Thursday, March 04, 2010

An Eye Opener

Part of owning horses in Egypt is having friends come to experience the extreme pleasures of riding in the Sahara or through the villages of the Nile Valley. I love my visitors and get a special thrill out of showing them my Egypt. So when my old friend Laurie wrote to me to say that since she was retiring she felt that it was time to come riding with me, I was delighted. She told me that she'd be bringing a friend and that the friend was blind. Now that would be interesting. When I suggested that we could always use a lead rope, her laughter rang out over the internet. Gail has been blind for about 20 years and riding for at least 15 of them, many of them with Laurie shouting out "Duck! There's a branch!".

I have to admit that I couldn't wait to meet this woman who as far as I could see was some sort of marvel. I ride in the desert all the time and sometimes even being able to see where I'm going, I'm terrified. My horses are lovely and kind and fit and fast. The thought of tearing around the desert without being able to see where I was going was a bit more than I could comprehend. And then there's the interesting fact that I have 17 dogs wandering around the farm as well. What if she fell over one? These were some of the thoughts racing around my brain while I went to the airport to pick Laurie and Gail up.

Within a couple of days I was having to remind myself that Gail couldn't see the things that Laurie and I could. The first time we went out riding I put Gail on Nazeer, my favourite Mr. Responsible. To my vast relief they were utterly fine. Laurie rode next to her and cued her to move right or left as needed, but the job was rather different from riding down the trails of Massachusetts. Our desert is EMPTY! But at the same time there are hazards such as changes in sand consistency, hills, and archaeological excavations.

I think that it would be an understatement to say that I was impressed with Gail's willingness to risk life and limb on a horse. That has always been my forte, but not with my eyes closed. Definitely. At one point, Mr. Responsible decided to show Gail a shortcut during a gallop up a wadi, which even she acknowledged was a bit more than she had bargained for. He made a big loop to the right and as she heard our hoofbeats moving off into the distance she got rather concerned. But Mr. R came to his senses and stopped so that we could gather our lost duckling.

I don't know what the impact of Gail's trip to Egypt was on her, but for me it was, to use a bad pun, eye-opening. She gave me a chance to see some of the boundaries of our ability to come back from adversity and to adapt to less than friendly conditions. After watching her having a great time on horses and camels, negotiating through a crowded, crazy horse fair and appreciating fine stone work in the Coptic museum, I have a sense that there are fewer limits on my life than I'd previously thought. Thank you, Gail.

copyright 2010 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani


Laurie Neely said...

The thing is as she tells it, when Gail began losing her sight she was understandably depressed, angry, denying etc....and then said to herself "I can sit around feeling sorry for myself, doing nothing for the next 50 years, or I can get on with my life and the hopes, dreams and plans I've always had, and figure out how to do that as I go!" She has and still is. I figure that's the right attitude no matter WHAT the obstacles...large or small... one meets in life are.

Merri said...

an absolute inspiration when we think of whining about something insignificant.
: )
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Breathe said...

Incredible. Absolutely incredible.

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Thanks for sharing this. Reminded me that my difficulties are not so big. Amazing woman.

Beth said...

I found your blog through HorseCentric. That was quite an inspirational story! I have a blog about over coming fear of riding and just wow, I can not even imagine doing it blind!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I found your blog through Horse Centric and was very inspired by this story. I can't even imagine how hard it must have been for this woman in the initial days after she lost her sight and yet she soldiered on. Something I'll keep in mind the next time I feel a little whiny about something insignificant.

jme said...

what an amazing story and an amazing woman. i wish i had even half her courage and drive.

and i will definitely be visiting this blog again! i was an anthropology/archaeology major who always dreamed of going to egypt, but decided i'd rather work with horses. who knew you could do both! ;-)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I too found you through HorseCentric. Great story. I used to volunteer at the Braille Institute and worked with the kids on building and racing 2-man derby cars. There were quite a few crashes, but no one got hurt and everyone had a great time.

AareneX said...

Occasional visitor here. Thanks for a great post. I lived with a blind woman while I was in college (she lost her sight as a teenager), and she would waffle between whining and "getting out and doing."

I hope she's doing more of the latter these days as your friend is doing!