The Fence Post - News from the Farm

Winter, 2018

So what happened to 2017? For the first time since starting camp back in 2004, we went a summer without offering Camp GooseChase. The reasons are complex, but they arose from the realities of being diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis in April of 2016. The short story to that diagnosis is that I dodged a bullet – it could have been so much worse, and I am extremely grateful that only my sensory nerves were affected and not my motor nerves. For the summer of 2016, we had a full session scheduled with a wonderful slate of returning counselors, so I was able to rely on them heavily since I was not moving as well as before and was only just beginning to be able to ride again. Physical therapy following the diagnosis involved total immersion in yoga (recommended by my neurologist) with the goal of staying strong and maximizing movement, all in hopes of stimulating the regeneration of my sensory nerves, a process that can take up to two years. Though I had been cleared to ride shortly after my diagnosis, riding was extremely uncomfortable due to the sensory distortion I was experiencing, and I was so numb from the waist down that my balance was off, even while walking. As the numbness slowly started to dissipate and my balance improved, I began riding more, an important goal that also became part of my physical therapy program: maximize movement in order to generate nerve regrowth. Nothing like hours in the saddle to stimulate the nerves in my legs and feet! Though my ride season for 2016 didn’t unfold as originally planned, six months after my diagnosis, I was able to ride well enough to take part in an endurance ride in late October and complete the Fort Valley 50, an important mental milestone in my recovery.

I’ll never know why I got transverse myelitis, but since it is an auto-immune response, I have sought to minimize the possible stress- and food-related triggers that might have been responsible or in some way contributed. To that end, I have increased those activities that promote a mindfulness mindset and reduce stress: most notably, yoga and endurance riding. And with my feet still numb, riding is really the only means by which I can really move, and move with the same abandon and joy of a long run on a wooded trail (something I’ve always loved but doubt I’ll ever be able to do again). With any kind of health event, there is an associated realization that life can change in an instant. For me, that realization has led to a hunger to strive for some endurance goals that have been on the back burner for awhile (decades, in fact, since first hearing about the 100 mile Tevis ride when I was a young teenager and thought, I want to do that). So I took the summer of 2017 to more fully immerse myself in life on the trail and to pursue the goal of completing a 100 mile ride. To add to the adventure, I spent most of the summer in Wyoming where I could be closer to my three girls (all of whom were living there at the time) and take advantage of some amazing ride venues – and yes, attempt the Big Horn 100, a ride with a daunting reputation that challenged me to prepare both physically and mentally for a lot of unknowns. I am proud to say we completed the ride, crossing the finish line just after 3:00 AM with a ride time of 20:36. It was a magical day on horseback in every way possible! The Big Horn was the highlight of an amazing ride year where Tink and I completed eight of nine rides for a total of 465 miles: a big jump from our previous years.

Though we had a great ride year, I have not quenched my thirst for more endurance rides, and though I loved my summer in Wyoming, I also missed my time on the farm with GooseChase. So we are back for 2018, more determined than ever to share the love and magic that results from unrushed summer days spent with horses and in the company of like-minded girls. 

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