Riding out the “wait” and bad medical advice

If there is one thing human beings are not very good at, it is not-doing, just being. Especially in our modern, crazy rat-race, dog-eat-dog kind of world; we are simply not that good at waiting things out and seeing what will happen. Combine that with our craving for instant gratification, and it’s not hard to see why we find it nearly impossible to sit in quietness and wait.

That is hard enough to do for 30 minutes or so, quieting the mind and trying to meditate on life’s problems, but if you have to continually do it for weeks and months on end, not knowing what is going to happen, it is a recipe for torture to any modern human being. We are simply not wired that way! We like to feel that we are doing something, making a change, or creating our own destiny or whatever, as long as we are doing something.

Now, I have never been divorced before, so I am not sure what the rules are (I didn’t think that pretty cool statement up myself, but I am sure the friend I stole it from will see the flattery in my piracy!) but I do know that just like everyone else in this crazy world I am not very good at doing nothing. So while we wait for things to be sorted out, I am going mad trying to find things to do; preparing somehow for that which we can never be prepared for.

In my attempt to take some semblance of control, I have decided to take care of me. Mentally, physically and so forth..but some of that entails seeing doctors. I don’t like people in the medical profession. I have had inordinate amounts of bad luck with them. The crazy in me seems to draw out the crazy in them!

I promise you. I am the only person I know that has had to fire my psychiatrist because she went nuts! I couldn’t believe it either! I rang her up, asking if she could write my script out the week before I came to see her for our 6-monthly checkup as my medication wasn’t going to last. She lost the plot! She shouted down the phone at me for nearly 20 minutes at how it wasn’t her responsibility to check whether my scripts would last until our next seeing each other and how she was going to make me pay for having to write it out and she didn’t think that was unfair because I would pay a GP if I had to go and ask them for a script. I stayed remarkably calm – for once in my life (pat self on the back!) – and told her that if she felt that all I needed as a pill-pusher, I would be more than happy to pay my GP less than half of what she would be charging, so she could go ahead and cancel my appointment for the next week. I was planning on taking it to the medical board, but then received a pathetic text message from her saying how very sorry she was that she had let me down and I couldn’t get the treatment I needed from her. It was sort of comforting to know that doctors get crazy too…It did leave me with a problem of needing a script…but my GP obliged and phoned up the crazy lady and got the details to get me my medication.

Fast-forward six months later…. Like I have mentioned  – I am skittish of doctors at the best of times and it is very hard for me to find one that I trust enough to see more than once! But hey, with having small children, I have managed to get to know the three ladies at the local GP quite well and they have served me and my kids well over the years. So I ring up for an appointment and as it is nothing serious, I say any one of the three would do.

I walk in however, and I don’t know this one. My shackles are up. (I don’t know when this particular woman doctor started working there, but as I rarely go to the doctor, it would have been very easy for them to replace someone in the last year without me noticing.) She looks like she is about to fall over. I suspect she is on cancer treatment as I can see the port or cannula or whatever sticking out from her shirt, so I am still willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. We get onto talking about my medication and she seems OK. I decide that while I am there, and seeing as how I detest doctors and might not see another one for another year or two, perhaps I should be proactive about one of the things that at this stage in my life is about the only thing I can take control of. Birth control.

“So why weren’t you sterilised after your last child?” she asks me. My mouth drops open. But no words come out. I rock back on my chair and wonder if I heard her correctly. I am 38 years old…it has never been mentioned to me as an option…she is really pushing the issue and when I finally say that I am not really at a place in my life right now where I am able to make such weighty decisions, she says: “OK, well then just get the injection.” I am hesitant, because during my last pregnancy I developed severe pre-eclampsia with some pretty special complications the universe cooked up just for me. So I am not sure the hormones are really the place I want to go. I try and explain all this to her and then she proceeds to tell me that pre-eclampsia comes from the man and even if I decide to have another baby, as long as it is with another man, I don’t have any greater risk of developing it again. Now my head is spinning. I am an anxiety-sufferer lady, I read up about things and I swear I have never, ever come across that fact before! I manage to get it out and her retort, while sagely putting her hands together and looking me straight in the eye across the table is: “Well, not many people know that because they are not doctors.”

I am ready to run out of the door. Then the final blow: ” I still think the injection is your best option. The only negative effect it has is that it might make your depression worse.” My mouth opens and closes like a goldfish that has jumped out of its bowl and is now living just long enough to regret every last life decision.  My  head is spinning and I wonder into which portal of universal madness I have been swept. Did I not come in here to get medication for being depressed? I was sure I had, but at the same time the immensity of this women’s utterly preposterous statements are making me doubt even my own craziness!

So that’s it. No more pro-activity from me! I have learnt my lesson, Universe…I will sit quietly and ride out the wait. I will just be here, in this moment before the next inhale, and wait quietly to see what you send me.

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Sometimes life changes in the blink of an eye…

and other times, the change happens to slowly that you don’t realise it until it is too late. You  just look up one day and wonder: “How the hell did I get here?”

We think marriage will last forever, because we made a promise to each other, and in certain cases, a promise to God. You are aware that things are not as good as you would like, but you push through every day hoping the next will be better. You get so good at acting and pretending things are OK, that you even start believing yourself. Then, somewhere along the way, you stop fighting and you stop caring. No-one gets married with the idea of getting divorced. No-one is prepared for that one little sentence: “I want a divorce.”

When you get married, people are always telling you how much work marriage is. What they fail to tell you, ever, is exactly what they mean by that. What is this work you are supposed to do? It’s so easy to look back and find the mistakes that you made, but when you are in the thick of it, you can’t exactly see the forest for the trees! And by the time you realise you are lost in the woods, sometimes the only way out is to cut down those trees.

When is love enough to keep two people together? Is it even love that keeps people together, or is it simply perseverance and self-sacrifice?  Maybe we have just over-romanticised the idea in books and movies and these days, social media. “If he really loves you, he would do this…or that…or the next thing…” “If she really loves you, then…”

What is love anyway? There are of course different types of love. I don’t love my dogs the same way I love my kids, or my horse the same way I love my mother. But I refer specifically to romantic love now. What is it exactly? Is it Romeo and Juliette, willing-to-take-your-own-life-just-to-be-together kind of love? Is it waiting for that soldier to come back from the war? Or is it making a promise to someone and staying married to them no matter what the personal cost to yourself is? Is it looking into someone’s eyes and seeing your future there, for no logical reason at all? Is it walking away from someone when you think what you want won’t make them happy in the end? What is this illusive thing we call love?

People are fickle, and so are their emotions. There are no sure-fire recipes for success in anything, especially not when high-voltage emotions such as love are in play. There don’t seem to be any cookie-cut answers. Relationships are as different as the people in them. The same seems to apply to the end of a relationship…some end in screaming and fighting. Some just slowly run down like a wind-up clock…

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Horses are like men…only better!

I got kicked in the leg today. I also had a chunk bitten out of my shoulder. I came home bone-tired and reeking. It was a good day. No, actually, it was a great day!

The relationship of women (especially little girls and ponies) with horses is a much talked-about topic. Why do women have such an affinity for these creatures of the equine nature? I don’t think we will ever fully understand it and I don’t think we should try too hard.

As I recently wrote, I have a rather complicated situation on my hands. Horses don’t usually get a say in where they live or who gets to ride them, who owns them. What if she doesn’t like me? But then yesterday, for the first time after months of working with her when she saw me approaching her paddock, she nickered and met me at the gate – she was really happy to see me!

Of course today she decided she wasn’t happy when I did her girth up and sank her teeth into my shoulder. I shouted at her. She looked a little bewildered. But then, she let it go. I got on and we went on to have a wonderful ride.

That is why horses are better then men. You never have to wonder how they feel, because they will show you. When they are happy, you know it. When they are angry or hurting, they show you. And they don’t stay angry. They don’t hold grudges. They live in the moment. They get pissed off and then they let it go. They don’t get to choose their circumstances but they always make the best of it. I spend a lot of time looking at horses wondering why on earth they do the things we ask of them – for no reason other than the fact that we asked!

Our relationship with our horses are only as complicated as we allow them to be. They don’t ask for much and they give everything they have. Perhaps this is why horsey women are so hard to get along with. Perhaps we expect people to be too much like horses? I mean, if a man had kicked or bitten me, I would have been a whole hell of a lot more angry and would never just have laughed it off!

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We learn nothing from easy horses…

“Horses come into our lives for a reason.” someone said to me not so long ago. There is a lesson to be learnt from every horse that cross our paths, but some teach us more than others and leave deeper hoof prints in our hearts…

Twenty four years ago, I received a phone call asking if I wanted a companion horse for my then riding horse. This one had a particularly heart-breaking story. She was rescued from a state of severe neglect and possible (read probable)  abuse. These are the warnings that came with this particular horse: “You will never be able to ride her.” “Don’t take the head collar off because you will never get it on again.” “She kicks.” “She needs to be sedated for the farrier.” “You can’t pick her back feet up.” “She hates men.”

I didn’t particularly need another horse and I am sure my parents didn’t really want another mouth to feed, but the minute I saw this little red-head, I knew I couldn’t leave her. In another blog post, I detail some of our history, but tonight, I am saying goodbye. Yesterday, that beautiful soul left this earth and I can only hope that I did good by her.

In all of the 24 years I had her, I actually only rode her for three or four…And in those few years she taught me more than any other one horse ever did. I had no previous experience with difficult horses and I had very little help (although, I did get help in from experts when I got stuck).

Blaze arrives on 14 May 1993

 

When she first arrives, it takes me 30 minutes or more, every time I want to catch her. When your hand reaches for the head collar she rears up. Hold on to it, and she swings around and gives you a double barrel! (Learnt that one the hard way.) But eventually we can remove the yellow head collar that has been on her head for many months and catch her again.

26 April 1994- on board for the first time!

Less than a year later, I sit on her the first time! And very shortly after that, we attend our first little training show.

In the tickets at Pretoria Show!

In August 1995 we go to the Pretoria Show ( at that stage in my life, this show was a big deal!)

Another year later, we are flying! Sadly, in the next summer she contracts the dreaded African Horse Sickness, but survives. When I go abroad to work for a year, I send her to live with a horsey friend of my mother’s where she contracts some other mysterious illness, but pulls through again! During my years at university I do ride her quietly and she is quiet enough for me to even put friends on her who have no riding experience whatsoever.

By the time I move to the other side of the country (ten years after I first took her on), the farrier can come in on his own and do her feet and my mother (who is terrified of horses!) can groom her. She lives a quiet retired life for the next  14 years but I do always wonder if she misses our glory days the way I do.

Photo: EQUERRY Photography

In the few years we rode together we had more fun and more memories than I can recall in one blog post. She was a tricky one. She kicked, she reared, she panicked in a big way. I fell off her more than I care to remember. But she will forever remain one of my life-time biggest achievements and the grand mistress of everything I know about training horses. I salute you my Crazy Blaze.

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Before you get involved with a horsey woman…

14079883_1793484610931525_3355577061828467367_nI always say that there should be a support group of sorts for the husbands of horsey women. There are certain woes that only men involved with horsey women could understand. We shouldn’t generalise, and of course there are as many personalities among horsey women as there are horsey women, but I do like to think that there a few things that the majority of us share.

First off, we are selfish. But not in the way you think. Because we do not care only for ourselves; it is just that we have taken up the responsibility that comes with riding horses. Horses did not ask to be in our lives- we made that decision for them and we are therefore responsible for their health and well-being. Horses need commitment and time. A lot of it! Much, much more time and commitment than you can even begin to imagine.

When we are at the stable yard, time works differently. I can’t quite explain this phenomenon – stable-yard-time stands still while that in the outside world may keep moving. Five minutes with our horses is possibly equal to 2 hours out in the “real” world. (Some clever physicist should probably look into that – it could potentially make time-travel possible!) This means we are often late coming back from the yard. You should probably learn to cook. And possibly eat alone.

If you do not enjoy the smell of horse-sweat mixed with leather, dirt and hay you had better learn to like it because our cars, our living rooms and very likely our bedrooms will always be filled with variable horse-related paraphernalia, horse hair and strands of hay. If we like horses, we are more than likely also lovers of many other animals and in addition to the above-mentioned, our houses will be filled with furry creatures, great and small.

In most cases, we will have been involved with horses way before you came along and after you leave, it will be their manes we cry into. They are our friends, confidantes sports partners, teammates…I could carry on, but you get my drift. When we say we will choose horses above you, please believe us. This is not a joke and it is not about to change. Ever.

No, not even when babies (should we be willing to give up riding for a time to even have babies!) come along. Once they can hold their own heads up, babies are perfectly able to be put on a horse. As they grow older we will teach them to ride, love horses and double your trouble! Loving horses teaches responsibility. Yes, they will inevitably fall off, and we will make them get back on again. Perseverance builds character, after all!

 

We are strong women. We sit on the back of 600+kg animals and haul around bales of hay that is equal to our own body weight. We can take you…but we are also strong, emotionally.

We do not need you in our lives and the fact that you are in it, means that we actually want you there. If you cannot live with any, or possibly all of the above, then please move along swiftly before we get attached. For we are not heartless. On the contrary; we are very emotional creatures, with big hearts and a vast capacity to love. We are passionate about our animals and about our sport. So if you are lucky enough to have the love of a horsey women, you should feel very privileged indeed!


Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will never be the same. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


 

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It’s Complicated…

In the horsey world, there are two kinds of people. Those who have their own horses, and those who don’t. Whenever you are talking to a newly-met fellow horsey person, the question will inevitably pop up in the conversation: “So do you have your own horse?” I have been one of a very fortunate few who have had my own horse since the age of ten.

The last two years, since having had to pts my riding horse, have been tough on me. I have had a variety of answers to that question. from: “I am leasing a horse at the moment” to “No, but I am riding a horse for so-and-so, or for such-and-such”.

Now, no matter how you look at things, when you ride a horse, and work with it for any amount of time, you build some form of relationship with it. And when a horse does not actually belong to you, you only make the mistake of falling in love with it once. After that, you have learnt your lesson and you keep a safe emotional distance for fear of having your heart broken. You can’t help it, but the relationship is just, somehow, different.

At the moment, however, my situation is rather a complicated one. Although I do not currently own a horse, the plans have been made and put into place that I will own one in three month’s time. I have been riding said horse for the past few months already and now I am just saving up to be able to buy her. But she is not mine just yet…

Every now and again, I feel a bit like a baby goat when the first rains of the season fall. I feel like jumping around and shouting with glee: “I have a horse again!!” and then I remember, that, actually, I really don’t. Not just yet.

But slowly, the relationship is changing from “a horse I ride”, to something more. I have allowed the barrier to weaken just a little, but at the same time don’t want to seem presumptuous or to step on toes…which makes the answer to: “Do you have a horse?”, well, complicated…

 

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Breaking the mold

Contrary to what non-dressage riders think, there is a lot more to it than just riding around in circles and boring the horse into submission. It is hard to describe the levels of unison one reaches with a dressage horse. Years ago, I did ballroom dancing and when you are “dancing” with a horse, you reach a level of communication that goes even beyond what two humans can achieve. I love my dressage, I really do.

But sometimes, you have to break the mold a little bit, let loose and have some fun! So today, I did just that! I was supposed to interview someone for the book I am writing on the human-horse relationship and have been struggling since the end of last year to get hold of her. Today, I finally got to meet her and you won’t believe it, I never got to do my interview! Instead, I relived a little bit of my crazy youth.

Since I can remember, my mother has drilled into us: “Always take something warm, even in the middle of summer, because the weather can suddenly change and you don’t want to be caught unprepared!” Visiting horsey people and places I have been caught unprepared too many times, so now I am in the habit of carrying a bag with riding gear in my car wherever I go. It came in handy today.

While we were supposed to be talking about the relationship between equines and people, she was trying to organise a ride for some horses over some cross-country jumps. I don’t normally invite myself along, but without thinking I heard myself say: “I brought riding gear.”

Let me just state that I have not jumped a cross-country fence since the year 2005 and since I have had kids I have jumped nothing higher than my knee! But I went out there today and jumped bigger than I have ever jumped in my life. A few times I thought to myself: “Shit, I think I might die now.” The great thing was though, that I didn’t spend too much time overthinking anything and decided that if the horse was willing to jump (and she was very willing), all I had to do was stay on top. I managed to do that and live to tell the tale! Afterwards we took all the horses to swim in a dirt dam to cool off. I haven’t done any of this stuff since I was a kid.

These are the sorts of things my friends and I did when I was little. We would spend all day out on our horses, jumping anything we could find and them take them for a swim in a dam. (Any damn we could find, really!)

I was a great day and it felt good to break the mold a little bit! But tomorrow it’s back to my 60×20!

 

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