by | Dec 10, 2020 | 0 comments

Crinkled Smiling Eyes

Greetings to all! I am Janet Stedman. You have most likely encountered me in some way, in my  full dozen years at Forward Stride. I am not easy to miss, without earplugs! In my dozen years, I have owned my horse, Twister, and I have “fostered” and sponsored Sindar. I have also engaged in just about every volunteer opportunity available. I have simply immersed myself in everything horse. 

That, however, is not what I need to share here. Let’s be very frank. I am hoping to bring  money into our community, so that there is no doubt of our survival. Ever. Our community is  one of the most united, diverse, mutually supportive communities in which I have had the  opportunity and honor to be immersed. I have either written or spoken about this many times. This time, however, has left me with new experiences, due to recent events, and it is these experiences that encourage me to speak up once again.

a wildfire burns in the distance at night

Covid has altered our lives. I am a germaphobe. I have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I have never been encouraged to hide these parts of me at Forward Stride. Rather, I have always been encouraged to work through my challenges with the support of my barn community. Dealing with the threat of Covid, at our barn, where we all touch everything, was one of my biggest challenges. First off, many barns closed, but our barn allowed horse owners to continue as we were. For that I am forever grateful, as moving Twister to another barn would have upped my anxiety to possibly insurmountable levels. But our barn stayed open, and the staff kept us so clean and safe-feeling and took such excellent care of our herd….in the heat, in the rain, in the smoke. They have been constantly and seemingly tirelessly working night and day to assure the well being of our herd, and our community. And during the fires, the general livestock community. Every staff member came to learn that my six feet of distancing was more like ten feet, on a good day. They encouraged me to work through this, while always respecting and honoring my fear. All the while, they were working, working, working. My heroes, truly.

And then as I was managing to confront and face my fears head on, I lost my dearest Twister to a sudden colic. As I dealt with what was was unfolding to me in those awful moments, the staff gathered around me, called the vet immediately, filmed Twister’s last moments for the vet to come and evaluate, and also contacted the community members, who are my dearest of friends, to quickly come to support me and bid farewell to my dear Pooh. Those two hours are somewhat of a blur, but I was bubble wrapped throughout it. As much as possible. Our community is a model for humans everywhere. We are diverse in so many ways. We range from the very young to the elderly (in years, not attitude). When only horse owners were allowed, the barn seemed so quiet, so many people missing. Drive through days were so joyous, shouting and waving to one another. And since then, clients have returned (shout-out to SJ!), and volunteers, and one by one I have seen their joy in returning. So happy to be back to being us. The very same crinkled smiling eyes from each of us!

So, Sindar and I walk on the trail daily. I am so thankful that he has been there with me  throughout, and that being able to walk with him amongst the beautiful scenic woods, the  fields, has helped me find peace. When I was a child in Pennsylvania, my family drove  thousands of miles yearly just for this kind of scenery. And Sindar and I walk it daily. And I see  my community coming together once again. All happy to be back! And I see how we have not  only existed through this time, we have thrived. We continue to grow, and to enrich each and  every one of us. We are all part of a huge puzzle, and though our pieces were momentarily  scattered, we are now reassembling. And that is because, as a community, we are SCRAPPY!  (I warned you about earplugs!). We don’t think about stopping, or even slowing. We find out  what we need, to proceed, and we all jump at the chance to DO IT. And our staff is simply  UNSTOPPABLE.

So, that is what Forward Stride is to me, at this moment. I am committed to keeping us  GOING, because if our barn means this much to just me, one person, well then its value to  each of us and collectively is undeniably worthy of support. So please take a moment to think  about what we mean to you. Donate what and if you are able. Any donation, perhaps to honor  a staff member! Please. And thank you.