with my mare Kahlua

Most of my life I have taken things for granted. I wake up in the morning and I hop out of bed, taken for granted. I enjoy nice food, nice clothes, the occasional glass of wine, great family, good friends and the joy of riding my horses. I have had a horse in my life for the better part of 45 years or more.

To me, riding was just that. Riding for pleasure, sport and entertainment. Until a few years ago when everything I selfishly took for granted changed dramatically.

At the time, I was the mother of two high active teenagers, I had two good dressage horses, I coached high school sports and ran daily, I was in constant motion. Then one afternoon, it all changed. A slip and fall on the ice and I found myself with two herniated disks.

Within days, I went from constant motion to intense pain, from hitting the floor every morning on a dead run to barely crawling into a wheelchair. I spent 9 months in one physical therapy or another and on medication that on top of the inability to be active, caused huge weight gain, finally ending in surgery.

The surgery was somewhat successful but my body was left contorted and weak. Thankfully, my surgeon is an equestrian and gave me the ok to ride as soon as I felt ready.

As I began the recover process I discovered that aside from the huge amount of weight gain, my body was crooked. Seriously crooked. I noticed right away my clothes hung odd on me. My buttons and zippers were never right down the center of my body but rather twisted off to the right in a little snake-like pattern. When I walked, my entire right side would just collapse. As a day wore on, I would find my left leg dragging slightly and my right shoulder dropping a good six inches and curve in to my chest. The more tired I’d get, the worse it got and by the end of the day I could actually look down and see my entire shoulder just under my chin.

I was no longer in pain, but I was becoming Igor.

I went to physical therapy and began to gain some stamina but my left leg was still weak and numb and nothing was helping me straighten out.

By this time the kids were moving on, running was out of the question. I could barely walk to the end of my drive, I was a mess.

So I increased my riding. I began to ride 5 nights a week. I started out slowly, taking care to observe how I sat in the saddle and begged people to watch my shoulder and let me know if it began to drop.

One day, after about a year, I realized, as I was walking across the lumpy pasture with a lead rope in hand slightly annoyed because the mare was laughing at me running farther and farther away, that walking was coming easy. My leg wasn’t dragging and my right shoulder was kind of closer to where it belonged.

Three years later, this past Saturday, I spent the entire day wedding shopping with my daughter. We went from store to store. I walked forever. At the end of the day, we passed a store with a beautiful dress in the window. My daughter shouted “that is the perfect mother of the bride’s dress, try it on!”. I knew it would look awful hanging on my crooked body, especially after a long day of walking. I wanted to cry, but I tried it on. As I stood in the mirror, I discovered I’m not crooked any more. The dress hung perfectly. Shoulders nice and square, the zipper on the back was as straight as the beading on the front.

I have to say that I owe this all to my mare. Without her forcing me to use my legs evenly and to sit straight, even her playing evil games in the pasture forcing me to walk further covering rough terrain, helped me heal.

Those sayings on cheesy cards applies “Take nothing for granted.” “The thing you enjoy the most will bring about great healing…

Cheryl