Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lamenting the cold

Yesterday both ponies were supposed to get their feet done - Kaswyn a reset of his shoes and Albert to get his shoes pulled and go barefoot for the winter. However it was really cold - like 10 degrees with the wind chill, so I decided I'd better not go out there and stand in the cold for two hours. Instead I asked Susan to go and hold the horses for the farrier at 10:00 am. She wasn't working, so she said it would be no problem.

I called Susan at 9:00 to double check, and it's a good thing I did. Her truck is in the shop, so she has her little car, which does not have four wheel drive. And that little car was stuck in her driveway, which is hard to get in and out of even with the 4x4. She was shoveling and trying to get out, but she said it was pretty buried and not really on the driveway anymore. It was doubtful that she'd be able to shift it on her own, and was waiting for the plow guy to come and get her out. So I had to call the farrier and reschedule for Thursday. It's supposed to be 37 degrees on Thursday - heat wave! - so I should be able to handle it.

There was no riding Tuesday, and there will be no riding today. It's warmer, but with the wind chill it's 18 degrees. Not something I want to be breathing. I really hate not riding. I can feel myself getting out of shape! And when I get out of shape it's really hard to push myself to ride harder and get back into it. Especially in the winter. I'm lazy at heart, and I like it when things are easy. Getting my riding stamina back is HARD!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Time off

The Thursday before Christmas week, I was at work as usual. I was just finishing up in the lab for the day when I noticed that I couldn't breathe very well. This happens when my asthma kicks in, so I left the lab and took a couple of puffs from my inhaler. I waited for the medicine to work, but it didn't seem to really do anything. I was very cold outside, and the cold is one thing that sets my asthma off when I'm out. However I hadn't been outside or cold in hours, so that wasn't the problem.

I sat quietly at my desk for 20 minutes or so. My breathing was getting worse, so I decided to go over to the next building and see my doctor. I was hoping for a breathing treatment that would solve this problem.

When I arrived at the front desk and told them I was having trouble breathing the receptionist took my social security number and told me to wait while she hurried into the back. Within one minute there were two nurses there to take me to a room. They got a doctor to see me in under five minutes. It was amazing. I wouldn't have gotten nearly as quick of service if I had gone to the emergency room.

They took my oxygen saturation level and it was low. They also had me do a breathing test to determine what my capacity was before and after the breathing treatment. Then I got my breathing treatment, then repeated the test. My lungs were much better but the doctor was concerned about why I had had the attack in the first place.

I didn't really have an explanation. I hadn't been exposed to anything that usually triggers an attack. I hadn't done anything that usually gives me an attack either. So the doctor put me on steroids twice a day, plus told me to take my asthma med Singulair once a day (which I don't take all the time because it's super expensive!) and my inhaler every four hours.

So I went home and everything was fine, until four hours after the breathing treatment. Then my lungs locked up in an alarming manner. It was like that for the next few days - I could tell when four hours was up because I started having problems breathing. My inhaler has a side effect of making me shaky, so I had to call off of work on Friday which is something that I never do.

Something else I had to do was not go out to the barn. We were having a cold snap in the weather and the cold sets my asthma off in a big way. So I didn't ride for a week.

Not riding for a week was the worst part of my asthma attack.

The last rides I had on both Kaswyn and Albert were really good. Well, Albert was pretty good. I'm still struggling at the canter with him. He is fine and light at the trot, but he still bears down on the bit at the canter. I try half-halts, which work for a stride or two, but then he jams back onto the bit again. We're both getting kind of frustrated, but I will say that there has been an improvement since our last lesson.

I took my trainer's instruction and had started to ask Kaswyn for some more collected work. It's not super collection - it's like second level collection. And he feels great. No funny steps or resistance. He gets a little fatigued, and that is when we stop. Anyway, that's where we were when I had to stop riding for a week.

But fortunately Kaswyn felt great when I rode him after that time off. I was so glad that he was still on track. He's looking really good too, putting muscle on his haunches and over his back. He still has a way to go but I can see him changing and it's all good.

I was going to ride today, but it's 20 degrees outside, and when I went out briefly this morning my lungs completely locked up. I think it would be wise not to risk another bad episode with my breathing so there will be no riding for me. It's supposed to warm up to 37 degrees on Thursday, so I'll give it a try then.

I'm glad I'm not showing in 2010, because I get the feeling that I won't be able to do as much riding as I'd like this winter.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Macey had a Fit Free Day yesterday, and got her 5th marble. After some whispered deliberations with Lily, Macey decided to get Slurpees as her reward. Everyone benefited from her fabulous day. We are so proud of her.

Macey for the win!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Losing Her Marbles - Part 2

Part 1

So just when we got Lily straightened out, Macey started having issues in school. This began when Macey got a new teacher. Well, technically it was an old teacher who had been on medical leave when we enrolled Macey in Pre-Kindergarten. Apparently the temporary teacher had let Macey do whatever she wanted to do in class, had let her be the "line leader" when it was time for lunch or time to go outside, and hadn't disciplined Macey at all. When the "real" teacher came back and started to reinstate the rules, and Macey didn't get whatever she wanted, things started to fall apart.

Macey can be very very cute and charming. I think this is part of the reason why she always got her way with the temporary teacher. Macey is very affectionate, loving, and knows how to turn that on in order to get her way. But a disappointed Macey is sight to behold. She throws fits. And they are impressive.

We started getting notes home about Macey. Macey wouldn't lie down at nap time, and continued to scream so none of the other kids could sleep. Macey didn't like the chair that was available to sit in at lunch time, so she stood on the carpet, stomped her feet, and cried. Macey was not happy that another child got a turn on the tricycle when they were outside, so she kicked wood chips at the teacher and screamed. Macey disrupted story time by crawling on the carpet and crying like a kitty.

Yeah. Nice.

Craig and I have said from the beginning that our kids will NOT be brats. We HATE it. So we were prepared for the school to go all out to stop this. The only problem is that the school has rules that they are unwilling to bend on.

Our idea - If Macey won't lie down at naptime, pick her up and put her on her cot.
Their response - We can only physically move children if they are in danger of being injured.

Our idea - If Macey has a fit, put her in time out.
Their response - We can't remove a child from the learning area.

Our idea - If Macey acts out during outside time, make her stay inside next time.
Their response - We cannot take things away from children as punishment.

Our idea - If Macey disrupts story time, tell her to go into another learning area of the classroom.
Their response - Macey refused to leave the carpet, and we can't pick her up and put her someplace else.

I'm sure these rules are a result of our society's love of litigation, but if Macey had no consequences for her actions then nothing was going to improve. We spoke at length with her teacher, who said that she loves Macey (in fact, despite her actions, Macey is her favorite) but recognizes that by not addressing this behavior we are not doing Macey any favors. She really wished she could have done some of the things we suggested, but that she would get fired. We appreciated this, and knew that we'd have to come up with another plan.

Fortunately, Lily's Kindergarten class gave us a great idea. In Lily's class, if you do something good, like following directions or being nice to others, you get a marble. When you get five marbles, you get to pick a toy from the toy box. The children will never lose marbles, but to get five and then be allowed to pick a 25 cent toy out of a box is like winning the lottery for them.

We modified the idea, and here is the system we came up with. Craig and I would institute a marble system at home by getting daily reports on her behavior. Macey's day would be described as one of the following -

A Fit Free Day - No fits all day long! - Macey gets one marble.
An Okay Day - Some fits, but at least 50% Fit Free - Macey doesn't get a marble, but she doesn't lose one either.
A Fit Full Day - Fits all day! - Macey loses one marble.

When Macey gets five marbles in her Marble Jar, she will get to pick one reward from a list. Things like -

She gets to bring a stuffed animal to school to sleep with at naptime for one day.
We'll get Slurpees after school (bonus for Mama too!)
She can have an extra dessert.
The girls have a Movie Night (complete with the lights off, popcorn, and soda) and Macey picks the movie.

We explained this to both Macey and her teacher. The first week went pretty well and Macey made it up to three marbles. Then she hit a snag. But it was an interesting change in her behavior. The teacher said that Macey wasn't having fits, but was now being aggressive to her classmates. She was shoving them, hitting them, scratching them. We counted these days as A Fit Full Day and Macey lost two marbles.

At this point I was beside myself. We had stopped the fits, but in a last ditch effort to show her displeasure she was now being violent. Really not what we wanted to accomplish. Not only that but her poor teacher had to deal with this kid, as well as the rest of the class, when there should be learning going on. In fact when Macey would act up the other students would say "She's doing it again!" I spoke with the school director and asked if we could have the teacher call us right when Macey was having a fit. Because then one of us would talk to her and we'd get to the bottom of this.

We told Macey that her teacher was going to call us if she had another fit or was mean to her classmates. I picked up my phone later that day and I had a voicemail from her teacher, saying that Macey would not wash her hands before lunch as she was told. I immediately called the school and was put on the phone with her teacher.

The great thing was, her teacher said that as soon as Macey heard that she was leaving me a voicemail she straightened up immediately. The teacher said "You should have seen her face. She didn't think I was really going to do it. When she heard me leaving that message she stopped her fit and said she'd go wash her hands."

Then I had them put Macey on the phone. I told her I was very upset that her teacher had to call me, and I didn't want to get any more phone calls from the school about her behavior. She said "Yes, I know Mama. I will be better, I promise."

She kept that promise. Since then we have had two Fit Free Days in a row. Macey has four marbles. If she holds it together all day today she will get marble #5, and will get to pick her reward from the list.

We're all rooting for her.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Losing Her Marbles -Part 1

The school year is winding down for our girls. I'm glad we get a little break now for Christmas, because we've had a bit of a rocky start.

This year Lily started Kindergarten and it's been a bit of a change for her. At first Lily seemed to make the transition with no problems. However, little issues started cropping up. We got a note home from her teacher that Lily was chasing boys at recess, and was trying to hug and kiss them. We spoke with Lily, telling her that she should not be kissing boys at school, and she promised to stop doing that. However, the notes continued to come from school.

Lily was still kissing boys. Lily shoved another student out of the way so she could get in line in front of them. Lily was disrespectful and defiant to the playground monitors. And so on. After each note we spoke with Lily and for the second note and all the ones after she was punished. I also was speaking to the teacher once or twice a week. This was not normal behavior for my sweet little girl. Something was going on, but I didn't know what. The talks and the punishments just were not working.

Then, one Friday, we got the worst note yet. It said "Lily's behavior was so bad today that I don't have time to write it all down." Immediately upon reading the note I called the school, and spoke to her teacher. She said that she had asked Lily to stand up and go do something. Lily grossed her arms, continued to sit, and said "I'm tired! I'm NOT getting up!" She then made what the teacher called a "very mean face". The teacher also explained to me that her aide was out sick, and she was dealing with two other unruly children. She couldn't deal with all three of them, plus the rest of the class, and it made for a very difficult day. I apologized, and was embarrassed. I told her we would do whatever we could to fix this problem.

That night I had some time to think, and it occurred to me that Lily was no longer getting her nap. She wasn't in "day care" anymore where the majority of her time was free play. She had school work most of the day, and there was no more nap time. She did get "quiet time" where she could put her head on her desk for 20 minutes or so, but no more lying down on her cot with her blanket for a few hours. Could my little girl be fatigued and grumpy at school? To test the theory, we moved the girl's bedtime from 9:00 to 8:00. I was afraid that she'd complain that she wasn't tired, and would just fool around in bed instead of sleeping. However she must have been tired because she only fussed for a few minutes and then she was out.

The transformation was immediate. No more bad notes came home from school, and when I called the teacher the next week she said that Lily's attitude had been wonderful. That extra hour of sleep had done it.

To simplify things we decided to put Macey to bed at 8:00 too. She is still getting naps in Pre-Kindergarten and I was worried that she would not go to sleep, or that she'd start waking up at 4 am. Luckily neither one of those things happened and she now sleeps as long as Lily does, plus she gets her nap.

As soon as we had Lily straightened out, Macey began having problems at school. Lily was a pretty easy fix, but Macey has proven to be a much harder nut to crack.

To be continued...

Part 2

Monday, December 14, 2009

The State of my Training - Albert

My previous post was about how Kaswyn's rehab and training is coming along. Since then I've had a lesson with my trainer, and she thinks that he looks very good. She disagrees with my thought that I've never been able to get him engaged behind. She thinks that he never would have been able to do Prix St. Georges if he was never engaged. Maybe it's just been so long - five years! - since my horse has been strong and sound that I've forgotten what he feels like when he's going well.

My trainer also said that Kaswyn looks much more sure footed then before. He used to look very tentative and cautious about where be put his feet, especially going to the left. But now he looks very decisive and strong. She said that it's good to make him push into a big trot and canter, but I should start to introduce some collected strides. Not a lot, but maybe just start with a circle, or half of a circle. She wants to make sure that I also build the sitting and carrying muscles while I'm building the pushing ones.

Before I had my Kaswyn lesson I had an Albert lesson. That little horse is giving me the blues. Here is what is going on.

Since Sport Horse Nationals I've been introducing more difficult movements to him. We've been schooling half-pass at both the trot and the canter, as well as trying the flying change. The problem with Albert is that any time he gets nervous or something gets hard for him he pulls very hard with his neck and runs forward. Then if I can get him calmed down and slow again he begins to bear down on the bit very hard, even if we move to an easier movement. Once he is bearing down, he stays there.

So I tried loosening the neck. That was like trying to bend a steel girder. So then I thought if I could get him light and off the bit he'd relax his neck and I'd have something to work with. I tried half-halts. I tried transitions. Nothing worked. No matter what I did he still had a ton of bricks in his mouth. My arms couldn't take it!

When my trainer saw what was going on, she said that it's not actually in his neck, but in his back. She said that what he's doing is not coming through his back, and he's stopping the motion right behind the saddle. Here I thought that this horse was the one who was coming through his back! Turns out that's not the case. She said he's stopping his back and where I'm feeling it is in my hand.

So she asked to get on Albert. Now this is a quirky little horse, and he doesn't like my trainer all that much. She's never, ever been mean or abusive to him, but she's got his number and he really objects to that. So when she got on him he immediately went to his defence mechanism, which is his neck - exactly what she wanted him to do.

He threw his head in the air, neck inverted, and slammed on the brakes. All my trainer did was hold the reins steady, and ask him to go forward into her hand. He did not want to. But she did not change her request, and eventually he put his head down and walked into the contact. They repeated this dance a few more times at the walk, and then again at the trot and canter.

Then she said "Okay, get on him now. He feels great."

She said I need to have a "waiting hand", which means that I should just take contact, ask him to go forward into that contact, and not move my hands to either to bend the neck sideways or to give the contact at all. The only time I could give the contact is when he put his head down and walked into the contact with a loose neck.

Well Albert did not like this plan very much. He tried the same things with me, but to a lesser degree because he was finally figuring out that he wasn't going to be able to get away with being a bully with his neck anymore. It was tough for him, but he finally submitted and he felt just wonderful. Very light, loose in the neck, and nice soft back. There were moments in each gait where he'd slam on the brakes and jam himself into the bit, or just plain bear down on the bit, and then my trainer would say "Bump him forward, don't give your contact away!" and eventually he'd put his head down and go forward.

My Friday lesson ended on a very high note, so I was excited to get back on Albert on Sunday. However things did not go as well. Again the little horse decided to bear down on the bit and nothing I did, even the things that I was taught and able to do on Friday would work. I tried, and tried, but he would only stay light for a stride or two before jamming his face down onto the bit again.

It was a frustrating ride for both of us, and I wished that I could call my trainer and say "Please come over and fix us like you did on Friday!" This was not an option. Finally I decided that we had both had enough, and went to the walk. Then, and only then, was I able to get him to be light in the bit and soft in his back. I guess this is better than nothing.

It's very hard for me when I have goals in my mind and I just can't make it happen. I know that every ride is not going to be perfect, and it's all about trial and error and learning. I posted to my Facebook page that I was frustrated, and a good friend commented that "It's about the journey." And then my trainer commented "It's not instant soup!"

They are, or course, correct. Dressage is a journey where the destination is always on the horizon.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The state of my training - Kaswyn

It's been awhile since I've written something about how my training is going. So if that stuff bores you, there's nothing to see here. Move along.

Lets start with Kaswyn. I had been riding him bareback and it gave me a great feel for if his back is up and soft or hollow and tense. So I decided to ride him in my saddle with a gel pad. I'm still afraid to hurt his back again so I thought the gel pad would give a little extra cushioning. We had a nice ride, and it was very informative for me. I realized that I usually don't ride my horse over and through his back. I think he has a tendency to get his back tense and work that way, and somehow he's been able to get as far as he has.

What I noticed with my new found ability to feel his back is that regardless of what is going on with Kaswyn's front end - meaning that even if he is on the bit and soft in the neck - that he will keep his back tight and still be able work. I can get him to collect but what I've been lacking with him is engagement of those back legs. I went back and looked at our old tests and there it is, from many judges, in many movements and at the bottom of the tests - "needs better engagement of the hindquarters". Riding him that first time in the saddle and gel pad I had an epiphany - my horse does not push with his hind legs through his back.

If you do dressage you hear some basic things over and over. "Ride your horse from the back to the front." is a big one. Finally, after doing dressage with my horse for 13 years, I understand what that means and how to do it. My horse, because I was learning dressage at the same time I was trying to teach it to him, was trained incorrectly. I gave him bad habits and never developed the things that he needed to develop. One of those major things is pushing power, and the ability to push the energy with his hind legs through a soft swinging back. That's what I mean by being "through his back".

So I've started to retrain Kaswyn. We don't do anything fancy. I put him in a first level frame and make him push for every stride. Suddenly I can feel when he falls out behind, or lets his back get tight, or drops his back. That's when I half halt and push him, thinking about getting energy from the back end. It's very hard on both of us, and I only do 15 minutes three times a week. It's such a different way of riding him that neither one of us are used to it.

I can thank Albert for some of this enlightenment. That little horse is very correct. He is naturally through his back and will engage his hindquarters without a problem. So riding him has given me a feel for what it's supposed to be like. This I can thank my trainer for. I rode Albert when he was just starting dressage, but then my trainer took over and put some solid basics on him. This has been such a boon for me, as it makes him much easier to ride, and it give me the feeling of what correct is supposed to feel like. Now that I know, I want Kaswyn to feel that way. And with hard work I think we can get there.

Because I've been riding Kaswyn for 16 years, I just got used to how he feels, even when that feeling was not correct. But I think I have a handle on it now. What I really need are some lessons to make sure I'm on the right track, but between my schedule and my trainer's schedule I haven't been able to make that happen. Unfortunately for me (but not for her!) she is leaving for Florida for two months, so I'll be on my own. I hope I can get some lessons in before she goes!

I hope I'm doing the right thing, and will be fixing my horse instead of messing him up again. It took me 13 years to identify this problem - a problem that I caused. I don't have another 13 years to fix more foul-ups, so I'd better do this right!

Friday, December 04, 2009


So my husband sent this to me and it's really funny. In a twsited sort of way. It does have two somewhat naughty words in it. You have been warned.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mud and Hair

The muddy season has begun.

The weather has gotten colder, it rains every now and then, but the sun (when it comes out) is not hot enough during the day to dry out the muddy pastures. Both Kaswyn and Albert like to roll quite a bit, so they are both usually plastered in mud when I arrive at the barn in the afternoons. However it's too cold for baths for the horses, so both the guys have been wearing sheets during the day. The sheets keep their bodies from being caked in mud, but their necks are unprotected. This means filthy manes and large crusty mud spots on their necks and faces.

I don't mind grooming horses but mud just gets to me. First of all, the mud in these particular pastures stink. It doesn't just smell like earth - it smells bad. I think there were cows or goats or something in those pastures long ago, so the mud is rank. When I curry the mud off of their coats it always makes a dust in the air that settles on me which makes me smell. Add to that the sweat from riding and by the time I get home I'm really ripe. My husband doesn't know what's worse - summer fly spray stink or winter mud stench.

To combat the muddies I've starting using Miracle Groom. Miracle Groom is a liquid coat cleaner that you spray on the horse's hair and then rub with a cloth. The cloth then lifts the dirt out of the coat leaving it shiny, clean, and slick. I didn't used to think that shampoo-less grooming products like this work, but let me tell you I've been nothing but happy with the results. I'm sure similar grooming products work as well but since I've never used anything else I can't really say. I use the Miracle Groom on the muddy necks as well as their bodies. It really makes the hair shiny and gets all the dust and dander out of the coat. It says it's good for stains too, but I've never needed to use it for that.

I've also found another benefit to using Miracle Groom. I used to work the horses first, then use the Miracle Groom on them. Since their winter coats had grown in, they would get very sweaty during the workouts, and the Miracle Groom would remove the sweat and the dirt at the same time. But then I would have to put coolers on the horses and wait until they were dry before I could put their sheets back on for the night. This took way too long.

One night it occurred to me that I could Miracle Groom before the ride. Sure, the coat would get wet, but as the horse worked and the body temperature went up, the Miracle Groom would evaporate and dry, cooling the horse off so there was less sweat produced. By the time I was finished riding the horse would be dry, cool, and clean too! Yay for efficiency!

Unfortunately even the Miracle Groom treatment before the ride wasn't enough to keep Albert from getting sweaty, as he had grown a lot of coat. So today I clipped him. I decided to do a trace clip on him because he spends a lot of time outside in the winter and I didn't want to rob him of all of his hair. I know a trace clip usually includes clipping the whole belly, but I decided to leave the belly hair and just clip a "racing stripe" along his body.

Here is Albert before -

And here he is after -

This is my first attempt at a trace clip, and I'm showing you the "good" side. The other side I kind of messed up a little bit. The line down his body is not as straight, but we're not going to a show anytime soon so I think we'll be fine. I know the belly hair looks kind of funky, but I just didn't have the heart to clip his belly since he spends so much time outside. And he LOVES to go outside. And then roll in the mud.

Luckily for me Kaswyn didn't grow as much coat and therefore doesn't get as sweaty when he works, so I won't have to clip him. Less coat doesn't make him roll in the mud any less.

Today after I was finished with my clipping and grooming it was time for turnout. Susan and I watched as both Albert and Kaswyn found muddy patches in the pasture and rolled, covering both sides of their bodies in muck.

Silly horses. I'll have a lot of grooming to do tomorrow before I ride. I can't wait for spring!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Morose. Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

I woke up the next morning and I felt bad. However, I had also just gotten my period so I just figured that was the issue. I was bleeding kind of heavily all that day so I just let myself feel miserable.

That was Wednesday. Thursday I felt better physically, but mentally I still felt down. I made it through work and decided not to go to the barn, thinking that if I spent some time with the girls and Craig that I'd feel better. No dice. I sat on the couch and didn't want to do anything. I forced myself to eat dinner and play with the girls a little bit, but I really had no interest in it. Craig knew something was up and asked me what was wrong. I told him that I didn't want to do anything, and that I was a little blue. He asked what he could do to help and I said nothing, since I didn't know where this was all coming from.

The next morning I had the day off because I worked that weekend. Usually on my days off I go to the barn first thing in the morning and take my time riding and fussing over the boys. But I didn't even want to get out of bed. Again I forced myself to get dressed and went out to the barn. Even though I wore my breeches I couldn't bring myself to ride. I groomed both horses and went home. I took a nap, then got myself out of bed to go get the girls. Again I forced myself to eat dinner. Craig was getting concerned, and asked me how Kaswyn was. I told him that I didn't ride, and he asked why, probably thinking that my horse was lame again. When I told him that I didn't want to, he started to get worried. Then he said "You aren't having suicidal thoughts or anything, are you?"

Actually I was. I remember sitting on the couch while the girls played and watched tv, and I was thinking about the different ways to kill myself. I wanted a way that wouldn't hurt (because I'm a wussy), and something where none of my family would find me. Then I thought maybe I'll just get in the car and drive and never come back. Maybe I could crash my car really hard into something. It was not good.

So when I answered Craig with a "" he said "Listen, if the answer to that question isn't immediately 'No' then we need to do something." I assured him that I wasn't going to do anything stupid and that I'd let him know if I needed anything.

The next day after work I came home and went to bed again. We had a Halloween party to go to that night and I didn't want to go at all. It was also the night for Trick or Treating and I didn't want to do that with the girls either. Again I forced myself to go out and do my normal activities. I knew it would be way too easy to go to bed and stay there.

The girls had fun Trick or Treating and the party was okay, but I still was not myself. Sunday showed no improvement. Craig was very concerned now, and when I went to work on Monday he was calling or texting me every half hour. Monday was the worst day. I was in the lab alone and I had work to do, and I remember thinking that I just couldn't handle being there. It was all just too much and I needed to go. Anywhere. I just needed out. Out of me, out of my head, out.

But the thought of going to my boss and saying I needed to go made me upset. I know she would be okay with it because I was certain that if I asked to leave that I would start crying and she would let me go without too much of an explanation. But I didn't want to do that. I didn't need all that drama and having to explain what had happened the next time I got to work. I was trapped.

At that moment I broke down. I put the embryos away, sat down and just cried. Luckily nobody walked in, because I think I cried for like ten minutes. When I was all done I actually felt a little bit better. I called Craig to tell him and I think what I had to say scared him almost as much as the suicide thing. He said "Something is certainly amiss if you are crying at work during the day for no reason." I assured him that I would be fine that day, and I had an appointment with my therapist the next day. I made it through the day but didn't go out to the barn. Again.

Tuesday morning I actually felt a bit better. Work was fine, and there was no more crying. Then I went to my appointment and told my therapist all about my issues. He was shocked, saying that most people get more agitated after EMDR, and not depressed. Then he asked how I was doing with the anxiety of the girls vomiting and I said "To tell you the truth, I actually really don't care about much right now, so I'm pretty apathetic about that too." He said that was probably the only good thing to come of the depressive episode, and it would be very convenient if one of the girls would get sick soon while I was still apathetic. That did not happen.

We did not do another EMDR session for fear that was the reason for my depression. He did say that I should contact him immediately if I have more suicidal thoughts, and if I couldn't get a hold of him that I should go to the emergency room. I already had another appointment set for the next week, and hopefully I would feel better by then.

After my appointment I did start to feel better. Craig was a bit annoyed that my doc didn't actually do anything, and when I asked what he expected him to do Craig said "Well, something more than 'Feel better and don't kill yourself before the next appointment.' would be nice."

I started to feel a little bit better every day until I was back to normal. I've had other sessions with my therapist, who said that he wouldn't call what I had clinical depression because it didn't last the required duration (like three months or something). I can't imagine feeling that way every day for a long period of time. Mine was only like two weeks and that was long enough.

I've also had another EMDR session and it was very very helpful. I'm still having issues, like the other night when Macey said her tummy hurt right before bed. I spent the next few hours tense and anxious in bed instead of falling asleep. But I'm hopeful that I'll get over this stupid vomit phobia. I know that I did it to myself. In my mind I connected vomiting with seizures and convinced myself that vomiting is a bad thing. But I know that neither the vomiting nor the seizures is a bad thing (well, they both kind of suck..). The bad thing is me panicking, and I have control over that. I made the connection and I can break it. It will not break me.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Morose. Part 2

Part 1

So last November I started going to a therapist to help me get rid of this emetophobia. I told him all about my neurologist’s findings, which were that my last seizure wasn’t really a seizure, but a pseudo-seizure. The pseudo-seizure was brought on my the stress and panic that my daughter’s vomiting caused. Everyone has a seizure threshold, and mine just happens to be very low. The seizure the mind's way of protecting itself from the bad situation. It just shuts down. Thus in a stressful situation I will panic to the point where I have a seizure. And puking sends me into a panic, so I have a seizure and then puke, reinforcing that puke is a bad thing. See how that works?

My therapist and I worked through my puke issues until I was able to successfully watch people vomiting on video (thanks YouTube!). Then my doc said "Next time your daughter is sick, I want you to be present but not involved. Let your husband handle the situation but you should just be in the room." Sounds simple enough.

Now Macey is a puker, so I knew the day would eventually arrive when she puked again. And lo and behold that day came in late August. Craig had the girls out running errands an he called me to say "We're coming home. Macey is not right." Sure enough when they got home that little girl was pale and sluggish. She wanted to go to bed and said her tummy hurt.

I tried to stay calm, even though I knew it was coming. I put her in bed, got a bucket and a towel out, and told her that if she needed to throw up just do it in the bucket. She said she didn't have to throw up, but I told her it was there in case she needed it. I went downstairs with Craig and tried not to fret about it too much. Then we heard the thump on the floor. Craig ran upstairs and I cautiously followed. Then I heard her being sick as I was on the stairs and I hesitated. I knew I was supposed to go in there but I was scared. I took a deep breath and kept going up the stairs.

I was approaching her room, and I could see Macey and Craig kneeling around the bucket. That was all I needed to see, and I felt a seizure coming on. I turned and ran down the stairs and fell on the floor of the living room, the seizure feeling washing over me. Then I thought "No! I really don't want this to happen!" I started hitting myself in the head, HARD, saying "No! No! No!" as I did it. And for some reason, that worked. It scared off the seizure. I decided I just needed to get out of the house, so I put on my shoes and ran out the door. I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, and walked until I felt mostly normal. Then I went back to the house.

Craig was there, searching the house in a panic for me. He was sure I was having a seizure somewhere and he couldn't find me. Oops. I never told him I was leaving the house.

The next time I went to see my therapist he was surprised that I had been unable to handle Macey's sickness. We were talking about how it felt for me to almost have a seizure, and I got a flashback about how it feels to go into one, and I almost had one in his office. That was not very pleasant, with me lying on the floor with cold cloths on my head. I was getting much worse, not better. My doc decided that he had grossly underestimated how bad this was for me, and after some discussion we decided that I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) associated with my seizures that is triggered by vomiting. He suggested EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for our next session.

That next session was the session where I was sad about Blair. I didn't mention it to him, because I didn't see how it would effect anything if I was sad about her since it wasn't at all related to what we were working on. So we had an EMDR session, which was very revealing.

What we do is we sit facing each other, but he is to one side of me so he's not directly in front of me. Then he asks me to re-live the experience in question - this time a seizure - while I watch his fingertips as he moves his hand back and forth about two feet from my face. I'm just to move my eyes, as this activates both sides of my brain to work on the problem. Basically the theory is that the mind has the ability to heal itself, and the EMDR helps it happen. He waves his fingers in front of me for about 30 seconds or so, then asks me to close my eyes and tell him what's going on.

These sessions are very interesting, because my mind takes me places I didn't think it would go, and there's this internal dialogue that takes place. It's really trippy. For instance this session went something like this -
Oh, I remember what it feels like to have a seizure and this sucks!
I can't handle this!
Yes you can.
No, I can't!
Sure you can.
I don't think I can.
You don't need to have a seizure every time you're scared.
But I am scared!
It's okay to be scared.
But I can't handle it when she pukes! I won't be able to be there for her when she needs me!
I'm a bad mom!
Your mom was there for you when you puked and she didn't freak out.
That's true. I'm just as strong as she is.
Craig also was there for you.
Yes, I trust him completely.
You can do this.
I would be so ashamed if I couldn't be there for my girls.
You have the determination of an ox. You can do anything.
Can I do this?

That's how the session ended. I went home and the next day was plunged into darkness.

To be continued...

Part 3

Morose. Part 1

I knew there was a problem when I didn’t want to ride. A big problem.

This had never really happened to me before. Sure, there had been times, mostly in the winter, that I didn’t really want to drive 30 minutes or more out to the barn to ride, but once I got out there I was ready to get on my horse. February in Cleveland, OH, can be cold and snowy and some days I would just rather stay home and share a mug of hot chocolate with my kids than freeze my butt off in the 20 degree barn. But this time it was different. I didn’t want to ride.

In fact, I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to eat, or get out of bed. I was having my first, and hopefully only, bout with depression. This was ten days ago.

Normally I’m a very upbeat person. I’m the eternal optimist, and really believe the best in people and situations. I’m also a bit hyper, but that helps me “get stuff done”. That’s what I do. I Get Stuff Done. If I wasn’t wound a little too tightly I wouldn’t have the energy to cram everything into a day that I do. Normally I’m scurrying around from place to place with a song playing in my head and a spring in my step.

So what happened to me that made me not want to ride? The answer is unclear.

I think I can say it started two weeks ago with thinking about my friend and former riding instructor Blair. You can read about her story here –

19 years later I still have unresolved feelings about what happened. For years after she disappeared I would “see” her at horse shows, or see “her” truck on the road and try desperately to drive next to the truck to see if it was her. There was never closure of the situation, even though I know in my heart that she is dead. Still, every now and then I use the magical internet to search for her.

In fact, during this last bit of searching I was able to reconnect (through Facebook) with two other riding instructors that I knew from when I was a kid. While this was all very nice, it still wasn’t finding Blair, even though I knew I would not find her. I did find her High School Alumni page, where they had her listed in the “In Memoriam” section. It had her senior portrait. I met her three years after that picture was taken. She was so young.

At that point I was just sad about Blair, but this had happened before and usually amounted to nothing other than being sad and maybe crying a little at the injustice of it all. That’s when everything gets a little complicated.

Later that week I went to my therapist to have a session to deal with my emetophobia. That’s fear of vomit, or vomiting. I’ve had this problem since I was 12 when I had my first seizure. After the seizure, I threw up. No big deal, until it came to pass that the only times I threw up were after I had a seizure. And let me tell you, having a seizure is a terrible experience. I had them from the time I was 12 until I was 21, and then they stopped. The doctors didn’t so anything about it, saying that I would probably just grow out of them, which I did. Even though the seizures had stopped, they had ingrained in me a deep seated fear of vomit due to the trauma of the seizure that immediate preceded vomiting.

Last year, in November, I had another seizure (my first in almost 20 years) brought on by my four year old daughter Macey vomiting. My husband was there for the whole thing. He wrote about it from his point of view on his blog –

This set off a series of events where I finally went into therapy to get rid of this emetophobia.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Winter Blahs

It got cold today. I hate cold.

Well, first it was warm enough for the horses not to have sheets on. Then it rained, creating mud. And since it was still too warm to have sheets on the ponies went outside naked.

Naked ponies + muddy pastures = filthy ponies

So I spent stupid amounts of time cleaning Bert and Kaswyn before I could put tack on them. Albert especially. I was excited that he might keep the clean coat he got from the baths he got at Nationals, but it was not to be. That horse GRINDS the mud into his body. He gets it so caked in his halter that you can't get it off of him. Piggy boy. He stinks too.

It's now cold enough again to keep the boys sheeted, or, like today, blanketed. Soon the pastures will freeze and the mud will go away. But that means snow and ice and I hate to be cold. So if I'm not whining about one thing it something else, huh?

Let me find one more thing to complain about (because I'm really on a roll today). I wasn't riding well last night. I felt unbalanced and ineffective. Then I realized I was perching on Albert instead of sitting my butt down and keeping my legs long. So I fixed that issue, then got on Kaswyn and he didn't feel right at the left lead canter. Something is going on there and I can't decide if he's just stiff from the weather change or if his back is sore again. He didn't seem back sore to me after the ride, but I gave him two grams of bute last night anyway. I expected him to feel pretty good because he got his Polyglycan shot on Sunday. Ah well.

Hello winter. The only good thing about you is Christmas.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

..and then there were two.

Fire, a 13 year old purebred Arabian gelding, came to our barn in the middle of March. He was trained as an English Pleasure horse and his owner needed to move him from his old trainer's barn, so she came to our barn because she is very good friends with Marge, the barn owner. Fire's owner doesn't ride, and he hadn't been ridden in months. I put him on the lunge line just out of curiosity and saw that he had tons of potential as a dressage horse. He has a nice rear end and really can swing his back.

So I starting working with him just for fun. He had some major fear issues at first, and was very nervous about being worked, or handled on the ground. Slowly over the course of six weeks I could see him relax a little bit and let his guard down. The barn staff were also reporting that he was more calm about going outside and coming back into his stall.

Then my friend asked me to ride her seven year old Half-Arabian gelding, Skyy, who she had for sale. Her hope was that he could get experienced enough to be able to qualify for, and do well at, Arabian Sport Horse Nationals and then he could be sold. It would be tough for me to ride three horses (my horse Kaswyn, my friend Susan's horse Albert, and Skyy, all Arabians doing dressage!) but I thought I could get it done. And with the support of my husband, and tons of help from my trainer, I was able to pull it off.

Well, that's only partially true. Yes I rode all three horses four or five times a week after work. And I took lessons, and took them to shows. I was able to qualify all three horses for Nationals, but ended up only taking Albert and Skyy because Kaswyn had back issues associated with his long bout with a splint bone injury. By the time he was really pain free there wasn't enough time to get him into shape to go. Anyway, I took Albert and Skyy to Nationals. And I fell off of Skyy in the Training Level Amateur Championship.

My trainer came to the rescue and rode Skyy in the Training Level Open Championship and went Top Ten (7th really) out of 40 horses. He was great for her. But I left the show with pain in my neck and arm, which I'm still struggling with today. And Skyy left the show and went back home, so he is not at our barn anymore.

Since I felt like I had an open slot in my training routine with Skyy gone, I put Fire back in rotation. He regressed right back to being afraid of being worked. This made me sad, but I knew that he was just scared and not a malicious animal. Of course I wrote about this on my blog, and Craig, my husband, read it.

I have to give him credit, because he's very careful not to interfere in my horse affairs at all. He brought up the fact that I had ridden another lady's horse (a warmblood) and been bucked off at a show. This resulted in a torn medial collateral ligament in my right knee which put me out of commission for eight weeks (read about that here). Then this latest fall in the show ring (you can see that here), again off of someone else's horse, has resulted in a whiplash sort of injury to my neck which still gives me pain today even though the show was a month ago.

Then he asked me to please not ride Fire anymore. He said he trusts Kaswyn and Albert, both of whom I've been riding for years. His feeling is that neither of these horses would do anything to hurt me, but since Fire has so much fear he just might do something out of fear that could hurt me, and he really doesn't want me to get hurt again.

I had to admit that he was right. Even though I know that Fire is really a sweetheart and is just fearful because of past training issues I couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't melt down someday and run off with me or something. No person who rides horses can guarantee they won't get hurt, and I know that. But I trust Kaswyn and Albert so much that I am confident that the chances of either horse hurting me are almost zero.

So, sadly, I will only be riding two horses, Kaswyn and Albert, and will no longer be riding Fire. He has a lot of potential, but maybe he's actually happier this way. He gets food (too much sometimes!) a nice stall, and daily turnout with his buddies. All this plus no stress of having someone ride him.

However I can't help but imagine what he'd feel like going down the centerline for the first time. I guess sometimes you just have to let go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When less is okay

My plan on Tuesday was to just ride Kaswyn bareback and lunge Fire and Albert. However, I ended up riding both Kaswyn and Albert bareback. Kaswyn I rode in a halter, but Albert I put a bridle on.

You might wonder why I ride bareback and in a halter, especially when I'm short on time. It's faster tacking up and untacking, and I don't have saddles and bridles to clean. You might not think that it makes that much of a difference, but it made enough of a difference on Thursday that I was able to ride Albert too. I usually leave the barn with only five minutes to spare to be able to pick up the girls on time, which is kind of a bad thing because if I hit traffic I'm hosed.

I also like riding bareback. Not all the time, because I don't feel like I can really train hard when I'm bareback, but I love how it shows me my flaws. For example, on Thursday my ride with Kaswyn revealed that I'm still not letting my left leg stay long enough. I could tell this because I was sliding a bit to the right, and when I'd let my leg get long and sit squarely on both seat bones I wasn't off balance. It was more evident in the corners because I was leaning my upper body to the inside while going around corners to the left. I'm also letting my right shoulder come up a bit at the same time, so I'm getting all twisted up again. It's only been a few weeks since my last lesson, and those old bad habits are already starting to creep back in. A bit discouraging, but I'll keep working on it.

Kaswyn is amazing in that he can "get on the bit" without a bit while being ridden in his halter. I can collect him, do extended paces with him (sometimes it's hard to stay with him though!), and even do half-pass and canter pirouettes. I think this makes my trainer crazy, and I don't think that she really likes that I do training type rides bareback AND with a halter, but sometimes it's the only way I can fit everything into my day.

Sure, I suppose I could just use tack and not clean it, but ugh, I just hate that. The reins get all gross, as do the billet straps, and I hate the black smudgy crud that accumulates on the saddle flaps. And don't get the started on the gross bits and flash nosebands. So I MUST clean them. Yes I'm obsessive.

Anyhow, Albert's ride was really nice. He's got such a nice back and it's very comfortable. We schooled a bit of shoulder in and trot half-pass. There was no way I could stay with his medium trots, so we just did the collected work. We also worked on walk to canter transitions. He still comes off the bit a little for those but they are improving.

Poor little Fire got the short end of the stick and was just lunged. He's so fat right now and is still a little stress ball. I told Marge he needs to go on a diet, and then I saw how much she was feeding him, and she said "Yes, I know this is too much, I just feel bad for him." I told her he would be much better off with less and she dumped half of the grain back into the grain cart, saying "I know I know! He just gets so little anyway that this doesn't seem like enough." He's got a huge gut and if it's going to come off then he needs less to eat. Fortunately he doesn't have a cresty neck or any of the laminitic warning signs.

Today the plan is to ride Kaswyn and Albert, then go have dinner with Susan. Craig is taking care of getting the girls home and fed, so I'm going to ride and then go have a big cheeseburger and fries. Oh, how I LOVE fries!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pressed for time

I spent Tuesday afternoon at the barn as usual. My neck has been feeling somewhat better so I decided that I'd ride two horses. I hadn't ridden Albert since Nationals I chose him and Kaswyn to ride and Fire to lunge.

The plan I've been rolling around in my head would be to go to the barn four days a week and rotate so that I'm only riding two horses every day and lunging one. That way they will all get four days of work but only three days of riding and one light day. Riding three at night is just too much and I was only making that happen because Nationals was coming up. Now I can take it easier.

However over the next few weeks I will be feeling a bit of pressure. Usually I go to the barn Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, but since Nationals the girls have had swimming Thursday nights. No big deal that I skip one day, but this week and next week I've got dates planned with my hubby on Friday. So skipping Thursday and Friday is totally out of the question. Yes I know my horse had a whole week off while I was in Kentucky, and Fire hadn't been worked in six months, but now I'm rolling again and I don't want to slow down!

Anyway, I rode Kaswyn first on Tuesday. We continued schooling working to lengthen to working trot. He feels stronger and I'm getting a stronger, even trot stride from him. This is kind of a new thing for me, as I've always felt that his lengthen (or medium) trots were delicate. What is mean by that is, well, my horse is hard to ride. He doesn't look like it, but he's tricky because he's sensitive and the slightest shift can throw him off. So riding him is like walking a tightrope - constant, tiny adjustments, no over corrections. This applied especially at the medium trot. About halfway through the diagonal I had to do a very slight adjustment or he'd get too ahead of himself and take a funny uneven stride. The adjustment had to be done just right or I'd ruin the whole thing.

But then I started riding Albert again, and got these fantastic trot lengthening from him. They are strong, even, and that horse pushes over his back like crazy (I think he got 8's on them at Nationals - the good ones anyway). Now that I know what it's supposed to feel like I want Kaswyn's to feel like that too. Kaswyn knows how to push over his back but I don't think I ever schooled the lengthenings properly with him. That kind of strong pushing stride is not inherent in my horse, but I think I can teach him how to do it.

So that's what we schooled first, then a little walking and then some collected to working canter transitions. Then back to the trot. We're getting there but it's going to take awhile. And I'm not going to push it and injure that boy again, so I'm being patient.

Then I rode Bert (when I say Bert I mean AlBert, you get that right?). We did a little trot work and then I decided that I'd try the flying change exercise that my trainer had me work in our one lesson. Albert gets so upset about the changes that I want to start working on them now so that in two years it will be no problem. It might take that long to get them if Tuesday's work was any indicator. He just gets so freaked out that as soon as I ask for the change he throws his head in the air and takes off. I think he got about half of the changes I asked for, but it's so hard to tell if they were clean because he was taking off so much. My trainer says it's okay that he gets a little excitable about them, because his changes will be very expressive once he gets them. But for right now he's in a panic. I need another lesson! Unfortunately they will by at my barn and not in my trainer's great arena, because now that Skyy is home the trailer is up for sale and not available for me to use anymore. Bummer.

Then I had time to throw Fire on the lunge line. That poor horse is still so stressed about working, and I didn't even work him in side reins or anything. He did get to the point were he'd stretch his head down, but for the most part he was tense. After we finished I walked up and patted him, and he didn't sigh or relax at all. I really wanted him to lick and chew his mouth a little bit, so I put my finger in his mouth. He allowed me to get my finger between his lips but his jaw was clenched tightly shut. So I moved his tongue around a little bit, and it was very very dry. I know that with a bit in it's a mouth if a horse chews (in a contented way, not in an anxious or gnawing way) that the mouth will get wetter, but I don't know for sure if a dry mouth is a sign of tenseness in there is no bit present.

Kaswyn is very oral and as soon as I'm done lunging him he licks his lips and chews his mouth. Albert didn't used to lick or chew when we were done working because he was tense, but after each ride I'd get off of him, pat him on the neck and tell him good boy, then put my finger in his mouth to make him lick and chew. Now as soon as I get of and tell him good boy he does it. So I'm hoping this strategy will work with Fire. He is ten times more tense than Albert was, so it might take quite a long time.

So that was Tuesday. Today I have to get off of work, run to the barn and ride, get the girls by 5:15, go home and feed them dinner, then get to swimming by 6:35. Luckily I think I can get out of work early today so I might be able to jump on Kaswyn bareback and lunge the other two really fast and still make it to get the girls in time. Only two more weeks of Thursday swimming, then it moves to Wednesdays which will be easier for me since it's not a usual barn day. However Mondays and Wednesdays are the days that I schedule things (like car appointments, doctor visits) and run errands so I'll have to make sure I get that all done on Wednesdays in time for swimming.

Oh, and I had a great chiro and massotherapy appointment yesterday. My neck and arm are only a little sore and are feeling tons better. I'm not doing any work on that special project for a week, so hopefully I can get some healing done. It's nice not to hurt! Imagine that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Sister Chronicles - Ahoy! Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

I stood there on the dock, hands on hips, and watched my sister drift slowly away from the pier. Had she been in the rowboat this wouldn't have been as much of an issue, since she could have paddled her way back to the dock or the shore. But she was in the motor boat, the boat she insisted on being in, and she didn't have the keys. Not that she knew how to drive the thing anyway.

At first she didn't seem that upset. But once she reliazed that she was too far away from the dock to jump back to it, and that she was indeed floating down the river alone, she started to wail. I stood there and let her scream.

I heard voices and footfalls behind me, and I turned to see my dad come running down the back lawn and out from under the shade of the trees. "What's going on? Tracy, why are you out there?"

My sister shouted back in a tearful voice "Sheri untied me!".

My dad looked at me and said "Why did you do that?"

I said "She was being mean."

My dad gave me the look of death and called to Tracy "Hold on, I'll come get you!".

By this time most of the family was on the back lawn and heading toward the dock. My father called to uncle Fred to grab the keys, which he found and tossed out to my father. My sister was really crying now so my dad just jumped in the water and waded out to the motorboat instead of bothering with the rowboat. He may have had to swim the last few feet or so, but it really wasn't that far. He climbed in the boat, started it up, and puttered back to the dock.

Once my sister was safely on the dock and the boat tied up again my dad barked at me "Get in the house!" Once in the house I got a long lecture about how it was dangerous to set my sister free down the river (Why?, I asked, she knew how to swim!) and also that it was not very nice of me (Well she started it by being a Miss Bossypants!). Eventually I was banished to the upstairs bedroom for the rest of the day, which was fine since I found some old books to look at. Eventually one of my cousins came to get me for dinner, and all was forgotten.

Needless to say, we weren't allowed to play alone on the dock anymore.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Work is a pain in the neck.


Today I spent eleven hours at work. The last few hours were dedicated to working on a special project. This project involves putting samples on microscope slides and prepping them. To do this I use my right hand and have to hold my arm up at kind of a funny angle. My neck injury does not like this.

My poor husband was greeted by a late, grumpy, aching wife. Thankfully he had the girl situation under control, dinner had been fed, and kids were playing nicely together. Luckily for me Craig cooks well and made a fantastic beef soup for dinner. I ate my dinner took my drugs, and tried to do some picking up around the house. I was not as effective as I would have liked, but at least I got something done.

Now it's time for me to get into bed and hopefully get some healing sleep. I actually felt pretty good and pain free all day...until the end there. I'm hoping this means that I'm on the upswing if I can just stop hurting myself. However when faced with the prospect of "Do this project or don't get paid", I think I'll do the project and suffer the consequences (even though my husband wishes I wouldn't). We need the money. I'll heal.

The barn plan for tomorrow is to ride two ponies. I haven't been on Albert since the show, and I want to start schooling second level movements again. We sort of put them on hold until after the show, but now it's time we move on. That horse is confirmed first level. Now it's time to see what else he will offer. I also want to ride Kaswyn again, of course. Getting on my horse is like putting on my favorite pair of jeans. It just feels comfortable, and right.

So as long as my shoulder holds up I'm riding tomorrow. And no more making slides. Not until next week anyway.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kaswyn's workout

There is a new post up (written by me!) on Equestrian Collections.

Here is the video that goes with that post, since I can't figure out how to post it there.

Check out Equestrian Collections on Facebook to get the whole story.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Eh. Just eh.

I finally rode my horse today.

It's been almost two weeks since I have ridden any horse. My neck and arm has been so bad that my chiro and my family doc thought it was a bad idea to ride, so I didn't. Then I started to feel better. Unfortunately I had a special project at work that I had to do on Wednesday and Thursday and that totally trashed my neck and arm again.

When I don't ride for awhile I get super crabby, and I was feeling that was Thursday night. So I decided that I'd ride just one horse today. And if there was going to be one horse that was ridden it would be Kaswyn.

Of course I lunged Fire and Albert first. Well, really first I had to shovel the sawdust into the sawdust room (it was almost all the way in the sawdust room when I got there so that was no big deal), pick poop out of the arena, and then water. But finally I got to ride Kaswyn. And my ride was just okay. Nothing great, nothing terrible. Kaswyn felt a little weak in his back, but then again I haven't been on him really in three weeks so I can't expect him to feel fantastic. He didn't feel bad though, so I guess that's something.

Tomorrow all the boys have a day off, and then back to work on Sunday. I don't know yet who I'll ride or how many. I'd love to ride them all but that might be pushing it. And if riding today makes me sore for Sunday I might not ride anyone.

Yep, being hurt sucks.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Email me

I'm finally posting an email address on this here blog.

I had posted an old one some time ago but I was bad about checking it (whoops). I'll check this one though, so if you have questions or something that you don't want to use the comments for just shoot me an email.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

An exciting development

Equestrian Collections has asked me to be a Facebook Team member! Their Facebook page is public, and you don't need a Facebook account to view it. However if you are on Facebook you can become a fan of theirs and get their updates.

I will be writing some new blog posts over there. Don't worry, I'll still be posting here, but my plan is to write separate posts for them. So if you don't want to miss anything, be sure to check them out. I already have one post over there for those who are interested.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

SHN - Saturday Videos

Here are the two videos from Saturday's rides at Sport Horse Nationals. The first one is my trainer riding Skyy in Training Level Open. It's a lovely ride!

This next one is my ride on Albert in First Level Amateur to Ride.

Both tests got us Top Ten awards.

After the awards ceremonies were over we asked the photographer (Bob Tarr, who is fantastic! - to get some pictures of my trainer and I riding next to each other in the show ring. Here is the video.

You can see that their legs matched up only at certain times, but he got at least three pictures of their legs totally synced up.

I don't know if you'll be able to hear, but we are both totally laughing during the little ride. See, when my trainer first had the idea and Bob was ready to get the photos, she says to me "Come on, you have go get close. Get him over here! Boots to boots, just like the Lipizzaner show!"

My trainer used to be in the Lipizzaner show, so she has done many many choreographed rides with multiple horses. Albert has also done many musical rides with Susan for his mounted police unit work, so he was totally unphased. Skyy was just thrilled to get that close to Albert, but I hadn't even done anything like that before. So when Bob was ready my trainer kept saying "Come ON! Closer! Let's GO!" and I'm laughing, and then you hear Bob saying "Come on! Go!"

It the most fun time I've had in the show ring with my trainer. Absolutely a blast and a very special moment that doesn't happen very often.

We all ordered photos from Bob, and as soon as we get them in I'll post them here (with permission, of course).

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Stories, easily accessible

I thought I'd provide easy links to the stories that I've written on this blog so you won't have to dig through the archives to find them. So if you check out the box under my profile on the right over there you'll find all my stories with brief descriptions included.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Painful, but not broken

Today was my day off, because I work this weekend. So it started with getting everyone up and helping Craig get the girls to school. Then I paid bills and ran to my chiro to have another cervical decompression treatment. It really felt good during the treatment, and I was pain free for about 15 minutes after the treatment. But then the pain crept back into my neck and down my arm. Joy.

I had about 2 hours before my appointment with my family doc, so I ran to the barn to lunge horses. I started with Fire. He still has issues with fear of being worked, so we just took it nice and slow. I didn't want to ride but I wanted him to work in equipment so I put the surcingle and side reins on him with the reins nice and long. Of course his trot started out very fast and tense, with his neck high up in the air, but as I talked to him he slowed down and by the end of the ten minutes he was trotting very nicely and stretching down into the bit. I was so thrilled that the lessons we worked on all those months ago had no been forgotten. He is such a smart boy.

Then it was on to Albert, who I just lunged in his halter. That horse also has lunging issues and starts out so slow and tense in the beginning. Eventually he relaxes somewhat but I never get the total letdown and mouth chewing from him on the lunge line. He would be so much happier if I rode him, but I won't do that with this neck pain (as much as I want to).

Lastly, my sweet Kaswyn. I decided to lunge him in long side reins also, and he was stretching wonderfully over his back. And wow does he look sound. He's getting back into shape and was very into working. I'm so very excited about our next steps of training.

Then I headed to my doctor's appointment. I didn't have time to go home and change, so I just switched my barn jacket for a clean one that I had stashed in my car and hoped that I didn't smell too much like a dirty stall. After a lengthy discussion with my doc, and a brief exam, he concluded that it was unlikely that I had a fracture, but it's possible that I could have a disc problem. He said an x-ray would show any bulging or misplaced discs (so no need for an MRI) and had me get one after the visit. He also didn't think the anti inflammatory the other doc had ordered for me was going to help much, so he put me on prednisone. I'm on a six day decreasing dose that should zap the inflammation, which is part of the problem. The other part of my issue is the muscle spasms from the inflammation that causes the pain, which causes more inflammation, etc. So to stop the vicious cycle I need to be on the steroid (prednisone) and also take muscle relaxers.

The problem with this is I have to work this weekend, and I am not very functional on muscle relaxers. Also that Flexeril really messed with my head at night, so he said I can take klonopin, which I've taken before for back spasms. So I'm supposed to take the pred, and the klonopin as much as possible.

So I went home and took the pred, but Craig has a late meeting at work so I have to go fetch the girls from school. And I really don't want to be driving all drugged out on klonopin, so I'm still in a bit on pain right now. And I have to get up at 5:45 tomorrow for work, so I need to take that klonopin ASAP or getting up tomorrow is going to suck.

The good news is my x-rays showed no disc issues, so my doc said to continue with the medicine plan that we already talked about and that if I'm not feeling significantly better by Monday I'm to come back and see him. I already have an appointment for 1:00 pm on Monday. Hopefully I won't need it, but I know that if I do I'd never be able to get in to see him. So I'll cancel if necessary. And he said that as soon as my pain is gone I can ride again.

So I need to heal up! I've got big plans for those ponies!

Thursday, October 01, 2009


All is not happy in Dressage Mom Land.

Since Friday night of the show I've been having pain in my right arm and neck. It's not surprising considering I came off of a horse on Wednesday. (A little aside here - the footing in that arena is new and is felt footing on top of rubber mats. I didn't even get a bruise where I landed! Awesome!) But Sunday was pretty bad too, and Monday was worse. So Monday I went to the doctor (a guy I don't like but my regular doc was booked), and he said nothing was broken (not that he did an x-ray or anything), that I was just sore and I needed some anti inflammatories and some muscle relaxers.

Well the anti inflammatories made me sick, and the muscle relaxers (which I took before bed) gave me weird nightmares and had me waking up confused and scared in the middle of the night. So I went to my chiropractor and he gave me an exam. Based on my symptoms, which include pain shooting down my arm when I turn my neck certain ways, he suspects that I may have a bulging or herniated disc in my neck. Lovely.

My chiro is not covered by my insurance, so I have to pay every time I go to see him. He said that I should have decompression therapy on my neck to help get the disc back into place. Since it would be a really good idea to see what's really going on in my neck, I'm going to try and see my family doc and see if he will order me an MRI of my neck. My chiro could order one but then my insurance would not cover it. Like how I'll pay for an MRI for my horse's leg but not for my neck? I know, I'm nuts.

Now, I'm a little freaked out about MRI's. I get a little claustrophobic in there, but last time they gave me valium and I made it through okay. This time (if I can convince him to order me one) I'm going to load up on klonopin and get myself nice and sleepy for the procedure.

I had decompression therapy yesterday, and I'm having one more today and one Friday. It actually felt good while they did it, and the pain went away for about 45 minutes after the treatment. But each treatment is $42, and he thinks I could need 6 to 12 of them. Plus each chiro visit itself is $55. Ugh.

Tomorrow I will see my family doc and hopefully get orders for the MRI. Then we can get to the bottom of what's going on. Until then I'm dealing with shooting pain that starts in my neck and goes all the way down my right arm to my wrist. And I have to be at work, since I just took a week off. And being in pain makes me a little grumpy, so I'm not exactly Mrs. Sunshine right now. Icing it helps, but it's only temporary.

And to top it all off, there will be no riding until I'm better. Suck suck suck. I'll still go out and lunge the boys (with my left arm). And by the boys I mean Kaswyn, Albert, and Fire. Skyy has gone home. And Fire is fat and out of shape so I won't be getting on him anytime soon. He needs conditioning and a diet!

Oh, and my brother asked me if the pain was worth the Top Tens? Don't be silly. Of course it is!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

SHN 2009 - Saturday

Saturday at the horse show was going to be interesting. Albert was supposed to do First Level Amateur to ride at 10:22 and my trainer was supposed to ride Skyy in Training Level Open at 11:38. That meant that she would have to school me and then get right on Skyy to get him ready for his class. It would be close but I'd be able to ride Albert and then get back in time to watch her ride. It would hopefully all work out.

So we got Bert ready and headed down to the warm-up. I checked in with the gate keeper, and she said, "Number 197? I don't have you riding at 10:22. In fact, I don't have you in the class at all." I said "I'm sure he's in this class. The ride time sheets that are posted on the dressage office wall have him in the 10:22 slot." So she radioed up to the dressage office and they said that he was pulled from the class that morning because he was not qualified.

Here is what happened. When we got to the show to check in on Monday, they had Albert qualified for his Open classes but not his Amateur classes. They missed the fact that I am an Amateur, so they said he wasn't qualified. They looked up my Amatuer card, and cleared him for the Amateur classes. I rode in the Training Level Amatuer class without an issue. Evidently they didn't communicate to the dressage office that First level Amatuer was okay too.

They said I could ride in the last slot of the class at 11:38, but it would be a provisional ride until they could verify that he was qualified with the show office. This was the exact same time as Skyy's ride. Ugh. That would mean that my trainer and I would be warming up and riding at the same time. Not the best scenario but at least they has a slot for me in the class.

Since I wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page, I handed Albert to Susan and asked her to take him back to the barn while I went to the horse show office. I was none too pleased at this point because the horse was all tacked and ready to warm up and then had to get taken back to the barn. I was also completely dressed and it was raining lightly so I was wet. The show office had heard that I was coming and assured me that he was qualified. I asked the office worker if she could radio the dressage office while I was there to make sure that they knew that he was okay for the class. She made a face and said she would be sure that they knew about it, giving me the vibe that she didn't want to do it right now and I didn't need to be telling her what to do. So I thanked her and I marched right over to the dressage show office.

I got to the dressage show office and told them who I was. They said they had just gotten off of the radio with the show office and that it was all worked out. They assured me that it would be an official ride and not a provisional ride. I thanked them and went back to the barn to wait.

When I got there Susan said that her horse was none too happy. He was all ready to work and then was taken back to the barn, so he was pissed. I gave him an apple and some pats and we had a conversation about the test later. He didn't get it but he didn't seem upset either.

So my trainer and I got ready together and walked up to the warm up ring together. We rode together and she helped me out. Albert had a few issues in the last test, but I was so rattled from the sound bucking off that Skyy had given me that I wasn't riding effectively. So in the warm up I decided that I was going to get it together and make Albert work to his full potential. I tightened up his halts, got more jump in the canter, and got on his case when he got distracted. By the time we were ready to go in he was on the ball. I had seen my trainer with Skyy and he looked fantastic too.

Skyy was called up to the arena first, so my trainer went up. I stayed down in the warm up for a few minutes, and then I went up to watch her test. They weren't quite ready for me in my arena, but I would be going up soon. We were showing in the arenas right next to each other.

My trainer had a fabulous test! There was no bucking or fooling around. Skyy redeemed himself!

Just was she finished her test they were ready for me in my arena. We went around the outside of the arena and Albert saw the photographer. Now the day before he had spooked at the photographer and I thought it was a fluke, but today he also was spooking at him. I tried to refocus him but he really didn't like the look or sound of the camera, even though it was very quiet. I almost asked the photographer not to take photos, but I thought it would be okay and just went on with my ride.

We had one little mess up, because he was scared of the photographer again, but other than that it was a fantastic test.

The results? Skyy got a 63.6% and went Top Ten! He was 7th out of 40. Also Albert got a 68.6% and also went Top Ten! He was 5th (I think) out of 20.

After the awards ceremony my trainer and I got some photos taken together. Skyy's owner took some of us together too. We also went around the arena side by side and the photographer got some fantastic shots of the two horses trotting together. It was so much fun!

I'm having issues with posting the videos, so I'll get those up after I work out the bugs. Also I have other pictures to post of both horses.

In the end the show was a lot of fun. There were two horses, two riders, six classes, three Top Ten awards, and one bucking off. Plus a whole lot of work, and a lot more fun.

Look for us in 2011. We'll be there.

Friday, September 25, 2009

SHN 2009 - Friday

Today wasn't that great of a day. Well I didn't get bucked off or anything, so it was better than it could have been!

I rode Albert in his First level Open class. I was pleased with most of the trot work but wasn't happy with the canter work. I sort of froze up and was unable to refocus Albert when he got distracted by some trucks at the end of the arena. I just sort of steered him around like a bus. And this rattled me so much that I forgot what I was supposed to do in my test. Luckily I went the right way, but I went from the canter to the trot in the wrong place. This earned me an error and minus two points from each judge. I just didn't get the job done that needed doing. I am very disappointed in me.

We got a score of 63.9% and were 12th out of 53 horses. *sigh* Again, so very close to Top Ten. We could have done so much better. I need to get my act together!

Tomorrow there are 20 horses in Albert's First Level Amateur to ride class. It's my last chance to achieve what I came out here to do.

Also tomorrow my trainer will be riding Skyy in his Training Level Open class. She schooled him today and he went very nicely for her. I hope he is good for her and she can bring home an award for him. Right now I'm sore and tired, so it's off to bed soonish. Once more show day to go!

SHN 2009 - Saturday

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SHN 2009 - Thursday evening

Today I went to the barn, cleaned stalls, lunged horses, then took the day off from the barn to go and have lunch with a friend and tour a bourbon distillery (I'll post pictures of that later!). Then back to clean stalls and feed and walk horses, then back with my friends for a weekly open house dinner get together. I really needed the day off and now I'm about to head to bed.

I must say that I'm touched and overwhelmed by all the positive comments from everyone. Thanks you all so much for being so supportive. It's nothing that I could have predicted, and it's very nice to hear especially now.

I'm setting my sights on tomorrow. Albert and I ride at around 11 am. I'm going to focus and do what I need to do. My trainer is here so she can get my head and my body back in the game.

Better things are coming. :)

SHN 2009 - Friday

SHN 2009 - Thursday morning

Thank you for all of your support and kind words. I'm very, very sore this morning but it doesn't look like anything is out of place or swollen. I let myself finally cry this morning in the shower, and now I'm hovering on the edge of tears all the time.

Skyy hurt my feelings. I know that sounds dumb, but I have been nothing but fair and kind to him. I put my all into him, and what I got yesterday was a big "F You!". That on top of the fact that I feel foolish that I could think that I was competent enough to make this work is making me pretty down today.

I'm hoping getting out and seeing the ponies will make me feel better. Hearing them eat their breakfast while I clean stalls is always comforting.

SHN 2009 - Thursday Evening

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SHN 2009 - Wednesday

Today I decided to work Skyy in the warm-up arena first thing in the morning, then give him some time to relax before his class at 11:36. He was fantastic for his morning workout so I was pretty confident that he would be ready for his test.

We got to the warm up in plenty of time, and he worked nicely. Then we were called up to the arena, where we waited for a few minutes. The gal in front of me finished her test and we made our way up to the show arena.

I'll let the video explain what happened next. (Mom, you might not want to watch this. Dad either.)

Yes, he bucked me off. You can see that earlier in the test he was getting disobedient and resistant. The first canter was kind of a mess with the bucking and kicking, but I was able to hold it together and get back on track.

Here is the thing. I did not want to come off of this horse. I mean, nobody likes to get bucked off, but I didn't want him thinking he could unload me and get out of working. I told his owner that if he (or any horse, for that matter) really wanted to buck me off he'd be able to do it. I also told her that at this show I wasn't going down without a fight. Sometimes it's better to just jump off when things get hairy, but I was determined to hang in there. Since I told the owner that she kept filming, thinking that I was going to be able to stay on. She was wrong.

Well, he got the better of me and I ate dirt. I was sore and shaken, but otherwise okay. I had the owner take him back to the stalls and I rode the golf cart back (we only had it for one day). I had one ride on Albert still to go, so I cleaned up my boots, brushed off my breeches and braided his mane. Fortunately the footing is new and very clean so it didn't stain my breeches or get them dirty so I wore them for Albert's ride.

Albert didn't have as nice of a ride as yesterday either. He was a bit tense and actually spooked at the photographer. He got a 63.6% and (we think) placed 11 out of 53. Coming in 11th does not get you Top Ten, so no awards for today. Bummer.

I had to tell Skyy's owner that I could not ride him anymore. This makes me sad because we have come such a long way, but Skyy has broken my trust in him. The fact is that he didn't spook, and nothing was going on that could explain why he acted that way after warming up fine and trotting around the arena before his test without a problem. He just decided he didn't want to do it anymore, and the best way he could figure out how to make it stop was to buck me off. And by god, he was right. Unfortunately, it was a dirty move. The judge at B even said that to me, after he asked me if I was okay.

So, today I have utterly failed at what I set out to do. I am not feeling very good about my riding and am doubting my abilities. Now I know that at least a few of you will call "Hogwash!" on that, but let me explain. A better rider could have stayed on Skyy, or diffused the situation altogether. A better rider could have had a better ride on Albert today, despite the tenseness. And a better rider wouldn't be afraid to get back on Skyy again.

Tomorrow neither horse has a class. I will lunge both horses and will wait for Susan and my trainer to arrive at the show. Then we'll talk about what's going to happen on Friday and Saturday. For right now I'm going to try and have a decent night's sleep and try not to get too depressed about today. If I don't think about it then I won't get too upset. So that's just what I'll have to do.

SHN 2009 - Thursday Morning

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SHN 2009 - Tuesday

Today Albert had his Training Level Amateur to Ride class. He didn't go until 3:36, so I had time to ride Skyy in the morning. I lunged him first, and that in itself was interesting.

You see, it's been raining like crazy here. They have fantastic footing and drainage at the Kentucky Horse Park, but there is only so much rain that some of the footing can handle. So they had to juggle competition arenas around, and ended up running three dressage show rings and only one warm-up. Plus that warm-up had to serve as a schooling arena because all of the other arenas were too wet to ride in.

I couldn't very well lunge in an arena that had three classes warming up for it, as well as people schooling horses that weren't about to show, so I had to take him into one of the super mucky arenas. The footing was safe, but just wet and sloppy. By the time we were done both Skyy and I were really filthy.

I took Skyy to the (only) warm-up ring and rode him for about 20 minutes. He was tense, and tried his little bucking twisting routine again when I asked fore the canter, but this time I was ready for him. I sat my butt down and drove him forward, which made him realize that his tantrum only made more work for him. So he didn't try that again. Instead he worked nicely, and was only moderately tense.

Later that afternoon Albert had his class. He was also a bit tense but was a very good boy for me.

He ended up with a score of 69.2%. This put him in 3rd place out of 46 horses. Yes, 46! So we got a Top Ten award! I'm very proud of that boy.

After the awards ceremony they opened up the competition arenas for schooling, so I got back on Skyy to school in the arena where he will show tomorrow. He was much more settled and calm. He was focused, willing, and submissive. I was so very pleased with him. He has settled down and doesn't seem so anxious about everything.

Tomorrow Skyy has his Training Level Amateur to Ride class, and Albert has Training Level Open. As for me, I'm sore, pooped, and ready to get some sleep!

SHN 2009 - Wednesday

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr