if it was yesterday.  Zac was playing in his first Football game.  I was going to watch a half then catch some of  Caleb’s game. I never made it.

I got the call that he had been unresponsive at the nursing home and was being rushed to the ER. I left my daughter and her family to meet my mother at the hospital.  He was gone before I got there.

It was unreal.

Yesterday I went to the Marshfield Fair to compete in the annual versatility. The course was hard and riders were taking the full six minutes only to get the time disqualification. Jigs and I did okay in our first two rounds but not perfect.  It was a long day; I scratched our third round and went home.  There had been only one perfect round when I left.  I have no idea who won and I don’t care. Jigs did okay, that was enough.  Our score was 85 and we finished well under the time limit.

We returned to the barn late afternoon.  As I was backing my car out, I misjudged and cut to wide, nicking the corner of my friend’s stock trailer. The steel trailer was scratched, but okay;  my seven month old car, not so okay. There’s damage to the rear panels that will require body work.

I felt horrible- upset I hit my friend’s trailer, upset my new car was damaged.  All the while, Dad was in my mind.

The boys had their first games of the year at the same time today. I decided not to go to any of them. Instead, Jigs and I went on a trail ride. It’s what I do when my mind is unsettled. It was a lovely late August day, grapes and drying leaves.

8-24-14

After the ride I visited Dad at Saint Luke’s Cemetery.  There were flowers and the usual Patriot’s flag. A day short of a year and I am still in shock.

As I was leaving, a long buried memory surfaced. I was 15 ½ and preparing for the driving test.  Dad took me to the cemetery to practice turning and backing up. He got out of the car, grabbed a beer from the six pack he had brought, threw me the keys, and walked up the hill. “You drive by yourself. These corners are pretty tight.  I’ll watch from up here. Don’t hit anything,” he said over his shoulder.

I suspect he’s still watching me. He must have had a good laugh at my poor turning yesterday.

Miss you Joe.

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Of Troll Bridges and Poison Apples

October 28, 2013

Sunday Jigs and I competed in our second ACTHA ride of the year. It was well worth the 4:30 am wake up and long drive to Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire. (Thanks Carolyn for driving.)

Jigs was antsy when we arrived, spooking at nothing and breaking Angel’s lead rope.  Not a good start to the day.  I gave up the idea of riding in costume, even though we’d ridden in costume the weekend before.  I’m too old to play dress up anyway.

The troll bridge was obstacle one. You had to walk calmly to the middle of the bridge, which was over running water, stop, pause 5 seconds, and then calmly walk off.

Carolyn and Angel performed perfectly.

“Walk on Jigs… WALK, not trot… Whoa.”

Jigs, “What rimes with whoa? NO, not stopping.”

“WHOA,” I spun him around mid bridge and we stop stopped.

Sheepishly I smiled at the judge, “didn’t say which direction we needed to stop.”

Jigs and I scrambled off the bridge.

Obstacle two was a Halloween version of the Cowboy Curtain.  No issues.

The Poison Apple was the third obstacle. Jig did not get the Poison part.

The challenge was to accept the POISON apple from the Judge’s assistant, and drop it in a cauldron filled with water – a variant of the Frog Pond. You had 45 seconds to complete the challenge.

Jigs decided he wanted to EAT the POISON apple, nearly biting the assistant in the process. She told him no.

Disappointed, he noticed the small pumpkin marking the start line. A slightly larger POISON apple?  He tried to eat it.  A vision of him picking it up and dropping it in the cauldron floated in front of my eyes with the thought we would be disqualified.  Might have been worth it to see the Judge’s assistance reaction.

“It’s not an apple Jigs.”

We walked to the cauldron and I dropped the apple into it.  Jigs sighed. Lost opportunity.

“It was poison anyway Jigs,” I consoled him.

The rest of the ride went well.  It was a trick or treat ride with treats for horse and rider after each obstacle.  Jigs liked that part, though he thought he should get my treat as well. Jigs discovered it’s fun to pull a skeleton behind us… weighs less than a Christmas tree.

We did good enough for 4th place. Not bad although we didn’t score as well as the Spring ride (when we didn’t ribbon).  We have some stuff to work on…. especially stopping in the middle of bridges over running water.  Perhaps a trip to Douglas State Forest is in the near future…

Or maybe there really was a troll under the bridge and Jigs knew it.

Here he is enjoying lunch:

Jigs eating Lunch

“I’m starving…”

Joseph Oliver Paul Nov. 2, 1935 – Aug. 25, 2013

September 1, 2013

“An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress,” – William Butler Yeats

For the last 21 years, my father couldn’t sing. But in a way, his life was his song, a gift he gave to us.

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Joseph Oliver Paul

Joseph O Paul

Joe Paul

Joe…  loathed his middle name.  The mischievous daughter in me particularly enjoyed writing out checks to Joseph O Paul because I knew he hated it when the bank teller asked, “What does the O stand for?”

He was my father but like ever one else, I just called him Joe.

My father was not a rich man. He didn’t leave behind a big bank account or a successful dynasty, but, he did leave behind many people who love him.

Joe worked hard most of his life, he had to, his own father died when he was 13. They were building a stone wall together when his father collapsed and died. As the oldest, he became the man of the family, taking on part time jobs to help support his mother, younger brother, and baby sister.  Summers picking strawberries and tending chickens on his cousin’s farm were not easy but it was for his family.

A few years ago my mother was clearing out some papers and found an acceptance letter from Brown University. He never told my mother he had been accepted at Brown. When she asked him why he said, “couldn’t afford it- didn’t matter.” He had to move on.

Joe’s life was touched by tragedy more than once.

On Thanksgiving night, 1957, his 17 year old brother was killed in a car accident. He happened upon the scene with his uncle. What he saw was devastating, but he pulled himself together, went home, and helped his mother through the nightmare. The shirt Johnny gave him for his birthday that year remains unopened to this day resting in his dresser draw.

Tragic events like this might have broken a lesser man. But not Joe.

It taught him how to help others through their difficult times.  Whether it was a terminal illness or unexpected death, he was there. He knew what need to be done and did it.

Joe himself survived a cancer that left him unable to speak without a mechanical aid.  I don’t remember the sound of my father’s natural voice but I do remember how people stared at him in restaurants when he spoke with the speech aid. It never bothered him; in fact, many times he turned and patiently explained to them, “This is what happens if you smoke.”

He volunteered at schools, telling his story to youngsters, hoping to dissuade them from smoking. He believed if he stopped just one kid from smoking, it was worth it.

Joe’s granddaughters idolized him. And he spoiled them, driving the long way home from day care to give them enough time to finish the extra-treats he snuck them. My mother and I never knew.  He loved them unconditionally. He was their “Grandpa Joe.”

Joe made sure I had what I needed too. More than once he hurried to my house to repair a broken pipe late at night or bring me a second set of keys when I locked myself out of my car. (Twice in the same month, it’s a talent, what can I say?)

Christmas mornings at 5 Bowman Lane were magical. Joe loved that day. Friends dropped in and out to share greetings and a drink. We’ve missed that the past few years.

A good neighbor, he was quick to offer a hand with a project or a job that needed doing, whether it was pouring concrete or bringing in a field of hay. He was friendly too, making sure to wave every time you drove by.  Although he learned the hard way you should put the rock down before waving or suffer a broken foot.

Joe was generous with his time. For as long I can remember, he spent every Thanksgiving preparing dinner for local elderly at the Knights of Columbus hall.  As painful as Thanksgiving was for him personally, he spent it helping others.

That was just who Joe Paul was, for his heart was immense and he willingly shared it with us, never asking anything in return.

I am grateful to have known him and privileged to call him my father.

I love you Dad. You are missed.

Birthday Gift

January 13, 2013

on my birthday

I got a great birthday present today from Jigs- 3 clean rounds! And we improved our time each run.

The theme for the Versatility was birthday party- fun on my birthday!

The past few months have been hard and sad, but Jigs has been there at the barn with his red face making me laugh. He keeps me whole.

Red PonyI remember when Jigs first came home. His big personality was a bit much for me in the beginning. I found it hard to groom him, pick his hooves. He hated the cross ties and would dance around like a jumping bean. I wonder at myself for not sending him back before the end of the trial period.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

Now he hands me his hoof before I ask. He tolerates grooming and cross ties.

He still is a joker. It’s not unusual for him to walk through the barn aisle taking down anything hanging on the doors. Last week he pulled the aisle mat out of the barn.

We have become a partnership. I may not be a good rider, but he knows what I am asking and tries to comply. He can tell when I am off balance and adjusts. He takes care of me.

I cut my hair a during Christmas break. When I returned to work, someone who doesn’t know me very well asked me what my “S.O.” thought about it.

“My what?” I honestly didn’t know what a S.O. was.

“Significant Other,” he explained.

I thought about it a moment. I’m not married, I don’t have a boyfriend and haven’t for at least 10 years. “Ah,” I exclaimed the light dawning. “He didn’t notice because he was too busy mugging me for treats.”

He looked at me confused.

“My horse,” I explained.

“Oh,” he said backing away from me.

But the truth is it is about partnership. That’s what Jigs and I have.

That and a pocket full of treats!

Hugs

Of Baths, and Fly Masks, and Warm Spring Days

April 14, 2012

Today was THE FIRST BATH OF THE SEASON.

We have another off property ride tomorrow and I want us to look our best. I even cleaned up the saddle.  Gotta love Spring Cleaning at the Barn.

When Jigs was relatively dry I turned him out into the pasture. Normally he is patient and allows me to put on his fly mask but today he was off to drop and roll in the dirt before I had a chance.

I trailed after him with the mask and a sigh. So much for riding a clean horse tomorrow.

“Don’t bother to get up on my account Jigs,” I said as I approached the horse who was now upside down, feet skyward.

He didn’t.

Mask now on, he continued his after bath roll.

Jigs enjoys a good roll. He lets everyone know with grunts of pleasure and frequent farts.

He got up, shook off the excess dirt, and walked over to Lucky.

Lucky is a relatively new horse in the herd. He’s a sorrel like Jigs but bigger and more timid.  He also likes to play.

Jigs seldom plays.  He nipped at Lucky’s cheek vigorously.

“Take it off.”

Lucky nipped back.

“TAKE IT OFF” Jigs insisted with bared teeth.

They jousted with their mouths until Lucky finally grabbed the Velcro and the mask was off.

Jig immediately turned and walked off to graze.

My grandson was watching from the gate.

“Jigs is pretty smart,” he observed.

I nodded in agreement as I let myself back into the pasture to get the mask that was now on the ground.

“Too smart, if you asked me.”