Saturday, February 27, 2010

On the mend

So, I didn't warn anybody that my last post would be kind of personal and graphic. I blame that on my drugs. :) Since I neglected to post a warning last time, here's your warning now. I'm going to talk about unsavory stuff, probably more personal than you really want to know about me. Those who want to, feel free to read on.

I didn't end up going back to work until Friday, and then it was only a half of a day. I was still bleeding and cramping like the devil, and I was none too happy about it. Turns out that I had a decent sized polyp in my uterus which was removed prior to the ablation. Its removal has probably been the source of my pain and bleeding.

I was supposed to go help out with one of those medieval event things today (it's the SCA - I partially explain it here), and then we were going to go to a party this evening. But by Friday night I was in pretty bad shape and Craig put his foot down and said "You are staying home. Call people and have then cover for you and the party is off."

Of course, I HATE that. When I say I'll do something, I do it. But he was right - it would not be good for me to be on my feet all day at an event, bleeding and cramping and not healing my delicate insides. So I made calls, cried, apologized, and felt like a heel. Everyone was wonderful, understanding, and sweet. Thanks to you guys, if any of you read this boring horse stuff here. :)

I spent today sitting around on the couch, watching movies and spinning silk. I don't think I've mentioned it here much, but a part of the medieval thing I do is raise silkworms. I do it because I think bugs are cool, and silkworms are very medieval. Pre-medieval, actually, but I'm not going to get into that here. I have a whole different blog dedicated to my silkworms. It's here, if you're interested. It's all about bugs, so if you think bugs are icky feel free to skip it. Anyhow, my plan for tomorrow is to do the same thing - watch movies, spin silk, and sit on the couch.

But what about my lovely pony boys? I really want to ride, but the prospect of getting on a horse right now does not make my uterus jump with joy. So I'm going to wait until the cramping and the red blood is totally gone. Once the blood goes light pink I might consider riding.

So this winter has been very up and down for me. Sickness, bad weather, and this surgery have kept me from riding. However I can't say I'm 100% disappointed in the last few months. I've gotten Kaswyn back into shape, and he's sound for the first time in 5 years. I've made some major breakthroughs in my seat and hands. And I've had a lot of fun figuring these things out.

I try really hard not to think about where I would be right now if I hadn't had all my roadblocks. This year I'm not showing, so I have no deadlines, no pressure. The only pressure I really have is the pressure I put on myself to have improved my riding or the horse by the end of each ride. Sounds like a simple goal, but oh so hard to attain consistently.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yesterday was good. Today, not so much.

Yesterday I spent giving the filthy horses Miracle Groom baths. I had gotten kind of lax about keeping them Miracle Groomed, and they were absolutely filthy. By the time I was done there was enough time for me to lunge both boys and clean their stalls.

I knew I would not be able to work them today, because I has another surgery - an ablation on my uterus. For those who are unfamiliar, it's a procedure where they insert a balloon into your uterus and fill the balloon with hot water to destroy the lining of the uterus. This is supposed to stop the heavy bleeding that I have every month. Unfortunately this is the second one that I've had, since the first one didn't work. It helped decrease the excessive bleeding from six days down to three, but still three days of hemorrhaging is too many.

Everyone told me that the operation would be a breeze, and that I'd just have mild cramping. Ha! Mild cramping my a$$. It hurt, pretty damn bad,and I had a very hard time coming out of the anesthesia.

There is how I looked after my surgery while I was in recovery-

Eventually Craig said "look, you just need to tell them what they need to hear so that I can get you home to take the drugs that you know will work. Better for you to suffer at home where I can take care of you then have you here where they can't do anything else for you."

So we headed home and I was shocked at how painful the cramps were. They were about a 7 or 8 on the pain scale, with 10 being unbearable screaming pain. Thankfully I had klonopin at home and I took two of those puppies and slept for hours. Now I'm awake and as it's wearing off I'm starting to hurt again. I took my klonopin a few minutes ago and I think it's starting to kick in. Soon I will be sleeping, blissfully unaware of the pain in my uterus.

I was supposed to go back to work on Thursday but I don't know if I'll be able to make it. Right now I'm still bleeding moderately and cramping also, so if I don't feel much better by tomorrow afternoon I'm calling off of Thursday. I know my boss won't be happy about it but I just can't work like this.

I was going to ride tomorrow but that just isn't gong to happen. I'll have to ask Susan if she can lunge the boys, but if she is working that just won't happen. Ah well. I'm sure they will be fine with three days off. That's assuming I'm back to normal by Friday. If not then something else might be wrong and I'll have to make a visit to my doc. Here's hoping I'm normal by Friday so I can ride, and avoid a doctor visit. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

21 days later

It took three weeks, but I finally got my butt back on a horse.

Between being sick, cold weather, and a busy schedule with hobbies and the girls, I've missed quite a bit of time riding. So I was really stoked to get back to the barn and be able to ride. Before my unplanned break I had made some nice progress with my seat and connection, and I was afraid that I'd not be able to duplicate the success.

On Monday I started with Albert, and when I took his blanket off to groom him I could see that three weeks with no work had made him live up to his name. He used to be called "Fat Albert", and he sure was looking tubby now! I should have called the barn and told them to cut his food back, but I never thought I'd be three weeks without riding. Oh well, he'll lose it in the spring when he can get ridden more and be outside for longer.

I decided to ride bareback because I wanted to make sure I wasn't gripping with my legs too much as I had before. Albert was very good bareback, and we did a basic 15 minute warm-up ride. I didn't get into any lateral work or extensions, because it had been 3 weeks off for him too, and both he and Kaswyn are both in their late teens so I didn't want to push it and cause soreness or injury.

Kaswyn had put on a little weight too, and I was happy about that. Despite the fact that he's an Arabian and should be an easy keeper like Albert, he's a big Arab at 16 hands tall and needs more food than the smaller guys. I also rode Kaswyn bareback with a 15 minute warm-up ride. I gave all three of us three days off, and planned rides on Friday.

Today I rode both horses in their saddles. I concentrated on keeping my legs open and not using them to grip, only putting them on the horse for aids. This alone is helping both horses to be much more responsive to my leg because much of the time I'm not squeezing them anymore. It's much less effort for me, and I'm sure it's nicer for them too. I'm sure my gripping leg was stopping some of the freedom in their backs, and probably interrupting the flow of energy from back to front.

I also worked on my hands in regards to the connection. I realized weeks ago that my hands were very busy. I was constantly readjusting the neck or the mouth or the head, fiddling with the bit. My last lesson with my trainer was great because it really showed me that I wasn't getting Albert to use his back and engage from behind. This also translated into Kaswyn, although it was harder to feel because he was more subtle about it.

Now when I ride both horses I think "Legs open and light, hands quiet." Riding bareback has given me a better understanding when both horses aren't using their backs. I can feel it less when I'm in a saddle, but I've been using the shape of their necks as clues to when the engagement behind stops and the back isn't working. When I feel like I have good engagement and the back up, the neck looks very round in front of me, with the base of the neck big and soft. As soon as the horse stops using his back, or the hindquarters disengage, the neck changes. It's very subtle, but I can see the base of the neck get narrower and the neck gets longer as the horse pushes the nose out and up a little to help use the neck instead of the back and the haunches. When the neck gets longer the contact with the bit increases, and I can feel it slightly in my hands.

To re-engage the back and hindquarters, I close my fingers on the reins, taking slightly more contact, and drive forward with my seat and leg. If I time it correctly I can feel both horses come up under me with their backs, and they get soft in the bit and round in the neck. Basically what I feel like I'm doing is finishing the half-halt that the horse started by coming a little against my hand. It's hard for both of them and today sometimes I had to do it every five strides or so, mostly in the warm-up. But by the end of the ride they were both able to maintain the engagement for longer periods of time. So I think we're making progress.

That's just my opinion, by going on how it feels to me. I'll really know if I'm doing the correct things when I have my next lesson when my trainer gets back from Florida in two weeks. I think I'll have both horses back in shape by then. I'll also have myself back in shape! I rode each horse for only 20 minutes and I was really tired.

And to show how tired I was, I did something indulgent when I got home from the barn. Since I had the day off, I rode in the morning, came home, ate lunch, and took a shower. Then, instead of doing laundry or cleaning the house, I got into bed and took a two hour nap! It was fantastic!

It's unfortunate that every day can't be like that - morning rides on horses that learn and try to please, then lunch and a nap. Somehow I don't think my boss would let me work that into my schedule.

Day off tomorrow = riding+blogging!

I rode on Monday. I will ride tomorrow. I will write about it tomorrow. Right now I have to go fetch the girls for weekly swimming lessons. Exciting, I know!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Better, but no saddle time

Whew! I feel much better today. I spent two days at home from work, just lying in bed, recuperating. It was great because I got better, but this morning I was thinking just how much I could have accomplished around the house in two days with my kids at school and my husband at work. It seems like I wasted two days! But I know that since I got over my sickness that it was a good thing that I stayed in bed.

There still will be no riding for me, however, since a huge storm is currently dumping way too much snow in my area. I don't really fancy getting stranded out at the barn, and being that I've seen the roads out there when it snows I think that could be a distinct possibility. So I'll get the girls and head home.

Riding tomorrow is out, as swim lessons start tomorrow (for my girls, not the horses), and then we're busy all weekend.

Monday, perhaps? Lately this has been a riding blog that features very little riding. Really, this is getting downright pathetic.

Monday, February 08, 2010

I'll ride again, eventually!

The plan was to lunge horses until my neck got better, and then start riding again. The nasty cold that I caught this weekend had other ideas. I called off of work and spent all day today in bed, feeling lousy. I expect tomorrow will be the same.

I hope the girls and Craig don't get this cold. Cause I feel lousy.

I hope all you horsey people out there are riding. Do a couple of circles for me, would ya? Preferably the 20 meter kind...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

For once, I'm the lame one

Three things have kept me from riding - the cold weather, work, and my neck.

I know a lot of people who ride when it's below 20 degrees. I used to be one of them. But now when I try and ride when it's that cold I just can't breathe. It seems like 30 degrees is a good temperature for me. I might get a little tight in my chest but I don't get constricted and labored in my breathing. And I know that the arena usually is warmer than it is outside, but the problem is that I have to walk outside to get into the barn, and sometimes that's all it takes for me to have a problem. I have tried using a scarf but it's hard to groom horses and ride with a scarf.

Anyhow, the safest thing for me to do is just not go outside. So I don't, which means I don't ride.

Work has also been an issue. There have been times where it's warm enough to ride but I've had to work late, or work the weekend. When I work on the weekend we start an hour earlier than usual - 6:30 am - so I have to get up earlier. Which usually means what I want to do after work is go home and take a nap, or just laze around. Usually I force myself to go and ride, but sometimes I'm just a blob. It's not possible for me to get out of working some weekends, so that's not going to change.

Then there is my neck. I hurt it in September when I was bucked off of a horse. I thought I had healed it all up but then it started to bother me again. I saw my chiropractor and massotherapist twice and it just wasn't getting any better. Then I shoveled that sawdust. Probably not the smartest thing for me to do, but in order for me to ride it had to get done.

Turns out that I wasn't going to be riding anytime soon, thanks to the cold and work. So I further injured my neck for nothing. Yes, I realize how stupid that is. But I didn't know it was going to be that cold!

Yesterday my neck was so bad that I called the doctor. My chiropractor and massotherapist didn't help, icing didn't help, and I can't take ibuprofen for a long enough period of time for that to help either. Ibuprofen, naprosen, and other NSAID's just tear my stomach apart, to the point that I have to decide which is worse - the pain or feeling like I'm going to puke all the time. Which usually means I stop taking the pills and deal with the pain.

Anyhow, I asked my doc for a prescription for steroids. Yes, I know they aren't great for you, but neither is high doses of ibuprofen or any other NSAID. He had given me a Medrol pack (it's a corticosteroid used to treat inflammation) back in October and it did wonders for my neck. Yesterday he gave me another Medrol pack.

This morning I'm 90% better. It's such a relief! Unfortunately looking through a microscope is going to put additional strain on my neck, but since it's my job there is not much I can do about it. I'll just take my Medrol and hope it knocks down the inflammation enough that I can heal.

As for the horses? I'm going to the barn tonight. 32 degrees today, neck is better, and I won't have to work late. I'm not going to ride, but I want to get them on the lunge line. They've had enough of a break that I want to go slow with them at first. Remember that Kaswyn is 19 and Albert is 18, so I'm sure they will feel stiff and a little sore going back to work after a week and a half. Fortunately they have both been getting daily turnout, so they've been able to move around. That's good for their old joints.

And I really need to do some exercise. I hate getting back into shape so the best thing to do is not get out of shape. That's so easy to say and so hard to do. and I also don't want to lose all the headway I was making with my riding as far as my seat and legs go. I hope I can remember what it feels like to do it right!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr