The more I thought about it, the more I realized, "Abrupt Transition" is a perfect way to describe the last year of my life, and it's even more appropriate since it can be an equestrian term as well. In dressage, you always strive for smooth transitions: finish your last movement, prepare your horse for what is coming next, and smoothly move from one thing to the next. I've been struggling to blog because I was behind, but I wanted to fill in the story in a sequential logical way that was easy to follow. I wanted to give adequate weight to things that were important at the time, even when later learnings or events made it seem irrelevant. That might make for a better blog, and a nicer transition, but sometimes life doesn't go that way and you have to deal with the "abrupt transitions". I still want to publish some of the drafts in my folder, but first you get to experience some abrupt transitions as well while you get caught up to where I am today.
Abrupt Transition #1
I changed jobs. It was a positive move but created an abrupt change in my day to day life as well as my career goals.
Blogging completely fell off after this move as I was using my spare focus to get up to speed in my new role and company. I did however continue to ride lots. All the puzzle pieces that compose the entirety of this blog and my attempt to understand Kachina and dressage started to fall into place and our rides and partnership were better than ever. We made the leap to gold, went to our first Gold Rated dressage show, and got a personal best score of 68%. I was really excited to keep things going.
(I will forever be grateful for this photo. Maura Reynolds, a talented photographer and new horse show friend I made last summer captured this image during our Gold Show, while I was walking out of the arena after what I knew was our best test ever)
Abrupt Transition #2
Kachina died. Yep. I still can't write this without choking up so you get the short, emotionally detached version. I was in Mexico for a good friend's wedding when the barn owner found Kachina colicking. I was out of the country but my amazing barn friend, non-horsey family, barn owner, and a whole team of vets stepped up in a big way, with me constantly in communication with everyone. She initially seemed to be responding to treatment but the next morning she took a sudden turn for the worse, we now know that this was the point when her intestine twisted into a torsion. We got her on a trailer to the nearest equine surgery center, but it was a 3 hour haul. She was brought into surgery almost immediately, after he had a look and had her stabilized the surgeon called me, said that there was a lot of damage, she only had a 50% chance of survival, did I want him to continue? I told him yes, please try. She made it through surgery but that night she collapsed and started having trouble breathing so the vet who was right with her had to immediately put her out of her suffering.
(Recovery room after surgery, last photo of Kachina alive. We all celebrated when she finally stood up after surgery as that was one major hurdle, but we knew she wasn't out of the woods yet)
While I am somewhat comforted by the fact that we did absolutely everything possible to save her, losing Kachina, especially while I was helplessly far away and unable to even say goodbye was absolutely crushing. I sat in an alcohol fueled daze in the sun for the next few days and came home to an empty halter, some saved pieces of mane, and a gigantic vet bill for a dead horse (Disclaimer: I 100% believe that vets deserve to be paid whether it is a good outcome or bad outcome, they fully informed me of the risk, I am privileged to be able to maintain an emergency fund large enough to pay for colic surgery, but it still sucks).
I took a couple months to mourn, catch riding here and there, before I started to think about my next horse. I had planned on having Kachina for a long time so I didn't even have a starting point for a wish list. I looked at horses of a wide variety of ages, breeds, training level and price points. But you know what also sucks? Shopping for a horse in January in Alberta. Driving hundreds of km in winter conditions, and half the time ending up looking at a hairy horse in a snowy pasture while the sun was already setting was not the best way to evaluate potential mounts. Only one of my stops actually included a heated indoor arena. I quickly got sick of the process but I couldn't imagine being horseless until the spring, so the next promising horse I found a Kijiji ad for I took a chance and brought my trailer to go see her.
Abrupt Transition #3
Welcome Naia. I ended up the owner of a 4 year old Friesian x Paint cross who wasn't started under saddle (don't worry, I will give her a much more detailed intro in a future post).
Buying Naia gave me a much needed horse outlet and launched me into a whole new world of baby horse training. I wasn't totally impulsive and did in fact have a very talented trainer on board to help me learn all the things. I was doing all the training myself, but was taking lessons every week to learn what to do with her.
(This was Naia's ad photo, I really liked how she was put together)
Abrupt Transition #4
Pandemic and deferred Turnaround. The pandemic is news to nobody. I did remain fully employed throughout which I am grateful for. The pandemic didn't impact my life as much as others, except for the decision of my company to move our turnaround from Spring 2020 to Fall 2020. I work at a big plant, and once every 4-5 years we shut down for about 7 weeks to do a major overhaul before we run 24/7 for the next 4-5 years. This type of turnaround has 12-18 months of busy planning before it and then 7 weeks of very long hours to actually do the work. When I was hired into my new position, it was immediately busy with pre-turnaround work. I had planned 2020 around a super busy spring, followed by a super chill summer when turnaround was over. In April we got the news that the turnaround was being moved to the fall due to COVID-19, that meant a busy spring and summer changing all of our plans to adapt to a pandemic and a busy fall executing the work.
Abrupt Transition #5
My Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Suddenly work didn't seem so important. Evenings were spent with my family as much as possible. I don't feel this is the place to go into family details, but suffice to say that my Dad is currently stable but he still has Stage IV cancer and any time we have is a gift that needs to be treasured.
(My Dad wanted to see the milky way so I made it happen, now is not the time to put off any joy, photo credit to my brother)
Abrupt Transition #6
Summer to Fall. It might still be 33C outside right now, and our below freezing temps are still a couple days away, but I have to recognize that summer is already over. My work turnaround has already begun and I am now working 72 hour weeks for 7 weeks. The time to enjoy the last vestiges of summer is already past. Any dreams for the summer that I used to have, of relaxation, of moving up to First/Second level with Kachina, of travel, of a canoe trip with friends, have all been dashed one by one by the series of developments that has been this past year..... except one. In February I made a plan that I was going to ride Naia by the summer, and I did!
(Ride #1! Thankfully uneventful as we had done a lot of foundation work leading up to it)
My baby horse now has 4 rides on her. Naia is on vacation and getting fat these days but she is young and we have lots of time to pick up where we left off when turnaround ends. The prospect of time with her makes fall and winter seem not so dreadful. Here's to planning for smooth transitions ahead where we can, and dealing with those abrupt ones as best we can when we need to.
oh Sarah... ugh what a rollercoaster update. my heart is broken for you learning about losing Kachina, and even more so at your father's diagnosis. so glad he's stable for now and that you are spending such important time together. and even more relieved to hear you've got this bright light in Naia now too <3 i'm glad to hear an update even if it was a difficult one to share <3ReplyDelete
Thanks, hopefully there will be more updates soonDelete
What a terrible way to lose a horse, I am so glad to see you blogging again but also so heartbroken for you. I hope Naia brings you lots of joy and strength and that your dad continues to stay stable <3ReplyDelete
Thank you, while I haven't been posting or commenting, I have still enjoyed reading about what you and Connor have been up toDelete
So happy to see you back, Nala is lovely and I'm glad you have her to help you through. What absolutely rotten luck with Kachina, there just aren't words. I'm wishing you many more good days with your dad.ReplyDelete
Thanks, it's nice to feel like people actually read these rambling posts of mine. I've enjoyed staying up to date on your posts from the backgroundDelete
Oh Sarah, I am so sorry to hear about Kachina. I totally get what you said about the vet bill. It’s adding insult to injury and yes, the vets deserve the payment. (((Hugs))). So many changes for you this year. Congratulations on Nala, she’s lovely. I am sorry about your dad.ReplyDelete
I know you know too much about painful horse losses. Thank you for the kind wordsDelete
I'm so sorry that this last year has hit you as hard as it has. Losing a horse sucks beyond belief. I send good wishes your way that you get to spend as much time with your dad as possible and look forward to you and Naia learning together.ReplyDelete
It does indeed suck, but unfortunately it is a unavoidable part of horse ownership. I just need to focus on all the good times, of which there were manyDelete
Oh my gosh I'm so sorry to hear this. Sending hugs and I can't wait to follow along with your journey with Naia.ReplyDelete
Thanks. I hope I can find time to write about the journey!Delete
I'm so sorry to hear about Kachina. I went through something very similar with Gwyn's dam. It's heartbreaking and leaves a hole. Naia looks so intelligent and kind. Wishing you all the healing and peace through the fall.ReplyDelete
Sorry to hear about your mare. Those wounds never fully go away but at least there's the opportunity to welcome in a new horseDelete
What a year. Best wishes to you and yours.ReplyDelete
I'm so sorry to read of your loss. I look forward to reading about your new adventures..ReplyDelete
I have followed you sporadically through the years, and I just wanted to offer my sincere condolences for the loss of your beautiful and special mare. How absolutely gut-wrenching - my heart aches for your loss and I am sending you gentle hugs...ReplyDelete
I am also sorry about your father - this year certainly hasn't been kind to many people and I am hoping that you are able to spend as much time as possible with him. <3
Im terribly sorry to read about your dad, and sad to hear you mare has passed. What an abrupt year for you.ReplyDelete
PS Naia is gorgeous!
Ok I’m here again bc I feel like an asshole for not retaining this info <3 oh Kachina, still missedReplyDelete