PHW asked what Peruvian Horses have taught us... here's my Mom's story.

Several years ago, my mom was in a horrific tractor accident. Not a fancy, new tractor with safety features. Not for Mom. She had a 1948 Ford 8N antique tractor she just loved. She was back-blading her manure pile in the winter. Most of it was frozen. (It was 30 below zero when she was working.) But some of it was warm and soft. She hit a soft section when she was going backwards up the pile. The tractor tipped suddenly and she was thrown from her seat to the ground. The tractor slid down the pile, ran her over and kept going into the woods. A back wheel eventually got caught on a tree. It circled the tree until it ran out of gas.

Mom was alone at the barn that day. She thought to herself, “I am going to die. I am going to freeze to death before anyone finds me.” She tried to move. The pain was excruciating. The tractor had run over her pelvis with the back wheel, crushing it into pieces. There was nothing holding her bottom half together anymore. She laid there and prayed, tears freezing to her cheeks.

It seemed to be forever, but she heard a vehicle coming down the barn driveway. It was her good friend and boarder, Jenna, coming to see her horse. Mom tried to call out, but couldn’t. She couldn’t take a deep enough breathe to shout. Jenna heard the tractor but couldn’t see it. As she peered into the woods towards the sound, she saw Mom’s lifeless body on the ground. She ran to see what happened. Mom could barely speak and passed out. Jenna ran to the barn and called 911.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, Mom was in surgery. They told us she was lucky. Had the tractor ran her over a couple inches higher on her body, it would have crushed her internal organs and she would have died.  Had it run over her a couple inches lower, it would have severed her femoral artery and she would have died. Crushing her pelvis actually saved her life. They managed to piece her back together. They had to use an 8” bolt from one hip to the other. She was in the hospital for several months. For several more months, she had a bar that came out of one hip, bent like a handle and went back into the other hip to keep the bolt stable.

What does any of this have to do with learning from Peruvian Horses? Mom’s Peruvian Horse, Rizo, taught her to live again. Mom’s recovery was a slow, difficult, painful process. She was in a wheel chair for about a year. Eventually, the doctor said she could go out to the barn to see her horse. (She could see them from the house, but it just depressed her more.)

Rizo was exceptional, even for a Peruvian Horse. (I mean, all Peruvian Horses are exceptional, but he was something more.) When Mom was recovering, Rizo came to live with me for a while. He was the kind of horse that stopped horse owners and non-horse owners in their tracks. You couldn’t help yourself. You had to stop and look at him. He was beautiful for any breed, not just Peruvian. He was arrogant, but quiet. The perfect combination of all the best traits.

I brought Rizo back to Mom’s for a visit. She wheeled around him in her chair. It didn’t phase him at all. He was just happy to see her. He put his head down and pressed his face into her chest. He breathed a huge sigh. She held him and cried. Months worth of tears, pain, hopelessness, seemed to stream from her eyes into Rizo’s forelock. Mom had been going to physical therapy, but seeing Rizo did more than all the medical care.

Going to the barn became Mom’s “other therapy”. It was a huge milestone when she started to wrap her hands in Rizo’s mane and pull herself out of the wheelchair. Standing! Mom was standing. And it didn’t happen at the doctor’s office! She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him for dear life. Dear life, HER dear life. Rizo held her there quietly. No sudden moves. He kept his neck up as long as Mom wanted to stand. When she started to get shakey and tired, he lowered his head and neck to help ease her in her chair. He just seemed to know…

Eventually, Mom went from wheel chair, to crutches, to cane. The thought of riding Rizo again was what drove her to get better, stronger. Finally, it was time. We saddled him up and tried to get Mom in the saddle. Not an easy task. Her right leg was hindered by the bolt. It really didn’t rotate in the hip socket anymore. With the help of a very tall mounting block, a group of people and a horse that stood like a statue, Mom was finally sitting securely in her Peruvian saddle. Rizo was so patient! Mom kicked him all up his side, over his rump and down the other side while her “lame” leg dragged across him.

Once she was ready, I walked Rizo forward on a lead line. We walked slowly, which isn’t exactly easy with a Peruvian Horse! I had to make sure his termino didn’t get me! Mom smiled from ear to ear. I hadn’t seen a smile like that since before the accident. She was finally back. Sitting on Rizo, all was right with her world.

While I was walking her, I received an important phone call at the barn. Something I had to deal with ASAP. (Back when phones had cords attached to the wall.) I asked Mom if she wanted to get off or if I should tie Rizo while I answered the phone. She said “No.” She thought maybe she would just keep walking around the arena without being lead. I took the phone call, but kept one ear on the sounds from the arena.

I could hear the footfalls go from a walk to the familiar paca paca. I smiled. Then the paca paca went into a faster Sobreandando. I started to get a bit concerned. I hurried to finish my phone call. I heard the footfalls increase in speed and then silence… then more fast footfalls and a very excited “whoooo hooo!” I hung up the phone and ran to the arena.

“Did you just go over that jump?” I demanded an answer from my Mom.

She sheepishly replied, “Noooo…”

“Liar!” I yelled. “I could hear his feet… AND you saying whoooo hooo!”

She said even more sheepishly, “Well… maybe just a little.”

I told her you can’t jump a horse “just a little”. It’s like being “a little pregnant”!

That was the start of my Mom’s real recovery. She rode more and more. Rizo gave her something joyous to strive for and gave her the strength to take back her life. He taught her to be strong. He taught her not to give up. He taught her it wasn’t the end. He taught her to live again.

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Comment by Michele Ripley on September 2, 2014 at 11:49am

You're welcome. I went through a few tissues writing it. Jenna Dais (the woman who found Mom) was 100% correct. Remembering the accident and recovery was quite the emotional roller coaster. But when you (PHW) asked about what we learned from Peruvian Horses, Mom's story was the first thing that came to mind. Surviving the accident was the "easy" part... learning to live and continue to have a passion for life... that took a Peruvian Horse.

Comment by Laura Mesia on September 1, 2014 at 8:12pm

Wow, Michele! Thank you for sharing your mom's story with all of us, I shared your story on our facebook page, and you have comments there as well from those who read and were deeply touched by your mom's journey of tragegy, love, healing and the Peruvian Horse.

Comment by Michele Ripley on September 1, 2014 at 3:23pm
You saved her life, Jenna. This story would have been horribly different without you. I can never thank YOU enough.
Comment by Jenna Dais on September 1, 2014 at 1:18pm

beautifully said, Michele. Practically sobbed the entire time reading, while re-experiencing the pain & devastation of your mother's accident, but then tears of joy, reading on, and smiling at the same time as I remembered the miracle of her healing through the horses.  Not to mention the miracle of her being alive that day when the chances were so high for worse injuries.  And tears of joy remembering about that particular ride!  & her beloved Rizo. So awesome.  Thank you for sharing so beautifully what the Peruvian Horses have taught us.  And thank you Michele for helping us all learn more about our Peruvian Horses! You are a great ambassador for these amazing horses, who like you, have the biggest hearts!

Comment by Debbie Pye on August 31, 2014 at 7:42pm

OMG!! This is the most poignant story I've read in a very long time. It made me cry & laugh, and appreciate all the years I've had with this amazing breed of horse. Thank you, Michele Ripley, for telling it so well.

Comment by Patricia Memsic on August 27, 2014 at 10:43am

Michele - thank you for sharing your Mom's story.  It brought tears of joy to my eyes.  I am recovering from a total hip replacement.  No big deal, in comparison to your Mom, but huge for first surgery.  I was down for 1 month before the surgery and recovering now for 3 months. My limited time at the barn with Cender is MY THERAPY. That same loving Peruvian way. Before the surgery, I was so concerned about Cender, because I couldn't be there to care for him and watch over him. Summer is a very tough season for my horse, as the bugs destroy him. He needs extra care and my barn manager SUCKS. But along comes a new neighbor, who offered to help. She tends to him almost every day.  I am so thankful....yet she says he is her sanctuary, the light of her day.  Again, the Peruvian way.  We are all so fortunate to be a part of their lives. These amazing little horses are truly a gift.

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