Sunday, August 30, 2009


I was supposed to ride all three horses today, but was attacked by a nasty head cold last night at around 11:30. We were at the tail end of our Dip Party that we were hosting at our house, and it kind of came out of nowhere. I thought it was just a massive allergy attack but today I feel run down and terrible. I feel weak when I get up and walk around so there is no way I was going to be able to school three horses. So I stayed home.

Here's hoping I don't regret missing one schooling day. I'll just simmer in the guilt until I ride on Tuesday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Week in lessons

I had three lessons this week. It's getting hard to keep them all straight, and I neglected to take notes Tuesday after two of the lessons. I don't know if I mentioned that I'm hauling over to my trainer's barn for lessons twice a week for one lesson on each horse. Yeah, I'm crazy.

Anyway, I'm going to try and get some things written down so I will remember what I'm supposed to be working on. Nationals is less than a month away (!!!) so I must make progress!

Skyy's lesson on Tuesday was a good one. He was great for me - very focused and had his learning pants on. We worked on refining his contact. Sometimes he bears down on the bit too hard, which is the opposite of what he used to do which was not establish a steady contact at all. For the solution my trainer had me ride him with my hands slightly higher in combination with a strong half halt when he bears down. Then she had me release the pressure and send him forward. We also worked on better canter departs and getting a nicer more swinging back at the walk. I practiced those things tonight and I think I'm making some headway.

Albert also had a lesson on Tuesday, and he needs to be straighter behind, so we worked on an exercise where we do shoulder-in from the corner to E or B, then turn across the arena and as soon as possible establish the opposite shoulder in. When we reach the wall we do the other shoulder in to the corner. It's hard because on the way across the arena Albert is almost going sideways, but my trainer said that this is helping get his inside hind leg to work in the right place. We also concentrated on consistent cadence and rhythm in the canter, as well as working on the medium trot. After the last show he kind of shut down on me when I'd ask for the medium trot, and would just trot really fast with a tense back instead of pushing. I think it's because he had so much room at the show and then when we got back home to the small arena he didn't like the confinement. Luckily my trainers arena is large sized so we were able to get some nice pushing strides. I worked on these things tonight and I think they are coming along nicely.

Kaswyn had a lesson tonight, and he's feeling okay. He is certainly more sound but he does have moments of unevenness. I had been trying to get Kaswyn to be more reactive to my leg so that I wouldn't have to keep my leg on him so strongly all the time. So when he would shut down I would put my leg on, and if I'd get no response I'd tap with the whip. My trainer didn't want me to do that. Instead she had me drive him forward with big leg thumps. When he ran forward, which we both knew he would do, she had me contain the energy and instead of letting him bolt forward I directed the energy up and out through his shoulders. This worked both at the trot and canter. We also worked large schooling canter half-passes and schooling trot leg yields.

So I'm sure most of you are thinking "Why do you think we want to read about this?". Well, maybe someone will find some of this helpful. Mostly I'm doing it because it's helpful to me. Like I said above I'm having a hard time keeping everything straight with so many lessons, and writing it down really helps me remember what the plan is. Also once it's written I can come back later and look it up.

Well there you go. I'm exhausted and I'm heading to bed. Have I mentioned how awesome my husband Craig is? He's the best. :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Sister Chronicles. Ahoy! - Part 2

Part 1

So Tracy and I were playing on the pier at the River House. Someone, probably me, got the bright idea of getting into the boats. All I know is that I got into the motor boat, and Tracy got into the row boat. Both were tied to the pier, so we weren't really going anywhere.

We started to play a game where we were captains of our ships. We were at war with each other, and since the boats were tied on different sides of the pier we were hurling insults and splashing water at each other across the pier. At first Tracy had the advantage because she had oars in her row boat. But after some rummaging around I found a pair of oars in the motor boat too.

Since the motor boat was taller than the rowboat and therefore further away from the water, it was harder for me to splash Tracy so I was getting the worst of it. I retreated under the glass windshield of the motor boat, where I was distracted by the control panel. When Tracy saw that I had a steering wheel and a bunch of other cool controls to play with, she realized that the motor boat was more fun. She got onto the pier and ordered me out of the motor boat.

Usually I would just roll over and do what she wanted. But this was one of those rare occasions where I told her no. I wouldn't give up the motor boat. I was there first and I wanted it to be my ship. Being the nice little sister, I told her that she could come on board and we could play in it together. She said she wanted to steer, and that she wanted to be the captain. So I didn't budge because I wanted to be the captain too.

She got in the boat with me and told me to get out. I didn't. Then she started to really get into it with me, threatening to tell mom.

Now, I really don't know why this was her big go to card with me, but it worked. Any time she wanted me to do something and I wouldn't all she had to say was "If you don't, I'll tell mom!" and I would comply. She would do this with everything and it worked like a charm.

I was really mad when I got out of that motor boat. So mad, in fact, that I said "You want to be captain? You want to steer? Fine. YOU STEER THEN!" I marched over to the post of the pier and untied the motor boat, setting my sister adrift down the river.

To be continued...

Part 3

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Sister Chronicles. Ahoy! - Part 1

I have had a few stories milling around in my head for awhile now. Here is one of the more interesting ones. Surprisingly, it does not involve horses.

I have an older sister. She is fifteen months older than me. Here's how that happened.

My parents got married and wanted kids as soon as possible. My mom failed to get pregnant right away, and so she went to see her doctor. It was the early 60's, so her doctor gave his best infertility advice, which was "You're trying too hard. Just relax and it will happen."

Finally, six years later it did happen. My mom was pregnant. Unfortunately she miscarried in her first trimester. That finally spurred the doctors into actually doing something to help the process along. They found that my mom had a cyst on one of her ovaries, and the other fallopian tube was blocked. They cleared out the blocked tube and removed the cyst, and told my parents to get busy. They did, and my sister Tracy was born within a year.

Now, you have to understand just how excited they were for this child. My father spent two hours at the hospital filming my sister in the nursery. She was sleeping. We still have the footage, all 120 boring minutes of it. Apparently that was the only time she did sleep, because when they got her home she would not sleep for more than an hour. Tracy would wake up hungry, and they would try to give her a bottle. She would take three or four sucks on the bottle and then fall asleep. They tried like crazy to wake the kid up, but she stayed asleep. They tried flicking her feet, taking her clothes off, dipping her hand in cold water, all that stuff, because they knew she would sleep longer if she could just get some food into her.

However Tracy refused to cooperate and was getting my poor mom up every hour all night (and day) long. Just when she thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. My mom found out she was pregnant with me. How had this happened?

Well, my parents never considered that the blocked tube and possibly the cyst were preventing the pregnancies, and that once those were fixed then all systems were go. They figured that it took seven years to have the first baby, so they wouldn't worry about birth control. That's how I came to be. Blissful ignorance about the reproductive system. Ironic, no?

My poor mother had a bad fifteen months. She was already exhausted from lack of sleep, and then she had pregnancy fatigue on top of that. Tracy wasn't sleeping through the night and my mother was starting to worry if she was going to survive. But my dear sister took pity on my mother and started sleeping through the night weeks before I was born.

My mom steeled herself for another year or more of no sleep. However, three days after getting home from the hospital my parents woke at 6 am. Their first thought - "The baby! Something's wrong!" They ran into my room and there I was, asleep. With my thumb in my mouth. I slept through the night after that. Such an angel, I know.

Even thought you wouldn't know it, this story doesn't have to do with Tracy and I when we were babies. This story was when we were probably around 8 years old.

First let me explain the dynamic between Tracy and I. While she was a booger and didn't sleep through the night she was precocious in other ways. She talked very early. In fact she could hardly stand on her own but could say the entire Pledge of Allegiance. My mother would take her to the grocery store and hold her on the checkout counter and let people hear my tiny sister pledge her little heart out, hand over her heart. So Tracy was talking (and walking too) very early, and I had a lot of catching up to do.

At 15 months difference we really aren't that far apart in age. That didn't stop Tracy from being the dominating sibling in the relationship. When we got old enough to play together (meaning I was walking and talking) we got along well. That's because Tracy called the shots. Any game that didn't come with rules (and even sometimes then) Tracy made up the rules. If we played Barbies, I had to be Ken or Skipper, never Barbie. If we played stuffed animals she got to pick who she wanted to play with first, and I got the leftovers. Same with the Breyer horses, and she even got to pick which swing she wanted to use. We also played this bizarre game called "Sister and Mom", where I was the sister and Tracy was the mom. In this game she basically just bossed me around, telling me to go to bed or wash her clothes. And like a good little sister I allowed it and did exactly as I was told.

But every now and then I had an independent thought and rebelled against her tyranny. And we finally get to the story now...

My Great Aunt and Uncle used to have what we called the River House. It was their vacation home in Virginia, and was on the banks of some big river. Our family would get invited to spend a week or so each summer at the River House with their family. It was a lot of sitting around, playing in the huge yard, and swinging in the hammock. Plus eating tons of food. It was a great time. (On a side note I'm pretty sure I heard a story that Tracy was conceived at the River House. Or my younger brother Chris was.)

My Great aunt and Uncle were avid boaters and had a motor boat and a smaller row boat at their pier, which was at the end of the long back lawn of the house. Tracy and I used to get chicken necks from Dad and tie them to strings and go down to the pier and try and catch crabs. I don't know if that ever worked, but it occupied us for hours.

I'm pretty sure that's what we were doing that day. We got bored with crab catching and someone got the bright idea of getting into the boats.

To be continued...

Part 2

Saturday, August 15, 2009


About ten days ago I started feeling rather sick. I thought I had just strained my stomach muscles from riding or something, and started popping the antiacids. When that didn't clear it up I went to a bland diet for a few days. Then on Wednesday night I was woken every two hours with stabbing pain in my stomach.

A visit to the doctor on Thursday confirmed my suspicions - that I have a peptic ulcer. They put me on a proton pump inhibitor (which slows down the production of stomach acid) which made me feel better. I'll have to be on that for two months at least to clear this up. They also tested me for the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which is the bacterium that is associated with peptic ulcers. If the test comes back positive then I get to go on two different antibiotics plus the proton pump inhibitor for 14 days. The antibiotics will get rid of the ulcer, but will also make me feel crappy because of the side effects. I'll take probiotics to help minimize the side effects, but in the past I still end up feeling pretty awful by the end of the prescription.

I decided that I wanted to just go on the antibiotic right away and stop it if the test came back negative. I need to get this taken care of sooner rather than later. So the doc called the prescription down to the pharmacy in the building. I stopped by there and they said that they didn't have any but they could order it. Oh, and that with my insurance coverage it would be $165. Without my coverage it would be almost $600!!

That's crazy! But I really wanted to start the meds ASAP, so I asked the doc to call in the prescription to another pharmacy (hoping they would have it in stock). The second pharmacy could not fill the prescription because the first pharmacy already did, even though I never got the meds. The first pharmacy is not open on the weekend, so I have to wait until Monday to get it filled.

Even if I want the meds on Monday I probably won't be able to get them. First, they still have to order them. Second, I will probably need pre-authorization from my insurance company, which means at least a week of the doctor's office and the insurance company sending paperwork back and forth.

Also, my test is not back yet, and is not expected to be back until Tuesday at the earliest. Since the meds are so expensive I will probably just wait until the test comes back and then start dealing with the pharmacy and insurance company.

They think that stress has played a part in giving me this ulcer - as if just getting the medication to treat it isn't stressful enough! My job is very stressful, and I'm stressed about Nationals, so I guess I'm dealing with a pretty full plate right now. However that doesn't mean that I'm quitting my job or not training for Nationals. That would just be silly! But I am going to try and relax a little bit and not lets things get me all stressed out. However, that's just not me so it's going to be difficult.

When I told Marge about it she said "Well, I'm not surprised!" Later she teased me and called me a "rotting person." I said "Hey, at least I'm considerate and am just rotting from the inside. That way nobody needs to look at it!"

In regards to the horses, it's still business as usual despite the ulcer. I had two lessons on Thursday - one on Skyy and one on Kaswyn. Skyy's lesson was really good. My trainer reminded me again about my right shoulder, and we worked on me letting go of the reins. I'm much more secure if I can have a nice hold on Skyy's reins, but that shortens his neck and restricts his stride. It's really a bit scary to just let go and send him forward, both at the trot and canter. But it really improves his movement so I just have to get brave and do it.

After an hour on Skyy I had a short 20 minute lesson on Kaswyn. He still felt weak but my trainer thinks he looks sound. She also wants me to let his neck out a little while keeping him round at the same time. He needs to slowly build muscles up in his neck and back, and if I can do this right then he might end up being more even in the long run. It's kind of like a clean slate in some ways. I just need to ride him properly.

So I'll have another lesson on Skyy Tuesday of next week, but he will be my only lesson that week. My trainer will be riding a horse at The Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Championships so she will be out of town Thursday. I'm sure I can use the day off (from lessons, not riding - I'll still ride all three that day!). And I'm sure my trainer will do well. She usually does.

I hope to be ulcer free before we get to Lexington!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A week in review

Wow, so busy, no time to write!

Okay so let me get caught up. The saddle lady came out and thankfully said that Kaswyn's saddle fits him fine still and that it doesn't need any adjusting. Yay! Then she looked at Albert's saddle and said it does not fit him anymore. The saddle Susan bought him in 2003 was made specially to be an extra-wide size, but now he is bigger than that. There isn't any way to make it wider, so he needs a new saddle. We tried Kaswyn's saddle on him and it fit, so the saddle lady suggested I ride Albert in Kaswyn's saddle. I was hesitant about it because I was told that if I ride another horse in Kaswyn's saddle that it might change and not fit him properly, but she said that it would be okay for a short term thing.

Susan wants a saddle like mine anyway but right before Nationals is not the time to be spending money on a new one. Luckily I was able to locate one in our area on Craigslist, and we tried it out. It fits Albert and I was able to take a lesson yesterday in the saddle. It is certainly different from his old saddle and will take a little getting used to, but it's more comfortable and I'm sure he likes it better. The lesson was great but it about killed me - more on that in a minute. Anyhow Susan will ride in the saddle and make sure she likes it too, and then decide how she's going to pay for it.

Then the saddle lady looked at Skyy's saddle. Sadly his saddle doesn't fit him anymore either. The saddle he has is a County dressage saddle, and the saddle lady said that it would be better to have a County representative adjust the saddle (if that's even possible). If the saddle has a warranty then the only people who can adjust them are County reps or it could void the warranty. However Albert's saddle fit Skyy very nicely.

Skyy's owner is having the County lady come out on Thursday and take a look a the saddle. I don't know what the plan will be if she can't adjust it. Susan has to sell her old saddle and I'm pretty sure that Skyy's owner doesn't want to buy it. I can probably use Albert's saddle on Skyy until the saddle is sold, but if it sells quickly then we're kind of in trouble.

After the saddle lady left, Dr. C came out to check Kaswyn one more time and give him his last mesotherapy treatment. However after the initial exam, watching me ride him, and the second exam were over Dr. C decided that Kaswyn didn't need another treatment. He was very happy with the way Kaswyn had responded to the treatment, and said "I never would have thought that he would be this good after how bad he was on that first day." He had no soreness or tightness in his back after I rode, and his neck wasn't sore at all. I've been stretching his neck with every ride, so I guess that helps.

We also talked about Kaswyn's stride, because I've noticed that Kaswyn is just a bit slower with his left hind leg about 40% of the time. It's hardly noticeable but I've been scrutinizing his videos and watching him on the lunge line at the trot and you can see he puts the left hind foot down just a fraction of a second later than the right front hits the ground. I mentioned it to Dr. C while I was on Kaswyn and he agreed, but said that it went away when I pushed Kaswyn a little bit. His conclusion, since Kaswyn was totally sound that day, was the Kaswyn just moves that way and probably always has. He does not think it's related to his back, stifle, hips, or pastern. It's not enough that a judge would notice it, and it's not a lameness, just a minute unevenness. It might be improved if I make it a point to keep that left hind active and prevent it from being slow. At this point since I'm building him back up I might be able to build both sides evenly and minimize the unevenness.

He also pointed out that Kaswyn tends to drag his toes when he trots, which makes him appear more uneven if he goes through changes in footing. When it gets deeper or he trots over a high spot he can catch his toes in the sand and that makes the stride change. So it's possible that at a show with more even footing this will be much less on an issue than it is at our barn.

Anyway, I'm very happy about how Kaswyn feels right now. I'm going to take my time and build him back up slowly, three or four days a week, with gradual increases in time and difficulty of work. Hopefully if I do this right we can get back on track. I fee like this is finally the end of a very long road filled with lameness, treatments that don't work, and unanswered questions. And big vet bills.

Yesterday I had a lesson with Albert at my trainer's. The plan is, for the next five weeks until Nationals, to take a lesson a week on each horse at my trainer's barn because she has the full sized arena. I will take Albert on Tuesdays and Kaswyn and Skyy on Thursdays. As long as I'm going over there with Skyy, and I will have Skyy's owner to help me, I might as well take Kaswyn too and take advantage of the good footing. And of course get more coaching. Yesterday my trainer really got on me for my right side. I'm hiking my right shoulder up and getting myself all twisted which is affecting how the horses go. When I don't get regular lessons I fall into terrible habits, so have have five weeks to shape up!

Albert is going very well. He is a little crooked when going to the right. He brings his hips right and bulges his shoulder left. It's mostly noticeable at the canter, so we did an exercise where we canter a 20 meter circle and counterflex on the open end of the circle. This will help me bring his shoulders more to the right and make it easier to align the hips. We also worked on getting the hind legs to push my doing a series of 10 meter trot circles on the long side and concentrating on rhythm keeping both hind legs active. Another trot exercise we did was 20 meter circle in the center of the arena, with a leg yield out on one side of the circle and a 10 meter circle in the opposite direction on the other side of the circle. This helps with more outside rein connection and also getting the horse to change bend smoothly.

I have more of this to look forward to in the next few weeks. The lessons are hard but I love having them. Although I thought I was going to have to stop and ask for a rest at one point. You would think that riding three horses has put me in shape for one lesson. I guess I still have lots of work to do.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Quick update

Lots has been going on, but I don't have time for details. So here is the short version.

Kaswyn has done wonderfully since the second mesotherapy treatment. We have our third treatment today, and it will probably be the last one he gets. Then we just take it nice and slow and get his strength back up.

There was major drama over the weekend, specifically Saturday. First it looked like the whole trip to Nationals was off because of money problems for multiple people involved. Then Sunday we took all three boys on a trail ride and talked over the situation. Now it looks like Albert and Skyy will go but Kaswyn will stay home. This is sad for me but I decided that no matter how much I wanted to take him to the show that I needed to do the responsible thing and spend the money that I saved to help us get out of debt. It's not as fun to use the money that way, but it's the right thing to do. The plan over the next two years is to continue to pay off that damn credit card and then save some money. If we can do that then Kaswyn will go to Nationals in 2011. Depending on what financial shape we are in at that time maybe we can go to Regionals too. We'll just have to see.

Today the saddle fitter is coming out for Albert, Kaswyn, and Skyy. Then the vet comes out for Kaswyn's mesotherapy. So it will be a busy afternoon.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr