Managing Setbacks Through Realistic Positivity

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by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Last week, I got some disappointing news. My horse Cherry somehow managed to fracture a bone in her foot. She was fine one day, and then the next she came in very lame after being in her field all night. Usually, the most common cause of such a sudden lameness is a hoof abscess: bacteria invade a crack in the hoof and cause an infection. Since a hoof can’t expand (it’s basically a giant fingernail), that abscess is very painful until the pressure is released. This malady is common in horses and, with pain relief to keep them comfortable, typically resolves in a few days to a week or so. That diagnosis is always the first theory when a horse is suddenly as sore as Cherry was that day. Unfortunately, it turned out that wasn’t her pain’s cause.

Cherry’s fracture means that she will be on stall rest for the next three months and is only allowed out on a leadline to graze on grass. Since horses can’t go on crutches like people, injuries take much longer to heal because they continue to bear weight on the injured structure. So, whereas a hairline fracture in a person’s foot could heal in about six weeks on crutches, a horse takes much longer. After her rest time, it will take another three months or so to get her back in shape.

Since this happened, I’ve received so many comments from people marveling at what they described as my positive attitude. Honestly, I’m pretty proud of that because for a long time I was the opposite of positive. It really wasn’t until after I was finally diagnosed at age 22 and began to get my pain under control that I realized the incredibly strong connection between pain and negativity. Once my therapies lessened my pain, I saw the window that allowed me to forge a path toward a positive outlook, with the help of some wonderful friends.

For a long time, I thought that having a positive mindset required me to ignore problems or be naive. No, it simply means that instead of focusing on the negative, we find the reasons that a tough situation can be beneficial. For example, this year was going to be a wash for horse shows anyway, so if Cherry had to get injured, now is a great time — all we’re doing is hanging out at the barn anyway. Plus, despite needing three months of rest, she has an excellent prognosis indicating a return to full soundness and work. That’s much better than the injury my retired horse, Spots, got. Two years ago we found out he has an undetermined ligament disorder, which ended his competitive career.

You see, positivity isn’t about pretending that the bad things don’t exist. Rather, it’s simply choosing to focus on the bright side rather than spinning the negative through your mind over and over. I’ve found that a negative outlook makes me more susceptible to pain, and that pain can feed negativity if I’m not careful. Now that I know that and have practiced with my mind to find the good in a situation, that’s where my head tends to go. A positive outlook sure won’t solve all my problems, but it definitely makes dealing with them much more manageable!


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