As the pandemic continues into the 10th month, we’ve been thinking about our community of horse owners and riders. How best to come together and share during this time? The Cayuse Corona Community is one way. Here we see folks making lemonade from lemons and learn how some are coping with this year’s strains.
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Nancy Schaufele is an avid Colorado/Utah horsewoman who was featured this year on Headspace founder’s Take Ten video series. She generously shared her story with us after battling COVID.
There’s something to be said about the necessity of caring for our equine partners. Horse chores keep us moving even when our bodies say ‘Ouch.’ I consider this a good thing. During my battle with COVID, I never missed a feeding.
I had spent months getting our house ready to sell. I negotiated contracts and tackled the arduous tasks of packing and moving. Thank goodness I was able to get my horses out in the mountains – even enough to procure a callus on my backside! My horses provided sanctuary in the middle of moving chaos.
When it was finally over, I lingered in town, staying at a friend’s empty casita to enjoy the last gasp of fall. I was there only one day when I woke up with a sore throat. Something felt wrong. I ignored it and decided to take my horse out on a BLM trail behind the house. We rode 20 minutes before I had to turn around.
I crawled back to the house and curled up on the sofa with a book hoping it would just go away. It didn’t. When I started having chills, I got concerned and went over my symptoms:
- Feeling like crap
- Achy body
- Sore throat
I was encouraged that I did not have a fever and could taste and smell. I called my husband and said I’d get a test first thing in the morning. That night was tough. All I could think about was getting Covid.
- How did this happen? I never went out without a mask and was neurotically careful.
- Who had I seen?
- What about my husband with a heart condition?
- What about my son who helped us move?
- What about the adorable nine-year old who came to play with my horse?
I got a rapid test and spent the rest of the day getting ready to join my husband at our rented home in Utah if the result came back positive. We would need each other’s help and should be together.
The next morning, I got the call from the health department. Yes, it was positive. In shock, I called my husband and son, loaded the horses, and drove a very long two hours to Moab. I quarantined in our little guest house. The next morning my husband got the call. His test was positive. Thank God, my son’s test was negative. I moved back into the house and got ready for what could be a wild ride.
It’s difficult to describe how having Covid is so different from the flu. Everyone was concerned given our age and conditions: I’d had major surgery in March and my husband has a heart condition. Plus, the house move was physically and emotionally draining. This was serious.
I had a cough and joint pain. He got the Covid rash (it’s like shingles). We both wanted to sleep all day and night.
The worse part was the fear. No… terror. The symptoms can manifest as nothing. Or death. And everything in between. We understood how serious it was and how quickly things could go south. My son bought us a pulse oximeter. One morning, we went over our wills and directives.
That’s what makes Covid so different: How many people get the flu and go over their wills?
This virus affects each person differently and can do massive damage to the body. We watched the news and wondered if we’d become sick enough to be hospitalized. Alone. I was hopeful that most people get only mild symptoms.
I counted off each day… Week One… Week Two, keeping in mind the possibility of a cytokine storm, as our immune systems went to work. After two weeks, we were feeling better. But I still had the cough and we both were stunned by the fatigue. Week Three passed without hospitalization, but I needed antibiotics for a respiratory infection.
Week Four was better. My cough persisted, but we were less worried. The fatigue lingered and we both crashed in the afternoons. There were setbacks and times when we wondered if we might be one of the “long-haulers.”
By Week Five, I still had nights I would crawl into bed right after dinner. My husband’s blood pressure went up for no reason, requiring a consultation with his cardiologist.
Now it’s Week Six and life is still not normal, but it’s getting there.
I never missed a feeding. Yet some mornings I didn’t know if I’d make it down the hill to the barn. As soon as I heard that soft nicker, though, I’d feel better. My horses needed me.
At dusk, as I dragged myself back up the hill, I felt a satisfaction that my boys were well-fed and happy. I had to force my body to respond when it just wanted to stop, but I think doing those chores kept me going. There is something healing about being near a warm horse body, watching the glow of a setting sun. I could have called on the offers of help, but I wanted to do it as long as I could muster the strength.
Horse chores are centering. I use the time cleaning a pen or scrubbing a tank to simply “be.” Horses are my meditation place and space.
On days when the fear was bad, I would go to the barn early and hang out with the boys. My horse, Ming, would always walk over and we’d exchange breaths. Maybe his breath helped me heal. I like to think so.
Covid was a wild ride, but it did not beat me. And I never missed a feeding.