Archive for the ‘Family’ category

2/21/21 – Or Aging Not So Gracefully

February 21, 2021

3 twos and 2 ones- patterns everywhere.

Into the Woods

February’s pattern is snow and more snow with a few warmish (in the upper 20s low 30s) days between. Footing on the trails is decent. We know where water pools into ice beneath it and are careful- maybe too careful.

Last weekend Jigs and I even managed some extended loping behind my friend and her wonderful mustang. Loping is rare for me on these trails. Without the snow they are rocky and uneven with tree roots.

At 3 plus 60, I have become a cautious rider, almost fearful. I do not canter unless sure of the footing. I no longer ride on the road when alone.

Today Jigs was full of exuberance. He wanted to run when I wanted to jog. My hesitation was a buzz kill. It nearly came to a rare argument.

I feel bad.

Feel bad that I did not give him a chance to stretch out.

Feel bad that I slowed my friend down.

Feel bad not to be that little girl who could fly without consequence.

There is no cure for aging. We shrink. Our bodies lose flexibility. Our bones get brittle. We no longer bounce, even with snow on the ground.

2020

February 15, 2020

My January 1st ritual every year is to remove Jigs’ ribbons above his stall. It is how I refocus on new goals, new challenges.   It is mid-February and they are still up. 2019 was a tough year. I lost my mother. The ribbons are a reminder there were positive moments.  I really need to take them down.

Last Sunday was The Bay State Trail Riders Association’s annual meeting and banquet. I’d almost forgotten Jigs and I had won the Judged Pleasure Ride and qualified for a year end award.  To my delight, the award was a beautiful riding skirt that matches my saddle! 

I was so excited; I drove from the banquet right to the barn to try it out!

Rding Skirt

Riding Skirt

It is perfect.

I don’t know what 2020 will bring, maybe a few more ribbons, maybe myriad meandering trail rides. And when the weather is wet and cold, I will be wearing a lovely turquoise riding skirt! 

Summer Blahs

August 15, 2019

Summer is burning to a slow end. It is mid-August.

Jigs and I have not done much other than lessons. It’s been a season of canceled events, the most recent due to the heat and humidity July threw at us. Too hot to move. Not safe for the horses.

Lessons have continued. Slight progress has been made, but it seems the more I learn, the more I am aware of my shortcomings. I’m not an athlete. I mix up left and right. My cues are awkward. I am not quiet and talk to much to Jigs with hands, legs, and voice. A hot mess.  I’ve given up on ever showing or competing seriously in versatility.

On the plus side, Jigs looks fantastic. He is lean and muscled as never before. Consistency is good for him. This summer I commissioned a painting of him that now hangs in my living room.

jig painting

I am looking forward to fall and the cooler weather when we can trailer out to a few organized rides. Perhaps then my usual optimism will return.

My Mother’s Birthday

July 3, 2019

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Jigs on a trail ride

I’ve always been that bizarre little girl who obsesses about horses. I am convinced it is genetic.

It’s weird because the horse stories in my family are not positive. My mother used to tell me about my grandmother, Concepcion Morales Martin. She grew up in the Cuban mountains near the city of Cienfuegos. When she was a young girl, her father would bring produce to the local city. One time, the colt of the horse that pulled the cart kicked her. She was in a coma for days. When my great grandfather returned from his trip, he made a pledge to the virgin in the local church- his daughter’s life for a gold hat.

My grandmother woke from her coma. The hat was presented to the Virgin.

My grandmother once told me she was upset because while she was “sleeping,” her sisters got first pick of the parasols that her father brought back from the city. She said she was left with the “ugly one.”

My mother heard the story and was terrified of horses.

And then there was me.

It was an obsession. I remember riding the spring horse aggressively in the spare bedroom. I just knew, even at the age of 3, I belonged on a horse.

I grew up pretending I was one. Summers were spent at my grandmother’s. I would run in the woods- a wild horse. When I found The Black Stallion books, I was hooked. Margarite Henry was another favorite. My first ride was on a pony owned by a friend of my parents. I stayed on as we crossed the lawn. Past the driveway, I fell off. I wanted to get back on but was told “no”.

My mother was afraid. My father was afraid. Eventually I got to play with a neighbor’s pony. I fell off Princess more than I stayed on; I hid my falls from my parents. I got a lesson at a local stable, but when the barn sour horse ran home with me, my father said no more.

One Summer the plan was to send me to horse camp. My parents decided to install an inground pool instead. They said they could not afford both. I never recovered from the disappointment.

After a detour down the wrong path, my parent finally allowed me to get my own horse at 15- a yearling. I know, green rider, green horse, bad idea, but for Freedom and me, it worked.

I never should have agree to sell him to attend college. Selling Freedom is my one regret in life.

In my 60’s, I am still that obsessed child. This time I have Jigs. He is all I could have wanted. He keeps me sane.

For years. I blamed my mother for not sending me to horse camp. I never learned proper riding techniques. Shortly before her death, she admitted to me that the pool was a ruse. My father was afraid I would be hurt at horse camp. She wanted me to go.

The death of my mother this April has been hard. I am a loner, but for Jigs. He grounds me. He keeps me connected to my barn friends. He is my life saver.

Funny thing is, not once did my mother touch him.

helen and joe annvsty-1

Joe and Helen Paul 25th Wedding Anniversary

Helen Marina Paul July 4, 1933 – April 3, 2019

April 13, 2019

helen paul at cape seal tour

The past two weeks have been incredibly difficult. My mother passed away on April 3. The death certificate lists the time at 1:34 AM, but it was earlier because it took the nurse 45 minutes to come.  It’s funny how details like that stick in your mind.

My mother’s congestive heart failure had worsened; she refused treatment. At 85, she was tired. Her world had shrunken. She missed my father and all who passed before.  She wanted to stay home and was terrified she would end up in a nursing home. I could not allow that.

Hospice was invoked on Monday; she was gone barely into Wednesday. She was not alone. We were all there.

Since then I have been consumed by the things that have to happen when someone dies- Wake, funeral, finances, taxes. There is still more to do.

My girls and Jigs have kept me sane. Everyone has been so kind.

My eldest did the remembrance at the funeral. I just couldn’t do it. It was beautiful and she captured our best memories.

The house feels empty.  I have been staying here almost 15 years- since my father got sick.

Taking care of my mother was the core focus the past few years. I’m not sure what will happen next. It is all changed now. I guess my life will settle into a new pattern. I will adjust, but I will always miss her.

Birthday

January 13, 2019

My family doesn’t celebrate adult birthdays. I can’t tell you the last time I had a cake. Not that I care.

Today is my birthday. I am officially over 60.

I chose today to scan my fading photos of Freedom. The old Kodak and Polaroid snapshots don’t age as well as me. Going through them has made me a little sad and a lot grateful for the life I was given.

I try not to regret anything. It’s wasted time. That doesn’t mean we cannot learn from our failures, our mistakes. In some ways, they can be a gift if we don’t rip them open carelessly.

But there is one regret I have been unable to leave behind. It is Freedom. The hurt of having to sell him to go to college is as fresh at 61 as it was at 18. My regret is that I did not fight hard enough to convince my parents to let me keep him.

Saying Goodbye August 1976

Saying Goodbye 1976

I do believe if I had not sold him, my life would be different.

Freedom was purchased by a woman who promised she would give us first right of refusal. I did visit him once, about a year after he left me.  I tried to contact her again, but the number was disconnected.

last visit

Last Visit with an Old Friend

I found out years later that she had gone through a nasty divorce. Freedom and her other horse, went to auction.

He was a good-looking appaloosa, well bred, so there is a chance he landed safely. I did reach out to the Appaloosa Horse Club to try to find his new owner, but I was still listed. The paperwork was never transferred.

I don’t know what that means. I hope he found a family to cherish him the way I did.  I think about him every day. He lives in my heart.

2019 Prospective

December 30, 2018

End of December is the time for retrospectives of the year. A lot of the bloggers I follow have posted theirs already. One stated that blogs are old school and announced she is moving to other venues, pod casts, on line classrooms, for a fee. The free blog will remain, but I wonder for how long. Everyone must make a living. I get that.

Rather than looking back, I am looking toward 2019. Disclaimer-despite my fondness for Tarot, I am not clairvoyant. Expectations may or may not be realized. There will be hardships. There will be moments of joy. My hope is joy will out weight hardships.

And what are my expectations?

I expect to laugh and cry with those I love. I expect to continue preparing for retirement. I expect to ride Jigs down new trails. I expect to attend horse events, lessons, cow sorting, versatility, maybe a show if I get brave. I expect to win a few ribbons. Maybe.

Missing are my wished-for things: economic stability, a truck, Jigs at home with me, a finished book of poetry, 40 years in the making.

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On January first, I will take down the ribbons Jigs won in 2018 and put away the memories of our successes, near successes, and yes, failures.

The space above his stall will be empty- a proverbial blank slate- a space for realized possibilities that will become 2019.

Happy New Year’s!

 

#besthorseintheworld

July 4, 2018

Last night something wonderful happened.

It’s been hot. Too hot to ride with the temps in the 90s and the humidity above 65.  But there was a slight breeze last night and I could hear thunder in the distance- a promise of relief that never came.

I decided to jump on bareback for a few moments. My thought was to navigate a few obstacles and then hose him off.

Jigs cooperated- well, in between trying to grab the long grass at the edge of the area. We trotted around a bit. We chased the big jolly ball.

And then something wonderful happened. I wrapped my legs around his rib cage and we loped!

Honestly it was totally by accident. Normally our transitions are fraught with bumps between lope and trot or walk.

Not this time. Jigs picked up a carousel type lope and transitioned back to the walk smoothly after a few strides. I was shocked. Tears filled my eyes.

At first it was an accident. Then I asked for it. We did it again, and again.

The last time I loped bareback was as a teenager on Freedom! I never thought at my age I would be able to do it.

Thank you to #thebesthorseintheworld!!!

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Cow Clinic

February 11, 2018

We went to a cow sorting clinic yesterday. Given the mud, ice, rain, and snow this winter, being in a dry indoor with good footing was a treat.

Jig and I tried sorting three or four years ago. We I was not very good. He loved it and remained laser focused on the cows even when not on the ring. He seemed to enjoy the idea that they were there to do what he wanted.

jigs at cow clinic 2

Waiting for the cows

I figured the clinic would be a good way for us to see if we should do a few competitions this season. There was supposed to be a sorting contest today, but alas, there is more rain and mud in the forecast, so it was canceled- too much mud for trailers.

Our very brief foray into sorting made us the “experienced” ones.  Well, there was a retired cutter, but cutting is what he wanted to do when he saw the cows.  Cutting and sorting are quite different.

The clinician was good. She competes herself, and quickly assessed the level of partnership between each horse and rider.  Jigs and Spock, my friend’s mustang, were sized up as having good groundwork skills, although she pointed out that Jigs is lazy. Yep.

We watched as she worked with other pairs to improve their groundwork skills. That made for a long afternoon of waiting our turn. Each horse was introduced to the cows on the ground before mounting up.  It was a good approach because a few horses were overwhelmed by the a low keyed cows.

Waiting our turn

Waiting our turn

At the end of the clinic we teamed up for a trial sort run. Jigs got both his cows, but we were not good on the line. Jigs was excited and wanted to go back after another cow. I had to work to keep his attention on me, as a result, one slipped by.

Despite the boring periods of watching others, I did learn quite a bit. There will be a team sort competition in our future.

Sunday Scare

January 21, 2018

Jigs scared us today. We have been partners for 8 years and apart for a muscle tear quite a few years back and some abscesses, he’s been relatively healthy. Not so much today.

While being hoof trimmed, one side of his body started twitching. He was wobbly at the walk. I was terrified.

An emergency vet visit was warranted. My trusty vet was off; her coverage was one and a half hours away.

While waiting, he pooped, twice. There was a touch of blood in the first pass. For non-horse people, pooping is extremely important. Horse people have no qualms about picking through and analyzing poop. It’s just digested grass after all.  We can be quite obsessive about it and it is a common discussion point at barns everywhere.

Not pooping can mean an impaction and surgery…or worse. What goes in a horse must come out via poop. According to Google, horses have between 50 and 70 feet of intestines.  That is a lot of real-estate for problems. A problem can be a death sentence. A few weeks ago, an acquaintance lost her precious horse to colic. It is heartbreaking.

The twitching frightened me. Could it be HYPP? HYPP or equine Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis Disease occurs in quarter horse who trace back to the stallion Impressive. Muscle twitching is a symptom. Jigs’ origin is not known. He is muscular, like many Impressive breed horses.

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Jigs at Arcadia

I did do some DNA testing on Jigs. It’s not accurate. His DNA came back in order , Argentinian Crollio, Holsteiner, and Missouri Fox Trotter. Huh?  Barely 14.2 hands, where did the Hosteiner come from? He looks like a quarter horse.

I was freaking out. Could he have a genetic disease? How would I know? Google made it worse.

My friend suggested I ride her mare. I am not a good enough rider to ride her lovely mare, but I needed distraction, so I did. Thank you, Amy.

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Me Riding Babe

The vet came.

She did the exam. He was slightly off on the hind, but barely. Not like earlier when he was wobbling. She did a full exam and felt no impaction, although one side of his gut was less active than the other. She said he is so small she got a good feel of most of his intestines and he was fine. Such a relief.

She did bloodwork. His platelets were a bit low and his calcium a tad high, but overall, he was fine. She said if it were a different time of year and if he had a fever, the diagnosis may have been Ehrlichia, a common tick disease in our area, but he was not running a fever. And he was eating, although less enthusiastically than normal.

So the conclusion is what our regular vet thought during an email exchange, mild colic.  He finally  passed the manure that was hard causing pain and the twitching. We’ll watch for a few days and soak his feed just to be sure.

I hope he will be fine.