Monthly Archives: November 2014

When We have Time

As many of us know, once becoming a parent you seem to relinquish all rights to hobbies, interests, and most activities you enjoyed before (and I say this in the most endearing way possible) the rug rats came along.

Now don’t get me wrong; my rug rats have changed my life and world for the better. I am more responsible, save more, work harder, do more housework, require less sleep, have more patience and cherish the little things.

But like all parents I have given up on or put other things on the back burner. For example: privacy in the bathroom, privacy in the bedroom, moments to myself, my emotions, my clothes, personal upkeep (to a certain degree), having a clean vehicle, and last but not least, horses. If I am not working I have kids and vice versa. To make life more complicated we have a blended family. Our access schedule is Thursdays, and every other weekend are days to spend with kids and work on things at home and to play.

young girl on horse

This saddle is -almost- my size!

When I have the kids I clean the house piled with the makings of a long workweek and two more children entering the premises. Floors show the whole life adventures of two dogs that are indoor/ outdoor, and laundry for five people. Of course everyone is a different size, except the girls, so laundry must be washed separately, or we face subsequent mornings of this isn’t mine! Otherwise tidy and clean vehicles somehow in one day become a disaster filled with shoes, coats, sweaters, juice boxes, dirt, Kleenex. I think you get the picture. Keep in mind there is only one day to do these recreational activities.

Coupled with a family run business, a house in the making, 25 cows, 10 horses, and one resident skunk that will rip the garbage apart and spread it all over the yard. Most of the time everything comes in that order.

So horses ? How do they fit into this picture? Well when the sun comes up at 6AM its pretty simple thats what time you ride, before everyone else gets up (when they are up they come out in their pj’s looking for breakfast). In the winter on the days the trucks won’t start for work (because you forgot to plug it in the night before) and the days the kids want to play inside (you ride near the house so if any problems arise they can holler). In the fall you get off work with just enough time to ride at dusk then boogie home to go pick up kids from the day home or the other parent. We also go to multiple cattle drives, brandings, go roping in the winter, the occasional clinic, check cows, go camping and participate in the Canadian Cowboy Challenge.

Now you may ask, how do we do this with a 3, 5 and 6 year old in tow? Well, they ride mostly by themselves and with great eagerness to do so. We have a minimal tolerance in our home and few toys. Our policy is one strike then you’re out for any given ride or activity. Yes, we do time outs too. Now don’t get me wrong; we have some patience and lenience but when it comes to animals, quads, and other peoples homes there is none. We have certain expectations that our kids are aware of. Some people think we are expecting them to be too mature, but here is the reality of it: how many mistakes do horses allow? Cows? Dogs? Quads? Glass? Walls? Society?

kids and horses

Spending time with the kids – and horses.

What horses and other animals give parents is a teaching tool. Our kids know how to tell when the cows need hay in the winter, how to feed the dogs and how to give the horses a treat without getting fingers chomped off. They’ve learned where it’s safe to stand when loading and unloading horses from the trailer. Where to go when the bull and or cows gets loose. Where the saddles go when you’re done with them and even where the truck needs to be to hook up the trailer. They know their manners when someone gives them lunch at a cattle drive. And where they can run and scream without breaking things!

Although our kids are not old enough to ride in events like the Cowboy Challenge they look forward to the days they can and are being well equipped already. We participate with a group called Ridge Riders; we do two 5 day camps each year. We ride out from camp each day with packed lunch. Some people don’t ride so if the kids aren’t into riding that day, they can stay and play in the creeks or help at camp. They are part of set up and take down. They help care for the horses and get ready for the rides.

Our family has been cowboying for generations. We raise our children in that rich tradition. Family oriented riding groups and events like the Canadian Cowboy Challenge help provide families like ours the opportunity to keep doing what we love with friends and neighbors.

When we have time, that is.

Prairie Creek, Let’s Look

This trail had been my walk around the park for many years, and I wondered if in fact, I had taken it for granted. Rather than riding my horse in “a in the moment” way, mindfully, ecologically and environmentally aware ?  Probably not. But, it was about riding. I rode the Elbow trail, Powderface and Prairie Creek religiously for many years and know that there are still years of riding to really know this place. It has become a bit of a conveyor belt of hikers and cyclists outnumbering horseback riders. Sad to say, I have listened to enough people wandering our magnificent trail systems to know that work, relationships, recipes and just plain gossip tended to be the majority of chitchat that you’d hear at your local Starbucks. It still drives me around a bend to be a witness to cell phone conversations in a lineup and hearing a complete spectrum, from an inane conversation about being in a line to a very embarrassing discussion of a delicate health issue, because we know, all cell phones come with a cone of silence.

I happened to really like riding alone. And K-Country offers splendid moments that allow for mental rumination and physical gawking. (I wouldn’t have the same comfort level in Alaska, as their predator levels have a higher per inch capita than our park.)

horseback riding kananaskis

Riding in K-Country

There’s the big deep breath I take when I hit that curve on the trail that truly says, away from the city.  There’s that moment of being some eight feet above the ground, with a good horse moving at a much faster pace than I can walk that becomes empowering. There is the joy of seeing my favourite touchstones: that outcrop of rock, that aged and weather scarred spruce, that signpost, the twist up a hill.

Thinking back on the many adventures I have had on these trails, it suddenly struck me that I didn’t question a lot of things.

In praise of the visionaries

I can ride here! The rules are simple! It is free!

david thompson alberta

David Thompson – Over his career he mapped over 3.9 million square kilometers of North America.

I am truly thankful for the visionaries starting with the wilderness parks movement across North America, especially John Muir, a Scottish naturalist and preservationist of wilderness in the US before the turn of the twentieth century. Canada was pretty quick off the mark too; Banff established in 1885, and is Canada’s oldest national park.(Banff is about 100 km west of Calgary; K-Country about 30 km, southwest.) We have our own explorers who opened up the Rockies for us to enjoy today such as David Thompson, James Sinclair, John Palliser.

Then there was Kananaskis Country, a provincial park, established in 1976, its use as an economic generator through its immense coal quietly gone when the first pathways were created. It???s 4,211 square kilometers, hundreds of trails and lordy knows how many kilometers of trails there are.

Names

Prairie Creek. ? Why? It’s not in the Prairies and while this little creek may eventually get there, in the meantime, it has to flow to the Elbow River, which is not a long jaunt by any river standards. Once mixed with the Elbow, really, can you recognize which molecules are from Prairie Creek or those of the Elbow as it grinds down to Calgary? Well, nearby is Beaver Mountain, another 2,000 meter plus peak that probably gave it its name. Really, it should have been Beaver Creek (there may be many beaver creeks as beavers are in this part of the world). Note to everyone: never, ever drink straight from water that has beavers in it; it may have a population of giardiasis, a zoonotic parasite too small to see and if you’re unlucky, the cause of very noticeable tummy and intestinal problems. That said, beavers are remarkable and how they engineer their territories are far superior to how we mess with ours in terms of flood control, maintaining ecological diversity and water conservation. But, they have managed to deal with parasites, we are an evolutionary work in progress.

Indian Paint Brush

Indian Paint Brush

Prairie Creek is definitely a foothills creek. And, a very horse friendly area with lots of water, grasses and shade. There  does not seem to be major falls, rapids or white water; often reflecting the aspens, gloriously so in the fall, running over stones and in parts, clear as a summers day. If there were notable falls and rapids, the parks folks would have moved heaven and earth to have the trail border it, with perhaps a picnic area. It is really, just a pleasant little burbling creek accumulating water and flowing through the lesser valleys in the Rockies, gravity dictating it’s flow to the east.  By lesser, I mean, smaller than say the huge valley that the Bow River cruises through.

What did the First Nations peoples call these small and exquisite waterways? What would they have called Prairie Creek? Would they have ridden a horse to follow this creek, hunt, set trap lines, pick raspberries, herbs, mushrooms?

Why Moose Mountain ? 

Then there is Moose Mountain. It’s not in the Elbow Loop Trail, but you can get there from Hwy 66 via the Station Flats staging area or West Bragg Creek staging area.

If ever there was a misnomer of a mountain that one probably hits the top 1000 chart. There is no irony, not even sarcasm in the naming. Just wrong. Moose are lowland animals that need to be near water. We have enough moose meadows in Alberta, which you pay great attention to, lest you and your horse sink knee deep or worse into boggy land. Even without a horse, you can sink deep with your own two feet. Those great moose hooves and extra long legs get through, plus they are great swimmers and walk silently through shrubs and brush.

moose mountain, kananaskis, alberta

Moose Mountain – Kananaskis

Moose Mountain at over 2,000 meters is more about eagles and hawks; the winds scour areas of short grasses, brilliant flowers and lots of rocks at the summit. One of those places to take a breather with your horse, unpack the saddlebags, find a rock for a picnic and see the amazing vista of the park. If you’re on the Bragg Creek side, half way up in an opening in the dense evergreens, on a clear day you can see the condo towers on Coach Hill, Calgary.  On horseback, as you split off to the Moose Mountain trail, it becomes a series of tight, steep, switchbacks through evergreens that cyclists scream down, 9-0. It’s not a good place for a horse. Getting out of the way is not easy, if you even manage to see or hear the cyclists above you.  If they are going for broke, good luck. But, if the cyclists are having a more civilized trek down and chatting, I have  gotten quite an earful of work-related stuff before they came into view and able to step out of the way and wait for them to pass. They were shocked out of their collective socks, eyes big, not expecting a horse on their trail. But, courtesy prevailed and they kindly told me that more were coming.

This is a wilderness silence place, accentuated by the wind through the trees, rocks and grasses.Perhaps you hear the call of a raptor. But, with every ride, you should have packed a small mental suitcase, not the pile of baggage to see you through for a winter in the Antarctic. And, then, not open it to truly enjoy a moment of just being there and blurring the human outline to hug the landscape.

If meals with family and friends define good relationships with others, then taking a gulp from a water bottle, chomping down on a granola bar in mom natures living room fires up those endorphins to a particularly excited state of enjoyment and helps our sense of place. Did a granola bar ever taste so good?

What my horse thought about all of this, I don’t know.  Probably thankful that she was getting a break and could chew on the nutritious, indigenous grasses, cock a hip and lower her head for a snooze. If it’s a longer break, saddle comes off. But, and this is huge, my flat land horse had lots of riding time on various terrain and could do this!  Never ask a flat land horse to hit a serious mountain trail the first time out.  At best you will have a sore, dehydrated horse.  It cannot make up for a water deficit, if you start off without enough in the tank.  At worst, you have a very sore, probably cranky, even sick horse that is or is close to tying up.  For the horse, lots of breaks, especially for water and lots of chew time (and make sure you include electrolytes for your horse, who, guaranteed, is working a lot harder than you are).

Moments with cyclists and Boy Scouts

Which leads me to actual two occurences.

There I was riding my Sheba along a flat stretch of a meadow, around mid morning: a perfect summer day, the kind where you could fall asleep by the trail with the sun warming your cheek. The creek was on the right winding gently through a bright green meadow, easily accessible and banked with clay soil. Ahead, peddling hard, was a solo male cyclist.

My Sheba was a strangely competitive horse and seemed to like chasing down cyclists and passing them. Seriously, she would, on her own, pick up the pace and sail by.  I think there was a see ya  (or worse) on her lips with no mental fist bump of congratulations in her attitude. It made sense to pass the cyclist before we got into the aspens and as the trail then narrowed into spruce woods and the thought of leap frogging to test muscle power versus horse-power, just wasn’t fun to think about.

This time, it seemed that the cyclist was not going to give up the lane: somewhat like very irritating drivers who speed up when you indicate you’re going to pass.

Ok, a bit faster. And a bit more. The guy was flying! Stretched over the handle bars and the feet a blur.

As I finally checked the rear views and the lane ahead, I made my pass. I’m not even in a gallop, but I looked at this athlete, with gave a friendly wave, and saw eyes the size of saucers. After a bit of a lope, I found nice access to the creek and headed for it so Sheba could have a slurp. Shortly after, the cyclist came by at a much more relaxed pace.

He looked at me and said, thank god, I thought you were a bear.

I had never thought my shod horse with jingly bits clanking away could have been mistaken for a bear. But, if you’re hearing something going huff, huff, huff behind you, perhaps getting out of Dodge isn’t a bad idea. The cyclist didn’t have a rear view mirror and was too scared to look back, I guess.

Powderface and Prairie Creek Trail Map

Powderface and Prairie Creek Trail Map

On another day, coming back off the loop and getting close to the trailhead at Powderface, I ended up behind a troop of Boy Scouts loaded down with huge backpacks.  It was a hot day, so there was no speed to their walk and although they were walking one behind the other they occupied the whole trail, making it really hard to ride around. They were really slow, so slow that my horse was creeping up on them. boys .5 kilometers per hour; horse three.  They were a pretty quiet group. Finally, as Sheebs was breathing down on a backpack, with no way to get around the boys, I said, excuse me. The  kid was startled and jumped to the side showing yet another set of eyes doing a saucer routine.  Neither he, nor anyone in that troop heard or noticed me coming up back.

Did I mention that I have a shod horse walking on stony ground and I’m outfitted in lots of things that jingle and jangle? Sure, prey animals are pretty quiet.  And, maybe there are a dozen moose up on Moose Mountain and I have just never seen them. But, put shoes on that moose and things that clank and tinkle and surely, by then, you would notice them.

I didn’t give myself a special badge in ‘Observing,’ as I have walked by oblivious to some astonishing and wonderful things, but it does amaze me how little we sometimes pay attention to what is around us.

In the land of eagles

Perhaps the best story I have heard, and appropriate for this time of year, is that told by Peter Sherrington, The Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation, who made the epic discovery that the Rockies in southern Alberta is on the major golden eagle (and other raptors) migration route to Alaska and the Yukon. Aside from the passion that Peter has for these magnificent birds, a total commitment to conservation and an eagle eye, as a birder in his early days, he was counting all sorts of species all over the place.  However, at that time, it was believed that golden eagles were sedentary, that is, non migratory. But, he did something that other scientists charged with learning about the flora and fauna of our land, did not do and that is:  Look. Up. Peter states this in his talks with undisguised glee.  Scientists were actually based under the flyover area, so had spring and fall to see these birds winging their way overhead. They would count maybe one or two in an hour. Peter, on the other hand, was astonished at the volume of traffic overhead. To be fair to the scientists, once they were given the clue, they immediately began to really look.

With a passion for birds, a science background, huge curiosity and ability to wonder, he looked. We can all muster a passion, bring curiosity and do some wondering. The science. Applying reason, thinking and asking, what if. What did I see ?

Turn around and look back. Look up.

Take a moment off or on your horse and really see what is around you. Stop the internal yada-yada about work, BFFs, or what to make for dinner. You might see that squirrel perched hidden in a tree you, those foot prints that may be a dog, but could be something else. Watch your horses ears as they go up, swivel and point.

Look up.

And, just look.

What is in your Equine First Aid Supply?

We all hate the thought of something bad happening to our equine friends but we owe it to them to be prepared. This is a guide to your permanent equine first aid supply on hand for in the barn. When you are on a road trip or trail ride you will want to bring key items that are in a portable container to put in your trailer or saddle bags.

horse first aid

There are many equine first aid courses offered now and they are a great way to tune up your first aid practices like bandaging and wound dressing.

First off make sure you have the following in place in case of emergency.

  • A land line phone or good cell phone reception.
  • A posted list of emergency procedures including 911 and other emergency numbers such as vet and key people you wold call for help. Post this by the phone and any other key locations.

I own five horses: QH, Paint, TB , Arab and Warmblood. I also take care of other peoples horses. Thankfully injuries are few around here except this year. My QH gelding somehow punctured his hoof, right between the digital cushion and the frog. It was deep! No damage was done to any crucial structure. Later this summer the same QH managed to get a deep slice right under his eye almost severing off his lower lid! My Tb mare managed a wire cut and bowed tendon and my amazing older Arab choked then became unusually colicky. The first aid treatments of these cases were critical. Calling the vet was the first thing to do after applying any first aid. I am grateful to have acquired excellent advice from peers and vets over the years to help me in these types of situations and give me options on treatments.

I have gone with the conventional medicines and treatments as well as the holistic approach. It is important to know your horses very well as some treatments and medications may not be the best for that individual. For example, on my QH with the puncture wound, I gave him antibiotics as per my vet as his leg became infected despite my strict regimen of flushing, cleaning and wrapping. His body required a rebuild of sorts after the treatment. I put him on probiotics, an herbal detox, liver flush all over a period of a few weeks. In the future a more holistic approach is my direction with him.

horse first aid

The first aid kit is a necessity for any horse owner. My barn kit is actually a cabinet with plenty of supplies on hand. Inevitably you loan some supplies out to a horse in need. Keep this clean and organized.  I also have a small fridge for those items like probiotics. Your kit may also contain many items to help your horse with the healing process, inside and out. The following is a good guideline on what to include in your kit. Add items that will be helpful in any surprise situation. Is there such a thing as being too prepared?

A chart of vital signs and colic signs posted or in your first aid kit is very handy.

The absolute necessities:

  • Thermometer
  • Stethascope
  • Scissors. No pointing ends! Get the ones??with rounded ends.
  • Vet wrap. Many many??rolls.
  • Duct tape.
  • Salt. Great for adding to warm water for a natural saline flush.
  • Gastricol. Use when any colicy symptoms appear.
  • Alcohol. for disinfecting scissors and such.
  • Syringes. Great for flushing out puncture wounds.
  • Disposable gloves.
  • Clean towels. Large and small.
  • Hoofpick
  • Tweezers. Get that nasty tick off or a foreign object lodged in skin.
  • Stainless steel bucket. Easy to disinfect and indestructible.
  • Square gauze. Various sizes.
  • Fly mask. Must have to protect eyes from flies which can cause infection but to protect injured eye.
  • Bandages. Gamgee, standing quilts, stretch and polo bandages.

Additions to your kit.

Many are holistic additions I have made over the years. Be aware that this list can grow as you find what is better to have on hand. Many items can do the same thing but some are better for specific situations.

  • Honey. Unpastuerised. Antibiotic.
  • Oil of oregano. Antibiotic.
  • Arnica pills. Arnica rub. A good anti inflammatory.
  • Tea tree oil, spray
  • Apple cider vinegar with Mother. Great to spray on hooves with slight thrush. Mix with Tea tree oil.
  • Betadine.
  • Probiotics.
  • Polysporin
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Baby disposable diapers. A good hoof poultice.
  • Hoof boot. I know this is an extra but it can be quite convenient.
  • Coconut oil. Great for small scratches, mud fever.
  • Essential oils. This is an area I am beginning to explore. Many oils are great healers. Do your research to find out what and when to use them.

  • Roll of paper towels.

There are many equine holistic practitioners who are a wonderful source for connecting you to the right product per ailment.

As you can see this can get quite extensive and expensive. There may be many items missing here depending on what your approach to healing is. Experience with your horse will help you decide what is the best course of treatment. Call your vet anytime you need help or advice and let them know of any adverse reactions your horse may have to conventional pharmaceuticals.

Adding non essential items over time will be easier on the budget. All is worth it to help your equine partner and give you peace of mind. Your horse appreciates all the time and care you give him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonds with Horses

Most, if not all of us, have horses that are, or have been, near to our hearts. For reasons that are generally personal, these horses endear themselves to us and we form bonds with them that are different and in many ways exceed the bonds we permit ourselves to form with other people.

Why is this?

I’ve spent many years working with groups of people and have had plenty of opportunity to observe how they interact with one another.  And my conclusion is this: humans are good actors.  We play the part to fit the situation.  For example, we can be in a bad mood, but show up at work and pretend to be happy.  When someone asks, “How are you?” ??we automatically reply “Fine, how are you?” without a second thought, even though we might not be fine at all.

In our interactions with people we’re continuously, and usually subconsciously, analyzing the reactions and expectations of the party we’re conversing with. We might not answer honestly, instead choosing to answer what the other person expects in order to steer a conversation in a certain direction.  We use sarcasm. We cause others to think, “What does he really mean by that?”

We act. What this means to me is that people are seldom 100% honest. We go through our lives playing this game. But without 100% honesty there can never be 100% trust. We question, suspect.  We talk about people behind their backs. We write things in emails and text messages that we wouldn’t dream of saying in a face to face conversation.

Humans, as social animals, are horrible!

chip and scott

Chip on his 3rd day in the world. Our close relationship has opened so many doors to fun, productive training and enjoyment for both of us.

Horses on the other hand, are like a breath of fresh air in a world stagnant with pretense. They are intelligent animals incapable of deceit. I know you’ll have some story about a dishonest horse. But think about it: a horse can only be a horse. A horse can only think like a horse. A horse can only act like a horse. So calling a horse dishonest, manipulative or my favorite: my horse has a behavior problem, is simply a method people have of personifying their horses to explain behavior they either don’t understand, or that they feel is amusing.

Horses are honest. As such their trust must be earned. Horses are capable of forming bonds with other horses and people which can be extremely close; you’ll find many examples in my writing to back that up.  What makes a horse honest is that he cannot act, pretend or fake a mood. A true and honest relationship with a horse extends beyond actions. It goes into a realm that is, in it’s own way, spiritual.

I had someone say to me recently, “Animals are so awesome, they love us unconditionally.” Generally, I disagree.  Most dogs I’ve ever met initially trust you until you give them a reason not to (predator-predator relationship). Horses are the opposite. They will not trust you until you prove you can be trusted (predator – prey relationship). There are obvious and overt conditions and actions that preclude a relationship with a horse. Additionally there are a multitude of subtle conditions that must be met before a horse will form a deep connection with a person. 

I’d like you to consider this.  People form bonds with horses because in the horse they find a trust and honesty that is pure.  And that bond must be mutual; if you are honest with your horse and provide leadership in the way the horse understands and requires it, you can have a lifelong partner. What makes this bond so special is that it requires effort to achieve; it isn’t given unconditionally. You can’t be a human actor around a horse and expect to have a true connection with him. Forming a connection like that requires that you understand what his mental needs are and provide them. A bond like this requires that you are able to feel your horse on a deep psychological level, and in turn communicate empathically with him.

A relationship this honest and open will never exist until you can let your guard down and be honest and open with yourself.

Learning a horse on this level is a journey that might take years, but the payoffs are profound, moving and generally life changing. At least they have been for me.

horse broken neck ty

The author and his gelding, Ty, beginning to ride again after he broke his neck.

Several years ago my gelding, Ty, broke his neck.  We went down a long road of rehabilitation; initially he could barely walk as his spinal cord was compromised. As the years went by, he progressed: I have worked cattle on him and ridden him to the top of a mountain.  We share a mutual understanding.  I know, without a doubt, that he is aware that I’m responsible for saving his life.  I see that in his eye.  I feel it from him.  In turn, that horse has taught me how to create a peaceful space for horses – an asset a herd leader must have – and a skill that I now employ when working with any horse.

Ty has taught me that faith, honesty and trust are real. Our relationship is deep.  Ty probably understands it better than I do because his understanding isn’t clouded by guesswork, philosophy, reasoning or personification. It simply is what it is, and it’s pure. It’s that purity that takes my breath away when he, or any other horse, shows it. When working with horses I find that purity is an addictive component; it’s exhilarating.  It’s energizing. It’s life.

But there are downsides to a relationship like that.  The potential for worry.  Loss.  Guilt.  On average our lives are longer than our horse’s lives by a factor of at least three.  I was told by someone once,  “If you care for that horse, she’ll die.”  Well, she’ll eventually die anyway.

So will I.

And that said, there is a window of opportunity where our lives intertwine, intersect and even merge to an extent. It’s up to us how we use that window because it is of finite duration. It truly is an opportunity if you choose to take it.  It’s  an opportunity for us to explore, to learn.  An opportunity for us to feel and experience the uniqueness of the horse that extends so much further than just riding, competing or working.

Careful, though, this is an addiction. But it’s a healthy one. It’s also not for everyone. People involved with horses run the gamut from those that put 100% priority on the horse to those that put 100% priority on themselves. The former are horsemen who are content to let the horse speak for their skill. Their efforts are reflected in the obvious connection they share with their horse, who is smooth and fluid and entirely content – no matter what the task. The latter would be people for whom the horse is a tool to advance them to a certain competitive level. They might employ a trainer for their horse and seldom interact with the horse between training sessions or shows. Most horse people will fall in between somewhere. Hopefully you find a spot where both you and the horse realize mutual and lifelong benefits.

The reason that I’ve been contemplating these thoughts is that several days ago I almost lost Ty. And it’s caused me to think about not only how special he is to me, but how much potential all horses have. They have the potential to be our most trusted friends. Our most honest friends.  Whether we compete, trail ride or train, we are always building and exploring our relationship and commitment to each other.

While I was away, Ty was discovered by my house-sitter.  He was lying on his side, unable to get up. He was shivering.  She put a blanket over him, and called me and the vet.  While the vet was on his way, I called him to discuss Ty’s previous neurological injuries so that he had a basis to treat him. Not being at home and not being able to provide help and support was a sickening feeling.

 

The vet asked me over the phone, “Is this horse special to you?”  Meaning: I don’t like the look of this. I can euthanize him right now, if that is your choice. My response was simply, “He is.”

jody and ty

Jody works on Ty after a mishap this summer.

The vet was able to get Ty up and with the aid of good friends, put him in the round pen and treat him for colic. I now know that he didn’t colic and go down – he went down and colicked because he couldn’t get up. When I returned home the next day, I immediately called Jody – an incredible equine therapist and a good friend of mine. Jody spent an afternoon working on Ty and found two vertebrae and four ribs were out. Subsequently he was in a lot of pain. To compensate he was using his body in such away that he appeared to be a neurological disaster.

However, after treating him, and with subsequent daily treatment from me, Ty is getting noticeably better. Are we out of the woods?  Not yet. But I can see the edge of the trees from here. In hindsight, what strikes me about this episode is that I feared the worst. Watching my equine mentor struggle to move and get up. Watching him lose his balance and fall over, but just keep trying…it was hard. I wasn’t going to give up until I had exhausted every possible attempt at helping him. Inside, though, part of me was preparing to say goodbye to a beloved friend. Ty however, had no intention of giving up. He is a source of strength to the herd and also to me.

Part of my mantra for life is: I will never have regrets. Part of ensuring living with no regrets is taking every possible opportunity, exploring every avenue, and more than that, I’m realizing, doing something to enrich the lives of others. I think that is a basic human instinct – probably instilled in us to preserve our species. With horses, I am convinced that is my purpose: through training and working with them, I can enrich their lives. The results speak for themselves: horses have more confidence, ability and freedom in motion. They realize success and reward, peace and contentment. They develop an attitude of try and want to work for you, no matter what your discipline or event.

It’s an amazing feeling to be able to provide those things to another living being. Oddly enough, now that I think about it, they have given me the exact same things.

When Ty eventually passes, I know that I will have done all I can to make his life the best it could have been. I know that he is aware of that. I will have made the best of that window of opportunity: we have learned from each other, and we have helped and supported each other. We have existed in a space of peace that we are able to create and share with each other. One look in his eye tells me that.

 

Ty in 2014

Ty in his typical pose in the fall of 2014.

It’s difficult in our lives to devote enough time to the things we care about. It’s also easy to take something or someone for granted. And it’s understandable: we are busy with jobs, raising families, maintaining the farm or any number of countless tasks. It’s so easy to spread ourselves thin. In our busy lives it’s important to find valuable time to spend with our horses. To learn from them. To share with them. To give to them. They’re not dirtbikes to be used at an event and then put in the garage until the next race. They’re living, thinking, intelligent beings that have many many lessons to teach us.

Lessons about how to be a human being.

If you’re open to allowing yourself to make positive changes in your life – a horse has a wealth of information to show you how to do that.

It’s right there waiting for you. Make the most of it.

Scott Phillips, November 2014