Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rheumatoid arthritis for dummies

99% of the time I do not think of myself as a person "with a disability" although I guess technically because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) I am.  Actually, what I originally had was Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) diagnosed when I was 12 years old, but I didn't want to deal with that diagnosis or with the idea that I am "disabled" somehow so I literally ran away from the diagnosis. Which probably wasn't good for me at all because I'd have much less joint deterioration, but it is what it is and I'm doing pretty well.

But one thing that I conveniently forget is that it is disabling and I do have to keep on it.  The last few months I've been having on and off small flare-ups because I haven't been able to keep up on taking my Enbrel because I shouldn't take it while I have a virus (and I had that 8 week virus back in August through October with the thyroiditis) plus a couple colds here and there.  I was just getting back on schedule with the Enbrel for a week or so and I caught another bad cold last week.  So, yesterday was the beginning of an actual knock-me-on-my-ass flare-up where I had trouble sleeping from how much everything aches and my hands looks all puffy and like semi-inflated balloons and everything hurts so much that if I stub my toe or bump into a wall it feels like all my bones have are being shattered.  Yeah, days like today remind me I have a chronic illness.  Yuck!

With viruses and stuff like that, when I feel like this it is a natural response to go to bed and stay there all day watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory.  With arthritis flare-ups it is a natural response to *want* to do that, but I can't because it will make it worse.  The irony of RA is that the more you don't physically move around, the worse it gets.  Which is why mornings are so hard and everything feels locked up. So, this morning I am drinking my coffee, taking some Aleve and gearing up to go take care of my horses.  I already took the pitbull for a walk and will take her for another one this afternoon if I have time.  It's completely counter-intuitive but if I don't keep moving it will snowball and the less I am active, the less I will want to be active and the more my joints will lock up and on and on.  And the more my joints lock up and dont' get blood flow to them the more cartilage I lose, and the more cartilage I lose the more chance I have of being permanently crippled. So, good motivation to get my butt out of bed and walking, doing yoga, doing Tai-Chi, riding horses, etc.

I am not looking forward to dealing with poor Girlfriend though.  She has mud fever, which is a fungus on her legs right down by the coronet band cause by being in the mud too much.  So, I need to shave the fur around her bottom legs and hooves so that the area will stay dry, scrub with some medicated soap, then put some ointment on. This is going to really suck and be hell on my hands, but it is also going to really suck and be hell on my knees stooping down.  But it must be done - not only for her, but for me too, to keep me moving.

We're moving her to her old owner's house today and I know I will breathe easier knowing she's living out in the pasture.  She's so old and stiff with arthritis she is just like me - and keeping her in a stall most of the time is akin to having her stay in bed. It's just making her worse.  Where I board her doesn't have all day turn-out so we're moving her to her old home where she'll be in the pasture 24/7.  I know it will take a lot of worry off my mind about her and I bet come Spring she will have bounced back some. Not enough to ride unfortunately, but at least she'll be more comfortable.

Meanwhile, still looking for the right new horse for me and the right home for Toad.  I know I will miss Toad horribly even if she's not the kind of horse I can just tack up and ride whenever I want.  I'm not sure non-horse people understand that.  Even some horse people don't seem to understand that just cause she's too high-maintenance for me to ride doesn't mean I'm not incredibly bonded with her and feel like I'm giving away one of my children.  I try to imagine the day she leaves and it makes me want to cry just thinking about it.  I was sad when Sinatra had to go back to the rescue because I couldn't handle him, but not this sad.  Maybe because I knew he was nearby and I could visit him and I don't know where Toad is going yet.  And maybe because he and I didn't bond the way Toad and I have.  He never seemed to care one way or another about me, whereas Toad seems to feel really safe with me and want to be with me and I feel even more responsible for her because of that.  Even though she's 16.1 hh's and weighs around half a ton, I feel like she's my little horse-girl and I am responsible for keeping her safe and happy and if I could just curl her up and put her in my pocket, I would.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trying to wake up

This last week was a double-whammy of a bad cold and my daughter having the week off for mid-winter break.  So, I never quite felt right the whole week because I was trying to be mom to a kid who was deprived of the social aspect of school, but who was also missing all of her best friends because they were all on vacation.  All the while my sinuses were killing me and I felt like I was half-drowning in phlegm.  Normally, I like school vacations because the girl and I can sleep in and do fun projects together and it's a nice, relaxed time for us.  This time though all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and nap so it was a long week.

Yesterday we all went out to visit my old friend AR who lives in Bremerton and ended up staying way later than we meant to, but it was a ton of fun.  I haven't been to Bremerton in forever so I was watching everything trying to figure out what the town is like. AR says there has been a lot of violence in Kitsap County lately and she has no idea why.  I think I've read a little of it in the news although wouldn't have noticed as much since I mostly notice the news close to home.  In fact we passed one business that had on it's reader board "Pray for Kitsap County".  I don't know enough about the area to have any theories on why violence is increasing.

Another interesting town-dynamic is an acquaintance of mine in Sultan said they're having a town meeting on whether or not to let someone open a tattoo parlor in the city limits because for as long as she's known Sultan has outlawed tattoo parlors.  Which I find very odd.  How is getting a tattoo going to be bad for the city.  I made the un-P.C. statement that perhaps they should focus more on outlawing meth houses in the city limits.  So, it's a good thing I don't live there and am not going to the town meeting.

Meanwhile, Spring is coming up really fast so we are gearing up to get ready for gardening.  I've been researching fencing options for the community garden behind our house that is on the HOA owned land.  It has to be fairly non-obtrusive, but still keep the bunnies out of our raised beds.  I'm wondering when I'm going to start getting emails from that one irritating lady at the city telling me that the city has still not approved our garden (on OUR land!) and I need to sit down with public works and work out what I'm allowed to do (on OUR land!).  (back last Spring I did follow up and leave a few messages with public works asking the manager to call me back so we could work out what we are allowed to do (on OUR land) and nobody ever called us back.  The issue is that our land is right next to a storm pond and an environmentally protected wetlands and the annoying woman says Public Works needs access to the storm pond.  Of course they have an enormous driveway access right off our driveway that has been left open (because that is the easement agreement on our property deed). But annoying lady at the city seems to think that Public Works would rather we just let the vacant lot area beyond that be completely overgrown and ugly as opposed to putting in raised beds with organic gardens for everyone in the HOA to enjoy.  Grumble.

At least this year more people in the HOA are on board with being involved and are interested in having their own little plot for their own projects, which will be nice.  But the big thing is keeping out the bunnies.  Last year everything I planted except the cucumbers and the plant part of the strawberries got eaten by wild bunnies.  See, we don't have these issues in the city so I didn't see that coming.  I put copper around the raised beds to keep the slugs out, and marigolds to detract the squirrels but didn't even think of the bunnies.  I read in a few places online that marigold also detracts bunnies and I felt like posting "Actually, they ate the tops off all my marigolds".  Unless it was deer but I've heard that we are too close into town for deer and nobody has seen them around here in years.   Maybe I should mount a web cam this year and see what is coming and eating my plants? That would be kind of cool.

So, I'm looking for attractive, cheap, unobtrusive fencing and so far not coming up with much (lots of attractive and unobtrusive - but not cheap).  I may have to try and actually build something myself.

I still want to use part of the vacant land for community chickens but my husband is against it (he does not love the chickens the way I do after having chickens in the city) and I figure if annoying lady at the city is angry about raised beds, she'd really be angry about a chicken coop/run.  I'm still plotting.  I also want to raise bunnies after watching my friends experience with that.  She's raising them for meat and pelt but once again my husband said there is something seriously wrong with butchering your own rabbits so I think I'll stay away from that too.  And pet rodents because he thinks that is so wrong too to have rodents in your house.  And then there's the "anyone who willing gets on the back of a 1,000 pound creature with a mind of its own has got to be insane." I know, huh?  Could you get two more different people to be married to each other?  But I love him.  He's awesome!

Speaking of the Toad, there is a woman in Ohio who really wants her because she wants her for her bloodlines to breed race horses.  Normally I would be extremely wary of race horse breeders, but she's a small farm and also trains horses and teaches lessons.  We've been emailing a lot and hopefully today I'll get some references to call.  She sounds perfect for Toadie.  She seems to really love horses and right now she doesn't have a broodmare and has just been focusing on teaching and training. And her plans for Toad if she either doesn't breed runners or being a broodmare just isn't good for her, this woman will continue to train her and use her with her students for their eventing and such.  She grew up with  Thoroughbreds and race horses so she knows what she's getting into.  Plus, the best part is I made it clear that I really love Toad and will be checking on her and her condition and this woman went a step further and said that if I want she will send me photos and videos of the birth and stats for the babies and I will be "the grandmother" and she will keep me in the loop for all Toadie's kids and how Toad is doing.  And I'm welcome at the farm whenever I am in Ohio or Kentucky (she's 20 miles from the boarder of the two states) to visit Toad and spend time with her.  I checked it out with Trainer K. and she said to follow up on the references because it sounds like a really perfect deal for Toad.

Meanwhile, Trainer V. (who I fired a few months ago and who was very spiteful and angry and then I guess realized she was going to get in trouble for that and stopped being so freaky rude) is now pissed off all over again that I am selling Toad.  I'm not sure why since she had no stake in Toad and I am will never, ever work with her again because she's a bad trainer and crazy.  But she passed me and my adopted teenager IH  in the aisle at the stable the other day when no one else was around and snapped in the meanest tone, "I can't believe you're selling her!"  Being the bastion of maturity that I am I muttered, "I can't believe you're such a bitch," which sent IH doubling over in giggles.  But what would probably piss Trainer V. off even more is when she finds out that if all the references check out I have decided to give Toadie to the woman in Ohio for free.  She already will have to pay so much for driving Toad all the way across country and she's not a rich woman and if it means Toad will have a great life that fits her better then I'm more than happy to give her to someone who can provide that for her.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Toad is back to her old self!

I went out to work Toad today and was a little nervous because she's been such a wingnut after her week or so off from work.  I was worried for nothing because she was back to the Toad that I've known the last five months.  She was good in the cross ties and very polite on the lunge line with only a couple exceptions.  One of which was a big spook which was not malicious on her part.  And she got over it well for which I was proud.

I'd been working her to the left and had just changed to lunge line over so we could work to the right and she was just about to go out on the circle when there was a clanging outside and then a kind of weird mechanical sound.  Probably most horses would've heard it and put their ears back and been a little concerned, but this is Toad.  Add to that that going to the right is her "bad side" that she doesn't like to do and she went straight up in the air and tried to take off.  Luckily, I just got a new cotton lunge line so I was able to hold on without worrying too much about rope burns.  I did have to let the line out almost all the way but I was able to hold onto her.  Then I was proud of her because she reared, then did stop and when I said, "Whooooa!" and held my finger up, she didn't move.  Then I said, "Come on, Toadie ..." meaning "Come one, get over it!" but she thought I meant "Come to me," and she started to walk forward.  I said, "Whoa," and held my finger up again and she stopped and stood still until I walked up to her.  Very good girl!  I tried to lead her to the arena door so she could see what the noise was and she got halfway there and went straight up on all fours again and started to spin, but when I told her to stop she did.  Finally she followed me to the door and looked out and saw M.  and Trainer K. messing with the trailer hitch and you could tell the gears were turning in her head.  I took her back out on the circle and she actually did her walk, trot canter just like she was supposed to!  She was definitely still in "high alert" mode but she was able to return her attention to me whenever I reminded her.

I took the lunge line off and told her she had earned her right to roll.  She pawed the ground for a moment then looked at me with concern.  I started to back up and she followed me.  I stopped and she stood right next to me! I realized she was not going to roll until I took her halter off.  What a good girl! So, I took her halter off and then she exploded and bucked all over the place (which makes her fart =snort=) and rolled and bucked and did one really fast gallop around the arena.  She really needed that time to get her ya-yas out.  It took me about five minutes to catch her, but that's to be expected when she hasn't had arena time for quite awhile to get her bucks out.

It was nice to have her acting like herself with me again.  It re-emphasized how important it is for her to keep working on a consistent basis.  When I bought her from her old owner, that girl had stopped working with her as soon as she decided to sell her so she just sat around in her stall/pasture for months with no work at all.   But I'm going to make sure she stays in training and we keep working with her just as much as always until she sells so that she can keep herself working to her full potential instead of reverting to the bad habits she had with her old owner.  Apparently, Trainer V. made a comment about how she needed to let Toad's old owner know that I'm selling her.  I don't know why - that girl couldn't wait to get rid of her.  And if for some crazy reason she wanted to buy her back I wouldn't sell her back.  Toadie needs a rider who will work her at least six days a week and have consistent, firm, high expectations from her so she can keep her body and mind active.  And she needs someone who sees the wonderful horse she is and doesn't just write her off as a "dangerous project horse" like her old owner did just because her old owner had no idea how to handle her.  And she needs someone who is a more experienced rider than me so they can ride her every day.  Maybe I was her stepping stone to the perfect home?  At least she's being sold as a sweet, smart, well-mannered young high-strung Thoroughbred as opposed to a dangerous, project horse that has no manners and no training.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Must conquer the Zumba!

My friend/neighbor took me to Zumba at 9am this morning.  They had a kid's zumba across the hall so I'm going to try to drag my daughter next Saturday even though she'd rather lie on the couch all morning and watch cartoons.  I'm going to hang the carrot of "You can do that when you get home" in front of her in hopes she will choose bouncing around over tv watching.

Anyway. Zumba is hard.  I know there are probably people out there who like to brag about how it isn't and how it's not really a work-out because they don't even break a sweat because last year they ran the Boston Marathon with the swine flu and a broken ankle and that was no big deal ... but for the mere mortal like me, Zumba is hard.  First thing they have you do is start jumping up in down in some sort of pattern, then you continue to jump up and down in some sort of pattern for a full hour.  Most normal people find it very tiring to jump up and down non-stop for a full hour.  Also, it made my brain tired because I was trying to follow all the steps and it took me at least a half hour before I managed to figure out some pattern recognition that was going on.  That was kind of fun to be able to pick out the patterns and anticipate which ones came in where.

It was exhausting though.  I've never been in the best aerobic shape even when I was a kid.  I was always strong as far as how much I could lift and arm wrestling and all that, but I've never been in great aerobic shape.  I'm going to blame my allergies and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis but I'm not sure if that's why. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I hate to admit it but I've been kind of tired all day after starting my day like that.  But I also feel challenged and like I will not give up until I conquer the Zumba.  Until I can figure out and follow the routines and until I can do it for a full hour without feeling like I need medical attention.

After I came home and had another cup of coffee I went out to exercise Toad but unfortunately got there too late and the first of the Saturday lesson kids had already arrived and I don't like to try to deal with Toad in the arena even on a lunge line with really young kids on ponies.  It's just not safe because a lot of them are so young they can't keep the ponies from "trying to visit" and it's just not safe.  I've lunged Toad plenty of times with adult riders in the arena but never with little children who are such beginners.  I actually wouldn't lunge any horse with the little kids riding.

So, I hung out with Trainer K. and M. and M.'s horses.  They were just finishing up lunging both her horses and I came out and sat on the mounting block to talk.  Molly (the barn cat) jumped into the arena and came over to sit on my lap and Gemini (M.'s first Lipizzan that she's had for a few years) was standing a few feet away from me with Trainer K. and pricked up  his ears and acted like he wanted to go over to the cat but knew he was supposed to stand still.  So, I picked up Molly and walked over to him and held her up to his nose and he buried his huge nose in her fur and smelled her for a little bit, then started licking her.  Molly thought that was great and flopped right over in my arms and started making muffins with her paws.  So cute! I said we should get Gemini a cat and Trainer K. said, "What do you mean? Molly IS Gemini's cat!"

I came to a decision about Tuff Toad and got lots of support from M. and Trainer K. for my decision.  I decided I'm going to sell her, but I'm going to sell her to a really good home.  Once it finally sunk in that me and my friends at the barn are not the only good horse owners and that I am not the only one in the world who will ever love Toadie I felt like everything fell into place and it was just obvious that the right thing to do is find the perfect owner for her and find a horse that I can actually ride right now.  Not in six months after more training, not summer after next, not "someday when ... this or that ..." but right now.  And Toadie will find an owner who is a more experienced rider and can safely ride her right now.

We talked about what I think would be the perfect horse for me.  I don't want an old lesson horse who will just pack me around and is numb to subtle signals after years of being pounded on by beginners.  I was a horse that is a little sensitive.  And honestly, I don't think I'd be happy with a horse that didn't have some spunk after my years with Girlfriend and all her spirit and energy and being so hot.  But Girlfriend is also super, super safe.  She doesn't spook often and when she does spook she gets over it really quickly (most of the time) and she doesn't just freak out and kick, she has never tried to bite me, she's just a very patient, solid horse emotionally.  Basically, I want another Girlfriend and I had hoped that would be Toadie.  But Toadie is a little too young and untrained and a drama queen.  She may be another girlfriend in five years but I don't think I'm the one to take her there.  And honestly, I don't think she will be because she is such a drama queen.  But I don't want a horse that just plods along either because I'm so used to riding Girlfriend and her constantly wanting to run - and really just brimming over with joy when she does get to run.

Talking about that helped me to realize that there is a better situation for both me and Toad.  And I'm not a failure for this not working out for the long run.  I honestly think that if I could still ride Girlfriend it would've worked out for a lot longer because I would still have a horse I could ride any time and could go out on trails with this summer.  I honestly didn't expect Girlfriend to have to be retired so soon.  I'd really hoped she'd make it until she was thirty years old. But she'll be twenty-eight in a couple months so in all reality she had a good run of it (literally!).  So, I feel good about this decision.  And the plan is to keep working with Toadie as usual and keep her in training and working up until we sell her.  Then I will take lessons on one of Trainer K.'s horses twice a week until I find the right horse for me.  Right now I'm thinking Mustang.  I've never met a Mustang who wasn't bomb-proof and solid.  I told Trainer K. today that I had no problem riding Atlas when he had four months training under saddle and had only been domesticated for about a year - he was much easier to ride than Toad.  I went out there and did walk, trot and canter with him straight away. And she said, "Well, he's a Mustang."

Anyway, we will see.  And right now the task at hand is to keep Toadie working and moving forward with her training so she's in great shape when we find the perfect new home for her.  I don't want her to have the same fate she had with her last owner where she sat in a stall all the time and got bored and stressed and became "that crazy horse no one wants".  I want to keep encouraging all her good aspects so that becomes her norm from here on out no matter where she goes from here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Decisions ... decisions ...

Ok, horse-friends, I need some advice.  Actually, I need a magic answer and someone else to make decisions for me.

So, when I bought Toad in September I figured she'd go through 30 days of training and then I'd start taking lessons on her.  I figured I would not be riding her alone for a few months while she was getting more training but that was ok.  I figured my amount of time riding her would increase over time.  But I haven't ridden her now for a month because of her sore neck, then her hurt leg, and now she needs lots of work to get her back to where I can even ride her in a lesson again.  So, I probably won't ride her for at least another week or so - so it will be 6 weeks since I've ridden her.  I've had her six months now.  This is more frustrating now because I can't ride Girlfriend anymore because she is just too stiff and sore. 

Part of my dream of having a horse is to also continue to improve my riding in dressage.  And to do that I actually need to be *riding*.  More than once a week when I follow Trainer K. around and beg her to let me ride one of her other training horses that needs exercise.  So, I'm very frustrated that Toad has not been in either physical or mental shape for me to be riding her.  She is really nice to ride, but of course I have to actually be able to ride her for that to be nice.

Now the other issue.  She is a green off-the-track Thoroughbred and 98% of the time she and I have this awesome connection and she is strangely quiet with me (especially when it's just me and her without the vet or farrier or one of my friends interacting with her).  But that 2% of the time she's not ok is horrific to me.  So far I had not seen the 2% until today.  And thankfully, no one was hurt.  Well, I did get hurt right afterward because it's just not my day - I jammed the sharp end of the hoof pick under my thumb nail on accident trying to pick out the rock hard dirt in her front hoof. Gah.

Anyway, she tried really well in training.  Trainer K. did the lunging because she as a bit of a goofball.  But not so much so that I was worried about her.  She was definitely trying hard.  And she was definitely feeling a lot better physically than she has for awhile because she had another chiropractic day before yesterday.  But then we went into the grooming area and she was being nice and mellow.  Then - and this in detail is exactly what happened.  We're in the grooming room and I went to put the cross tie on her halter but she had the stud chain on so I dropped the cross tie and turned her head so I could unhook the stud chain from her halter.  She threw her head up and said quietly but firmly (like I always do - it was just second nature the way I said it) "No ..." and reached up to unclip the chain and in a split second she swung her butt around so she was no longer facing forward in the grooming room, but facing sideways, kicked both her feet out as hard as she could and knocked the shelf that separates to two grooming rooms down.  This of course made me yell, "HOOOOOOooooo!" at her, which did no good because everything on the shelf - my tack bag, my coffee, my water bottle, tack other people had left out - it all went flying everywhere into our side of the grooming area which made Toad fly straight up in the air and off into the wall on the other side.  Luckily through all this I was in front of her and when she spooked from the stuff flying she moved away from me.  And where I was standing I was blocking the doorway so I put my arms out and said "Whoa ... easy ... calm down ..." and by then Trainer K. had appeared at the doorway too and was saying the same thing.   I put her back on the cross ties and Trainer K. went and grabbed her hammer and quickly repaired the shelf (luckily, she just pushed a board back in place, unbent the nails and hammered it right back in).

That freaked me out.  She has not done anything that has freaked me out until now and that really freaked me out.  Why? Why this more so than when she kicked me and bruised half my thigh? Because there appeared to be NO reason for it.  And god forbid one of my friends had been visiting and was standing there? Or someone had been in the grooming area next to us? What if M. had been picking Favio's feet? Someone could have gotten seriously, badly injured!  The sense I got from that move was it was a direct "Fuck you!" move - not a spook or self-defense move.

After Trainer K. got the shelf fixed we both just stood there in the grooming room looking at Toad and I said, "She may have just crossed the line.  So far I've felt like I can handle her fine but I feel like that was way outside of what I'm willing to put up with."  Trainer K. of course didn't tell me what to do like I wish she had.  She empathized that it was worrisome because it came out of nowhere for what appeared to be no reason but she also said that horses are unpredictable and that with any horse you will run the risk of something causing them to do something dangerous because they are instinctual animals.  Grumble.  I wish I paid her enough to tell me what to do!

So, I am frustrated and torn.  I'm so incredibly in love with Toad and what a wonderful horse she is becoming.  But she's just a kid - 5 years old - and she's off the race track and has not been handled by anyone for a year before I got her and before that just manhandled on the race track.   She's already a wonderful horse with me, I just feel frustrated because she's needing so much training and right now it feels like a lot of work and sacrifice and I'm not getting to enjoy practicing riding with her, I can't take her out on the trail or have any fun with her - it's just work, work work.  I guess I figured after six months I'd at least be riding her in lessons consistently.  But she was a race horse then sat in her stall for a year and now is in training regularly, so of course she's physically a mess and we have had to do a lot of chiropractic and vet work on her and she's needed non-riding downtime.  It's not her fault, it's just not what I thought I was signing up for.

So, what should I do? Should I stick it out? Or should I sell her to someone who's far more advanced than me and can train her to be whatever she'd be good at?  Then I could get a horse who might need some training but I could at least take on trail rides and ride by myself without having to have Trainer K. right there.  But when I think about that it breaks my heart because I just love Toad.  She would have to go to someone I really knew would work with her well and not mistreat her.  Even just being a "cowboy" and being harsh and pushy with her could potentially end up mistreating her because handling like that freaks her out and that's when she becomes "dangerous".  And I don't want her getting that label and possibility being tossed out to auction or something because someone didn't know how to connect with her and decided she was dangerous and untrainable.  But then I just wouldn't sell her to a bozo like that.

I don't know what to do.  I feel horribly guilty if I give up on her after six months.  I'd feel like an even bigger failure than I did giving Sinatra back to the rescue because she would be the second horse I'd gotten that I decided wasn't right for me!  Maybe the lesson I need to learn is not to "save" horses any more than I used to want to "save" my boyfriends.  Maybe I should get a horse that I can already ride and work with instead of one I can "eventually" ride.  After all, I'm not the only horse owner out there that can connect with Toadie.  Surely someone else can.  But is that what I want?

Aargh.  I really wish someone would tell me what to do so I wouldn't have to make decisions!  Maybe I'm just being fickle the way I often am and thinking the grass is greener somewhere else?  But the truth is I want a horse I can actually ride right now too.  But I don't want to be a jerk.  Urgh.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I really do.

There are all these photo montages going around Facebook of "what my friends think I do" "what the world thinks I do" "What I really do".   Someone posted the one for "equestrian" on my Facebook wall and it was actually spot on.  For "what my friends think I do" it has a picture of a little girl on a pony laughing, and for "what the world thinks I do" it showed a little girl on a rocking horse.  For what I really do it showed someone mucking out a stall.  The "what I really do" could've been a photo montage itself with photos of mucking out stalls, sitting around with ice packs and heating pads, and standing in the aisle way with a rearing horse trying to get him to go in the wash room.

It also occurred to me that I could put together one of "what my co-workers think I do on the days I'm not at work" and "what I actually do".  What I actually do is a long list of "try to catch up on ..." from horse care to pet care to daughter care to cleaning the house to getting the cars tuned up, fixing anything that's broken, paying all our personal bills and reconciling our accounts, helping friends in crisis, doing all the coordinating for holidays, parties for the girl, sending out family birthday cards and thank you notes, and volunteering at the school, and babysitting when a friend needs it last minute and ... I don't even know.  I am never caught up.  I said off-handedly to my husband this morning "I think my co-workers think when I'm not at work I'm lying around eating bon-bons so if they need something from me on a day I'm not at work they think I should easily be able to do it immediately," to which my husband said, "I actually think that what they think you do is ride your horses bareback in the fields," and I said "Followed by rainbows?" and he said, "and butterflies."  Sigh.

So, I have fifteen minutes before I have to go meet the farrier for Girlfriend and right after that the vet for Toad (whose foot has not heeled well from last week's cut). Then I have to rush home for a phone interview then get my daughter to piano.  Aaaargh!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Trying not to go down that road ...

I went out to the barn this morning to work with Toad.  She was a spaz yesterday when Trainer K. worked with her and I wanted to get her out working again to try and get her back on track.  She actually ran off on me once. Maybe she wouldn't have gotten away but she surprised me so I let go of the lead rope because she was already turned and facing away from me and my first instinct was "Big thousand pound creature running straight away from me ... won't be able to hold on!"  She did stop when I went up to get her though and let me pull in the lunge line without trying to run away.  I asked her to go back out on the circle and she went part of the way out, tried to bolt, but this time I was ready and dug my feet in to the ground (and she wasn't facing away from me) and held on.  The pressure of me holding on pissed her off and she reared and when she came down she started to walk toward me (her way of passively saying "No I don't want to work!") and all I had to do was hold my finger up and say "Whoa. No. Do not come any closer!" She twitched her ears, looked at me like she was thinking for a moment, then sighed and just stood there.  I told her to walk on and she sighed and walked out on the circle.  Then she did fine, although her leg is still sore from where she cut it earlier in the week.

After lunging I wanted to clean the mud off her belly but unlike yesterday when she stood very still and breathed into it and was fine with it, today she was all over the place, jumping around and trying not to kick but not succeeding very well.  Twice she swung her butt around at me until finally I went and borrowed Margaret's crop and as soon as she brought her butt toward me in that aggressive manner, gave her a swat.  That of course sent her straight up in the air.  Then completely not knowing what I was doing but it sounded good, I gently stroked the crop across her back, then just had it touching her back flank very gently - basically just laying on her back flank - and was able to clean off her belly a little.  She was obviously very distressed by it, but having the wall on one side and the feeling of the crop on the other seemed to "contain" her enough that she could handle feeling the distress without exploding.  Kind of like how babies calm down when you swaddle them.  Or Temple Grandin felt emotional relief when squashed in between two large boards.  Toad seemed to be able to handle her feelings of distress better with that feeling of being contained.   When I was done she got some carrots and lots of love and snuggles.

I have noticed that she freaks out really badly when I clean her belly on the left side but can handle it really well when I clean it from the right side.  I can even reach over and clean the left side without too much distress if I'm on her right side.  I'm thinking something really terrifying and painful happened to her coming at her on the left side back in her days when she was on the track.

Then I was putting my stuff away and was in the locker room getting my keys out of my purse to go load up the car with dirty towels and blankets, when I heard that thundering of hooves in the arena. I knew Trainer K. and my friend, M. were riding M.'s Lipizaners in the arena together. I  had actually just been thinking "I wish I wasn't wearing jeans because I'd ask M. if I could ride Favio."  I thought maybe Gemini had bolted with Trainer K.  But just as I heard the thundering I also heard a horrible crashing sound, Trainer K. yelled something and I heard more thundering hooves and whirled around to see Trainer K.'s torso go whizzing by the gate at an extremely fast speed.  I heard a less horrifying thud and then thundering hooves again so I ran to the gate and saw Gemini and Favio standing off to the right by themselves, breathing heavily and to the left M.  was laying on the ground next to the south gate, which was no longer standing, but laying on the ground outside the arena.  Trainer K. was leaning against the wall saying something I could hear to M.  M.  finally sat up, but she was all hunched up and holding her head in her hands.

I yelled over the fence "Did they dump you? Are you OK? Do I need to call someone?" and Trainer K. said, "Yes, M. got thrown into the gate."  I asked again "Do I need to call someone?" (meaning "Do I need to call 911) and Trainer K. didn't answer.  I asked again and Trainer K. asked, "Are you alone?" and I yelled back, "What?" and she yelled, "Is your horse with you?" and I said no - this whole time I was wondering why she was just standing there and not going over to Margaret, so I yelled again, "Is Margaret OK? Do I need to call someone?" and Trainer K. yelled, "Will you come in the arena?" so I came in and she yelled, "Will you grab those horses?"  So I went over and grabbed Favio and Gemini.  Neither wanted to move but after some coercion I got them closer to the end where Trainer K. was.  That's when I realized she wasn't just standing there she was leaning against the wall trying to walk over to Margaret but couldn't walk. I asked if she got thrown too and she said yes and I said again, "Do I need to call someone?"

M. stood up and started to weave and waddle over to me and the horses at a very slow pace and I asked if she was dizzy and she said yes and I said, "Then I want you to sit back down immediately. I'll put your horses in the cross ties and call 911," but M. insisted she was fine.  Trainer K. said to leave them in the arena because once she could walk she was going to beat the living crap out of them.  As it was, she didn't beat the living crap out of them, she shuffled out of the arena, took some Aleve, came back in and road Gemini around at a walk on very short reins, then did some ground work with Favio.  I asked why she didn't ride Favio and she said she would not have been able to get on him because everything hurt so badly.  M. stayed crumpled on the mounting block for awhile looking awful then holding her arm at a weird angle came over to where I was putting up Favio's stirrups and about to loosen his girth.  I asked if she was going to get back on him and she said she couldn't because she'd wrenched her shoulder too badly.  But she wasn't dizzy anymore which was a good sign.

They managed to get the horses untacked and put away and I swept out the grooming area because I figured there was no way M. could sweep with a jammed shoulder.  Then I gave M. a massage and one of Trainer K.'s other students happened to show up and gave her a massage and there was lots of ice.  So, I think they will both be fine.  But it shook me up and I didn't even see it.  A girl on the south side of the barn saw it and put the gate back up for them.  She didn't seem quite as shaken up as me.  And of course I wasn't even close to as shaken up as M.  Even Trainer K. might've been shaken up but she was more pissed off than anything.  She said this was the first time in over 15 years that she's been dumped by a horse.  I believe it.  I was actually really surprised she came off.  I'm glad I didn't see it.  Although it sounded scary enough.

Apparently, what happened was Favio freaked out about something and took off at a gallop and M. was staying on ok, but he got to the gate, couldn't go any further so he spun and threw M. right into the gate.  Lucky for M. it was the gate and not the wall because she landed on her shoulder but the gate broke and came off the wall so that wasn't as hard on her as the wall would've been. That spooked Gemini who then took off and three Trainer K. off to lighten his load so he could run faster.  Trainer K. landed flat on her back and her head hit the ground so hard it bounced up and hit the ground again a second time.  Thank God for riding helmets!  What is more amazing is that after a couple hours they both got up and walked (and drove) away from the barn.  I'm glad nobody got seriously hurt.

But it got me thinking again. What the hell am I doing with this hobby????  It did make me feel better that when Trainer K. was telling some of our other friends at the barn about it she turned to me and said, "Now if that had been your horse doing that you could've stopped her because she's not so strong.  But Lipazzans have those crazy, solid muscle necks like pitbulls and you can't stop them."  Really all I heard was "If that had been your horse you could've stopped her ..."  But still - what the hell??? I guess it's way more dangerous to ski and snowboard.  And way more dangerous to have joined The Rat City Roller Girls which I had considered briefly before choosing to get back into horses.

But this week with my huge stress and fears about whether or not I'll find another part-time job and that did get me thinking "If I didn't have horses I wouldn't have to work.  We could afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom and I could focus on my writing and house projects and stuff like that."  But at the same time, horses are my passion and I am so proud of how well Toadie is coming along.  And it's so fun to hang out with my fellow horse-crazy friends.  I think something inside of me would be so lost and sad without horses.  But for today it did seem like a really good idea not to actually own one and just take some riding lessons once in awhile.

Friday, February 10, 2012

One big deflated bouncy house

That's what I am feeling like today.  A bouncy house that deflated and still has kids trying to jump inside of me.  I've had pressure on me from all ends - work has been extra busy and wants me to be their highest priority.  My friend in hiding from an abusive relationship has needed me with help driving her to court, etc. and my conscience tells me that is highest priority.  And my daughter has needed me which my heart tells me is the highest priority.  And on top of it the housecleaning has gone all to hell in the last two weeks and my friend's horse is having a baby any minute (may have had it last night ... haven't heard) and I've been trying to help with that too.  Ugh.  Maybe a better analogy is that I feel drawn & quartered - especially because there are horses in the equation.  Oh, and did I mention my horse hurt her neck last week and needed the vet to come out in the midst of all my other chaos and then the other day cut her leg and it had to be cleaned and dressed?  Drawn and whatever quartered would be but five times instead. Pentagoned? Or just penta-ed?

And on top of it I'm failing miserably at all of them.  At least it feels like it.  At least the feedback I'm getting from work is I'm failing miserably at meeting their important deadlines.  My daughter of course is at the age where she revels in me thinking I'm failing miserably as a parent and my horse being an equal drama queen as my daughter probably does too.  I think my friend I'm helping is just happy to be moving forward from her bad situation and isn't really thinking about judging the qualitative efforts of her friends to help her.  Oh, and Girlfriend runs out of Pergolide for her Cushings on Sunday so I need to see if I can get more of that before then even though my order for a new prescription hasn't come in yet.  Fuck.

I also don't have a new job lined up for next month and I'm quite worried.  I've decided my next career should be dog trainer and educator.  But I need another job before I can do that because I need to get a more formal education on dog behavior.  I'm pretty well versed in it already but I need something to put on my resume and I don't have any formal education to put there.  I also think it's high time grade schools had someone come in and talk to young children about animal safety.  So many kids either think that all dogs are friendly, cuddly hamsters or are terrified of them.  When I was a kid I remember teachers talking about bike laws and bike safety, animal safety, safety in the community in general. But now days all the teachers are dancing to the WASL and No Child Left Behind and aren't able to teach anything beyond standardized testing because that is the highest priority and focus.  So, no education on how to survive in the world in general.  And if parents aren't teaching that then the kids never learn it.  I think "guest speakers" or an assembly on animal safety once a year is in order.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Well I just jumped off that cliff again ...

My poor husband likes to take changes very slowly and cautiously and I have a little more trouble with being patient and tend to ruminate on things for awhile and then just suddenly get up and take a running jump off the cliff.  As my husband says he's evolution and I'm revolution.

I've been ruminating for awhile now that it would be best for me and for the company I work for if I left and found them a new person and found me a new job.  And before I knew it I was giving my notice at work today.  I took the co-worker I am the closest too out for a walk to tell her alone and she grabbed me and gave me the biggest hug.  But that will be ok because we can stay friends outside of work and that will be even better.  But then I told my boss and he looked like I just kicked him in the face. That made me feel *really* bad.  So bad in fact that I felt a little teary-eyed and thought of saying, "Wait! Never mind! I'll stay! I like you guys!"  But the truth is I have a picture in my head of the best employee for them and a picture in my head of a better job for me.  For one thing, I would really like to work a little closer to home (ie: not an hour or more drive when traffic is bad and forty-five minutes when traffic isn't bad).  But I also really want to work with animals or at least be working outside or something more in nature.  And if I can't do that, at least working closer to home will cut down on commute time and give me more time to be out in nature and with my horses.  This month is so busy that I will probably end up working twice my normal hours and I gave them a month's notice, so that means financially I will be ok for two months to look for a new job.

I told my boss I'd do all the initial interviews and weed through all the candidates so that he only has to interview the most qualified so that will be interesting.  I've helped at other jobs going through resumes and interviewing and it's kind of fun.  Not something I'd want to do for a living but as a novelty it's interesting.  I just find people interesting so getting a piece of paper with a snapshot of a stranger's life is always interesting to me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Parasitic dinosaurs ... parasitic me.

On a positive writing note, I put aside an hour yesterday to do some writing. I didn't feel inspired to work on any of my fiction ideas so I started my memoirs just to get writing.  I realize two things after working on that for awhile:  1) I can't imagine why anyone would want to read my memoirs since I'm not famous so who cares what I've been doing the last forty years and 2) it's kind of upsetting to revisit one's childhood in great detail.

Luckily, this morning while walking the pitbull through the woods I had another fiction story idea. This time for a tween-ish story.  My daughter is really into book series right now like Rainbow Magic and Pet Pals.  So, I've been trying to think of an idea for a series of tween stories.  A few years ago when I met Mary Nethery I was very inspired to write kid books.  The other inspiration is the sad lack of really good kid books.  But every time I would try to write a chapter book it would devolve into too weird.  The same thing happened when I tried to write "chick lit".  I figured there was a genre that was sadly lacking in good literature and honestly if Jane Austen can write awesome "chick lit" surely someone in modern times could do it too.  But every story line I started quickly devolved into weird too ... I just couldn't seem to write anything that didn't involve demons, serial killers or stalkers.

But I think I have a good idea for a tween book that I can keep on the tween level.  So, during today's half hour of writing I will focus on that.  I say half hour because I have so much work to do for my paying job and I need to get out to see my horses this morning because I haven't been out there since Sunday because I've been so busy.

Yesterday I had put aside an entire hour for writing but I only got in 45 minutes because I forgot that my Jehovah Witnesses were stopping by.  Yes, I have developed a strange little 20-minutes a week friendship with our neighborhood Jehovah Witnesses.  I actually really like them as people.  To be honest I've met quite a few Jehovah Witnesses and on the whole they are generally a very nice group of people.  And they'll talk endlessly about the Apocalypse and I find that subject fascinating.  And what I find more fascinating is that Jehovah Witnesses and Born-Again Christians do not agree on the Apocalypse at all.  In fact, they get quite worked up about how the other is wrong and would - if in the same room - sling Bible verses back and forth like flaming arrows to prove the other wrong.

Yesterday I asked what they thought about the Rapture and got the huge eye-rolling scoff and "Well, there is no Biblical basis for that!" so I asked, "Where did they get it from," and one said, "I think I know the verse," and the other said, "It's the Twinkling, isn't it?" and rolled his eyes and the first scoffed, "Yes, the twinkling," then let out a big sigh.  So, they showed me the verse in the Bible that people have used with them to prove that when the Rapture comes the "Righteous" will be physically poofed up to Heaven in an instant.  I did not say "How does that make less sense than Jesus coming in the form of a man, battling Satan, in the form of a man and then the Earth being a completely peaceful place where the Righteous shall live out eternity in peace with no death?"  But I didn't want to be rude.

You may be wondering what I think about the Apocalypse.  Or you may not.  But I'm going to tell you anyway.  I don't think we're going to have a Biblical Armageddon or Apocalypse.  But I do think humans are not a sustainable species. I think we're an extremely parasitic species.   Our only predators are diseases and we don't give back to the Earth at all.  When we die our bodies are embalmed and put in hermetically sealed boxes so we don't even feed the soil.  And if we did we have so many plastic/toxic parts (silicone implants, pacemakers, botox all the chemical medicines we take and chemicals we eat that is marketed as food) we wouldn't be very good for the soil.  The most sustainable way to dispose of ourselves when we die is cremation but that is at best "not hurting stuff" - it's not giving back to the Earth at all.  So, I think our days as a species are numbered because the Earth just can't sustain us forever.  Of course, if you look at the process of evolution with dinosaurs and other species, I'd imagine we have at least another million years to be parasitic before we all die out.

So, I don't think there is going to be a battle between Jesus and Satan (except maybe in a completely figurative sense if you're talking about the metaphor between an individual's own struggle between good and evil) but I do think our species will one day die out because much as people try to deny it, the strongest laws on the Earth are the laws of nature and no matter how hard we try, we are biological animals and our way of living is not sustainable forever in this environment.  Someday sentient cockroaches will have giant skeletal exhibits of the giant humans on display in their museums in a couple billion years.  And they'll probably get it all wrong with us too and have old hunched over grandma skeletons being the "fearsome predators" like the lumbering, tiny-armed scavenger Tyrannosaurus was wrongly labeled a "fearsome predator" for so long.