For the Love of Horses

When I left School many years ago, the only thing I had an interest in was horses. So I went to college and got some qualifications and even competed in some small show jumping and cross-country events. At the stables I worked at, we ran summer clubs and gymkhana’s. My days there were some of the happiest of my life. Except the falling off horses, being kicked by horses, being trodden on by horses and horse flies…. Other than that, pretty awesome days. As much as I loved all the horses in my care, two stole my heart. Starlight and Sundance, although we had nicknames for them. I still have a drawing of them both that was given to me as a gift for my birthday when I worked at the stables (I think it was for my 18th birthday).

Here, have some pictures of me between the ages of 17-20 ish years old with both of them.

Horses

Sundance, also known as ‘Fatty’ because he never stopped eating, was bay colour and a gentle yet stubborn git! If you wanted to head to the right, it was a given that he wanted to go left…. towards the lovely grass he had his eyes on. Always getting holes in his rugs, I spent many a night at home hand stitching his rugs. He was popular with everyone, his name often requested for hacks out because he was pretty safe with all scenarios regarding traffic etc. He was the cute boy that you just had to love.

Starlight, also known as ‘Scar’ or ‘Scar bag’ because of the scars on her face but she was so beautiful. She was a chestnut mare with a serious temper. Nobody was allowed near her tail, she was a kicker. She once let me plait the top of her tail for a competition but made it clear when she’d had enough by trying to eat my face. At competitions she had to wear a red ribbon in her tail which basically alerted others to the dangers of her flying back feet. She was a bitey, kicky, feisty, moody, stubborn, aggressive mare… and I loved her dearly. Point her at a show jumping fence and she was happy. We won a fair few rosettes for clear rounds between us. I have fond memories of us jumping, hacking out (although freaking at the sight of a tractor and trying to chuck me in a ditch was not as pleasant memory wise) and I loved just watching her grumpy attitude as she strutted across the field. One day I went to work and she’d gone. The vet had been called and she was ‘put to sleep’ because of twisted gut and she was suffering. I cried for days. I miss her every day, even now.

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Eliza will be 9 soon and has struggled with anxiety a fair few years now. We use essential oils which help loads. We have various strategies that we use if we see her anxiety rising. These days she is pretty good at saying how she feels so she can sometimes give a heads up that anxiety has popped by. One of the best things she ever did was attend ‘Horse Therapy’ (or Equine Therapy). At the start she hated it, well hated the thought of it (anxiety) and would scream as soon as she saw the turning to the stables (anxiety) and we’d spend the first 20-30 minutes of the session in the car for safety whilst she screamed, kicked the car seat and yelled (yep, anxiety). Eventually she would get out and tell me she’s only staying for five minutes. I agreed as it was confidence for her and her compromise. Every time those five minutes ended up as at least an hour if not longer. She’d help groom the ponies, feed them and learn about how to look after them. The minute she sat on a pony to ride she was totally relaxed and anxiety gone. Horses are said to be amazing help for those with autism and special needs and it certainly worked for Eliza. We went for weekly sessions for a year unless the weather was too bad. It gave her confidence, pushed her boundaries, improved her speech along with the confidence and lowering anxiety. She also made friends there. After a year, she didn’t want to go anymore and to be fair I think she’d got what she needed from it. The amazing power of horses.

(I’ll just add here that even though Eliza’s anxiety caused some upset as described above, I know her extremely well and I trusted my instinct and her fighting spirit that she could do it and it was worth persevering. Eliza often needs ‘anxiety squashing time’ and she actually really enjoyed the horses company and she still talks fondly of them now. If at any time it seemed damaging to her, I would have stopped the class).

Here she is (2015-2016)

Eliza Horses

This has been a post for ‘Photo Share Friday’ (although mine turned out to be an essay too lol). Hosted this week by Sporadically Yours and Finding Ninee

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What am I afraid of?

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Mice? Flying?. Everyone has fears don’t they? (even if they don’t admit them or want to talk about them). I’m not a fan of mice or spiders but I can catch and remove them from the house without having a heart attack or passing out. Flying, I’m fine with although the popping of ears really annoys me and I’m not keen on the take off as the plane surges forward. I am afraid of many things, some deep and emotional things and other stuff that is completely stupid and pointless but I feel that way anyway.

Do you have children? I do. Eliza is 9 soon and Noah is 4. I am a single parent (and main carer to Eliza who is autistic with learning difficulties). I bet all parents have the same fear as I do – dying. For me it’s not so much about how I’ll die or when, it’s what I’ll leave behind and that includes those two beautiful little humans that rely on me every day. I’m terrified of dying when they are young. I want to be old and have seen them settle in life with their own families or a job they love. No parent should ever live longer than their child, a thought I can’t bear to ponder on as it just adds to my anxiety about the whole situation. As awful as it is to think about it, I often do. It’s like living in fear yet living with a need to make sure you do as much as possible now for the future. I worry for both of them but with extra worry for Eliza. Nobody knows what the future holds but she’ll ever live a fully independent life, she’s always going to need supervision and support. I worry about how she’d be without me so I spend a lot of time teaching her life skills and talking her through situations and scenarios and I often push her comfort zones. I once saw a picture on another Facebook page and I’ve never forgotten it. It was from a lovely page I follow called Forehead kisses – Our Awesome Autism page and this was the picture..

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I found it so emotional to read. But that’s what we do for our children, teach them how to live independently because one day, we won’t be here for them. So yeah, I fear dying but not for the actual dying part.

**You should check out that beautiful page, it’s been wonderful watching Brodie growing up (who now has left school and has his own business)**

I’m afraid of driving yet I drive most days although mainly short distances. I’ve thrown up on the driveway before at just the thought of getting in the car! My legs shake, I start to cough (you know that kind of annoying anxiety induced back if throat cough) and I have to sometimes talk myself in to driving (I’m actually fine once in the car). I was in the passenger seat of a car once when the driver was going too fast on a country lane, skidded and we ended up in a ditch. I had an accident where I was the driver years ago when heavily pregnant with Eliza. My car was a total write off and the road I was on was dark with nothing in walking distance. It was raining heavily and thundering. I stood in the dark in the rain with my almost 7 month baby bump, waiting to be rescued and not a single driver stopped to help. I’ve also been a passenger that felt nothing but helpless fear when my husband had a massive panic attack in the car and started shaking and shut his eyes whilst he was driving. I had to calm him fast and help him pull in to a lay by. A very small baby Eliza was fast asleep in the back of the car. I then had to drive us home, my first time ever on a motorway and only 7 months after my own accident. I HATE DRIVING!!! But I need to. The kids have appointments, Eliza’s school in 35 mins away, shopping etc. I also do it because I don’t want to let fear and anxiety win. So I push my own comfort zones.

I’m scared of sharks! Like forgetting I can breathe, sweaty palms, legs buckling under me scared. Doesn’t matter which type, they are all scary! Yes, go ahead and laugh. It’s a totally ridiculous fear to have. I live in the UK, pretty central/midlands area with absolutely NO possibility of meeting a shark unless I visit the sea-life centers. But nonetheless, they terrify me. I’ve been in the sea-life places before and walked through those glass tunnels where sharks lay over the top or swim by. A giggling and happy Eliza or Noah have a blast. They look in amazement at these things. Me…. eyes straight ahead at the exit and do not engage eye contact with the sharks, I repeat do not engage eye contact with the sharks…… FEAR!! The stupidest fear I have but it’s there. I only agreed to go swimming in the ocean in Australia after I asked my brother about 30,000 times if he was pretty sure I’d not meet any sharks (and that if I did, he’d wrestle them until they spat me out if they ate me). I’ve had many nightmares involving sharks attacking me, eating me, swimming around me in circles and even being trapped in a cage with a shark…… STUPID FEAR!!

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**Avoids eye contact with shark picture**

Other than totally waffling my way through this blog, I find it interesting that the three things I chose to share are so different and have come about because of life and situations (other than the sharks, NO IDEA where that came from). That emotional deep-rooted fear about dying too soon, the circumstance induced fear because of cars and accidents and the just stupid irrational ‘did God throw that in for a laugh’ fear.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “I’m afraid of/that…” hosted by Finding Ninee by Kristi Rieger Campbell and Sporadically Yours

 

 

Autism & Anxiety

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Dear Anxiety

It has been a while since you and I fell out. Today you made me angry even though I was not your target. You see my daughter is 6 and she is autistic. It makes her day to day life extremely hard at times as she attempts to navigate a crazy world and find her place in it. It’s not helpful when you come along and add to the mounting stress she feels. I know you often tag along with your friend autism, you seem to be closely connected.

We had a lovely play date arranged with some close friends in a park we often visit. The school holidays throw her out of her comfort zone but she copes really well with planning. It should have been a lovely day. Plan we did, prompt we did, talk it through and off we went. Some days there just isn’t enough planning in the world, you just seem to grab her regardless. My beautiful girl was crying, screaming and kicking the seat in the car. She hit her little brother, she threw stuff she could get hold of. Refusing to get out of the car we sat there, her crying and her brother unsure whilst I decided on the next best step for all concerned. You had her, you were winning.

I wanted to yell and scream at you Anxiety. I really did. I wanted to rip you out of my daughter and stamp on you a million times for what you do to her. I wanted to swear at you and boy did I have some select words just for you. I wanted to cry, truth be told, because I am exhausted, overwhelmed and often feel out of my depth trying to do what is best for her. Trying, as a parent, to make her world as easy and understandable as I can whilst at the same time keeping her safe. I have to think with/about/for her 24/7 and when you decide to stop by it is a hundred times worse because she becomes ‘flighty’. Likely to run at any given chance and with her lack of danger awareness, it is bloody scary.

Instead I wish to thank you, Anxiety. You see every time something like this happens it makes me a stronger parent, ready to face you the next time you decide to gatecrash our lives. You know what else? With my help (and maybe a little stubborn attitude) she got out of the car. She had a few moments on the floor waving and kicking her arms in the air and I let her. Why? Because she was releasing you. She was angry at the feelings she was having. Deep down she wanted to see her friends, to go on the swings, to eat the picnic we took with us. After she started to calm I bent down and gave her a choice – go to the play day or get back in the car and go home. I was calm and fair, she knew either would be OK with me and do you know what, she chose the play day and after a few more minutes calming she had a great time. It was a lovely day after all. You are a pain in the backside Anxiety and believe me when I say I HATE you, I really mean it.

Thank you for attempting to take my daughter down today, you have shown me even at the age of 6 she isn’t going to let you win. She made a choice to put you to one side, remind you that you don’t get to rule her life. She was able to release her feelings safely inside my car and make a decision to keep going. I would say better luck next time but that just suggests I offer you seat on our next day out so instead I will just bid you farewell for today but no doubt you will be back at some point. We will of course be ready for you every time.

Yours Sincerely

Eliza’s Mum