The first half of December blurs together with visiting nurse, physical therapist, and little progress as Gary vegetates in the living room easy chair. It is too difficult to get dressed, too difficult to move to the bed, and too difficult to eat in the kitchen. I am torn between caring for him and becoming his enabler. Barn time is limited to brief reprieves. On December 2, I offer Ruby her breakfast in the tack room, where she fusses with the equipment on the racks. So, I dress her in a saddle pad and surcingle and let her wear them while I pick the arena.
I have been taking Luna to the barn with me and, for the most part, the horses have accepted her – except for Witchy-Witch. On December 8, I open the trail gate and let Luna run on out before leading Ruby out with me. With Luna romping in the pines nearby, Ruby will venture no further than the side of the east pen. But, the next day, Luna heads down the path toward the back ten, and Ruby follows. I think I am seeing the beginning of an actual friendship.
Halfway through the month, I devise a way to hang the big hay bags inside the arena. A trip to Home Depot provides a couple of plastic half-moon window wells for two racks. After bolting support boards between two arena posts, I attach the window well to the support, and the hay bag to the well. They are not an attractive addition to my arena, but they work really well. When I tell Kim that we can no longer ride the horses up against the wall – not that we really do not that the lesson program is retired. She replies that sure we can. I realize that she has never been exposed to the “KEEP THAT HORSE ON THE WALL!” experience that many of us have.
With each passing day, Luna makes it clear she is my dog. Gary starts referring to “his cat” and “my dog.” That was never my intention. Luna is supposed to be our vehicle for getting Gary back out in the field. I assure him that she sticks to me just because she is a mover – and I am the only one moving right now. But, there is no denying, she sticks to me like glue. In the mornings, Ruby, she, and I become a breakfast trail habit.
On December 19, I do not have Luna with me. There is just enough breeze to make Ruby restless as we head out for breakfast. Every so often, we stop and I let her eat a little grain out of her bucket – instead of waiting until we reach the tub. When she is finished eating what grain is left to be dumped in the tub, she turns and canters back to the barn.
I am beginning to believe that it actually helps to have Luna on the breakfast trail with us. On December 21, she races ahead of us, letting Ruby know that there is nothing to fear out here. Ruby even trots on ahead of me every so often, then waits for me to catch up with a treat. I guess she is no longer troubled with Luna’s romping in and out of the brush. Today, she walks all the way back to the barn with me, receiving a reinforcing treat often.
On December 22, Ruby follows Luna, trotting on out ahead of me, and arrives at her tub before I do. She comes back to me for a treat and we continue on to the tub together. After eating, she walks all the way back to the barn with me, stopping for a treat every fifty feet or so. In the evening, I decide it is time to start Ruby on her formal training. With all the girls in their stalls, I use the twelve-foot lead and Parelli stick to longe Sparky, Sara, and Zena four times each way around the brown box, while Ruby watches. When it is her turn, Ruby balks a bit, but we manage to get a trot twice around in each direction. Good enough. I guess this means I have decided that Ruby should know how to trot on a longe. If I am going to share her with children, especially children who may want to actually learn to ride well, it will be necessary. But, I do not want to abandon Chuck Mitzlaff’s “Freedom of thought, freedom of choice, freedom of movement.” Can I walk the line between forced confinement and absolute freedom?
The home-health assistance will be stopping soon, so the physical therapist shows me how to help Gary down the stairs. My treadmill is down there; and he agrees I should dismantle and move his rowing machine and weight bench from the back bedroom to the basement, too.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you. Happy Hanukkah and Peaceful Winter Solstice, too. I can be perfectly happy celebrating the entire holiday season. And, I look forward to your sharing Ruby with me in 2018.