Making up for lost time

Calico Trail – Storm Peak

For two years since before my last post here, longer even, I was too depressed to function. That is not to say I spent no time with Zil, but riding was fairly rare, fraught with anxiety and could not be done without my daughter. I usually had to force myself to leave the house even to pet Zil, and I’d anthropomorphized her to the extent that I was often really uncomfortable asking her to do anything. I was unworthy.

No, I really was.

I don’t want to make myself revisit the point at which I abandoned Zil, my family, my life; but at some point in 2015 I gave up. When I finally got out of the Acute Treatment Unit, it was slow going at first. I had to face some tough realizations. I had to figure out what to do with them. I’m still figuring it out. I will be figuring it out for the rest of my life. I am blessed that I have such a resilient and forgiving family, with such a wonderful dog in it, and such a non-judgmental horse.

Dixie. She’s my daughter’s dog, and was still a puppy when I emerged from the darkness.

I began as a tentative new life, to touch the sunlight and Zil’s warm brown fur. I learned how much she loves her face rubbed and scratched. I learned not to be heartbroken on those days when she walked or ran away from me to stand gazing tragically over the fence. It would take time for her to want to approach me. And gradually I began to realize our empathy and how our moods are mirrored in one another.

On Storm Peak, 12,085, with Calico peak, and the Wilderness in the far background

After a few weeks of husband and daughter putting up with my whining, I began to lose my fear of spooks, bucks, drop-offs and steep mountainsides. I’m glad I didn’t know all the trails then, or I would have stuck to the flat ones and never grown into the monster that I am now. We go out two or three times a weekend. Our average pleasure ride length is around 12 miles. I prefer to climb through the dense forest and up above it to 12,000 feet, where we look out at the world through our wind-whipped manes. We talk constantly to one another without words on such rides. We’ve shared two seasons of competitive trail and distance rides, learning all the way, and are now conditioning for our first 50.

Zil and the San Juan Mountains are now my sanity. My childhood dreams of romantic, reckless horse adventures are being realized in my 50s, and I can hardly wrap my mind around this blessing that was given to me undeserved.

I’m re-starting this blog today, and I hope to continue to share our journey and adventures here. I will explore horsemanship triumphs and foibles, San Juan mountain and other trails in the Four Corners, and Lord knows what else. I will try to represent my struggles with bipolar depression in a positive way.  And most importantly, I will continue share my love of my big-hearted Arabian mare, Zil.

Eagle Peak Trail


Stormy the beautiful

This is a post about my beloved Stormy.

Stormy in the field

Stormy in the field


Lately I have been in agony. Not over Zil, but my first heart-bonded Arabian, Stormy, who in his late 20’s. He has lost all his appetite and is getting pathetically skinny as well as listless. My veterinarian prescribed furosemide which helped a little . . . he ate more and had more energy but I can’t afford to keep him on this expensive medication. He turns up his Arabian nose at beet pulp. He eats only a little of the soaked alfalfa cubes. He doesn’t even eat his senior feed. He just nibbles at his free choice hay, either in the safe confines of his stall or at the huge bale in the paddock.

In his stall at night when furosemide was started

He looks like a horse I would be horrified to see in a stranger’s field. He looks like a rescue horse that we would work hard to rehab. We have saved skinnier horses.  I take comfort in my attempts to make him comfortable. The frustration and helplessness are maddening, though.

I see the end coming. I can’t let him go on until he is in catabolism. I can’t see him suffer. Right now, though, his tail’s still a-swishin’ and his ears are pricked. He nickers when I come to him. When he’s done nibbling in the morning he wants OUT. He enjoys sleeping in the sun and eating sweet feed. He enjoys attention, being brushed, which is all he can manage. No longeing, and definitely no more riding.

Looking cute in winter paddock

Looking cute in winter paddock

From the above pic you can see how happy he is to be outside, and how interested and alert he is! ❤

I suppose you who have been in this position always wish you had ridden more, spent more time  . . . I hope I’m not alone in those feelings. They are a goad to my depression and alcoholism. I just hope to God I can tell when he tells me it is time. I’m pretty sure I will. I have no idea where to bury him.

Meanwhile, Zil is a fat pig and I have allowed her to become obnoxious under saddle.  I actually paid my daughter $10 to work with her on the trail because my confidence has dropped so low. I rode her mare, Zil’s gentle and trustworthy half-sister, Sunflower. My daughter , by age 16, had become an amazing horsewoman and trainer. Now she is 17! (I chose to pay her to ride Zil because she loves to ride her own horses and has never particularly been a fan of Zil. Until that day. They looked great together and both of them knew it!).

Now I am obsessed with Stormy and afraid, always, that I am not doing enough for him. I could leave him shut in his stall 24-7 so he will eat out of sheer boredom. But I let him out during several hours of the day because I believe his mental health is as important. I have to shut his stall, though, as he doesn’t have his own separate run and I don’t want the other horse getting into his stuff. He is happy to be let back in later in the afternoon.  Sometimes I go out the next morning and his alfalfa and senior feed are gone, which excites me to no end.

What has this to do with “healing horse?”

I don’t know because Stormy isn’t healing. He is the cause of a sense of responsibility that keeps me going though, even when I think I can’t move at all. For that, I am grateful.

Maybe someone out there can help with this. Depressed to begin with, and I am already saying goodbye to someone who is still here, not ready to go yet! My beautiful Stormy, I never felt worthy of you.

Under the apple tree

Under the apple tree

Ughs bugs

My dad is coming from Florida to visit tomorrow. The house is not ready, but the barn is. He’s a city boy, so he won’t be able to tell. Still, the priorities are in order, are they not?

No! I can’t get the house clean, it is a wreck, and at the same time I’ve been going through this med change, which isn’t working. I still cry like a, well, like me; I still have no confidence and can’t drive or answer the phone. Or ride.

Poor little Zil. She is quite rotund from pasture grazing, and in the pasture are the bugs. Oh, they are bad this year, so hard on the horses. Especially on the chests, those parallel lines rising in a pyramid up to their necks, all full of bugs and aggravated by flies, just where the horses can’t get to them.

The first thing I did with her today was let her prance all around hubby as he tried to trim her hooves (bad big sister! No self-confidence gives the horse way too much advantage). She almost walked all over me, too. She wouldn’t stand still as I worked on her dreadlock either. She was fast losing respect for me.

The next thing I did though was to scratch her chest with a shedding blade. She didn’t do the lip thing most horses do when this is done–they’re in ecstasy. She rarely expresses this. Reserved, this one. She stood calmly, accepting the original-formula Swat® rubbed across the area. This ointment coats minor wounds while repelling flies. The stuff is pink and makes Zil look like she is going around with a gaping open wound on her chest.

Then I massaged her face with my fingers, both of us enjoying the intimate contact, the rubbing of her ears, the gentle stroking of her muzzle and scratching of her chin. Then I discovered the most detestable work of the bugs! Have you ever checked under a horse’s jaws in the deep cavity between them? Talk about a place where they can’t reach! Zil’s under-jaw is a deep, narrow, upside-down canyon, and it was full of crust and scabs. Terrible scabs. Oh, how she stretched her head out for my fingernails working under there! It took me about five minutes to scrape all the mess away that I could reach.

Then it was out with the Swat® again. She visibly relaxed as I coated the canyon with the ointment. That was probably one of the most special moments of her summer! It was special for me, too. I may have been feeling awful, but it was so divine to make her feel good.

I hope all horse sisters and brothers check this area while grooming your horses.

If there were an open gate…

Zil wants out

If I could find the open gate
I know it would lead to you, Lord.
I know there is an open gate somewhere
but I cannot find one.

All I find are gates that slam
against my nose
at the moment I think I am free,
that there will be something good
to depend on:

I depend…and am lost. I feel
like little Zil
when Sister has the reins and is confused.
Zil doesn’t know what I want
She cannot find the open door and so
she throws her head up
to get the bit off her bars.

She is frustrated
like I am frustrated
and I don’t know where to turn
to get to wherever I am supposed to go.

I don’t understand why You seem silent,
why I must feel so abandoned
as yet another hope is dashed
in the very face of a need I have desperately prayed for.
Have you closed this gate to open another?

I know why I am silent to Zil of late
(though You have provided her for my help)
and I can only trust
that You who are God are not damaged
as I Your creation am damaged,

that there is a design for good
to these slamming doors and gates
just like my hope for an end to my absence from Zil,
which has no apparent meaning
to me or to her. She wants that halter
(which I have not the strength to fasten)

and I want to be led
through an open gate,
not groomed to weather more disaster,
and I know You have the strength,
if You have the will, to save us.



CO-INCIDENTS                                              (upon Dec. 27, 2011)

“I could crawl between the legs of the wildest horse
Without getting kicked – we knew each other.”

– Edgar Lee Masters, “Willie Metcalf”, Spoon River Anthology

Dignified spirit stilled

Zil holds herself in check at the end of the aisle

the vet unwrapping my hasty pressure dressing

washing clean of stark red

blood the white fetlock

the bone

stitching the rent as if it were silk


my beautiful sister so injured


the Guest right up in my tears, carrying on

“It’s the horse that I’m sorry for, I’m only sorry for the horse”

expecting I-don’t-know-what of me

she is facing Zil, but I must face her

her Staff worker not minding, but staring, slack-jawed

gaping past my anxious glances

making Zil a spectacle for herself


the Guest insistent, drawing

compelling my attention

with words, bulk, force of will (doesn’t know

better, I tell myself, or care—I mustn’t

lose patience with a Guest); I can’t see

Zil; she is behind me alone with the vet

the gawking Staff

ignores my distress, and my gentle suggestion

that they clean a stall, just one


leave us in peace!


It is a horrible crash, a clatter and shriek

of twisted metal, flecked pink and rust

the livestock panel torn loose, mangled and on the ground

and little Zil in the big Appaloosa’s pen with her,

aggression over between them.

Zil, neck low, looks up, legs splayed, ears

like mirrored paisleys pricked, as I run to her

with her crimsoning sock


What have you done!


and Zil so good

with the hose and with me underneath her

field-dressing the leg, pushing closed

the parted curtain of flesh

the six-inch gash down the front and across

the fetlock

the exposed cannon bone, the pain


Zil oh God Zil


with one hand, wrestling

the leg wrap with the other


“Staple it! Just staple it together!” the

neighbor admonishes. The clinic

has just informed me the vet is


“Don’t you have a stapler? You know

when I was up pushing cows my gelding

cut his leg real bad and I

just stapled it together and rode him down the mountain”


Self-adhesive-wrapped, secure

and royal blue. I hunker stunned

confused; should I

haul her? Should I wait? The blessed vet

arrives, defying her own



Thank you, God!


and hard upon, a Declarer

of declarations of sorry-ness for the horse, which

are so much more important than

the brave mare herself


I want to scream!


I hate my attitude

The vet finishes her work and leaves

everyone leaves

us in peace and bandaged and alone

and I weep over patient Zil

fix her a stall to heal in


over weeks of changed bandages

antibiotics, anti-inflammatories

dissolving stitches that won’t

dissolve, husband on his knees, cutting

and pulling them himself with

toenail clippers

swelling, poultices, therapy


My sister will bear the scar forever

without bitterness.

Zil and Mesa Verde

Today's frolic: Spring is coming!

Today’s frolic: Spring is coming!

Scar - 1 year later

Scar – 1 year later

Not too bad now, really

Not too bad now, really

– horsebackwriter, 3/10/13

Saddle up against depression!

Sounds like a slogan for a fund-raiser, don’t it? Hmmm….Let’s wait till I’m manic and I’ll organize one. Of course, when the big day arrives, I’ll be too busy crying to participate. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve had a helluva week.

Okay, Big Sis, git yer dorky helmet and let's go already!

Okay, Big Sis, git yer dorky helmet and let’s go already!

There are many nicer pictures of Zil saddled up and ready to go…in this one she looks like a little Ute pony named Pinky, and tied to the wreckage of our old porch at that. However, I chose it for its authenticity…taken on 2/16/13, while I was in the midst of one of my worst, most relentless depressive stretches – punctuated by mixed manic mishaps – in recent memory (still in it, too). If it was warm enough at all, I’d determined earlier, I was going out with my little sister Zil every day, and I was being pretty good about it.

And, oh my gosh, so was Zil. That beautiful soul has either been meeting me at the gate or coming to me when I call her, every day. If you have read earlier posts, I referred in one to how stand-offish her nature has been, because of the way her mother whisked her away to the opposite end of the property when she was born, not allowing any imprinting to happen. So for her to be being there for me, actively, consciously, during this difficult time has been life-affirming beyond all expression.

I’m fairly sure most of us bipolar or depressed or other persons with MI have heard how essential exercise and sunshine and fresh air, with or without sunshine, are in the management of our conditions. Go out and walk. Go out and jog. Go walk your dog. Get your bike.

Ride your horse! Why, oh why, did I choose that one??

– (It must be pointed out here, of course, that exercise seldom serves alone as a management tool, and that even with all systems in place, not even a healing horse can prevent all breakdowns) –

Anyway, the horse thing. It’s not just the struggle to get out of bed, figuring out what to wear, getting shoes on (or deciding how much available energy there is to squeeze on how many layers of socks), and dragging-ass out the door that we all share in common. There’s also catching the horse…



…tying the horse up…

How can I get this annoying halter off?

How can I get this annoying halter off?

…sorting through the mental fog to locate special, specific, grooming brushes and then freezing fingers off…

Okay, what's the quickest way to get those dredlocks back?

Okay, what’s the quickest way to get those dredlocks back?

…and then she goes to sleep…



…waiting for yours truly to lug the saddle, saddle pad, bridle, etc….!



…but what do we know?


Our rides lately have been from a mile to four miles, depending on the condition of the county road, the fierce-ity of the wind (it’s been brutal but that generally doesn’t stop us), and most especially the effectiveness of our communication through the aids and, of course, telepathy. Our most recent ride she had her most epic spook since she was a three-year-old, at large sheets of black plastic blowing wildly off a decrepit trailer…boy, I was glad I had a saddle horn. No telepathy whatsoever.

So…my week. Despite our best efforts, I did have an episode during the week, which made it even harder to keep going.

So the next day, I pushed through my depression and self-loathing, and went out and saddled my faithful Zil again. Mainly because she was waiting. Zil helped me through the day, and got me back some self-esteem, too. Although nothing is certain, I know that riding is an essential help to keeping these occurrences to a minimum. I am thankful for her and for the strength of our family’s love and empathy for one another, without which I could not exist.

And we kept on riding. It’s called keeping the faith.

Blog for Mental Health 2013

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

I would like to thank Bipolar 2 Dad for pledging me and turning me on to this project!

I don’t even remember when I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1. I believe I’ve had it all my life, but my first diagnosis was clinical depression. I was finally diagnosed bipolar in early my 20s. I’m bad with dates, but I’ll never forget the words spoken, by my boss, on the phone, the night I lost my job as a medical technologist a few years ago:

“You don’t have to come back to work.”

Thank God.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve been on almost every medication in the book. Some combos worked for awhile, then stopped working. I believe I am on such a coctail now. It has only seemed to work. Unfortunately, after decades, even as a Christian, I am still searching for the peace and acceptance that so many fellow bloggers seem to be able to achieve.

A few fellow bloggers that I would like to offer to pledge to the Blog for Mental Health 2013:

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities And Remaining Sane Blog



The Sprightly Writer