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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Colorado- the magic of the mountains (and horses!)

Return to Crested Butte

Words really do no justice for the genuine kindness, empathy, and understanding of the people I meet here. Everyone is so patient and practically hushes me each time I automatically apoligize for being such a sloth. The momentum, as well as the pace of life is so much more empathetic, and genuine. I was a slow mover before my injury, now I move lethargically, and have become accustomed to consistent guilt for slowing everything down. Guilt is relative though, as it obviously doesn't stop me from going after what I wish to do.

I arrived in Denver, politely refused a wheel chair, and was shocked I wasn't forced into one. Instead, staff patently walked me out of the gate, then and to baggage claim. Such a novel idea, not to force help I don't want or need onto me or anyone. I met my friend, Maggie, and another staff person from the ASC at baggage claim. The only down side of flying into Denver is its distance from Crested Butte, 4.5 hours. At least I had good company. We took some back roads, called Cottonwood pass on gravel roads through the mountains. We the van ride involved listened to an NPR game how, called, 'Wait, wait, don't tell me!'. Hilarious.

When we finally pulled into the Butte, it was around 730, and we threw my bags into Maggie's apartment, and walked to a local watering hole, The Brick. I'd been told one or two people might meet us for a mini birthday celebration. I walked in to find all of the adaptive staff members, as well as a handful of locals I'd met on my last trip. Unbelievable!

I sat down, slightly overwhelmed, but so touched, that all of these people had shown up. Before I could even order my pizza, I was presented withe most ornate, candy coated cake, which was pinterest inspired. The top was all Reese's pieces, and the edge of the cake was sided with kit-kat bars. Unreal! It was so touching to see nearly everyone who I'd met on the previous trip! I was, and still am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see so many of the amazing people I'd met last winter. The only downside was that I was so worn out from lack of sleep and travel, I had no energy to be a party animal. By the time got back to Maggie's, I instantly collapsed, and slept soundly for the next few hours, although, I was up again at 4:30, probably from he time change. I had plenty of time to putter round at my usual morning pace, of deathly slow. After breakfast 9am, rolled around, and we trucked out the door. I'm very unaccustomed to being in an environment where people don't automatically take over for me. I love this about the adaptive program here. I'm somewhat certain I developed a reputation as that sort of person, on my last trip. That is what I want, but I feel like an ass, because I suddenly realize how I expect anyone to be okay with giving me a hand over an obstacle, helping me zip my coat, or whatever. It's funny how you take certain things for granted in your home environment, but you need to walk those who are new to dealing with you through how you take on different tasks. It always seems awkward explaining myself to new people, but I'm slowly getting better at it. People are generally very helpful, everywhere, but sometimes I find myself in a situations, where I just asked a complete stranger for a hand. People rarely say no, but one person once said, yeah, why? At that point I sheepishly admitted they weren't the person I thought hey were, and that I had balance issues from a brain injury. Thinking about how my words may sound is often beyond me. Always something to work on, for me, and others too.

After stocking up on food supplies, we arrived at the Ranch. Pulling up, it seemed, exactly what I'd pictured. Unbelievable homestead, built into the rocky mountainside, with post and beam construction. Gorgeous. The barn and round-pen were on the left, below the house. I was also struck by the green fields, which it took me a couple days to realize that, the grass, was basically an irrigated crop, so they could get hay from their own land. There isn't much greenery, so to see these expansive fields, along a rocky mountain-scape, was extremely striking. The horses were all in the field/ rocky area by the barn, and river. Looks quite idyllic, as they're so fortunate to have access to so many natural resources. Maggie, Will, the adaptive staff member on my trip, and I, stepped into the Ranch, and werre immediacy welcomed by a very excited black-lab, Cora. Apparently, if you enter through the front, you step into a small foyer, with space to take off your outerwear, but, the only way to the rest of the house is up a spiral stair-case. I used to love a good spiral stair-case, but now there's something about it being open on both sides, that really freaks me out, and I become shaky, and unsure of my mobility. After a precarious ascent, we leaned we could walk around, and into the house on the main level, which made things much easier. Mike and Jan, were the ranch owners. I was relatively surprised when Jan appeared to greet us, in a wheel-chair. Apparently, she'd torn ligaments in her knee. The living arrangements struck me, as relatively inaccessible, given the spiral stair case, but she had no problem. We all ate lunch, and waited for Mike to return. Once he did, we got the basic details of my deficits , and injury, as well as some goals I had, out of the way. We headed out to the barn, and Mike selected a horse he thought would be a good match. I was immediately unimpressed, as the horse appeared relatively old, and made a reference, declaring my lack of enthusiasm. As soon as I said that, I immediately regretted it, because a horse is a horse, and I hadn't intended to sound ungrateful for the opportunity to ride. As soon as I was in the saddle, that horse no longer was the lifeless Eore, I'd pre-judged it to be. She came alive, and safely tested me. I have the worst reaction to fear, I freeze, and stiffen up. When you're on a horse, the key to staying balanced is to move with them. Therefore, when a horse moves unexpectedly, I freeze, and end up on the horses neck until I can collect myself. That day, we spent the afternoon trying to get me to loosen up, and not cling on for dear life. As a former rider, I chide myself for reacting in this way, as it's poor riding etiquette, but, I know understand it's a fear reaction, that is pretty hard to overcome. Awesome. It's not a fun day, when you realize you're now afraid of favorite animal. Horses were my life growing up, now, obviously, I'm viewed as a liability around them, which makes it relatively difficult to be around them. As does the expense. Yet, where there's a will, there's a way. That is exactly why I feel so fortunate to have had this amazing opportunity to come out to Colorado, and not only experience the ranch, but also have assistance conquering my inhibitions.

The next morning I ambled down to the barn to find a horse tied up and waiting. I was pleased to see that he still needed grooming, and tack, as I'd stated I wanted to have a hand with that. I clumsily scraped most of the mud away from the saddle and cinch areas, and managed to get the saddle pad on, although, the saddle was a different story. If I recall correctly, that horses name was Franky, and he was a bit tall for me to feel stable lifting the saddle over my head, or maybe I did try, but fell backwards in the process, and then let someone else do it. That is one of the things I really respect about this crew of folks, they're willing to let me try, even if odds are clearly not in my favor. When you have a disability, its natural for others to feel over protective. I imagine its like how youd want to protect your kid from hurting themselves. But this is life, and sometimes the only way to learn or re-learn is to push the envelope and test your limits. I've learned over the years, that my limits are somewhat malleable, meaning they change. And knowing that, is exactly what motivates me to work hard to regain my previous skills. I always seem to find myself between a rock and a hard place, starting adaptive programs, because I'm not coming into them, as someone with zero experience in the sport, I just have limited adaptive experience, so I start to get edgy when I have basics explained to me, or I'm asked questions, like 'why is it important to make sure the area where the cinch goes, is free of mud?'. I could've answered that when I was 6, and it's hard for me to remember that I need to not feel patronized by basic questions, because I met these people yesterday, not when I was 6. I'm also in the back, because it's so difficult for people to understand me. Although, I'm starting to notice a correlation between age and intelligibility. People in my age group often have much less difficulty. Though, no matter how you look at it, my ability to make myself heard, stinks.

Back to the horses, day 2 began in the round pen again, but after lunch, I got to ride over to the big arena, across the way. I feel Ike my ambitions were bigger than my abilities, which is the crappy lesson I relearn, any time I decide to try one of my old passions. I wish it was easier for me to convey to adaptive programs, the depth of my experience as an able bodied person. Yes, I have a disability now, but I will freak out if I feel like I'm being patronized . Thankfully, this wasn't a huge issue on this trip, though there were moments I bit my tongue (literally).

In the arena I was introduced to pole bending, and the maneuvering behind barrel racing, which was pretty fun. Because I grew up eventing, I know that that style of horsemanship often harshly judges western style riding. The key is to keep an open mind, because it's just as challenging to maneuver a horse in between a line of poles, or round themselves around barrel patterns. It still requires the ability to steer the horse with leg movements. I also really liked using a bosal nose-band instead of a bit. The horse responds to cues by the pressure exerted on each side of its nose. I never knew how they worked, but the horse responds just as effectively. I also felt like it was a more humane choice for me, as I don't always realize how much pressure I'm exerting with my hands. I'm slowly getting better with that, but it will still likely take many more years.
That night I was pretty pleased with my day in the saddle, but relatively exhausted. I wasn't surprised when Mike announced he was off to do some roping, but I was curious where his energy came from. I was wiped from pushing myself to move in different ways, but also from the sun. I was pretty excited by plans of dinner and a shower. After dinner, I headed to the shower, and began to hear a lot of negative mumbles, but couldn't figure out what had happened until there was a knock announcing that there had been a fall, and Jan and Maggie were leaving for the hospital. When I went out into the living room, I learned that Mike had broken his collar-bone, and that was all they knew. Nothing to do but sit and wait, so we started a wester movie. Not long into it, everyone else returned, including a very sore Mike. It was good to see him, but I just felt so badly. It's hard to watch others in pain, but know its beyond your power to ease it. By the time I went to bed, I had an uneasy stomachs. Which seemed odd since we'd been eating so well. I laid in bed hoping it would go away, but all of a sudden was overwhelmed by a need to be sick. Maggie, an EMT, jumped into action questioning me about everything I'd eaten, gave me a bucket, and oddly disappeared. She returned a while later, and I realized I wasn't the only one to be ill. Pretty sure we were both up most of the night sick, with poor Will running back and forth checking on us. We still have no idea what caused it. By the time morning rolled around I felt like my normal cantankerous morning self, but had no interest in food. I thought for sure, I'd end up sleeping the morning away, after the rough night. Nope. I was even up early enough to wish Mike well, as he left to get put back together. Ella, Mikes daughter, and Maggie and Wills coworker at ASC came to help with me in the saddle, so I wouldn't miss a day in saddle, which I really appreciated. Although, my strength and energy were pretty low from the illness of the night. I was so happy to be back in the saddle, but pretty bummed I didn't have my normal enthusiasm.
After a short day in the saddle, it was time to pack up, and head back to CB. Mike and Jan. returned as we were gathering up our stuff. Good as new, well in a few months, but it can always be worse. I feel pretty qualified to make that statement.

I felt like I'd just gotten there, and it was already time to go. That night, it was awesome to have time to walk around town, do some shopping, and have dinner. Crested Butte is such an overwhelming place, in terms of the generosity and kindness you interact with everyday. It's a really interesting mix of townies, and absurdly rich people who intermittently travel there for solace. While perusing the shops we ran into an acquaintance of Maggie's, who remembered me visiting for ladies camp. I immediately realized why we were suddenly a part of 3 when he bought our dinner, and offered to sponsor my next flight out there. Incredible! I felt like I'd just won the lottery. That kind of generosity is unprecedented in my book, but I'm so grateful, due to my lack of funding for these amazing adaptive adventures. I'm just so grateful there are people who think nothing of sharing their resources. Another reason why it's so beautiful there. Its not easy to get there, but that means that the people who are there, come because they also see it's beauty.

Many thanks to everyone who helped make this trip possible for me, it really helped me begin to realize there is light at the end of the tunnel. Not sure why exactly, but I no longer feel feel like I'm on a dead end road of rehab. Guess that means I now have to figure out what's next!

3 comments:

Julie/Mom said...

Well, what a trip you had!! I'm so happy things went well,even tho' exhausting...that's what you are all about. The west does seem to have a more "opened" mind about things, people are friendlier somehow. I miss that.
The b-day party sounds fantastic...what a nice surprise. You are an amazing person and have come so far! Way to go Court! Nice pics too.
Love you, Mom

Julie/Mom said...

nice addition to this entry....and very happy about your next trip out there!! Congrats!
xoxo

Dad said...

:awesome to read your blog! Next adventure coming up....
:) better fuel up and get those sneakers ready!