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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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Frigid Ramblings

Today I can’t seem to get warm which makes my body ache all over. But I am learning ways to cope. One of my favorites (that I can actually do at work- can’t go see Strider or Matt or pet the dog at work, and though I can sometimes knit it depends on the moment) is to look at the mountains. I am certainly lucky to live in a state with such awesome beauty. This morning the mountains are of course snow capped, giving the craggy peaks a frosted look. Then, the clouds above them were tinged in pale oranges and pinks against a light blue background. Below that though, a steely grey element is softened by light grey clouds wrapping the lower portions so only the tops of the peaks poke out. With a view like that it is hard not to feel a little better.

 The irony of it all is that I might not even notice the beauty I live with if it weren’t for pain or frustration pushing me to find an escape hatch. Odd that. Why is it that we seem to need a catalyst to notice the constant beauty? I know I can’t write a decent poem when everything in my life is going perfectly. I just can’t find any inspiration when nothing is out of place. But when there is an irritation I must find something, anything to escape the source of the irritation, even if that escape is just creatively focusing on that irritation and pretending it is happening to someone else. So I guess I am just a really good escape artist when it comes down it- a coward if I am honest though.  So I would never really be much of an artist if I wasn’t an escape artist. And though I don’t want to suggest an answer that is too easy to a problem that is far from it, perhaps there can at least be some solace in pain or frustration, or whatever it is that pokes and prods us into finally venting what becomes art.

 OK…rambling over. In the news: I am trying a new treatment. So far I have no clue if it helps. The first infusion made me tired beyond imagination, but other than that I have no assessment. I did get to joke around with an x-ray tech who was on temporary infusion patient baby sitting duty about the weird side effects of prednisone though and that was actually entertaining. It made the longer infusion time seem not very long at all. I love when medical people are honest and don’t look at you like a freak when you tell them about your experiences, so having her joke around with us about prednisone psychosis was really fun.

I have also started trailer shopping. I admit it makes me cringe to think about spending so much money but it will be so nice to not have to ask someone else when I want to take Strider or Vanya somewhere. Though I hope most of my showing this year will be with my barn, it will still be a load of my mind. Then we just need to get Matt a car so we aren’t putting miles on truck….one thing at a time.

It has been positively frigid here lately so I ride when it is warm enough and when I can’t ride I get the odd sensation of choosing what I will do with my time. I read a few books (they were amazing and gripping; I could hardly put them down. I love reading), have gotten a few knitting projects done, used our wii once or twice, and even seen Matt once or twice when we were both awake. I have to say the guilt of not riding eats away at me though making it harder to really enjoy. I need to be exercising more too but again…one thing at a time. Until next time….RAWR!!!!

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Welcome, Nobody! (And Other News)

All sorts of things have been going on lately as I am sure the astute reader could guess from my blogging absence. I have been desperately wanting to blog and simply have not been able to do so.

The best thing that has happened lately is that Matt got home from his training! The Air Force still owns him but at least they have decided he can be in the same state as I am. Grace, our dog, is probably even more thrilled than I am- she is such a Daddy’s girl that she is a bit of a basket case when Matt is gone.

Strider is coming along fabulously (I think). My trainer has been putting a few rides on him and I got a lesson on him as well and it has helped very much. He is starting to actually bend and give through his whole body and lift through his back; the difference this makes in his gaits, especially his trot, is amazing. His trot is feeling powerful and swingy and I can actually sit to it now without having to do all sorts of abdominal gymnastics to keep my body from looking like a grain bag on a perpetual motion machine. I love having him at my trainer’s barn as well. The facility is luxurious for me- the indoor arena has a sound system, bright lights, nice solid walls, good footing, and enough insulation that it really does stay warmer than outside and some of the wind/random precipitation noise is reduced. It is nice to ride in rain/sleet/snow/hail and still be able to hear myself think and feel my fingers and toes; what a concept! Strider also has gained weight and muscle so he looks great. Unfortunately this means that his new sheet and new medium weight blanket fit him less well than they did; his rear end has started to stick out the back a little. Thankfully I had not gotten him a new heavy blanket yet! I was lucky enough to get a couple used heavy blankets in his new size and a sheet in his new size so I am making do with what I have. I admit I never expected for him to get that much bigger at nearly 11 years old. I still need to do his trace clip, but unfortunately lack clippers, so I am working on trying to find some I can borrow or decide if now really is the time to buy some since this is the second year in a row I have needed to go in search of clippers to borrow.

 I had a rough go with RA for a while. Some things were improved with a round of Prednisone and switching to injectable instead of oral Methotrexate. The injected MTX does make me feel less sick the day after, unfortunately though it cause some other yucky side effects I could have lived without. After doubling folic acid for a couple weeks they are almost slightly better (nice hedging right? I am trying to think positive ha-ha) and are now quite tolerable. Hooray. With Matt home I am even starting to feel out ways to work, ride, keep the house running, and get back to the gym consistently. So far I am doing ok with it and I hope to increase the workouts as I get more in the swing of the new schedule.

And last but not at all least: I will now have a second blogger joining me to make the blog more fun, interesting, and reliable! A full introduction will be made later, but she goes by the name of “Nobody.” Her perspective is, of course, unique (whose isn’t really?) and quirky and I think she will add a lot to the blog. I am very excited for Nobody to be joining the blog and will be posting an item of hers shortly (her posts will probably come from me at least for the moment but I will indicate from whence they came…) for your enjoyment.

So, all kinds of happy and exciting things happening- makes it easy to be in a thankful mood for the upcoming holiday (too cheesy? Sorry…have some wine with it.). Until next time…..RAWR!!!

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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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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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