Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nothing exciting

I have no update on Kaswyn's progress. This is because I haven't really ridden him in two weeks. He lost his right front shoe, and the blacksmith couldn't get out for a week. I'm sure I could have had another blacksmith tack the shoe on, but I'm funny about having anyone but J touch Kaswyn's feet. So, we had a week of bareback riding at the walk, with a few trot steps here and there so I could get an idea if he was taking even strides. He seemed to be very even and comfortable.

The day that Kaswyn got his shoe back on I flew out to California for 5 days to visit friends and to go to my 20th high school reunion. I hadn't been to any of the other reunions, and decided I wanted to go to this one. I only keep in contact with one friend from high school - K. She did not want to go. I finally talked her into going, but we still had a backup plan of going somewhere else if the whole thing sucked. We ended up having a lot of fun, and went to a bar with a bunch of people after the party hall kicked us all out. She was glad that we went, and I'm sure we'll be going to the 25 year reunion.

It was really nice to see all my friends. Lately I've been on a mission to get in touch with people that I've not talked to in years. I was able to reconnect with one of these people on this trip. We rode together at first, but then we started hanging out and driving up to San Francisco to get into trouble. We were too young to get into bars, but we still found ways of entertaining ourselves without spedning a lot of money, since we were both broke most of the time. She looks exactly the same! We had lunch in San Francisco, and it was like we never stopped talking. Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time to spend together, but we'll try and get together next time I'm in CA.

Although it was nice to spend 5 days in California, I'm ready to get back to riding. Normally I would ride Kaswyn today, but Lily is home with a fever. Craig stayed home with her yesterday, and really had to get to work today. I hate calling off of work, but I didn't really have a choice. Anyhow, I won't be riding but I need to stop by the barn with Lily and fix Kawsyn's supplements for the next week. Hopefully I'll get to ride on Thursday and we can see how he's doing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Getting back to it

I had a mini-lesson with Kaswyn on Tuesday. It was only 20 minutes, but it was very productive. My trainer just happened to be in the ring lunging a horse and she started helping me with the canter. He was feeling really good so we worked on getting him to be straight and supple, bear more weight behind, and use his inside hind a little more effectively. It's amazing how quickly bad habits creep into your riding when you're not taking lessons or actively working towards a goal. Before Tuesday I was just happy when Kaswyn was sound and didn't act like he was in pain. I guess now it's time to start building him back up. It's important that he work correctly when I ride him so that he builds the proper muscles and stays supple and straight. At the end he was feeling a bit tired but still felt sound and even.

I, on the other hand, was dying. After we went down to the walk to cool off, my trainer was talking to me and was asking me questions. I was breathing so hard that I could hardly talk. She was laughing at me, but no more than I was laughing at myself. I could never survive a full hour lesson right now, and neither could my horse. I guess we'll both just work back up to it. If he can stay sound and pain-free.

Wish us luck.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Getting thrown

My trainer and I were recently talking about the last time we were bucked off of horses. My last time sent me to the emergency room. Here's how it went down, or rather, how I did. Down to the ground.

Every year in our area there is a big team dressage show. Anyone can enter their horse in the show, but there is a team competition aspect to the show. Teams of four enter certain classes at the show and then the lowest score for each team on each day is dropped. The rest of the scores are added up and the team with the highest score is the Champion. There are ribbons and nice prizes, plus some cash. It's really a lot of fun to cheer your team on.

This one year I was on a team with my trainer, her mom, and another gal at the barn. We had all been on a team the year before, and we were Champions that year. This girl, C, had recently purchased a new horse, and this would be her second show on him. About a week before the show she said she was sick and wouldn't be able to show her horse. We all thought it was a little strange that she didn't think she'd be better in a week, but she was convinced that she could not ride. So rather than scrap the whole thing, we decided to juggle our team a little and have my trainer's mom, M, ride my horse and I would ride C's horse. M would still show her horse but the scores just wouldn't count toward the team, and since we only had three people on the team there would be no drop score. The pressure was on!

The week before the show I rode C's horse and took a couple of lessons on him. We were doing first level, and he wasn't exactly easy to ride. Kinda pushy and a little bullheaded, but I thought I could put in a decent test on him. M rode my horse and he was really good for her, so things were looking up for us.

We got to the show and I was warming this horse up. He was being quite a pig in the warmup, and if I remember right he bucked and kicked out at another horse in the warmup ring. I was getting a little nervous, but I just thought that the test might suck and I might screw the team over. Turns out any score would have been better than what happened.

We started our test, first level test 2, I think. Things were going fine until we headed across the diagonal of the ring for a lengthening of stride at the trot. The horse grabbed the bit and took off bucking. I was able to stop him by turning in a circle, and since I went off course I rode back to the judge and asked her where she wanted me to restart the test. She asked if I wanted to continue, and I said yes. So she had me re-do the lengthening and continue from there. We were able to do that, no problem. About 3 movements further in the test there was another lengthening of stride across the diagonal. I was nervous going into it, but I was prepared for him to be naughty. I had no idea how naughty he'd be.

We started across the diagonal, and this time when he grabbed the bit he meant business. He really bucked hard and bolted towards the end wall of the arena - which was covered in mirrors. This horse wanted me off, and he intended to get nasty about it. I had lost my seat and knew I was coming off this time, but I really wanted to come off MY way, not his. He kept twisting and bucking and I was thinking "I want OFF of this animal! The second he goes straight I need to bail." But it was too late at that point. He bucked hard and I flew off to the right. I hit the ground really hard on the back of my pelvis, and my helmet flew off.

There is a certain feeling you get when you fall off of a horse. It's a huge adrenaline rush as you're flying through the air (the OH SHIT moment), followed by pain as you hit the ground and the taste of dirt in your mouth. Usually my first thought is "DAMMIT!" because I hate falling off. This time, however, my first thought was "Oh god, he's loose. Please don't let him run me over!", because I think this horse would have happily stomped me into the ground. My trainer vaulted over the wall and came running towards me. I was saying "My back! My back! Catch him! Don't let him run over me!" and L was saying "Don't worry about the damn horse! Just don't move!" I was really worried at that point that I had seriously hurt my back. I had hit the ground so hard and it was hurting so much that I thought something might be broken. I started to cry.

L got to me first, and then other people came running. I kept lifting my head to see if they had caught the demon-steed, and L kept saying "Please, don't move! Don't worry about the horse!" One person who showed up was some sort of official at the show. I never really knew what her exact title was, but it was something to do with a nurse or EMT or something. Anyhow, I was lying in the dirt and she was asking if I could move my legs. I did, and was starting to calm down. My back still hurt, but not as much, so I decided to sit up. L and her mom were protesting, telling me to lie still, but I was saying that I thought I was okay. The nurse lady was saying "If she says she's okay then let her do it!" I could tell L was getting pissed at this lady, and was saying "I really think you should just stay where you are."

I sat up anyway and for the first time I realized that the show had come to a grinding halt and everyone in the stands was staring. Even people in the warm up were sitting on their horses watching the scene unfold. Now, you'd think that someone getting bucked off at a horse show is a common occurance. It might be at other shows, but it's pretty rare at dressage show, so this was a treat for everyone. Except me. I started to get really embarassed. It was my fault that the show was stopped and that nobody could show their horse until I got out of the ring. That's when I decided I needed to get out of the ring NOW.

I started to stand up, amid many protests from people around me (except nurse-lady, who seemed fine with it). I didn't care how it happened, but I wanted to get out of the ring so that the show could go on. See, at dressage shows you are given a specific time that you will be riding your test. Based on this time you warm your horse up at a certain time before the test. Since I had held up the show, the times would all be off and people who were currently warming up would have too much time in the warm up ring. With some horses this wouldn't have mattered, but some horses need a very specific warmup routine to perform at their best.

I can't really remember how I got out to the lobby of the arena, but I remember sitting in a chair when someone came up to me and said "Do you want to go to the hospital?" I said no, that I thought I'd be okay. I was informed that the ambulance was en route, so I might as well let them look at me. So, fine, they can look at me. What harm would that be?

The EMT's showed up and they were very nice. They strongly recommended that I go to the hospital to have my back x-rayed, so I agreed. They put me in a neck brace and strapped me tn a back board and then I see one of them coming at me with a roll of tape. Here's how that went -

ME: (nervously) What are you doing with that?
EMT: I have to tape your head down while we drive to the hospital.
ME: (starting to panic) I really don't want you to.
EMT: Well, we have to just in case you have a neck injury.
ME: (really panicing, now that I'm strapped to the backboard) Please don't!
EMT: I'm sorry, but we have to.
ME: (crying and freaked out) THEN I'M NOT GOING!

The EMT looked at the other guy, who shrugged. They both looked at me, the poor little dirty crying girl, and the one guy said "Okay, I won't. But you have to promise not to move your head. Deal?" I swore that I'd be good and not move as long as they didn't strap my head down. I don't know why this sent me into such a panic. I was fine with being strapped to the back board, but having my head taped down just sounded super scary to me. Makes no sense to me even now, so don't expect a better explanation than that.

In case you're counting, that's big scene #2 that I'd be making at the show, because of course the lobby was crowded with people seeing what was happening to the girl who bit dirt.

The ride to the hospital was uneventful, since I kept my promise and didn't move my head. Not ONE INCH, cause I knew that dude still had the tape and wouldn't hesitate to use it. X-rays showed that I wasn't broken, and I was sent home. There's a funny story about how my husband found out about the whole thing (he wasn't at the show that day), but that's a story that he can tell.

The next morning my back was sore, but more alarming was that my left knee was swollen to an enormous size. One visit to an orthopaedic surgeon and an MRI later, I was diagnosed with a torn median collateral ligament. Kind of hard to tear, from my understanding. I was off of riding for 8 weeks, during which time my trainer rode Kaswyn. Every now and then it bothers me, but nothing serious.

C ended up selling Mr. Nastypants and buying a much nicer horse. Last my trainer heard the horse was in Florida being a jumper. I guess the bastard is happier jumping than doing dressage. Whatever keeps you from killing people, dude.

To this day I think Craig is very nervous when I say that I rode another horse besides my own. In fact I was very nervous on other horses for quite awhile, especially at the canter. Never with my horse though. Because it's Kaswyn - he'd never hurt me. Right, L?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Arabian shows

Arabian US Nationals starts on Thursday. If you followed the link, you'll see that Nationals is 40 years old, and this is the last time it's going to be held in Louisville, KY. For years the Nationals has alternated being held on the west coast (Albuquerque, NM) one year and on the east coast (Louisville) the next. Starting next year Nationals will not rotate, but will be held every year in a more central location - Wyoming, I think.

Anyhow, Kaswyn won his first National Championship at 4th level at Louisville in 2002 with me riding him. That was the last year that they held dressage, sport horse, and jumping classes at Nationals. Since then all of the sport horse classes have been held at
Arabian Sport Horse Nationals. But since we won this Championship at Louisville, it kind of holds a special place in my heart. It makes me sad that I won't be at Nationals for the last show there.

See, I started out showing arabians, not dressage. Arabian shows are one of a kind events, where you can find english, western, driving, halter, youth classes - pretty much everything. We used to take horses in multiple disciplines - for example I showed a horse once who used to go western, hunter, side saddle, and halter. You could really get a lot of showing in over one weekend and have a lot of fun. Arabian shows are a total blast. Almost all training barns decorate their stalls with stall drapes, plants, even furniture for the big shows. They rent extra stalls for tack stalls, groom stalls, and hospitality rooms where they keep mini-fridges stocked with goodies and a tv/VCR so potential clients can view horses for sale. There are barn parties and special events for horses who are retiring or getting achievement awards. When the classes are in the show ring, the crowd hoots and hollers at the horses going by, and if the judge looks at your favorite horse it's perfectly okay to cheer and show support. Trainers and coaches yell out instructions for their clients as they whiz by on their horses, sometimes frantically gesturing to get their point across. This was what I was used to when I started showing dressage.

However, dressage shows are much more sedate. Not that they aren't fun, but just different. There is minimal barn set up - maybe the barn will rent an extra tack/feed stall, but usually there is no groom or hospitality stall. Some have stall drapes, but it's on a much smaller scale than arabian shows. As far as the show ring goes, there's no hooting, no hollering, and certainly never any coaching from the sidelines. After the test is done there is usually polite clapping, and sometimes a tame "Woo!" can be heard, but that's it.

I had hoped to be able to get to Nationals again, just to attend and see all the classes. It's so fun to just sit at the ring and watch for hours because the classes are all mixed up. You'll see a western class, then maybe a youth class, then english, more western, driving...it's very entertaining. But now it's doubtful that I'll be getting to Nationals again. Sport Horse Nationals, hopefully, but not again in Louisville.

I can only hope that we'll make it to
Arabian Regionals again, since they still have all the other disciplines plus the dressage classes. I'll just have to set my sights on Lexington, KY instead!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Same horse, new plan

Yesterday was Tuesday, and I rode my horse. He was great. I'd say 100% sound and 98% even. So I looked back at my calendar and came to the conclusion that I think I've been riding my horse too hard. It seems like he needs more light days than work days, because Tuesdays are his best days and he gets a light day on Sunday and Monday off. So the current plan is:
Monday - off
Tuesday - ride for 10-15 mintues, complete with walk, trot and canter
Wednesday - off
Thursday - ride bareback and in a halter, walking only
Friday - ride for 10-15 monutes
Saturday - off
Sunday - ride walking only.
This way he'll get 3 days off a week, 2 days light riding where he has to bear weight on his back but no hard work, and 2 days of actual work. On his off days he'll get hours of pasture turnout in the morning, so he'll be getting out of his stall to walk around and graze. Once we start having consistantly good work days then I'll increase the time we work and, eventually, increase the number of work days to 3. He was getting 4 work days and I think that was just too much for him during this recovery period.

Days like yesterday fill me with hope that we'll be able to train again. It looks like it will be a really long road back. I'm willing to wait. He's worth it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not any loaf I'd like to have

Tonight we were giving the girls a bath. I got Macey out of the tub and was getting her dressed in her PJ's when I heard Lily and Craig talking in the bathroom. It went a little something like this -

LILY: (lying on her stomach in the tub) I'm makin' bubbles with my butt!

CRAIG: (eyeing the gaseous emissions and fearing another poop-in-the-tub disaster) Come on! We're getting you on the potty!

LILY: (now on the potty and looking at the "product" in the bowl) Hey! I made meat!

CRAIG: You made meat?

LILY: Yeah, Poop Meat!

Honestly, I don't know how she comes up with this stuff.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr