“Healing is a matter of time, but it is also sometimes a matter of opportunity.”
So, another leg of the healing path lies before Bear and I and what a wobbly pair we are. He and his bum ankle and me and my shaken sensibilities.
Naturally learning of Bear’s injury last week was a shock to the system. For days I felt the sting of his diagnosis and the disorientation of having had the rug pulled out from under my dressage dreams.
Yet, all the while I believed that in its place, when I was ready to see it and step up, a door mat to opportunity would appear ~ that all-important cloud’s silver lining. I still believe it.
But first, the “five stages of mourning” experience, which I liken to shock waves, had to flow through ~ a time of quiet (and agonized) introspection and self-care.
The first shock wave arrived by way of denial, and lasted about 24 hours. A fog seemed to settle in my mind, clouding my ability to see everything exactly as it needed to be seen. Dissociation, if you will. I simply found the information too overwhelming. After an hour and a half spent with the vet and learning of the diagnosis I made my peace with Bear and left him in the kind care of the barn manager. I needed space and time for the new reality to sink in. A pre-scheduled casual appointment gave me the opportunity and I took advantage of it knowing that Bear was in good hands. Even so, I floated between the comfort of knowing the source of his distress to the discomfort of uncertainty with respect to how he would heal. Denial disappeared when I returned to the barn the next day to find Bear in standing wraps tussling with his hay in the nibble net. It was then I understood that this experience was real.
After denial the second shock wave, anger. Why Bear? Why now, after all the progress we’ve been making? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Still, even while I was going through it I knew there was no point in holding on to this negative energy. Anger is an emotion that must flow in and out of the picture, like any other. It’s message ~ to help us grasp the fact that a boundary has been crossed and that we need to do something to mend that hurt. Anger is not the focal point. Horse hooey happens. It needs to be mucked out and released. So, that’s what I did.
The third wave of shock, bargaining. If only I’d been more in tune with Bear’s needs; if only I’d called the vet sooner; if only Bear could talk! … I know better than to beat myself up about things over which I have no control, so this stage did not last long either. I have been a steward of Bear for the past nine years and always done the best with the knowledge I had at my disposal. Lamenting over what was and berating myself over not being smarter/a better horse person/a soothsayer doesn’t help. Still, it’s one of those things we apparently need to do to get through to the other side of grief.
And then yes, a wave of depression because of what is lost. Bear and I have been progressing so well and now our training is set back several months … or perhaps forever if this injury doesn’t heal. (I believe it will, but there are no guarantees, as the vet reminded me.) So then, what of my riding? Is it time to give that up? When I consider this option my eyes well up and my heart races. No, it can’t possibly be time to let go of an activity that brings we such joy. I’m always happiest with the wind in my mane. Happiest when Bear shares his wings with me. Oh dear … here come the tears …
And then, finally, the wave of acceptance. I’m getting there. The silver lining is peeking through this heavy, dark cloud that has shrouded my week and the light is beginning to show forth. I’m getting stronger again and feeling like I can perhaps cross the threshold of an open door to opportunity, even if I don’t know exactly what that is yet. Bear needs time off, this is evident. Perhaps a change of career is in order for him. This remains to be seen. In the meantime, I need to focus on what I can do. Expand my world. Draw on my adventurous spirit. Open my mind and heart to the idea of adding to my herd.
My dressage dream still stands. I want to create my own freestyle choreography and test it at Prix St. George level. (Hey! I’ve never voiced that before!) I have a great trainer now. I still have a lot of good years ahead of me and want to make the most of this opportunity.
Still, time will tell. In the meantime, I focus my attention on Bear’s boo-boo and do the best I can to keep him comfortable and entertained while he’s in rehab.
And how’s Bear doing?
On Friday he had his first round of Shock Wave therapy ~ a non-invasive treatment that uses shocks of energy to stimulate the injured cells back to wellness. Since then I have been responsible for the daily changing of his standing wraps (both hind legs including a sweat on the injured fetlock), and hand walking 1-2 times daily for 10-15 minutes each time. It’s been obscenely cold in southern Ontario so there’s no time for imagination. We simply walk. Bear seems wistful about it. It’s as if he understands that something is lost and that the new normal, however temporary, is just what it is.
The attached diagram shows where Bear’s injury (and Hershey’s just as a bonus) has occurred. The extensor branch of the suspensory ligament, where Bear’s injury is located, helps to support the fetlock to prevent over extension of the joint while in motion. Any number of factors could have contributed to the inflammation he’s experiencing in that area right now. I’ve given up speculating on it.
(It’s a funny thing … several years ago I had a mounting accident (yes, I wasn’t even on my horse yet) and severely strained the ligaments of my right ankle (hind!) when my foot flip flopped violently from side to side in the deep footing of the outdoor sand ring (it’s a long story … sigh … ). So bad was the sprain that I was black and blue from the tip of my toes to just below my knee, and I didn’t have full use of that ankle for several months. So, to some extent I can empathize with Bear’s situation.)
The recovery is going to be a long and slow ordeal. Four months to heal the injured area and, if we get the all clear, another eight months just to get him back to the fitness level he enjoyed before he injured himself. By that time he’ll be 14 and a half years old.
Will he make a total recovery? As I’ve said before, it remains to be seen. He’s getting the best of care and the rest, really, is up to him. In the meantime, he’s enjoying some R&R and I have an opportunity to establish a new equilibrium and expand my horizons.
From my experience, the shock waves of life can open the door to deep healing, and healing always brings with it an opportunity for growth and expansion. We just need to be open enough to see, receive and make the most of it.
Nurture what you love …
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015