To our dismay, our blog will soon be ending. Our year subscription has nearly finished and so has our adventure. I find myself reminiscing about the ride a lot, it was a life changing experience. Besides the horses being creatures of true beauty, strength and courage, I cannot stop thinking about some of the incredibly inspirational people we met along our travels. None of them were famous, none of them much different than you and I. All of them were simply people, going through life, trying to manage the best they can with what they have. But their stories and lives are ones of struggle, compassion, triumph and heartbreak. I won’t name any names, but I did want to share some of their stories.
In the early stages of our journey, we met an elderly lady who took us in from the cold. Her husband had recently passed and she had the most elegant barn and pasture but they were empty and overgrown when we arrived. No horses had lived in that stable for a few years now. She made us hot chocolate and fed us homemade cookies while we jabbered on about our trip. Slowly as one of us went on about The Ride, the others got a chance to look at the pictures on the wall, take in the welcoming homey feel and sip on the relaxing feeling of comfort. Eventually we all got curious about the amazing photos around the house and began asking questions. The life we got a glimpse of that evening is one I won’t forget.
Her father was the first man to mine for coal in the province using ponies. No one else could manage the tough terrain and dangerous mining. So she grew up with her ponies and became an excellent horsewomen. Her childhood was filled with peril and hard work but she didn’t mind. She was glad as that is how she met her husband. Lovingly she joked that he married her for her ponies and not for her. Together they continued to be heavily involved in the community and organized hundreds of horse events some being as large as the RCMP ride. They became well known for their ponies and eventually she wrote a book which later on became a tv series. I remember watching this show growing up. To meet the author was a huge honour.
While she was telling us of these stories she brought out her photo boxes and could provide photos of all the rides, wagon caravans and shows they attended. Her stories were mostly of amazing accomplishments and how great her ponies were but some stories were pivotal moments in her life. Like the time she got thrown off her horse, broke her femur and severed her femoral artery. Somehow, with the help of a person driving by, she made it to the hospital before she bled out. She had multiple reconstructive surgeries after that to try re-establish the blood flow which put a damper on her horse life for a while. So she focused on being a teacher at the local school for her community. Her children grew up strong and horse smart and now have stables of their own.
Her hands now didn’t have the strength to care for ponies so after her husband passed she had to disperse the loyal beasts, but the pictures still covered the walls of the barn and house. To be in the presence of such humility and knowledge was incredible. It was painful realizing that eventually this rich history wouldn’t be around any longer.
Another incredible story of strength and perseverance started with a tragic event. A beloved husband and son were lost in a father’s day freak accident. This wife, mother and women took it upon herself to continue the cattle farm mostly by herself. She did have help from her remaining children when they could spare it, but they too had farms and families to support. It was amazing to see her tenacity and sheer will. Talk about a women who could work. We enjoyed helping her while we stayed and learned a lot about self pity, or lack there of. She is so strong.
Then there was the grain farmer who had a severe accident which burned the majority of his body. He was a shy man before his accident but when we met, he had a zest for life you wouldn’t believe. Curiosity, keenness, eagerness and thirst for knowledge and exploration. He said he got a second chance and he wasn’t going to waste it. You wouldn’t know he was in his 70’s by looking at him because his scarring changed him and because he acted so youthful. Our visiting with him filled us up with good cheer and excitement!
The young rancher, husband and father who had a horse accident and broke his ankle so severely his bone was sticking out sideways. The biggest issue with this injury was not putting the bones back into place, it was repairing all the vessels and ligaments that tore completely. It took 6 months before this man could put his foot down because otherwise it would swell to the size of a basketball because the blood couldn’t circulate properly. The surgeon recommended amputation for a man who lives and makes a living on his horse, tending to his cattle, and supporting his wife and two beautiful young daughters. When we met, it had been just over a year and this 30yr man walked with a limp of a 70yr man but as any farmer knows, there is always work that needs to be done. Physiotherapy was a 4 hour drive away (8 hour round trip) so doing that 3-5 times a week wasn’t practical. Even once a week became draining for the young family. But there he was plugging through, doing the best he could and still helping out at community brandings with a big smile on his face.
The other rancher we met, who lived in such a desolate area that he didn’t even have running water. He filled our ears with stories of desperation and trial. Through his alcohol soaked breath we caught a glimpse of a lonely life and the struggles he faced being in the middle of no-where with minimal resources. This man was so isolated and naïve that it was raw and true. By far the most interesting unforgettable man I have ever met.
And of course, a man who helped us so whole heartily and so selflessly we couldn’t understand until we listened to his story. At one point he couldn’t walk anymore and the doctors in Canada said he wasn’t a candidate for the back surgery that could potentially restore his abilities. He did his research, found a surgeon in the states willing to take on his case but it would cost over 6 figures. So he contemplated and discussed with his family and decided it was worth it. They liquidated the farm, sold all they could and went for the surgery. It was a success! He got his life back and he had no intent on forgetting that. He now helps out all the surrounding farms, rides his horses everyday, loves his family more than he ever thought possible and doesn’t hesitate one second at helping complete strangers. He was an instrumental part of our success and his enthusiasm was contagious. A good friendship begun when we met him.
None of these people’s lives or stories were similar, yet they were all very much a like. Meeting any of these people on the street you would have no clue the struggles they face. And this is just a handful of the people we met.
So as this is my last post, I want to leave you with a request. If you don’t know your neighbour, invite them over for coffee, beer, supper and listen to their story. If you know your neighbour, give them a ring and catch up. Lend a helping hand when you can and make time for your community. Give back in whatever way you can. You may not think your time means much, but to someone with a history you don’t know or understand, it could mean a lot! I don’t strive to understand the world, or be everyone’s best friend. Sometimes I love just curling up at home like a hermit. That is normal, but reaching out also feels good. It feels good to be on the receiving side, but also on the giving side, it just takes a bit of effort. Please make time to give that effort this new year. You might be surprised about what you learn!
Deepest thank-you’s to the hundreds of people that made our adventure possible! You guys made the effort and changed our lives forever!