Look Behind You

I have a picture on my desk at work of when I first started riding Strider. It was taken at a schooling show literally about a month after I started riding him. I remember I knew it was nuts to take him to one so soon since I could barely even get on him I was in such bad shape from RA and he hadn’t been ridden for a long time. The riding he had before that hadn’t sat well with him (that is a good part of the story of how he came to be given to me- yes I said given…though at this point in the story I was leasing him) and before that he had been on the track. Basically it was silly to do, but I wanted to try. He is the shaggiest I think he has ever gotten, his feet were a mess; the best description I can give of him then is of a rather refined looking mule with ears that didn’t want it enough. Brown horses that haven’t had fabulous grooming and care just don’t look good- and I am referring to the true brown horses that everyone calls dark bay with bleach spots. There is so much wrong in the picture: girth cover because the only girth I had was ancient and had no elastic, Strider isn’t tracking up, mismatched neoprene splint boots I borrowed, my position is atrocious, and I was considerably heavier than I am now. But I love that picture. Strider still wasn’t convinced about me yet, but I was thrilled and it shows. The joy in being able to ride again, even if it was terrible, was obvious.

That picture is also a reminder of how far we have come. I don’t have many pictures of Strider and me, but I know how he looks when he walks up to me in the pasture. I know he trusts me now and even usually will leave his food and his “hole” (that’s what we call his shed ha-ha) when he hears me call him. He is sleek and shiny now; his feet are in great shape (for a TB type horse- no cracks and good wall. His angles are much better and his front feet are up a shoe size.); he is incredibly muscled; his personality is really showing and I think every time I see him I am in awe that I  get to ride him.

So what’s my point aside from that I like looking at a terrible picture and I adore my horse? Well, I think sometimes on the middle of struggling and pushing so hard to move forward and prevail over hard things sometimes we forget to remember from where we came. Whether in dressage, hunter jumpers, or fighting RA sometimes it helps to remember how far you really have come. It may seem at times like we only move backwards, especially when treating RA, I know, because I remember what it was like to be on a treatment that worked. But sometimes we have to remember what it was like to before we were diagnosed, or when we were diagnosed in order to see that, though it may feel like I have no options, at least I have a great rheumatologist on my side now. Or in dressage, sometimes we get hard on ourselves (ha! Sometimes? Maybe always?) and our horses because we can’t seem to perfect a certain movement, reach a goal, or we let our minds get the better of us, but where were we and our horses 6 months, a year, or 2 years ago?  If we look back maybe we can find the hope and faith to keep moving forward; it isn’t a new thought at all, but I know I needed the reminder. Just don’t get stuck looking behind you- you never know when you might run into a wall or a tree or a manure pit or something- trust me on that one.

Until next time- RAWR!!!!!!

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Finally! (and some drama)

I did it! Part of the reason for my long silence, though not all of it, was that I kept trying to take Strider in a dressage show. The first one I had to scratch due to a death in the family, the second one I entered and the whole show was canceled because of the EHV-1 outbreak. I was starting to sense a trend. I decided to risk it and try entering a third show though. It was last weekend and there was no apocalypse, a lot of drama though.

First, Strider’s saddle fit became a really big issue. It had been a small issue and had seemed correctable with shims and pads- and then more pads, and more pads. We were at four pads and my calling him, “princess and the pea horse” was a little too apropos for comfort. He was starting to get back sore as well. I was not ok with that and it did nothing good for our suppleness or transitions to say the least. He is already conformationally challenged so I didn’t want any other issues. I also go into the horse version of panicked parent mode when I know my horse is uncomfortable.

As soon as I could I started saddle shopping. Thankfully one of the mobile tack stores has a large used selection and was going to be close by; I was able to try six saddles in one weekend! Even better one of them actually seemed to be a great fit for Strider. The only downside was that it was a bit of a gamble because my trainer couldn’t check it for me. Based on my own knowledge and how my horse felt in it I decided to go with it (trainer is still out of the country- I will let you know if that was a good gamble when she gets back!). Worst case it has improved his royal highness’ back, doesn’t require four pads, and is, in my opinion, and based on some quick digging on the internet, a better value than what I had before. Now I can just hope my old saddle sells quickly so I can replenish my somewhat drained savings.

The new saddle came just in time. In fact, I got it exactly a week before the show. Less than ideal timing, but at least I got it before the show, since my old saddle was definitely not helping us out. I was worried I would be riding my dressage tests in my jumping saddle. But thankfully that didn’t end up happening.

 More surprises were in order though as the Thursday before the show I had to leave work early and go see my doctor because I was having intense stomach pain. There were no clear answers, as usual, but we treated the pain and set an appointment for a ct scan. Not eating in preparation for the ct scan calmed things down a little and though I didn’t get the results of the scan before the show I was able to make it through thanks to the wonders of modern medicine.

 I will spare you the rest of the drama involving warm up arena melt downs (Strider: “ZOMGWTFBBQ there are more than three horses in the arena), boot disasters (one fit and not the other- no kidding), and missing tractor parts.

 I will be honest: my first ride was terrible and it was all my fault. Poor Strider tolerated my show nerves fabulously though and between his generally being good and a somewhat nice judge we managed to eke out a 64% on t-3. It got better as the test went on, but I am pretty sure a drunken sailor on a unicycle could have done a better center line and halt, salute.

 Somewhat miraculously (it’s me we’re talking about here- historically I haven’t shown very well. Even when I have scored well I am usually an absolute basketcase), I gathered my wits, drank some sports drink and actually breathed a little before my next test. I admit I was worried since it was First level, but I figured I may as well relax and enjoy rather than freak out if the results would be the same. My old trainer used to hate it when I would say, “I have to stop caring,” because she didn’t understand what I meant. I am realizing that in order to show well I have to be able to let go of the outcome. I ride far better when I don’t care. It’s not bad in my case, because then I actually ride. Not caring for me doesn’t mean I stop trying; it enables me to try. We went in and though I rode conservatively, we ended up with a 67%. I really couldn’t have been more pleased.

 The next day we had a different judge and the scores, on average, were lower. We managed a 68% on T-3 (and it felt amazing!!) and a 61% on First 1. Both rides felt incredibly steady though and I was absolutely thrilled.

Vanya has not been sitting around all this time either. He has been doing western. I jokingly say that he “has a 4-Her.” I think in theory the 4-Her has him but if you ask him I am sure it is the other way around. He has done well at remembering what little western he knew and improving on it and has even become vaguely decent as a showmanship horse. He still needs work but western is good for him in his old age. I am sure he will be excited when fair is over and we can start focusing more on getting him and his 4-Her ready for barrels and poles though. He also is going to get his own little kid after fair and I cannot wait for him to get some lead line action.

 My RA has been pretty bad which is really why I haven’t been posting much. I am determined to push through it to the extent that I can, but often I have the energy to work, ride, etc. and then posting falls by the wayside. I will do my best to update more frequently whenever I can. I am trying acupuncture to help with some of the side issues that have been nagging at me so we’ll see if that helps. Even my knitting has been slower than usual. Oh well….always have to keep pushing on!! RAWR!!!!

 

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I admit it…

I was sick a fair amount recently and this meant I got to watch some TV I otherwise wouldn’t be able to watch. Because I am fashion challenged and I know it, I watched, “What Not to Wear.” I nearly choked on my grapefruit juice though when Stacey showed one of the people getting made over on the show a dress and heels and explained that it should be a model for her shopping for “casual wear” since it would be great for wearing around for every day type events and errands. Taking a few deep breaths to calm myself I realized apparently life as a horse mom is really different than the life of other people. (I know….gasp! I really knew that but this moment brought the point home. Keep reading, stop laughing at me, I promise I’m going somewhere with this.)

Though I know I have the fashion sense of a toddler after six cups of coffee, I also know that much of my lack of fashion sense is because my horses are a majority of my life. In an average day, I get up, go to work, ride my horse and do things around the barn to keep him happy and healthy and fed, and then go home, rinse, and repeat. Sometimes I take care of another person’s horse so the day starts with horse chores and there are extra evening chores as well, but basically, it is a rare day I am not at a barn at some point. I wear clothes to work that at least in a pinch I could go catch a horse in if I had to since I can’t say that eventuality has never occurred. I can’t imagine showing up at the barn in a dress and heels- especially since I can’t walk in heels unless paddock boots count.

I do have some fashion sense though- I know how to wear white breeches without embarrassing myself (no vpl, stains etc.) , I know how to do my hair under my Charles Owen helmet for a hunter class, dressage test, or jumper class. I know, though legal, it is a fashion faux pas to wear field boots for dressage and is just as much of a faux pas to wear a stock tie (though not a stock collar) in an average hunter class. It’s all a matter of culture.

Hopefully I can remain a hopeless fashion failure in the non-horse world without repercussions. It takes work to keep up on the latest horse fashions after all and there are only so many hours in a day. I’m open to suggestions though- if anyone thinks they can fix my human fashion stupidity they are welcome to try- just know that my budget goes to clothes for my horse first. That is probably most of my problem right there. Oh well. Thankfully I am not horribly bothered and my husband seems to find t-shirts, breeches, and brightly colored knee high argyle socks with paddock boots entertaining rather than embarrassing. But all of this is to say, it is high time I admit: I am completely incapable of being fashionable outside of the horse world. I admit I have a problem, but I am not sure I have the strength and desire to change. So anyway- RAWR!!!!!

 

 

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Core Workout 101

I feel like I was punched in the stomach. I know….great way to start a blog, a week, anything right? But here is the worst part: I wasn’t punched in the stomach and I did it to myself.

So here is how it happened:

I haven’t been very good about getting to the gym since my RA treatments have been less than wonderfully successful lately. Of course I have been my usual type A perfectionist self though working as hard as I can possibly make myself to do the homework my trainer gives me with my horse and keep up with four or five rides a week at least. I really hope I can work out my budget to do some shows this season and shows or no shows I want to be the best I can be. I am just ridiculous about riding in that respect. I still can’t quite figure out why, but I want to do it the best I can. I can’t imagine a world in which I do not ride. And I want to be amazing at it and I am not there yet. So I work at it as hard as I can.

Recently my horse has been doing really well in training. Don’t get me wrong, we may still be in Training Level for all eternity, but I am ok with that, and if we are in Training level eternally we will look amazing and be happy doing it! But, this has led to my working more on my riding as we get better. I learn new techniques and refinements and practice those as we work on things with my horse. In my most recent lesson, my trainer indicated that my sitting trot was much improved so I should do it more.

So we did. And holy buckets was it hard. My horse, though I love him dearly, doesn’t have the easiest trot to ride even though it is a far sight better than it used to be. He has an extremely short back so even when he is supple, his trot can feel like riding a pogo stick on a trampoline. My core muscles were screaming at me and I was breathing as hard as I do when I run after about ten minutes. I felt like an idiot. I practice sitting trot so why was doing it for ten minutes straight so hard?

As a result, my homework this week was to do sitting trot, especially on ten meter circles interspersed at nice intervals, for longer periods, take a short break and then do it again. Of course I still need to work on getting half halts, getting canter lengthening and then transitions back, shortening/collecting the canter strides, getting him more round, and a variety of other elements we have been working on as well.

I did my homework a couple times now. My abs and core muscles hate me. I can’t believe how out of shape I am. It certainly makes me fill a little silly since I had thought I was working pretty hard and keeping up with where I needed to be. So…I will keep working at it. I will get past this and actually be able to sit the trot with decency one of these days! RAWR!!!!!!

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Never Mind Women’s Day….

I admit it- I like obscure holidays. They need to exist; I don’t just make them up, but I finally found THE holiday for me. It is today in fact. So, what holiday is on March 8th you ask? Well, of course it is Unique Names day. I promise, if you know me in real life, you know my name is unique. Though I was named after a relative, I was unfortunately named after a Polish relative, and the spelling of her name was changed from Cyrillic to English and then Americanized. From there I got my Aunt’s first name as my middle name- and her name happens to be- oh yes, French or Hebrew. I then got married and dropped my original last name altogether and took on the completely simple and of Welsh or English origins. So trust me- my name, in all its Polish, French/Hebrew, Welsh glory, is unique. So….I am expecting presents from my friends and family. I am sure they will not disappoint.

 If they do though, I will be all set, because march 9th is “Get over it” day. I love this concept. I know there are plenty of things about which my friends are sick of hearing me whine, and I also know that I can think of a few times in the last week that instead of being my normal polite self I would have loved to have told the person I was talking with to, “get over it.” March 9 also happens to be Panic day so if I’m not successful in getting over my problems I can always just panic. I like that solution.

 I can then enjoy the National Day of Awesomeness on March 10th. And who wouldn’t? It’s awesome- a whole day to find the awesome things people do and appreciate them!

 I hope you enjoy the next few holidays. Until next time- RAWR!!!!

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Yikes!

I just read a brief news story about Tonya Harding, of knee whacking fame. Apparently she is pregnant. Am I the only one that is a bit worried about how she might respond to becoming a parent? I have visions of possible future headlines, such as The Soccer Mom From Hell (somehow the entire opposing team had “accidents” making them unable to play). One hopes that all goes well, but history shows that such optimism is likely to lead to disappointment. It occurs to me that this paragraph may annoy Tonya and could lead to old urges returning to her. Sorry, Tonya, I’m already in a wheelchair.

Imagine my surprise a few days later when I came across another article about Mark Kerrigan, brother of Nancy Kerrigan. It seems that the police believe that Mark may be guilty of manslaughter. Mark and Nancy’s father, Daniel, died. That, at least, both police and Kerrigans agree on. The Kerrigan family says the death was due to a longstanding heart condition. Mark’s lawyer also says that police improperly interrogated Mark. My condolences go out to the Kerrigan family on the death of Daniel. However, I am beginning to wonder if this is something like The Revenge of Has-Been Figure Skaters. Okay, Nancy wasn’t at fault for the Kerrigans being in the news, but it wouldn’t be anything but local news if it wasn’t for her. Now I’m going to sit back and wait for a stories related to Jeff Gillooly, Shawn Eckardt , Derrick Smith , and Shane Stant (I know, they’re not figure skaters, but they were involved in the whole Tonya v. Nancy thing back in the day).

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Better Friends

I was going to write a whole bunch of thoughts that had been swimming around in my head about friendship and what it means to be a good friend and how I hope to be a better one. But then something happened and I realized that though my thoughts were valid something more to the point was in order.

 “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”- Thomas Merton

 John 15:12-13

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

 “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.’ –Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You, too? Thought I was the only one.'” –C.S. Lewis

 “If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love friends for their sake rather than for our own.” –Charlotte Bronte

 Hopefully someday I will write a brilliant post on what it means to be a good friend and what I intend to do to be a better one. In the interim, perhaps you might try something: write someone you consider a friend a letter. A real one- not an e-mail. Find nice paper or a card they would like and then mail it. I promise I don’t work for the postal service and they didn’t put me up to it. I just know that sometimes getting a letter or note in the mail can make any day a little better. It tells someone they are special even when you write very little and write about inconsequential things. RAWR!!!!

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