The “Horse” in Science Horse Productions
What do horses have to do with diabetes? In our family, nothing. And everything.
Our daughter, Hannah, became the quintessential horse-crazy girl when she turned four. (Before that, she started a tiresome campaign to get a cat and when I told her we couldn’t, she shifted to all things horses. If I had only known….) It wasn’t until this horsey thing that I realized that she inherited the one-track mind from Joe: latch onto an idea, talk about it to anyone who will listen, ALL THE TIME, until they give in.
Of course, after 3 months, we gave in. I contacted a local barn, spoke with a trainer, and that Christmas we gave Hannah a package of horseback riding lessons. The trainer Judy, a tiny woman with a large personality, thought we should start out slow. After all, Hannah was only four. Now, keep in mind, that I knew absolutely nothing about horses or riding. We showed up with Hannah wearing jeans and her cute little cowboy boots that she wore everywhere. I’m pretty sure Judy, who teaches English riding as well as dressage, rolled her eyes at me.
After getting a step stool – she seemed so tiny! – Hannah learned to groom a sweet paint horse and soon she was tacked up and out to the arena. Hannah got it right away. In 30 minutes, she soaked up the basics of walking, trotting and posting. “Did you see that? She already understands posting!” Judy seemed pleased. As for myself, I had some pertinent questions like, “Do they always just go in a circle?” “Am I supposed to learn how to tack up the horse?” “How am I going to keep my two-year occupied while we’re here?” All in all, the lesson was a success and I knew we were in trouble when I asked Hannah, “Well, what did you think?” She replied, “It was too SLOW and too SHORT.” Oh boy.
Fast forward four years to the diabetes part of the story. We all have our heart-wrenching tale of how our child was diagnosed, don’t we? I’m sure we all have a lot in common here. Hannah was starting to look so skinny (“She’s just going through a growth spurt!”), drinking 32 oz. of water at school in the mornings (“She’s been listening to me talk about being healthy!”), going to the bathroom a lot (“Well, she IS drinking a lot of water….”). Knowing as much about diabetes as I did horses – nothing – I had no idea of what was to come.
It wasn’t until we went to her weekly riding lesson that I started to think something was wrong. This kid had been diligently riding for four years now, learning to canter, jump and compete in horse shows. In first grade, she learned to put the bridle and bit on the horse, something you need a bit of confidence to do, something I still can’t do to this day. When I asked her how she figured it out, she said, “I just looked at the pictures in my horse books and did it.” But now, seeing her looking way too frail on her horse, worried that if she fell off that she might just snap in two, I really started to worry.
And here’s where I’m sure our stories converge: the trip to the pediatrician, the diagnosis, the hospital stay with blood sugar numbers too high to register, the diabetes educator, the endless amount of paperwork, the shots, the log book, the sleepless nights. And through it all, the resolve that Hannah’s life will be normal. Diabetes may be relentless, but our message is louder. You can do anything. You can ride horses if you want, even if I have to camp out with Smarties and a meter.
Today, Hannah is almost 14, owns and cares for three horses, rides whenever she wants to, and diabetes will never, ever change that.