Where did Summer go?
By Betsy Kelleher
Life’s seasons have a way of sneaking up on you, even though you know what’s coming. As I write this column in mid-August, after three months of frequently unbearable heat, I realize my whole summer was spent waiting instead of doing. I don’t do well when it’s hot. I wanted cooler days to enjoy trail riding, yard work, cleaning out the tack room and other chores on my list. By the time this column is published, it will be September—the beginning of Fall! Where did Summer go?
The older I get, the faster time goes. Sometimes it whizzes by as I wait for energy to get going. I should have cleaned house and done other inside work while it was hot outside. But just walking the dog left me sweaty and limp! Energy has become a limited resource to be rationed carefully. I’ve tried Resveratrol, but I still feel the effects of growing older. Forget the wiser part.
I refuse to ride when it’s 90 degrees. Years ago, I rode Traveller for an hour at 90 degrees, and he overheated. Wouldn’t even eat grass when I led him to a shady, grassy area, so I took him home and hosed him with cold water as soon as possible. I fully expected him to succumb to the 100 degree heat this summer, but he has survived. Electrolytes help. He has come in sweaty and breathing hard a few times, and he seems to appreciate those long cooling baths as much as old Ginger. Even Rocky stands good for hosing when he’s hot. Then it’s back to their stalls, with a flake of hay in front of the fan. Lady goes out early morning and late afternoon, but even then the sun really heats up her black hide and it often stays hot even after a long hosing. She does better in her stall.
For months, I’ve waited for the day my husband and I could saddle up and go riding together again. We rode ONCE so far this year! It has been too wet or too hot or something more important had to be done. Currently, we are just too drained. We have too many horses, and I’ve known that for a long time. Where did all my energy go? Is our time with horses near an end? I am not ready for that.
The limitations of getting older have crept up on me, along with the seasons. Guess I thought I could always handle the work of caring for four horses. Fortunately, I have been able to pay for some much appreciated help cleaning stalls and moving bales of hay (for the hay-burners, you know). My husband has done his share, but he is a bit beyond me on the “older” scale, and I don’t want to wear him out too soon! I kinda like having the guy around, you know.
I see other riders enjoying their horses, and I feel a twinge of envy. Yes, most of them are younger and they ride early in the morning—and they have one horse. I did ride Rocky more than the others, and took a few lessons early morning when it was less unbearable (not especially cooler). Our working relationship is doing well and his gait is improving. Since he is younger, the heat seems to bother him less than the others. Since electrolytes help Traveller, I drink a bottle of Gatorade almost every day (plus water) and it helps me too!
I’ve always loved Fall. This year especially, I’ve longed for its coming with eagerness, but for different reasons than usual. Years ago, the scent of Fall brought back nostalgic memories of Competitive Trail Rides and the excitement and the passion of it all. This year, I just want relief! I’ve stopped longing for the competitive rides, but I do crave a long refreshing ride in a wooded park (about an hour would do) and I’d probably be exhausted for three days afterward!
For months, I’ve told myself I would feel more like riding when the weather got cooler. The bad thing about Fall is that Winter comes soon after. I hate cold about as much as I hate hot weather. But Spring was wet and Summer was hot, and Fall is all that’s left! I do hope this Fall is cool enough and dry enough that we can finally ride a few times and feel our horses are worth all the work and expense! Because frankly, my dear readers, I’m just not sure anymore! Instead of being a responsible horse owner—taking care of four horses—perhaps I’m merely refusing to let go. I would rather have only one horse, it's true. But how to "get rid" of any of them is a problem!
Life on this Earth doesn’t last forever, even though eternal life in Heaven does. Getting older comes way too soon and youth is gone before you know it! We plan for a lovely vacation and it seems a long way off. But suddenly it’s over and we are back home. Yes, life is like that.
I hate to use my home as an example, but it’s an accurate one. I have to confess my home is cluttered. Too much stuff (like too many horses?). Part of my problem is procrastination, but another part is wanting to do more than I can handle. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll finish all those projects I’ve started. Someday I’ll write another book, or train Lady to be calm around a big tractor. Someday I’ll sort through my clothes and get rid of everything I can’t wear and keep only the outfits I really like that look best on me. Someday I’ll read all those horse books and magazines I have been getting for years and years and years (well, maybe not that one!). So why buy more? I think it’s because I’m not ready yet to GIVE UP! I buy some pretty beads to make a new pair of earrings. I have way too many earrings already, but I love making them to match different outfits. Sometimes just the hope of doing something I enjoy helps me feel my life isn’t over yet.
I still have dreams and plans and I hope to have them until the very end, even if I don’t accomplish them all. Sometimes I realize it would be best to make more realistic choices at this stage of life. My kids would be happy if I got rid of most of my stuff so they won’t have to. And I try for a couple days, and then efforts fade. It’s like losing weight. Sooner or later, it all comes back.
So here’s the message: don’t waste your time; it’s too precious. We can’t do everything we want to. Focus gives purpose. Find your true direction in life. If you have too many horses, don’t wait until you are too attached or until you are having trouble taking care of them or finding new owners. Don’t kill yourself off trying to keep up. I know this is good advice, and I realize I’m not following it yet.
We are often told to keep on trying and things will get better. Not always true. If you want changes, then you have to do something different. If we continue the same as always, things will stay the same as always. Usually, the change that is needed is a change in YOURSELF. A change within. A change of attitude or understanding, or commitment or motivation. Like when you finally quit smoking when the doctor says do or die!
I could take Lady to a trainer to work with her on confidence building and desensitization to big machines, but the real change that is needed is in me. Working with the Spookless CD helped me more than anything else. But changes take time and patience and consistent effort. Having too many horses makes it impossible to work effectively with any one. I may think I’m taking care of four horses, but I have to admit that I’m not doing justice for any one. And Lady's hoof problems will never heal with "now and then" treatment.
I’m not really feeling pessimistic or discouraged, but I am trying to look at things more objectively. I know there is hope ahead, but I need to make some difficult decisions.
God has a plan for each of us. He has given us unique abilities and talents and I believe He puts within each of us a passion for a certain direction. We can easily become distracted, however, by all the possibilities, all the enticements, all the wants within. It is best to find the path He has laid out for us, to move ahead with awareness of His guidance and focus on a goal that lifts our spirits and gives meaning and purpose.
In Scripture, life is sometimes compared to a race. In Hebrews 12:1, it says, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Verse 2 continues with an admonition to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” He is our goal, to be like Him and to follow Him. All else can be set aside.
(Originally published in the September 2010 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)