Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why the city is bad for me ...

Most of my friends (including my husband) prefer to be in a city or at least close to a city.  I do have some who like me do not want to live in the city but most at least want to be near one because of something that I haven't quite understood.  What I glean from them is that there is "more to do" (which is true in some cases - theatre, opera, ballet, art museums)  and there is definitely better shopping (although with the internet that is not necessary anymore).  I respect this attitude as being completely valid and quite popular (look at the population of Seattle compared to Bow, WA) but I can not relate to it no matter how hard I try.

Two days in a row downtown reminded me of why I am so much happier living in the semi-rural suburbs than I am in the city (or as I like to say "we couldn't afford to move all the way to the woods so we live next door to the woods").  I was thinking a lot about this while stuck in traffic on the way home from work yesterday.  Getting down Mercer St. from the waterfront to the freeway takes at least a half hour to forty minutes (even though I doubt it's over a couple miles) during rush hour.  Sometimes it takes as long to get that couple miles as it does to get from Seattle to the exit off I-5 to go East toward our town (if you're in the HOV lanes - not if you're in normal traffic).  But it's not the traffic really that bothers me.  Cars are so comfortable now with cd players and iPod hook-ups and heat and air conditioning and if you're parked in traffic (which often happens on Mercer) you can read your email on your iPhone, and if you're carpooling it's like being on a coffee date in the car.

Well, one reason is that since I've not had a horse, it's been the holidays and I've been doing a lot of time sitting in my office at work two full days a week and at home at the dining room table at my computer trying to catch up on work when I'm not in the office - I've actually gained about five pounds over the last couple weeks.  Ugh.  So, on a completely physical level it's better for me when I'm out at the barn every day.  And that will resume one of these days when I'm not so far behind at work trying to learn everything and fix all the mistakes I've already made, and when I have a new horse I need to be out every day riding or taking care of.  

But I thought about what if I had my old life where I lived in a downtown neighborhood and worked in an office (pre-kid days).  I guess granted back then because it was also pre-RA kicking my butt days (I only had small flare-ups maybe a couple times a year at most and very briefly) I did spend a lot of time at the gym.  I guess now that I think about it the gym definitely made me feel better and helped me retain somewhat of an ounce of sanity.  So, if I ever end up having to live in the city again I just need to live near a gym where I can go swimming and lift weights.

One thing about the city though that does not change is I find it draining.  I have tried to explain that to other people who don't experience it and have never fully been able to express it.  I have one friend - my horse vet actually - who experiences the same thing.  Otherwise I usually just get this perplexed look that gets more perplexed as I try to explain, "I feel drained ... um ... and depressed ... and um ... I don't know how to explain it."  If I used the word "depressed" of course people just assume I am talking about a much deeper underlying issue or "wherever you go - there you are" "if you're depressed in the city you'll be depressed in the country".  But oddly enough that is not the case.  Since we moved out here I have slept better, felt better and been much happier and more relaxed.

I wonder if anyone other than myself and my friend/vet feel this way?  I wonder if people feel that way in the country - if they feel depressed and drained until they are back in the city?  I wonder what that is about?  I wonder if I had grown up in the city if I would feel this way or if it is because so much of the comfort I found as a child was in the woods and with animals?  It's just one of those things I wonder.  I tried so hard for years to be happy living in the city but the only way I could stand it was to surround myself with "country-esque" things - making a garden in a bare spot of land by my apartment or in window boxes, having lots of pets and trying to find apartments that had trees outside the window.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Me and my projects

I went out to SAFE today to help my friend with feeding if she needed it.  She's been doing extra shifts because so many folks are on vacation for the holidays.  She also figured out that if she went in super early before Logan was fed his hay, he would be so hungry that he would eat the mash with his horse laxative in it.  So, he's gotten some three days in a row so hopefully he will be ready for surgery tomorrow.

I went in to say hi to him when we were there and he was nervous as usually and jumped away from me at first.  But after I stood in there for a minute and he saw I didn't have a halter or medicine in my hand he came over to sniff me.  I started rubbing his withers and he started to lean toward me and then I realized he had some mud matted on his shoulder, so I started scratched that area to pull some of the mud off of him.  He seemed to like that so I asked my friend if she could find an old brush I could use.  At first after she gave it to me, Logan looked at it like "No way! You're not coming near me with that!"  But after a few minutes of letting him sniff it and chew on it, he let me brush his neck lightly.  Then quickly you could see the lights going on in his mind and he was starting to remember a day - god only knows how many years ago - when he had been groomed before and surely someone had taken care of him.  He ended up swinging his butt around wanting me to brush there - which was badly needed.  He had caked and crusted mud all the way through his hair and dried on his skin and huge pieces of fur missing where he has some kind of skin condition.  I asked my friend for a curry comb and she said, "A what?" (because her daughter is the horse person) so I just said, "Never mind.  You might as well not have to disinfect more than one brush."

So, I scrubbed as best I could with the brush I had and Logan started stretching and yawning and chewing and all over loving it.  For a moment he seemed just like a normal family pet horse.  When I was tired from brushing him and he did look a little better (although to really look good he needs a bath, a serious grooming with a shedding blade, curry comb, clippers and a bottle of show sheen) - anyway, I was tired from scrubbing and brushing him and when I stopped he put his head down and leaned it over my shoulder to give me a hug!

Cameo is not doing so well.  She's broken off three halters already and no one has gone in to try and handle her except for the on-site trainer.  She's trying to keep a halter on her because she's so hard to catch and halter, but she keeps breaking them off.  She's in much worse shape than Logan - her mane is all matted and dreadlocked and her hair is much more mangy.  But you can't get near her yet so there will be no grooming in her near future probably.  I was telling my friend, M. and Trainer K. about them and Trainer K. pointed out "Horse can't become feral once they've been domesticated," and M. said, "This may be worse because they don't have the natural fear of humans that feral horses have so they could be more dangerous."  Hopefully, Cameo will end up not being dangerous and come around and I already know that Logan is not dangerous and will come around quickly.

I hope Logan's surgery goes well tomorrow.  I probably will come to my senses but a little part of me has toyed with the idea of fostering him and then leasing Maiden to ride a few times a week.  Even though I said I didn't want another project horse.  And he makes Toadie when I first got her look like a bomb-proof child's horse.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Why do you want to spend your time around half ton animals that can kill you?

That is a question that was asked today:  "Why do you want to spend your time around half ton animals that could potentially kill you?"  It was asked to me and the trainer for S.A.F.E. after we had switched two of the new incoming rescue horses to new stalls, and after the person asking the question had watched us for a very long time try to give oral medication to Logan.

I had been back in the main barn visiting with Sinatra and decided it was time to go home and do some holiday cooking so I went back to the arena to tell my friend I was leaving.  As I got to the gate she said, "Oh thank god you're here.  We need you," and the trainer asked, "Can you help me?"  I was a little worried because I wasn't sure what she needed me to do and after the oral medication fiasco I wasn't feeling so secure (it didn't go as well today as it did last night).  But she just needed me to hold Logan while she put Skye (another incoming rescue horse) into Logan's stall and Logan into Skye's stall.  Apparently, Skye was busy trying to break down the wall into Logan's stall and it had better security of the wall not coming down if they switched sides.

Logan is fairly safe for being very unhandled and very scared.  He is not alpha and he's a small Arab and he if he spooks and comes your direction a good jab or tap will keep him off of you.  Skye on the other hand is part Percheron and will barrel right over you if it is convenient for him.  So, I was not at all interested in attempting to handle him.  My friend only volunteers at SAFE because her daughter is horse crazy but doesn't have any real experience leading or handling horses so I was glad she chose the wise decision not to try and handle Logan.

As it was he was fine.  We went to the middle of the arena (the stalls open up in the arena) but couldn't go any further because he started to panic.  Then when Skye came out of her stall of course Logan got freaked out and started running in circles around me.  I got my composure back quickly after he bolted like that and managed to get safely in front of him (not directly - that would be dangerous) so I could push him back and keep him from continuing to circle me, but he bounced up and down in place and threw his head and screamed nonetheless.  The trainer was having trouble getting Skye to agree to go into Logan's stall so she pulled her aside and said I could try and put Logan in.  That actually went fairly well and he even managed to stay next to me and not bolt away from me.  At some time in his life he had been trained because there were glimpses where he remembered stuff, but then it was over-ridden by fear and god knows when the last time he was handled was.  He was rescued from a criminal neglect case where all the horses had been locked alone and unhandled in stalls for so many years that some of them appeared feral.  They definitely have a lot of feral traits now.

Like for instance Skye is very dominant and Logan is very fearful and submissive, so Skye feels she needs to not only lord over him but protect him too.  When the trainer was in the stall by herself trying to get the last of the medication down Logan's throat (after we tag-teamed tried to do it) Logan panicked and tried to run over her and she corrected him (jabbed him in the chest to get him off of her and said firmly, "No!" and then backed up him into the corner) well - just that by itself was enough to send Skye running back into her stall from the paddock, ears pinned, teeth barred and she tried to run through the dividing wall to attack the trainer to protect Logan.  After that my job was to keep Skye distracted and away from that wall until the trainer had gotten all the medicine into Logan's mouth.  But stuff like that showed to me that these horses had developed a herd mentality that over-rode their connection to humans.

Anyway, that brought up my friends question, which she didn't ask in a judgmental way.  She seemed to truly want to know what our problem is.   And neither of us really had a good answer.  I said, "Because they're horses!" and the trainer said, "Because when you gain their trust and work as a team there is nothing like it."  And I said, "Because they are so honest and when they love you they really do love you and when they trust you, you know you've earned it.  And you always know where you stand, they aren't manipulative and they don't lie."

But I don't know if that is really all of it.  I don't know why I love horses so much.  Or big dogs.  Or big animals in general.  I think there is something of a weird sense of power in knowing that you have a good friend in this half ton creature.  And there is something magical in the connection that you can get with a horse when you've worked with them a long time and you can read each other's thoughts.  And if you think about it, every time a strong bond is formed because a human and a horse it's it's own kind of miracle that prey and predator can develop that trust, loyalty and love together.

Or we're just crazy.  There is that too.  I don't think that the draw of being with and handling horses (especially really messed up ones like poor Logan) can be explained in words.  It could be pathology or something wrong with our brains.  But I don't want to get over it.  I'm perfectly happy with my illogical horse obsession.  And I hold true to my belief that anyone who can't understand is really missing out on something wonderful in life.

I think Buck Brannaman sums it up well in his quote about finding that perfect union between yourself and a horse, "If you got a taste of that, you couldn’t get enough. You’d rather do that than eat. You may spend your whole life chasin’ that… but it’s a good thing to chase.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas

I'm finally on Christmas vacation.  I had to catch up on some work today from home but now I don't have any work to do until I go to work on Thursday.  Ok, I may actually have more to catch up on Wednesday but I'm going to not think about it until then.

I went out to see Girlfriend and take more supplements out to her in the afternoon.  I had hoped to stay and spend some time with her but I had a really bad headache and didn't feel up to it.  She looks good - she's getting nice and chubby on pasture grass and supplements and apparently the Pergolide must be working because she's not as sway-back and her hocks aren't as boney as before she retired to pasture life.

In the evening I went with an old friend of mine from about twenty years ago to help her feed horses for S.A.F.E.   We lost touch for awhile but now that I live in the boonies on the Eastside like her we've been back in touch which is really fun.  We were hipster chicks in downtown Seattle together back in the day and hung out with rock stars and played lots of pool.  This evening we were standing in a freezing cold hay loft trying to cut the twine on a bale of hay with one of her keys because some other volunteer had misplaced the scissors and suddenly it flew out of my mouth, "Oh my God! Look at us!" and she said, "I know! I never would've called this scene back in the day!"  Although when I think about when she and I drove across country together it did seem like something the two of us would be doing.  After that day in Central Texas when she insisted we pull over on the side of the highway so I could take a picture of her sitting in the middle of all the blue flowers in the Blue Bonnet Trail not realizing they were little cactus plants and she ended up doing this dance on the side of a highway in the middle of boonies Texas trying to pull cactus burrs out of her butt!

There is a new horse, Logan at the rescue.  He's an older Arab and he is very scared. Luckily, he has a friend next door and they can touch noses over the top of the stall wall in between them.  There was a sign on stall door that said that he was unsocialized and to use caution around him.  My friend's teenage daughter was bringing in a bin full of mash for him and the mom in me took over and I said to let me give it to him just because. I'm sure she's just as good at handling horses as me - she's been riding for years and years, but to me she is still a little girl.  I haven't quite gotten over seeing her as the baby I used to babysit when she was first born.

I noticed Logan had two other mash bins that he hadn't touched so I pulled those out and went to tell my friend.  She sent a text to the volunteer director to tell her and ask if we should bother soaking mash for the morning since he hadn't touched the other two (which I'm not sure why the morning person didn't take the old one out?).  The volunteer director texted back that he had to have the mash because he needed the oil in it for pre-surgery (on Thursday).  My friend told me that and I pointed out that he wasn't getting any of the oil because he wasn't touching the mash so how was that helping him and why wasn't someone giving it to him with a syringe?  My friend pointed out that it wouldn't work to try and have volunteers do that. So I said, "Well, crap, I'll do that," to which my friend responded by getting the oil and drumming up a syringe and saying, "Here you go."

I filled up the syringe with the oil (which I noticed is a horse laxative) and handed it to my friend and said, "Come with me and hold this while I put on his halter" and she started to call her daughter and I said, "No, you come with me," which she looked dubious about.  I told her not to worry, she just needed to hold the syringe up so that the oil wouldn't drip out until I needed it.

Poor Logan was really scared of the halter and wasn't very comfortable with me in the stall.  He wanted me to pet him but at the same time was quite worried about the halter.  I watched him closely though and although he was definitely scared and didn't want me to put the halter on, he wasn't doing anything threatening - it was all evasive and he didn't do anything to challenge or fight me. And he could ran out into the run outside his stall to get away and he wasn't, so I decided it wasn't a dangerous situation and I'd stick with it.  I finally was able to put the halter on him (although he never dropped his head for me, at least he stood still and thankfully he's not a tall horse so I was able to get the strap over his head on my tip-toes).  Then he got really upset about that nasty stuff in the syringe.  We did the same thing as with the halter, let him sniff the syringe,  rubbed him with it and just in general talked quietly and stayed very calm.  I managed to get a good portion of the syringe in his mouth (which is better than nothing - which is what he'd been getting) but I also got a nice big splash on my sweater and jeans.  I came home and said to my husband, "I need to run up and change my clothes. I'm covered in horse laxative," and his response was, "That's hot!"  Sigh.

My friend is calling the volunteer director to ask if I can come out the next three days to give Logan his laxative oil by syringe before he is surgery so that he can actually get some in his system, but I fear that might be too much of a liability because I haven't officially volunteered on site with them for a few years and haven't really been involved with them for two years since I fostered Sinatra.  Who is still there.  I wish he would find a good home.  He is a good kid, he just needs a very experienced and very energetic, alpha person to keep him in his place.  I fed him his hay and grain and hung out with him for a few minutes.  He still has no idea of where his feet are landing nad no concept of your personal space, but he is still also very charming.

It said on Logan's stall card that if the vet deems he can't do surgery than he will be euthanized  and that's been hanging heavily over my head this evening.  I know that whether or not he can have surgery does not hinge on whether or not he gets his horse laxative but if it makes the chances any better that he can I hope they'll let me give it to him.  But it's been haunting me this evening that he may die in four days.  He seemed like such a sweet guy underneath being so nervous and scared - but at the same time if he can't have the surgery he is in great pain and discomfort and the quality of his life is not good without the surgery so it would be more humane to put him down.  This is why I'm not more involved in horse rescue or veterinary medicine.  I just can't handle stuff like this well.  It makes me way too sad.  Even my fifteen minutes with Logan I'm already attached to him. Sigh. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thunderstruck

I was very thrilled a couple weeks ago that iTunes is finally selling AC/DC songs.  At first I thought my excitement was because I had a fever and had been in bed for a couple days and was stir-crazy but as I'm listening to them on my headphones tuning out the world (=cough= PMS =cough=) I think I am just excited to be rediscovering my teenage years.

So, Yoshi went back to his owners yesterday.  I was pretty disappointed about it but I know it worked out the way it should.  His pre-purchase exam was like a punch in the stomach.  But these things happen and I probably shouldn't get my hopes up so much and just naively think it will all work out ok before I have all the information.  His pre-purchase exam started out very well, even when the vet had him out on the lunge line and he showed no signs of lameness at the walk, trot or canter.  Then my vet did the flexion test.  That is where she holds a joint in a flexed position for a couple minutes, then counts down and when she hits 1, she says "Go!" and the handler takes the horse off at a trot.  In a negative flexion test the horse just trots off and is fine.  In a positive test the horse limps and has limited range of motion or pain on the joint as he takes off at a trot.  Well, that's what happened with Yoshi with all his feet.

I had Trainer K. handle him during the test so I could stand off to the side and watch and see how he did (you can't see at all what's going on when you're the handler - I was the handler for Toad during her pre-purchase and I had no idea if she was passing her flexion test or not while I was running along next to her).  Anyway, Trainer K. was getting ready to ride Gemini right before our flexion test, so I ended up standing off the side holding him and watching.  I felt my heart sink when Yoshi didn't pass the first leg, but then he didn't pass the next then both back legs too!  I was so disappointed I felt like I was going to cry.  But my vet told me it could be nothing and we could take x-rays and see what's going on.  Taking the x-rays was kind of cool.  She asked me if I wanted to be her assistant and dressed me up in the huge padded radiation protection gear and showed me where to hold the slides (and warned me that if the horse kicked them and they shattered they cost $1,000 to replace! Yikes!).

I held out hope but two days later I got a call from my vet saying things didn't look so good.  He had sidebones in the foot we x-rayed and a floating bone chip that looked to me like it was poking into the joint. And that was only in one foot.  So, the possible medical issues of that problem in just one foot and knowing there were problems in the other three but I didn't want to spend roughly $500 to get the rest of them x-rayed because I already knew I was not going to pay a couple thousand dollars for a horse with that many expensive medical problems ahead of him. So, I took him back to the owners.

I'm looking at a couple other horses right now.  One is a Lipizzan who seems very promising although I'm not sure because she's far away and I'd have to decide without meeting her first which is tough.  The other two are Paints and although they aren't the best dressage horses, I doubt in the next ten years I'll be going past 2nd Level anyway.   What I want more than anything is a good, solid horse companion who I can ride in my dressage lessons and take out on the trails just for fun, and hug and groom and play around with.  Like Girlfriend - although I still don't think she's up for a rider again. I think her days are for retirement and hanging out with her pasture buddy.  I'm sure it will all work out the way it's supposed to and I will choose the right horse (and said right horse will pass the pre-purchase and the seller will agree to sell to me).  That's another thing, I would be hesitant to buy a horse from someone who didn't approve me first too.  I'm so sad when I see ads on Craiglist for horses that "need to be gone by Saturday" and "$100 off if you come pick her up today!"

I'm starting to slowly get it at my new job and am spending more of my work day knowing what I'm doing than not knowing what I'm doing which is really nice.  It's kind of nice to be downtown two days a week again because it does bring back some nice memories of when I used to live down there.  In fact my office is probably not more than a mile from where I lived when I first met my husband.  Only now it's totally different.  In fact there is a brand new 24-hour swanky, yuppie grocery store across from my apartment building I used to live in - why wasn't that there when I lived there? Back in the day we had to trek up to Queen Anne to go to the grocery store.  But even better, it makes me appreciate even more where I live.  I am so happy when I get home (even if it does take over an hour in heavy traffic to get here!)

I'm noticing an enormous chasm between my home life (tromping around a barn) and my job (trying to tromp around a gi-normous ERP system).  I really enjoy both of them, there's just such a difference in the two worlds and I don't think about if I'm in just one or the other.   I can't imagine Trainer K. hanging out at my office and I can't imagine my co-workers hanging out at the barn.  Although, I noticed from all the photos on the walls near the coffee maker that they go on a lot of cool outings together - like Teatro Zinzanni and kayaking and I mentioned to my new boss that it would be fun to all go on a trail ride.  Which he said they did once when they all went to Leavenworth. Wow.  So cool. I wish I could afford to buy them all riding lessons.  That would be quite something.  But I'm not sure I could convince them that it would be as cool as I think it would be.   Someday I will own a horse farm and have career counselors do equine management training.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ah the drama ...

Today was my fourth day of hanging out with Alyosha and we seem to be getting along pretty well.  His habit of chewing on people seems to be going away rather quickly which is impressive.  Especially because eventually it will be summer and I won't have a thick jacket for him to gnaw on.  What is surprising is that despite his bad habit of being mouthy he is very gentle when taking treats and practically sucks them up with his giant lips so his teeth barely touch your hand.   He just seems to have been allowed to get away with some bad habits but he is not above trying not to do them and I can tell he's trying very hard.

One habit that is going to take awhile though is that he has been (accidentally - I doubt they did this on purpose) trained to pee in the groom room - which unlike his stall just has rubber mats in it and lots of other horses come and go.  So it is not a good place for a big horse to pee.  So, there has been and will be lots of going in the groom room, him getting in the stance to pee and plopping him back in his stall.  The thing is, he'll hold it in his stall waiting to go in the groom room so he can pee.  So today I did the majority of his grooming in his stall.  This will be an interesting habit to break.

Today was the first time I tried lunging him.  That was very dramatic and I got quite the upper-body work-out.  I think there were a few factors involved - one, he hadn't been worked in practically a week, two he'd never been worked in our barn with me, three he had a chain on his halter and he's apparently had a bad experience in the past with chains, and four - I'm not completely sure he's been trained to lunge or if he has how he was trained.

First off, when I opened his stall door holding his halter and the nose chain attached to the lunge line I could see in his eyes that he recognized what it was and was scared of it.  But he's a pretty brave, solid guy so he held it together when I put it on, but he was looking at me like he couldn't believe I was going to "do that" to him - whatever somebody did with the chain in the past.  We went out to the arena and he got really excited and wanted to run off and play immediately.  Luckily, there was no one in there - but I did that on purpose because I didn't know how he'd be on the lunge line.

Well, he immediately started running in circles and actually would've just been running hither and yon but I was holding onto the lunge line.  I pulled him in a little to keep him on a small circle, but he took that as an invitation to run straight toward me, so I motioned for him to move out on the circle and that made him go faster so that he was galloping in a circle.  I just held on and kept the whip behind me and kept him on an even circle as best I could.  Then he decided he didn't want to be on the lunge line at all and stopped, turned and looked at me, I motioned for him to get back on the circle and he reared up, landed, put his head down and took off and then started doing the bucking bronco routine around the circle until he was in the middle of the arena and started bucking broncoing toward the other end up of the arena.  I just held on and basically water-skiied with him to the other end of the arena until he stopped because he realized I still had the lunge line, turned and looked at me as if to say "OMG! Are you still holding on?" and then started trotting in a circle around me.

I heard someone say, "Sweetie, you'd better walk him to the other end or next time he bolts he'll take you into the mud pit," (there is a corner at the far end of the arena where the roof leaks and it is a bog that they've tried to block off).  I looked up and Trainer JD was watching from the door.  I expected him to give me some sort of advice on what I was doing wrong but he never did.  Maybe he realized that it was not a good set-up for Alyosha to be polite on the lunge line and that he probably just had way too many ya-ya's to get out today for it to be anything but dramatic.

He trotted with me nicely back up to the dry end of the arena and stayed out on the circle for a little bit very well.  Then he'd stop and try to walk in toward me and I'd motion for him to move back out on the circle and he'd fling himself sideways and run backward across the arena dragging me with him until he realized I was not letting go and not backing down.  Near the end he was going well on the circle but was not responding to my walk/trot/canter commands.  Even reaching out and tapping the back of his foot with the lunge whip meant nothing to him.  He just looked at me like "That's all you got? I've been Parreli-'ed to death, Woman, with ropes swinging all around me. I am not going to respond to that little tap!"  Sigh.  I'm definitely going to need Trainer K.'s help  when it comes to learning how to best communicate with him during lunging.

When we were done lunging and I asked him to walk, he walked straight up to me - not in a bad way but I believe because that is what he was taught to do.  But that's not what I do, so I worked on showing him how to stop out on the circle without turning in on the circle and waiting for me to walk up to him.  And after about three times he got it!  He is a very smart boy!

He was feeling pretty snuggly after that and he seemed to like it when I hugged him and he'd look back at me and chew in that relaxed, happy way that is so cute.  When I was putting on his blanket he turned his head as far back as he could and put his nose on my hands while I was doing up the side straps as if to say "Can I help? I have a pretty powerful nose, you know."

I shouldn't say I'm going to keep him until after his pre-purchase vet check tomorrow but he really is just the biggest teddy bear of a horse!  I think that as the shock wears off (I really didn't expect to have a horse this soon) I'm just going to like him more and more!



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Starting over is hard ...

There is a new horse at my barn and in my life.  I am kind of in shock about it I think. People keep saying, "Aren't you just dying of excitement?" and honestly, I'm excited (as in want to be at the barn all the time and know what he's doing all the time) but I'm also feeling nervous and a little sad and very hesitant about feeling anything.   It had gotten to the point with me and Toad where I just lifted a finger or made a noise and she knew what I wanted.  I felt very safe with her and knew what to expect (as best you can know with a horse) and we had a true bond.  But that wasn't because of Toad per se - it was because of the time we spent together and everything we went through.  So, of course I'm not going to have that instantly with another horse.  And that's hard - to have to start all over again getting to know this new horse and developing that bond.  Although I *think* it will be a good thing in the long run.  Despite my bond with Toad she is now much happier where she is with her new little mama getting ridden a lot more and getting to run a lot more and have much bigger areas for turn-out.  Plus, she is literally out all day long there (8 hours a day) in grassy pastures as opposed to muddy, small paddocks (which is all you'll find anywhere this side of the mountains unless you go to the Okanogan where it's all dry and rocky - but this time of year in this region everything is mud).

So Thursday we went out to Gig Harbor to pick up Alyosha.  He had a different name but I didn't like it so I changed it to Alyosha and my daughter immediately decided to call him Yoshi after the Mario Brothers dinosaur that characters ride.  He is very laid back and so far doesn't seem to spook much at all.  He has little concerns here or there but so far that has only resulted in pausing for a moment to consider and then choosing to follow directions.  Even today when Trainer K. was checking to see if my saddle would fit him with a wider gullet, my friend in the groom room next door dropped a couple plastic bags of stuff on the floor right next to him and he didn't even notice.  The only thing that has bothered him so far is when I combed his tail and he got very disturbed and decided he needed to ram me into the wall (which was so fast that it bent my wrist funny and now my arm is sore).  That was a little frightening because he's so dang strong.  He's like the pitbull of horses.  Oh, so his breed is 3/4 Lipizzan and 1/4 Quarter Horse.  I can really see the Quarter Horse in him but his color and his face look very Lipizzan.

Yesterday I just felt like I was in shock and while I hung out with him I wondered if I would say yes I was going to keep him after the month trial is up.  But I had moments of seeing how sweet he could be and moments of thinking I really like him.  Today I felt a little more akin to him and he recognized me so that helped too.  The thing is, I would feel this way with *any* new horse.  I'm a little nervous because I don't know what to watch out for from him so I'm watching out for everything.  Yesterday I was too timid with him and today I was apparently too harsh with him because I still only have a few years of horse handling experience and it has been with a limited number of horses and I just don't know what to watch for yet for safety with new horses.

My friends have all decided I'm keeping him because they all adore him.  And honestly, unless the vet check turns up some secret, heinous disease we're unaware of I realize I've already decided I'm keeping him.  I realized after I turned in my check for barn board that I paid January's board too without even taking into account this is supposed to be a "month trial". I think I decided before we were even back from Gig Harbor with him that despite my apprehensions he is my horse now.  I wouldn't have taken him at all if I hadn't decided that. It just helps my commitment-phobe self to have the illusion of a "month trial".   I also noticed that when my friend, M. was admiring him and said she's trade her purebred Lipizzan Favi for him I said "No!" before I even fully heard what she said.  I know she was kidding my gut reaction was still "No, he's mine!" He is really pretty.  And really sweet.  And like a big, snuggly grey teddy bear.  His old owners sent him with a thin, completely not-waterproof sheet which is not going to keep him warm on these cold nights so I think I'm going to go shop for a good blanket for him now.  You know, cause that's what you do when you have a horse for a month trial is buy him lots of stuff ...



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Babarshop Paradox

Apparently barbars were a big deal in the math world at some point because not only do we have the the barbarshop paradox but we also have the barbar paradox.   A bigger mystery than either of those paradoxes is the fact that the math world likes barbars so much.  I was talking to my husband about the barbar paradox yesterday on the commute home from work and I asked why the barbar himself couldn't just be the third set in the universe and my husband said "Because the universe only has two sets" and I said, "No, obviously the universe has three sets," and my husband said, "No, the universe can only have two sets," and I said, "Well, then the universe has two sets and one quantum set on a microscopic level," to which my husband said, "You're either totally over-thinking this or just not following the rules like you're supposed to!"  Which then got me thinking about math and how it explains the natural world like in physics (which I really know nothing about btw) and how it is -as shown by these paradoxes - either that math is a 2-dimensional attempt to explain a 3-dimensional world, which will never work, or math can completely explain it but by putting man-made rules into math, it has imposed a limit on the ability for proper explanation.  Regardless, it woke up a long ago forgotten memory of being a kid in school and first learning about "sets" and thinking that was the coolest thing in the world.  I really need to go back and revisit all the math I've forgotten over the years.

Anyhoo, I am over my nasty illness (although with great timing my back seized up at work yesterday which has never happened in my life and now I know why people hate it so much) so I'm kind of shuffling a little today because it is still stiff and sore.  I guess I should be thankful that I've heard of that happening to so many people my whole adult life and it never happened to me until my mid-40's.

Since I was so sick over the weekend I did not get to go back down to Gig Harbor to visit the Lipizzan I have been interested in.  The owner really wanted him to go so she didn't have to pay board on a horse they're not using for this month so offered him to me for a super low price.  But I can't just buy a horse with no pre-purchase exam and only meeting him once, so we came up with a solution that I will take him for December as a trial run starting tomorrow.  I'm pretty excited.  Ok, I'm wake up at 4am planning and daydreaming in my head excited!

Despite that I have started off weird at my new job getting sick right before my second day it still seems to be going ok when I'm actually there working.  It's a challenge to learn some new systems but I'm really enjoying it.  I was watching one of those inspirational videos that get forwarded around talking about don't bother doing anything for a vocation that isn't your passion or you're just wasting your life.  They showed lots of skydiving and artists and even horse trainers and mentioned poets and musicians, etc.  They did say "everyone wants to do something so everything will be covered".  And I realized that what I want to do for a living in accounting.  My passions are animals, horses and writing (fiction) but those are my vocational passions.  I love to write but I don't want to deal at all with the literary world.  And I love animals but I don't want to deal with the humans that come with working with animals (like being a trainer).  As Buck Brannamans said "I'm helping horses with people problems."  I don't want to do that.  It keeps coming back to this: for my vocation I like working with numbers, systems and puzzles.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  And it pays better than training dogs.  I just wish those inspirational videos would show some of the less "cool" jobs like accounting and engineers and architects and lawyers because I'm starting to realize those are not "jobs we do because we couldn't make it as "something exciting and cool" they are vocations that many of us are called to even if we do have other passions.

Speaking of my passion for writing, I am happy to say that despite being sick I did get some fiction writing while lying in bed.  Not as much as I'd have liked because I felt too sick to do much of anything for a couple days, but I got some written.  And the story is starting to really flow which is always fun because when I'm working on a novel the story is usually just as much a surprise to me as it unfolds as it would be to the reader.  This particular story is geared toward a range of ages from pre-teen to adult so I've had to be careful and watch my language and some of the darkness that comes out in my writing.   I just need to go back and edit when it's all done and remove any demons or serial killers who try to sneak in!  Ok, there aren't any of those.  One of the characters does have a psychotic illness but she is not that rare dangerous breed of psychotic, she is struggling with it but it isn't dangerous to anyone except maybe herself because it is very upsetting and painful for her.  And I'm also trying to portray the "villians" as being more human than I usually do.  Ok, it's definitely true because my villians are usually demons or succubi or psychopaths or the anti-christ or something just all out bad.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Recovering

First I will write about a happy thing from this last week.  On Wednesday my new friend, Ry Wardell came to meet me at the barn and very patiently waited for me to finish my lesson that went longer than we'd meant for it to.  We went for Indian food and my motivation was talk about the documentary Horsepower that he is directing.  I've wanted for years to make a documentary about horse rescues and now some new friends are and I really want to help in any way I can! As it is we ended up talking a lot more about life in general and he got me talking to much about myself and my fiction writing which I didn't mean to (I think I'm kind of boring except to me of course - to me I'm fascinating!).  In all it was very fun and I hope that he will take me up on my offer to do grunt work during some shootings.  I'm also trying to get the word out that they are halfway to their goal of raising money to fund the trip across the country to finish filming and they need more donations.  The donations aren't tax deductible unfortunately, but that shouldn't stop you from contributing to a great artistic cause - and a cause that will help educate people on humane treatment of horses - which is very much needed in our world.

In fact, it goes beyond humane treatment of horses - our world also needs to re-learn how to connect with and respect nature not only in the animal world but in the human world to.  We have gone so far away from what is good for us and what is "natural" - including plastics everywhere, our many easily accessed and cheap toxic food options, pollution, unsustainable lifestyles, not connecting on a community level with our friends and neighbors.  I could go on.   This was also a big issue I was excited to learn that Ry is very concerned about too.

And I can't leave out the mishap that was up there with probably the second worst social faux-paus with a new friend since 1992 when I went over the Mikky's house for a first date and as we were walking out his back door I slipped on the steps and slid down and ended up lying on my back in the mud.  This one was just about as good (except thankfully we weren't on a date!)  I was cutting some Tandori chicken off the bone and it was very tough.  I had my plate filled from the buffet and wasn't paying attention that my plate was a bit close to the edge of the table. Next thing I knew the plate flipped over right into my lap.  Aaaargh!  Ry's response was a calm, "So, what's the damage?" and I said, "It all ended up in the napkin. Thank goodness I was taught manners ..." and plopped it all back onto the plate and pushed it aside.

On a less happy note, I'd been hearing about a nasty stomach bug going around and had worried we'd catch it while on vacation (it was going around down there too).  Luckily, we did not come down with it while we were there but it hit me like an anvil on Thursday night.  The night before my second day of work - aaargh!  It's hard to say who I caught it from.  The little girl I babysit three days a week after school had it, but also I'm pretty sure Trainer K. had it on Wednesday.  She said her head hurt horribly when I got to the barn and I asked if she was ok to do a lesson and she said she'd power through.  She did ok during the lesson except she seemed very tired and deflated.  After the lesson she disappeared toward the restroom and then when I was leading Maiden out of the arena Trainer K. was walking past the arena door with her eyes closed and her head in her hands and Maiden almost walked right over.  I squealed and stopped Maiden and Trainer K. looked up said, "I'm sorry, I didn't see you," and I said, "Your eyes were closed," and she said, "They were?"  I'm glad she went home and went to bed.

So Thursday I was getting ready for bed and I started shaking.  I already hurt all over but honestly, with Rheumatoid Arthritis there are plenty of days when I'm healthy where I hurt all over.  But when the shaking started the pain was getting progressively worse.  And the shaking was pretty weird adn alarming. By the time I got into my pj's I was shaking so hard and was so weak I had to lie down.  My husband passed by on his way to get into his pj's and I muttered, "I'm sick," and he said, "Can you elaborate?" and I just said, "I'm shaking and I'm sick." That was probably the most disturbing part was that I was shaking all over to the point my teeth were chattering.  Then I started to get nauseous. Then I got the chills from the fever.  I was too weak to get to the bathroom so my husband had to bring me a bucket.  Finally I couldn't stand the shaking and pain anymore so I asked him to get some anti-nausea medication left over from my daughter's tonsilectomy so I could take some tylenol and know I'd keep it down.  Right after the anti-nausea medication I started dry-heaving then felt so weak I fell asleep for a couple hours.  When I woke up I wasn't as nauseous but I felt like I'd been run over by a truck so had to wake my poor husband up to get me the tylenol because I literally could not drag myself out of bed.  By morning I felt better but still had a 101.4 fever.  So I felt justified in not going in to my second day of work.  I tried to sleep all morning but never did because even though I wasn't shaking anymore everything hurt too much to sleep.

I was worried at first because the awful woman I worked for over the summer would've had the response, "This really doesn't work for me.  What are you going to do about it?" or else she would've waited until I was well and chastised me for my poor attendance and what was I going to do about it?  I feel like now I should've had replies like "What am I going to do about it? I'm going to get someone to drive me in and then I'm going to lick all your doorknobs." (ok - that was actually my husband's idea). Luckily, my new job they said they were sorry to hear it and I could come in Monday to make up hours and could I do a couple things that were due remotely.   I'm a little concerned because the learning curve of the new databases is so high but I like the job so far and I like the challenge and I like my new co-workers so fingers crossed I can learn this stuff quickly enough and it will work out.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

All the pretty horses ...

From the emails I've been getting from Toad's new Little Mama, she is adjusting well.  Her Little Mama absolutely loves her and it sounds like they are getting along well.  Some of the things she tells me confirms to me that Toad misses me and that makes my heart hurt, but as she bounds with her new Little Mama she will gradually not forget about me, but feel that bond and safe with her and not feel sad about me being gone.  From what I understand though if I show up to visit her she should remember me.  I hope I can go visit her sometime.   Her new owner has been riding her and said she's thrilled at how well she responds to light aids and is sensitive and responsive which speaks highly of all the work Trainer K. did with her.  We pulled out the Christmas decorations yesterday and I found Toad's Christmas stocking in one of the boxes which made me tear up a little.  I'll send it to Virginia in the next couple days. 

I've been looking at horses for sale and am feeling a lot of confusing lack of commitment toward all of them.   I road Maiden yesterday in a lesson and just handling and riding her I really like her.  She is very sweet but also has a mind of her own and tries to see what she can get away with.  But not in a dangerous way, just in a big, solid, stubborn horse way.  For some reason I really like her personality though.  Plus, she's beautiful.  She's white with cow spots and no one knows for sure what breed she is but assumptions are Quarter Horse.  But she's a little too big for me apparently - she's tall and very solid and wide so my legs don't fall in the best place for riding dressage.  She's not quite as tall as Toad (Toad is 16.1 hh's and Maiden is probably 15.3, 16 hh's) but Toad was so narrow my legs fell in a better place on her for dressage.  

We're going to see Alberto again on Saturday (assuming I can stay healthy - the nasty stomach bug of the year is all over the place and the girl I was babysitting came down with it on Tuesday so we'll see if we can ward it off in our house or not).   He is a much better size for me and Lipizzan so he is built to do dressage.  And he was very nice to ride.  But I have concerns about his personality and his ground manners.  He's just not a gentle, polite guy and I know he can be taught to be polite, but I really like that naturally gentle personality that Girlfriend, Toad have  - and Maiden has too.  That's why I'm going to see him again.  I liked him under saddle but need to spend a little more time with him on the ground.  When we saw him the first time the trainer who is selling him did all the ground work and I really want to work with him on the ground - lead him, groom him, pick up his feet, etc. before I make a decision.  That's where I really get an idea what our chemistry is.  I know to a lot of horse people that sounds weird.  I know many people who feel like their whole experience with a horse is just riding and they'd rather someone did the ground work, but for some reason I feel like I get to know the horse better if I work with them on the ground and if I don't then riding them is like hopping on the back of a total stranger.

I've looked at a lot of other horses online and none of them have managed to intrigue me enough to go out and look at them.  I've encountered some folks that really offended me because they have tried to hide their horse's injuries or chronic problems and it was obvious they were just trying to unload their horse on someone without disclosing what they're getting into.   One woman after many emails back and forth when I asked about previous injuries over and over again finally disclosed that their horse had had surgery one one leg but they hadn't known about it before they bought her.  I asked what kind of surgery and the woman dodged it in email until I asked her straight out saying I wasn't going to come see the horse unless she answered my question and she finally said the poor horse had metal and pins in her leg.  If she'd told me that up front I would've seen the horse and had my vet assess the issue, but the way this woman tried to hide it made me think it unfortunately was a big problem for soundness.  That pisses me off.  How can people have horses for years and then just try to dump them off on other people when they start having problems and lie to people to try to unload them? They're not cars for god's sake! And you shouldn't do that with cars either, but it is far more heartless when it is a living creature with feelings.

Speaking of problems, my Subaru with the busted transmission is currently in the shop getting fixed.  We were going to trade it in for a new car but when I looked up the trade-in value (minus the $2.5k toward the new transmission that theyd' take off the trade-in price) it was not financially the best decision.  We probably could've sold it to someone without disclosing the transmission issue because it ran fine and if we kept the fluid levels up right before the drive they'd never know.  But I could not live with myself if I did that.  I don't understand why other people don't have that "I just don't want to be an asshole" part of them.  So many people just don't care if they're assholes.  Where does that come from? It's really sad.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving

I can't believe we've been in New Orleans a week and we're already going home tomorrow.  I am looking forward to seeing all our pets and getting back to the barn and the horses but I also will miss not getting to spend more time with all my in-laws.  We haven't seen my parent-in-laws yet though which has actually probably helped.  They are the only in-laws who don't particularly like me.  I don't actually know the extent of their not liking me and in fact I think my father-in-law probably likes me just fine.  And my mother-in-law doesn't really like anyone - especially not some chubby, tattooed Yankee with no fancy college degree who can't seem to lie and make nice when bullshit is flying around.  Oh well.  I'm sure it irks her to no end that despite my rich-white parents I come from a long line of rednecks (wonderful rednecks but still - Montana homesteaders on mom's side and poor immigrants on dad's side) and then there's that side of the family who are =gasp= terrorists!!! (or as we realistically know them:  Arab.  Well educated, much nicer than my parents-in-law but still ... Arab).  But then we are talking about people who still believe that any day Obama is going to reveal his ties to Al-Queda and they know for a fact his birth certificate is fake and he was born in Kenya and is line with Bin Laden's followers (because of course Kenya and Bin Laden have such deep ties ...????)  Anyway, the rest of my in-laws are great and my nephew is now three years old so it's fun to be able to really get to know him now that he can really talk and express himself. 

Yesterday I dragged my poor husband down to the French Quarter so that we could get a souvenier for my daughter and that is the best place to get souveniers in New Orleans.  He doesn't have a problem with the French Quarter, but we got there late in the afternoon and stuck around until dark which he found very annoying.  Our daughter was annoyed too because her feet hurt and she was hungry, but then we literally almost walked into a hot dog cart and bought her a giant hot dog and suddenly the French Quarter after dark was fun again for her.  I could see how it might be fun even if you're not drinking.  It reminded me of an entire neighborhood that resembled some of the dance clubs (like Neighbors) I used to go to with my friends in the late 1980's/early 90's.  We did succeed with the neat souveniers - a beautiful, hand-made voodoo doll made by a local artist (who never makes the same doll twice) and a catnip filled voodoo doll for the cats.

I got it into my head I wanted a tarot reading so my family were really good sports and went and wandered around the quarter while hung out at one of the local tourist voodoo shops for about an hour waiting my turn.  It was a small shop so after looking around at everything and checking my email on my phone and I wandered over to the retail desk and started chatting with the woman working.  At first she was polite and not really engaged but somehow it came up I missed the horses back home and she said she used to be a carriage driver in the quarter and started telling me about her mule she was assigned to and learning to drive and how attached all the drivers get to their mules.  It was really cool to hear how previously non-horse people learned the joy of connecting with an equine partner.

She also told me about the dark side of being a carriage driver in the Quarter - which is not what you'd think.  The company that trains and keeps the mules is very good to them. They follow strict regulations so that mules do not get over-worked, especially in the summer when it's really hot out.  They are very careful to make sure they are not lame, or dehydrated or malnourished and they have local vets consulting with them on how to keep them the healthiest and happiest.  They have limited shifts each mule is allowed to work per day and they are only allowed to work five days a week maximum and they are checked every day to make sure there is no strain on them and if there is even the smallest strain in their back or legs they take the day off.  The lady I was talking to said the drivers were just as conscientious and the trainers because nobody wanted to have to use a different  mule than their own because they had all developed a rapport and the mules were their partners and it was ideal to work with your partner you knew and who knew you and knew what the noises you make meant and what the slightest movement of the reins or tap/tickle with the lunge whip meant.

The dark side, she said, was that without fail she always passed some - as she put it - "ignorant person from the towns" who didn't know what they were talking about and would scream profanities at her about how she was a "slave driver" and "animal abuser" and one woman even threw her drink up onto the carriage at her screaming "Animal abusing bitch!" at her.  She said it usually happened when her mule would decide it wanted to go a different direction or not stop at a stop sign (remember - this is on streets with lots of drunk people stumbling around and cars driving on the same streets) so she'd crack the reins above his back (without actually hitting him) because he'd know that sound was a correction and know to focus his attention back on her.  She also said if they were really bad they'd throw the lunge whip down to tap their belly to get their attention (and when she says tap I know what she's talking about - it's like when we tap the back of the horse's hind leg with a lunge whip - it literally does mean "tap").  As she said "Because if you don't correct them and let them take the lead you're dead! You need to make sure they know you are their leader because these are giant animals and they need to know you are leading.  You don't just let them do their own thing - especially not in a crowd of drunk people!"  She said horse people never flipped out on her, it was always people who are ignorant.  And I've seen the same thing.  People tell me I'm evil because I sometime carry a dressage whip when riding (my trainer doesn't let me much though because she says my hands are quiet enough yet and she doesn't want me spooking the horses with the dressage whip flying in their peripheral vision).  They have no clue that we don't *whip* horses with dressage whips (and when people do they are abusing their horse) just like we don't *whip* them with the lunge whip.  They are tools for training - basically an extension of our arms.  If we aren't going to beat the horse with our hands, we're not going to beat them with our whips.  But I will tell you - if a horse is about to rear and strike out at me, I'll whack them on the chest with a dressage whip as I'm getting out the way to let them know that's not ok.  Trying to kill me is not ok.

It was nice to hear the story from behind the scenes of how the mules are treated because I see them around the Quarter and they look healthy and happy but you just don't really know until someone tells you what really goes on.  I wish people who wasted their anger screaming at people who are advocates for animals would get some education and put that passion in advocating for animals who are actually abused.  It always blows my mind when people think I'm mean to get up on a horse and ride her and don't even pay attention that I volunteer for horse rescues and just spent 15 months of my life and thousands of dollars to rehabilitate Toadie.  I guess it's easier to just spout off about ill-perceived injustice than actually get educated and involved and make a real difference.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving I wonder if I can write down everything I'm thankful for?  My family of course, our financial security right now which is a huge blessing in this economy, my wonderful friends, all the horses and animals in my life who teach me so much, this great new opportunity for a new job that starts on Monday, just my life in general.  I'm very lucky to have so much love and happiness in my life.  I hope that I'm able to share some of it with others - I'm trying to at least.

What are you thankful for today?

This is a photo of Jacob, one of the tarot readers at Yesteryear's on Bourbon St.  Definitely stop in and give him a visit when you're in New Orleans.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

N'awlins

We're down in New Orleans for our annual week visiting my in-laws.  It would be a lot more fun if the tiny neurotic section of my brain would stop tap dancing in the corner of my mind coming up with all sorts of things to be anxious about.  My arthritis has been kept fairly well at bay despite that I haven't been taking my medication (the warm, humid air is very good for that) but alas I still have my little dancing neurosis trying to give me anxiety attacks about "what if's".  After many years of learning to live with my brain I've gotten to the point where I can still go out and do stuff and have fun, it's more of just a mental sliver that I can learn to ignore but is always there and is more prominent when I'm quiet and not distracted.

Otherwise, it's been a nice visit with the in-laws and as always nice to visit the South.  Metairie (where we're staying) is definitely not the most beautiful city by far, but dang if the deli at Whole Foods isn't the best grocery store deli in the world! And of course the restaurants all have everything shrimp/crab/debris/cayenne pepper everything.  And of course the holy trinity: onions, celery, peppers.  I love the accents too.  It's nice to have the sun out every day too and be 70 degrees in November.

I would be perfectly happy to live here if we lived on the Northshore (the area on the other side of Lake Pontchatrain) because it's a lot more rural.  Mandeville is directly across the lake right on the water and is this amazing, bucolic little suburb.  Covington is farm town and Folsom is the "horse capital" of Louisiana.  Although, despite that there is a big stable in downtown New Orleans right next to Audubon Park and you can often see the kids out riding their horses along the levee of the Mississippi.  And even a couple teenagers rode their horses over to the Po-Boy Festival last Sunday and tied them to a chain link fence across the street from the police horse trailer.  It's a very different city than Seattle. 

Our hotel is right on the lake and a bunch of kids are here for some sort of international sailing race so it's cute to see all the little kids in the restaurant in the morning.  They've been asking Emma June if she's here for the races which I fear has peaked her interest in sailing.  I don't know if that's a hobby I will ever be able to pull off because I do have a tendency to get sea sick in rocky enough water (not in a kayak or on a ferry but I don't know if I could handle a sail boat).

I'm missing all our pets and missing being outside the city but it's ok for a week.  I'm not sleeping that well though because you can hear everyone in the hall and above us like they are right there (which we are) and it's hard for my body to relax and go to sleep with so many people around.  We're in a different hotel which I don't like as much because it's really only one room with french doors separating the two sections and it doesn't feel like it has any privacy and it's hard living in a room with no kitchen for a week.  It's also expensive! Thank goodness I'm coming back to a job that I start next week! 

This new job I have sounds like it's going to be great.  It's the complete opposite of what I'm used to which is going in and having an accounting system partially set up - or none at all (which is better) and having to fumble through and try to set everything up.  In this job there is actually a calendar of duties, updated procedure manuals and people right in the office to help me learn how to navigate the new databases I'll be working with.  I've had a couple virtual trainings while we've been on vacation and I couldn't help but tell the girl who's leaving that I was thrilled by how much support I have with training and it felt so unusual and luxurious.  And the biggest irony is it is the type of job - downtown, full days, accounting - that I had originally said I wasn't going to do any more.  Years ago someone told me to never limit my options because I might miss out on the best possible one, and I have found she was right a few times.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The simple pleasures

My husband spent way too much time looking for super-fancy noise reductions headphones and then ordered three of them (two magenta - one for my daughter and one for me and a black pair for himself).  Well, they just got delivered and I'm liking them way more than I probably should.  For one thing they make iTunes sound great! But even bigger plus - you can't hear yourself singing when they're on! w00t! Big bonus when you can't hold a tune!

Toadie is officially on her way to Virginia as we speak.  I thought I would be way more depressed but after an enormous bout of crying yesterday (all the way up Hwy 522 to the vet clinic in Monroe to pick up her health certificate and negative coggins test paperwork) I feel very at peace with the whole thing.  I am now feeling very excited for KM in Virginia who is going to be her new mom.  I felt a lot better after I saw the truck she being transported in and met the guys who are driving/handling her during the trip.  She has a full stall on the truck (which is actually a big-rig semi) and regular water buckets and feed and she has a friend she can talk to in the stall next to her.  It's kind of like a horse-party-bus.

Her handlers are really nice guys who immediately put me and her at ease.  I brought her out of the barn and it was already after dark and there wasn't just a new truck in the driveway but a semi with it's huge lights and she took one look at it and tried to spin around past me to go the other way.  But I was anticipating that and was able to push her back next to me and help her get collected.  We walked slowly over to the truck and the main handler walked over to her and said very quietly, "Hey, Buddy, you're ok.  Let's be pals." Then just stood and pet her and talked soothingly to her and when she started to relax said, "There you go.  See, it'll all be good.  I'm your friend now."  Then he walked her up to the ramp and just let her stand for a couple minutes and sniff things and look around.  Then she walked right up the ramp and into her stall.

She was a little ancy in her stall but once I came on board to talk to her she calmed down a little.  The drivers kept saying, "Watch her back end - she's nervous you know, don't get kicked!"  I don't think they realized I was her owner.  I had her turn around so she was facing me (because I'm not suicidal - I knew not to squish into that small space with her when she was that anxious) and had my daughter come on board to say good-bye.  When she saw my daughter Toadie lowered her head so my daughter could hug her head (which made the cowboy driver mutter, "Aaaah ... now wouldya look at that!").  Then they left.  My daughter cried most of the way home but seemed to feel better once we got to the store to get take-out for dinner.  I know Toad is going to be so happy.  I kind of wish I was on a party-bus to a resort in Virginia myself.

I told the handlers to be careful feeding and watering her because when she's anxious she can be really defensive with her back end.  One of them said, "So, she's kicked before?" and I said, "She's kicked ME before.  Yes, if she's feeling threatened or scared she will kick."  Which seemed to surprise them a little.  I'm sure they have dealt with all sorts of horses and they both seemed unfazed by that information, just a little surprised. It reminded me again that much is Toad is a wonderful, good girl who has come along ways, she is not your typical lesson/family horse and a lot of people have probably not learned as much in a lifetime of hacking around with lesson and family-friendly horses as I have just in the past 15 months of owning a horse like her.  I am incredibly grateful for that experience! And for Trainer K. helping me with it.   A lot of my friends at the barn told me that yesterday to comfort me when I was feeling sad about her leaving - "Just think about the amazing education you've gotten with her over this last year!"

By pure coincidence when I was up at my vet's clinic and I had to use the bathroom (which always happens to me on long drives!) so I had to walk through the barn where they keep their long-term patients, I passed a really pretty paint mare.  I stopped to say hi to all of the horses and when I got to her I saw she was a S.A.F.E. horse.  She was very pretty and very sweet so when I got home I looked her up.  She's not a Lipizzan but I think I should get more information on her and consider her.  I was thinking of just getting a Lipizzan because I really like their look, size and temperaments.  But there was something about her that made me want to get to know her a little more.

Went for a job interview in downtown Seattle today.  I know, I swore I would never work downtown again.  But I really liked the people at this office so I'm crossing my fingers.  Although, honestly, I had to take an accounting test and I feel like I really flubbed it - I've been using Quickbooks the last few years and have really let me actual critical thinking accounting skills lapse so I need to re-visit those in one of my accounting textbooks.  So, it would be nice if I got the job but I don't have very high hopes.  I'm glad we're going on vacation on Friday so I don't have to think about job hunting for a week!


A couple photos - the enormous truck that Toad went a-riding in, and uncharacteristically an actual photo of me saying good-bye to Toad in the barn.




Monday, November 12, 2012

Hmmm ...

I have not been feeling well the last three days and it's starting to really irritate me.  I'm not sick I don't think, just not feeling well.  I just feel kind of "poisoned".  My stomach is slightly upset, my back hurts a lot and I have a splitting headache.  Kind of like a migraine that just keeps going and going day after day ... it's very annoying.  I'm taking enormous amounts of naproxen alternating with tylenol and it's only helping enough to keep me kind of functioning.  Grrr ... I hope it passes soon!  It came on coincidentally a few hours after taking my methotrexate on Thursday night.  I'm not doing that again.  I think there is a connection.

Now that I've complained I have to say there is A LOT going on this week.  Toad is leaving for Virginia tomorrow and I have to get her extra blankets and bridle and everything all packed up.  I am freaking out of course!  I'm hoping she'll be ok on the road, I'm hoping she'll be happy at her new home.  I'm hoping she won't be a nightmare when she gets off the trailer after three days and is totally freaked out.  I'm hoping her new owners will understand if she's temporarily a nightmare if she's super freaked out.

The reality is I don't think she will be.  In the last few months I've really seen evidence of a strong, brave horse poking through that untrusting, lost, little Thoroughbred I bought in 2011.  A couple days ago there was a new horse trailered in so the owner could use our arena and take a lesson with Trainer JD and that was all sorts of exciting for Toad while she was out eating grass outside with me.  Then Trainer K.'s horse (who was in the front paddock by us - he's a big, silly Warmblood) decided he needed to convince either Toad or the trailered in horse that they should play with him, so he started galloping in circles in his paddock and screaming and kicking his legs straight up in the air.  This of course made Toad jump and scoot, but after I got her attention she was very good.  She was quivering all over like she wanted to explode and run and buck right along with Trainer K.'s horse, but she held it together somehow while we walked back into the barn.  Unfortunately, I regressed a little because when Trainer K. said it wasn't a good time to try and walk Toad it flew out of my mouth, "Your horse started it!"  Yes, I am seven years old at heart apparently.  M. consoled me that it was understandable that after over a year of my horse being the crazy one having a moment where my horse wasn't the most crazy of the bunch was obviously going to be something I would want to point out!

I've been very sad on and off but also I know in my heart this is the right thing for everyone and Toad will be much happier.

I've been looking at Lipizzans for sale and most are out of my price range.  But today I feel so overwhelmed about Toad leaving I just can't handle any more stress like thinking about a new horse.  I'm kind of dreading that period of needing to work to build that bond again with a new horse and going through all the adjustments of getting to know each other again.  And it will be good for me financially to not have horse bills for a few weeks at least.

I feel like I'm sending my baby off to college (not looking forward to that in ten years!!!).  I know it's best for her but it is really hard to say good-bye!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Adjustment disorder ...

There's been an awful lot of stuff going on the last week.  Last week I got a call from a little girl (ok, she's 16 years old but in my world that is still a little girl) who was interested in buying Tuff Toad.  She lives in Virginia and when I answered the phone she had the quietest, shyest little voice and I at first thought, "No way - she'll never be able to handle a young horse like Toad." But the more we talked the more it sounds like she's the perfect person for Toad.  She wants a horse to do jumping with and maybe some eventing.  She's a teenager so she has a lot of energy and will no doubt keep Toad working a lot more than I am able to.  It was a very difficult decision because Toad is such a great horse now, but I've been feeling for a couple months now that Toad really wants more than what I have to offer.  I can offer her being a pet and doing some low level local schooling shows.  But she wants room to run (we don't have any pastures big enough for her to really run and no track or any place for her to run under saddle) and she wants to go out and compete.  She has the drive and temperament to make a great competition horse.  So, that's where she is headed.

I am so incredibly proud of how well she's done over the past 15 months that I've had her.  It made me feel very good to have my vet say "You did a great job with her. You have really done right by her."  Especially because my vet is so heavily involved in horse advocacy and rescue, it was nice to have my efforts recognized.

Yesterday a vet we'd never met before from Pilchuck came out to do the pre-purchase exam for the girl in Virginia.  I was a little worried because we'd never done any flexion tests with Toad and I didn't know how well she'd do for that.  Flexion tests involve the horse standing still in the arena while a vet manually bends their leg and holds it in that position for a period of time, then they drop the leg and as soon as they do you have to run up and down the arena with them in hand.  Well, two things - I wasn't sure how Toad would handle standing still while someone held onto her bent leg for a few minutes, and I'd never run in-hand with her so I was hoping I wouldn't get killed (that means running with her running next to me).  A lot of factors made me nervous about this - the fact that 15 months ago you couldn't do *anything* with her back legs because she was so defensive and dangerous about her hind end.  And that when I first got her the minute she walked in the arena she'd start jumping around and rearing and trying to run away.  Granted I knew she is now a totally different horse - we just hadn't tried doing these things together yet.

Well, in true Toad form she was perfect for the test.  She stood completely still and relaxed while the vet flexed and held her legs (even her back legs!) and the first time we ran in-hand back and forth down the arena she looked at me sideways like "What're we doing, Mom? Are we racing? Playing? Working? How should I react to this?"  By the fourth time we ran in-hand up and down the arena she was all relaxed and knew exactly what she should be doing.  The vet loved her! She said Toad is in great shape and that she is a very sweet and impressive horse.  I have to admit that I had a moment today where I was singing the old Pearl Jam song "Black" to myself, "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life ... I know you'll be a star ... in somebody else's sky but why oh why can't it be mine???"  But the reality is I'm never going to be an eventer and I'm old and creaky and tired and Toad deserves a young, energetic kid to take her as far as she can go in life.

Trainer K and I went to visit a Lipizzan/Quarter horse mix yesterday down in Gig Harbor.  That cheered me up a little bit.  He was a sweet horse with an amazing temperament under saddle.  Seriously, he was like an old schoolhorse packer under saddle and he's still green and only 6 years old.  He is big and super strong and solid and the opposite of Toad in his build but he's kind of goofy and friendly and sweet like Toad.  My daughter immediately took one look at him and said, "He's definitely the next Toadie!"  Then he tried to eat her hair.   We'll see.  I don't have any time to see him again in the next two weeks and he might sell before then so he may not be for me.  But if he doesn't sell by the time we're available to go all the way down there again I will spend more time with him and then decide if I'm going to make an offer.

On a completely different note this is currently my favorite song and I love the video too because it reminds me of my life in the mid-1980's.  It reminds me of old friends like Tina, Hayden, Hayden's best friend, Erik (whatever happened to him?) and Joey Kline, Arne, Jason, etc. etc.  It reminds me of bedrooms in hundred year old houses with Christmas lights and hanging dried roses and draping scarves over the window and old guitars and vintage clothes and walking around the Ave. in bare feet.  There's nowhere in Seattle like that any more because times change and city's change.  But it makes me happy to see people who look exactly the same way twenty five years later.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Devils, witches and horses

Halloween is a time of good memories for me and my daughter loves the holiday so I try to make it as memorable for her as I can.  But this year with the stress of job hunting and just not having the mental or physical bandwidth I didn't host our annual trick-or-treating pre-funk like I have the last couple years.  Luckily, it still worked out just fine with her friends gathering at our house beforehand and hitting the neighborhood en masse.  We live in a strange little area with three small cul-de-sacs with houses surrounded by nothing really - a big park, a school, farms and lots of protected wetlands.  So it's pretty limited where we can take the kids trick-or-treating unless we want to walk quite a ways to another small cul-de-sac development (which is nice for us adults not to go too far). 

It always turns into a big party for about an hour or so with parents (usually also in costumes) gathering in the street (sometimes carrying their drinks with them) to hang out while the kids run door to door and running into their friends even if they hadn't planned to meet them.  This year a lot of the houses went all out and made themselves full-on haunted houses.  That is fun.  And of course the kids go all Lord of the Flies and without parental over sight would probably barge into all the houses and raid their cupboards while they're at it.  Geez.  That is not quite as fun trying to rein them in.

Trainer K. is out of town for a few days so I will be working Toadie on my own during that time.  Not like she's been able to do much work until her neck is completely healed up from her muscle tears.  We're just lunging her with a halter over her bridle so as not to make her have to turn.  A few days ago I started icing her neck where she has the worst knots and that seems to be helping a lot.  I thought I wouldn't like doing it, but it actually turning out to be relaxing for both of us.  At first Toad was not happy about having ice on either side of her neck but now I think she realizes it makes he feel better.  I get two packs of frozen peas and wrap them in a towel (to save my own hands) and hold them on either side of her neck with my arms wrapped under her neck for fifteen minutes.  She's so tall I have to stand on a stool to easily reach up on her neck.  Now that she's used to it, she'll drop her head and let is rest on my arm so her neck is in the perfect place for me to lean my head over and rest it on her neck.  Then she lets out a huge sigh and we just hang out there for a bit until she gets restless and tosses her head.  Then she tosses her head for a couple minutes and we go back to our resting position.

Here are a couple photos from the most impressive of houses last night.  One was a creepy second story window that was very subtle but creepy when you noticed it.  The other is my friend, Jonathan dressed as the grim reaper fighting a grandpa on stilts.




Saturday, October 27, 2012

Freakishly disturbing dream

I had the most freakishly disturbing dream right before waking up this morning.  I was at a house that was familiar in the dream but not in waking life.  Something happened and my friend, Greg (from a long, long time ago) got killed by something - it never became part of the plot what it was.  But his face was mangled to the point of unrecognizable and someone told me not to look because of that because they wanted me to remember him as he was before he died.  So, I was supposed to stay in another part of the house (which now looked like my old elementary school) and my mom said she was taking care of the body so just to stay where I was so I wouldn't see it.  Then they told me they would have to store the body at our house for three days until someone picked it up but they weren't going to tell me where because they didn't want me to go look at it.  I asked if they could just tell me so I wouldn't accidentally stumble across it, that would be great.  Then it switched to they were leaving his body in a box out by the road so as long as I just didn't go out by the road I'd be fine.  Then I was looking out the window of the house I grew up in down a long driveway at a white casket sitting next to the road (sidenote: when my close friend Todd died he was buried in a white casket). 

Apparently, it took that long for the horror of a dead body being in the house to wane just enough for me to be hit by the grief that my friend, Greg had just died.  And suddenly it was my responsibility to track down his mom and tell her and tell his fiance - who I also did not know how to reach.  Just then I looked up (my house was back to being my elementary school) and my old friend, Todd (the one who died in 1995) was walking out of a door and down the hall.  It took me a moment to recognize him, then I started running after him yelling "Todd! Todd!"  He turned around for a brief moment and reached out to hug me just as I was saying, "You're not dead afterall!" and then he vanished.

Writing it down it really doesn't look like a freaky dream at all - but what was so disturbing were the feelings of revulsion about having to live in a house with a dead body hidden somewhere and then the overwhelming feelings of grief.  I haven't thought about Todd's death in a long time but apparently it still has some effect on my subconscious.

In other happier news, my horse seems to be feeling much more back to normal physically.  She's was a complete lunatic on the lunge line for the first fifteen minutes.  Every little noise that she heard (which wasn't anything different from normal slams and bangs around the barn) seemed to be an excuse to her to try to break free of the lunge line and go tearing and bucking around.  She finally calmed down and paid attention at the end of our work though.  And she was very good about getting her neck washed off where she had caked on mud.  She is none too happy about having the hose directed right on her neck that close to her face, but after she almost ran me over dancing around the wash rack the first time - and I had to give her a wack on the chest and firmly tell her to knock it off, she pulled it together and stood quietly.  Then she sighed and hung her head and completely relaxed when I washed her tail and back end.  I lunged her in the surcingle today to give her a little more sense of "working" even though we still aren't doing any of her actual bending or jaw softening exercises until her neck is completely healed up.  She should be back to a semi-normal horse again after a couple weeks of real work.

Friday, October 26, 2012

All I can offer is farmer chords ...

I'm listening to Death Cab for Cutie (my adopted teen, Ilana calls it part of my "teen music" collection) and I'm wondering what "farmer chords" are?  I know what "bar chords" are.  May have to consult the handy-dandy Google.   I don't know how I survived before the internet when it comes to looking up information.  Atlhough, I did love the library as a kid.  And my parents had a few different sets of Encyclopedias which were helpful.  In fact, the other day my daughter was playing on Minecraft on her iPad with her friend and I overheard her say, "Oh and look here, I added a library just for my mom so she has her own room in my house.  It has floor to ceiling shelves and they are all filled with books.  My mom will love it!"  Aaaaaaah!  So proud of her!  She also made a fairy version of me and called it "J - The Math Fairy".  =swoon=

I've started a few blog posts over the last few days and haven't finished any of them.  I've had a very bad sore throat and fatigue all week so I haven't had much motivation.  The girl I babysit has been sick this week too so I've been taking it easy the last few days trying to recover.  I always conveniently forget that the start of the school year also means back-to-back colds for awhile. Yuck.  One of the posts was about how I had a really nice memory of how whenever I was sick a a kid my dad would always bring a little present home for me after he got off work.  Something small like a little toy or a book to read or a puzzle book.  That got me really thinking a lot about memory because I had zero recollection of that until I was in the grocery story on Tuesday and it occurred to me I should get a little plant for the girl I babysit because she was sick.  Suddenly I had that memory and I immediately felt all warm and cozy.  It was very similar to the experience of having a flashback of trauma back in the day when I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, only it was a happy memory.   And of course, because I had had no recollection of it for the past thirty years I called my mom to ask her if it was real and she sighed (like it still bugged her that he would "spoil me" like that) and said yes.  Or maybe she sighed because she thought it was silly that I would ask her if it's true because it is so obviously something my dad would do.

That also got me thinking about how I was diagnosed a few years back as "not having Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome anymore" Not even from the most recent serious trauma of a serious car accident twenty years ago that put me in the trauma ward for a week with life-threatening injuries.  I have to be careful who I tell that to though because lots of people like to tell me that it is impossible to recover from PTSD and it will come back.  What a lovely thought.  Gee, thanks for making me feel like shit.  Well, I'm here to tell you that none of us will ever get to the point where we're perfectly well adjusted and we all have - and always will have - issues, but that you can recover from PTSD. So there!

Actually, I probably have a bit of mild PTSD from my last employer.  Well, not seriously, but it definitely shook my confidence a little bit.  But I seem to be coming out of it with the help of my family and friends reminding not to take on her problems as a reflection of who I am.  It also helped that while I was lying around the house watching lots of tv on Wednesday I was catching up on one of my current favorite shows, Once Upon a Time and I was amused to realize that the Evil Queen Regina looks and acts just like my old boss in the modern day versions of the story.  I think that was the kicker to help me realize that her ideas that I am an incompetent failure were just that - only her ideas.

I haven't had enough time at the barn because of this latest virus and I haven't felt up to working in the gardens like I've wanted to do before it gets too cold and any work I do is a moot point. Hopefully, I can make up on my horse time and gardening time this weekend because that's the stuff that makes me feel really fulfilled.  Well, that and my daughter.  And I'm really enjoying having her friend over every day after school while her mom works.  It fills my need for wanting more kids to be able to be a part of my daughter's friend's lives too.  I'm hoping to be that mom who kids feel comfortable coming to with their feelings, thoughts, dreams like they are with their parents.  And where their kids want to go if their parents need babysitters.  It seems to be working even though I am also the mom who reminds the boys to wear their helmets when they skateboard in the neighborhood and stuff like that.  What amazes me is that they actually do go and get their helmets after I tell them!  I always frame it as "But if you damage your head you won't be you anymore and then I'll be sad - and imagine how sad your own mom will be!"  and that seems to work.  Ok, once one of the boys said it wasn't cool to wear helmets and I said that was stupid and it wasn't cool it was just plain stupid not wear a helmet and he said you're not supposed to tell people they're stupid and I said I didn't call him stupid, I said he was acting stupid and if the shoe fits then that's that.  I'm good friends with his mom so I knew it was ok.  I wouldn't try that in our old neighborhood in Seattle though because chances are some irate dad would end up knocking on my door demanding to know why I told his precious snowflake he was acting stupid.  Anyway, the kid went back and put on his helmet.  Yay!

Another thing I've been thinking about is how I continue to amazed at how parenting is like a universal sameness with all people.  The little girl I've been babysitting was born here but her parents grew up in India in what appears when I talk to them to be a very different culture.  And they've only lived here for just over ten years. But at the same time we are so alike and their daughter acts very much like my daughter.  Our lives may have different clothes and different food (although not lately -especially since I asked the mom to bring me some blouses when she went to India over the summer and she introduced a good Indian grocery to me) but are otherwise the same.  I find it the same with my friends from Nigeria.  I'm sure I'd have culture shock going to their home town but at the same time we are so similar - the jokes we tell, the way our kids act, the way we raise them, how we view the world.  It just occurred to me the other day that I don't think - while listening to a lot of the commentary on politics during the election year especially - that a lot of people recognize just how much a like people are all over the world.  I hear a lot of "Well, you know African-American people (ie: black people - not specifically people who recently moved here from Africa) do this or that or believe this or that ..."  and "Muslims are x-y-z" and "Those people"  as though "Those" is the big adjective to mean "a group that is TOTALLY different from us".   I guess it's really sinking in not just how much the same everyone is regardlessly of the culture they live in, but also how much at least our culture considers people from other countries at THE OTHER.

 Romney supporters want a better country for their children and so do Obama supporters.  Pentacostals and Unitarians want a spiritual community and a better world for their families.  I just don't see why the common reaction is to hate the other when it's so obvious that there is no "other" beyond say criminals and psychopaths.  And even the majority of criminals are lost people with serious issues that need to be addressed but in the end are really not that different from any of us.  But this time of year and especially presidential election years we are all beseiged by media telling us how the other side or any slight difference is bad, evil, different "we don't want them here" and it's really sad.  Another proud moment I had with my daughter the other day was in a writing assignment she was supposed to write a fact about our family and her fact was "We are loving, kind and everyone is welcome."  That was awesome!