by Brandon LaChance
Lena Olson Hurt, Can’t Work With Animals Because of Recovery
Lena Olson always tells people not to stand or walk behind horses.
She laughs now as she didn’t listen to her own advice on July 22 when getting the Oly Farm’s trailers ready for their first horse showcase of the year.
“I was kicked by one of our Clydesdale horses, Arizona, in the stomach. She is a 2,000 pound animal with a lot of force behind her. Arizona is 7-years old. She is the sweetest, quietest mare we have,” said Olson, who is the main person behind the hard work at Oly Farms since 2008 and the petting zoo since 2020, but her husband Kris is involved. “She is my favorite. We were loading the trailer to go to our first horse show in Iroquois County. I had just got done washing all the horses and I was putting them in the trailer, so when my husband came outside, we could just get in the trucks and go.
“For whatever reason, she decided that she didn’t like the stallion, Clever, I was bringing into the trailer. She decided to try to kick him. She was looking to her left, so I don’t think she saw me. She got me with her second kick. The first one hit me in the legs and the second one got me in the stomach and ribs. I was already trying to get out of the way after the first one.
“With the first one, she kicked me back and I hit an upright to a divider in the trailer. That bruised my entire backside, but I’m OK from that. The kick to the stomach broke four ribs and I have a Grade 4 lacerated liver.”
After the blow, Olson got Clever tied in the trailer, but was holding her stomach and was having trouble breathing. She made it to the house, but was crawling into the kitchen to find Kris. Lena told her husband what happened and then waited four hours to go to the hospital because she still wanted to go to the horse show.
Kris talked her out of it. The couple went to the Pontiac Hospital and were sent to Bloomington. In Bloomington, the Olsons were told to go to Peoria because it’s a Level 2 trauma center and she needed a Level 1.
Lena stayed in Peoria for one night and was released when her blood work showed the liver was healing itself and she would not need surgery. The ribs were a concern because of breathing, but the doctors told her to relax and not risk putting strain on the lacerated liver because it could cause huge issues.
Although Arizona was on the giving end, she still received some trauma of the emotional kind.
“By the time Kris got out there, Arizona was already mopey because she knew what she did and felt bad. They’re like big dogs. She knew she made a mistake.” Lena Olson said. “When I go outside now, she puts her head down because she wants me to scratch her.
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“But that’s all I can do because I can’t do chores. If my body can handle it, I’m at a 10-pound weight restriction for the next two months. They said for me to be 100-percent recovered, it would be a minimum of four months and a maximum of six months. They said I’m closer to the six months. They didn’t put me on any food restrictions. I’m on pain killers, so I know better than to get into a case of Budweiser.”
Arizona was originally an Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale, but the beverage company let the horse go because of color criteria. Her name came from the day she was born as she saw her first sunlight the morning of the 2015 Super Bowl, which was in Arizona.
Olson can tell stories about all of her horses and other animals including how they got their name, ages, birthplace, and character strength and weaknesses.
This is why the recovery time is so tough for the animal lover. She doesn’t know if she’ll be able to keep all of her animals if she can’t do the chores and the routine she has developed.
Plus, pay bills.
“Over the first three or four days, because sitting here doing nothing you have a lot of time think, I was thinking about the hospital bills rolling in,” Olson said. “I think I’ll be able to go back to my job (lunch lady) when the school opens, but I’m not 100-percent positive either, because it depends on my restrictions and whether I can do it or not. The doctor may not want me on my feet that long. So, we’re going to revisit the work situation next week.
“It’s just my husband and I’m the one usually out in the barn most of the time. I have the summer off since I work at a school and he works and helps as needed. He had an accident in years prior that limits his ability for certain things, which makes me feel horrible because I can see he’s doing it. I also see he’s struggling at times.
“I thought about getting rid of some of the animals. We have the petting zoo. I don’t want to totally deplete it. I want to try to keep some of the animals, so we can fulfill some of our commitments we already made for the rest of the year.”
Birthday parties, Dwight’s National Night Out on August 2, and the Illinois State Fair are some of the Oly Farm’s commitments Lena refuses to back out on.
The animal caretaker made a Facebook post speaking about the incident and the possibilities of selling animals and reductions in events.
This sparked community members of all types to reach out with assistance, including Kati Ricken who started a Go Fund Me page, “Oly Farms Needs Help.”
“I’ve only spoke with her twice just going to her farm with my children,” said Kati Ricken who used to live in Dwight and now resides in Verona with her husband Sean Johnson and their children Oliver Johnson (3) and Haylee Johnson (2). “I just think she is a really special part, an important part, of our community because there isn’t many places in the Dwight area to bring your kids to learn about agriculture and animals.
“She does it for free or donations. The kids get to have fun and learn, and the adults do as well. She works hard on the farm and she still has a full-time job. I just really don’t want to see her lose her animals. I think it’s a cause that is really important to our community.”
Lena Olson has seen and felt the support.
When asked about it, she chokes up and doesn’t know what to say until she catches her breath.
“Before and after the post the entire community is coming together to support everything that we do for our people because when we come out it’s off of donations,” Olson said. “We don’t charge people for anything on the farm. It gives everybody the experience to pet the animals, sit on a horse, or ride a horse. I didn’t want to take that away from everybody, but we have to do what we have to do to pay the bills. Everyone has come together to help. We’ve received Tractor Supply gift cards and there is a GoFundMe page to help us keep everything so we don’t have to get rid of what we have.
“I’m speechless. Being part of a small-farm community is great. The gratitude is just over pouring. I can’t keep up with some of it. People are coming out and helping with chores. We’ve had food brought to us. I can’t cook because it’s a struggle to lift a plate to get it into the microwave.
“I don’t even know what to tell people. Thank you is not enough. I didn’t expect any of this at all. It’s the little things that add up to big things. At this point, we might not have to get rid of any animals.”
As of July 29, Oly Farms hasn’t sold any animals and the Go Fund Me page is up to $1,085.
Brandon LaChance is a journalist with The Paper. He can be reached at 815-876-7941, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.