Tag Archives: dressage

Grooming and RA

This weekend I got to do one of my favorite things- I groomed at a horse show. I absolutely love being involved in horse shows and helping people, being around the horses and seeing them perform, all without the mental stress of my actually being in the show. I still love showing, but grooming gives me a different kind of joy and thrill; one that I don’t want to give up. But I am paying for my weekend in the currency of pain today; I always do, but it is so incredibly worth it!

I also usually end up answering questions from people who don’t know me as well- things like: “Are you ok? You are walking funny,” or “What do you mean you have arthritis? You are too young for that.” In short, not only do I get reminded that I have RA but other people often can tell too and they ask questions. That can be a good thing but I know I fall short in answering people sometimes. I often minimize my symptoms or disease because I don’t want people to think I can’t do things or that I need help. I also see the attitudes of others who do know me towards my disease. Some horse people I am around want to treat me differently and help me out, tell me what I should and shouldn’t do, what might help, in short they go into what I think of as the bubble mode. Some people want to keep me from experiencing my disease by trying to cure me and prevent me from doing things. Others minimize the disease saying I can do anything, I don’t look sick, it is all in my head, if I would just change my attitude, be more positive, etc. everything would be fine. I think of this attitude as the minimization mode; these people want to prevent me from experiencing the disease by trying to make it disappear. I honestly find both sets of attitudes frustrating even though I know they both come from people who just don’t know what to do with chronic disease and want to help. And really I will admit I don’t know what to do with the reality of disease any better than they do, but I feel that by being matter of fact about the reality of it I am at least not fooling myself. It isn’t negative attitude, it is simply truth. But what I don’t know how to do is help others see that, help others to be matter of fact about it, and help others to allow me to feel things out. I don’t want to hide that I have a disease, and let’s face it, I couldn’t if I wanted to- my bag with a dozen or so prescriptions in it (I leave a couple at home ha-ha) and my morning stiffness would be a dead giveaway to anyone with ears and eyes. So, I guess all of that is to say- I hope all the horsey people bear with me on this- I will me patient too, and hopefully someday I can explain things so we can all understand. Until then though, if you know someone with a chronic disease or disability, my best thought on how to react to it is this: the person isn’t the disease so you can talk to them about it openly- really. And when it is uncomfortable because the person admits they have pain or embarrassing difficulties it is ok to just admit you don’t know what to say or do. Honesty is always good. I am sure there are thousands of opinions on this, but….my .02.

One thing I did find very inspiring this weekend though was watching a para-equestrian compete! She was a grade II and an absolutely beautiful rider. Talk about humbling and inspiring to see her lifted onto her horse and then go out there and ride movements I can only dream of with my horse! She really is amazing and it was a privilege to get to see her ride.

Next Saturday I have another schooling show. Strider has had a lot of time off lately (for him… for some horses it wouldn’t be considered much time off but he normally gets no more than two consecutive days off…) but I am hoping it will be good for him. It will be our last schooling show before we submit scores for CSDA year end awards and before Strider and I get a bunch of lessons with an amazing trainer. I can hardly wait for the lessons as I am dreaming of someday doing 1st level with Strider and really doing well at it. This year we have done all training level and I am not sure who is more desperate to move on- Strider or me! But neither of us is ready, so we keep working at it….someday….and before that someday hits I have to find reins that I can consistently hold. That has been my struggle this whole year; right now I have electrical tape blobs on my reins but that probably won’t be allowed at any USEF recognized shows without a dispensation so I need to figure something else out. Not to mention that the blobs are NOT at all unobtrusive. So….things to work on over the winter.

Matt gets home from training tomorrow. I can’t wait! Not sure how long he will be home but I will enjoy it while I can. Hopefully that will give me more time to blog again even! So, until next time- RAWR!!!


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Warm Fuzzies

I never, ever thought I would say this. Please….those of you who know me well, don’t pass out.


I really like dressage.

 Ok…I can hear the gasps from here. It is a shocker. I have been confirmed jumper enthusiast pretty much since I knew you could take horses over jumps (my mom probably regretted that day). I have appreciated dressage for quite some time, in that I knew it was important for any horse, and most especially jumpers to have the skills they learn in dressage. As far as riders I could see that dressage riders understand horses and riding and equitation better than most and valued that. But there is far more to it than that.

 I know my body will not stand up to jumping eventually, so I know that dressage is a great way for me to continue to pursue excellence in riding and initially that was why I wanted to learn dressage- call it a backup plan. Some days holding the reins is hard, so I know that one of these days, going over a jump will be out of the question. I’m not there yet though, and I still love jumping. Don’t get me wrong.  But what I have come to love about dressage is that there are so many really amazing, encouraging people. I’m not saying there aren’t encouraging people in other parts of our sport- there are. But in the last week I have seen and read so much that is encouraging from people who ride dressage.

 I see people in dressage who truly inspire me. Not only because they are amazing riders or have beautiful horses, but because it seems as if there relaxed and quiet riding is a reflection of who they have chosen to become. I am not trying to be weird here. I know there are great riders in every aspect of riding, again, not arguing against other disciplines. I just know that lately I have seen so much generosity, courage, grace, wisdom, gentleness, strength, gumption, and kindness from some dressage riders lately, some of whom I barely know at all and some of whom I know very well. It could be I am noticing it more now than I have before but it is nothing short of inspirational; it really does make me wish that I could be like those people. Hopefully, someday, I can be.

 So, today, a warm fuzzy post, I suppose as a thank you to the people who have inspired me of late. I’m glad that I can secretly or not so secretly look to various riders and hope to be like them. And, if you see my trainer, don’t tell her what I said about dressage- she might have a heart attack and that wouldn’t be nice.

 I overdid it a bit at the show yesterday for sure, but it was well worth it! So fun to watch and ride. Strider was amazing, despite seeming a little stiff he really tried very hard and I was really proud of him! Aubrey had her show debut on Mo and it was quite good. I can’t wait to see how they do as Mo gains confidence in new situations. I am not sure when we will show next, but I can hardly wait! Between progress with new meds (and so far tolerating prednisone…keeping my fingers crossed) and progress in my riding I am super excited. Well…that is all for the moment…until next time RAWR!!!


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Plot material: I cannot see in the dark. At all. My eyes just don’t adjust right and don’t allow enough light in for me to be able to see. That makes doing things at the barn at night a little weird sometimes. I am used to turning my horse back out to pasture in the dark- I know the path well know. I only crashed into a massive dirt pile and then fell in a pit once. Then I learned the safe route. I can handle that. One of my biggest challenges though was dealing with my saddles. They are getting heavy for me, especially after riding and taking care of my horse and a day of work. So,  one of the hardest parts of my day was taking my saddle (whichever one I was using) out to my car at night in the dark and trying to get it in my car without destroying it all the while having coyotes howling in my ear…seriously. I think the local coyote population must think I am extremely entertaining. My jumping saddle wasn’t so bad. My dressage saddle I admit was really annoying- it just didn’t fit well anywhere in my car (dressage saddle of course has super long flaps and doesn’t seem to like the back seat of my bug or the trunk…). So finally, one night I told Matt I had pretty much had it with trying to carry my put my heavy saddle in the car in the dark while getting howled at by coyotes. He did agree that the situation was a bit absurd but just leaving the saddles loose in the barn, even in a locked tack room, worried me a bit as when I put both my saddles in my car, they more than double its value. And I have no way of replacing them really as I got insanely good deals on both of them- so I take good care of those two!

 So, yesterday my brand new tack locker was installed. It is monstrously huge and I love it. It was so nice to walk out of the barn last night without a saddle in tow and not worry about it. The locker still needs some finishing touches, but already it is a vast improvement. I will owe my husband big time for a while- since he isn’t fantastic at reading instructions I think he may have built the entire locker twice before all was said and done. He is getting a pair of socks though…not sure if a pair of hand knitted socks is an even trade for a tack locker.

 Strider and I had a good ride last night for the most part. He had some moments of tension but is greatly improved for the most part. I think that taking his flash noseband off was the right thing to do as he has been much quieter with his mouth without it- irony for you there. I loosened his regular noseband a hole as well and he seems pretty happy with the whole arrangement. He is still not perfect, but aside from his walk trot transitions and the occasional trot to canter transitions we can string together a pretty solid and consistent training level test. Last night I rode through both our tests once from memory and aside from forgetting where a walk transition was in each test they really went very well. Our stretchy chewies are much better- I am remembering to keep impulsion now, and Strider is maintaining his stretch better. Our transition back to working trot is improving though Strider still gets just a bit tight. But I know it will come.

 Thanks to modern medicine (read drugs- thank you piroxicam and tylenol) I am feeling a bit better today. I am planning on sticking some electrical tape on a couple strategic places on my reins tonight to see if it helps me grip them better, though I am hoping tonight or tomorrow I can take Strider up to the outdoor arena and enjoy hopping over some cross-rails and 2’ fences.  We could both use a fun night this week to relax before the show (even schooling shows spazz me!).

 Tonight when I get home pad washing will begin since it takes a couple days for my Mattes pad to dry, even in our dry Colorado air. I hope someday I can save up for a second one so I don’t have to use my jumping half pad for my dressage saddle most of the week before a show- I am realizing that could make for an interesting summer. My white breeches are pretty well clean and I just need to run my white pad through the washer one more time, then clean my boots since I neglected to do that after the last show (usually I clean them right away but I was lazy). I will probably clean my helmet better this time too as the interior could use a good scrub after not getting cleaned most of the winter. One of these days I need to make sure the Velcro on my white polo wraps is in the right place as I strongly doubt it is- I have the worst luck with that. I may give Strider a bath tomorrow as it should be warm enough and he hasn’t had one in ages since it has been so cold. I will at least wash his tail. Friday would be the day I would prefer to do it but I am sure it will be too cold. So, I will rinse his blankets off, then dry them and clean him up a bit and see what I can do. So much to do.

 Definitely will need plenty of caffeine to get through the next few days! I have an extra horse to ride while her owner is gone, and Aubrey will be gone too so I will be getting a lesson on Mo hopefully and doing her chores out at Pat’s (our trainer)  for her. Hopefully by doing her chores I can give the extra lesson I will earn to Jennifer and see if she likes my trainer. If she does maybe I can figure out a way to make something work on that front longer term as I think that would be good. Need to figure out who she would ride too…all kinds of things going on.


So, progress in all sorts of ways! Below is a random picture because I have been trying to get pictures up for a while and links seem to be the most space effective way…  Until next time…..RAWR!!!



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I’m a Faker…

Strider and I made our dressage debut for this show season on the 6th of March. It was wonderful and sad at the same time. First, the sadness.

I really couldn’t hold my reins. They kept slipping out of my hands as I couldn’t grip them and my normal method of wedging them in between my fingers didn’t work either. So that really made the whole day difficult and since it was caused by pain and stiffness from RA was pretty frustrating to me. I did my best to work with what I had and move on though and I will be trying a few solutions both on the RA front and the tack front in the coming weeks hopefully.

 The wonderful part was that we got our best dressage score ever! I feel a little silly because it was in Training level test 1, but we got a 69.565%! Since recently we have had to switch bits and still haven’t settled on one and have been struggling with Strider really accepting the bit, as well as our transitions I admit I really wasn’t expecting much so I was extremely happy with that score. I wasn’t riding my best either so really it was pretty amazing. In Training 3 we got 61% but really it was my fault as we had a break in gait and I just generally got super tense when I realized we could actually do well. I really was very happy with the show and can’t wait to see how we do in our next one.

My next show is this Saturday, and I will be riding the same two tests so it should be interesting to see how we do. My RA symptoms have just been getting worse over the last few weeks, so unless my RA doc works miracles this Thursday when I see him, that part of the picture will be harder probably but I am still excited anyway. Strider is pretty awesome and really takes care of me pretty well. If I just relax and ride my best I even with other issues we have great potential. So, the order of the week for this week is pain management and keeping up the momentum we have from the last show and building on what we had. The main goal is to improve our downward canter transitions and keep my head and shoulders up and those are things I know I can do.

 So, though I hardly feel strong or brave or powerful and like I am a beast at the moment…I will pick myself up and let out a mighty RAWR!!!  Because sometimes we have to fake it 🙂

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I’m Back…

I apologize for not posting, but I hope you will read my excuse.

 First, I had my rheumatologist appointment. That, by itself, is not usually enough to make me disappear for two weeks, but the events of that day were sufficient. Enbrel stopped working. That explains quite a lot. So, my doctor, being the kind soul that he is, had the brilliant idea of changing my medications and giving me a medication to control the pain until the actual drugs started to work. So, I walked out that day with hope and fear. I had hope that the new medication would work and fear that it might not. It never occurred to me to be concerned about the pain medication. More on that later. After the appointment I went to the Colorado Horse Park to groom for my trainer at the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society Championships.

 Needless to say, (though I will say it anyway), it was an incredibly hectic but fun weekend. The horses all did great, and as always I learned very much and really had fun. I also took over 500 pictures. I will post some of them soon. I am really proud of myself for making it through the weekend and not totally collapsing given I was hardly at my best and had plenty of inflammation to keep me company. It was also pretty chilly as we have been having an early winter here in Colorado.

 I returned to work on Monday, sad that it was over, but looking forward to improvements in my riding and in my health. However, side effects knocked me out. The rest of that week I spent going back and forth from feeling pretty good to feeling like I had the flu thanks to the pain medication. I did get my first dose of Humira though and so far have had no adverse reactions. In fact, I didn’t even get the bee sting like reaction like I did from the Enbrel. The actual injection hurt a bit more, but I only do it every two weeks, so I am not complaining.

 While all this was going on my husband joined the Air Force Reserves. This has been in the works for quite some time, but he was finally sworn in. That means we are putting our house on the market so we can move someplace cheaper (hopefully) and will be looking to trade in the jeep for a truck. So we have been quite busy.

We also had a strangles outbreak at my barn so I couldn’t take my horse anywhere. I am hoping to get out to my first hunter jumper show in ages this weekend.

 Speaking of things I haven’t done in ages, I was able to start running again. My rheumatologist really wanted me to, and I have to say it feels fantastic in a painful sort of way. I have definitely lost some ground, but I am aiming for my next 5k to be on the 31st….spooky! I am super glad to be back running but it means I am insanely busy between that and the barn. Crazy times. It means I am definitely working my way back to beast status though and I am happy to be doing so.

 Well, that is the news for the moment. I’ll try to keep things updated now. Until next time, RAWR!!

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The Beautiful and the…

So last night was a mix of the beautiful and the frustrating.

I went out to the barn thinking life was good, all was right with the world, I had a lesson scheduled with an amazing trainer for today, had everything arranged and was going to be organized and ready. I also had found out that Jennifer would be able to take Vanya, my older gelding, in a pair pace coming up. Everything was just wonderful. I did some planning with some people at the barn for the pair pace and the upcoming show, and went and caught my horse. I admit it stresses me a bit when I have more than one person who wants to ride Vanya in a night, and that was the case again, but I determined a course of action that made pretty much everyone happy (Nicole can ride him bareback while Jennifer works her other horse and then Jennifer can ride him).

I caught Strider and got him tacked up. He was being super affectionate and sweet and as I looked over him when I groomed him everything was great. I took him in to start lungeing him though and as soon as he started to trot I noticed he was a little off. I though he might warm up out of it since he has shown stiffness before, so I did some stretches with him, gave him some more walk time, and then tried again. He seemed a little better, so I asked for a canter. He seemed alright, then he came back down to a trot and it was back. He was off again. I stretched him a bit more and then walked him around mostly on a loose rein since he was very comfortable with that and it seemed to make him happy. I then put liniment on his legs and put his standing wraps on and let him hang out in a stall with his hay bag while I went to help Jennifer.

While I was worried about Strider, Jennifer was having a horrible time with her horse, Dundee. I had suggested she try a flash on him, since I had seen that he liked to gape to avoid the bit. I helped her put it on and made sure it was still pretty loose. His bridle is actually too big for him I noticed so both his nosebands were actually pretty loose, so he wasn’t being overly restricted by adding the flash. However, Dundee definitely wasn’t too excited about this. He was walking and trotting around looking more like a giraffe than I had ever seen a horse look. I could tell Jennifer was trying as hard as she could and doing her best and as I lunged Strider I was trying to giver her help on what to do to help him listen and relax. It was all to no avail. By the time I was done with Strider Jennifer was incredibly frustrated; with good reason. I got on Dundee and got him walking forward on a 20m circle and asked him to relax and bend to the inside and accept contact. It took him a few circles, but he finally did. I had him maintain the contact for a time or two around the circle and then changed direction through the circle and did the same thing going the other way. I really applied what I had learned from my lesson with Jo and focused on staying centered, relaxed, and breathing. Once I felt he was listening, I had Jennifer get on again.

At first she still struggled. I coached her to what Jo had explained to me. Focus on center. Relax the shoulder but sit tall. Follow with the hips. Still Dundee ignored her requests to bend and give and accept the contact. She kept at it and I reminded her to consistently focus on just what she could directly control and each individual moment and to breathe and be patient with Dundee; trust that he would eventually listen to her. I explained that she couldn’t impose her timeframe on the horse: she wants him to accept contact now but he will do it when he is ready. Finally she understood. She was still frustrated and was on the point of giving up. Suddenly, Dundee relaxed and accepted the contact and softened and bent. It didn’t last long, but Jennifer was puzzled. She said she wasn’t doing anything at all. She asked him to do what she wanted again. More resistance. When she relaxed and just followed his motion but maintained contact and stopped asking, he accepted the contact and softened and bent. She was baffled. She wasn’t doing anything she repeated. Of course not. Sometimes, when we need to get the most done with our horses, we struggle, we ask, but we have to quiet ourselves and let them be and just ride them as best we can. We may feel like we are doing nothing, just following them, but that may be all we need to do.

It was an important realization for me and for Jennifer. Sometimes, you may not feel like you are doing anything or getting anywhere, but if you are centered, balanced, and following the correct lead, you will achieve what you need. An interesting thought.

I admit I am still really frustrated about having to cancel my lesson for Strider being off, but I don’t want to push it. After had the wraps and liniment on for a bit he was improved but I m worried about him. He has had off days before; it is probably because he is about due for his next trimming as I cannot locate any heat, tenderness, or swelling anywhere, but it still worries me. We’ll see. Since Jennifer had to go, I hopped on Vanya bareback and just enjoyed being with him. He is such a joy and he teaches me still every time I ride him. So, even though last night was frustrating, it was beautiful in many ways- I learned a lot.

Hopefully tonight will be a night I can apply what I learned without the frustration. We’ll see. Until next time…RAWR!


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She Shoots- She Scores!

 Ok, so not quite…I have never played basketball, or soccer, or anything like it in my life. If the game involves a ball, I probably can’t play it, I seem to be magnetized to balls; by that I mean balls repel me. Where the ball is, I won’t be. That doesn’t work well except for dodge ball. But, in order to “get a goal” you have to have one. Therein lies the rub.

I look at the girls that ride my older horse, Vanya; they both have some pretty awesome goals. Jennifer wants to get to our local Dressage Championships next year at Training level. It is a great goal. It’s achievable as after riding the horse for times she got a score that was within 3% of the score needed to qualify. So, given a few months she should be well on track to get that extra 3% that she needs, and probably more. She is planning how she will reach the goal; what memberships she needs and how much money she needs to save for shows, what equipment she needs, and what shows would make sense to attend. She is also taking more concrete action and riding and taking lessons to get the improvement she needs. She has an achievable short term goal of getting a score that would be a qualifying score (60%), and is taking steps to get there.

Similarly, Nicole, who also rides Vanya, wants to be able to show in Jumpers rather than Hunters next year. The lowest jumper division height is 2’3”-2’6” and since I am helping her, I am asking that she be jumping at least 2’9” comfortably at home before she does 2’6” at a show. Again, this is a great goal; she is working hard towards it and making good progress. She rides every chance she gets and is putting in the work she needs to achieve her goal. In fact, in her ride last night she did a course that was entirely 2’3”-2’6” very well. She even took her first oxer set at 2’3”!

However, I am not doing as well. I would love to improve my dressage scores with Strider, but I don’t really have a clear goal on it. And once I improve my dressage scores at First Level, what then? I don’t have the skills for Second level and I know that (I mean hey, I barely have the skills for First!) I want to jump bigger jumps, specifically I want to get to 4’, but I seem stuck at 3’9” and don’t have a plan to get past that. I want to get more consistent lessons, but again, seem somewhat stuck as far as finding a trainer I am happy working with and can afford and get my horse and I in contact with regularly. I am making more progress on that front than on some others, but still am nowhere near reaching that goal. If I want to get somewhere with my riding I should probably set some clear, well thought out, achievable goals. I am debating trying to qualify for local Dressage Championships at First Level with Strider next year, but can’t make up my mind as Jumping is still a priority. Any ideas? Please feel free to comment if you have any good ideas on good goals as I am open to suggestions.

All that being said, I realized where one of my big problems with RA has been lurking like the glass of milk you forgot in your guest bathroom last week. (You can smell it but can’t for the life of you figure out where it is…get my drift?) My Rheumatologist and I don’t have the same goals. My goals for me with regards to my RA are being mostly pain free most days, having energy, being able to sleep through an entire night without waking up because I have to change positions, and preventing as much joint damage as possible. My measurement of that is simple, do I hurt today? Do I have the energy to ride my horse and go for a run? Did a get a good nights sleep recently? Are my joints popping? Can I set my elbows on a padded elbow rest without pain? Can I stand up after sitting for twenty minutes without pain? Lately the answers to all of these questions have suggested that I am definitely not reaching my goals. I have called my doctor, since he is over an hour away, and talked to his voicemail and his assistants about it. We tried a burst of corticosteroids, we have increased my methotrexate dosage (and can I say that I really wish my hair would stay ON my head?), and neither approach has worked. I told him this and gave him a suggestion provided by my wonderful GP…his assistant simply said, “You will have to wait until your next appointment for the doctor to look at your joints.” Interesting; I admit, the not very charitable part of me wanted to say, “Go hold onto an electric fence for a day, imagine feeling like that all the time, and then tell me I should wait. And I’ll tell the doctor how my joints are- red, swollen, inflamed, painful and stiff.” But, I am not that uncharitable or rude I promise, so instead I said, “Isn’t there something we can do before my appointment?” Basically pleading with her. She said no. So I learned that my doctor has different goals than I do, and that is part of my problem with RA. I plan on addressing this at my next appointment, as I know, not all my goals are entirely reasonable, but at least we could try to get on the same page. And how else can you possibly reach a goal if you don’t set it in the first place?

 So, sorry if today’s post was a bit of a downer, but I hope it might be enlightening…I prefer entertaining, but I suppose enlightening will do the trick. Until next time, RAWR!

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