When Life Hands You Lemons….

When life hands you lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade right?  But what about when it hands you Great Big Bulldozer Lemons?  Then what?  Today I want to tell you about someone who got smacked down by the Bulldozer Lemons and just came right back up.  His name is Eddo Hoekstra. Before the lemons landed Eddo was a Grand Prix dressage rider and competitor. The lemons crushed some of his dreams but not all. Eddo now coaches other riders and helps them achieve their equestrian dreams. He travels all over the USA and Canada giving clinics to riders of all ages and stages.

“I like to see the pretty pictures,” he says. “When I see horse and rider in harmony these are the pretty pictures. When I can help a horse and rider to achieve this that is what motivates me. I don’t like to spend time in airports but that’s how I get to see happy horses and build skills for the riders to do it themselves.”

It is not hard to understand why Eddo doesn’t like airports. In 2012 he had a Stage 7 stroke that affected the left side of his body. But he continued to ride. The following year  he fell from his horse and  broke his hip. Then as a side effect of a medication he had a subdural bleed on the left side of his brain The final lemon to whack him was a seizure. “I don’t  know what happened. I woke up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.”  And now…?

“Now I am here talking with you,” he says with a smile as we sit over a hot chocolate and a coffee in a small café in Southern Ontario. I am lucky that Eddo has had a delay in getting his work visa for the USA this winter as it meant he had time to meet with me.   Usually he would be travelling  every other weekend to give a clinic and when he is not travelling he likes to be at home with his wife Tammy and five year old daughter Hanna.

Eddo was advised by the doctors to never ride again. He did not listen to that. “I’d rather fail trying than regret not trying,” he says.  And he now rides twice a week on his retired, 25 year old, Grand Prix dressage horse Razzi. ” I can’t use my left leg or arm but I can give him clues and he can guess what I want. He likes his job now. I’m lucky if I know where my left leg and arm are but Razzi thinks it’s a game. ” Here is Eddo competing with Razzi (Rasputin) before the lemons hit.

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Eddo’s doctors and therapists thought he should get an electric wheelchair after his stroke but he had a different idea.  Students from his clinics in the US and Canada raised money for a wheelchair but  Eddo asked them if he could use the  funds to get a farm utility vehicle instead. They agreed. “I chose one that I could get onto with practice. Then I could help the staff at my barn with getting the hay. I’m still using it. In the summer I can take it, drive to the corner of a hayfield, turn it toward the sun and eat my lunch. It makes me feel human.”

I met Eddo nineteen years ago. My daughter, Breanne, who was 10 at the time, had been to a week of riding camp and she pestered me relentlessly to find her somewhere to ride. I myself had not ridden for 30 years. We went to look at a couple of stables and I did not like the look of either of them. Then we saw Hoekstra Dressage. The barn was well managed and the staff told us Eddo was strict and had done his formal training in Germany where he had achieved his Bereiter qualification. A friend had told me this was the equivalent of horse riding university so I took it seriously.  I signed Breanne up for lessons.

It was marvelous.  He had a school horse that would slow down or stop the  minute a little rider started to loose balance. Eddo had Breanne ride one day in a saddle and the next day with just a vaulting surcingle. He had her play games; timing her as she rode from one side of the arena to the other. She learned how to vault off and to vault on the little schoolie horse.

Within a year we had a 17 year old Appendix Quarter Horse, Tradie, for Breanne and I was riding two days a week. Here are two photos of Breanne having a lesson with Eddo on Tradie. Eddo is demonstrating a movement to Breanne and you will notice he has Breanne riding without stirrups!

 

I was shocked when I learned Eddo had suffered a stroke. When it happened I was no longer spending the summer in Eddo’s neighbourhood so I was not seeing him on a regular basis. But on social media I learned of the fundraising campaigns. I got one of the t-shirts that a group in Texas had made specially for their fundraiser. It said:

“Create more . Control less.”

I thought I knew what that meant. Intellectually I did know but it took me another two years and riding Biasini to fully realize what that phrase meant.

I will be dedicating a second post to Eddo in which I will be passing on to you some of the remarkable wisdom he gives his students. Words  to live by and to ride by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

44 Comments Add yours

  1. (HorseLover4Ever) Elizabeth says:

    Wow, what an amazing and inspiring true story!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is amazing. He is one of the most resilient people I have ever known.

      Like

  2. Imelda says:

    Inspiring story indeed. 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is indeed. Thanks for commenting

      Like

  3. Lynn Birkland says:

    I have been a devoted student of Eddo’s since before his stroke. He has had a Dutch mare of mine in training all of this time. I am currently working to help him get his US Visa so he can start doing clinics again in the US. Yes! He is an incredible person! The past five years have been a long road for him. It is a journey no one would ever want to take but life doesn’t always offer us choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I hope you will be able to assist with the Visa situation as I can see from my blog analytics that they’re are many, many people in the US who have taken clinics with Eddo. He is a remarkable man. Many thanks for your comment.

      Like

  4. Avery says:

    Wow! Great story and perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes he has a remarkable attitude. I’m sure he must have had some dark moments but he has risen above it all and now seeks to help others with their horses to achieve a good relationship. It’s inspiring. glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Emma Cownie says:

    Eddo certainly has had a whole load of lemons handed to him – an incredible man!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. eventerinprogress says:

    He sounds like a wonderful man.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes and a brave one too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. eventerinprogress says:

        Remind me of him when I start feeling sorry for myself!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Bulldozer lemons!!! Yep, they are a pain. How inspiring was this article and it made me realise how lucky I really am today, right now. “Create more, control less” that is just brilliant!

    What a strong individual, some people amaze me. Can’t wait to read the next post mate x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. Eddo is pretty amazing really. He has just accepted what has happened and made the best of it. He doesn’t walk with a cane or anything. He just makes it work.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Eddo is such an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I’m going to remember the quote aswell. 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are welcome. We all need inspirational people to give us hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Judy says:

    Wow. I love that t-shirt and the meaning behind it. What a remarkable man. Thank you so much for sharing him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are most welcome. Thank you for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. doar nicole says:

    This is an extraordinary post, thank you for the wonderful read, and wishing Eddo well! And you all. I look forward to the second post, to reading the nice wisdom words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this lovely comment.

      Like

  11. I love that – – create more, control less!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks! I got a comment from the person in Texas who designed the t-shirt and it seems I got the order wrong so it should be control less, create more. But the meaning is still clear I think!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi. I am the one in Texas who designed that t-shirt for our fundraiser for Eddo at Sonesta Farms. I’m glad you liked it, but you quoted it backwards. It is actually “Contol less. Create more. “

    This is just one of Eddo’s wise and frequent statements to his students.

    He is an amazing man and wonderful trainer/clinician.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I should have got the t-shirt out and checked the quote! My apologies. I am posting some of Eddo’s quotes tomorrow and I will make sure I get it right. Thank you!

      Like

      1. Just pointing it out. What he generally says is “You must stop trying to control the horse so much. When you stop controlling, you can create more.”

        Love this guy!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Miss A says:

    Oh wow, what a dedicated fighter! Nice tribute.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you! He will be reading the comments later so he’ll appreciate seeing yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Edo truly is inspirational!! My riding instructor has been taking clinics with him and I’ve gone to watch and listen and he is an amazing man!! I can’t wait to read about all his motivational quotes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Oh, thank you for letting me know this! I’m posting his quotes tomorrow.

      Like

  15. What a great guy. And the picture on his horse is perfection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes he is so resilient. Thanks for your comment. I know Eddo will see the comments and it will be positive for him!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh good. What a remarkable man.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. A wonderful tribute to someone that gets knocked down then gets up again. Thanks for sharing 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are welcome. I think we need stories like this!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. What a humbling and uplifting story! I will think of him when I am struggling in life. Thank you for sharing, looking forward to hearing his words of wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are most welcome. He is an inspirational person.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Katrin says:

    I love those words to live by. He sounds like an amazing teacher and rider

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      He is and I have great respect for him. Thank you for this kind comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Bravo to the “never give up” spirit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Indeed! Thank you for this supportive comment.

      Like

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