Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pentecostal Hair

My good friend who lives next door is Pentecostal which first of all is great because before I moved I vetoed a small town by Mt St Helens because "I couldn't live in a town with that many Pentecostals". Well, life of course had a lesson for me that I needed to get over that prejudice by having me meet my next door neighbor and become good friends with her and obviously now have to eat my words.  She has a great sense of humor about everything including her religion and said to me the other day, "Well, at least I don't have Pentecostal Hair!"  I've been wondering what the heck that is so as with all of life's unanswered question I googled it.  And I actually found a blog post all about Pentecostal hair!

In other news I am behind on keeping up my garden. It's time to plant a cover crop and some carrot seeds for next year and some cabbage seeds for next year.  I read recently that if you plant them before the first frost and they get little starts going, the tops of the starts will die with the frost but you'll have a head start for the plants when Spring comes.  Plus it makes them hardier and apparently less likely to succumb to slug warfare when they're really young. I also found an organic slug bait that will be my best friend next year.  I've gotten a lot of really nice golden tomatoes and some really good cucumbers.  Hopefully tonight I'll get a chance to try and dry the tomatoes in my new dehydrator - which I used once so far to make a huge mess of fruit leather that didn't turn out.  It's a learning curve. I will get it.  And when I do get it I will try doing beef jerky - wooo-hoo!

Toadie is doing well despite having had two weeks off from work.  Thursday Trainer K. got two of her stitches out, but not knowing any better I waited 13 of the required 10-14 days of having stitches in and the top suture - in the worst part of the cut - was buried under scabs and the skin healing over it.  You could kind of see it but not easily get to it to.  Trainer K suggested we wait overnight and keep the bandage off so it could dry and try again on Friday.  Friday I got there and I decided to try myself and at least see if I was able to get to it.  I was worried because people had warned me that some horses needed to be sedated to take stitches out and with her history it was most likely to be that way with her.  So, I was worried that Trainer K. had just had a lucky fluke pulling out the first two stitches.  But I still attempted to pick at the scab and scrape off some crusting in order to get to the stitch.  I was able to get down to the knot and then cut that off - which made Toad's leg twitch but she held it together.   I started picking at it to try and get the rest of the suture out and Toad's leg started twitching like she really wanted to kick but I told her not to and she really held it together.  So much so that I managed to pull out the suture and was so excited that I jumped up in the air and squealed, "I did it! I got it out!" which thankfully did not spook Toad.

We did some lunging on Friday and Saturday and tomorrow is her first time back in training in two weeks.  I'm sure it will be incredibly frustrating for Trainer K.!  I have been taking Toad for walks around the property and up the street which has been really good for her.  She's getting much better at paying attention to me and remembering I'm leading her - she's not just out walking around alone - and that helps her relax.

My daughter hasn't taken a riding lesson for a couple weeks because of being out of town and a dressage show the week before that so she got to go back for her lesson today.  Unfortunately, right before her lesson a little cocker spaniel that my trainer is babysitting while the owner is on vacation was there and my daughter forgot my advice that she not put her face near dogs she doesn't know and went down to hug the dog and it bit her in the face! Hopefully, that means she'll heed my warning and never do that again unless she knows that dog.  It's probably the biggest danger of having a kid grow up with a pitbull is that no matter what I tell her, her experience with her own dog is you can hang all over her and hug her and use her as a pillow and all the pitbull will do is wag her tale and lick her.  If it had to happen I'm glad it was a little dog -although now she has a tooth-shaped black eye which I'm trying not to freak out about too much.  The teeth marks are little right up against the side of her eye.  Urrrgh!  But no use in dwelling on the scary "could've beens"  The reality is all she got is bruised and she knows now not to stick her face in another dog's face unless it is her own trusty pitbull.  She went through two ice packs and got lots of hugs and sympathy from my trainer who then went to comfort the dog too because she was cowering and terrified after what she'd done.  I wasn't sure my daughter would take her riding lesson but after the two ice packs and a fruit roll-up she said she'd "take her lesson for Tasha so she wouldn't be disappointed" and ended up having a great time.

Toad was in the cross ties when it happened and my daughter was in the aisle right in front of the grooming room when she screamed and started crying really hard saying she'd been bit and holding the side of her head.  Toad got very upset and started throwing her head in the cross ties and jumping back and forth.  I wasn't really paying attention to her because I was concerned about my daughter, but after we had an ice pack and my daughter started to calm down a little Toad was still throwing her head and stomping and looking at my daughter with these terrified googly-eyes.  I wondered if she was worried about her, then Star came by and asked what happened and said, "Look at Toad - she's freaking out because your daughter is hurt!"  So, I let Toad off the cross-ties and my daughter came over and clung to me while still crying but able to say, "Hi Toadie ..." and Toad lowered her head as far as she could and pushed it between my body and my daughter who was hugging me and held her head there.  Then she sniffed my daughter all over and rubbed her face gently on my daughter's back.  It was so sweet!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My legs are fine but my inner-self is freaking out.

I took riding lessons yesterday and today since I can't work on Toad training with Trainer K. for the next two weeks.  I'm supposed to take a lesson on Friday too but that may get pushed back depending on when my daughter and I have to go catch the train to go out of town.  Next week will be three to four lessons too.  Yay! In my dream world I would not have to have a job and would just go every morning and take riding lessons.

Yesterday's lesson was sitting trot without stirrups on Misty - who is a very bumpy little Quarterhorse.  But her foot was bothering her today (when the farrier came this morning he found a little stone embedded under her shoe where we couldn't have gotten it out without him removing the shoe).  So, I rode Tasha, the big ole Quarterhorse/Arab my daughter rides.  But she's so old that us adults just ride her bareback instead of making her deal with a saddle.  I thought yesterday's lesson was challenging because sitting the trot without stirrups on Misty can be a little nerve-wracking for us who aren't super experienced riders.  Just because you're bouncing all over the place and Trainer K. kept telling me to stop gripping with my knees and to just balance with my legs totally relaxed and hanging straight down on either side of her.  Surprisingly, that did work and I managed to stay on the whole (bouncy time).

So, today I was a little surprised when Tasha and I were at a walk and my instructor said to drop the reins (she had me on the lunge line though) and to do some arm stretching exercises.  But hey, no biggie, I can do that.  But then she said, "Ok, leave your reins down and we're going to do some trotting.  Just keep your hands at your side."  My response in my head (I'm not sure if it came out as a mutter or not) was "Are you fucking kidding me?"  It's not like having reins helps your balance at all - I wasn't worried about that.  I was worried because without reins I feel completely out of control of the horse.

We made it a couple times around the circle with me trying to relax and feeling like, "God this is terrifying.  I'm totally out of control of this situation.  Surely I'm going to die," then Tasha decided to speed up a little and I yelped and grabbed the reins before I could stop myself.  Trainer K. told me not to do that but it was instinctual - I didn't even realize I was going to do it.  I believe it is because for five years I primarily rode Girlfriend and when she starts to speed up unless you tell her to slow down she will just keep accelerating until she's galloping.  So, it is an ingrained response for me to grab the reins to control the horse when they start to speed up.  Regardless, that is what the exercise was and there are no excuses and I was going to do it correctly.

So, we spent the first half of the lesson with me trotting with no reins and my hands at my side while I tried very hard to not grab the reins.  I didn't grab them again but every time that Tasha started to speed up her trot my hands would start to jerk forward to grab them but I was concentrating so hard on not grabbing them that I was able to stop myself.  The more times she sped up, but never actually broke into a canter, the more I started to relax and get it through my subconscious that her speeding up at the trot was just that - her speeding up at the trot.  Not her accelerating until she was galloping.  So the end of the lesson we did different little arm exercises where I'd put my hands on my hips then put them up in the air and do "propeller arms" which is actually kind of hard to do when you're trotting in a circle if your arms are not going in the same direction as the circle.  I was quite proud of myself for getting over that control freak hump, but also a little surprised at how much of a control freak I still am. 

Yesterday's lesson was very hard on my legs because they were so stretched out at the hip, and today's lesson was very hard on my brain!  I realize that people who do not ride horses can't imagine how hard it is to let go of the reins.  I would think that if someone had never been on a horse they would like their hands free to grab onto the mane or whatever.  But for someone who has ridden horses a lot it is horrifying to let go of the reins because it feels like you are letting go of all of your control of the situation.  Of course, the reins were right there, I could reach down and grab them at any time if I *had* to.  But that was cold comfort in the moment.   At least Trainer K. didn't do what her old instructor did.  She kept grabbing the reins so much and refusing to let go that her old instructor tied her hands behind her back!  I told her if she did that I would cry the whole time.  But then I also stopped grabbing the reins after the first time too (to ward off Trainer K. getting any ideas!)

Meanwhile, the Toad is on modified stall rest.  Her vet said she should be on full stall rest for two weeks with no turn-out and only five minutes a day of walking, but I pointed out that she would do a lot more damage to herself stuck in her stall going crazy than standing lazily in the paddock with her friends.  So, my vet acquiesced and said, "Whatever can keep her the most quiet is what you should do."  So, she doesn't get to do any work, but she can go out in the mornings and stand in the paddock and talk to her friends.  Which is exactly what she does.  So, I've been trying to come up with "work" we can do so that she doesn't lose her mind without her usual structure. 

Today was structured because she needed new shoes. She was actually really good today for the farrier to the point where he gave her a treat afterward for the first time ever.  The last couple days after grooming her I've been taking her for walks and working on something I saw in a Buck Brannaman video where you teach the horse to follow your lead at whatever pace you are going, so you go slow, the horse goes slow, you speed up the horse speeds up, you stop, the horse stops.  I wish I had a clip of that part of the documentary but this one will have to do.  

Today we ramped things up a bit and put her surcingle and bridle on for our light groundwork.  Toad was so relaxed today that she didn't even look at me when I tightend up the surcingle.  I think she was just glad to be out and doing something.  We did some leading exercises, then we stopped and did some exercises with the reins to soften her jaw, then we did some more leading exercises, then some more softening the jaw exercises.  She did very well and I could tell she was a little disappointed we didn't get to do more work.  The other thing we did - that I hadn't planned on doing - was to put the reins over her head and take them off again.  When I was taking the reins off over her head when we were finished, one of them caught on her ear and it freaked her out and she reared a little and scooted backward until it fell off.  I sighed and said, "Was it really THAT scary?" and then we spent awhile putting the reins over her head, taking them off, putting them over, taking them off until she had relaxed again and was lowering her head like a sane horses again.

Well, I must go get to finishing some of my work and getting some chores done that I can't do this weekend cause we'll be out of town.  Plus, I must go find Nermal because there is a Raven circling our house and I'm not sure if they eat kittens, but I imagine they do.

Friday, September 14, 2012

One milestone and a huge vet bill later

It was very disappointing today to find out that my darling Toad had injured herself, but on a good note, this was another big milestone in her life now that she's learning how to be a "normal horse".  I was heading to the stable and my phone rang with and Trainer K.'s name popped up which is always a bad sign because we always communicate through text messages unless there's an emergency.  She was calm when I answered the phone and asked when I was coming to the barn - so for a moment I had hope.  Then she said in the same calm voice that Toad had just a few minutes before sliced her back leg open.  Urgh.

I got to the barn and Trainer K. had put Toad in her stall so she could rest and eat, so I went in to hang out with her and see where she was at emotionally and physically.  Emotionally she had calmed down a lot and seemed happy to be in her stall eating and happy that I was there petting her.  But her hind leg had a pretty good gash in it that was still bleeding.  After she'd had some time to chill out we brought her out into the groom room so Trainer K. could look at it under lights with her head lamp.  It was bad enough to need stitches so I called the vet who said to bandage it and give her some bute and she'd be there in a few hours.

I was a little worried about if she'd put up with having her leg bandaged but she did fine.  But I was very worried about how she'd put up with getting stitches.  I didn't see this but I heard the story about how when she scraped up her leg when the teenager had her no one was able to treat her.  Apparently, the vet tried sedating her three times and poor Toad was still in a state of panic about having anyone touch her back legs, so they tried putting her in a twitch and that just made it worse, so they ended up not even looking at the cuts on her back leg.  Then she had mud fever but no one could handle her back legs to scrub them.  Despite how far she's come in the last year I have to admit I was pretty worried about my vet coming in and trying to put stitches in her leg if she freaked out so badly over a vet just trying to examine some cuts 18 months ago. 

And to make matters worse, Trainer K. could not be there when the vet could squeeze us into her schedule so it was just me and my tiny little vet who despite being tough is probably not more than (if at all) 100 pounds.

I'm happy to say Toad was a champ!  She stood quietly while the vet cut off the bandages and was very polite about having her wounds examined.  I had to hold her tail though because when Trainer K tried tying it up in a knot to keep it out of her way when we initially looked at her cuts, Toadie swung her tail around to shoo away the flies and whacked herself in the butt with it and had a huge panic attack because "OMG! Someone's hitting me!!!". Which caused her to jump straight up in the air and swish her tail which whacked her on the butt which made her panic more which made her jump and swish her tail more which whacked her on the butt ... you get the picture.

So, I held her tail while the vet examined the wound.  She got upset once when the vet put alcohol rub on it and she tried to scoot away from the vet but I was on her other side so she realized she couldn't run over me, so she tried to run forward but she was in the cross ties so she jumped back and was a little frazzled.  But after a minute of letting her calm down and encouraging her to pull herself together she did fine.  She decided the clippers were going to kill her so the vet went ahead and gave her a sedative before clipping.  She did just fine when the vet put the shunt in, but then when the vet picked up the needle to put into the shunt she panicked - apparently, not realizing the ouchy part was already over, so we both calmed her while using both our body weight to keep her pressed up against the wall.  Once she realized the syringe going into the shunt wasn't going to hurt at all she calmed down and within ten minutes she was so sleepy I took her out of the cross ties so she could drop her head and sway back and forth and drool.

I was trying to ignore the worried voice in my head saying, "Sure, she's relaxed now, but when she tries to stitch up that leg she'll go through the roof just like when the teenager had her!"   Instead I focused on keeping my body relaxed and not physically holding any tension at all, and massaged her neck down by her withers where she likes it best.  And I'm happy to say that the vet clipped her leg, gave her a shot of numbing solution and put in three sutures and I didn't even have to hold the lead rope - I just swung it over her neck so I could grab it if need be and used one hand to hold her tail out of the way and the other to massage her neck. 

That to me was a HUGE milestone!  I am so proud of her and how brave she is now!  I truly believe it is because she has me and Trainer K to bond with and she knows she can trust us and she can just let go and relax.  She doesn't need to always be hypervigilant and defensive because she's all alone with no herd leader, she can relax and let her mom take care of her.

Here's testament to how she's no longer "the crazy horse no one wants" - one well bandaged, sutured up leg (you can't see them in this photo but there are scars right above the bandage from where she was injured 18 months ago when the teenager had her and no one could treat her).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Music for Horses

A couple weeks ago was Trainer K.'s birthday I was trying to think of what to give her because she's so busy she doesn't want the standard gift certificate to a spa or a book to read which are my fall-back gifts, so I finally decided on a gift certificate for the coffee stand by our barn and a cd with theme songs for all her horses she trains.  Toad was easy - "We Found Love in a Hopeless Place" by Rhianna.  And Jovi was easy too "Fuck Authority" by Pennywise.  Tasha (who my daughter rides) was easy too "The Lady is a Tramp" sung by Ella Fitzgerald because Tasha is such an old, cranky matron who give a shit what people think about her (but that attitude comes from mature wisdom).  I think Tasha might be more like me than I initially realized because that is a song I would use to describe me too!  M.'s Lipizzans were a challenge.  But after some thought "Get Jiggy With It" by Will Smith seemed appropriate for Gemini who is the one much further into his trainer and Piaffs for fun and Levades when he gets excited.  Especially the line "don't try that - you'll hurt you-self!" (or something like that).  I finally decided for Favi (the newer Lipizzan who has far less training) "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey because he's got the emo-ironic-hipster personality thing going on to me, and is trying very hard to "earn his white" (which we decided is a euphemism for progressing in training and building courage and confidence - since Lipizzans usually turn white as they get older).

I had a lot of fun putting the cd together but what surprised me was that Trainer K. seemed to really like it (she's not very good at pretending she likes things she doesn't) and M. snatched it up and ran off to put it on the old stereo in the arena.  I was pleasantly surprised that people liked the songs I picked for their horses.

Yesterday M. came out and took photos of everyone who signed up to get a portrait of them and their horse.  M. is by day a business analyst but is also a very talented hobbyist photographer.  Obviously I got my photo taken with Toad but Star said I could get my photo with Rex, her little mini stallion because I love him like he's my own horse.  He was very cranky when I drug him out to the grass where they were taking photos because he'd been eating so I'm hoping they got some cute photos of me trying to cheer him up and kissing him on the nose while he grumbled.  Toad had never been out to the yard where the photos were being taken and instead of using her halter I put her bridle on because it is so pretty so it was all around weird and new to her (being led on a walk in a bridle).  There were also no houses out where we were so she was very suspicious.  She did very well considering.  We got up there and B. was getting her photo taken with her horse she leases and the owner of the barn was in front of her (and off to the side of us) waving an empty plastic grocery bag in the air to try and get the horse's attention.  This of course practically sent Toad into a panic but she rallied and let me calm her down.  Then it was our turn and we walked over to the sunny spot in the grass and the owner of the barn steps up and starts waving this empty plastic grocery bag in front of Toad and of course Toad started spinning around me until I told the owner he had to stop doing that because he was scaring my horse.  He grumbled that he was just trying to help and stomped off.  Toad wasn't really into standing still but she tried and I'm sure we got some good shots out of it.  She was relieved to go back to her stall - well except when we passed a fan that was blowing air into a section of the barn and when we walked past it and it blew straight onto Toad's side she bounced straight up in the air on all fours for a second.  D'oh!  It took me a minute to figure out it was the fan blowing on her that spooked her.

I finally got to ride her in training again on Friday after a little more than a week.  I'm frustrated about not getting to ride her more.  It would be a lot better if I could ride her three times a week because if more than a few days go between me riding her I start to get nervous about riding her again and I don't want to get into that space where I'm afraid to ride my horse. 

I wanted to get my photo taken with Toad under saddle but the light wasn't good enough in the arena so I was dressed to ride and managed to finagle my way into riding Maiden, the horse that B. leases.  Maiden's owner was there which was helpful so she could give me tips on how to ride her.  Maiden is a rescue horse who is supposedly trained to 2nd Level dressage (which is a higher level than most of the horses I've ridden).  She was hard to ride at first though and I know what B. was talking about that is was humbling to be riding her.  Any imbalance on your seat and she did unexpected things.  When I first got on her she wouldn't walk forward and when I used my leg softly, that didn't work so I gave her a tap with the dressage whip on the left, she started turning in sharp circles to the left.  There was lots of having to shift my balance with my seat to get her to move in the right direction.  Apparently, I was leaning too much to the left because we'd be going what I thought was straight, then we'd turn a little and suddenly she's be making tight circles to the left until I shift my weight to what I felt was to my right but was apparently more in the middle of the saddle.  That was actually something that was pointed out to me in the clinic with Beth Glosten was that my weight goes off a little to the left in the saddle.  It was challenging and I got into that mode where I didn't want to get off of her until we successful trotted around the arena in the pattern that I wanted - which thankfully did happen sooner rather than later for B. and Maiden's owner's sake!  What I didn't like about riding her was you had to use your leg much harder than on Toad and I prefer to ride horses where I have to practice being quiet and "whisper" with my leg because I need a lot of practice at that.