Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sad Changes


                                                by Laura Crum




            Those who have read this blog for awhile will know that I have an old friend who boards his horse with me. I have known Wally since I was a child; he is the person who taught me to rope, many years ago. He and I have been partners on several horses, I have trained young horses for him, and for the last fifteen years or so, I have kept his horses here at my place. Many of the trail rides I have done with my son have included Wally, not just because I felt safer with two competent horsemen to support my kid in the event of an emergency, but also because Wally was always keen to go on any horseback adventure.
            Wally turns eighty this summer, and sadly, age is finally catching up with him. For the last two weeks he has been unable to ride or rope. Those who actually know Wally will know what a big statement this is. Wally would ride and rope when he had pneumonia (yes, literally). He is one tough old cowboy and if he hurts enough that he won’t climb on a horse, he really hurts.
            So I was both sad and somewhat surprised when Wally told me awhile ago that his right knee was so swollen and sore that be could barely walk, let alone ride. He tried to rope, but he said that every time he put weight in his right stirrup, it felt as if he were being hit in the knee with a hammer And he got off. Since then, he hasn’t climbed on his horse, or even come out here to mess with Twister. He’s been too busy going to doctors, and being in and out of the hospital, as the medical establishment tries to figure out what is wrong with him. He’s on crutches. He hurts.
            We all know the truth. Very few horsemen keep riding, let alone roping, into their eighties. I know it; Wally knows it. And yet I think, in a little hidden corner of our minds, we were all in denial, hoping/expecting that Wally would just keep on going, sort of like the Energizer Bunny.
            There’s a reason for this. Not only is Wally a tough old cowboy, he’s also one of the most enthusiastic horsemen I ever knew. Wally really ENJOYS his horses. He likes being around them and competing on them and riding them outside. He isn’t bothered if they act up a little. He’s unfailingly cheerful and having fun every moment he’s on a horse. (Well, except when he misses—or his partner misses—in the course of a roping run. Those of us who have roped with him know all about the Wally “scowl” under certain circumstances.)
            I’ve learned a lot from Wally, and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that ability to truly enjoy my horses. To forgive them their mistakes and failings (we all have them), and enjoy what they give me, and just to take delight in being around them. To be grateful for every moment. Wally has demonstrated this skill over the years, and I have found it a great inspiration.
            For my part, I’m the one who takes care of the details (Wally isn’t terribly good at this). I make sure that all our horses get wormed/trimmed/fed..etc in a timely fashion. I insist that the old ones get retired. I take care of Wally’s horses just as if they were my own. Wally’s current horse, Twister, has lived with me since he was six. He’s now fifteen or sixteen (I lose track). Twister is a member of our family, and I will keep taking care of him, no matter what.
            We've shared so many horseback adventures together. For the last five years, Wally and Twister, my son and Henry, and Sunny and I have been all over the place. On our local trails--


                                                        To the mountains.



                                                           On the beach.


            It feels like a very sad change not to have Wally riding with us. Both my son and I are a little adrift. Its not that we can’t ride-- and we still ride a couple of days a week-- its just that Wally’s enthuiasm, and his drive to go roping, were a lot of our motivation. We rode at the roping practice and helped gather and herd the cattle, because Wally wanted to go. Since Wally’s been laid up, the roping practice is on hold. It feels like everything is changing.
            Of course I hope (we all hope) that Wally will make a full recovery and be back to riding and roping. And I think it will happen. But he is almost eighty. Eventually the day will come when he can’t ride or rope any more. And that is going to be a sad change for us all.
            

26 comments:

Kate said...

Very sorry to hear that - please pass on our regards. Here's hoping that the doctors solve his problem - many riders with knee issues have gone on to ride again. His joyful riding on into old age is an inspiration for us all.

Laura Crum said...

Thanks, Kate. Wally's a little better today. Still not able to ride but not in so much pain. Waiting for test results to find out what the problem is. And yes, his joyful riding into old age really is an inspiration. I hope I can do as well. May we all do as well!

AareneX said...

My favorite doctor (who is, not coincidentally, a veterinarian) would tell Wally to find a doctor (or a vet) with a cold laser, and laser the hell out of that knee.

After years of hanging out with the "laser crowd," I gotta agree. At worse, nothing changes. At best, swelling decreases, pain decreases, mobility increases. It's cheap, it's non-invasive, there are no side effects, it doesn't matter what other medications are on-board.

Worth a try.

Meanwhile, we are all keeping Wally in our warmest thoughts and hoping he will be back on the horse soon!

tailsfromprovence.com said...

Crikey I started reading this thinking Wally or Twister had died - so VERY glad that's not the case!
I'm sure his doctor will find some course of treatment that'll keep him going a while longer, but I know what you are saying, the day will come when he can't... you and Henry will find another morivator, I'm sure.

redhorse said...

Sorry to hear this. I hope he gets well enough to at least go on a trail ride or two.

I joined a trail riding group this spring, and one of the members is 82. She still rides, and they say she rides like a "bat out of..." She didn't tighten her girth last year and took a fall, cracked a couple of ribs, but she rode again once she healed up. She's my new hero. I hope I get to meet her and chase her down a trail someday.

I don't think horse people should try to age gracefully.

Laura Crum said...

Thanks, Aarene. I will pass on your advice about the laser.

Martine--Yes, my son and I are already discussing what we want to prioritize with our horses if Wally can't ride with us. It's just a big change.

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--You would love Wally. He is like your 82 year old hero. On trail rides I would usually insist on leading, because when Wally leads we always end up on some sketchy bit of trail with Wally hollering back at us, "Come on, its fine!" (Fine, my ass--its a sheer cliff.) Anyway, I agree, aging joyfully is the deal. Wally is one who really enjoys life--from his horse to his cocktail or cup of coffee, right on through glorious scenery or weather or a good joke.

Ms Martyr said...

I rode with a clinician a couple of weeks ago who told me she has a 91 year old student who calls herself "a freak of nature." Something to aspire to.

Laura Crum said...

Ms Martyr--Now THAT is inspiring. Good to hear--thank you!

Pattie said...

Please send Wally my best, and let him know " he knees to get better, because we will all miss him on your rides."

Pattie

Allenspark Lodge said...

I can only pray I can keep riding til I'm in my 80's. Instead of just FEELING like it...

Bill

CG said...

Sending healing wishes for Wally. I hope the Dr. can figure out what is wrong and can fix him right up. I've been blessed to have had the friendship of a few older horsemen throughout the years, they are the best!

Breathe said...

Here's to many more rides ahead for Wally. Hopefully the docs will get that knee back in shape!

Laura Crum said...

Thanks, Pattie, Bill, CG and Breathe. You know, Bill, I feel exactly the same way you do. I am hoping Wally's knee is on the mend. He says he feels better. Fingers crossed.

Val said...

I hope that Wally recovers and is able to continue doing what he loves, even if he has to change it a little. Maybe if he gives up stirrups, his knee won't be aggravated and he could still trail ride. I am guessing you need stirrups to rope properly, but some riding is better than none.

Wally is very lucky to have you looking after Twister.

Laura Crum said...

Val--We talked about that. Wally hopes he can still do gentle trail riding if he can't rope. And yes, we agreed long ago that I would keep Twister if Wally died or couldn't ride. Twister is left to me in Wally's will, and I will take care of him just as I will my own horses. It IS important for people to have a plan for their horses if the person dies or is incapacitated. Thanks for the comment.

jenj said...

I certainly hope that I'm riding when I'm 80! Wally sounds like an amazing guy. I really hope that the doctors can find out what's wrong with his knee, and find an easy way to treat it. Please give Wally our best regards and pass along our hopes for being able to ride again soon!

Francesca Prescott said...

Laura, I've always thought Wally sounds like a phenomenal person. I hope he feels better soon and is able to get back into the saddle, if only to go on quiet trail rides (no sheer cliffs!! that cracked me up!). Give him my love.

xx cesca

Laura Crum said...

Thank you jenj and Cesca--I will pass on your good wishes to Wally.

Gayle Carline said...

Laura, I can't say it any better than everyone else already has, but I guess I can say it one more time: Here's to hoping Wally's pain can be taken care of quickly and he can get back in the saddle again. The closer I get to 80, the younger it looks to me.

Laura Crum said...

Gayle--Thank you for the good wishes. And I know just what you mean about 80 looking younger all the time.

HHmstead said...

I'm thinking that with the right care Wally will heal up & this will only be a short-term problem. I too hope to ride until as a friend & I used to say; "Till the reins drop from our stone cold hands!"

Alison said...

Thanks for taking my spot this week, Laura. A sad blog, but let's hope that Wally finds out what is going on with his knee. And take heart--my mom had a hip replacement at 90 years and is still dancing. So Wally's knee may not stop him riding forever. Let us know what happens.

RiderWriter said...

Yikes, count me in the group who thought someone had passed away... I had tears welling up at the first sentence! You've gotten all of us very attached to your little crew of horses and humans and we don't want anything to happen to them. I hope Wally finds out soon what's going on (like the sound of the cold laser therapy) and is able to get back in the saddle.

horsegenes said...

You better tell Wally to be on the mend! I was looking forward to another ride with him this summer!

Laura Crum said...

Thanks HHmstead, Alison, RiderWriter and Kel--Wally actually rode today for the first time in three weeks. He even tried to rope a steer (he is tough, I tell you, he still is pretty much hobbling when he walks). The riding went OK, the roping was a little dicey. A heel horse makes a hard left turn and this requires you to put weight in that right stirrup and Wally's knee didn't like that. But overall, it went OK.

The current plan is for Wally to keep getting cortisone shots in his knee as needed through the summer (so he can keep riding and roping) and have knee surgery this coming fall. We're all crossing our fingers this will work for him.