This blog was drafted on August 3 just before the Emily Kemp Clinic. It was left unfinished in the whirlwind of clinic and aftermath until today. The clinic was a wonderful success and an update including some near future plans will follow shortly.
And hold me fast, hold me fastMumford & Sons
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
Life so often speaks to me in song form, and as I write a long overdue update the only line I could imagine to begin comes from a song I love by Mumford & Sons Hopeless Wanderer. Each year, each month, and each day I’m beginning to find the wisdom in learning to love the skies I’m under. Sometimes this is easy because they are beautiful skies, clear skies, maybe even rainbows and unicorns in the skies to quote my good friend. Sometimes this is a challenge because the skies have dark clouds forming in the distance, or maybe lightning sparking danger above, threatening or downright frightening skies. Sometimes it’s simply rain that changes plans but does little harm.
Nothing about this Summer has been according to plan. And yet, I am learning to love the skies I’m under all the same.
Previously on Green To 100….
In Six Feet Over the Line Jaime & K have a fantastic return to competition with a 14th place finish in their first 50 mile entry in over a year. Things look full speed ahead! Then in Have Mercy the plot twists when a 26 mile training ride goes very wrong and Jaime & K are rescued by a band of dual sport bikers on a very desolate back road after a serious fall where K is cut almost to the bone on her front knees. This changes everything… Yet the healing is miraculous and Slow is Smooth Jaime & K go to the Old Dominion ride, but as drag/safety riders, not competitors and share the joy of serving instead of competing, and being saved from a day in miserable rain. Things were looking up after the 30 miles of drag riding in early June… but the skies weren’t done bringing the unexpected yet.
Upon returning from the Old Dominion weekend, Khaleesi found the promotion promised in the herd move had come. The herd doubled shifting her from the two mares she had been leading with confident authority to five- two new mares and a young gelding. Now there was the established herd of three and a band of three previously unconnected horses trying to sort out a new herd hierarchy. To the humans, this was not a surprise, but I’m not sure K understood as I tried to prepare her that the new office on the high ground with the beautiful view would come with new responsibilities soon.
Looking back I don’t think I would change anything because transitions are always hard — dragging them out isn’t my style, but this one was particularly hard on my herd leader. First she was slightly compromised because of the recovery from the knee injuries (thankfully this came when most of the healing was in place) but 2 weeks of antibiotics due to the depth of the wound and proximity to the joint added systematic compromise to the physical and mental stress. Now she was taking on the added stress of a herd transition with 3 completely. new horses with various backgrounds. Thank goodness she had Wyoming as her second in command! That wild mare constantly had her back, though occasionally overzealous in her job, she was stunning in her loyalty and attention to detail.
The first real issue showed up as a grapefruit sized hematoma on her left shoulder one morning- no obvious sign of being kicked, but the herd dynamics were all over the place so it’s impossible to know what happened. She didn’t seem overly tender and she didn’t present as lame so I did things I could to help encourage it to heal, but serious riding was now once again on hold.
Next one of the horses began to present with a cough, mucous, and then a fever. My horses tend to have a strong immune system which I pay close attention to, support regularly, and count on as my first line of defense in avoiding vet care bills. Wyoming and Hope did not show sign of illness, but K was weakened from a long course of antibiotics, deep wound healing, herd transition stress (especially as a lead mare), and now another injury, she began to pick up a cough and a nasal discharge.
The vet visit checked over all the horses and K took a respiratory antibiotic for rough lung sounds. (Have I mentioned I avoid antibiotics if at all possible! This is more antibiotic usage in two months than the rest of her life I think). The sick little new horse got the same treatment- K improved, but the little new horse did not improve- in fact she got worse.
A follow up visit the next week had the vet now concerned and she had to consider a potential strangles outbreak. K had seemed much improved and I considered having her swabbed and removing her completely so she could avoid a possible quarantine, but when I went to bring her in I saw more nasal discharge and my heart fell. Whatever this was, we were in the thick of it and there was no escape. The only way was going to be through.
The next two days were rough as I considered that not only had I lost six weeks of my good riding season to illness and injury, but I could now lose the rest of it to a more serious illness and a possible ongoing revolving quarantine door as horses clear fevers and get tested positive or negative. Forget training rides, competing, and even my August clinic was spinning down the drain- I wouldn’t even be able to take her off the property until the last horse was healthy for two weeks. I felt like I was being pulled into a prison. It was a horrible nightmare.
And yet, in the waiting for test results I did come to peace with it. I was reminded of another guy who was forced into prison. The prison prepared him for his eventual rise to the man with the most power in Egypt after the Pharaoh himself (see the story of Joseph in the Bible… Genesis 37-50). I decided if I was going into prison I was going to let it shape me in a positive way, and I’d use the time for what I could. There was nothing to be done at this point anyway- and once again, maybe I could have prevented it all, but I’m not sure that’s the point in the end.
The third day I got the news: the horses were all negative for strangles! YAY! Yet this brought a hard twist that brings me no joy, the sick little mare had something else that was much more serious and we pulled out all the stops and immediately took her to VA Tech for evaluation. This blog is not about her story, however I will share in a nutshell- she was gravely ill with an equine pneumonia and she had also picked up anaplasmosis which is a tick borne disease — together took her down fast. Her immune system was not strong and could not fight it off. Her new owners have been fighting for her and the little miracle horse is still showing a will to live and through courses of tests, antibiotics, two stays at Tech and a little confinement time at home in between she is improving but her long term effects may mean she is limited for work through the rest of her life – regardless she is a special creature and she’s getting all the opportunity to have a life they can offer. I think her story will have a happy ending even if it’s not what was expected when she was purchased. Time alone right now will tell.
Back to Khaleesi, all of these details have meant a summer with almost no serious riding and now a place of once again starting over. Not completely, her base is good, but months of turmoil bring me peacefully to a place where I understand I cannot control all these things, and even if I could- maybe I shouldn’t. I have come to see the purpose of life is not to be as comfortable as possible, and avoid difficulty at all costs. In fact, I’ve begun to see that though living with wise choices is always preferable and I don’t advocate doing stupid things just for the sake of experience. I do think we are usually faced with imperfect options and have to do our best to balance outcomes and immediate needs.
I can have peace and know this is a long-game … I don’t have to panic that my immediate plans are crumbling around me. The sooner I ask: What am I missing here? What do you want me to see? Open my eyes to what IS going on and how I should respond…. The sooner I find a spaciousness under even stormy skies and can enjoy the process and look forward to when things come around to the rainbow and some sun breaking through.
So at the time I began riding K every day even for 45 minutes around the farm if that’s all I could do. I began to slowly rebuild and also review from the previous clinic because I hadn’t had a lot of time to work on the things we had begun there in the turbulence called summer 2021. I began to enjoy my trail rides and put side passes over tree limbs, circles in the trail/road intersections, ask for bend and begin to explore counterbend around trees, check in on the backup, see if I could get increased balance and movement more from the hind end. I worked on hinging my hips better in the trot and quieter hands in the walk.
Every ride I took the time and patience to isolate the shoulders or ask for a turn on the fore and see how light I could ask for the hind to cross.
And though we still weren’t taking on big mileage, my mare was soaking in the mental work and thriving each ride. She continued to get softer and more willing and offer me better answers more quickly. We got deeper together again. Unlimited layers I think. I’m starting to get less amazed that really- yes – it keeps getting better… and better. I fell more in love with the process of conversation and curiosity as I accepted the current skies and realized again that no matter what happened to my near future plans- nothing could ever take this love away from me.
As long as K is with me, I can engage our communication and deepen our understanding together on the ground, in the saddle, bareback, it doesn’t matter, no one can take that away. The rest is frosting. Yes… even the clinic.
Thankfully with the negative strangles result the clinic was saved and so were some of my riding options. And the skies began to clear a bit… I will update soon on what came next!