Thursday, May 8, 2014

Know When to Hold "Em, Know When to Fold 'Em

Charlie is lying under my chair. He has taken Dinah's "Chair Troll" spot. Is it because it was a coveted spot? Or because it smells like Dinah? Or is it because he feels how that empty spot makes me ache? I don't know, but he sure is a good dog.

This flipping PD has been kicking my butt. It makes me tired beyond reason, makes my blood pressure plummet without warning, makes me stupid, forgetful, and um.....something else.

All of this has been messing with my horse time. Not riding enough screws with me physically and mentally. My seat is slipping as fast as my confidence. Blah, whine, snivel.

So what am I going to do about it?

There have been times throughout my life when my horses faded into the background of my priorities. A few dark years, beginning my junior year at CSU, almost lost them to me. The early years with the kidlette knocked them pretty much out to the back forty. Cancer kept me hopping and shut my horses out yet again.

But I have always rallied.I find my balance through my horses. They are the first to pull me out of the prison of unhealthy introspection and back into the world. Horses keep me thinking outside the box stall.

I am not a person who is happy hand grazing, braiding manes, or meandering through a meadow with my horses. Don't get me wrong, it can certainly be part of my day, but I want to go. I want to explore, learn, and compete.

I like cleaning stalls, stacking hay and filling a clean water tank, but only as part of the whole.

Now, I find myself with the obligations of caring for another who can't care for himself, skirting the darkness that would like to suck me into its mire and battling an illness that, unlike my close companion, Cancer, is never going to go away and leave me the #$@%!! alone.

It's a lot to juggle.

I want to be on the show circuit, but that will only work if I actually tune my horses. I worry I don't have the stamina to haul to the shows, or even out to the friends who can help me get myself back into show shape.

So, instead, I sulk and stew and think about what I used to do, what I'm gonna do, and never take a look at what I'm doing now.

Which is pretty much nothing.

I absolutely have to be riding well enough to feel confident at the Mug and Big K clinic in July. I have enough trouble handling the nerves I get while talking to folks I've only met on the blog. I don't need to add riding like a toad in a dust devil to the mix.

So. I've been trying to honestly assess my situation.

Madonna and I have been together so long we're like an old married couple. I barely have to think about our next move and she's there. She is so easy to read I can cut the nastiest, sourest cow of the bunch out of the herd, across the pen and down the alleyway without ever worrying about missing a step.

But we are slow and complacent.

Odin is lovely, eager and kind. He is also way behind. He has this sticky spot that makes him set outside leg when he turns to the left and gives him an uneven lope on the right lead. I know how to fix it, but just haven't.

He's unsure on cattle and awkward in his maneuvers.

It has finally sunk in that I'm getting old.

It got so bad, I began thinking about putting the horses out to pasture "just until things were settled."

Lucky for me, I finally quit mewling and got mad.

There are two women who no longer ride at all. They are at the barn every morning, visiting horses and people alike.

One of my fellow boarders came over to show me the buckle he won at his last roping. It was his first buckle. By winning his class he qualified for Nationals, or Finals, or whatever it is you ropers qualify for. His horse is in his early 20's. He is in his 70's. I didn't hear him mewling.

Another boarder is at least twenty years older than me. She has a big paint gelding, Joe, who she adores. She trained long ago, owned many fine horses, was accomplished in dressage. She is stiff, easily tired and relies on Joe's good nature to help her get along. She rides on her good days and just putts around on the bad. But she's there every day. Her husband had a stroke this year. Like me, she is his full time caretaker.

It has cut into her horse time, but she's still there three or four days a week. She doesn't wring her hands about it, she just does what she can. She isn't shying away from her obstacles.

I have a potential support system right there.

I have some interesting training goals...

Old lady mounting.
Old lady saddling.
Old lady conditioning.
Old Lady limbering.

I realize I need to just go. Watch, think, ride when I can, but GO.

Then, I can come home, write it all out with you, give and get encouragement, provocative argument, and discussion.

Because dammit, I'm not done yet.

This was shot at Tim's place a few years ago. It was a visit, not a clinic, but you get the idea. I'm going to be ready to meet new friends, ride, and torment K.


  1. Go mugs! Your journey is an inspiration to all of us who struggle to balance our obligations and limitations with our all important horse time.

  2. Don't give up Mugs! As we age, the old goal of doing what we want turns into the battle of doing what we can and learning to enjoy that.

    I never used to worry about getting on a youngster - just got on and did it. If I had to deal with some bucks, it was kind of a fun challenge.

    Now I fight the worry that they might buck, that I might come off, and that I might not bounce as well as I used to. But I keep riding.

    I'm am at the stage where I'm riding my last greenies. If I need a new horse after these girls, I will find myself a good solid broke horse.

    When I am too frail to ride horses anymore, I will ride a donkey. But I will ride until I can no longer get my butt into the saddle. (And maybe a couple times after that.)

    The joke in our house is that our donks will pull us in our wheel chairs. I'm not sure that's actually much of a joke. There's something about the smell of an equine....

  3. Arrrggghhhhh. I haven't really ridden since early December. Maybe a total of twenty minutes here and there. And I haven't even got that much to deal with, now that the weather is finally starting to ease up… just have to deal with my foggy sad brain.

    Would you be shocked if all those people who drag themselves out to the barn and inspire you to cowboy up… might have to pep talk themselves just as much to get out of the house???

    I've been shaming myself for not riding. They need it. So do I. But I made myself sit there and listen to them chew one evening. Told myself I'll get there. I'll get back on. It'll get better. And it'll get worse. Making myself feel like lazy shit won't make anything better. Then I went to bed.

    You will get back in the saddle. Nobody's giving you gold stars for how often or how long. Enjoy the ride, lady.

  4. If you're not going to ride Odin, can I have him? I'll probably get along with him better than you do, and I'd definitely ride and enjoy him more than you are right now..

    And boy, if that doesn't make you get all jealous and possessive and light a fire under you so you want to get out to the barn...

    Then you're probably not as easily manipulated as I am. That's a good thing.

    All joking aside, I went for a 15 minute ride the other day. It was probably 25 minutes total, including tacking up and untacking. I felt a little dumb, but it was better than nothing, and I have to work with the time I have, not what I wish I had.

    Also.... good dog, Charlie.

  5. Didn't you have a post earlier about letting someone else ride Odin and how he came back a mess?

    You could always do that again!

    But seriously, love that you're getting fired up again.

    I saw an article on how interactions with horses help Alzheimer's patients - got me wondering if it help's PD patients with mobility, balance, etc. Could also do something to us the way a cat's purr helps heal them - there has to be some sort of dopamine increase when you work with animals.

  6. Sarah---it does for me, massively, because I'm working with muscle memory, which overcomes the attack of the jerk monster.


  7. Being too "sensible" never did anyone any good. Keep riding Mugs.

    We all want to know how to keep riding when we are 50 something and not so fit.

    I like the idea of putting a donkey in front of the wheel chair.


  8. I get sick and miserable when I stop riding. I have put the horses away a few times, like when I was told to be sensible and study for exams, or be sensible and concentrate on business, or now when I am struggling to get the farm back in order after the fire. I end up paying for it with health and wellbeing. I think God punishes me if I dont ride.

  9. Go Ride Your Horses Janet! The outside of a horse is good for the inside of you.

    If anyone told you the Reasons, Stories, and Excuses we tell ourselves (and allow ourselves to believe) you would spit in their eye and cry Bullshit on them.

    If it makes you happy go do it.

  10. You are an inspiration to many of us Mugs! What I admire most is your ability to look your reality straight in the eye and face it down. You are allowed the moments of feeling overwhelmed and who wouldn't be? But you always "get back on the horse" and that alone puts you head and shoulders above the rest.

  11. Mugs, I remember this video and your bra-cam!
    I struggle too with riding. I feel better when I ride and it's good for me physically but somehow I can talk myself out of it really quick. I don't understand this in myself.
    But. You and I and all the other women who come to this blog have to get back on. Just last night I made kidlette saddle up and we poked around for just 20 minutes. It was wonderful. Do this for yourself - you deserve it.

  12. Oh, Mugs. You brought tears to my eyes. I want to scream "DON"T GIVE UP!" But I know how you feel. I am nearly 60 and in relatively good health (thank heavens) but I recently had to retire my old mare who I would trust anywhere and with anything. Right now, I don't even have the energy to shop for another horse. I just. can't. start. again. I am so lost - so in the black hole. So don't you quit. I need you to pull me out.

  13. I know where you are in life, and I sympathize. I have hung onto my now ancient horses long beyond the point where I could actually do anything with them. They have a home for life in the pasture where they were born. When I was younger, I couldn't foresee a time when I wouldn't be riding, it was such an important part of who I was. I slowed down when I had my son (at age 40), but sent him for riding lessons so I'd have a riding buddy when he got older. That never happened, I went slowly downhill until I was 60 and in a wheelchair. My riding friends stopped coming by because I didn't even want to hear about their good times on the trail. I finally worked my way out of the wheelchair, and could probably ride around a ring now, under supervision like a therapeutic horse program. I can walk, but my balance is awful, if a horse threw its head, it would knock me flat. Life was pretty miserable until I simply realized that my riding days were over and it was time to move on. I'm 67. One of my old riding friends is 75 and still rides weekly. Another is also in her 70s and though she is in perfect physical health and could probably run a half marathon, she has the early signs of Alzheimer's and doesn't trust herself. This is not meant to be a sad story. All three of us are happy. The one who still rides has an older, trustworthy horse and a reliable truck and trailer. She's wise about who she rides with, and where they go. The Alzheimer's lady has a daughter who trains for triathlons. She bikes with her and hikes with her, so she's out on trails in a different way, where she feels safe. And me? I can barely walk to the mailbox and back, but I've taken up showing bantam chickens. I can handle them by myself. Last year I showed in 10 shows all over California, even won Best of Show at one of them. Their shipping cages fit nicely in the back of my RAV4. I've been amazed at how many older people who show chickens used to have horses. So, there is life after riding, and it can be a good life. My old horses are content in their retirement. I still have my 30 year old pick-up and my horse trailer, not because I think I'll ever be able to use them again, just because I worked so hard to buy them, and they're like old friends. You will know, hopefully someday long into the future, when your life will need to change. Be thinking about how to make life easier when you get to that stage. Don't have any regrets, only great memories.

  14. Well said Jan!

  15. Keep going because the problem is that it's when you stop that things will only get worse. And there will be the day one day where you really cannot go any more and it will be impossible and you'll look back and say "I'm glad I did as much as I could while I could."
    I'm 23 with a deformity in my hips that is making me arthritic long before my time and easily fatigued. I've already had to give up riding my old haffie broodmare because she's just too wide, however I started a youngster before my diagnosis that has fitted into place perfectly. He's surprisingly narrow in the barrel and sensitive in the sides so no need to push and kick and displace my hips to get him moving. I still have to limit my time in the saddle and I know the consequences of riding fast or hard but if I did what my physiotherapist said, which is to not ride - it would just eat me up inside. Not because of me; I'm one of those who'd be sad to stop riding but could be content just being around horses. No. It's because Kel is my horse, my project, my baby, and it would break my heart to have to find someone else to ride him. He was raw as they come when I bought him and everything he is now is down to me. That's my reason that I will keep (ungainly) mounting up until the day I can't anymore. And then I'll go and get some shiny new hips to wear out all over again from riding. ;)
    There really is something something to be said for the stoicism and determination of horse people. You're a real inspiration, Mugs. Keep going, no matter how slow you need to take it on those "bad days".

  16. "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" Great title. You can hold your cards almost indefinitely... while not actively playing, you are not folding either. I relate well. One great mare in the pasture, me waiting for a "good day" to be able to ride.

    I just keep holding - not folding yet, and not for a long time, God willing. I know a lot of healthy people who keep themselves from living half of life you and I have, Mugs. Tragic waste.

    Want to say that is is not fair that you have PD on top of all the trials you've been through. Call it what it is, it just sucks.

    Stick with it, Mugs. Enjoy what you can, when you can and don't let the darkness steal your joy. Cry when you have to, wallow a bit, and put it behind you. Enjoy every bit of what you have. It's more than most.

    Take care, and Happy Mother's Day,
    Amy in Ohio

  17. Those are fine, fine ideas that you have. You have so so much left to give in so many ways, some that you don't even know about yet. Do what you enjoy and what you can and get as much enjoyment out of life that you can. That will involve meeting new people and enriching their lives along the way. Please see if you can get some help with care taking duties, it will benefit both of you. Stay strong, and fight the good fight.

  18. They sound fine goals to me. I've learnt paying much attention to what I can't do is a recipe for doing even less, while paying attention to what I can do and how to grow it gets me places. I don't always live up to that, but I"m getting better at it.

  19. Mugs, I love how you laugh a lot when you are in the saddle. -colleen hamer