Saturday, May 25, 2013

Could you just make a happy face ...

Maiden was in the pissiest of moods today.  She was worse under saddle than she's ever been with me.  But then after our ride when I was just standing in the middle of the arena watching someone's lesson Maiden was leaning her head on my and snorting happily and asking me to scratch her neck up at the poll.

I don't know what she was so pissy about.  She didn't want to trot on the lunge line and kept trying to stop and then stand and glare at me.  I was watching for any signs of pain and she didn't appear to have any.  I asked Trainer K. to look for some and she didn't see any.  She'd been eating ok in her stall and she otherwise seemed fine.  When I got on her to ride we passed Trainer K. and Gemini and Maiden flattened her ears back against her head and I couldn't see her face but Trainer K muttered "Could you just make a happy face ..."  She may have been reacting to the horses because it was so busy.  There was a two year old being lunged by Trainer J who Maiden kept giving the stink eye and every time we went anywhere near his side of the arena she'd tense up and act like a predator who wanted to pounce.

Trotting under saddle went badly too.  She tried to run off at a trot but with her head thrown high up in the air, literally chomping at the bit with her ears flat back.  At first I stopped her and leaned forward and looked at the bridle and bit because I was sure she'd gotten her tongue over the bit or a horse fly had gotten under her nose band or something.  Then I asked Trainer K to watch and see if she was showing signs of lameness and she said no, she just looked like she was being contrary.  I'm such a worry-wort that I wasn't going to push her out of fear something was hurting her but Trainer K assured me she saw no sign of that and just to push forward.  So, we fumbled around with me trying to get her to trot, her prancing in place, throwing her head and at one point even giving a little buck.  Finally, she started trotting but she wasn't moving forward, she was running with little tiny steps and her head was way back and I was sadly trying to post without pitching forward or landing with a horrible thud on her back every time I came down. 

The irony was, despite that she is very sensitive about contact with the reins, Trainer K said I wasn't having enough contact so when I shorted the reins a lot (because her head was so high and back my hands were on either side of her neck) she actually started to relax and finally after much muddling she relaxed and dropped her neck and engaged her back and trotted like normal.  But it was challenging.  I don't know what was up with that but hopefully it was an isolated incident and thankfully she didn't freak out and throw me off (which I was fearing).   Then she was all sorts of snuggly and loving so who knows.

Yesterday was my first official day as an assistant instructor/trainee at pony camp.  Lots of "heels down" "balls of your feet in your stirrups" "sit on your pockets when you ask the horse to stop" going on.  I slipped up today and while the student (who is my friend or I wouldn't have said anything) was riding by while her trainer was on his cell phone it slipped out "Keep your stirrups on the ball of your foot - it's scary when they're that far in the stirrup ..." and I realized that is a huge no-no and I hate it when trainers other than my trainer do that.  'Doh! I don't know how Trainer K. does it.  The other dressage trainer at the barn does things very differently from her and he has his students sitting in a position that makes them look to me like lawn darts that could pitch forward off their horse at any second.  But it's not my training.  And I don't even ride very well so I have no business giving advice.  So, I must learn when I leave pony camp to not let all the feet in stirrups, heels up at your hips and all of those thoughts slip out of my mouth.

Pony camp (which is currently just group classes because camp doesn't start until next month) is adorable.  I love the ponies and there is nothing cuter in the world than a yard full of ponies fast asleep in the sun!  I'm going to have to take a photo one day of it because it makes me so happy.  And they all have such distinct personalities and are such "ponies" (meaning they want their way and they want it now). But when little kids are on their back even if they wander the wrong direction or as Chunky Monkey likes to do - walk around behind me and bump me in the butt - they are so sweet and don't buck, bolt or rear with these little kids on them.  Which is surprising because little kids can be quite destructive on a pony with the whole yanking on the reins and kicking at the same time (which is why it's nice to have volunteers one on one with the little ones to keep that from happening).  It's a very well run program and I can already tell I'm going to really enjoy it.  For some of the kids it is literally daycare on a pony, but it is so cool to see others who at five years old are out there wanting to learn to ride and wanting to learn to care for their ponies.  And I think it's so good for kids - learning responsibility and leadership and setting boundaries and speaking up for what they want.  I think the world was a much saner place when most families had horses in their lives.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Slugs in the system

Today after going out to work with Maiden, it was gardening day.  I managed to convince my husband that instead of weeding community areas on the neighborhood he would be more appreciated if he helped me weed the secret garden walkways.  While we were back there he started brainstorming on moving the compost bin and putting the rain barrel in the community garden, then we could move the bench to the corner where it would be a lot more practical and one could have a view of the community garden plus the trellis into the garden and the trees in the environmentally protected area beyond that.  Great idea except for moving the rain barrel.  

First we took buckets of water and put them in the other rain barrel in our front yard but that filled up quickly.  We didn't want to empty it in the secret garden because there was way too much water for just the raised beds and the rest would flow out on the walkway and end up going to the foundation of the house.  The secret garden is a long, thin space along the west side of our house that when we moved in was bare except for beauty bark on the ground because being about the size of an urban alley, the previous owners thought it was useless space.  It gets great sun though (magically since it's between two houses and a very tall fence) so we put in raised beds, some cobblestones and ground cover and some flowering vines and grape vines (that you can see outside the windows).  Anyway, my husband decided to drag the rain barrel full of water out of the secret garden and part way through the dragging the poorly attached hose a the bottom came off and water started spouting in the secret garden and making puddles that were running down toward the foundation.  I started to reach for the hose to put it back on when "splurf!" a slug that came out with the flowing water got stuck in the hole and plugged it up! Ha! That solved our problems.

I am officially signed up for school at the local equine massage school (squeee!) and I have a class in equine aromatherapy at the end of the month.  I'm pretty excited about that and I'm hoping it's more science based then woo-based.  And I'm hoping they aren't just transferring what smells affect humans to horses without any research behind it to show it's not just anthropomorphism.  Well, olfactory anthropomorphism.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bugs in the Machinery

I was trying to read news on my laptop while sitting on the couch just now and the tiny Australian Shepherd (newest addition to our family) decided she absolutely needed to right this moment sit on my lap despite that the laptop impeding her mission.  I managed to push her off of me onto the couch between me and the pitbull (where she is now happily mauling a toy squirrel).  Not a second later I wondered "why is my cursor going crazy on the screen? I'm not touching anything?" when I realized it was an ant running across my screen.  I tried to flick it off but it fell down into the crack in the seam where the base and screen meet on my laptop so I tried shaking it out (without giving my laptop shaken baby syndrome in the process). Sigh.  I haven't had a long-haired dog in years so I forgot how many things cling to them.  The other morning I was brushing her off after she came in from crawling around under the back deck and I found a slug clinging to her belly hair.  She has now earned her very first nickname:  Slugbelly.  My daughter thinks that would be a good band name.  Especially because with Slug Terra and Epic it appears gastropods are the next big thing.  I remember being at a writer's conference years ago and an agent saying for children's books hamsters were the next big thing.  I wonder if last year she was telling children's books writers that gastropods were the next big thing?

In other random news my daughter woke me up this morning from a dream that I went to Costco to renew my membership but the staff was so rude I decided not to.  But I found a baby bag full of bottles and sippy cups and prescription medicine and when I went to return it to the lost and found I ran into all these hassles and they ended up arresting me saying I'd stolen the bag.  They put me in Costco's Morgue (???) to hold me until the police came and I was freaking out about how cold it was and that they wheeled in a bunch of dead bodies with me.  As soon as they closed the doors the cast from the original Star Trek all sat up on their gurneys and Spock said, "Ok, they're gone, we need to beam back up to the ship before they come back," then Frankenstein sat up from his gurney and said, "Please take me with you!"  That's right when my daughter woke me up.  I imagine that dream meant absolutely nothing at all.

My mid-life crisis career change seems to be going well so far.  I'm signed up for a continuing ed. class next week in Hot Stone Massage which will cover eight of my required twenty-four hours.  I'm doing a six hour online course to cover the professional roles and ethics portion of my continuing ed. requirement and four hour online course in AIDS awareness and prevention.  So, I just need one more one day course and I'll have my required hours and then just need to take the licensing test again.  So, by June I'll hopefully have my people license and that's when I had planned to start my equine massage course if all goes well.  So, I'm actually right on track.  For humans I'm thinking I will expand my focus from sports and repetitive use injury massage to support for living with autoimmune diseases.  Which is why I chose hot stone massage.  I know for RA heat is really helpful - which is weird because in all other conditions involving inflammation heat is contraindicated.  I think it may have something to do with increased blood flow but I'm not sure and it's something I want to do a little more studying on and see if anyone has found out why that is.  The Chinese medicine doctors would have an explanation that has to do with energy and heat/cold affecting our energy flows but I don't know anything about that stuff.

On Saturday I went to help with pony classes at a local riding school that focuses primarily on young children.  It is the only program I know of that takes kids as young as preschool.  I really enjoyed it and I need to talk to the director today and see if she'd like to have me help out and be an assistant teacher with the plan of eventually becoming a main teacher.  I can't think of a better compliment to an equine massage therapy career than teaching at pony camp!  I'm just worried about whether or not they want me to help because it's totally different than anything I've ever done with horses.  It was more like when I'd babysit my daughter's preschool friends and a couple times substitute for her teacher at the in-home daycare if she had to go to a mid-day doctor appointment.  It's 180 degrees different than my riding lessons or even my daughter's riding lessons because especially at camp many of the kids have never been around horses and even the kids my daughter's age have far less experience than she has.  My daughter's riding lessons were a little funner than an adults but still very serious because Trainer K. is a "coach" and coaches people who are serious about their riding in that they are going to be out practicing between lessons and really focusing on what they're doing more than just having fun and playing.  There's nothing wrong with that - and there's nothing wrong with it just being fun and learning something in the process - it's just too different worlds.  Trainer K. is more of a coach for if kids want to show one day and this is more of a chance to be with horses in a fun, safe environment and some of the kids will move on to keep riding and some won't.  I could already tell the kids who really wanted to learn to ride and the kids who were just there to hug the pretty ponies but didn't want to actually learn anything else.  And it was a learning curve to realize the latter is just fine - as long as we keep them safe and give them the opportunity to learn if they accept it, otherwise they're just there for a pony ride.

Most of the kids I talked to were from downtown Seattle neighborhoods so I had to really roll back my way of relating to them to not using horse phrases they didn't know and really keeping an eye on them to make sure they're safe.  Luckily, they have the cutest group of teenage volunteers who I just loved!  Before I left one of the teens came up to me and said "I saved your water bottle.  The others were going to cover it with colored duct tape," (if any of them leave their water bottles unattended the others massacre them) to which I couldn't help but saying, "They were going to duct tape *my* water bottle? Aaaaaah! That's so sweet!"  If I have to explain that you wouldn't get it anyway  :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Much going on

There has been much going on this lack week.  I had my own case of "colic" on Monday when I came home from the barn and was hit by horrible stomach pains that doubled me over then resulted in intestinal distress for the next day.  That set me back as far as getting things I'd planned to get done.  I'm trying to take a nice, relaxing anniversary weekend with my husband (11 years married and 18 years together!) but I keep getting distracted by things I "need to do".  Yesterday was very hard to let go of that so he dragged me out on a nature walk where we ended up sitting next to the river and watched an otter swim by and a raccoon making his way along the bank.  We could've sat there for a long time.  We ended up walking all over town until our feet hurt and finally found a good restaurant with outdoor seating.  Very nice because it's 80 degrees here.  Much warmer than back home has been.

As is becoming a tradition we went on a trail ride up in the foothills (on our honeymoon we went on a trail ride in the woods and the sand dunes on the coast) The guide was an old retired rodeo guy who used to ride saddle broncs.  He said that when he was in his 20's (decades ago) and he'd go to a new town to ride rodeos and didn't know anyone he'd go straight to the local E.R. and introduce himself to the nurses so someone there would know him when he showed up there a few days later.  And ya'll thought I was crazy!  He seemed like he had long since reformed his cowboy broncin' ways because he was very concerned about the well being of his trail horses and was telling me all the things they had to do to keep the horses safe from beginners hurting them on accident with the reins and their unbalanced seats.  They have to use really light, loose bits  so their faces don't get yanked on - in fact when I said I rode Maiden with a very loose rein right now because she's freaked about contact the first thing he said was "Well what kinda bit you got? Maybe it's too harsh."  So I assured him we had a nice, light split snaffle because I don't like harsh bits on anyone. He also told us they have a strict weight limit, they don't care how big a horse is they aren't putting anyone over 240 pounds on them ever and that you have to be over 5'6" if you're over 200 pounds because otherwise the weight distribution isn't fair to the horse and let's face it "the person's butt's not going to fit right in the saddle".  He had some pretty funny stories about how once a couple came in and the guy had said on the phone his wife was 130 pounds but she obviously wasn't so they made her get on a scaled and she was 230 pounds! How could your own husband be off about your weight by 100 pounds???

The scenery was beautiful and of course I found myself wanting to live there.  After the ride my old gradeschool friend who lives in a neighboring small town called and I told him about the ride up into the foothills and he said, "And now you want to live here, right?" Yep.  yep. yep.

Last week was a full week.  I'm going through and getting classes set up that I need to take to renew my massage license in this state.  I've been reading up on equine massage schools and have decided on one.  I had to get child and dog care all set up for my husband and I to go out of town and I went to an interview to work part-time at a kid's pony camp this summer to bring in some extra cash.  The interview with the camp director was refreshingly nice compared to Crazy-Ass-Bitch-Dressage-Trainer (CABDT).  The camp director is a friend of a friend so I had good references on her but even talking to her I could tell she was honest and sane and seemed to know horses and her business extremely well,  I knew that she knew it so she didn't need to brag or put on airs.  She also asked educated questions "What kind of horse do you have?" "What kind of riding?" "What experience do you have in these different disciplines?"  "This is how important safety is to us - please tell me your thoughts on safety," etc.  So that I was actually able to tell her my experience and what I know  -unlike CABDT who didn't want me to say anything and didn't listen when I tried to.  Camp Director also asked me to come for a working interview next week which made things very clear - I'll come work without pay for a day to see if I like the work and she likes having me work for her.  I liked all the clear expectations and boundaries and the ability of Camp Director to listen.  I have a very good feeling about this that even if it is not a good fit hopefully Camp Director and I will end up being friends anyway.  It also helps that my daughter went to camp there years ago her summer before Kindergarten so I know I like the camp.

One of the tough parts of the week was when one of the horses at our barn, Firefly got seriously hurt.  I think the hardest part for me personally was that his poor owner was extremely upset and there was nothing I could do to make it better for her.  It was not one of those injuries you could downplay and tell the owner they were over-reacting, it was a really horrid injury - worse than I'd ever seen.  And the worst part now is nobody knows how it happened.  Poor Firefly came in from the same pasture he goes out in everyday and his heel bulb was literally hanging off and something had even cut through part of the hoof wall.  There was blood everywhere and once the vet had cleaned out the wound you could see something white/silvery - I'm assuming the fascia of the tendons.  Luckily the owner was up at the horses head during that time because had I seen that on my own horse I probably would've freaked.  As it was I was quietly freaking inside and found excuses to hang around because I knew if I didn't see that wound all sewn up the initial visual of it bloody and hanging open was going to upset me too much.  But if I had the visual of it all put back together to replace the initial visual that would make me feel better.  And it did.  The vet did a beautiful job of sewing everything back together (although I've never seen anything get that many stitches or use that much bright pink thread - the horse's legs were dark so they use pink so it shows u better).

Off to find a souvenier for our daughter who is with the grandparents this weekend (don't even get me started on how I think I'm far too sentimental for my own good because I've spent far too much of this weekend wishing she was with us) and then off to go play miniature golf.