Brooke, A Life Well Lived

30 Jun
Brooke, beautiful and gorgeous, always had a smile!

Brooke, beautiful and gorgeous, always had a smile!

Stopping in for some coffee at a local convenience store, I ran into Amanda, a parent of one of my old riding students looking refreshed and happy.

I had lost track of her two girls, Ali and Brooke. Brooke was frail and more into friends than horses. Her sister, Ali, was the opposite; all she could think of was horses. Ali rode for years at my farm until she decided to ride with her best friend at another farm.

Running into her mother was a great treat, for I often thought of Ali, Brooke, and Amanda. Ali had just finished her freshman year at college and was currently looking for a job. Then Amanda paused and looked at the ground and spurted out flat lifeless words, “And Brooke passed away on Thanksgiving.”

My mind scrambled to make sense of what I had just heard. Amanda continued, “Her lungs collapsed.” Brooke was tiny. Born prematurely, she had been given only hours to live. She defied the doctors, and thrived. She would always maintain a boyish figure and always weigh less than hundred pounds despite her 5’3” frame. Brooke loved getting her nails done and dressing up into frilly dresses and high heels. She loved reading fashion magazines and fine dining in New York City with her Aunt, Amanda’s high society sister. She was quick with a smile or a funny joke. She was physically limited but her heart knew no boundaries. No one knew the gravity of her physical problems because Brooke never complained.

As I drove to school that day, I recalled the fun times at the farm with Brooke. Like the time the girls decided to experiment with one of the barn cats to see how many foods it would eat. The cat at that time had eaten Doritos, cucumbers, carrots, melon, water ice, and cheese curls. I remember Ali and Brooke dressing up Pee-Wee for the fourth of July complete with a huge red striped, blue hat and streamers attached to his tail. I can see Brooke watching Ali at her first horse show and cheering her younger sister on to do better.

I hear Brooke telling me with excitement how much fun she was going to have in New York with her aunt. She explained the shopping, salons and spas that they would be going to. She loved hanging out in the city that never sleeps.

Death is hard to comprehend. Its finality closes chapters and starts others. The blow of death can build a foundation that the loved ones can climb on, or it can topple and crush its survivors. I know that Brooke’s foundation is one that others will climb onto. Her life was one well lived.

To all of those that have lost a loved one this year, I pray for strength to be able to make peace with God’s decision.

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Paid Back in Full

23 Jun

Chessy is a Morab Horse

Chessy and his biggest fan, Jenna.

Chessy and his biggest fan, Jenna.

IMG_2128. Like an Arab, he is smart, discerning, and careful about showing his emotions to one he does not trust. Like a Morgan he is handy, fancy, and determined. Little did I know that this little horse would pay me back in a way I never dreamed.

It was a brutally cold day in December when I discovered Chessy standing at the gate. Like all horse women and men, you can read a horse’s body language as a conversationalist does with an audience. I intuitively knew that there was something wrong.

I opened the gate and walked towards him and that’s when he turned his face towards me. His eye was literally in pieces.

I grabbed a leadline, fearful to put a halter on his face. In my other hand, I held my phone and shakely called my vet. She happened to be in the area and made a hasty drive to my farm. Upon inspection she did not give me good news. He would have to be transported to the University of Pennsylvania or she could remove his eye. Either way, this was a traumatic injury.

To give Chessy the benefit of saving his eye, I decided to send him. We made the harrowing trip to New Bolton Center and they met me at the bay. They had called in an equine optometrist and she encouraged me to see if they could save the eye by cleaning it and putting it back together.

After two days, Chessy had a roaring fever and an infection that was threatening his life. She decided to do a corneal transplant. He was under anesthesia and not doing well. She called to tell me that he was not doing well. I did what I always do, I prayed.

That night, I crept into the still barn at 9:00. He had tubes protruding from his head, they had drilled holes through his skull to flush continual antibiotics into the eye so that he would not reject it. For days, he was in a precarious position. He would gently lay his chin on my shoulder. I would scratch his funny spot, but he would not react. He was hurting and so was I.

Then I got a call from the vet stating that she felt that he could go home with the knowledge that I would have to give him medicine into his eye every two hours. I quickly gathered volunteers that would be willing to take night and day watches. I cleaned the stalls with bleach and fluffed his stall with soft straw.

It was not to happen. The day of transport I was told that he had double pneumonia and he could not go home as planned. He was moved to the ICU and was in critical care. Again he was administered meds that kept him quiet and comfortable. I went to see him and cried. Now tubes were surgically placed in his neck.

Again, I did what I do best, I prayed.

Within two weeks he had recovered and we planned to bring him home. But then came the crushing blow of them all. He had gone into colic and the impaction was in the small intestine. This was fatal without surgery. They had drugged him with heavy sedatives and were waiting for my reply.

My bill thus far was over $12,000 and I could not go further financially. He had been through too much and I made the painful decision to forgo the surgery. I left work early and went into his stall. His head hung to the ground, tubes hung from every main vein, he stirred when he heard my voice.

He tried to turn and face me, but the sedation made him stumble. I prayed over him. Placing my hands on his stomach I asked God to miraculously heal him. That’s when I heard the leading vet clear her throat to signify her presence.

“Jill, I am sorry. We will keep him comfortable until we cannot control the pain. We will let you know when we put him down,” she placed her hand on my shoulder. Finality was in her voice.

I was not ashamed of my tears, for they flowed like the beautiful Brandywine River that Chessy had crossed when he was healthy.

“I am believing that God will miraculously heal him, I hope I get a call with good news and not bad,” my sobbing took over and I could no longer speak.

“Jill, this colic is a death sentence. I am sorry,” she smiled faintly.

I slept fitfully that night, waiting for a phone call, but it did not come. At seven o’clock in the morning, my cell phone rang. I grabbed it and heard the vet on the end speak with disbelief. My little Chessy had pulled out of the colic.
I got off the phone and sunk to my knees, God had showed up in a circumstance that everyone else said was impossible.

Today Chessy is the favorite mount in my lesson program. He is gentle and kind. Always the gentleman, he is aware of every rider and their needs.

Little did I know that he would pay me back with kindness. Six months later I had accidentally left the main gate open. The horses had discovered my mistake and were peacefully eating in my backyard. Upon opening the garage door, my ever diligent guard dogs went after each horse with a vengeance. The herd took off.

Down the driveway they galloped and onto a major road and ripping towards a very busy highway only feet away. I was devastated. I grabbed grain, buckets, halters, lead ropes, and ran for my truck.

That’s when I heard their hoof beats coming closer.

Leading the herd was Chessy. He took them back down the driveway and into the open pasture gates. He had controlled the herd, comforted me by bringing them back, and showed me that he had never forgotten my kindness of saving his life.

A Lesson Well Learned

19 Jun
Jenna and Freckles, a team built on love

Jenna and Freckles, a team built on love

Jenna had not slept through the night, fitfully she saw herself riding the hunt course on her beloved pony, Freckles. Over the jumps, she felt his muscles propelling her through the air. She heard the applause of friends and family cheering her as she rounded the course. Then her alarm sounded and the day began as it usually did, thinking of Freckles. Her father drove as fast as a supersonic jet, he sensed her urgency.

They pulled up to the farm. She tied her shoes tighter and straightened her shirt. She grabbed her back pack, full of all the things necessary for her to be successful in the ring. Her grooming brushes, her favorite purple saddle pad, tiny carrots, apples sliced and diced, her list of “To Do’s,” her black padded shipping halter adorned with sheepskin to keep her horse comfortable, and of course her small plastic bag full of hoof clippings, and silvery hair cut from Freckles mane for good luck.

She tacks up Freckles, he is restless. He shifts from side to side. He can feel her excitement and he absorbs it and expels it through his feet. He shakes his head and stomps his feet. She gets very nervous; he has never done this before. I walk over and place my hand on his shoulder and my other hand on Jenna.

“He feels your nervous energy, just relax. He is responding to you, his best friend,” she shook her head in acknowledgement. She was disappointed that she had let Freckles down.

She put her left foot in the stirrup and started to warm up by getting into two-point position. Freckles responded by picking up a trot. Then she sat deep and he halted quickly.

The first division was jumping. He entered the ring in a canter, and then broke to a trot. Jenna was rattled. She broke concentration and he stopped. He turned around, trying to get out of the riding ring. His buddy was not ready, he was scared for her and tried to take care of her by taking her out of the ring.

Escalating downward, she missed jumps, cantered some and trotted others. Her frustration grew into tears. Her friends gathered around her. The judge complemented her on her tenacity. Her mother feared for her daughter’s life. The team of Freckles and Jenna was broken. Jenna had a lot to learn.
Never once did she consider getting on another horse or bowing out of the ring. The judge gave her a second chance to complete the course. Freckles weaved and bobbed. She was giving in to the feelings of despair. Then she rallied, petting her beautiful flea bitten gray, she whispered to herself that she could do all things through Christ.

She finished the division. What she had learned was that sometimes the best lessons in life are learned on the back of a beautiful pony named Freckles.
She learned that winning a ribbon is nothing compared to learning a lesson. That being frustrated and disappointed can whip many people, but people with true character just dig deeper and work through it. Jenna learned that sometimes your personal best may not be good enough.

After the show was over, Jenna was fawning over her pony, kissing his sweet face, feeding him the baby carrots and sliced apples. She was talking to her friends and family about all of his personality quirks. She scratched his belly and he lifted his lip in the air making a comical face. They all laughed, but Jenna laughed the loudest, her pony is her life. She was not disappointed, she was proud of what she had accomplished that day in the ring.

Some of my most painful lessons were learned on the broad back of my noble horse, Raise Your Dreams.

Have you ever learned a painful but necessary life lesson on the back of your horse? Please share!

What Is This????!!!!

11 Jun
Oh goody, Timmy is wearing a vest- another 2 pockets to stuff more treats in.

Oh goody, Timmy is wearing a vest- another 2 pockets to stuff more treats in.

We have a horse whisperer on our farm, his name is Timmy. The horses and ponies willingly follow him all over the farm. Most people marvel at his ability, but I know his ultimate training tool, tasty apple and oat cookies. He stuffs his pockets full of them and doles them out whenever the horses follow him.

One day I got a text from his mother, “In case you are wondering, Apple and Oat horse treats DO NOT wash or dry well!”

I promptly called her and she shared her absolute horror over what she discovered in his pant pockets. She thought it might be p**p from the horses, until Timmy set her straight.

Zelda Does the Impossible!

10 Jun

She dreamed of one thing, to someday ride a horse. Weakness on her left side paralyzed her body from ever sitting on a horse.

Today Zelda learned that WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

She rode Buttons around the ring twice, her body strengthening and straightening with each powerful stride.

Zelda, you are AMAZING!

God, you will never cease to astound me!

Thanks Bobbi for bringing her here! Kelsey your love and compassion is so evident! Briah, you encouraged and helped without being asked, because you just love all people! Beth you are spectacular for always giving of your time, energy and love! Thanks to ALL!

Hey, want to help others?  Please post your unwanted tack, clothing, riding equipment, trailers, etc. on http://www.anythingforhorseandrider.com!

Thanks!

Zelda and the perfect Buttons!

Zelda and the perfect Buttons!

Two Miles to Thanksgiving

7 Jun
God is in every circumstance!

God is in every circumstance!

There is nothing better than a horseback ride after a long hard week. I decided to ride by myself through the country side and I found myself singing terribly off key songs to my beloved horse, Raise Your Dreams. He did not care, he was being ridden by me, his absolute most favorite human in the whole world.

I allowed the reins to slip through my hands and I was barely holding them with one hand. We heard a crash through the woods and a man appeared out into the open. His dishelved appearance and look on his face revealed a character that was not friendly but evil. My horse did what he does best- spun.

Whack! I hit the ground with the very shoulder that had just been surgically repaired for my torn rotator cuff. I could only feel excruciating pain. I laid on the ground writhing. My horse stood over me and made threatening gestures. I told the man that my horse would attack him, and with that he left.

I got up and my arm dangled limply by my side. I just had the clearance to ride and now I had undone surgery and months of physical therapy. I was mad!

I am ashamed to admit it- but mad at God.

“How could you allow me to fall? You are God! You could have prevented this!” I was screaming through my tears. My horse followed me, lowering his head. He was upset too.

“How can I thank you? For what? A fall? How am I supposed to be thankful in EVERYTHING?”

We were two miles away from the barn. It was a good thing. I needed that time to wrestle with God.

Once in the barn, I untacked my horse with one arm. I stood in the aisle, lonely, ashamed at my reaction to this fall. I was upset for yeling at God.

Then I heard an internal voice that was God, “I could have broken your neck!”

Once this realization hit me, I started to praise the LORD like never before!  It took two miles to walk back to the barn.  Within those two miles I had learned that being thankful in every circumstance is not easy, but necessary!  God is always doing His best for us and our circumstances.

Later I realized that God had used the circumstance to show His healing power and might.  He miraculously healed me in the hospital, witnessed by many doctors and nurses!

GOD’S Word says, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Have you ever been in a circumstance that seemed to break your heart and spirit?  Then God turned it all around and you were full of thanksgiving!  Please share- it encourages all that read it!!

Spring Schooling Horse Show

3 Jun
Our proud riders

Our proud riders

It is the Spring Schooling Horse Show. Excitement hangs in the air. Children, parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts gather at the fence and watch their riders in the riding ring.

Ribbons adorn the bridles of our ever patient horses and ponies. Parents snap pictures proudly of their child’s accomplishments. Other riders hug each other and high five the winners. It is a moment suspended in time.
The last class of the show is the long awaited, Down and Out. Usually this is jumped by horses, but this is a growing year at Raise Your Dreams Farm and we have chosen to conduct this class on the two feet of our riders. They have been practicing each time they come, especially Timmy. He is up to three feet.

Check out Alena in the Down and Out Competition.  Check out her huge cheering section!

Check out Alena in the Down and Out Competition. Check out her huge cheering section!

Down and Out is when the rider (or in our case, the student) goes over a vertical. Each time they go over the jump, it is raised until it is either touched, falls down, or unable to clear it. In our Down and Out we have increased the incentive by giving half of the purse. There is nothing sweeter in a teenager’s pocket than some cold cash.

It is down to the last four jumpers. Timmy, Jacob, Jenna, and Emily are accomplished jumpers. Jacob and Timmy are best friends. Jenna and Emily are best friends too. They encourage each other. Then Emily falls into the jump. She is down. They pick her up.

Emily being picked up after falling in the Down and Out Class

Emily being picked up after falling in the Down and Out Class

Next up is Timmy, he crashes into it too. Jacob is trying to psyche himself up and he is encouraging the crowd to chant, “Jake! Jake! Jake!” He crashes into it.

Timmy showing his skills!

Timmy showing his skills!

 

 

It is down to Jenna. If she jumps this, she will be the winner! She backs up for the final sprint. The crowd starts chanting for Jenna, changing their allegiance.

Jenna and her winning jump!

Jenna and her winning jump!

 

Jenna flies over it, her blonde hair swinging in the wind. Her beautiful face set in determination. She lands in perfect balance- she is the undisputed winner.

That’s when a parent walks over and tells me what she overheard.

“Timmy threw the competition. He wanted his best friend to win. I overheard him tell the others that he was going to purposely knock it down so that Jacob could win,” she placed her hand on my arm and smiled. “You have amazing students here!”

We have amazing students here. They are only out to do one thing- to make others look better than they do. They don’t want to win if it will help another that deserves a win. What an amazing place Raise Your Dreams Farm has become!

Hey can you help us out? Post your unwanted tack, clothing, riding apparel, etc. on the classified section on http://www.anythingforhorseandrider.com.  Thanks!  This site funds our little farm!

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