Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Place

My job is pretty stressful. I'm an embryologist, which means I work in an IVF lab and I am responsible for the embryos of people hoping to have babies. It's a very expensive and emotional process, so even small errors are magnified. Needless to say I'm careful, vigilant, and very paranoid.

Yesterday I was involved in a very tense procedure that lasted about 45 minutes. When it was over I realized I had been clenching my jaw tightly the whole time. This resulted in a hummin' headache later that night.

So today when I realized I was clenching during another procedure, I stopped myself and tried to picture a "happy place". You know, that place that most people think of to calm them down and it's usually the beach or the woods or something like that.

The first thing that came into my head? A barn.

The fact that it was a barn didn't surprise me, it was which barn it was. Not my barn, or any barn my horse was in. It was an old barn in California where one of Blair's horses went after she disappeared (that whole story starts here, if you're interested). It was kind of a crappy place, and I don't have any really fond memories there, so I pushed it aside and thought of another place.

This time, a meadow where we had played broomstick polo with our horses. Broomstick polo is easy. Get on bareback (halter required, but a bridle? not really), grab a broom and a ball of some kind, like a soccer ball, make two goals out of rocks or sticks, and whack the ball around with the brooms. It was pretty there and we had fun and all, but still not what I was looking for.

Finally I got it. And it was more of a feeling of a time rather than a place. It was my years at Fremont Hills Country Club Stables. We weren't members of the country club, but that is where I learned to ride. I had no stress there. I didn't own a horse, or even a car for that matter (I was 12!) so I had no money woes, except trying to find a quarter to buy a lemonade out of the vending machine. I didn't have to worry about my horse being sound - I didn't have one. I just took lessons and cared for horses.

I rode, and I was. That's it.

Right now things are very stressful for me outside of work too. Dealing with moving my horse (which I hate doing), fretting about his lameness (although the shot he just got worked beautifully again, telling me that we're on the right track), and stressing about money (all those shots and x-rays and surgeries aren't free). Then making sure the girls do their homework, get to swimming on time, and still have time to be kids too. Lastly my medieval adventures continue to take up a lot of time and energy, and even though that's fun and just a hobby it still can stress me out when I impose goals for myself and then don't meet them. Letting people down is the worst.

And yeah, you guys want to hear about why I'm moving Kaswyn and where I'm going and about the new horse opportunities and the surgery. And I'll get to that I swear. But not having that written and posted is stressing me in a certain way too. :)

So right now I'm going to take a deep breath, finish my lunch so I can get back in the lab for a very busy afternoon, and try to remember what it felt like to be 12, horse crazy, covered in barn dirt, and not have a care in the world.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Oh, my aching head...

I know I've not been posting, but I've got so much going on, and some things have happened very fast, I just haven't had time to get it all written down.

Some quick facts -

1) I'm moving Kaswyn to a new barn November 1st.
2) He's also scheduled for a surgery (hopefully the last one we'll have to do) in November at OSU.
3) I've got this project going on in the SCA that's keeping me busy and really forcing me to work outside of my comfort zone. It's great fun though.
4) There are some exciting horse opportunities for me on the horizon.

Right now I've got a MONSTER headache. Most likely a migraine. So I'm going to stop looking at this computer screen, beg the girls to play nicely (and quietly) and not fight until Craig gets home, and go lay on the couch.

Full details later. Pinky swear.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's this all about?

Lately I've been thinking about this blog and what it's all about. And if I want that to change.

I started this blog for a couple of reasons. First, I thought it would be fun to write all my horsey exploits down as they go along so that later I could read about things that I had forgotten. That got me thinking about the things that had happened to me around horses years ago, and prompted me to write some stories. That was a lot of fun to do and to read, and I'm glad I got some of those memories down in words instead of just images in my head.

Second I thought it might be interesting for people to read about my life with horses, a job, and kids. It's certainly a juggling act and results in me feeling like I always short change somebody - husband, kids, horse, and even me (notice that the one thing that can't get cut short is THE JOB. Ugh.).

Then I entered "the contest" earlier this year and I met people I wouldn't have met or became friends with otherwise. First there was Stacey at Behind the Bit. She was a huge cheerleader for me during the contest, which was really great of her, since she entered to win the contest herself.
Her blog is fantastic. She blogs EVERY DAY. I have tried to do that and obviously it just doesn't happen (well it did once during NaBloPoMo and that was painful). Sure while I was at WEG I blogged every day, but as soon as I returned to real life that all went out the window. And Stacey blogs about current events, new products, and other important stuff in the horse world today. She also updates on the progress of her young horse. Interestingly, she has decided that her blog is not a money making venture, so she has no ads on her site. This is rare today, I think, considering how popular her blog is and the fact that she could proabaly cash in on it.

Then, at WEG, I met Jackie from Regarding Horses. Another great site, to be sure. Jackie also posts often, and posts lots of news stories. She had great WEG coverage too. Her site is different from Stacey's in that Jackie has ads and sponsors on her site. But still a blog that's worth hitting a couple of times a week.

Then I met Glenn from Horse Radio Network. He and Samantha Clark also gave great WEG coverage with their radio shows. Glenn also works on a number of other radio shows for HRN. If you haven't listened to any HRN shows, you should. They have something for everyone, and they are great.

Then Stacey posted about Hamish and Dave, blogging duo from Australia who came to WEG to blog from halfway across the world. Their video posts were funny and engaging.

It got me to thinking - would my blog be better if I were more connected to the equestrian world? Should I be surfing the net to find current equine news stories? Could I make my blog work for me and make some money?

I even talked this over with Jackie at WEG. She said that people like my blog for what it is - stories from a mom who has a horse. She said she liked to read how I make it work, because she knows she'll be in the same boat someday.

Still, I was conflicted. I was feeling inadequate. Compared to Stacey, Jackie, Glenn, and Hamish and Dave, my blog was small and crappy. But did I really want to change that? I hardly had time to blog as it was. How could I take on more?

I mulled it over and over in my head for days. Then, last night we had a bedtime issue. Macey has a reading list that she's supposed to fill out for every book she reads. Now, she's in kindergarten, and she can't read complicated books yet. There are some very simple books that she can get through, but most of the ones she wants to read she gets frustrated with because she doesn't know the words. She wants to do it herself, and this creates a problem.

She picked out two very small (and by small I mean they are like 4 inches square!) books and said she wanted to read those books but was upset that they wouldn't count towards her book list. Craig assured her they would. She said they would not. He said they would. She started to cry. Keep in mind she was tired and really just needed to go to bed, so everything was a big freakin' deal.

I came upstairs and took her into her room and tried to get the story about what was happening while Craig read Lily her story. I still didn't get what was going on, but I got her calmed down, got her to blow her nose, and by that time Craig was ready for her. They agreed to read her 4 inch books, and then Macey would cuddle with me in our bed.

Macey was in our bed and I ran downstairs to do something, and I came up less than five minutes later to find her asleep. So much for cuddle time, but she needed to sleep. I left her in our bed while I took a shower and got ready for bed myself. Craig came to bed later to move Macey (she's getting kind of big and heavy for me to move) and said to me "You know, this girl loves me but she needs you."

I said "You really think so?"

He said "Yeah, I do."

Of course that made me feel good. Sometimes I don't feel like the best mom in the world, but I know that I am the best mom for MY kids.

Later, thinking about my blog, I thought that maybe my blog fills a specific need. People read it for what it is right now, and if they want to read news and other stuff they will go to the other sites. I may not be the best writer, the funniest, or the most up to date, but I write about what I know. And that's good enough.

So this is what you get. I'm always open to suggestions about how to make my blog better. But don't expect huge changes, like hard core advertising or up-to-the-minute news stories. That's not what my blog is all about. And I'm okay with that.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why I missed my kids

Yesterday I had this conversation with Lily, my soon-to-be seven-year-old daughter. We were in the car driving home from school, and it was lightly raining.

Lily: I like the rain.

Me: I do too. Plants and all the trees need rain to grow.

Lily: Yeah, and you know what else is great about rain?

Me: What's that?

Lily: It's the only water that animals get to drink that doesn't have fish poop in it!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Returning to life after WEG

It's been challenging coming back to work after having ten days filled with horses. I missed my family and my own horse, of course, but I could do without having to work. I like my job, but playing with horses and horse people is much more fun.

I have made some progress on the Kaswyn front. I asked Susan to put him on the lunge line while I was at WEG to do a lameness check and she said he looked weird to her. So on Monday I went out and lunged him and I could see it. He's not lame, but he's being careful with that left front. This was something he wasn't doing when he had the sarapin injection a few weeks ago. I think this kind of stride is what throws him off and eventually leads to him screwing up his hocks and back and everything else.

So I called Dr. G and he suggested I call this vet at Ohio State who is doing the study that involves injecting the nerve with a cocktail that will chemically deactivate the nerve without cutting it. It's sometimes called a chemical neurectomy, because the nerve signal is stopped by a chemical instead of severing it. I was able to get her on the phone today and I explained Kaswyn's history and she agreed that she thinks it's neuroma irritation that is causing his "lameness".

Her study is set to launch it's first big group of test subjects the week of October 25th. Kaswyn wouldn't be part of the study, as they are using a very tightly controlled group of horses. What she does is a surgery, much like a neurectomy, where the nerve is visualized and the cocktail injected directly into the nerve sheath. She said she has done four horses in a pilot study so far, and those horses were extremely lame before the surgery and were totally fine after. She offered to do the surgery on Kaswyn now or in late November once she had done the study horses and had three weeks of recovery data.

She really feels that this will work. The only thing is there is no data yet on how permanent this is. Still, her four previous horses have had no complications, and before Kaswyn has the surgery there will be ten (maybe twelve, I can't remember the number she said) more horses that will have had the procedure. The good thing is that it's a simple surgery, the incision is small, and there will be no new neuroma formation because the nerve won't be cut. It sounds like a good deal to me.

I spoke with Dr. G and he feels it's a good thing to do. So I'll bring Kaswyn down to Ohio State on a Sunday in November and drop him off, drive home, then come back Tuesday evening to pick him up. That way he'll get constant supervision after the surgery for 24 hours in case of complications.

I'm also going to repeat the sarapin injection in late October just to make sure that I see the same result the second time. I have a feeling that I will.

It's all very exicitng that this could potentially be the thing that takes the pain away from my horse. Since we're going to be working with a nerve that is already cut, I can't see how this could cause more problems. I know it's possible, but this vet at OSU thinks it's doubtful. And I'm going to wait for her to do her first group of test subjects and gather three weeks of recovery data before she does my horse.

Oh, and Albert is a mud wallowing pig. It's been raining here and that horse can't stay out of the mud. I'm going to get really sick of scraping the crust off of that boy. But we have to get back to work. I've got plans for Arabian Sport Horse Nationals in 2011, and he is part of that!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

WEG Day 9

Today all that was really going on was the stadium jumping for the eventing. It didn't start until 1:00 pm, so we took our time getting to the park. It was supposed to be like 50 degrees and sprinkling rain, so I put on three shirts and two pairs of jeans. It was a bit tight but it was the only way I was going to be warm and not have to buy more clothes. Sure I still had my nice blanket but I hate being cold!

We got to the park early and went to see the Alltech Experience. It was interesting, but really nothing fantastic, but free! Then we decided to pay the $10 and see the Arabian horse exhibit “A Gift from the Desert”. It included a lot of artifacts revolving around Arabian horses and horses in general dating back to 4000 BC. Like the Alltech Experience it was just okay. I wanted to get to the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries but I just didn't have time. I know I'll be down here again for a horse show so I'll see it then.

Before the stadium jumping started I got to meet Glen the Geek from Horse Radio Network, and did a quick interview for his radio show that evening. Then we headed up to the stands to our seats. We had seats on one of the short ends of the arena but they weren't under the cover. We noticed during the freestyle night that there were like two rows of seats under the cover on the stadium side of the arena that nobody sat in, so we made the decision to try and sit there. It seemed like it was common that people would sit in available seats and just relocate to other seats if the actual owners of the seats showed up.

We were lucky and didn't have to move so we got great seats for the jumping! I got some video and photos, which I'm going to take home and process instead of trying to upload them now. Some of the highlights for the US team (that I can remember, and I hope I'm remembering correctly) – Buck Davidson had two rails down, Philip Dutton and Boyd Martin went clean, and Karen O'Connor had a refusal and a rail down. That pretty much put the US out of the medals. We ended up in 4th place for the team competition with no individual medals. Becky Holden was in 3rd place after cross country but didn't ride in stadium jumping. We don't know what happened, but we're thinking she might not have passed the jog this morning. I have no proof of this, so it's just speculation.

Right now I'm on the road, heading back to Cleveland, uploading this at a McDonalds! I had a great time, but I'm tired and I miss my family. I also miss my horse. I had my friend Susan stick him on the lunge line to see if he is still sound and she said he looked a little off. So I'll be dealing with that when I get home.

I hope to be checking in with Laura Goldman and her progress for the Para-Dressage. I'll update you all on that when I get it.

So that's it for WEG for me! Thanks to Purina for giving me four days of tickets and hotel, Equestrian Collections for sponsoring Laura Goldman, my friend Cindy for coming with me, and my husband Craig for single parenting for a week while I reveled in International caliber equestrian goodness.

Whew! What a ride...

Saturday, October 02, 2010

WEG Day 8

I woke up this morning and thought I wasn't going to be able to get out of bed. I felt like CRAP. But there was no way I was going to miss cross country. So we got me some cold meds and headed out to the park.

We spent most of the morning on the cross country course. In this case video would have been best, but photos were the best I could do (since my camera sucks it for video...well it takes good video but getting that video off the camera is painful...anyway..).

So here are lots of photos from the course. Starting at the beginning – in the starting box with American Becky Holden. The buzzer had just sounded and she sent her horse forward and onto the course.

Here are a few selected photos. All the jumps are HUGE!

The last shot is a rider from South Africa who jumped into the water and then lost his balance over the next fence and fell IN the water. He was wearing one of those inflatable vests that inflate when you hit the ground. The next picture is of him as he is being helped up. His horse boogied down the course and was caught further up the hill. It wasn't a bad fall and I think both horse and rider were okay.

There was at least one other fall on the course that I'm aware of, and I think it wasn't a bad fall either. There were refusals and other problems, but the only one I caught on film was just a horse that caught it's leg on a jump. He stumbled a bit as he landed but other than that it wasn't a problem. But you can see in this pic how his front leg is caught back on the jump.

The rest of the decent photos I uploaded to my Facebook page. In the beginning I was just figuring out the timing with this camera, so the first water jumps aren't very good. But by the end there I was getting some decent shots. Speaking of the end, here is a horse as he crosses the finish line.

As we were walking the course we saw obstacles that weren't being used for cross country that we think will be used for the cross country driving. The first picture is the driving stadium, and then next three are the hazards.

We spent four and a half hours walking the course. We walked six and a half miles and tried to see the whole course. At the beginning I was feeling pretty decent once the meds kicked in, but by the time we left I felt just awful. So we left before the last horses, including one USA rider, started the course. We went to dinner and then I laid in bed to write this post and download pictures.

Word is that the USA is in second place as a team and that two Americans are in the second and third spot overall. This is not confirmed, and I don't have any more details. My plan is to post this, take more meds and get into bed. Tomorrow is stadium jumping for the eventing and I want to feel better.

Tomorrow is also my last day at WEG! I hope I can enjoy it and not spend the whole time wishing I was napping.

WEG Day 7

Day 7 - Eventing Dressage and Dressage Musical Freestyles

This morning we didn't have any tickets to the eventing dressage, so we took the morning off and went to Woodford Reserve and got a tour of the bourbon distillery. I love bourbon, and their's is one of the good ones. I'm a bit of a bourbon snot, and people often say to me “Oh you like bourbon? You know what I love? Maker's Mark!” Ugh. Maker's Mark, in my opinion, is not good bourbon. It's harsh and isn't especially flavorful. Woodford is good, and Pogue is even better. There are others that I like too, but I'm pretty selective about my bourbon. Anyway...

Then Cindy and I went to lunch in the small town nearby the distillery with the guy responsible for my bourbon snottiness and his father-in-law (they went on the tour with us too). We had a delightful time, but then it was time to head to WEG and do some shopping.

When we got to the vendor section I was sorry that we had waited so long to shop. It seemed like most of the merchandise had already been picked over, and WEG isn't even half over yet! I hope they bring in some more stuff on site because there isn't going to be much left for everyone who comes for this weekend or next week.

Today was the very first day that I felt that there were just too many people. Every store was packed with people who may or may not have been actually buying things. It was supposed to get very cold for the evening session of dressage freestyles so I was looking for a reasonably priced sweatshirt. But I just couldn't find one that I even somewhat liked and I couldn't bring myself to spend $65 on an item of clothing I didn't even like. Luckily I saw the Kentucky Horse Park tent and they were selling nice large fleecy blankets for $34. Now that was something I could use again and I actually even liked it. Sold!

During our shopping we met up with Kelly Gage, local dressage clinic organizer, and Taya and Lisa, two of our friends from Cleveland. Then we sat on the lawn by the lake behind the main stadium and waited until it was time to go in to see the dressage freestyles.

Nina Ackerly met us over there too, with her $15 burrito. Yes, food prices here at the park are really outrageous. Taya had a terrible bowl of pasta for $12.50. She said if she'd have been in a restaurant she would have sent it back. A bottle of Gatorade was $4.50. And the way the food tent is set up isn't exactly the most efficient way. There are food counters where you order your food, or you can go to one of the refrigerator cases that have “grab-and-go” things like pre-made salads and sandwiches. Then you grab your drink from the coolers and go to the registers. In theory it should work, but the lines bottleneck SO badly at the registers that nothing is grab-and-go. It's all grab-and-wait.

Yes, I realize that thousands of people are attending this thing, and there are going to be crowds. And the prices are going to be high, and the lines are going to be long. I'm just saying that it's much worse than I had thought it would be. And it was mush worse today than it has been, and I'm not sure why that is. Because it's Friday and a lot of people came in today for the cross country tomorrow?

When it was time to get going we were herded into the stadium and Cindy headed to our seats. I decided that I wanted to hit the ladies room before it all started so I wouldn't have to leave during the rides.


Everyone had the same idea that I did. The way the bathrooms are set up in the stadium is there is a large walkway that has a bathroom entrance on either side. There were so many people just milling around and trying to get to their seats that it was hard to tell where the line for the bathroom was. So I was standing where I thought the line was, when this lady further up in the line was rudely told “You are NOT in line! The line is over there, you can't just cut in here!” So the lady says “It looks like a line here.” and the Pee-Pee Police lady said “Well it's not, and these people over here have been waiting!” and the other lady said “Well I've been waiting too!” and then they started to get into it.

The thing is, everyone had to pee. Fine. Fighting about it is not going to make anything better. And I don't know what Pee-Pee Police lady thought she was doing. She wasn't staff, didn't have any official capacity, and didn't seem to be waiting in line. I think most of the time these things work themselves out. Why did she feel the need to stir the pot?

The two ladies in front of me saw all of this going down and decided that line for the bathroom across the walkway looked much less hostile. So we got in that line. When we got closer to the actual entrance to the bathroom we saw that it was one of those deals where there are two doorways that lead into the same bathroom. So there was one line that split into two lines that snaked around into one bathroom with two lines of stalls. At some point people in front of us thought there was only one line and were only going into one side. So a few ladies in front of me went into the empty looking side of the entrance. Me and a few ladies behind me followed. Nobody said anything. Then people stopped following our line.

A few minutes later someone realized that our line was shorter and moving so they tried to follow us. And man, they got REAMED by the other line. We heard “Hey! You can go over there! It's one way! Enter here! You're cutting!” Just plain silly, people. I mean, at that point they were so close that I doubt it would have made that much of a difference as to when they got a stall. So confrontational!

When I finally made it into the actual room with the stalls it really stank like urine. It made me very nostalgic for the trailer potties in the Bourbon Village tent. Ah well. I think I got dirty looks from the hostile line standers while I was washing my hands. Maybe I imagined it. I have to say that tonight was the first night that I encountered any rude or nasty people. Up until now everyone has been really nice and chatty. Now it's all rude and catty. What happened?

I finally made it to our seats and this is what I saw.

Yup. Huge pole right in our line of view to the arena. We paid $140 a seat to watch a pole. Just ridiculous. And supposedly the stadium was sold out, so we wouldn't be able to find a better view. But here is the thing about that. We spoke to a hotel manager about tickets for WEG and he said that when tickets first went on sale that a bunch of travel agencies bought up lots of tickets in the hopes of selling ticket packages. Unfortunately not all of those packages were sold to actual people. So even though the venue had no tickets left and were technically “Sold Out”, there were still tickets that never found their way into any fan's hands. I know there were people who would have loved to have gone to that event. Pretty sad.

I'd have to say that probably 80% of the seats had butts in them. However the ladies next to us decided that they were going to move and not have to deal with Mr. Pole. So they moved down about 12 rows and to one side of the pole. So we followed and it was kind of understood that all of us would move if the real owners of the seats showed up and booted us. There were empty seats scattered throughout that section so we could have easily found other seats. But we never got the boot so we got great seats for the remainder of the performance.

At least we didn't get this seat.

Yep, some lady was sitting there. She paid $140 for that seat. Can you believe it? I can't. That's just wrong.

I did get pictures of all 15 dressage freestyles, and I know video would have been better but I decided to save myself the aggravation. In the end Edward Gal and Totilas from the Netherlands won the gold with a 91.8%

Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Horjris from Great Britain got the silver

and Steffen Peters and Ravel from the USA got the bronze.

We didn't stay for the awards ceremony because I wasn't feeling well. On Wednesday afternoon I was having issues breathing and I thought it was just an asthma thing. But it's slowly developed into a cold-type thing and I was starting to feel really rotten. It got cold during the freestyles and I was really happy to have my Kentucky Horse Park blanket, but sitting in the cold wasn't the best thing for me. Even though we left early and most people stayed for the awards, there was still a sea of people walking to the parking lot.

We decided to walk to the car instead of taking the shuttle because the line for that was longer than I've seen it in the past seven days. We finally found the car and we've now been sitting in the car, in line to leave the lot, for almost an hour. People are having parking lot rage and cutting across the lots, sutting in line, honking, and basically being buttheads. This really sucks because tomorrow is cross country day and it's going to be an early morning. And I don't feel well, so we'll have to see if I can get myself out of bed in time. We may have to miss some of the horse going.

On the plus side, sitting here in the car has given me time to pound out this long-winded blog post. You get to benefit from our aggravation. And the aggravation of thousands of others who just want to get the &%@# out of here and go home!

So today – tons of people, depleted merchandise, expensive eats, and more rudeness than I've seen all week. Tomorrow – Cross country... if I can make it. Nyquil, anyone?

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr