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Why wait eleven years to visit?

Let me just share some really exciting news!!!!! After only 11 days, we, as in you out there, managed to raise over $5,000 for our airline tickets to the USA!!! I have BOOKED our trip and bought the tickets for Makena, Starlette, and me to travel October 8th!


It has been ELEVEN long years of being in Kenya without leaving. We moved to Kenya 13 years ago, and the only time we visited the USA was in 2007 in order to raise money to start our orphan care project... And well, we did that, now didn't we?

We have been and still are mom and dad to 9 adopted girls and 6 biological kiddos... They are growing up. Our dynamic is changing and that brings me to this question...

Have you ever wondered why we haven't left Kenya to visit our families in over 11 years? Many of you may have filled in the blanks as to why, but let me start by saying... we stayed put in Kenya without traveling because having 15 children altogether was impossible to even think about making a family trip... Not only would our Kenyan daughters not be allowed to get visas to go to the USA, it would cost a fortune to travel, and it would be hectic...

At ali'sEven more reason we stayed in Kenya is because nine of our daughters experienced major trauma in their lives. They came to our home, most as preteens, with a lot of pain. Their stories and histories are hard to even repeat let alone live through. Some saw their mothers killed by men. Others watched them fade away due to AIDS related problems. Many were abandoned by their mothers who were still living! The trauma from being abandoned, being orphaned, being passed from person to person, and ultimately 'dumped' on us because no one else would care for them was too real and too deep for us to even consider leaving them even for a few weeks. We WANTED them. We loved them, and we had to prove it to them. We needed them to feel safe and cared for. We wanted our love to heal all of the broken places, and we started the foundation for this by making sure they had consistency in their lives; so it was our decision to not leave the country.

We felt that they might not understand if 'mommy and daddy and the bio kids' decided to go out of the country for a while. The fears of 'what if they don't come back?' or 'what if they abandon us?' were far too real in our adopted daughters' minds to even consider a visit to the USA. It just didn't seem right. So for eleven years, we didn't even think of going anywhere, no matter how home sick or how many holidays we missed... No matter how curious our bio-kids were about their cousins or family, we stayed put. Ultimately, my bio kids stopped remembering life as it was.... New traditions were made, new bio babies were born, new orphans added to our family, a new norm was made, and my kids became 'Kenyans.'

Many times, I felt as if I sacrificed my own family in order to be mom to children who had no caring family of their own. Time with my biological children was divided by the needs of 15. Grandparents, cousins, friends from the States were never a physical part of my children's lives apart from video calls and care packages, and those were only when we had internet and could pay the fees at the post office. It has been a rewarding and yet difficult eleven years...

But now, all but one of our adopted children are over 18 and considered grown up. Edith is 15, and she has been most grafted into our family. As the three of us make this trip this October, she will stay home with Eowyn, Emma, and Butterfly, and her dad Johnny. She will be fine if I am away, but will I? I will miss them all so terribly!

Mom and daughterThis trip is needed now because, like our last trip 11 years ago, we are starting something new. We are changing and growing, expanding into a therapy center for disabled children, children with learning struggles, and children with emotional issues. I look forward to hugging my family, meeting my niece and showing Makena England and the USA... I also look forward to sharing in person the reasons for our more recent focus.

We need to fund raise, and I hope to be unconventional about it. I think we should make this as FUN as possible because, I don't like asking you for money. If you have ideas, please share them with me. My goals are high as we need to do a lot to make our program more accessible to the children in need. So if you want to host a dinner party or luncheon, let me know! I will provide some items for raffling as well as information cards. I can speak, or not... Whatever works!

We will be in SE Texas from October 13-23rd, then hopefully off to California after that... and then the details I am still sorting out!

We have met our fundraising goal to get to Texas!! If you would like to help us travel across the USA, feel free to continue donating to our Gofundme page! Thank you!


Before and After

I thought it would be fun to share a few before and after photos. More accurately these are photos from four or so years ago and photos from today. I had a had time getting the right spot on a few of them due to the tree and bush growth, but hopefully it will work out. Here they are:

Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

 


We are Growing

Several months ago, a friend who runs a riding school about 6 hours from here, came to visit us. In fact, it was on Easter weekend, which was also my birthday weekend. I remember it because it was quite eventful for many reasons not to be mentioned here. Ha!

Anyway, while visiting, she noted that we needed a second bigger horse. We have more therapy riders in need waiting for us to get more horses at the moment. Some of our disabled riders are too heavy for our little ponies, and we only have one large horse. I also have daughters who are teens now. They are outgrowing the ponies. Don't worry, our littlest ones are growing into the ponies just fine and riding them daily. Ponies are like bicycles! Gotta find one that fits! 

So my friend decided to help us hunt for a good small horse/big size pony. 

20180725_154741The week before last, I was in Nanyuki where my friend runs her riding school, and she offered us a beautiful buckskin gelding who is a rescue. I only needed to transport him to our little homestead! 

Once again, I was faced with the hassle of transport. Not only was finding a truck nearly impossible, it was only going part of the way, and it was expensive. I paid to get him to Nairobi, and an acquaintance offered to bring him to The Shire because she was bringing her polo horses back home and passing by the bottom of our hill. Due to high demand, however, she called last minute explaining that she had TOO many horses on her truck and may not be able to bring him. I was nearly in tears when he was almost stranded in Nairobi with me hustling to find someone to look after him, plus someone to bring him to our home! Ultimately we got him home on Monday. We decided to call him Artemis Sparks. Artemis (αρτεμης ) meaning 'safe' in Greek, and Sparks because the previous carer thinks it important to keep that in his name. We call him Mr. Sparks, Artie, Artemis, and Sparky. He actually perked his ears up when I called him Artemis today. It was pretty cool.

He hasn't done much of anything. I think he is 7 or 8 years old. He has been ridden so isn't completely green. I started 20180803_151022his training on Tuesday morning. He is a sweet fella, big-hearted, and kind. I am teaching him some manners because he likes to get in your space. He is learning a lot of things quickly, and that makes me so glad. I introduced him to a jump, and he just loved flying over it. It has been raining so not much riding has happened...

So this weekend's Horsepower session, we decided Artemis needed to be conditioned to what therapy is all about. While doing our session with two riders, I had Eowyn sit on Artie pretending she was a 'busy' kid doing therapy.

She stood on her knees.

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She waved her arms about.

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She laid on his hindquarters.

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She did games, danced, and threw bean bags.

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He was brilliant through it all. He didn't even flinch.

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We will continue to desensitize him and get him used to the sounds and colors of the games to make sure he is a safe pony for the children. Then, and it appears it will be soon, we will use him to bring much needed physical therapy, education, and emotional therapy to children with disabilities and their parents.

 


Why are you away?

In case you want to know where I am on the planet, and why!
I hope you are staying warm!! Where we are (on the Equator, literally!), it is dropping down to 8 Celsius at night!
 
Saturday, Makena, Butterfly, Emma Caite, Eowyn, Starlette and I left at 5 am to travel 6 hours to the bottom of Mount Kenya. Traveling on Kenyan roads in the dark and fog is terrifying, but the ride was mostly pleasant. (We hired a friend to drive us in our old van that we donated to Sonshine School years ago).
 
20180721_134011We are here in Nanyuki for two reasons. Firstly, a friend wants to donate two of her horses to A Future and a Hope. We came to look at them and see if they might make good therapists! (More on that tomorrow)
Secondly, Butterfly, Emma Caite, and Eowyn are going to summer camp!!!
 
If you know us and our life in Kenya, the idea of going to a summer camp is a HUGE deal.
 
We have lived in Kenya for 13 years. My kids have literally grown up here (and for most of my kids, they know nothing else). Butterfly was ONE year old when she moved here with her six year old brother Andrew and four year old sister Makena. Over time, Emma Caite, Eowyn, and Starlette were born here.
Not only do they do school at home isolated in a small village, they don't have access to ballet classes, baseball, or any other 'normal American kid' activities. We don't have neighbors who can handle playing with them. It can be frustrating to be a minority who looks different. My children have Kenyan sisters, speak Swahili, and don't see color differences, plus they have lived here all their lives which means my kids are as Kenyan as their fellow neighbors, but the local village kids don't see it that way.
 
Urban children and children who are a bit more exposed to different people groups, on the otherhand, have no issues with playing with my kids, but we live in a fairly remote village. It is more difficult to find those kinds of kids around withwhom mine can connect on an intellectual level. They yearn for the type of kids who have owned toys in their lives and understand how to care for them, kids who owned pets, too, and understand their importance to our culture and families, kids who don't just stare at you because you are different, but can accept you as an equal... Kids with parents who don't think that when bad things happen it is because of witchcraft. Kids who don't want to pinch or touch to see how your skin and hair feel... Those issues make bonding and conversation difficult.
 
When we found out that there is a 'camp' that goes on in this area of Kenya with children who ride horses, we decided to send Emma Caite last year. Emma needs friends. She really needs them. She is motivated by people and is a group learner.
 
Last year, we managed to borrow a pony and send Emma to this camp for the first time in her life. She LOVED it. She had never been far from home ever, and she says she didn't even miss us. She, despite being raised in a barn, blended right in. The camp was such an AMAZING experience for her. She finally made some friends. No matter what their cultural differences are, the one thing they have in common is ponies, and that makes them equal.
 
20180723_083543This year, I wanted to send three of my kids to camp. And we pulled it off! Barely. Camp is $200 per child for a five day camp, but getting horses to camp in our case was impossible. We weren't the only ones struggling to find means to get ponies to the camp since horse trucks are so rare. In fact, we ended up just renting some ponies near the campsite, which is not ideal because my kids don't know them. Part of the point of camp is for the horses to learn, too, and to connect with their riders! So the ideal situation would have been to bring our therapy ponies up to the camp. Regardless of our struggles to pull off getting our kids to camp, we did it! They are there, and I am happy that a year's worth of planning worked.
 
It will be interesting to see how they feel after camp. It is five days long, and that is the longest they have been away from me. Five days on a very cold hillside near Mount Kenya riding horses and camping out.
 
I'm actually borrowing a car and staying an hour away in an acquaintance's house because I didn't want to travel on Kenyan roads six hours back to home just to have to turn around and come back on Friday for the awards ceremony, camp out, and leave Saturday. Makena and Starlette are with me so I wouldn't be bored out of my mind! Plus Starry is still nursing.
 
Being that my children don't go away to school, I feel as if they need to have something beyond their book learning at home. Seriously, can you imagine living in a mud barn, going to school in your kitchen, and never making friends? As a mother, I feel deeply about this... I must find ways to get my kids to meet OTHER kids! So ponies is the key. (It appears to be a theme these days, huh?) 
 
So I will admit, as we received donations last year, I set aside tiny bits here and there to save up so the kids could attend camp this year. I also studded out Bu, our Great Dane, and occassionaly sold little things, too. It wasn't easy to save, but the reality is, it is going to the best cause ever-- my kids. And they are worth it. 
 
So here I am waiting for my kids to complete their Winter camp (aka summer camp) (it is 8 C degrees!) in Kenya. There are over forty children with ponies spending a week bonding, riding, and having fun up on the chilly hills of Mount Kenya. 

Crash! A realistic update of our week.

If you read Butterfly's article Clumsy, you already have a slight idea how part of our week went... Let me tell it from my angle...

    The kids and I were in the house when suddenly we heard a loud crash outside. Butterfly screamed, "Popaway!!!" Our 1,199 lb horse came tumbling out of a stall with the front wall breaking away in front of her! Our half tonne horse who crashed out of her stable has some wounds from her fall. I am doctoring her, and am grateful I know how to inject her since getting her to a vet is impossible; and THREE vets I called were not available. Having a dad who is a dentist and very scientific, as well as 15 children, I am somewhat knowledgeable in what to do in these situations. She will hopefully recover because not only is she a pet to our family, but our therapy riders, specifically Eddie, would be extremely upset if 'his horse' were not here. I am not sure how he'll manage knowing she's not rideable at the moment.

As with life in general, we have so many wonderful things happening that we can discuss, but this particular week, I hope you don't mind me keeping things real and sharing some of the unexpected things that have come up.

  • We are still working on our paperwork, and it is frustrating dealing with it.
  • Our car had TWO flats at once this week, stranding us just 200 metres from our home
  • Our car also had brake issues which took THREE expensive repairs
  • Our car has some clutch issues, too and needs new tires. One tire is repaired, but the other issues are in the works. We only own ONE car. Johnny did manage to take a tire to town on the small motorcycle to be repaired. It was dangerous, but he managed!
  • Our large thoroughbred, as read above, crashed through the stable and fell. She is on antibiotics and recovering from internal bruising and a few screws poking through her body during the fall.
  • Edith and Eowyn were both ill this week. Starry isn't feeling her best either.
  • Our posts in our fences and our stables are termite eaten and weak causing our fences to fall down after being put up about 4.5 years ago. 
  • Our stables need repairs after the crash.
  • And some GOOD NEWS! Someone wants to give us one, maybe two horses for our therapy program! This will increase our impact and allow more riders to come consistently!
  • We need to build two more stables as soon as possible to accommodate these additions ($650). VERY exciting.*
  • We also need to transport one of them to our farm on the 29th which is costly (not sure how much this will comem to yet).**

*If you peruse our photos, you will find that most sessions are filled with DIFFERENT children because we have far too many riders for our 4 horses! We need the children to come consistently in order to get the maximum benefit from our program, but at the moment, the riders must rotate who comes due to us only being able to accommodate 8 at a time.  This is a good problem, I think, because it means the people are seeing the importance and need of what we do. With two more horses, we can then accommodate 12 riders per session. 

**The horse(s) being offered will be loaned to us for free, but transporting them to our farm will cost quite a lot

($2.20/mile). The reason for this expense being so high is lack of horse trucks in Kenya. I have mentioned in the past that a horse truck/trailer would be a potential sustainability project renting it out to people. We could also bring horses to the vet in an emergency like our current situation with our thoroughbred. We could also take them to needy children in town and do some sessions there, as well as carry hay, supplies, etc. to the farm. So we are in the planning stages of how to meet this need in the not too distant future. 

 

 

 


How will they get there?

Today I received a phone call from the school that brings disabled riders to our Horsepower program. The conversation started with incomprehensibly fast talking, great enthusiasm and praise as to how much they appreciate our program, and how they are seeing great changes in the children who attend. Their excitement was overwhelming, appreciated, and yet, I began to wonder if they were wanting something... They proceeded to explain that they are closing school for the month of August, our winter holiday month, and even though they are not scheduled to have therapy sessions at A Future and a Hope during the school holiday, they were wondering if I could bring the horses to the school, an hour's drive away, so the children could have a week of therapy at the school as part of a winter camp type thing. Although this idea is not a bad one and hopefully will be a goal for the future, it was not thought through very well so I began to ask some questions:
 
ME:  How will I get my horses to your school?
THEM: ______.
(I assume they think we will walk them there and back the 62 km to the school (38 miles!))
 
ME:  If I manage to get them to the school, where will they sleep or stay when not in use?
THEM:  Ummm.... in the compound. (hearing my sigh that this was not adequate, they began fumbling for answers) We can set up a tent for them!
(I am thinking about the hazards of ropes getting wrapped around legs, tent pegs in hooves, this definitely not a good idea.)
 
ME:  Who will look after the horses during the night?
THEM:  _____.
 
ME:  What about feed?
THEM: More silence.
At this point, I am beginning to fill in the silence with guesses as to what they are thinking. "They don't eat grass alone?"
 
ME:  Do you have a budget for transporting the horses to your school? It'll cost about $264.00 (26,400 KES)*
THEM:  We hoped you'd volunteer!
 
At this point, the lack of knowledge from these teachers was getting frustrating. It was to be expected. They haven't interacted with horses a day in their life, let alone other pets or animals. Why would I expect them to think this through or to understand that horses require attention, money, and so much effort?
 
In my heart my thoughts were pumping with each pulse: I was thinking, "You realize I volunteer every week? I'm not paid by any one. I don't have the means to bring horses to town every day for a week, nor the logistics!" 
But instead of responding, it was my turn for silence. After a pause...
 
ME:  I'll call you back after I talk with my husband. 
 
DuncanJohnny and I met for lunch, and I told him what the school requested. We discussed it at length- he saying it is impossible to do, and me retorting that IS possible, we just need to figure out a way to do it in the FUTURE... because the reality is, we cannot afford $260 a day for transporting the horses, nor money for hiring someone to look after them, plus feeding them there, plus them not having a stable or anything... it just isn't feasible nor safe without better planning. If we owned a horse trailer, it might be more feasible in the future so it isn't something to just forget about. 
 
I called the school back and explained that the reality is this would be a fabulous idea for the future, putting on a 'therapy camp' for these kids, but unfortunately, we cannot do it at this time...
 
This is actually the SECOND time this conversation has happened. Another group wants me to bring horses to their project to help with disabled children. Again, they do not understand that I can't just fly the horses to their project which is literally 34 km away (21 miles).
 
20180503_100653The exciting thing is that Horsepower is in demand. More people are seeing the importance of how horses can help children with all sorts of needs as well as bond them with their parents or guardians, and this means they will continue to take the efforts to get them the physical and emotional therapy they need.
 
One of the issues we have in this beautiful country Kenya is that parents of a child with disabilities do not understand that the child needs physical therapy. To them, a doctor's checkup once a year or so is enough.  They lack understanding that therapy is an on going process that builds upon itself bringing the child to a higher level with each session.
 
This desire to see more equine therapy in the schools is promising. It means that they are learning and understanding the needs of the children.
 
Now if we can just get them to understand that even though I am not charging a fee, I can't just hire trucks or walk for hours on end to bring my horses wherever whenever they like. Horses need to be looked after properly just like children do!

Guest Writer Butterfly, age 15, writes her first blog article: Clumsy

This week has been difficult on so many levels. I asked my daughter Butterfly to type her 'lessons learned' from her accident prone horse, and this is what she came up with. I think you will enjoy the read even if horses aren't your thing:

 

Dedicated to my Opa, because Popaway is his as much as she is mine. Love you, Opa! I also love Popaway. I just don't love her clumsiness.

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Popaway was aptly named. One thousand pounds of muscle, a slick chestnut mare, she won three of her races before retiring to play polo.

I fell in love at first sight. Who wouldn't? When I met her she had just come from a ride, and she was sweating, breathing hard. She let me stroke her face. I thought to myself- she's the one. I might have been a little quick to the decision, and remembering past mistakes, I cautioned myself. Don't jump in before you spend more time with her! I thought to myself.

Emma rode her first, just down a dusty road and back. Then Popaway was brought to a large round pen for Mom and I to give her a go.

Dad, after hearing the price, said to Mom, "Do you really want to pay that much for a horse? What if she breaks a leg? Then all that money goes down the drain."

Popaway and kateBut I wasn't the only one in love. Mom had seen the beauty of Popaway, had looked into her gentle eyes, and thought as I did that we had to have her. Dad's warning was dismissed with ease.

We bought Popaway.

Allow me to introduce our friend Mrs. Mungatana, a neighbor of ours. Just before we bought the Shire, then known as 'The Land,' Mrs. Mungatana purchased a plot of her own just down the road. She had built a few greenhouses and was beginning to produce her own vegetables. She even had a pony of her own, and I had worked for her in the past, teaching her daughters how to ride and her employees how to handle horses.

On occasion, when the notion struck her busy mind, Mrs. Mungatana would pass by our farm with a great big sack of vegetables from her greenhouses. Over time, we had become quite familiar with each other. It was to the point that she would just open our gate, let herself in, and drop off her vegetables as a gift.

We had lodged Popaway for a week now. She behaved differently on our farm than she had at her previous home, more eccentric, alien to our inexperienced hands. She needed more than we knew how to give.

The move from one home to another is always difficult on horses, and Popaway took it especially hard. She wanted her old friends back. We only housed one other horse at the time, an old thoroughbred by the name of Roheryn, and although Popaway bonded to him with ease, she still wanted to return to her home.

Here's a fun fact about Kenyan culture- usually, you don't call ahead to let people know you're dropping in, especially if you don't plan to stay long. When Mrs. Mungatana decided it was about time to come along and deliver the most recent batch of tomatoes, she just drove up and opened the gate to let herself in.

The open gate was the opportunity of a lifetime to Popaway's homesick eyes. She bolted out onto the dirt road and paused for a fleeting moment, waiting for Roheryn to catch up and realize that they were making an escape, and then took off.

The next few hours were spent in a manic attempt to catch her and bring her back to the Shire. If not for Roheryn's old age and subsequent arthritis, I doubt Popaway would have ever stopped. She might have run twice around the world before she decided to take a breather.

Mrs. Mungatana was all apologies, and Mom wasn't too upset. Popaway was back on the Shire. She seemed fine, and so all was forgiven. We graciously accepted the tomatoes.

The next day, Popaway was limping, and there was swelling in her back leg, presumably from knocking it on something during her wild dash for freedom. Mom was seeing red. She called Mrs. Mungatana and spent a good thirty minutes 'explaining' to her that opening gates and leaving them open where livestock abide is not a good idea.

Needless to say, while we remain friends and neighbors, Mrs. Mungatana doesn't come over anymore.

I wasn't too upset about it at the time. It was just a small knock; it would heal, and I would have my time in the saddle again.

It did heal. It healed over a period of six months, slowly, frustratingly, every day spent trying to figure out how to handle an idle, injured, hot horse. We learned a lot about Popaway in those six months. When we first bought her, the words 'racehorse' and 'polo pony' didn't mean much to us. We had seen racehorses and polo ponies, and Popaway's gentle eyes and pleasant disposition set her aside from the wild, frantic horses that we knew. We thought we understood her.

Popaway showed a different side when she was kept to a stall and round pen. She raged that we dare keep her confined! She was fresh off the polo field, fit, hot, ready for action! In her previous home she worked intensely two hours a day with ease. Now, due to the first injury she'd experienced in her life, she couldn't do a thing.

When kept in a stall, she kicked. When we put her out in the round pen, she raised her voice to let us know how displeased she was. I learned to dodge her teeth when I brushed her. If you walked too close by her stall, she would bite at your shoulder to let you know just how annoyed she felt.

I didn't love her any less for these things. They seemed but small faults to me, hidden within her dazzling beauty. When she started to heal, both Mom and I worked cautiously to build up her strength. We rode her for short periods of time at first, until she was back to the old routine.

We were glad to be back at it. We even got two new ponies, Abby and Jazzy, and hired a stable hand to help with the extra workload. His name was Solomon.

Solomon accepted the responsibilities that Mom and I found the most tedious. Since the grass in the paddocks had been worn down by the sun and the constant trampling of horses, we had to hand graze the horses in the garden, where the grass grew tall and lush. This job was despised by all who did it. It was hot and boring. It was also mostly what we had hired Solomon to do.

Unfortunately, it seemed that even though it was his only job, Solomon would somehow manage to mess it up. He tied Popaway's lead rope to a tree, with most of it lying slack on the ground, and left to go get some water and food, even though Mom had explicitly told him not to do exactly that. She said, "put the horse in before you go get lunch. Huwezi kumfunga farasi kama ng'ombe!"  You can't tie a horse up like a cow. (In case you didn't know, cows are typically tied by the leg to a tree during grazing in Kenya.)

Popaway managed to entangle herself in the rope, and began to panic when it constricted her movements. With no one around, it was a while before the situation was noticed, and she was freed. The rope had cut into her back leg from her struggles, a deep gash just above her hoof.

Mom was beyond angry with Solomon. She spent a good thirty minutes yelling at him. And then, she fired him. To this day, simply mentioning the man's name will inspire a rant.

Alas, our spirits were crushed. This wound was different from the last. We didn't know what to do, so Mom called a few of her friends and asked for advice. We learned how to clean and bandage wounds, and Popaway seen as 'mine' after the last incident, those responsibilities were passed on to me.

Once again, Popaway's movement was limited. Once again, she hated me for it.

This time, I hated her back. I silently fumed, a fire I didn't know I could have was lit in my gut, an anger that rested constantly on my chest. I don't get angry like my mother get's angry. I don't explode, or yell, or cry. I don't know what to do when I'm angry, so I let it sit in my heart and eat away at my insides. I didn't even know who I was angry at, or why I was, just that the anger was there and bubbling.

P1360108The love I felt for Popaway in the earlier days was not gone, just changed, twisted into something that I didn't (don't) understand. That change brought me closer to Popaway in a way that I might never have gotten if she hadn't been injured. We both held each other in contempt- and with that understanding came something like respect.

I stopped letting Popaway push me around. When she bit as I passed her stall, I would grab her by the face and push her back, away from the door. The method might have been unconventional, but she came to stop biting people, even though that wasn't my original intention when I started the habit of backing her up. Eventually, I could hold her head in my hands without fear.

Popaway stopped trying to push my limits, and I started to spend more time providing her comfort. I hand-grazed her (and never left her alone, not even for a moment) because she wasn't allowed to roam the paddocks free. I went out by her stall and read books aloud, feeling guilty that she was standing bored and alone in a box.

Eventually, Popaway healed. She is calmer, the long period of inactivity teaching her something almost like patience. I started to ride her again.

Riding took a different kind of understanding from the one we had developed. But we were working on it. We were growing and learning- together!

Then... somehow, unfathomably, Popaway injured herself again.

And again.

And again.

It took a long time for my spirit to recover from those blows. I learned how to keep Popaway from hurting herself through trial and error. We didn't let her out in the rain or mud, and when we let her out, we put brush boots on her front legs to keep her from knocking them. I found the hidden nooks of her personality (don't give her carrots- she'll bite your fingers off for more). I rode her off and on, depending on her soundness.

It wasn't until a few months ago that Popaway became sound, and stayed sound. I started to rebuild the old love I had for her, the love that was dazzled by her beauty. We even went to our first event together! We attended a riding clinic, and just after, a part of a show known as le trec, which consisted of a trail ride and a display of obedience. We won a third place ribbon! I couldn't have been happier.

Popaway and I could go anywhere, do anything.

More recently I was sitting in the lounge, reading a book and enjoying life. The lounge has the only glass windows in our house, which look out at the stables and the garden, and I often use the lounge to relax after a long day.

20180707_160105 20180707_160105And boy, it had been a long day! Mom, Dad and I had gone into town to pick Edith up from school. She was sick and had to stay at home for a few days to recover. On the way home, just before our gate, a tire went flat. Dad and I worked to change it and make it home before it was time to feed the horses their five o'clock meal.

Looking back, I should have expected it. The day had been full of misfortune. Still, sitting in the lounge, reading my book, I thought the day was over.

A small commotion outside drew my attention. It was the usual sounds of the horses messing around, but I had become paranoid after the many injuries, so I looked out the windows, prepared to settle back down again without incident.

20180707_170007As I watched, the front of Moonshadow's stall seemed to just collapse with a great crash. A flash of coppery chestnut in the destruction had me on my feet before I could even think, my mind flashing with alarm bells. Popaway!

I didn't even realize I'd said her name out loud. I just darted outside, fear and adrenaline welling in my throat. Colic was my first thought. Popaway was lying in the midst of the rubble, struggling to get to her feet, and for a brief moment I thought she wouldn't be able to.

Abby leapt out of the stall, eyes wide in surprise, nostrils flaring, and Popaway finally surged upright. I was still only half-way there. My relief at her ability to walk away was immense. She darted into her stall, her safe place, and stayed there, breathing hard as she waited for me to approach.

Mom was coming out of the house asking what happened. I'm not sure if I answered her. My heart was pounding, my hands shaking, my feet planted squarely on the ground.

I was livid.

I shut Popaway's stall and went to get my boots. I needed to check her for injury. There was no doubt in my mind that she had hurt herself.

I knew then what had happened, the pieces falling together in my mind like a puzzle. Abby and Popaway had both been in the stall, and, as horses are liable to do, they squabbled. Popaway tripped and fell against the wall, huge and clumsy as she is.

When I went back outside the rest of my family was clustered about, staring at the destruction. I looked at the post that had snapped before moving on to Popaway's stall. Termites had hollowed out the wood.


20180711_082907I was right- Popaway had a number of puncture wounds from the nails that had been holding the wall together. I breathed carefully to contain my sudden wash of emotions and got her halter, ready to take her out and get to work cleaning her wounds.

The fright of the situation and the sudden pain had made Popaway more mellow than usual. She put her head in my arms and snorted quietly. "Moron," I told her, because there was no one else to be angry with. "Moron, moron, moron."

Mom spoke to me about what I was to do. I already knew the drill. I went to get the antiseptic and cotton swabs and antibacterial cream.

I've never been one to cry, so I didn't.

 

~Written by Butterfly Brooks


Who really cares?

I remember the first time I heard about Facebook...

Over nine years ago, Johnny came home, when we still lived in Nakuru town, and said to me, "Kate, I heard about this social media platform called Facebook. It sounds pretty cool. I signed up and made my first post. I posted, 'I am drinking tea at Guava."

I can remember staring at him thinking, "Who on EARTH cares? Seriously, why would any one care that you are drinking a tea in the Guava restaurant? That's just silly." Facebook seemed like a terribly ridiculous idea to me...

Waiting with star in javaWell, I think if you know me on Facebook now, you know that I share a LOT about our Kenyan life on Facebook. In fact, I am practically a reality show on there. I guess, living in Kenya where life can seem backwards to my childhood culture, and living up on a hill in the middle of nowhere with few interactions with people who are not my children, I find Facebook to be a window into my past, tying me to my present, and carrying me through your support and encouragement to my future. So I grew to love Facebook, and if you haven't started following us there, you might want to. Because maybe, just maybe, you DO care. You will definitely get a better glimpse into our day to day life.

Here is my personal page: www.facebook.com/kate34

and our A Future and a Hope page: www.facebook.com/afutureandahope