Sereno and I have been on a healing journey together for two years. Several vets have told me his life was essentially over and it was time to let him go. Early September 2018, I found him lying in pain, foaming at the mouth in the pasture. I had known for a while that he was sore and that there was an issue. I didn’t understand exactly what it was. We had a caretaker for him and she was trying things to help him. A vet had come out a couple of years prior and the diagnosis was Laminitis, he would never recover and that he should be put down. That just seemed so harsh and it didn’t feel right. Sereno still showed signs of a lot of life and wasn’t always in severe pain, only sometimes. He then went on to have some really good times where he would walk normally and seem pain-free, but there were other times where he would go through a Laminitis episode and struggle and be in pain. He lived like this for quite a while before the dramatic day I found him in the pasture.
Sereno was purchased for our daughter when she was six years old. Paige was enamored with horses. For a good portion of her early life she even acted like a horse. Everything she played was horses, whether it be jumping over make-shift horse jumps, galloping through the grass, or playing with her Breyer horses and barn, setting it all up so it looked just like a working barn would, shavings and all! She started out taking lessons on him and then we later bought him when we moved to our family ranch. We were essentially city slickers that didn’t have a clue about the work that would come along with living on a ranch! There was A LOT to learn! Sereno was accompanied by a slew of horse friends. We boarded horses for a Paso Fino horse company on our property for the first several years that we lived here.
One day I went down to the barn and saw Sereno tied up to the grooming area. Luis, whom we worked with and was hired to care for the horses, was preparing Sereno for a training ride. In Colombia, they use chains over the nose to control the horse. Sereno was always very nervous when being prepped for a ride and I didn’t really know why until I approached that day and saw Luis kicking him in the leg. Sereno was agitated and moving a lot and I remember when I saw him being kicked, it lit such a fire in me, I was very angry. I hadn’t seen him do this before but he was regularly more aggressive than I felt was necessary but I didn’t always feel like I knew enough to say anything. In that moment, I quickly jumped in and said, “If I ever see you kick my horse like that again, you will not be working here anymore!” Fortunately, this seemed to resolve the situation. I was raising two daughters, our youngest wasn’t born yet, and trying to keep up with the demands of family and the ranch so I wasn’t always at the barn. I did wonder if this was his interpretation of appropriate discipline, though he never did that in front of me again. Within the next few years, the company that was boarding the horses there moved out and Luis and his family eventually did too. We hired a new woman to live on the property and care for the horses and we began a new chapter in our family life with my husband going after his dream to be a race car driver.
The new chapter required so much of me, especially because I decided to follow my dream of creating a show about his effort to become a professional race car driver. We were traveling all of the time, I was working on the show all of the time, and trying to keep up with family life. The ranch ended up taking a back seat, something had to give. Sereno essentially became Becca’s horse, my daughter was growing up, she’d visit the horses but she was doing teenage things and at one point riding competitively another horse that we kept at a different barn. I trusted Becca and was frustrated with the limited knowledge we had been given by the vets but also became so distracted with my life and our families’ ambitions that Sereno was not getting much of our attention. Sadly, as I think back and remember the stress I was under living the Fastlife, this was the name of our show, I would drive by Sereno, take notice of him, and think, “I’ve got to make time to go see him.” Sometimes I would and sometimes I just didn’t. I would fall back on the care Becca was giving him and move on much of the time.
It’s so difficult to see yourself objectively. I was so determined to make a success out of the show that I was doing anything and spending every waking hour on it and then trying to keep up with family too. It was an exciting time, pushing and striving for a dream but so exhausting. Eventually, my body told me that enough was enough. Derek was out of town on a business trip and I found myself feeling as if I was going to pass out and not able to even walk or go to the bathroom without feeling terrible. I knew something wasn’t right and ended up having the kids drive me to the hospital after I took Theraflu and I nearly passed out. I’ll spare you the details, but the point is, my body was talking to me. I was pushing too hard. Now I had no choice but to just stop.
In the coming weeks, the problem was diagnosed as hypothyroidism. As a result, everything was off hormones, blood pressure, blood sugar, the works. I had always been able to push through ANYTHING! I relied heavily on this overachieving, strength, to push through emotional and physical pain for as long as I could remember. It was my lifeline, or so I thought until it failed me. Now what? I thought.
About a week or so after the initial incident and my husband had returned home, I was very weak and spending a lot of time on the couch and anxious about how I was feeling. I was trying to eat bland things as I had no appetite and wasn’t digesting things very well. It was all I could do to just walk around a little bit. I decided one day to take a walk to the barn, a very slow walk. It was early September and quite warm outside. Becca was leaving to go see her family in California. As I approached the barn, I saw Sereno laying in the pasture. Horses like to lay in the sun, but as I approached I saw something other than the usual contentment. I saw pain and helplessness. I could see in his eyes that he was not doing well. He had white foam coming out of his mouth and his breathing was heavy. I laid down with him right there in the pasture and he didn’t move. This was also not normal. Usually when he’s laying and you approach he’ll pop right up! Not this time. He was not moving. As I lay there with him, I reached out to God in humble prayer. I remember just saying, “Dear God, help us.” I knew that God didn’t create us to be in pain or in this state but I was struggling to feel hopeful. I was being forced to sit in an uncomfortable place. I spoke to Sereno. I told him that I was sorry and that I was committed to helping him now. I was sorry that I wasn’t there for him and that he had felt abandoned. There was a knowing, a deep internal message, that I was to open my heart to him and share how I truly felt. As I lay there in the pasture and cried, I talked to him and told him
that he was also God’s creation and that I would no longer abandon him and neither would God. I felt a gentle sense of relief but the anxiety stayed.
For the first time in my life, I felt very out of control and unable to fix the situation. Hard work wasn’t possible, and even if I could work hard, I didn’t know how to help Sereno. I was being stopped for a reason and I knew it. I was supposed to stop and look around me. I was being asked to look at the effects of the constant pushing and striving and fast-paced life on both me and those around me and go deeper, to be present with Sereno and pay attention. That I did. I began to reach out to God in prayer. Some nights were sleepless for two reasons, I wasn’t feeling good or I was worried about him. It was time to “ Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.“* This was something that I really struggled with at times. I wanted to be in control!
I called the vet. They ran tests and his vitals were all good. I also prayed before they came back out. I prayed to God that they would not pressure me to put him down and that there would be some healing options for Sereno or at least some time to be with him. I felt a lot of guilt for driving by him and ignoring the intuitive whispers that I would get, justifying this with the busy-ness of our lives and all of my other commitments and responsibilities. The vet clinic sent another vet out and assessed his laminitis. She brought a Ferrier who created special shoes to support healing. She was hopeful and said that Sereno, with the right care, may be able to pull through and heal to some extent. She cautioned me that the road was going to belong, it would be a commitment and that it would not be easy. This was only the beginning.
TO BE CONTINUED
*Proverbs 3: 5-6