Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Close to too many pets ...

We're not quite to the point where we're the Duggar family of pet owners, but we have a lot now.  And I am drawing the line lest we end up having our house destroyed (or our wallets) by them.  On Friday my parents moved into their new condo that doesn't allow dogs over 20 pounds (because they of course do not carry diseases, bite, destroy furniture or bark - unlike dogs who are 21 pounds ...)  so we took in their 20 month old Australian Shepherd, Missy.  And I realized I may have too many pets when I just now said, "Ok, you can go outside Willow ... I mean Toad ... I mean Boone ... I mean Missy or whoever you are!"

The pitbull is very happy to have a new little sister although she spends a lot of the day hiding so she doesn't have to play constantly and then moans when Missy finds her and grudgingly gets up to play before trying to escape to nap again.  Our 18+ year old tomcat is completely unfazed because in his view his days of being a God embodied in a big mortal orange cat body are numbered and nothing really matters except eating and sleeping on our laps.  The kittens (who are 2 years old this month but still eternally kittens) are slowly getting used to her.  Although the white one can't get it through her head that she looks like a tiny sheep when she whizzes by Missy at fast speeds so Missy can't help but try to chase and herd her.  We're at a manageable mass right now (thanks to carpet cleaners and this really cool lint remover by Pledge that is the first one we've come across in years that actually works on the micro-fiber, fur-magnet couches).

I'm slowly getting all my ducks in order to renew my massage license which it appears you can take the test now online.  I'm not sure if that's a good idea because people can totally cheat.  But then I guess you still can't get away from the fact that you need to prove you went to school for 800 hours and god forbid prostitutes who besmirch the good name of health care working LMP's aren't going to go to that much trouble.

I didn't make it out to ride today because I'm resting up after coming down with a stomach bug yesterday afternoon.  I didn't ride yesterday because I was feeling fatigued (now I know why) and Maiden initially seemed like a complete yahoo.  I went to get her from the pasture and it was just her, Gandolf (the new Friesan who's kind of a nutcase right now) and Batman (who's a beautiful but high strung OTTB).  It was very windy and it was a cold, biting wind and that (or something) got Bruce going and he started some serious broncing in his paddock.  That upset Gandolf who started running back and forth in his paddock.  I didn't expect much of a reaction from Maiden other than to prick her ears and look concerned, but the cold wind and the howling sounds and waving branches were just enough on top of her friends freaking out that as soon as she came out the paddock gate and I was reaching to close it she reared up and scooted backward and started broncing.  I opted to leave the external gate open until I got her inside because there really isn't enough room right outside the gate for her to be broncing on the lead line.  And well there is that tiny rule that we don't buck and rear on the lead line too. (Gandolf still had the hotwire between him and the external gate but with all his running around I wasn't confident in the hotwire holding him for a long period of time).

I got Maiden to calm down, then we started to walk toward the barn with her prancing away (very unlike her! Very like Toad but very unlike her).  Then a few hundred feet before the barn a big gust of wind hit us, rustled the trees around us and she literally leapt up in the air ahead of me and twirled around looking at me like "Aaaagh! They're coming! They're coming!"  I led her back to where she was standing safely beside me instead of out in front of me and told her quietly to get ahold of herself and calm down, scratched her withers a little while she shook all over and pranced in place, then did my best to walk us into the barn without letting her run ahead of me.   So, of course I figured she might want to free lunge in the arena and get her ya ya's out.

But after a little snack I took her out in the arena took her halter off and let her loose and she just stood there.  I clucked and encouraged her to do something and she just stood there.  I slapped her lightly on the butt and she looked at me like I was mean, walked over to the mounting block, sighed and picked up her halter in her mouth and turned to look at me.

I decided to try leading her without a halter or lead rope and see how it went.  She did pretty well except she kept trying to stay behind me instead of next to me (which makes me nervous and feels unsafe).  So I went out and got my pretty pink dressage whip and this time we tried again and every time she slowed down so she was lagging behind me I'd cluck, make a signal with my right hand and reach my left hand behind me and tap her gently with the end of the whip where I'd touch her with my foot if I were riding her.  She started to catch on really quickly! (which leads me to believe she must've done that with someone before).  We ended up walking around the arena at different paces and stopping and starting again and even trotting and then stopping all with just voice commands and hand signals and no halter or lead rope!  We definitely need practice at it but I was very proud of how well she did!  She's such a good girl!

I'm so glad that at least for now we can figure out a way for me to afford to keep her.  And I was worried about where she'd go if I didn't keep her.  Even Trainer K. said yesterday that she was very worried about finding a good enough home for Maiden if I couldn't keep her.  She's been through so much in her short life and I don't even know the whole story about her first eight years before the criminal abuse case she was rescued from.  And then after being rescued to have to spend a year with one of the most abusive dressage trainers in this region before H. bought her three years ago (and I bought her from H.) she really has had a crappy time of it. I feel like it's up to me to make sure her next 12+ years are good ones.  One of the boarders at our barn used to volunteer for the rescue where she went when animal control seized her so she could at least tell me what little she knew of her.  When Maiden came in to the rescue she was too skinny but wasn't as skinny as the other horses so she obviously had survived by fighting for the food.  And it shows when you walk up to her stall and she's eating, she will lash out at you.  She's getting better but it's not something we are aggressively trying to train out of her because it was a survival technique that probably saved her life and we can't punish her for it.  I'm slowly trying to train her it's not necessary anymore, but I'm not punishing her because in her mind that is how she survives and there is a logical reason to do it.  The only other thing the boarder could tell me was that she seemed to have pretty much had no handling at all or if she had it had been so long ago that she'd forgot what it was like.  She's doing really great now though with handling!  The rescue she came from never got back to me to tell me what the criminal case was.  I may continue to try and investigate on my own but I imagine much of her early life will always be a mystery to me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

coyote tracks

I'm going to have to start carrying my phone with me when I walk the dog through the woods in the morning.  This morning there were muddy tracks coming up out of the marsh, crossing the boardwalk, then back into the marsh.  Only one track was really distinct and I tried to memorize the way it looked as well as could so I could look it up when I got home but it would've been nice to take a photo and have an exact image to go on.  I looked up images of tracks from the animals I've seen in the woods and it fits coyote the best.  Why do I need to be able to recognize tracks when I already know what kind of animals I've seen?  Because it's fun.  No other reason.  Just like one of these days I'm going to learn how to rope a cow.  Anyway, these are skills that could potentially come in handy during the zombie apocalypse.

I'm going over the top in my attempts at gardening this year.  I have one little sprout coming in from my pumpkin seeds and like the obsessed gardener I am who is damn well going to have pumpkins for Halloween this year without the powdery mildew killing my plants, I went out and sprayed it with my magic potion I created from some research on organic ways to prevent local fungi.   This one - which may or may not also work for black spots on roses - is a combination of half gallon water, half tablespoon each of baking soda, dish soap and organic horticulture oil (or if you don't have that you can use vegetable oil).  I'm actually going to spray all big leaf plants this year.  I also found some organic slug bait (made with mostly iron) and sprinkled that around the beds I've already planted.  OK, I poured it in what seemed like big amounts but that's what the instructions said.  I WILL get some lettuce this year before the slugs do, damnit!  I've been concerned about organic slug bait just because any ole company can buy the "organic" certification and still get away with using a smaller amount of dangerous chemical - or even worse using them and nobody checks up on them to find out.  Anyway, the ingredients look natural.  Now I am just concerned about the iron leaching into the soil and changing the ph.  I don't know enough about chemistry yet so I need to look that up.

The nice perk of being unemployed again is I can go out every day to see Maiden.  I'm giving her the day off today because I'm visiting an old friend and running some errands. We're going to talk about going to the Buck Brannaman clinic in July in Cle Elum - I already sent in my check for reservations for the dinner/social mid-clinic (squeeeeeeeee!!!!).   We can't participate because it's been full for months but we can at least spectate one day.

Anyway, it's been nice to be able to work with and ride Maiden more.  The last two times I've ridden her it's been pretty busy in the arena with the Western riders.  They set up some trail obstacles and cavelettis and I walked Maiden over them a couple times to see how she did and she was hesitant on the taller obstactle first, but when I said it would be ok she was just fine and walked right over it.  She's a very sweet, trusting horse and really listens to me which I think is so wonderful.  I trotted her over the cavelettis once and it felt amazing to have her pick her feet up at a trot like that, but I was worried she's not in good enough shape to be ridden over them yet (I would think we should work on lunging her over them until her back is stronger) so I only did it once.  Still it gave me a split second reminder of what she's capable of as her back gets stronger.  She was trained so poorly years ago before my friend, H. got her that she uses her body completely wrong.  And H. just rode her on trails so she never had any need to get in shape.  It's fun to show off to H. how far Trainer K. has already brought Maiden in just a few months.  Yesterday when we were lunging at a canter she actually stretched her neck down and engaged her back for a few strides which she hadn't been strong enough to even attempt to do a few months ago.

Something I was thinking a lot about yesterday was how last Friday when I worked for crazy-ass-bitch-dressage-trainer (CABDT) for one day she must've said a hundred times "Horses are not pets!"  I know she was just trying to instill in me a healthy fear of them.  She wouldn't let me talk (literally - she'd just interrupt me and say I was supposed to be listening or she'd just walk away) so I never did tell her that I'd learned from my own mistakes over the years that horses are unpredictable and you need to always be aware and watch for signs of what they're going to do.  My instincts are definitely not as good as professionals like Trainer K (and even she gets hurt sometimes) as far as dodging and getting out of the way but they're getting there.  I'm always completely aware of what horses are doing when I'm near them - I'm always aware of what their body language is saying and I'm always ready to get out of the way in a split second.  I don't need any more gigantic bruises, broken toes, broken bones, or second degree rope burns on my palm.  Does that guarantee I'll never get hurt again? Definitely not - but I am very aware at all  times what this gigantic animal is doing and have learned to move my body out of the way with lightening speed if I need to.  I will probably get hurt again because that's just life, but I'm not just stupidly standing behind horse doing stuff to spook them or putting my feet right where they can get stepped on.

Anyway, I figured that is just the way it is when you're a working student (kind of like the military).  You don't talk - you listen.  But CABDT would not let up on this ridiculous "Horses are not pets!" rant.  At one point I felt like saying "What kind of pets have you had???"  I think it would've been more realistic to say "Horses aren't cuddly stuffed animals" because I've never had a pet that I could just toss around and not use some sort of safety measures.  Even rats can bite and they're pretty harmless.  And chinchillas - good lord did I get a nasty bite from one of those as a kid!  I have a pitbull for god's sake.  I had to train her and I still have to be the "alpha dog" with her because she's really big and freakishly strong and powerful.  Even trying to give my 18 year old tomcat his daily medication can be dangerous as far as having your arms ripped apart.  I don't know what kind of pets CABDT has had but apparently none that you have to actually train and work with like all the pets I've had.  Or she is just clueless on how to take care of pets.  She's probably one of those people who has little dogs that she doesn't train and just lets run around out of control and if they were bigger they would've been deemed a "dangerous dog" long ago.   I don't have "pets" that are just animals that live in my house or yard and I dump food into their bowl once a day.  I live with animals that I train and mentor every dayfor their whole lives - just like I do as a mom.  What's the point of living with animals if you don't have a relationship with them?  And why would someone do that to a pack or herd animal anyway?  Dogs and horses WANT relationships and as their owner or handler I owe it to them to have a real relationship with them where I am mentoring them and setting boundaries and god forbid actually communicating with them on their level and showing affection.   I don't think CABDT even likes horses.  She seems to view them as mechanical objects that she works with and that's it.  I think she's a horrible horse person.   I had doubts about that the first day but blinded myself by optimism because I wanted so badly to have a job as a working  student so I lied myself that it would be fine.  But it gnawing at me even after that first day that she is a crappy trainer - not even a trainer.  Just someone who says she is.  There are a lot of people like that who claim to be trainers but all they do is take horses and bind them up with a bunch of devices and claim they are "training" them when all they're doing is forcing their bodies into a certain position.

She also didn't pay me for that first day.  She claims that we agreed I'd work the rest of this month for free to see if it worked out.  Which we NEVER talked about nor would I ever agree to.  She's a real piece of work that lady is.   Of course now in the aftermath other horse professionals are saying they're not surprised because they see her as a poor trainer and a bitch but there's this code of ethics that you don't put down your colleagues in the horse world.  Oh well.  It's reminded me that I need to not lie to myself because I think I want something so badly - I can't magically make it what I want just by lying to myself that it's not what it is.  Big life lesson.  Ugh.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

... that sends me down to the river though I know the river is dry.

The song I'm quoting (that's been stuck in my head now for two days) is The River by Bruce Springsteen.  When I was a tween (before the word "tween" had been invented) my brother idolized Bruce Springsteen and since I didn't have my own record player in grade school if I wanted to listen to music (while lying in his big forest green bean bag chair with giant 70's headphones on) I had to listen to his records.  The River didn't come out until I was in junior high so I actually ended up buying that album for myself because by then I had my own little turntable.  But in grade school my favorites of my brother's music were Bruce Springsteen, Manfred Mann and Jackson Browne.  By junior high it was Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick and Van Halen but I had to buy those albums on my own because he wouldn't let me touch his.  They went along with my Foreigner, Journey and REO Speedwagon which he openly mocked.  The legacy continues as I live with a husband who openly mocks that I enjoy some of my daughter's music like Pitbull, Macklemore and Shakira.

I said I was going to take a couple days to be depressed and lie on the couch but I got bored of that pretty quickly by mid-morning yesterday (my first day) so I got up and ran errands and started recording all our spending in 2012 so I can make a detailed budget.  I have a preliminary budget right now that is estimating I just need to come up with $300 a month in order to keep Maiden and continue to take lessons.  I need to go through and make sure I didn't leave out any expenses and really fine tune it, but that seems fairly doable.

Next I decided that I need to redefine my goal for the future.  Right now my goal I've been stating is "I want to work with horses but I don't know what yet".   I think that in order to really make progress I need to define what I want to do with horses so that I can start planning out what steps I'll take to achieve those goals and start taking action to make that possible.  I can't really move forward on this if I have no idea what direction I want to go.  So, I need to find my focus - do I want to be a trainer? Riding instructor? Equine massage therapist? Equine vet tech? Wrangle horses for equine therapy?

I think my focus is going to be riding instructor but it may also be equine massage therapist.  I'm pretty sure I don't want to be a horse trainer although I am still interested in being a vet assistant for an equine vet.  But I think riding instructor (specifically for kids) is the one that win out.  But that gives me something to consider.  I am giving myself a deadline of Friday to make a decision and then start making plans on how I'm going to achieve this goal.  I think my biggest problem over the last year is that I haven't had a focused plan and I've just been flailing around just taking whatever comes up and telling myself I'll figure it out as we go.  And as an accountant I know full well that way of doing things does not work - at least not for me.  So, if I have taught my clients not to do that with their financial well-being maybe I should start applying that to my all-around well-being.

Update:  After talking with Trainer K. about the pros & cons of riding instructor life that seemed like an impractical route to go.  Equine massage therapist is equally high on my list so now it is between that and dog trainer.  I just called to find out what it would take to re-instate my human massage therapist license and I'd just have to take the exam again and do 24 hours of continuing education.  Add 300 hours of animal massage therapy education for an added certification and that would probably work pretty well for a new career.  I quit massage in 2000 because it hurt my hands too much and I thought it was chronic tendonitis.  But now that I know it's RA and as long as we keep that under control, going back to massage therapy part-time could be an actual option.   And I do have to say I really like the idea of being an equine massage therapist because I don't have to train people or train the horse yet I get to be hands-on and handle a lot of different horses.   Hmmm ... possibilities ...

Ok - now you know the song and that was kind of depressing so this is something random to cheer everyone up:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Is a dream a lie if it don't come true - or it is something worse?

You know it's bad when I start quoting Springsteen.
I pride myself in my ability to just keep trudging along - I get knocked down and I get right back up, brush myself off and keep going because that's what you do.  But today I fell off the cliff and took a couple hours to get really, really, really (did I say really?) depressed.  Right now I'm in the "anger phase" but in a few minutes I'll probably go back to bed and cry my eyes out again.

Back in January of 2012 I quit my wonderful job for a non-profit in Pioneer Square because I foolishly thought I could get another part-time up by where I live and I didn't want to go all the way downtown anymore.  Well, apparently, that elusive part-time job does not exist. I've had four attempts at part-time jobs since then after exhaustive searches and all have ended badly.

Needless to say, it is not financially sustainable to have these hit and miss jobs that don't even remotely pay me what I'm worth and we've been blazing through our savings between of my horse costs and the added hospital bills (from falling off my horse) Today after being told I am being fired after just one day I just realized after almost 18 months of this crap I'm going to admit defeat and sell my horse.  I can't in good conscience keep spending down our savings when it's become pretty obvious that either I'm a terrible employee (which I have a resume and long list of references that say I'm not - so WTF?) or I'm cursed.  And I'll be honest, I don't have it in me any more to try.  I could send out a generic resume and cover letter but I think if I walked into a job interview right now all I'd be capable of doing is narrowing my eyes and saying, "And how are you going to fuck me over? Huh? Just get it out right now before you waste any more of my time!"

I'm trying to imagine my life without horses and I really can't.  Horses are my drug, my therapy, my sustenance and that "beer after a hard day's work".  Even my husband who would be happy to never see or hear about another horse said he doesn't want me to give up horses because he fears I would be miserable and awful to be around.  But I just can't afford to keep bouncing from crap part-time job to crap part-time job and spending down our savings account and having my self-esteem stomped even more with each failure.  This latest job lasted one day.  It was my supposedly my "dream job" and the woman hired me three weeks ago and said I could start last Friday.  Friday seemed to go OK and I thought I was the luckiest person in the world to have a job as a dressage trainer's assistant. Then I get a call this morning saying, "I just talked to my accountant and he thinks it is a bad idea to do a work/trade situation because you're not getting worker's comp.  And I can't afford to pay you so it's not going to work out."  WTF?  Couldn't you have figured that out three fucking weeks ago so I could've kept looking for a job???

I felt a little better this morning after listening to AC/DC in the car really loudly and screaming "Fuck you all!" at the top of my lungs (the joys of driving in rural areas so no one saw me doing that!).  Then I had a really good ride with Maiden and I thought, "No matter what crappy thing happens I can always come out and be with Maiden and she always makes me feel better!"  Then I realized that it's pretty hopeless that I'm going to be able to keep her and I started crying again and I had to rush to get out of the barn before I totally lost it.  I felt bad because a new girl had just moved her Friesan in yesterday and I passed her and she smiled brightly and said "hello" and I was trying so hard not to cry I just ducked my head and muttered "hi" and ran to my car where I started bawling my head off.  Oh well.   At this rate I won't be there that long for her to even care.  It seems like the whole circle of things is going the way it should.  I'm going to have to leave but Trainer K. has a new person for training to take my place and life will go on as it should.  It just really sucks right now.  I'm sure I'll find something to be obsessed with that I can afford eventually but right now I just feel like going to bed and never getting up again.  Or whatever it is people do when they have a nervous breakdown.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

But Volacoraptors eat eggs ...

We were having breakfast on the hotel patio yesterday and some really annoying boys and their much worse dad were being stupid and screaming at the birds and being everything that bugs me about humanity ... (ok - that's not the point ...) anyway, one of the boys put his breakfast plate down in the middle of the walkway (so lots of people had to step over it and looked confused) and yelled, "COME EAT, BIRDS!".  Ok - the fact that they were white trash dumbasses is not the point so let me get back on track.  All these sparrows landed on the plate and were eating the scrambled eggs and my husband expressed concern that it wasn't good for them.  So, in true pre-coffee fashion I said, "I think it's OK. Bigger birds like Volacoraptors eat eggs," to which he said, "Those are really big birds, Honey ..." then paused and when I didn't say anything he said, "You know those are dinosaurs, right?" to which I did the facepalm thing and said, "Oh yeah,  I meant raptors."

A bit of research shows that even small birds eat eggs naturally.  They wouldn't probably eat chicken eggs unless they are living around a farm, but they eat unhatched eggs and it provides them with important minerals and nutrients.  More research shows that they have a lot of House Sparrows down here along with some Eurasian Tree Sparrows. There are a few Starlings that come around too but they aren't as fearless of the people as the Sparrows.

I'm reading a book by Temple Grandin about animal behavior as relating to people with autism and it's very interesting.  A lot of what she is saying about animals and their way of perceiving the world is what I already know, but I've had to do a lot of reading and research and spent a lot of hands-on time with animals in order to know it and it just comes naturally to her because of the way her brain works.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has pets or works with animals or has any interest at all in them.  Or I guess now that I think about it, it would be a good read for anyone who has people in their lives with autism.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The good, the bad, the very sore feet

I woke up early this morning and had awful insomnia, worrying about taking my daughter to Disneyland for the first time, worrying I would ruin it for her with my dislike or crowds, theme parks, roller coasters and things that spin.  Not to mention concentrated petri dishes of virus and bacteria exepriences like a theme park filled with children from all over the world.  I finally gave up on myself at 4am and took a quarter of a diazepam feeling like a failure in the self-nurturing/not worrying world.

Something odd happened after breakfast though, I was getting ancy to go and was rushing my husband to hurry up so we could get out the door.  We got to the entrance and I was feeling all "a-twitter" and we got inside and I just lost it and turned into a little kid again.  I saw Goofy and asked my daughter if she wanted a picture with him and she sighed and said, "No, I'm good." Then I saw Pluto and actually bounced up and down and said, "I love Pluto! I have to get my photo with Pluto!"  Unfortunately, Pluto was going on a smoke break.   We got in line for the Magic Kingdom and waited for about ten minutes until it opened and I could feel all the excitement as they opened the entrance and people of all ages ran in screaming and hooting and hollering.  I did make the mistake of looking back and seeing the huge sea of people coming up "Main Street" from the entrance and my whole body had a flash of total panic and I thought "I can't handle this crowd!" but I figured it would thin out once we got inside.  And sure enough, the crowds did thin out and though it was crowded you could still get around which is what mattered for my peace of mind.

I actually enjoyed myself! I think I had a better deal than my husband because I didn't have to wait in line for a half hour for the Peter Pan ride because I'd just gotten off Mr Toad's Wild Ride and my back (where I broke it three months ago) was not happy with me.  Then when we had to stand in line for almost 90 minutes to get into Pixie Hollow so our daughter could meet the fairies (the only actors in costume she wanted to meet) I got hungry so I got to go wander around and look for lunch to go - and got sidetracked by some things like Frontier Land and a show in the Royal Theater.  I came back with a huge turkey sandwich on ciabbata bread and a mac & cheese lunch for our daughter's lunch.  When I was squeezing up to where my family was waiting there were many mutterings of "Wish she was bringing that to us"  I also brought my daughter a book to read in line and a crossword book for myself to pass the time which helped.  

Once in Pixie Hollow an extremely intense woman with a clipboard came up to my daughter and asked, "Who's your favorite fairy?" and when my daughter answered the woman said, "Would you be willing to say that on camera in front of the whole world?" and my daughter lit up and said, "Sure!" and the woman turned around and yelled while pointing down at my daughter's head, "This one! We've got to have this one!" and then said, "Everyone says Tinkerbell.  We don't need any more Tinkerbells! We've been looking for someone to say {the fairy my daughter likes}" Then she handed me a clipboard and said, "Whoever writes faster - how about you Mom, fill it out and sign it!" then scurried away.  A few minutes later she came back and said abruptly, "This is not the time to be shy! You must speak up.  Give me a practice! Who is your favorite fairy?" and my daughter stood up straight and answered her loudly and the woman said, "Pefect! Let's go, people!" and some much less intense younger crew people took my daughter over and had her sit on a plastic flower and asked her a few questions.  Then intense woman bellowed, "Excellent! Good poise! Good enunciation! That was excellent!" handed me a card with the url for the Disney blog and said, "Look for her in the next couple days!" and swooped off again.  I thought they were just kidding on tv shows when they portrayed characters like her.  Imagine - if she is that intense for a clip for the blog, imagine how intense the same type of person would be for an actual commercial or god forbid an actual tv show.  Yikes.  Our daughter is in the "I want to be a Disney actress" phase but I think I've talked her out of it by warning her she wouldn't get to have much childhood then because she'd be so busy working.  I told her she can take acting classes now if she wants but if she wants to be on television or movies she needs to wait until she's older so she can enjoy being a kid longer.  She seemed to buy that rationale. 

I was sad that the Mark Twain riverboat wasn't running because I loved that as a kid.  But we went over the Pirate's Island and I admit I ended up sitting on a bench because I was getting tired.  I yelled something up a cliff to my daughter and a woman sitting next to me said, "That's my daughter's middle name (the last part of my daughter's name)" then she said, "It was my grandmother's name" and I said it was a family name going back to my great-great-grandmother.  We just started talking and it was one of those crazy instant connections where you know you'll be friends.  We tried to add each other on Facebook but both being in our 40's couldn't figure out how to do it on our iPhones (urgh - mom dork moment) so hopefully we'll find each other again in the land of social networking and keep in touch.

By the time we got back to the hotel all of us were exhausted and had incredibly sore feet.  There is talk of going back this evening but I'm not so sure about that.  We'll have to see after dinner what  we think about that.  I'm amazed I actually had a good time.  Enough I want to go back tomorrow.  But we already agreed I wouldn't go two days in a row because adult tickets are so expensive and I really do need to put some serious time into working on my novel.  I have this probably really silly notion that if I can get a fairly decent rough draft done by July I can take it to the Buck Brannaman clinic in Cle Elum and give him a copy to read because I would like to quote him at the beginning of the book.  I know it's probably a pipe dream that he'd have time to read it but I figure since I want to quote him (it's just a very short quote and my research shows I don't need permission for a partial sentence quote -  "I help horses with people problems ...")  I thought it'd be nice if he were aware of what it was he was being quoted in.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Occular migraines

Apparently, I had an occular migraine yesterday.  I was wondering what had happened and after much googling of a variety of terms such as "geometric shapes in field of vision" I finally found my answer.  What I find interesting also is that although I think I tend to be a hypochondriac, I didn't find time until almost 36 hours later to google it (it also occurred to me to call a real professional but that usually costs money so I thought I'd see what kind of wackiness the internets could provide for me).

I was at the barn, I'd just finished my ride and I was cleaning Maiden's feet when I saw a grid flash in front of my eyes.  Then it started flashing and wavering and jiggling in my left field of vision.  I stood up thinking maybe it was because I had been bent over and the blood rushed to my head but it just got worse.  My first thought was "I'm having a stroke ... what the hell are those tests you're supposed to do to tell if you're having a stroke?"  Then I remembered that weird things in your field of vision are not a sign of a stroke. So my next thought was "What did I eat or drink that someone could have drugged me with?" And quickly dismissed that because all I'd had was a yogurt and why would any of my friends at the barn drug me?  Meanwhile, the wiggly black and white grid was getting much worse and after I put Maiden back in her stall I was having to really concentrate to see past it in order to see where I was going.  I did wonder if I was getting a migraine headache but I had those when I was a kid and the symptoms are really severe and obvious and I didn't have any of them (nausea, extreme fatigue, extreme pain).  I did figure out it was only in my left eye because if I closed just my left eye I could still the wavy patterns but they were against a back black-drop and I could focus more clearly with my right eye.  Because now, ten minutes or so later if I kept my left eye open it was really hard to see and focus past the weird jiggling patterns.

I didn't tell anyone because I figured there was nothing they could do and I reassured myself that if it got worse while I was driving home I'd just have to pull off and call 911 and tell them I couldn't see anything but jiggling patterns.  After I finished cleaning up my stuff and sweeping out the groom room I went and sat in my car for a moment and it seemed like it was going away.  By the time I pulled out of the driveway of the barn it was totally gone.  It was so weird!  I'm glad to know what it was and that it was nothing to worry about!

That might be why yesterday and today I felt a little off.  I actually felt so off while I was lunging Maiden today that I wondered if I was coming down with the flu.  I didn't feel directly sick, just spacey and weak.  Luckily that went away after lunging and I stared to ride because Maiden was having an off day too.

First she was just ancy all around.  Maybe because it was very busy in the arena - there were three other Western horses with Trainer J and Trainer JD was lunging a student on his horse.  Both of those trainers are very loud too and have rather bellowing voices so it had a bit of a chaotic feel to it in the arena.  First Maiden spooked a little at a noise coming from outside when we passed the door - but just a little hop to the side and I gave her a little nudge forward with my leg and talked to her and kept her moving to keep her from obsessing on it.  Then we passed the bleachers and there was a toddler sitting in them watching her mom out on one of the Western horses and I said "hi" to her as I passed and Maiden looked concerned about her.  Then on our next pass I was just saying "hi again" to the little girl when someone on that side dropped something that went "bang!" (but it wasn't out of the ordinary of any of the usual loud noises we hear daily) and next thing I knew I was saying, "Whooops! Here we go!" because Maiden leaped to the side, turned 90 degrees and started to bolt across the arena.  It only took a few steps of bolting before she remembered I was on her back and stopped dead in her tracks.  Well, I asked her to stop but often when horses are panicked they don't hear you so I was very glad she was able to hear me.

There were lots of gasps from the other riders and Trainer J. asked if I was ok and I said I was fine and very surprised and grateful I stayed on.  But it really shook me up.  Literally and figuratively.  It jerked by lower back around and I could really it in the muscles where I'd been injured 11 weeks ago. I never considered getting off though.  We just went and walked some more and I felt so freaked out I wanted to cry, but I didn't want to cry in front of either of the trainers because Trainer J would get worried and advise me to get off and try to relax (in which case I'd freak myself out more and not want to get on again) and Trainer JD would yell at me that I was a wimp and get over it and stop sniveling.  Honestly I did not want to do either.  So we walked around a lot and I reminded myself that I had just proven to myself that her spooks were really not that bad and pretty easy to ride so why was I worried?  And after awhile I got over it enough that we were able to trot and we were both able to relax so much that she stretched her neck way out and down and trotted along with her nose practically in the dirt, lifting her back and using her propulsion for the hind end and getting a really nice work-out.

Trainer J has a mother and daughter who ride at the same time and I like them so we all rode around together and were practicing similar things despite riding in different disciplines.  I've been telling the mom about dressage and she seems really interested in it.  So, that took my mind off my anxiety too until I felt like I'd gotten my confidence back as far as my own riding goes.  There was one other student who was having terrible trouble with her lesson horse and was worrying me.  The horse was getting really angry with her because she was wiggling all over the place in the saddle and yanking the reins around and didn't seem to be grasping what Trainer J. was telling her to do.  A couple times her horse started to rear and I could tell Trainer J. was getting worried too.  I ended up deciding we'd done enough work and it was best to clear out when the girl's horse had had it with her and started scooting backwards straight toward Maiden and me and despite the trainer's instruction to let up on the reins the girl kept pulling back on them which was making it worse (and which is what led to the attempt to rear incident).  Oh my.  I don't know what the story is but I don't want to be out there again when that girl is out there.  With the mom and daughter if I was trotting and they were walking I could call out "passing on the inside!" and they'd keep on the outside and the three of us knew where each of us were at all times to not run into each other.  But I tried to pass this girl and called out "on the inside" and she just weaved straight toward me.  I hate to say it but some people just should not get on the back of a horse.  She should probably start on a saw horse with a saddle until she can learn to process and follow directions a little better.

I actually had wanted to stay in the arena and watch Trainer JD's lesson for a bit but decided to opt for my safety from ditzo-rama girl and her horse she couldn't control (and was pissing off with her awful wiggly seat and yanking on the poor horses face).  He had a somewhat new student who had messed around with horses before taking dressage and was amazed how little she knew - just like me.  So, I took an immediate liking to her and had hoped to watch a little of her lesson.  Oh well.  At least I'm all in one piece! 

In other nice Spring time news, I put out some bird feeders a couple weeks ago and word has finally gotten around to the bird population.  The one right outside the sliding glass door next to our back deck seems to be the most popular.  So far I've seen black capped chickadees and sparrows.  The kittens love it and will spend hours in front of the sliding glass doors, all hunched up and chittering at the birds.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Emergency Dismounts

My way of relating to life has always been such that I've been ready to bail at the first sight of danger (emotional, physical or otherwise) and in most instances have had one foot out the door "just in case".  So,  you could say I practiced the used of the "emergency dismount" frequently in my life whether it was warranted or not.  And emergency dismount is when you jump off your horse before you are thrown off your horse.  And belief it or not with my track record of using emergency dismounts in all other aspects of my life, I have never been taught to do one on a horse.  I have thankfully, learned how to let go and allow myself to fall off a horse when it's obvious there's no way I can stay on (as opposed to hanging on and possibly taking the horse down with me).  But this is different.

I was riding Maiden in my lesson and Trainer K. was exercising T.I.'s horse, Temple while giving me a lesson and the wind kicked up.  I've never noticed what the roof in the arena is made out of on the outside but on the inside is a layer of thick plastic nailed up underneath to keep the roof leaking to a minimum.  When the wind kicks up really hard the plastic blows and crackles a little and when it's really bad branches go "clunk clunk clunking" across the roof which sounds like predators running over our heads.  Except for one horrible storm where big branches fell on the roof and it sounded like a war zone.  So, the wind picked up today and both Trainer K. and I stopped our horses and took up contact on the reins to be prepared in case they spooked.  Maiden didn't even blink an eye (Yay!) and actually Temple seemed pretty relaxed about the whole thing.

Trainer K. said, "Look over here and see what I did that you didn't do," and I said, "Dropped your whip?" and she said, "No, I don't carry one with her," (Temple is phobic of dressage whips even though we don't ever hit the horses with them - we just tap them lightly as an aid - but she had a bad experience at some point in her life).  I said, "You took up contact (tighter reins), but I did that too," and she said, "No, look at my feet."  I said she'd dropped her stirrups but I didn't know she's done that when the wind started, I thought they'd already been dropped (ie: took her feet out of them).  It seemed to me you'd want your stirrups if you think your horse is going to spook and try to throw you so you had a better chance of staying on.  She said it was the first step to preparing for an emergency dismount to which I had to admit "I don't actually know how to do one."

So she showed me - she put both reins in one hand, took hold of the front of the saddle and straightened her arm, then pushed herself up with that arm, and all in one movement swung her leg over the horse and pushed herself off.  I said "Ok, I see. Got it."  To which she stood there staring at me until I said, "Well, I can't do it now. I'll fall on my butt and I'm not supposed to do that till at least June,"  to which she just stood there staring at me in that way she does that says "You're kidding right? I'm going to stand here and bore holes in you with my eyes until you do it."  And I said again, "I really can't do it.  I'll fall down."  And she said, "Not if you do it right. You're not going to fall." To which I didn't bother arguing my point of "But I doubt I'm going to do it right!" 

So, I did it.  And I didn't fall.  And I have to say it was a fairly graceful emergency dismount.  Now I just need to practice it a hundred more times so that I can perfect it enough to do it if my horse suddenly loses her mind and goes rogue. Sigh.

On a happy riding note, I'm starting to build up enough trust with Maiden that I can ride her with a loose enough rein that she can stretch.  It's incredibly important for her to stretch her neck down and engage her back and use her body so propulsion is coming from her hind end and she starts to build up the proper muscles.  Right now her back is really "hollow" meaning she doesn't have a lot of muscle in her core and that makes her back looked sway-back or as one trainer calls horses trained to use their bodies incorrectly like that "a U-backed horse".    Riding at a walk and trot with almost no rein in order to exercise and train the horse effectively is really no biggie for someone like Trainer K., but it is very hard for me - still a beginner and not at all confident.  Especially post-accident with Maiden a few months ago.  My riding lessons focus on both my posture and using correct aids but also on riding Maiden as though every day I ride her I am training her just as Trainer K. is.   So I spend my whole lesson riding like the woman in the first photo on this page.   Which feels like I'm not completely in control and is also a challenge for balance.  But I'm starting to get used to it and trust Maiden enough to relax and focus on my posture and how I'm posting while she's trotting with her back engaged and her neck stretched.  So we're able to both get a good work-out - as opposed to me refusing to let the reins out so she can stretch and fearing every sound I hear will spook her and every flick of her tail means she's going to spook and spin off somewhere.

I also have a new job starting in a couple weeks.  I would be really excited about it except I am still hesitant and bitter after this last job ending up in the flopper.   So, I am cautiously excited about it. In theory it sounds like a perfect situation but the last job sounded like a really good situation too and that turned out to be a bust.  I'll be working as a trainer's assistant/working student for a dressage trainer in exchange for horse boarding and lessons.  So, my desire to just "work in the barn" all day has been fulfilled.  I hope it works out.  I don't see any reason why it wouldn't but like I said I'm a little bitter and jaded right now so I'm only cautiously optimistic.

And it's time to plant my starts.  I was feeling really behind until I remembered that Spring doesn't really hit our area until June so it's ok to get my starts planted mid-April and outside early June.  Another nice garden development is that the bird feeders I put out three weeks ago are starting to be discovered by black cap chickadees and woodpeckers.  We also have a lot of robins in our yard but that happens every year because of all the tiny little black spiders that infest our area right down by the creek.  We also have an over-abundance of frogs (they're out in force this year - unlike last year) and the little black salamanders I'm already running across now that I've started weeding the garden beds.