Blind Friends

“What are you doing tomorrow? Are you going out to the horses?” Lorena always cranks up the sugar syrup in her voice when she asks me this. Walking three horses, one dog and one blind person through two miles of Los Altos Hills pathways has it’s challenges. (Today I managed to crash land Lorena in a rosemary bush.) I’m not always up for it, but Lorena loves horses and she’s terrific company.
(For the record, the way you get three horses, one dog and one blind person across Los Altos Hills is by holding the leads of two horses and the dog, person without sight holds Stoney’s tail with one hand and leads the pony with the other. I’m surprised no one has taken a picture of it. It’s quite the procession.)
Lorena always asks if she can ride; sometimes she’s downright pushy about it. I’m usually busy teaching and can’t accommodate that request, which leaves her a little at loose ends during the lessons. Fortunately today, Caity (who is seventeen) showed up with her horse Beau and Lorena enjoyed “watching” her work with Beau. She does this by standing fairly close by and listening intently to every foot fall.
She didn’t watch for long today, though. She stopped, stood still and started looking a little green. Lorena and I have been friends for years and I know what this means. It means she’s heading to the hospital because her gastroporesis is acting up. Basically, her digestive tract shuts down and she is in acute pain. It happens about every three or four months and today was her “lucky” day.
Lorena’s downturn in health gave pause to both Shana, the girl who was riding, and myself. Shana is smart and has exacting standards for her school work. This usually means that the first half of Shana’s Monday lesson is spent helping Shana unwind. It also means that Shana, like most smart, focused kids, is having her intellect over taxed and is under constant pressure to develop her brain. It then becomes quite extraordinary when the rare occasion arises, as it did this afternoon, that her mind drops away and her heart opens.
Shana, who is just ten, knows how Lorena feels. She was hospitalized for the same condition (with different causation) and was stunned to hear that Lorena had endured it more than twenty times. She opened her heart right up to Lorena.
Although she would be admitted later that evening, Lorena wanted to walk the horses back to the barn with us because doing as much walking as possible, while she still can, shortens her hospital stay. By this time, Shana had left and Sammy had arrived. Sammy is seven, shy and, more often than not, feels like she can’t do anything. Sammy loves the horses and loves being out at the barn. But if a child crumples whenever you talk to them, there just isn’t much recourse when it comes to helping them learn how to ride.
Wonder of wonders, Sammy was a different kid with Lorena around. She talked and she did what I asked when I asked it and when Evie fell off she got off her horse and comforted her. This was not just Sammy having a good day. It’s what I call the “Lorena Effect”. I wouldn’t wish blindness on anybody, but darn it if it doesn’t bring out the best in the kids.
At one point during Shana’s lesson, Lorena needed to get from the mounting block (in the middle of the arena) to the side of the arena. I asked Shana to act as “guide pony”. She happily obliged by riding Cowgirl, holding Lorena’s hand and escorting her to the side of the arena. Lorena’s hand was at about the same height as if she had placed it on someone’s shoulder. (I got the impression that Cowgirl liked the job.)
At the end of the day, back at the barn, shy, non-communicative Sammy, spent twenty minutes sitting on the cement, eating her grilled cheese sandwich and chatted, all bubbly and happy, with Lorena while I finished the evening barn chores. (Lorena is 24 years-old.)
I’d have to day it was definitely worth it to bring Lorena along today.

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