my battle for better health,

Rush Ranch: Challenging Disabilities

9/18/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

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Stonewall sporthorses at Rush Ranch

 Our family spent a fun Saturday at Rush Ranch, a 2070 acre preserve in the Suisun Marsh (California Bay Area) and it's one of my new favorite places. I spent many childhood summers visiting my aunts' and uncles' ranches, spending as much time with the animals (especially the horses) as possible and have wanted my kids to experience it was well. My husband used to visit the ranch as a kid (he grew up in the area) and he knew we'd love it. I had no idea how amazing Rush Ranch would be and I'm more than a little bit upset that I didn't know about it all those years we lived here before!


After gawking at the Stonewall Sporthorses and Halflinger horses, we started our day at the blacksmith shop.

Our youngest was scared at first that the sparks would get him, so Erik helped at first
The blacksmith was making leaves for a trellis and let the kids pound out part of it. But for fun, he let them pound flat the ends of nails and let the kids keep them.
 


Our youngest with his flattened nail, in front of the blacksmith shop
The blacksmith shop's building is well over 100 years old and they do demonstrations there about once a month.

Before we left, I thought we'd practically have to drag Den there (read about how we moved to California to live with him here), but he was extremely excited to go. He got back to his roots there. He used this same sort of machine to sharpen scythes back at the farm he worked on when he was young. It was so neat to have him tell us about it and how he worked with horses. I'd heard him lament before that he wished he could have had one last horseback ride in his life (which is body will not currently allow, read about his battle with cancer here). 

Den is doing amazingly well with chemo, better than we ever imagined he could! Instead of no energy and/or not being able to eat, the only side effects we've seen so far after two rounds of chemotherapy are that he's starting to lose his hair and has occasional brain fogginess. He's more active than he's been in over a year and gaining weight!


We got to watch this young horse, named Tango, work out. His owner here was teaching him to work in a harness so he can pull carriages.



My daughter absolutely LOVED petting Tango and the Halflinger that was in the corral next to him. (So did I, of course.)

Grandpa Den petting the two Percheron mares that pulled our carriage
Finally, we got to our main attraction, the carriage ride. I wasn't sure that Den would be able to climb up into the carriage but he declined the use of their wheel chair lift and hoisted himself up into the cart.


I wish I'd gotten a better picture of the marsh, but riding the trail around it felt like we were in Anne of Green Gables, on Prince Edward Island. Such pretty wetlands!

Erik and his dad wait for us as we board the carriage for one last ride
Despite the early morning, it was already starting to get hot and Den's medications don't allow him to be in the sun for long, so we had to limit our rides. Next time, we'll remember to bring hats...

 I didn't pay much attention to the shirts of the people working there that said Access Adventure, but when a one armed man (who I thought was just another tourist) got on board and they let him drive, I did a bit of a double take. I found out that Access Adventure is an incredible non-profit organization whose mission is: Enriching the lives of people with disabilities and other underserved members of our community by providing outdoor recreation, open space access, education and therapy, through a working partnership with horses

No wonder the carriage had a wheelchair lift in the back! I'd thought it was pretty neat but didn't think on it much. Access Adventure specializes in Therapeutic Driving and do more than a hundred events every years, serving thousands of people, all for FREE!


We spoke to some of the organizers about volunteering and they actually need people to feed the horses! I was like, "Where do I sign up??" I've been wanting to get our family involved with horses but thought I'd have to pay for lessons or something, which we can't afford (and aren't likely to for years). We are so excited to get started working and volunteering!
We all loved going to Rush Ranch so much and I'm sure we'll be regulars there soon. It was especially neat to see Grandpa Den being able to enjoy being with horses despite his current disabilities. It was something I really enjoyed as well. Since my own health problems and weight have restricted my activities (no horseback riding when you're obese because it's too hard on the horses), this is great way for me to be able to get out and be in an environment I love. We'll probably start out slow (about one to three times a month) and work our way up to more, but it's something we'll all look forward to!
My goals

I want to have energy to spend time and actually do activities with my family.
I want to be able to be physically active. I’m not saying I plan on running marathons, but being able to exercise and do basic housecleaning on a daily basis would be nice.
I want my mind to feel less foggy all the time so I can do my job well and enjoy being in the profession I love.
I want to be healthy and be at a healthy weight.
I want my life back! I will look for the best in my life and realize what I truly have, always striving to make it better.
I will accept myself as I am.
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