Remembering to Breathe

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While many people were eating chocolates and enjoying the smell of flowers, I had an important Valentine’s date here at the ranch with my beautiful horses and my veterinarian and friend, Nancy.

I am blessed to have a wonderful veterinarian that I have known for several years now. I am always amazed at her knowledge and insight, and quite frankly, she has the patience of a saint because any other veterinarian would have fired me as a client years ago.

I didn’t grow up with horses. Having them isn’t second nature to me, like it is for other “horse” people. I was 38 years old when I bought my first horse, a thoroughbred mare that I bought at the race track and retired because she had no interest in running anymore. I had always wanted a horse, and I was determined to have one.  

That was ten years ago; I am still learning about horses, and I can honestly say that I learn something about these amazing creatures every day. And God bless Nancy for her patience and kindness with me over the years. She has endured my tears, panic attacks over nothing, and late evening phone calls with ridiculous questions and, of course, more panic.

On Monday afternoon, I had to call Nancy and ask her to check on Baby Note. I noticed she was rather lethargic and walking around her paddock with her head down. The little spitfire that had been bucking and playing only hours before didn’t seem quite right. When I called Nancy, she had just saddled her own horse and was getting ready to ride. She told me she would unsaddle immediately and head my direction.

As I got Baby Note and her mother, Note This, into their stall, I noticed that Baby Note had a runny nose. With the crazy fluctuations in temperature we have been having, I confess that I was worried something like this might happen.

Nancy arrived shortly thereafter, and it took some doing to get Baby Note’s temperature. Not that I blame her. Being held in place and having a thermometer placed in my rear-end isn’t my idea of a good time either! After a rather eventful examination of Baby Note, my worries were confirmed. She had a rather high temperature and would need antibiotics for several days, the administration of which was challenging each time.

Fast forward to today, and I am pleased to report that Baby Note is doing well. Nancy looked in on her yesterday and she had her last dose of antibiotics. Today, she is bucking and playing and even jumped over her mother while Note This was trying to rest in the paddock. Baby Note is back to her independent self, exploring the paddock and playing with an energy most of us could only wish to possess.


As for my Valentine’s Day date with Nancy and the horses, Nancy inadvertently reminded me of something very important – to breathe. Yes, I said breathe. Nancy observed that another mare, Snow Bunny, is showing signs of getting close to giving birth. While these signs had not been lost on me, for whatever reason, having Nancy voice them out loud made me panic. And I mean panic! I must have looked terrified because Nancy hugged me and said everything would be fine. Once I calmed down and remembered to breathe again, we talked about Snow Bunny’s care in the days ahead and I felt better because we had talked out a plan. And while we cannot control everything, it is nice to have a plan in place and know that I am doing everything I can for her. Just remember to breathe.

As I cleaned up the paddock last night, I had the feeling of being watched. I looked to the sky just in time to see a big hawk land on the roof of the barn. It tucked its large brown wings at its sides and watched my every movement as I finished my task. I could feel its eyes on me, ever watchful. I felt protected in that moment, mindful of the knowledge that I am being watched from above; everything happens in its own time, and worrying about things serves no purpose. The hawk also served as a reminder for me to be ever watchful with the horses, especially Snow Bunny. She will be “watched like a hawk.”

Sandy 

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Monday. The very mention of the word makes most people cringe. For many people, Monday symbolizes the beginning of the work week, the start of endless doldrums and toiling away at a job that we would love to quit. It is often a depressing, mundane day.

Monday, January 21, turned out to be anything but mundane or boring. It is a day I will always remember and cherish because it will forever serve as a reminder of how amazing life can be and how quickly things can change in a positive way. It will also serve as yet another reminder of how little control one actually has and how things happen in their own time.

Anyone that knows me is well aware of the fact that I love horses. I have a few. Err…several. More than I probably should have. However, they bring me tremendous joy and they are quite possibly the only reason I am still alive after the loss of my husband. There were days after the passing of my husband that I struggled to get out of bed because my depression was so great. I was overwhelmed with grief, and the fact that the rest of the world was continuing on as though nothing had happened wasn’t lost on me. In fact, it made me angry. But I was forced to pull on my boots and put my anger and self-pity aside because several 1200-pound reasons counted on me – my horses. I can honestly say that my horses were the only thing that brought any sense of joy or peace for me at that time. And they still do!

I am blessed to own many beautiful thoroughbred horses and one quarter horse, the later being my trusted riding pony, Annie, who happens to be a favorite among my friends. The thoroughbreds are a collection of mares and geldings, all beautiful souls that are each special in their own way. Hey, they make me put my boots on and enjoy the outdoors every day, even when it’s 20 degrees below zero. Who wouldn’t love an animal that requires this of you? Horses truly are therapeutic beings.

Last September, my best friend was in Oklahoma City at the Heritage horse sale. She spotted a big, lovely black mare with a white heart on her forehead named “Note This.” My friend called me and was insistent that I needed this mare. Something about this mare was calling out to my friend, and since her instinct with horses is impeccable, I told her to go for it. Note This happened to be pregnant to a stallion with an amazing pedigree, and quite frankly, Note This has nice bloodlines herself. I honestly figured she was a horse we wouldn’t be able to afford, so I told her to go for it, thinking we likely wouldn’t be able to buy her. However, I failed to consider that Note This was the last horse to go through the auction ring. Since most buyers are broke at the end of a sale, no one bid on her. My best friend spoke with the gentleman that had placed her in the sale, and within 24 hours, Note This was standing in my barn.

As I stated before, Note This is a big, beautiful mare. I immediately fell in love with her, and my gratitude for my friend and her insistence on buying this mare is beyond measure. Upon reviewing Note’s paperwork, I noticed that the date she was bred to the stallion coincided with a very important date to me – my late husband’s birthday. It gave me chills when I saw it, and it brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about it. I like to think of my husband in the great beyond, helping me out behind the scenes, because that is something he would do.

Note This settled in to her new life in Colorado and as the months progressed, her body became larger and larger. Her belly started to drop around the first part of January, and I knew it wouldn’t be long until her due date of February 1st arrived and a new addition to the barn would be on the ground and running.

In preparation for the momentous event, I had placed Note This, along with another pregnant mare, Snow Bunny, in an area by themselves. They shared a small paddock during the day but were each enjoying their own large stall at night whenever the weather was bad. The weather had been unusually nice for Colorado in January, so the night of January 20th, I had left the stall doors open and allowed Note This and Snow Bunny access to their little paddock throughout the night. This also happened to be the night of the “Super Blood Wolf Moon.”

As the sun rose the morning of January 21, I looked outside and could see both mares in their paddock. Everything was quiet in the barn area. It looked as though the horses still had hay and nothing was amiss, so I decided to make coffee and watch the morning news. Around 8:30 or so, I looked outside and noticed both Snow Bunny and Note This were laying down in their paddock, soaking up the morning sun. I decided the world wouldn’t end if I continued to enjoy my coffee and watch a cooking segment that was coming up on tv. I should also mention that I have been very blessed this winter to have two good friends of mine staying at my ranch – Mike and Jen – a kind, young couple that are both very good with horses, and quite frankly, very good with me.

I was getting ready to put my boots on and head to the barn when my phone went off, so I stopped to answer a text message. I was writing my reply when my back door flew open and Jen stormed in. “Sandy! There’s a baby! Note had her baby! We have to get to the barn!”

I was stunned, and I am quite certain I had a stupid, dumbfounded look on my face. “What?!” I replied. I looked out the window and sure enough, I could see the white blaze of a very tiny face in the paddock. I couldn’t believe it! How in the hell did I miss that this was happening? I ran to get my coat and fumbled with my boots momentarily. My mind was going a million miles an hour.

As Jen and I were running to the barn, Mike came along, carrying hay for one of their horses that was spending time in the barn. “What’s the big hurry?” he asked. Jen replied that Note This had her baby and he also started to move towards the barn in a higher gear.

When I arrived at the paddock, Baby Note was trying to stand on very wobbly legs and take those first uncertain steps. The baby was lovely, but oh so tiny and petite! Baby Note could best be described as a dark bay with a big, unusually shaped white blaze that seemed to dominate her tiny face. Note This was very protective of her baby, and she was busy trying to keep not only Snow Bunny away from her foal, but some other horses that had gathered along the fence to see what the commotion was.

A flurry of activity ensued. Mike and Jen grabbed a rope and halter and somehow managed to catch an elusive Snow Bunny and get her in a stall. I was frantically trying to clean the floor of the remaining stall, because naturally, both mares had decided that was the ideal place to poop throughout the night. It was important to get a clean, dry area for mom and baby, so I frantically cleaned. While I was busy cleaning, Mike was trying to assist Baby Note with standing up on those long, wobbly legs. Jen put a halter on Note This, and mom and baby were slowly moved into the barn where they could be safe in a clean, quiet stall, free from the prying noses of other horses. Jen held Note This while Mike helped Baby Note nurse on her mother. “It’s a filly,” Mike proclaimed with a big smile. He had his hands full, as Baby Note wiggled and wobbled as she nursed, not quite sure of how to behave in her new world. Three proud parents were born in that moment, and we all continue to make a fuss over Baby Note.

I called my vet and told her of our morning excitement. Before she set out for my ranch to examine Mom and Baby Note, she expressed the importance of leaving Note This and her baby alone for a bit so they could have some much-needed bonding time. So, the three proud parents vacated the barn for a bit. We were all in awe of what had just transpired. Note This had given no signs that she was THAT close to giving birth, and yet, we had a baby! I was struck by the fact that life can begin just as quickly as it can end. A new life was in our midst; things would not be the same at the ranch. Life can truly be unexpected and crazy sometimes.

Note close up 1 MG_20190123_091232

As I walked away from the barn toward my house, I looked to the sky to say thank you to my husband and the heavens above. It was then I noticed a hawk soaring in the sky directly overhead, its dark brown wings shining in the sun. New life in the barn and life in the form of wings above. The world is truly beautiful in its own time.

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