Therapists Come In All Shapes and Sizes

by Free Speech on March 19, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

by Carole Roche

Pat Bishop’s reaction to her doctor’s diagnosis did not surprise those who know her. “When I was told I had breast cancer in August, 2008, I immediately thought about the September horse show my horse, Devon, and I were entered in,” Bishop said. “We had both worked so hard to prepare that, in spite of the diagnosis, I was determined we would participate – and we did. “

Indeed, she and Devon not only participated in the Mason, Iowa show, they won three third- place ribbons in 3 separate divisions. “I showed from September 11th-13th and had the first of three surgeries on September 16th “ Bishop said. “It was our first ever A-rated show and a proud moment for both of us.”

Bishop’s love of horses dates back to her early childhood when, at the age of 4, her Dad ”placed me on the back of a beautiful black Shetland Pony Cross named ‘Tony’ who immediately ran across a hayfield and became entangled in a fence,” Bishop said. “I remember telling my Dad how much fun that was.”

Born In Greenwood, Illinois on a 263 acre dairy farm that included 40 acres of woods, Pat was a certified ‘tomboy’ and spent most of her free time out-of -doors. “I loved the rural lifestyle and helping out with the care of our animals, particularly the horses,” said Bishop. “Tony was a big part of my childhood, and my Dad even built him his very own 2-wheeled cart.”

“I really loved that little guy,” she said.

Sadly, her world would change significantly in 1965.  “It was 3:30 in the afternoon, and I had just returned home from school when I saw smoke coming out of our barn,” said Bishop. “The fire spread so quickly that by the time help  arrived, over fifty of our animals had died, including Tony.”

“That was a very sad day, indeed” she said.

Pat Bishop has weathered many difficult times by spending time aboard some of her "therapist" firneds.

Pat Bishop has weathered many difficult times by spending time aboard some of her "therapist" friends.

But other horses would come into Bishop’s life over the years including Cody, a 5-year old grade Quarter Horse brought home four years after the fire, and Chippewa Lady, a 3-year old quarter horse acquired shortly after her marriage in 1973. Back then, it appeared that horses would always be an integral part of Bishop’s life

Yet, time and circumstance have a way of changing things, and in 1975, Bishop and her first husband divorced. While Bishop would remain on their rented farm for the next four years, an incident with Chippewa Lady in January, 1979, resulted in a major lifestyle change. “I was returning Lady to the barn one day when I slipped in the mud and she reared up over me,” said Bishop. “I was really frightened as I knew no one was nearby to help me if I were injured. I knew then that something had to change.”

Ultimately making the difficult decision to leave the farm and return to school, Bishop said a tearful goodbye to Chippewa Lady and the rural life she loved. ”Little did I know that I would be horseless for the next twenty years,” said Bishop.

Graduating from the UW-Madison School of Nursing in 1983 Bishop re-married and  settled with her husband in Lodi, Wisconsin, a small town twenty miles North of Wisconsin’s capitol. For the next ten years, Bishop’s energies were focused on her job as an ICU nurse and the raising of her two sons, Zachary, and Brian. But as 1997 turned to 1998, she realized something was missing.

“I told my husband that I was having a mid-life crisis and he had three choices:  buy me a red sports car, let me have an affair, or buy me a horse,” said Bishop.  “Not surprisingly, he chose number three.”

Before long, the couple were enroute to Iowa to look at a registered quarter horse owned by a pheasant-hunting friend of her husbands. The owner told Pat that the horse didn’t like women, but when the diminutive animal walked right up to her, the deal was sealed. Still, Bishop did have one small concern.

I  hadn’t ridden a horse in over twenty years,” she said.

Putting her fears aside, Bishop quickly set about re-learning her riding skills, and was soon riding the newest family member (now named Isa Jewel) on  the trails surrounding Lodi. The joy of riding she had felt as a child had returned in full measure.

“By 2000, I felt confident enough in my equestrian skills to travel to Ireland and take a week-long tour of the country on horseback,“ said Bishop. “My grand-mother was from County Tyrone, and I had always wanted to return to the old country.  It was during that trip that I realized there was one more thing I had to do; I had to learn to jump.”

Returning to America, Bishop began taking jumping lessons at Timeless Farms in Arena, Wisconsin, and by the Spring of 2002, she was on the lookout for a jumping horse. “I found Storm, a grade warmblood in late Spring of that year and entered her in two hunter class shows in the summer,” said Bishop. “We competed in the hunter class as I wanted to focus on style and accuracy rather than height.”

But in the Winter of 2003 Storm had an injury and developed an infection in her left front leg.  She was lame, and doctors thought she might never jump again.

Never one to be deterred by life’s ups and downs, Bishop nursed her horse thru the long Wisconsin winter, and continued her lessons at Timeless Farms. Yet Storm’s progress was slow, and on her 50th birthday in June, 2004, Bishop purchased a registered thoroughbred by the name of Hale Bopp.

Riding Hale Bopp under his barn name, Devon, Bishop won the High Point Hunter Series at Timeless Farms in 2006 and, over the next two years received a number of blue ribbons in the hunter class division. Bishop’s life was moving along in a positive direction.

And then came August, 2008 with the diagnosis no woman ever wants to hear.  “Although it may sound surprising, the cancer diagnosis has, in many ways, had a positive impact on my life,’ said Bishop. “It has taught me to focus on what is truly important in life and to live each day to the fullest,” she said. “I treat each day now as a gift.”

“When I was undergoing chemo this winter and unable to ride, Devon and Storm would just stand close to me sensing that I wasn’t feeling well,” said Bishop.  “Their healing presence was so strong it wasn’t long before I began to feel better.”

While Bishop is now doing well physically and is able to ride, there are still days when  she feels down. “On days like that, I go out and spend the afternoon with my four-legged friends, and we take a ride in the woods,” said Bishop. “By the end of the day, I know that everything is going to be alright.”

“They may not have degrees, but their therapeutic skills are A+,” Bishop concluded.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Liz Mura March 19, 2009 at 2:14 PM

How wonderful of Carol to underscore your love of horses and share your story with others. Keep hugging those horses, Pat. I hear there’s another ride in Ireland (or some other far off destination) with our names on it.

2 lyl March 19, 2009 at 9:05 AM

Thank you, Carol and Pat for sharing with us a beautiful yet poignant story of a woman’s courage and love of her 2 and 4-legged ‘family’.

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