*I would like to give photo credit to the following people within our horse showing community: Lea Halderman, Suzanne VanDelinder, Donna Bortle Robinson, Lainey McBratney, and Jillian Cole Photography .
|Carolyn and Reno|
One of the fringe benefits with my daughter’s love and participation in equestrian sports (besides horsey kisses, of course!) are the fantastic people we’ve met through the horse showing community. Hands down, they have to be the most supportive and generous people around. We’ve attended all types of events as both exhibitors and spectators, from small 4-H shows to USEF Grand Prix level competitions, and have always felt welcomed. No matter how prepared we thought we were for each horse show trip, something gets left behind at home; tail extension, show lead-line, etc. and, due to the kindness of other exhibitors, some of whom are complete strangers, we have been able to borrow items so my daughter could show. Everyone just bands together to help each other—even though they may be competing against you. Horse show people also know how to unwind at the end of the day. There’s nothing better than coming back to the camping area (my oldest and I usually slept in our two-person tent set up between horse trailers with living quarters belonging to others from her barn) and have a meal together, bringing a dish to pass, as each of us talked about the day and told stories about horses or other shows. The camaraderie shared is one of a kind. Syd and I were fortunate enough to be invited to stay with our showing friend, Betty, and her Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Paddington. A fold-out bed in air conditioning sure beats the hell out of a sleeping bag on the hard ground during hot and humid summer nights at the fairgrounds. Betty was also known for mixing up a nice pitcher of adult beverages after hours as well—making her my best friend at horse shows. We were also treated to numerous suppers held throughout those same shows by Jeff, Denise, and their daughters, Kaitlyn and Kylie. Jeff, who is along as the cheering committee for the ladies in his life, was also known to drive off to find the closest farmer’s stand for fresh sweet corn and the local grocery store for other provisions and he would grill to his heart’s content for all of us.
|L to R: Carolyn and Reno: the pair carrying the Breast Cancer Awareness flag at Barrels & Bikinis; Jean Lindsey and her horse, Smartie--Reno's bookend brother--getting ready to turn 'n' burn!|
This past winter, while my daughter was visiting our friends at Rockin’ N Stables & Ranch, we had the privilege of meeting another wonderful equestrian and formed a new friendship. Of course, we’d heard Carolyn Mosher’s name mentioned through our circle of friends, but we’d never met her. From the moment you meet this soft-spoken and down-to-earth person, you can see her passion for the sport shine through. She doesn’t just love horses, she lives and breathes horses. We instantly adored her and her gorgeous red dun Quarter Horse gelding, Reno. She also introduced us to her newest equine family member, Dallas, a cute little chestnut half-sister to Reno. While Syd rode Jean’s palomino, Leah, Carolyn and I talked. On that particularly cold February evening, she was telling me about the chest cold she was battling and how it was affecting her breathing. It was the reason behind her not riding that night, but relying on others to help work her two horses in preparation for the upcoming Ultimate Trail Challenge at the World Horse Expo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For Carolyn to be sitting on the sidelines that night, I knew she had to be fairly sick. It would be a few weeks before we found out just how sick she was.
Carolyn is a breast cancer survivor. A little over four years ago, she noticed a change in her breast and went in for a mammogram. Her results came back and confirmed stage three breast cancer. Her doctor acted quickly and a single mastectomy was performed. His first concern was getting the tumor and surrounding tissue removed and working on prevention as his second concern. Carolyn then went through six months of chemotherapy followed by six-and-a-half weeks of radiation that required her to commute to Williamsport Monday through Friday. The daily drive took an hour-and-a-half each way. Along with removing her breast, they also took fifteen lymph nodes from her left arm. At times, especially during activities, she has to wear a pressure sleeve to help with the occasional swelling of the arm and she also has a slight weakness in it. But, as the Brooks & Dunn song goes: "Cowgirls don’t cry. Ride, Baby, ride." And that’s what Carolyn has done. She was given the prognosis of being cancer-free and life returned to normal and with a new perspective and dreams.
|Competitors lined up during the Barrels & Bikinis event in a sea of pink.|
During her surgery and treatments, Carolyn learned, first hand, about the financial hardships experienced by families going through the same thing. Even with each of them working, she and her husband, Ron, began to feel the strain. They were encouraged to contact the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen to see if they could offer assistance or referrals for assistance to help with their mounting costs. They had insurance for the medical end of it, but there’s so much more that others don’t think about in the course of treatment. Expenses for transportation, dining out while on the road, and missed days of work, along with healthcare co-pays and deductibles. They add up quickly. Much too quickly. After making calls and doing research, the Moshers found they qualified for a one-time gas card in the amount of $50.00. While they appreciated it, the gas card barely put a dent in their travel expenses. Those national organizations she contacted use their name to raise monies for research and spread awareness, but do little to offer actual assistance to cancer patients in need.
|Scenes around the Mosher hacienda!|
As a survivor, Carolyn wanted to do something for others going through cancer treatment and that’s when Barrels & Bikinis came into fruition. Barrels & Bikinis started in 2012 and has become an annual event where both men and women riders raise money and awareness while competing in timed gaming events. These events include: Speed Barrels, Keyhole, and Barrels. By doing this, Carolyn eliminated the middleman of corporate cancer foundations and all monies raised go directly to actual local cancer patients to help them with treatment costs. This event is nothing like what is portrayed on A&E Channel’s Rodeo Girls and their lipstick-wearing, mega-dramatized for reality TV thing. Barrels & Bikinis is attended by every day, hardworking, horse-loving equestrians who want to give back to those in need from their community. Rough and tough guys go out and buy bikini tops and wear them over their shirts—many even don a pink shirt symbolizing breast cancer awareness. Riders buy bikini tops for their horses and affix them to breast collars or put pink flowers there. Many even buy temporary paints and put pink ribbons or polka-dots on their horse’s body or paint pink streaks through their manes and tails. You get the idea. Lots of pink in the gaming arena. The first Barrels & Bikinis had fabulous attendance and Carolyn’s family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers joined in to participate by finding donation sponsors and collecting raffle items. They also showed up to compete or volunteered their time to work the event. Each subsequent year, attendance numbers have grown and more money is raised. Even the year it was held and rain plagued the event, people still came out to support the cause. In 2013, they raised $2,500.00.
One of the grateful 2013 recipients was a member of our local horse show community, Renee Nichols, who was battling lymphoma. Everyone knows Renee and her husband, Harold. For years, they have operated Nichols’ Saddlery in Big Pond, PA as well as operating a mobile tack shop they take to local horse shows. Chances are, most of our kids can boast their first show helmet or bling-bling Western show shirt or show halter came from Nichols’ Saddlery—and, trust me, we’ve purchased our share of back-up items from Harold and Renee because we've forgotten something at home!! Mobile tack shops ROCK!! The Nichols had their tack shop set up for the 2013 event and were completely taken by surprise when Renee was selected as one of the donation recipients. When asked, Renee told me, “I was shocked last year and was speechless for a while. Carolyn and her Barrels & Bikinis show has helped a lot of people.” She also reports that her cancer is in remission. Her next three-month checkup is approaching and, should her results be positive, she will change to a six-month checkup schedule. Harold and Renee are planning their retirement and have been promoting a retirement sale on all of their inventory. If you are interested in contacting Nichols’ Saddlery about their sale, you can reach them at 570-596-2247. After all of their years of welcoming us to their shop with smiles and wonderful customer service, let’s help them sell that inventory so their retirement can begin!
|L to R: Renee Nichols with Carolyn (Jean in background) during the 2013 Barrels & Bikinis; Harold and Renee being presented with their Barrels & Bikinis check; a hug saying thank you.|
The horse community is coming together again to raise money and awareness. This year’s Barrels & Bikinis is scheduled for Saturday, September 20th and is being held at Rockin’ N Stables & Ranch. The event starts at 9:00am sharp and competitors should arrive early for registration. It is being organized by Jean Lindsey, Hilary Dorazio, and Nancy and Monte Nicholas. The Nicolas’ own Rockin’ N. In a twist of fate, Carolyn, the creator of Barrels & Bikinis, was recently diagnosed with bone cancer and proceeds raised will be donated to her.
Last December, as the holidays hit, Carolyn was feeling tired and chalked it up to being "that time of year" combined with work and their recent move into a new house. As the weeks went on she started having a pain in her chest that coincided with a muscle strain injury she suffered while opening a stubborn, heavy barn door. Again, she worked through it. By February, she was preparing at Rockin’ N for the trail challenge and was plagued by fatigue and had that feeling she was coming down with something. She said the smallest tasks were exhausting, but she pushed on until, one day at work, she sneezed and it felt as if someone used a machete to crack her chest open. The pain was so severe, she left work early. A CT scan revealed a mass on her sternum. She went to the Cancer Treatment Center in Philadelphia’s Eastern Regional Medical Center and a treatment action plan was put into place. While she has responded well to treatment, Carolyn will never be in remission because the cancer invaded the bone which can compromise bone marrow and has the potential for spreading cancer cells throughout her body.
Her initial reaction to the diagnosis went from denial to depression and then Carolyn said she got angry. That was when she decided she was going to fight it while living her life and living her dream. The Mosher family has pulled together to help Carolyn live her dream. Before her bone cancer diagnosis came, Carolyn and her husband, Ron, purchased a sixteen acre farm near Towanda, PA with the intentions of turning it into a place for cancer patients to visit. They would provide a relaxing country setting with horseback riding and overnight lodging within an efficiency apartment for visitors. Her recent setback has only built her resolve to see her dream come true. She says that, even if cancer patients can’t ride, there is no greater therapy than sitting on a bale of hay and listening to the horses munching right beside you. She firmly believes that animals can sense when a human is in need of their love and companionship. As Carolyn talks to me from her chair outside of the barn, tears in her eyes, she says, “There’s nothing like having a melancholy day and having a horse set its head on your shoulder to offer a comforting hug because they just know. They know and they want to help you.” While we talked, she told me about the improvements they are slowly putting into place at the farm which includes footing for the new outdoor arena, a concrete floor was recently poured inside the barn where stalls will be built, their bulldozer is operational and will be used to clear land for a trail obstacle course and regular riding trails. Her friend, Jean’s, land shares a property line with their farm and will also be used for trail riding. As she brings up Jean’s name she goes on to tell me that Jean has been her rock. They’ve been coworkers for years with Jean’s office four doors down the hall from Carolyn’s. While she knew Jean before, it wasn’t until they started working together that they became close friends. Besides their shared love of horses, both ladies grew up on dairy farms.
|Carolyn's family: Sean, Ron, and Seth wearing their pink shirts for Breast Cancer Awareness.|
Carolyn becomes teary-eyed again as she begins to talk about her family and how, through their help and strength, it makes her fight easier. Her husband has been her greatest support, “He has never missed an appointment, driving me to Philadelphia, getting anything I need to be comfortable. It's so nice to be married to your best friend.” After her first round of cancer, her youngest son, Sean, wore a pink shirt to school to show his support. When one of the kids from school teased him about his color choice, Sean told him, “You would wear pink, too, if your mom was fighting cancer.” The other student stopped teasing him. “Ron, Seth, and Sean are always here for me,” she declared.
|L to R: Carolyn & family at Reese Ranch Rodeo for the Pink Out; Hilary Dorazio and Carolyn at the Pink Out.|
Outside support is also strong from the horse community. A “Pink Out” was held in May at Reese Ranch Rodeo as a surprise for Carolyn and was organized by owners Jake Reese and Kadie McKay and friends. Even though she was in the midst of treatments, Carolyn saddled up and rode Dallas at the rodeo only, this time, she wore a new protective riding vest that was donated to her by Harold and Renee.
|Reese Ranch Rodeo during the Pink Out with Riders carrying flags with "Mosher Strong" on them.|
Carolyn has also built a friendship with internationally known equestrian clinician Craig Cameron from RFD-TV’s Extreme Cowboy Race and Ride Smart as well as Craig’s protégé Stewart Rybak of Rybak Horsemanship. Carolyn was signed up to attend her first Craig Cameron Natural Horsemanship clinic when her original diagnosis came. While her doctor wanted her to immediately have surgery to remove her breast, he granted her the time to attend the clinic because he felt she needed something positive to do. He scheduled her surgery for the day after the clinic—his scheduled day off. The clinic was everything she wanted it to be and more. Craig and Stewart were wonderful when they found out about her upcoming surgery. At the end of the day, Craig had all of the participants, while on horseback, get into a horseshoe formation and then they all wished her luck with her surgery and treatment. Craig asked Carolyn, “What do you do when you get bucked off a horse?” Carolyn replied, “You get back on.” Craig nodded and said, “You get right back on. That's how you fight cancer, too." She said the support you get from everyone helps get you through the fight. The treatments heal the body, but the support helps to heal the human spirit. Even strangers from the horse world will approach her at events, offering her hugs and their thoughts and prayers. Carolyn is so thankful for all everyone has done in support of her and Barrels & Bikinis.
|L to R: Carolyn with Craig Cameron and Stewart Rybak during the clinic; Carolyn with Craig; Jean, Carolyn, and crew during Barrels & Bikinis.|
As I end this blog post, I invite our local Broads of a Feather Blog readers to attend Barrels & Bikinis. Competing or as spectators. Show up and give Carolyn your support. For those unable to attend, donations in the form of checks or money orders can be mailed to: Nancy Nicholas/Rockin’ N Stables & Ranch, C/O Barrels & Bikinis, 3323 Wolcott Hollow Road, Athens, PA 18810. Hope to see you there!