The Horse Story Behind My Memoir

* In honor of my horse Crimson, I’m giving away a copy of the Kindle version of Motherhood: Lost and Found. For a chance to win, leave a comment at the end of this post. Be sure to include your email address. A winner will be selected next week. Good luck!  

* Two winners have been chosen. Thank you for your comments.

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Motherhood: Lost and Found tells the story of my struggle to have a child at the same time I was losing my mother to Alzheimer’s. For those of you who don’t know me, the back drop of this story is my love of horses.

During this decade of loss, I was deeply involved in the horse world. Most mornings I could be found at the barn grooming or riding my horse Crimson. My afternoons were spent teaching dressage and hunter/jumper to a group of riding students who I adored.

Crimson was a very special horse. He happened to be a grandson of the great Secretariat. An Appendix Quarter Horse, I learned that Crimson had won one race before his career at the track ended. I purchased him as a green six-year-old when we lived in Houston, and trained him to jump. We transported him to North Carolina when Joel and I moved back home to be closer to my parents.

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Crimson and I at a horse show in Houston.

A chestnut gelding just shy of 16.2 hands, he looked a lot like Secretariat. And he had the heart of a champion. Crimson was the kindest horse I’ve ever known. When I was overwhelmed with the grief in my life, I went to him.

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Crimson, my steady boy, carried me through so many hard days.

Some days when the sorrow was too much to bear, I would go down to the barn and watch him grazing with the other horses. Other days, I could do nothing more than lean against Crimson and rest my head against his neck. He would stand like a statue absorbing my emotions.

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Crimson grazing with a pasture mate.

My mother’s illness lasted for over 10 years before she died, and for much of that time, Joel and I remained childless. Because my mother required constant care, I had to board Crimson at other farms for months at a time. It was heartbreaking to let him go. But I sensed that he understood. I was also fortunate to have wonderful horse friends who helped care for Crimson while I was away.

After my daughter was born, I was finally able to bring Crimson home. It was a gift to have him at the barn. His kind and gentle nature always lifted my heart. Each morning, I did chores – cleaning stalls and filling water buckets – while Sydney rode in a pack on my back. It was hard work taking care of a mother with Alzheimer’s, a young child and Crimson. There were long days when my mother was sick, Joel was out of town or my daughter had been teething throughout the night. But Crimson’s presence gave me strength and peace.

During those years, I didn’t have much time for riding. But occasionally I would hop on just to feel the rhythm of Crimson’s gaits, his rocking canter. I remember one day wanting to share this wonderful feeling with Sydney. She was delighted when Joel lifted her up on the horse in front of me. Crimson was a perfect gentlemen, as I knew he would be.

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Crimson taking Sydney and me for a ride.

I’ll always be grateful for the time I spent with this wonderful horse. Crimson passed away in 2003, after a serious attack of intestinal colic. He was 19, the same age his grandfather Secretariat was when he died. We laid him to rest on the farm near the magnolia tree given to me by my friend Lyn in honor of my miscarriages.

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To order a copy of Motherhood: Lost and Found, click here. I’m so thrilled that it has been No. 1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Eldercare. For more information, please see my website: www.anncampanella.com.


Seeing Double

Two paints in one ring! A few day ago Sydney and Lauren-Kate had their first opportunity to ride together in a few weeks. It was a lovely sight!

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Riding Together

It’s been almost four months since we first brought horses back to the barn. While I’ve spent most of my life riding, training and taking care of horses, it’s been an exhilarating and fun experience sharing these amazing animals with my daughter. Sydney has always been an animal lover at heart, so falling in love and caring for horses came naturally to her. She listened and watched as I showed her how to do barn chores and was eager to take responsibility for them.

I started Sydney off with riding lessons on the lunge line, and she progressed quickly to lessons in the ring. (She had spent a week riding in Wyoming two years ago.)  About a month ago, Foxie showed signs of needing additional training, so I realized we would need another horse for Sydney to ride during this time. My friend Jo knew about April and put us in contact with her owner. April sounded like she might be the right horse for us. But April was stabled outside of Charleston, SC. It just so happened that our family had a beach trip planned, and on the way home we were able to stop in, meet April and take a short ride. (It was 100 degrees, so we kept the ride VERY short!)

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the sixteen-year-old girl who showed us April was the daughter of my old friend Deirdra. A week and a half later, Deirdra trailered April up to our place. This week, for the first time since Wyoming, Sydney and I have been able to ride together. It has been such a treat!

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Sydney getting ready for her first ride on April.

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Taking a break to say hello to Dad.

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I got to ride too! Having fun training Foxie.

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Joel took a photo of both of us feeling relaxed and happy on our horses.


Smokey Makes More Friends

Over the past week or so Smokey has made lots of new friends. He will be going home soon, so Sydney and I invited some families from our church to come over and visit him. The kids brushed Smokey, and Sydney gave the children pony rides on him. And I got to visit with the moms. It’s been a sweet time!

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Misty and Foxie enjoyed the show from their stalls.

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We’ll miss you, Smokey!

 


Painting: an Evolution

I love our barn. It was built by John Black, our neighbor who sold us our land and who used to run a dairy farm. Our barn is sturdy, built with strong wood and care. Most of the wood came from June Washam’s old sawmill. June, who has a road named after him, and was recovering from open heart surgery when we knew him, came over and helped John in the building process, even though he wasn’t able to stand up straight. He has since passed away, but the quality of his wood and our barn still stands. John Black says, “Everywhere there should have been four nails, I put five.” Craftsmanship like that is a rare gift. And I am so thankful.

But ever since our tack room was built, I’ve wanted to paint the outside wall of it. It’s made of pressed particle board and has the brand stamped in black running in a diagonal line across it.  I’ve always been someone who likes the idea of transforming ugliness into beauty…so, using some old paint that I had around the house and the barn, I began the process.

I enjoy painting, but I don’t consider myself a real artist. My brother Bill was the artist in our family. His watercolor scenes and portraits mesmerized and amazed me. He could perform magic with his brush. My attempts at drawing nature and wildlife were enthusiastic, but typically the trees and the animals were somewhat ill-formed and oddly shaped. But there was something exciting about the process.

These days I enjoy the idea of transforming a plain wall into something magical. Not that I have any misconceptions about my talent. I know it’s raw. Maybe more than raw. But there is joy in the process … the idea of creating something new.

So I went to work on the outside wall of the tack room. I started by painting over the particle board with a tan color. It was a hot day, close to 100, and I had to stand on a stool, then a chair to reach the top of the board. Covering the particle board in paint proved harder than I had imagined. After about an hour, I had less than a quarter of the wall painted and I was drenched in sweat. A wasp crawled out of the wall and circled around me. I held my breath and it flew away.

I stepped back every 10 minutes or so and surveyed my progress, promising myself I would stop … after I was one-third of the way done, then halfway, and finally, gradually, I only had the top left corner to finish … so I persevered.

Then the wind kicked up and the temperature dropped from 98 degrees to the mid 80s and it felt positively cool. I went up to the house as the first rain that we’d had in weeks began falling. But after a few minutes, I thought to myself…Why am I here when it’s finally cool? So I scrounged around the house for some blue craft paint that I could add to the partial can of white paint in the barn. I found some and returned to the barn to paint the sky.

It was a pleasure to paint as the wind stirred through the barn. I could hear the horses rustling behind the barn and the occasional stomping of hooves. The coat of blue went onto the particle board a bit easier.

A few days later, when I had a few hours to myself, I began painting the green that would be the pasture. It took me a while to turn the pale blue paint into green. I don’t like to waste anything, so I stirred yellow into what remained of the pale blue paint. When I tried it out, I could tell that the sky and the pasture would be almost the same color. It took a lot more yellow and some dark green craft paint to finally come up with something dark enough to pass for a pasture.

I was most excited about adding horses to the scene. My plan was to paint each of the horses that are currently on the farm…and possibly add Crimson (looking down from a cloud). I painted Foxie (a palomino), Smokey (a grey Shetland  pony) and Misty (a paint) using silhouettes of horses I found on the internet as a guide. It was fun to add their distinctive coloring. I still need to add some shadowing on Smokey as he looks a bit ghost-like.

After painting the horses, I added some fluffy clouds and then… as is often the case… my time was up. I still hope to add Crimson and some trees and a Bible verse that I discovered as I was contemplating the dream of having horses back on the farm.

The mural on the tack room is still evolving. It’s a long way from perfect. But then so am I.

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Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Psalms 37:3

 


Smokey & Friends

Smokey had the pleasure of some more visitors today: Adelaide, Clara and Wyatt. Sydney showed the kids how to brush Smokey, and then she led them each on a pony ride. The kids did great, and, afterwards, they fed all the horses carrots and apples. Smokey was in heaven, and Foxie and Misty were pretty happy too.

Unfortunately, after the ride, we discovered that Clara is allergic to horses.  We hope her itchiness goes away quickly. 😦

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Smokey Meets Some New Friends

One of the things Sydney enjoys doing is introducing young children to our horses. We had some dear friends over the other day and they brought their kids. Smokey is the perfect size for the little ones — small enough not to be intimidating. I think Smokey enjoyed the attention as much as the children enjoyed being with him.

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The two moms who were here (and their younger sister) used to babysit for Sydney when she was little. Now, Sydney helps take care of some of their children. We love these families!

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