Sunday, December 31, 2006

I know I've said it before

Let me just take a moment to say how much I love my horse. Well, more so why I love him.

Today was a very nice day for the end of December in Cleveland. I decided instead of walking inside again that we'd take a walk down the driveway and possibly up the street a little way. The barn is on a dirt/gravel road and there's not a lot of traffic on it, so I figured it would be a safe thing to do.

Now, when I've been walking my horse lately I've been riding him bareback. I love riding my horse bareback because I feel so much more connected to him. It also gives me a really good sense of where my balance is, because if I lean too far one way or the other I feel like I'm going to fall off. I think it's a great exercise and I highly recommend doing it from time to time.

I've also been riding him using a halter and leadrope instead of a bridle. On some horses this would be sheer suicide because they cannot be trusted to heed your wishes. Kaswyn, however, completely understand what is expected of him and will do whatever I want him to do. In fact, I can school my horse bareback and in a halter. He'll "get on the bit" and have a very nice dressage frame even without a bit and bridle, and I can school shoulder-in, half passes, and flying changes. I've tried everything but canter pirouettes on him bridleless. It's so awesome.

Anyhow, today I decided that I'd ride bareback and in a halter again down the driveway. I wore my helmet, just in case something bad did happen, but I really wasn't worried. We walked down the driveway and street for 20 minutes. Cars passed, the wind was blowing stuff around in the culvert, both perfect things for my horse to spookat and take off. But he didn't. He really was solid and very good about everything.

On the way back to the barn I marveled at how much I can do with him, and how enjoyable it is to have him as my riding partner. I had a huge smile on my face, but it wasn't from riding an awesome test at a show. It was from taking a walk with my buddy.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


One of the things my vets recommended for me to do while treating Kaswyn's knee injury was to ride him lightly. This was to see if the treatments of aspirin and bute were helping the situation. After the first week it became clear that my horse was definately sound, confirming that the meds were helping the inflammation.

I did some reading about bone injuries and then had a nice long chat with Dr. B. My concern was that riding him while he was healing might prolong the healing time or put him at risk for re-injury during work. Dr. B agreed that the most conservative route would be to give him about a month off. After 30 days we can take new x-rays of the knee to see if there is improvement. If not, shock wave therapy would be very helpful in the healing process.

I had done some reading about shock wave therapy for bone injuries prior to our conversation, and it's a very interesting therapy. It involves applying high-energy sound waves to the injured area with a special machine. Research shows that shock wave therapy can recruit osteoclasts (bone building cells) to the injured area, thus promoting healing and new bone growth. It also suggests that the shock waves effect the nerves of the area to provide temporary pain relief. Soft tissues don't seem to be effected. However, circulation is increased which also speeds healing and helps to reduce inflammation.

Dr. B didn't think we should do shock wave right now, as he thinks that time off will heal Kaswyn's problem. However, he also thinks that if there is no improvement in 30 days that the injury might have stagnated and plateaued in it's healing. In this case shock wave would be an excellent way to kick start healing. And get us back to training.

So we're walking. Again. This time I'm riding him while I walk and doing one lap of trot each direction to keep the joint weight bearing and hopefully keep the circulation up in the area without causing injury. We'll x-ray again in mid January.

So, a little recap of my horse's treatment in the past year -

Left hind pastern injection
Injection of all four hock joints in both hocks
Neurectomy left front
Multiple diagnostic nerve blocks
MRI both lower front limbs
Many x-rays
Possible (I'm guessing YES on this) shock wave therapy

So, lets have that be the end of it, huh?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Kaswyn's Way

Amazingly, Kaswyn is still sound. Although I'm excited to be riding a sound horse after a year of vet visits and medications, I'm anxious to do something more then just walk and trot. At least I know that when we're able to do some lateral and collected work that I won't have to re-teach Kaswyn everything. Once he knows something, he's got it and knows what you want. That doesn't necessarily mean that he'll do it correctly. My trainer and I joke about my horse and say that he does things "Kaswyn's Way."

Heres what my horse might say for some of these movements -

Instead of staying straight and balanced in the half-pass to the left, I'll just fall on my left shoulder and drag you to the left. That's Kaswyn's Way.

Or how about that left canter pirouette? How about if I just stab my back legs into the ground and spin around in as few strides as possible? It's a pirouette, right? Close enough. For Kaswyn's Way.

The traditional rein-back is so overdone. I'll just do it Kaswyn's Way and fly backwards in quick, uneven walk steps.

Most of the time after one of these episodes I'll just get on his case and make him do it properly, which he will do without much fuss. But if I don't get that half-halt, lose my rhythm or connection, or don't have enough impulsion or bend, he figures I'm leaving it up to him. To do it Kaswyn's Way.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Good knees and crusty eyes

It's amazing, but Kaswyn was sound both Saturday and Sunday. Right after the vet visit I was instructed to work him to the left only, because the injured area of bone is on the inside of the left leg. Working him to the left will relieve the pressure on that area. It's been so strange to only ride my horse one direction because it's always been drilled into me that you must work equally both directions in order to built the horse equally on both sides.

However, I just got off the phone with Dr. G, and he recommends that I work him 2/3 of the time to the left, and 1/3 of the time to the right. He wants me to keep him in light work, which is hard when he feels so good, but I'll do it. He also wants me to continue with the meds and the Surpass, plus add cold hosing after exercise. He wants to continue this program for 2 weeks, and then I'm to call with an update. At that time he wants to try and reduce the meds and see how he does. If we can get him off the meds, then we can eventually increase his work.

This is all very exciting! I know, I know, I can't get too excited. But I just can't help it. I can't wait to ride tonight!

Oh, and Lily has pinkeye. Which means that Craig is going to get an eye abcess or something, because he can't get anything the girls have unless he gets it ten times worse. Craig took her to work with him today, armed with portable DVD player, DVD's, books, and toys. That should be fun. For her.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Because we needed something to focus on when we were blowing off work

My friend Meghan and I used to do research in the same lab. When you work in a lab it's generally accepted that you'll have hours of down time while you're waiting for gels to run or things to incubate for various reasons. At those times you're expected to be reading articles that are pertinent to your research, or other paperwork. You're not just supposed to goof off or surf the web.

Well Meghan and I did plenty goofing off. One day we were sitting in the kitchen area and were talking about the Seven Deadly Sins. Somehow we got on the topic of how there should be things that aren't deadly but still suck. We came up with the Seven Not-So-Deadly Misfortunes. This took us a few hours, during which time we should have been working. But as we came up with each one we would laugh and laugh. I might have even peed just a little. We knew that we shouldn't be calling attention to the fact that we weren't doing work, but we really didn't care. It was so damn funny. I know that other people working there frowned upon our activities that day, and our bosses might have even received complaints. Ah well. We didn't get fired or anything, so pfft!

We wrote them down on a napkin, which Meghan kept in her desk for years. Every so often we'd pull it out and laugh until we cried, every time. I think that napkin was thrown away when Meghan quit that job and cleaned out her desk. Unfortunate.

Today I had reason to recall the Seven Not-So-Deadly Misfortunes, but couldn't remember them all. I headed over to Meghan's desk and we re-visited the list. And, of course, laughed a lot while doing it. The following might not be exactly the original list, but we think it's pretty close. And freakin' hilarious.

1) Halitosis
2) Flatulence
3) Purulence
4) Curpulence
5) Repugnance
6) Putresence
and lastly,
7) Stupidity

What's that light? Is it the end of the tunnel?

I rode Kaswyn yesterday, and he was sound. And even. It's amazing. He felt almost back to normal - how he used to feel over a year ago. Well, for me it was two years ago because I took a year off of riding when I was pregnant with Macey. When I started riding again he never felt right.

Granted, he is on aspirin and bute once a day plus a topical application of an anti-inflammatory cream (Surpass) right on the spot of the bone injury, but still it's nice to know that we might be getting to the end of this lameness road. I'm trying not to get too excited about this, but it's really hard when I can see and feel my old horse back. Dr. G. feels that the prognosis is good and that all we have to do is decrease that inflammation in the bone and he'll be just fine.

I'll ride this weekend and see if he's the same. Both my trainer and Craig have cautioned me to be hopeful but not overly excited. I'm trying, but it's really hard not to be jumping for joy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stress - it's not just for finals anymore!

Okay, quick update on the sitch -

Kaswyn - he has an area of increased density on a bone in his knee on the inside of his leg. I'm supposed to give him bute and aspirin until my vet gets back from his conference on Friday, and ride him to the left only. I'm not sure if it's an injury or a permanent condition, but we'll see if the meds improve the lameness.

Water Woes - We have major problems, this time stemming from the fact that all the backyards around us drain their water into our yard. Over the years all of this water has eroded our landscape so that our yard tilts towards the house instead of away from it, causing all the water to flow right next to the basment walls. Consequently the water pressure has cracked 3 out of 4 of our basement walls. Our estimate to fix this problem is thousands and thousands of dollars and involves an extensive drainage system and grading of the yard. I am currently working with the city engineers to solve this problem. My main beefs are -

a) it's not our fault that everyone around us has diverted their water into our yard
b) our drainage system should not have to handle run-off from 4 or 5 yards
c) if we make it so that their water doesn't come into our yard, then you have 5 people with water problems instead of one
d) no matter what, we should not have to pay for something that is obviously an engineering problem and poor planning for water management when the development was built.

The city might eventually call in the county for help fixing this. We'll see what happens with that plan. Either way I'm pushing hard not to have to pay anything, and I want something done before the rains come in the spring, or we'll have a flooded basement again. And we don't want that. Although I didn't write about the flooding saga, aka The Night of Never Ending Water, trust me when I say that it SUCKED BALLS.

That's all I have time for right now. Updates will be forthcoming. I know you're excited.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

You won't believe it

I don't have time to post about my horse's vet visit because we have water in our basement. And I don't mean a little bit. It's flowing, like little rivers, from the seam where the wall meets the floor. We're desperately trying to mop it up before it does any damage as we wait for the plumbers. Yes, the same plumbers that JUST dug up our yard to fix this problem.

Guess what. Not fixed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Yes and no

After a two and a half hour vet visit, I think we might have an answer as to what has been making my horse uneven and/or lame. However, since it's almost 10 pm and I just got home, I won't be telling that story until tomorrow.

I think it's good news. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Tomorrow Dr. B is coming out to see Kaswyn. On the phone with him, he said he's not really sure what's going on with the shortness of stride in the left front. Great. I hope he gets some kind of clue when he examines him.

Tonight I went out and rode my horse just to see how he felt. He was very uneven and reluctant to work. My trainer was in the arena teaching a lesson and saw just how uneven he was. After a few circles I decided just to quit. I'm concerned that working him while he's uneven is going to throw something else out of whack.

I stopped my horse next to where my trainer was standing giving the lesson and watched the gal riding. I'm finding that I'm very jealous of everyone at the barn right now. I realize just how much I took for granted that my horse would be sound and ready to work every day. I watched as this girl schooled her horse and watched them improve over the course of 10 minutes. When they started schooling half-passes I decided that I had tortured myself enough and left the arena.

I want my horse back. The sound horse. It seemed so easy before, even though the work was hard. I want that feeling of the effortless half-pass, floating medium trot, or energetic flying changes. I want .. well, I want too much I guess. Half of me thinks that I just need to be happy with what my horse has been able to accomplish. Just the fact that my little arabian is able to show and be competitive at the FEI levels is amazing, let alone his National Championships. I should be happy, right? So few people ever get to ride a horse like this in their lifetime, and I'm fortunate enough to have owned him and was able to make this amazing journey with him.

But I'm not ready for this to be over yet. I want more.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lameness and a party

Today I called the vet's office to schedule an appointment for Dr. B. to come out and see Kaswyn. The gal I spoke with told me that she'd leave a message with scheduling and they'd get back to me. I kind of thought she meant today, since I called this morning. But apparently I was mistaken.

This is not the first time I've had a problem getting an appointment. It's not a problem if you want to see any of the other vets, or if you want to take your horse to the clinic. It's just Dr. B. I find this very frustrating. Hopefully I can get an appointment tomorrow.

Anyhow, I want Dr. B. to look at Kaswyn again because he still is not right. He's taking short strides with that left front leg again, and has been for two weeks. He did yank that left front shoe off about 10 days ago, so it's possible that he bruised the foot or has an abcess going on in there. I'm not convinced that it's an abcess, but I'll put medicine on his foot and wrap it at night until I can get the vet out to see him. If it is an abcess, hopefully the meds will coax the infection out of the hoof and relieve the pain. If it's not an abcess, then the meds will do nothing. They won't hurt either, so I'll give it a shot.

On a completely different subject, just a few minutes ago Craig and I were standing in the kitchen when Lily ran by. Craig smelled something questionable, so he grabbed her and went to do a poop check.

CRAIG: Lily, what's going on here in your pants?
LILY: (shrugs and smiles) It's just a party.
Craig: A party? In your pants?
LILY: Yeah! (runs out of the room)

Just as she said that I had taken a drink of water and was just about the swallow. I had to spit the water in the sink so I wouldn't choke. She cracks me up.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The challenge continues

In case you haven't been paying attention, Craig and I are both doing this NaBloPoMo thing where we update our blogs every day for the whole month of November. It's funny how we've both been reminding each other to post, and "claiming" certain stories for our blogs. The other day something funny happened and I said "I got dibs on blogging that one!" That's just really sad.

I've been trying not to repeat or retell any of Craig's postings, but it's been challenging. Here's the thing - Craig is my best friend. I know that sounds super sappy and makes you want to puke, but it's so true. I tell him everything. Even when he tells me "Look, when you talk about that it just pisses me off so don't tell me about it.", I still have to talk to him about it because that's what I do. Keeping a secret from him is damn near impossible. When I buy him a gift I either want to give it to him right away or tell him what it is because I want him to know about it.

So, anyway, we share so much with each other that our lives overlap a lot. Hence, the stories are the same. Which means I've had to be creative. That's more his department than mine.

Well, I need to wrap this up. We only have one computer at home, and Craig still needs to post today. If I hog the machine I'll get static from "the writer". And nobody wants that.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I made reservations at a hotel in Lexington, Virginia for September 25 - 30, 2007. Why have I done this? Because Sport Horse Nationals is happening then and there, that's why. I realize that it's wishful thinking, but on the off chance that -

A) We can get Kaswyn going sound and even
B) We can get him (and me) back up to competition shape
C) We can get him schooling and perfecting the movements to Prix St. George (and maybe Intermediare 1), the level that he was showing before all of this mess, and
4) I can afford it

..I want to go to Sport Horse Nationals. I don't want to wait until I know for sure that we're going to make the reservations because all of the good hotels that are close to the show grounds sell out quickly. Actually my first choice hotel was sold out for that time period, but the hotel I've chosen is just as close to the show grounds and just as nice. And it includes a free breakfast - not the continental breakfast of doughnuts and coffee - but a real breakfast of muffins, eggs, meats, cereal, and make your own waffles. Which makes it totally worth it at a horse show.

With luck, and hard work, I think we can get there.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I got nothin'

Okay, I've started this post five times now. It's apparent that I have nothing to say today. I know there's a book out there that's titled something like Nobody Cares What You Had For Lunch - 100 Ideas For Your Blog. Seems like I should have picked up a copy.

Craig was teasing me a few days ago, saying that he thought it was much easier for him to write a post than it was for me. Well, it should be. He's a WRITER. I told him that it would probably be easier for me to do an embryo transfer than it would be for him to do one. While I don't think people are upset when I write, I think there would be a little bit of an uproar if he went into the IVF lab.

So while I can't write as easily or as well as Craig, I can write. It might take a long time, and it might suck, but I can get it done.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Roll with it

Thanksgiving is not one of my favorite holidays. The main reason is I just don't like turkey. I'll eat the dark meat, but I'm not a huge fan. I don't generally like gravy, sweet or mashed potatoes, so what's that leave me for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Green bean casserole (which I love), stuffing and rolls.

Speaking of rolls, there's an ongoing joke in our family about the Thanksgiving rolls. Every year my mom would spend all day cooking her ass off, and would finally call everyone to the table laden with this incredible spread. Ten minutes into dinner she's day "Oh! The rolls!" and run into the kitchen to the retrieve the rolls, now with black bottoms. She would always put them in the oven last while my dad was carving the bird, and never set a timer. We had many a Thanksgiving dinner with half-size rolls becasue she'd cut the burnt undersides off.

This year she bought cresent rolls. Yes, it's bread-in-a-can, but I love those things so I don't care. I'll just make sure she sets a timer.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I only hurt myself because she cheats.

Lily and I were playing hide and seek last night, and it was my turn to hide. So she closed her eyes and I said "Now count to ten while I hide!". I started running into the living room and I hear her say "One, Two, TEN!". So I knew I had precious few seconds to get hidden. I ran and leapt over an overstuffed chair, in order to hide behind it. However, since I'm not a gymnast, my vault over said chair was lame and clumsy, and I strained my shoulder somehow. It's kind of in the front over my collar bone and down into my arm.

Yeah, I know, I'm a doofus. But Lily didn't find me right away, so I'm proud of the fact that I can successfully hide from a 3 year old. Not without injury, apparently.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This one's a rip-off

Today's post is a total cheater post just to keep me in NaBloPoMo. It's also a little whiney, since I'm about to complain about being tired, having an achey back, and being super busy. And having a crappy ride on my horse tonight. Blah, I say! BLAH!

So that about covers it. Now, I have stuff I gotta get done. Don't you have anything better to do?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Is it Monday again? Yay!

On Monday nights, my friend Meghan and her son Oscar come over for dinner and a play date. Craig usually comes home late because he takes a yoga class at work, so this works out very well for everyone. The girls and Oscar get to play together, and Meghan and I get to hang out and relax a little. And sometimes, drink beer. Well, usually drink beer. Me more than her because she has to drive home.

On Saturday Lily suddenly burst into tears while I was at work. Craig asked her what was wrong, and she said "I miss Oscar! Is Oscar coming over? Please Daddy, can he come over?"

He told her no, that Oscar wasn't coming over, but that he'd be over in a few days. She whined a little and eventually got over it, but it really makes me wonder what suddenly made her pine for that little kid.

So tonight I'm looking forward to free entertainment for the girls, some adult conversation (albeit, sometimes pretty juvenile when it comes to Meghan and I), and a cold beers.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

It would have been lucky if I had found it

Kaswyn lost a shoe today while he was turned out. The good news is he didn't tear up his foot too badly when he pulled it off. The bad news is I walked around the turnout pen and couldn't find the shoe, so I'll have to pay for a new one.

There is a debate out there amung horse people whether or not to turn show horses outside. If you don't put them out then they never throw shoes, get bitten up by flies, or get injured being doofuses in the pasture. But I happen to think it's wrong to keep horses in their stalls all the time, so my horse is at a barn where he goes outside every day, weather permitting. True, I have to deal with it when he gets a cut or loses a shoe, but I think he's physically and mentally better for it. Most people actually agree with me, but every now and then you come across someone who doesn't. I feel sorry for their horses.

Hopefully I can get the blacksmith out to put a new shoe on him before Thanksgiving. If not, we won't be working for a week since I can't ride him with one shoe off. Blah.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Criag recently wrote about his phobia for sharks here. Something happened last night that played on my phobia. Craig also wrote about that here, so I won't bore you with the details.

I have a vomit phobia. Let me break it down for you. I can't see it, hear it, or smell it. If I'm around anyone who is going to puke, I run. Far far away.

Case in point. It was the mid eighties, and I was in high school. Our family went down to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a vacation. We knew not to drink the water, but we were also instructed not to eat anything that couldn't be peeled or cooked. Most of the vacation passed without a problem. However, one night at dinner my sister had some sangria. With ice in it. Big mistake. The next afternoon I was sitting on the balcony of our hotel room and I hear commotion in the room. Apparently my sister had woken from a nap and puked. My mom had it handled, and since I hadn't heard/seen/smelled anything, I was cool. She spent the next few hours in bed, feeling crappy.

Later my parents and my brother wanted to take a walk down the beach. My sister said she was feeling much better, so we decided to sit by the pool. I thought it was safe since she had gone several hours without yacking. However, 15 minutes into our sunbathing and she says, "I don't feel good. We need to go back to the room."

Right. Lets go, pronto. We hustle up the room only to discover that we hadn't grabbed a room key. Sis is looking greener and greener, so this is becoming an emergency. I spot a maid's cart a few rooms down, and I start telling the maid how we have to get into the room because my sister is sick. She doesn't speak english. Lovely. So I motion for her to come out into the walkway (the rooms opened up to the outside so there was no interior hallway) and took her to my sister. We were trying to get our point across, but she wasn't getting it.

Then my sister spoke the universal language of puke. She started to heave - and I turned and bolted. Literally the second I saw a bit of the pink Pepto-Bismol come out of her mouth. I abandoned my sister on the walkway, ran down the stairs, and down the beach until I found my parents. The goal - get as far away from the puke as possible. When I told them the situation they were horrified that I had just left my sister there with a spanish speaking stranger.

We all headed back to the room. I didn't want to go back to the room and have to walk past her puke in front of the door. Luckily the maid had cleaned it up. Also, she was nice enough to let my sister in and take care of her until we came back.

My last puke experience involved my borhter, and it was just a few weeks ago. I was visiting California for my 20th high school reunion. The same night as the reunion my brother was having a halloween party. I came back to his house from the reunion with my friend who had gone with me so she could change out of her party clothes. It was only 12:30 and the party was over, so I thought maybe it was just a dud. As I'm walking her to the door, I hear my brother puking. And it's a doozy. She says "Sounds like your brother had fun." Yeah, great.

I have to get up super early to catch my plane back to Cleveland, but there is no way I can sleep if I can hear him puking. So I get in bed, lie on my side, turn the clock radio on really low, and balance it on my head to that it's playing directly in my ear (yeah, I don't have an ipod - that would have been ideal). That way I can't hear anything cause the other ear in jammed into the pillow. You'd think that would solve the problem, but it doesn't. It takes care of the audio issue, but mentally I'm a mess. Just thinking that he's puking mere feet away gets me so upset that I start to feel sick myself. At one point I have to go have a big diahrrea poop, but I don't want to move in case he's puking when I'm in the bathroom. Fortunately I'm able to hurry up and get it done without hearing any heaving. At 2:30 or so, someone put some laundry in the washer. I don't even want to know what that was about.

Somehow I got some sleep, and soon it was time to get up and head to the airport. When I was walking out the door at 4:45, he was still blowing chunks. Yuck.

So, yeah, I'm a little neurotic about puke. Now, you're probably thinking, "She has kids? She's screwed." Yeah, this has been a worry for both Craig and I. So far I've been able to handle it. Last night I wasn't the one puked on, but I did hold Macey afterwards and a few times she let out big burps that smelled really gross. My stomach was churning, but I was able to hold it together. Hopefully I will be able to handle it if I am puked on.

Yeah, I'm neurotic about puke. So if you're puking, I'm really sorry, but don't expect any help from me. I'll be running down the beach.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Communication is key

As you probably know, we have two daughters. Both have been precocious in a variety of ways. They both got many, many teeth early, walked at 10 months, and Lily was speaking in complete and intelligeble sentences by the time she was two.

Macey is now 16 months old. She is starting to say some words, and even is able to tell you what she wants without all the screaming. She can say all the normal things, like Mama, Daddy, no, and mine. But she also says shoes, socks, feet, all-done, and more. And anything that you ask her to say she'll try and say back. It's not always clear, but she makes a good stab at it.

A day or two ago Macey went into the kitchen screaming and fussing. I followed her in there to find her tugging at the fridge. So I asked her, "Macey, do you want some cheese?" and the said "Cheese!". I got her some cheese, and asked her to say thank you. She said, "Phoo choo.", which is pretty damn close. She happily wandered back to the family room to look at books.

When the cheese was gone she repeated the walk and scream routine to the fridge. I asked if she wanted more cheese, to which she replied "No! No! No!" Then I asked, "What do you want?" and she said "Mawlk." I presented her with a sippy cup of milk, and that made her happy.

Which she is not at the moment. She wants to go night-night. I know because she told me.

I gotta go. I don't need my youngest to ream me a new one.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another ride and a drain job

I was lucky tonight when I rode to have my trainer riding in the arena again. She was able to help me with Kaswyn, but tonight was a little more difficult than Tuesday. Kaswyn was taking very uneven strides with his front legs, and I was having a hard time getting him even. Fortunately he was very willing and we were able to work through some of his issues.

I have increased the number of days that I ride Kaswyn and actually do work from two to three. I'm keeping the amount of time that I ride him the same, so I don't stress his muscles or joints too much in one session. So far I think it's been okay, but tonight it was so challenging to get him even. A year ago the issue was keeping him from getting uneven. Now the hurdle is getting him even in the first place.

My trainer and I discussed how he was looking and feeling. She said she was being optimistic in thinking that it's just going to take time to re-build his back and stomach muscles so that he can have the carrying power that he used to. It will take a lot of slow steady work to get him back there, and I hope he holds up.

In sewer news, Craig posted a picture of our front yard drain repair here. Good news - both sewer and storm drain lines have been repaired. Bad news - our yard is going to be a muddy mess until spring. I think we've found a unique way of not having to rake leaves.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Of Roses, Black and Red - Part 4

To read the story from the beginning,

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Blair was moving her training business to a new barn, and would have no school horses. So who was I going to ride? We talked about it, and she thought we could work out a deal where I groomed for her and got lessons and ride time on her horses or, maybe, client horses. She also said she'd teach me more about training.

This all sounded great to me. Blair had three horses at the time - Porteeya, wild young western and halter mare; Llano (pronounced yah-no), half arab western gelding who Blair had bred; and Bo, half arab saddle seat gelding. Teeya was out of the question for me to ride at that point, but I would have loved to have ridden either Bo or Llano.

We moved to the new barn. I can't remember the actual move, so it must have been uneventful. The owners were an interesting pair - more on them later. It was a very nice, brand new facility, and it looked like Blair's business was taking off.

I can't remember the specifics of what we worked out, but what I remember is that she never paid me. I worked after school as much as was allowed by my parents and on the weekends. During the summer I worked more. My job was to groom a horse for her to ride, and while she was riding that horse I would groom and tack up the next one. When she was ready for the next horse, I'd hand them over and take the horse she had just ridden. Then I'd cool that horse out, groom them, and put them away. Then onto grooming the next one. I think the most horses she ever had in training at one time was 22, and she really needed a groom if she was going to work all those horses in one day. Sometimes she'd have me lunge a horse while she was riding.

She also had other horses that weren't in training, but were clients horses. These clients would ride their horses themsleves, and take lessons once or twice a week. Some of the clients didn't have time to ride their horses as much as they wanted to, which ended up being a great thing for me. Blair would tell them that I would exercise their horse for them, for free! It was a win-win situation - I got my butt in the saddle for a few hours a day and the horses got worked. I also got to sit on many different horses at various stages of training, and at different disciplines. I learned hunt seat, western, saddle seat, and side saddle. It was really a blast and taught me a lot.

One summer Blair got a little bay thoroughbred gelding in training who needed to be broke to ride. She wanted me to take him on and do the training myself under her supervision. Larry was a very sweet, small horse, and I think she figured he probably wouldn't try and kill me. She let me do all the things she had showed me on Missy - tacking, lunging, long-lining, and finally getting on for the first time. All of this went completely without a hitch. Larry was smart and willing - I was lucky.

Then came the day that I was to canter on Larry for the first time. He had all of the verbal commands down pat, so I figured that it was just a matter of getting on, asking for the trot (which we had already done without a problem) and then kick him a little and say "Canter.", like I do on the lunge line. A few people were standing around watching with Blair, and she told me to go ahead and ask for the canter.

We were trotting in a circle, at a medium speed, and so I sat down, kicked with my legs, and said "Canter." Larry just trotted faster. I slowed him a little, per Blair's instruction, and tried again. "Canter!", a little more firmly with the voice and leg. Again, what I got was a fast trot. We tried again, and again, each time getting a fast and more determined trot. the last time, I didn't slow him down, but just kept kicking and saying "Canter! Canter!" Since I was told not to post the trot into the canter, I was bouncing in the saddle like crazy. Everyone started laughing.

Then the saddle started slipping. I thought maybe it had just shifted a little, so I kept at it, bouncing and kicking. Suddenly the saddle was really tilted, but I didn't want to give up cause I thought he almost had it....but then...

I fell off. Well, I kinda just bounced off the side as the saddle slid completely sideways. In any case, I hit the ground. Everyone was really laughing now - Bair couldn't even talk. They said it was like a cartoon, the way I bounced off.

The only thing that got bruised was my ego. Blair hopped on, got him to canter, then had me do it, and we called it done for the day.

You never forget your first. So, Larry, wherever you are, this one's for you.

To be continued...

Part 5

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why everyone needs a trainer

I had to cancel my lesson tonight because of two things - first I got out of work 30 minutes late and wouldn't be able to get my horse groomed and tacked in time. Second, as I was driving to the barn I got a voicemail from Craig saying he had to work late so I had to pick up the girls. This sucks worse than missing the lesson, because it means that I can't ride at all. I had to go out to the barn no matter what and set up Kaswyn's supplements, and afterwards I gave my horse some treats and left for the day care. Two minutes from the barn Craig calls to say he finished with work and I could ride my horse. I knew he felt crappy because of his sinus infection, so I said I'd come home. He insisted that he could tough it out, so I should ride. Awesome.

My trainer was in the arena riding another horse while I was on Kaswyn. She told me that he felt great when she rode him yeaterday, and was watching me ride. I was thinking Kaswyn felt okay when she said "Get him more off the forehand - shorten your reins - more energy and get more of a reaction when you put your leg on - keep him round - don't let him get you leaning too far back - that's it..."

And with that short list of instructions she was able to get my horse working really well. She also made me realize how many bad habits I had fallen into by not having regular lessons for over a year. Next week we're going to try again. Until then we're back to circles and straight lines.

Oh, on a completely unrelated subject - they dug up our front yard today to replace the sewer and storm drains from the house to the street. I was shocked when I came home. Our front yard is gone. I'm going to take pictures tomorrow before they start work. You won't believe it. I should have taken before pictures because our front yard will never be the same.

I just keep saying to myself, "It's better than shit in the basment..."

Monday, November 13, 2006


This will be a quick post because I'm beat and need to get to bed. Last night Macey decided she needed to be awake from 12:30 to 4:30. I, on the other hand, really wanted to be asleep. No dice, however. Luckily Craig took the last hour and let me get some sleep.

No word on how my horse was today for the trainer. I guess I'll find out tomorrow...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Not losing hope yet

Tonight I went out to ride Kaswyn. He seemed very subdued while I groomed him, which, incidentally, took a very long time because he decided to roll in the mud. Both sides. I was lucky that he had his blanket on when he did it so that at least he had a clean section that was covered by the blanket. But his neck, face, and legs were crusted with mud. Crap, that reminds me - his halter was muddy too and I forgot to clean it. Damn, that's going to bug me.

Anyhow, I got on and did some trot work, which felt fine. Then we went to the canter and he didn't feel right. This has happened before, and my trainer suggested that maybe he was behind my leg - which means that he was hanging back and not cantering in an energetic way, making him disengaged and unconnected. So I pushed him into a bigger canter, then gradually brought him back to a slightly collected canter. This has worked well in the past and allowed us to do some really nice work.

This time it didn't work at all. He felt okay going to the right, but to the left he still felt uneven and wrong. I decided to stop at that, since it was difficult for me to tell if it was left front or left hind that was causing the problem and I didn't want to hurt him. Since he has arthritis in his left hind pastern, and the weather just got cooler yesterday, it could very well have been left hind. Or both front and hind on the left, but then I would have expected the trot work to have some issues. I'm stumped.

My trainer is going to ride him tomorrow and see what she thinks. We have a tenative lesson on Tuesday afternoon, depending on how she thinks he feels tomorrow. Maybe it was just one bad day. Crossing my fingers...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Of Roses, Black and Red - Part 3

To read this story from the beginning,

Part 1
Part 2

Dana had cancer. I was just entering high school, and didn't really have a good grasp of how scary and dangerous this was. She hadn't been my riding instructor for that long, but I did like her and didn't want a new teacher. She said she would be teaching for a few more weeks while her replacement got to know the students and the horses.

That's when I met Blair. She was in her early twenties, outgoing, funny, and excited about the job. It was easy for her to fall into the role of instructor at the barn, and she was well liked by the students. I was lucky that she was willing to let me continue to work off my lessons.

That year, Jean and I went to different high schools. We didn't spend as much time together anymore, and she didn't come to the barn as much. Pretty soon she stopped riding. Unfortunately, I haven't spoken to her in years and don't have any idea of how to get a hold of her. Makes me sad.

I still went to the barn a lot, and soon became friends with Blair even though she was older than I was. Looking back, I think she was just being nice to her "barn kid". She started expanding the riding program and soon they had to schedule more hours of lessons and buy more school horses to keep up with demand. Blair brought in some horses that she had in training, and she would let me ride one of her horses from her house down the street to the barn for exercise.

This is where my horse education really took off. Blair started showing me things about training young horses using her young mare, Missy. She would have me lead Missy to the barn while riding her other horse (who's name I can't remember) and then she'd train Missy and I'd watch and learn. She taught me about longing, long-lining, how to get horses used to saddle and bridle, and finally how to get on and ride. She would let me do some of the work while she watched, giving instruction from the side. She let me get on Missy when she felt that Missy was broke enough that I wouldn't get hurt. It was thrilling to ride a horse that was fresh and young.

But Blair wasn't perfect. She was living with an older guy (I say that now, but I think he was only 35 or so...he seemed so much older then she was) who was bad news. I never knew for sure, but I think he was pretty abusive and was involved in drugs and drinking. What I do know is that when he would come to the barn he would always make me feel uncomfortable the way he looked at me. One day Blair asked him to take me down to the deli to grab lunch for everyone. On the way there he was talking to me and put his hand on my leg. I casually moved my leg away from him, but inside I was scared stiff. I was never alone with him again. He was a creep.

This guy had Blair hanging around with a pretty wild crowd. She would stay up late partying, and then have to be to work the next day. Somehow she was able to do her job, and do it well. Eventually she came to her senses and kicked the creep out. It was easier to kick him out than it was to stop seeing her friends. But she knew that they were bad news, and that the only way to clean up her lifestyle was not to hang out with these people again. She talked about how hard it was to blow them off, but she felt so much better for it.

She was making good money from the lesson program and her few training horses, and she decided to buy a horse. She trained arabians, and I'm not sure how she found this horse, but one day she pulled into the barn with her trailer declaring "I just bought the most beautiful horse!"

I was excited to see what was going to come off of the trailer. What I didn't expect was the way the horse came off the trailer. As soon as she was unhooked and the bar lowered behind her, the horse ran at full speed backwards, not really caring what she ran into or who she ran over.

Blair said "Isn't she pretty?", as we all watched the horse snort and blow nervously. The rest of us were like, yeah, she's, umm, great! To be fair, she was absolutely stunning. Her name was Porteeya and she was a young 3/4 arabian, 1/4 morgan mare. We soon found out that she was an absolute bitch. She'd pin her ears and threaten to kick you given half a chance. Blair would have long training battles with Teeya, and we were all wondering if she'd ever make the wonderful show horse that Blair dreamed of.

Years went by (I can't remember how many exactly), and Blair's training business was starting to expand. She wanted to have more stalls for training horses at the barn. I don't know if she and the barn owner couldn't come to an agreement or what, but eventually she found another barn where she could have the majority of the stalls and run her training business. There would be no school horses - just training horses. The only lessons that she'd give would be to people on horses that they owned or leased. I wanted to go with Blair to the new barn, but I was worried. I didn't have a horse, and knew I wasn't going to be getting one. How would I be able to take lessons without school horses? I feared this was the end of my riding.

Side note: Dana won her battle with cancer - at least she was healthy the last time I saw her. It's been almost 20 years since we've spoken. I hope she's still okay.

To be continued...

Part 4

Friday, November 10, 2006

Does he miss it as much as I do?

This weekend my trainer took three horses and two students to a show. One of the students was the owner of the barn, and she asked me to feed the horses their hay and close up the barn this evening. She also called my cell phone to make sure I got the message to close the dutch doors on the horses stalls, but for some reason my cell phone didn't list the number that she called from. So I called my trainer to tell her that I got the message and closed the doors.

My trainer was at the show because one of her students rides this evening. When I called I could hear everyone there talking in the background, making comments to my trainer, and laughing. This made me really sad because I haven't been to a show in a long time.

I used to go to almost all the shows my trainer went to. Kaswyn and I would also do local schooling shows that are cheap and low pressure. I really really miss showing. Here are some of the things I miss about it -

Running through the test in my head for days before the show
Bathing and clipping my horse
Packing nice white breeches, polo wraps, and saddle pads for the show
The way my horse acts when I put his shipping boots on and he knows he's going to a show
The fact that my horse pactically jumps on the trailer himself cause he's so excited
Feeding my horse and watching him eat
Picking poop out of his stall so he has a clean place to lie down if he wants to
Grooming and tacking before the class
Getting dressed and tying my stock tie
Riding the test
Watching other people ride and cheering them on
Sitting with everyone afterwards to bullshit about our rides
Dinner with friends, even if it's only with a Miller Lite and Burger King
Coming home

I had a nice ride on my horse tonight, so hopefully we're on the road to being able to show again. Maybe next year.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

If it smells like poop then it probably is...

Yep. Feces. Fine in the potty, but bad on the basement floor.

Since Craig has already said it much better than I could, jump over here and read the whole story.

We are usually able to work something out between Craig and I when something in the house needs fixing and one of us needs to be home to meet the repair-people. Luckily I was able to scoot out of work today and wait for the plumber.

And wait.

And wait.

I was told someone would be at our house "between 11 and 2". Fine! I got home a little before 11 so I could move everything out of the way of the drains. I got a call at 11:10 saying someone will be there shortly. Then another call at 11:20 saying there was an emergency so they'll call me when they are done with that and on their way to my place. Yeah, okay. At 12:30, they say they're 30 minutes away. They show up at 1:30. I guess they forgot to figure in time for Taco Bell.

Hey buddy, Yo quero fixa my pipes? Get your ass over here!

Anyhow, a few hours, a fiberoptic camera, and a drain snake later, we'll be having our front yard dug up on Tuesday to replace the drain pipe. At least that should solve the water and funky smell in the basement.

When I picked up the girls today, I told Lily that I was sad. She looked at me and said "You aren't sad! You have kids!"

So true.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A shot in the neck

As I said yesterday, Kaswyn got the day off because he got his shots. Technically, he just got one combined shot that horses should get twice a year (flu/rhino). The shots that he gets yearly he'll get in the spring.

The last two years that Kaswyn got his yearly shots, his neck swelled up. A small lump and a little soreness at the injection site is common, but my horse was so swollen and stiff that he couldn't put his head down to eat his hay. The first year it was a complete shock, and it took a good two weeks for him to return to normal. You'd think that something so significant would stick in my memory, but it didn't. So this past spring it happened again. If I had remembered, I would have had the vet give the shots in different locations - like two on one side of his butt, one on the other, and one in each side of the neck, plus a shot of anti-inflammatory to help with the swelling. But I didn't so we had to deal with the aftermath again.

Fortunately, the vet gave just the one shot in his neck, plus a shot of anti-inflammatory. Hopefully this will work. If I had been thinking I would have had the vet give the shot in his butt, however I forgot to say something first. If his butt got sore from the shot, at least he could still eat!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Here are some unrealted thoughts that I have had today. None of them are beefy enough to make a whole post, but I feel they are worth mentioning.

I started watching Six Feet Under on Bravo. I never watched it on HBO, because we have never had pay cable channels. However, I am now addicted to the show. I don't know why, but I love it. I realize I'm probably missing out on something, like nudity and profanity since it's been edited for basic cable, but I still dig it. They show two episodes every Monday night and once I watch the first one I'm sucked in and must watch episode #2. I'm confused about some things that are going on, because I think I've missed some shows, but basically I get it. Maybe I'll get the DVD's for Christmas. Craig also suggested I get a time machine so I can manufacture some free hours in which to watch them. Ha ha.

Lily's new favorite word is "ginormous", as in "giagantic + enormous". Anything that's even slightly large, or larger than something else, is ginormous. It might be spelled gianormous, but I can't be sure. She got it from some toy commercial. Aren't we great parents? Another cute thing she also says is "punkman" for "pumpkin". I know we should correct her, but it's so damn cute.

Lately I've been reconnecting with old girlfriends from the barn. In some cases I can't figure out why I lost touch with these people in the first place. Finding them has been interesting. In two cases I've emailed these ladies' brothers to get their phone numbers. One gal now lives in Alaska. I know I complain about Cleveland winters coming from mild California, but holy shit, ALASKA? I don't know how she can stand it. Sadly, one friend still remains unfound. I wrote a paper letter to her mother's last known address asking if she could give her daughter my contact information. I haven't heard anything for weeks, and I haven't gotten the letter back, so I don't know what's up with that. I still have hope. And it's so much fun to talk with these gals again. We were all so young and stupid and had such good times with the horses.

I will not be having a lesson on Kaswyn today. He's getting wormed and shots today, so we're going to have to work something else out this week. If not, there's always next week. My trainer sent me an email and she's not mad at me. I didn't really think she was, I was just teasing her a little because I know she reads this. Sounds like she was really worried that I thought she was mad. I hope people realize that most of this stuff is written a little tongue-in-cheek and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Lastly, I voted today. I've never voted in a mid-term election before, but Ohio had two issues on the ballot about banning public smoking that I wanted to vote on. I neglected to change my address with the board of elections so they did not have me on record, which resulted in my having to fill out a paper ballot instead of electronic. For some reason, Craig was still on the list, but with the old address, so he had to fill out a paper ballot as well. It was a bit of a pain in the ass and Craig is dubious that our votes will be counted.

So I did my civic duty today! Did you?

Monday, November 06, 2006

A new post every day?

What was I thinking?

This blog was supposed to chronicle both my horse and my kids and sort of make fun of the fact that I don't have a lot of free time.

So what do I do? Commit to spending more time that I don't have on this blog? Not the smartest thing I ever did. Sure, I could give up now, but it's only SIX DAYS into November. I'm not going to puss out just yet.

I wonder how many other people are already whining about updating their blogs every day.

Anyhow, I need to continue with my story, but it's not happening tonight. I worked this past weekend and when that happens I get less sleep than usual. So I'm going to bed.

Don't like it? Suck it.

Wait, wait. Lily just came in while I was typing. She was playing in the living room with her daddy and here is exactly what she said.

"Mamma! Our robot pooped! He pooped and pooped everywhere! So we need to go back in the living room so we can see where he pooped!"

And then she ran out of the room. Don't ask me what that was all about. That kid has got a crazy imagination. Or maybe there really is robot poop in the living room. I don't think I would even know what robot pooped looked like if I saw it. A pile of nuts and bolts in some kind of oil?

Gross. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

We did it because he wanted to

My trainer yelled at me yesterday.

Well, not really. She's at a trainers conference this weekend and I left her a viocemail about my ride on Kaswyn Thursday. She sent me a text message saying that she was concerned that I did too much work with him considering the number of days off he had recently and his level of fitness. She did not sound pleased.

I know she's right. It's very true that Kaswyn is not in as good of shape as he has been in the past, since he's coming back from surgery and neuroma problems. But honestly, it's not like I schooled him for an hour and drilled each movment. We just ran through each movement once or twice. It took maybe 15 mintues, tops. He wasn't even sweaty or breathing hard when we were done.

If I had thought he was getting tired, or was hurting, I would have stopped immediately. Since his problems started over a year ago there were many times that I started riding but stopped because he just didn't feel right. But he felt better than "right" - he felt excited and more than willing to do anything I asked. With every new movement he was more and more excited. I think he would have done more but I thought it was best that we stopped.

Here's the thing - I haven't been able to do anything "fun" with my horse for almost a year now. It's been a whole lot of hand walking, or riding at the walk, and big circles and straight lines at the trot and canter. While it's all necessary, it's BOR-RING. I know Kaswyn feels the same. The reason I started doing dressage with him in the first place was because he was getting bored going around and around in circles. He loves to learn and show off and make me happy. He wanted to do those things. Those of you who know or have horses that are related to Kaswyn know what I'm talking about. Horses of his line are highly intelligent horses with great work ethics who aim to please.

So we did some fun stuff. And it felt GOOD. Great, even. Maybe not the smartest thing we've done, but he's not any worse for it. On Friday we just walked and I did a 15 mintue "warm-up" ride with him on Saturday - which means back to straight lines and circles and concentrating on frame, balance, cadence, and evenness. Nothing fancy - not even a leg yield. However, he felt awesome. Soft, plenty of energy, ready to work. The best part, though, is that he was not sore and was very even.

Kaswyn and I have a tenative 30 minute mini lesson on Tuesday to evaluate him and make a plan for his training schedule. Hopefully that will get me out of the dog house with my trainer.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Of Roses, Black and Red - Part 2

To read the story from the beginning, click here.

Dana, my riding instructor, told me that instead of paying for lessons I could work at the barn and get free lessons. For every three hours I worked I was able to take one lesson. I would be required to arrive an hour before the first lessons started and bring the school horses that would be used for that day up from the pasture to the barn. Then I needed to groom them all and tack up the horses that were in the first lesson. During the first lesson I could tack up the other horses. I would also have to clean the tack and hose the horses off between lessons if they were really sweaty. At the end of the day I would have to groom all the horses again an then walk them back down to the pasture. Jean was offered the same deal.

To a horse crazy girl, this sounded fantastic. When I told my parents about it, they were not pleased, but couldn't really argue because this would not cost them any money. It would just mean that my mom would have to drive me to and from the barn on Saturday and Sunday. They agreed to the arrangement, but emphasized that they were NOT buying me a horse and if I misbehaved or got bad grades I would be banned from the barn.

That is when Jean and I started spending every weekend at the barn. Once school let out for the summer, we were able to work during the week too so we sometimes got two lessons a day. After a month or so Dana started not caring how long we worked and would put us in any open slot she had if we were all done with the work. I spent hours and hours riding, grooming, and cleaning.

I also got to know the horses really well. There was Dallas, the roan quarter horse and alpha gelding. He was a beginners horse but was still a fun ride for the advanced riders. Chester was a chestnut thoroughbred who jumped a little and was very sweet and kind. Snowball, the all-white pony, was for the beginners but would get really feisty over fences. Monty, Ranger, and Tommy were all intermediate to advanced horses. There were a few others that I can't quite remember, but my favorite was Moose.

Moose was exactly as his name implied. He was a big bay with white socks and a blaze, and a huge head with gigantic ears. He was a bit on the lazy side so I had to carry a crop, but I loved riding him. Jean and I would fantasize about how we were going to somehow raise enough money to buy Tommy and Moose so we could ride together forever.

In the mornings Jean and I would get to the barn before anyone else and walk down to the pasture and get halters on all the horses. Then we'd tie a lead rope from one horse onto another horse's halter. We'd do that again until all the horses were paired up and then we'd get on Dallas or Snowball bareback (with just a halter on) and lead the pairs of horses up to the barn while riding one. To get to the barn we had to ride a short way on the street. When I think of this now, it's a wonder that neither we nor the horses ever got hurt. Almost every day one of the horses would get pissed at having to walk so close to his buddies and would bite or kick. We'd holler their names really loud or try and swat them with the lead ropes to get them to quit acting up. We'd groom and talk and laugh and ride. We had whip fights and water fights. Sometimes Dana would go into town and get us lunch at the deli. We figured out how to finesse the Coke machine so we'd actually get what we wanted and not have it eat our quarters. It was really a blast.

At the end of the summer Dana said she wouldn't be able to be our teacher anymore. She had cancer in her lymph nodes - Hodgkins Disease.

To be continued...

Part 3

Friday, November 03, 2006

I'm glad you're excited, but just chill!

My horse was awesome yesterday. I got on him and he started walking really fast, swinging his head around and up and down, anxious to get going. He felt very even, so I asked for the trot. He was really moving out, and kind of blowing through my half-halts. Since he felt so good I thought okay, if that's how you're going to be, lets really work then.

We schooled everything, even though we were in the snaffle. First canter half-passes, then back to the trot for half passes and extensions. His extensions at the trot were so huge I couldn't stay with him. He got a little uneven, but that used to happen all the time before the surgery when he would get a little faster up front than he should. He was getting more and more excited with each movement we would school, so I decided to slow things down a little with some pirouettes. I started out with a little piaffe to get his haunches well under him. Then I asked for 1/4 turns, then went for 1/2 turns, but he was willing to do full pirouettes. I didn't let him, and had to keep stopping him half way around. He was totally obedient and really excited.

Then I thought we'd school flying changes. We started with a change every 4th stride, then every 3rd stride. He was so good at those that I asked for changes every other stride. He did a clean line of those and at the end I told him "Good boy!" and, still at the canter, he put his head down and kicked out with one of his hind legs. I just cracked me up that he was so excited to be doing training-type work and not just circles and straight lines.

Today is just going to be a walk day. I hope he's not sore, or worse, lame.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Of Roses, Black and Red - Part 1

The following story is the beginning to a long but important chapter of my life. It's all about how I got into riding horses. It's also about the things that I learned about horses and myself. And, it's about the people and horses that I met, and lost, along the way.

Usually when I tell stories on my blog I use first initials instead of people's names. However, I think this will get very confusing, so I'm going to use first names only. If you are mentioned by name and wish to have your name removed, let me know and I'll do it immediately.

Here goes...

It was the spring of 1982 and I was 13 years old. I was in 8th grade and had had the same friends since I was in 3rd grade when we moved from Maryland to California. My so-called best friend Nancy lived next door. She was a popular girl and had lots of other friends. I, on the other hand, did not. Sometimes I would spend weeks hanging out with other girls in our circle, but I felt mostly unaccepted by the others. Nancy wasn't exactly nice to me, and if there was something better going on she would blow me off. She would join in when people were teasing me, and in private she would criticize me and put me down. One day while walking to the bus stop I told Nancy she was a bitch and I didn't want to be her friend anymore. I walked ahead of her to the bus stop and never looked back.

That week I started talking to Karen in my History class, and I stopped hanging around with the old group and got myself a new clan of friends. Karen and I started to "play" (sounds so queer now, but that's what we called it) after school at each other's houses. Karen's parents worked, so when we'd go to her house there was nobody but her older brother there. I don't remember how old he was, but I do remember that he had a copy of The Joy of Sex and we would sneak into his room to look at it if he wasn't around. Once he caught us and threatened to beat Karen up, but I think it was a lot of talk. Karen was into ballet and once gave me one of her old pairs of toe shoes to play around with. They hurt my feet but I tried to stand on my toes anyway. (I recently saw Karen at my high school reunion. She looked fantastic!)

One of the girls in the new group was Jean-Marie. We also started going to each others houses after school, and one day when I asked if she could come over she told me she couldn't because she had a riding lesson. She said I could come along and watch, so I did.

This was not my first time at a barn. When we were younger my parents had signed both my older sister and I up for week-long riding camps for two summers. It was great. We were there pretty much all day and learned about the parts of the horse, the tack, how to care for horses, and of course, how to ride. On the last day I think we had some kind of show or something, but I can't really remember. I do remember the last year my horse was named Big Op, short for Big Opportunity. He was the largest horse, a big bay thoroughbred. My mom was a little freaked out that I was on such a big horse, but he was lazy and kind and I had a great time.

I went with Jean to her lesson and decided that I wanted lessons too. I went home and asked my parents. They said no. Absolutely not. We can't afford it, they said. I continued to go with Jean to her lessons and pester my parents for lessons. Finally, my father said okay. He would pay for 4 lessons, and that's it. We went out and my mom bought me a pair of tall rubber riding boots, a pair of breeches, and a hard hat. That Tuesday she drove me to the barn and signed me up for 4 lessons. These were group lessons, and they were $8 a lesson.

My instructor was Dana. She was young, energetic, and super nice. Jean and I were in the same lesson, so we got to talk and goof around while we were getting ready to ride. The riding program at the barn had a string of school horses that the stable owned. They were all geldings, well broke and good natured. Some of them were for beginners, and some for more advanced riders, but for the most part they were all safe and sane. My first lesson was on 56. He was a big palamino who had a "56" branded into his neck, thus his name. Jean usually rode 56 in her lessons and at first was jealous that I got to ride him, but Dana let her ride Tommy. Tommy was a dark bay gelding who used to be an event horse, so he was a great ride. She fell madly in love with this horse and almost always got to ride him in her lessons after that.

I took three lessons, one every Tuesday. Before the fourth and last lesson, I told Dana that today would be my last lesson because my parents would not pay for any more.

To be continued...

Part 2

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Beginning of NaBloPoMo for Dressage Mom

Because of NaBloPoMo, I'm going to try and post every day for the month of November. I might not make it, but I'm going to try.

Anyway, I can't wait to get on my horse tomorrow. It's been at least two weeks since I was able to ride him and actually have a decent workout. He's been feeling better and better so I hope that he feels good tomorrow. I have about 3 more weeks to go on the vet's two month time frame where I look to see improvement. I think I have already seen that improvement, so that makes me hopeful.

My next problem will be deciding if Kaswyn will be able to take the stress of training at his previous level. If he can't, I'm just going to have to retire him. Maybe I'll retire him for a year and then try and bring him back. The problem with that is he'd be 16, and he'd have to train very hard to get back to this level after a year off. I'm not sure if his body could take that kind of stress. So when and if I decide to retire him it will be for keeps. I think. It's just so hard when you have such a talented, willing, well-trained horse. I can't describe the feeling I get when we do a perfect half-pass or piaffe. Not only does it feel amazing, but I also know inside that my horse enjoys it too. Giving that up won't be easy. Lets hope I don't have to.

One last thing - Happy Halloween!

Macey the Bee

Lily the Pink Care Bear (Wish Bear, I think)

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?
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr