When I began writing the blog, Wildspirite, it seemed all of my wildest dreams were coming to fruition. After years of grieving the loss of my most precious horse, Eternity, I reopened my heart to the world of horses and found something special in a little gelding at the Medicine Horse Project‘s first retreat. From there, we uprooted our lives in the city for a peaceful life nestled in the foothills of the Sequoia National Forest. We took a leap of faith, not yet having a place to call our own, without having work secured and with little money to our name–even so, we felt deep within our hearts that this is where we belonged.
In time, my husband found consistent work and I took on my first client, training and exercising two mares twice a week. Looking back, it was only by God’s hand that we were able to financially stay afloat and have a roof over our heads while we worked to get up on our feet. That summer, we also attended Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue’s open adoption day where my husband tirelessly searched the corrals until he found a special little filly that not only caught his eye, but captured his heart. It was on this day, another one of my dreams was set in motion as we made arrangements to take two additional fillies back to the ranch for gentling. Both fillies were quickly adopted out within a couple of months time–one to my younger sister and the other to a local rancher.
In September, I was also invited to be an assistant for one of my favorite clinicians, Chris Nichols, for one of Lifesavers‘ wild horse retreats. It was the experience of a lifetime and one I will always cherish, but I also learned that my strength lies more with communicating with horses than with instructing students. During all of these recent accomplishments, however, I began noticing my body was slowing and my chronic health conditions seemed to be declining. At that point, I decided to wait to take on more young horses to gentle and instead continue to work with my client’s two horses on a weekly basis.
Nearing the end of the year, we began house hunting and fell in love with the perfect property by mere chance. It was a gruelling process I hope to never repeat, but in February 2016, we became homeowners for the first time. That month, I was also offered the great privilege of serving as Secretary on the Medicine Horse Project‘s Board of Directors. If you told me when I was eleven years old that all of my little girl dreams would be coming true at 23 years of age, I honestly probably would have called your bluff.
Unfortunately, those dreams began to slide through my fingers as if they were mere grains of sand. My health was at an all time low and as the bad days turned into weeks, I often found myself bed-ridden for the majority of the day. I not only had to stop working with my clients horses, but found it was too dangerous to work with my own due to my current state of health. In time, I had lost over 20lbs, putting me at an all-time low of 96lbs. I spent many hours in waiting rooms, doctor’s offices and the hospital searching for answers as to why my life was being taken away from me.
It was inevitable that I also had to resign from my duties as Secretary for the Medicine Horse Project. It seemed as if everything I had worked so hard for simply disappeared into the wind. Horses run deep within my veins–sometimes it’s as if they are my very life source. I wish I could put into words the devastation I feel when I am unable to live my life freely with the very creatures I cherish so much–but I’ve found those words simply do not exist.
As some of my friends in the horse community had noticed, I had quietly drawn away from it all. Through losing Eternity and this entire year of losing my independence and my ability to work with horses, I have learned that I severely lack coping skills when it comes to being forced apart from the creatures I love most. In the beginning, it’s nearly an impossible battle against depression when there are constant reminders of what I’ve lost and the opportunities I am missing out on. It takes time for me to be able to immerse myself back into the horse community once again–despite my ability to physically partake.
After a year of struggling with my health, we finally found one diagnosis that seemed responsible for the sudden crash in health. In November 2017, I was officially diagnosed with Valley Fever–an aggressive fungal infection that can prove to be devastating (and in some cases fatal). We only learned of the 26mm mass in my lung when I was in the hospital for a chest x-ray of my heart. None of the specialists we had seen the entire year had even suggested testing for Valley Fever. Additionally, the first two tests for Valley Fever came back negative. My primary doctor was still not convinced and sent my blood work to UCLA for a more conclusive test which finally came back as positive.
Since we are on state insurance, it took over a month to be approved to see the Pulmonologist and begin treatment. At our initial appointment, we learned that Valley Fever can be extremely difficult to eradicate with treatment taking upwards of six months. After speaking to others in our local area, many did not begin to see relief until two years later. With a compromised immune system like I have, we’re uncertain as to what the future holds but we now have hope that eventually, I can regain my independence and return to my passion of working with horses.
In the meantime, I’ve been making more of an effort to find ways to still connect with Reign and my first BLM filly, Spirit (who you will likely meet in a future blog post). I also have a new sidekick that is currently in training to become my Service Dog, Nihmh. She has greatly improved my life in the short amount of time we’ve been together and is the reason we were even at the hospital the day I learned of the mass in my lung. I am so thankful to all of my friends who have been so understanding and continue to be patient with me while I get back on me feet. I am also extremely grateful for the support I’ve been shown over the years from special people like Jill Starr and Chris Nichols. I only hope I can eventually continue to make my mentors proud of me once again.
Until next time.