Just 4mos post op from brain surgery: Our first driving show! (Pics, of course!)

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Active Member
May 27, 2004
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Southern California
Four months ago, I was 3000 miles from home, about to entrust my skull and its precious cerebellar contents with a world-renowned brain surgeon. My condition (Chiari Malformation type 1, in which the back of the brain herniates down out of the skull and into the spinal column) was causing compression of the brain stem and a 100% blockage of the flow of cerebral spinal fluid. The headaches were crushingly awful, and increasing in severity and frequency. As the brainstem controls all and CSF feeds the brain, I had symptoms all over the neurological map beyond the horrific pressure headaches: constant hand tremors (always worse in the left hand), balance issues, muscle spasticity with minimal exertion, right leg numb to temperature, "ants crawling" sensations, sleep apnea (out of nowhere! it just showed up, and stuck around, one month), extreme fatigue, foggy thinking, speech/language confusion, vision issues, inability to process multiple sensory inputs (someone talking to me + radio/TV on = overloaded circuits)...it was overwhelming, and it was awful. But by removing (!) the herniated portion of my brain and cutting through the multiple adhesions that had in essence glued that entire area shut, I awoke to a new world. The tremors were gone--just, gone. My surgeon later said the part of my brain removed was wrapped around the part of my brain stem that controls the arms, so it made sense to him that I had tremors--and that they were instantly gone when the pressure was removed. Annnnnd...the last pressure headache I had was the day I had the surgery.

It's a new world. I still have multiple symptoms--long term compression of the brain stem causes permanent nerve damage--and I had to be medically retired from teaching. But. But!

It's a new world.

Yesterday, I hitched up my 16yro mini Firefly and drove in our first ever harness show. Perfect for Mother's Day--my boys proudly wore their "My Mommy Survived Brain Surgery!" t-shirts.

We are, shall we say, a coarse pair. Heh. Firefly is far from a refined mover, and I'm far from a refined driver, but we went. Originally the plan was just to go and spectate, but then I thought might as well get everything ready and make a family outing of it, and if Firefly is okay with the atmosphere, tack her up and go.

Oldest cleaned the cart, while our goat Roscoe "helped."

I bathed Firefly, clipped her, and dressed her in her new fly sheet. My husband got the trailer hitched and ready, and the next morning, away we went.

Firefly impressed me with her professionalism. No pacing, no whinnying, no pawing--despite this being (I think) her 6th time in a trailer, she was fine. I led her around as soon as she came off the trailer, and she took it all in with great calm confidence. After briefly lunging her (honestly, I don't think she needed it) I decided to go ahead and hitch her up and drive her over to watch the last few flat classes. She was again, wonderful.


Our classes were right after lunch, so we took advantage of the lunch break to school in the ring. It was like we were at home. (I think it helps that at home, we regularly drive with friends who have a single pony, pony team, single Arab, single Clydesdale, and Clydesdale team--she's already seen all sizes and heard a whole lot of jingling before.) She was an absolute pro--honestly, she handled it better than I think my late riding show horses would have. My grin says it all.


Our first class was Backyard Driving, with no fancy attire allowed, so I just went in with my comfy jodhpurs--and my son. He was thrilled to be with me, though I had to keep shushing him so I could hear the announcer, heh. There was only one other horse in the class, a very fancy moving mini, so we were most decidedly 2nd of 2. But whoo hoo, token ribbon! Token red ribbon, no less. Whoo hoo!


Next class was driving minis--single, and so I threw on a borrowed apron and my hunt coat (heh) and got back in the cart. We once again were a very clear 5th of 5--but whoo hoo, token pink ribbon!


Now, looking at these photos, I see we are decidedly rough around the edges. I was thinking about what I learned and need to work on for next time: one, no beige breeches that make me looked naked
; two, get in the habit of driving with my knees together; three, practice schooling Firefly so she has three distinct trots (I think we have 1 1/2, hee); four, adjust her bridle so the blinders aren't so low; five, buy my own driving apron and cart number holder; six, look for a better blazer than my hunt coat, and so on...and then I had to stop and grin. All of these are goals, things to shop for (heh), things to work towards, things to look forward to--and that is fantastic. Fan-freaking-tastic.

What a great Mother's Day.

Woo Hoo! Sounds like an awesome day.

I don't show, but have read that many find show blazers and such at thrift stores, so you might get lucky if you have a thrift store near you.
Brilliant!! Fantastic!! Many many congratulations to you all - the future lies ahead of you, have fun, enjoy and live it to the full! Wishing you all the very best.
Awesome, awesome,. awesome!!!!!! Have fun, enjoy and keep smiling!!!


Victory Pass Stable

What a FABULOUS story, and wonderful pictures!!! May you continue to enjoy working with Firefly and winning lots of ribbons of other colors, too!!! You deserve the BLUE -- just for getting out there after such a heroic step forward!!
I LOVED reading this story and seeing the pictures! Good job! Showing should be fun like this!
I LOVE your story! What a great way to spend family time. Yep, go FIREFLY team!!

I about "died" laughing
when you mentioned that 'tan breeches' wouldn't work - funny - when you are riding hunt seat or 3 day eventing stuff - it's the norm and no-one thinks twice about it. But yes, I'd noticed the same thing w/ driving even when I wear tan shorts (working at home, of course).

As to the hunt coat - I know of several others that do the hunt coat and usually put a blouse under it that shows above the collar that is a nice contrast. Then you can also do a "band" of color around your helmet that matches the blouse.

Gloves - you'd think that black would be best, but actually regardless of your ensemble, you want them to be brown (if you want to do traditional). And on your leg position - I think you want to stay with them wherever they are the most support (balanced). If wearing pants, you can use a couple of pieces of velcro to hold the apron tight across the tops of your "open leg stance" - they'll pull loose easily enuf if needed. OR go to a heavier material that maybe won't "indent" between your legs.

If you search 'attire', 'driving clothes' etc in the Driving Mini Horses section, you'll find many posts on clothing for various types of driving events. Several people over the years have posted a lot of pics.

All in all, though, you did awesome and it's soo neat to hear such stories. GLAD that you enjoyed your time and were able to share it with your family.
Hey everyone! Sorry I didn't reply sooner; it's been a busy week since and physically it's been a bit rough so things got delayed. Thanks so much for your cheers and encouragement and celebration alongside me--it does truly mean a lot to me. It's still difficult accepting I cannot ride (for at least the foreseeable future), so having Firefly and driving as something to look forward to and work toward means so very much.

I may have not felt great in this past week, but I made full use of my couch time to online shop like a maniac.
After losing my riding horse to colic and realizing I will not be getting another "biggie" anytime soon, I sold off a lot of my tack and equipment for larger horses--then turned around and used that money to support my new driving goals. I bought myself a very-my-style navy jacket and a neat looking tartan apron, then bought Firefly a new rain sheet, a sleazy set (hood, sheet, and tail bag), a bridle to go with a simple Western saddle for the leadline class, some grooming equipment, a chain and lead to go with a show halter a friend gave me, a mini-sized-haybag (my full sized one ripped on the drive back from the show, whoops), a number holder for my cart, and a bunch of harness pieces. I bought a really nice harness off Craigslist a year ago but never tried it on her as my health deteriorated and contending with it consumed my life more and more. Well, a friend helped me try it all on Firefly and it looks great, but some pieces just didn't fit so I got a girth and breeching that will work--plus I bought a crupper for my schooling harness as the old one is held together with two zip ties. I actually still used that harness in the show, putting black shoe polish over the zip ties so they were camouflaged.

This week, I sit back and wait for the goodies to arrive--whoo hoo! I hope to drive Wednesday or so; time to start schooling Firefly on three distinct trots, and schooling myself as well.

Meanwhile, yesterday she did what she does best: get spoiled by my kids (while begging me for a treat). My friend came over and brought her horse crazy little girls, and they were over the moon:


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