2014: The Flip Side

Sarah arriving at UT. Photo by Kim Bradley. Sarah arriving at UT. Photo by Kim Bradley.

Up until yesterday, in the two years that I’ve owned Sarah, my big grey horse, I had never been grateful that she did not have EPM. (For the Muggles: Equine Protozoal Myelitis, a very serious neurological disease spread by, of all things, possum poop.) That changed yesterday, when we concluded a four-hour examination at the University of Tennessee Equine Rehabilitation Center by injecting her hocks. (For the Muggles: treating a problem that’s both very common and very likely to go away.)

I spent the whole rest of the night feeling ambivalent about the election returns (I regard most politicians the way I do most possums, not bothering me in any personal way but somewhat icky all the same.) and very, very grateful that Sarah did not have EPM. We are all grateful today. Even the neurologists at UT were practically giddy when they turned Sarah over to the lameness crew.

So then I decided to look at the flip side of my year:

I was down in Florida in February, riding for two weeks in beautiful weather on beautiful farms, and being trained by two of the best eventers in the business, and that I have the opportunity to do that is nothing short of amazing. When Sarah showed slight — very slight — signs of lameness, some of the best equine vets in the country happened to be right there on the farm at the time, and did a full workup, and we found the problem right away.

We were able to start treatment immediately. She immediately responded. Wow. My daughter got to join me for a few days, too, and we sang karaoke, and my daughter did not put the video on Facebook. I’m grateful for all of that.

My daughter acquitted herself well at the Pony Club National Championships. She has the quirkiest little horse in the world, and somehow they suit each other perfectly, and I’m still not sure how that happened. When I got knocked out, my daughter stepped up like a hero, keeping me from moving and also preventing the EMTs from cutting my safety vest off by showing them how it could be undone at the shoulders.

My parents were on hand, since they’d come to watch their granddaughter ride, and that meant that my mom rode in the ambulance with me, where she got to answer two questions (What happened? and Where’s Sarah?) three thousand times. My dad brought my daughter once she’d taken care of the horses (with help from one of the HM judges, whose name we never knew).

I’ve sometimes had a rocky relationship with my dad, and now I have the sweet memory of him getting a warm washcloth and washing the blood off my face while I was still semi-conscious. My mom and daughter alerted our network of family and friends, and the resulting outpouring of love was a huge comfort to me.

My nephews insisted on Facetiming me so they could see I was really okay. Our lovely Pony Club friends took care of all of our tack and then left a soft comfort-food dinner for us in our hotel room (Soft for my injured mouth.). (My poor husband and son landed from an international flight, learned that I was in an ambulance en route to the hospital, and then had to turn off their phones for two hours while they went through customs, which was agony for them, but I’m always very grateful to them, too.)

I recovered from my head injury without incident. I had been wearing a helmet. My horse was fine.

My Holston Pony Club team was bloody brilliant at their event rally; I was so, so proud.

At this most recent horse trials, it was not snowing, as it was on our farm at home. My daughter had to ride on the first anniversary of a tragedy that shook her high school community to pieces, and it was very hard, and she persevered. Her dressage sucked, but her jumping was beautiful. Not adequate — beautiful.

Best of all, I listened to my horse. She was telling me she wasn’t right, and I heard her, and I got off and called it quits. And then I was able to get help, good help, immediately. I live in the sticks, in the middle of nowhere, and it still amazes me that I can get to a nationally ranked equine center in two hours.

Sarah’s the fourth horse I’ve taken to UT (seizures, suspensory surgery, eye ulcer), and every time I’ve come away grateful for the combination of veterinary knowledge and horse love shown by the staff there. For Sarah it was like a day at the spa. She was surrounded by people who pet her and loved her and gave her cookies, and only occasionally made her trot or poked her with needles.

I am grateful for my big grey horse and her goofy charm. I am immeasurably thankful for my family and friends. When you look at the flip side, 2014 was actually a pretty good year.

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