When I was released from the hospital after my mastectomy, I came home with lots of instructions on exercises that I needed to do. These exercises were designed to help me get mobility back in my arm, and to keep scar tissue from forming where the muscle had been removed.
While I understood the reason for the exercises and wanted to do them, the method and the location suggested seemed just a bit silly. The instructions were to walk my fingers up the wall of the shower, reaching higher each time. This made sense to me, but it wasn’t very motivating to try to reach the next highest tile.
I decided that it would be a whole lot more fun to go to the barn and groom my horses. There I would get the circular motion that was needed; I could reach to brush their forelocks and cleaning hooves would help with the weight that I gradually needed to lift.
With combs and brushes in hand, I made my way to the barn. As I heard the nickers and whinnies of the horses, I was unexpectedly overwhelmed. The smells of my horses, Sweetie, Pepper and Buckwheat, mixed with the typical smells of hay and manure assaulted my senses. I realized just how much I had missed this whole experience. I cried for my losses but I also cried tears of gratitude that I was able to come back to the barn, smell these sweet smells, bury my face in Pepper’s velvety muzzle as he searched my hand for a treat and lay my head against Buckwheat’s broad hips when I was tired.
Gradually, I was able to reach just a bit higher to clean the tip of an ear, brush an entire horse without tiring and clean all four feet at one time. I got 100% of my range of motion back, and though I am not as strong as I was, in many ways I am so much stronger. The love for my horses gave me another reason to get up and get moving. It was a bit unconventional, but it was the motivation that I needed. My horses didn’t notice (or if they did, they didn’t let on) that my body was altered, nor did they stare at me when I was bald. They quietly accepted me as I was, and that gave me confidence as well as inner strength.
It has been said that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a woman’s soul; I have found that to be so true. Surgery, chemo and radiation have healed my body many times, but horses have always healed my soul.