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!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr