Wednesday, October 9, 2013

That stress breaking point ...

I am teetering on the edge of that point of stress where you completely lose perspective and get maudlin so I decided it was a good evening to get into my pajamas before dinner and not worry too much about anything the rest of the evening.

BuddyCat is still 50/50 whether or not he's going to survive this week.  He seemed more alert and coherent when we got up this morning, but his neck is also extremely swollen and we don't know if that's from an allergic reaction or from edema from a stroke.  In case it was an allergic reaction he's had some benadryl and some more sub-cutaneous fluids and more anti-nausea medicine, but he's still refusing to eat.  Although, when I went to feed Girlfriend this afternoon, I came home and he wasn't on the bed in the downstairs bathroom where I left him, and he wasn't on the chair in the living room.  I was scared he'd gone somewhere to hide and die and searched all over for him and finally found him sitting on the back of the couch in the office in the sun purring away.  So, who knows if he's going to live through this week or not. I'm actually not so worried about him as I am my husband, who seems frighteningly like he might fall apart when BuddyCat goes and that breaks my heart.  I'm feeling like I'm prepared. He's had a good run - almost 19 years and now I'm far more worried about him suffering than I am about him dying.  I'm actually feeling kind of peace about letting him go.  But then I've been expecting this would happen for at least a year now because he's so old.

So, that has been a huge stress the last couple days.  And being sick has not helped.  Right after coming home and trying to catch up on everything.  And trying to take care of myself so I will get well by tomorrow so I can go to work.  And I did something SUPER scary for me this morning and I can't believe I did it an that stressed me out horribly.

So, one of the things I thought would be a great addition to the course I took at equine massage school was if they offered an elective class in building confidence in horse handling.  I felt like I was fine and most of my classmates seemed to feel pretty confident in that area, but some of my classmates expressed some apprehension about handling certain horses because they didn't work with horses everyday like some of us so they weren't as comfortable with some behaviors.  I realized that if it had been six or seven years ago I wouldn't have been comfortable knowing how to deal with some of the usual horse behaviors that come up during bodywork either.

So, I put together a rough draft curriculum along with a proposal and sent it to the head of the equine massage school today and as soon as I did I had this huge bout of terror (social anxiety?) and thought "Aaaagh! Why did I do that? She's going to think it's the stupidest idea ever and wonder why I'm such a dork I would even send that?"

I took lots of cold medicine and went to the barn to take care of Maiden and when I got there my vet had just arrived to look at Bruce, my friend's Thoroughbred who is sick.  While she was getting her things ready for the exam I told Trainer K. my idea and asked if she thought it was stupid and she said she thought it was a great idea.  She said she had heard of a lot of people who went into fields of health care for horses and didn't have much hands on experience and it was really hard for them and schools like my equine massage school are not horsemanship schools, they are meant to teach equine massage so someone with little hands on horse handling experience would find it really hard.  She added, "Isn't that right?" to my vet who said yes, she'd run into some people in vet school who'd not owned their own horses and working on horses was a lot harder for them than the vet students who'd owned their own horses.

So, hopefully that means if the school doesn't like the idea, or thinks I'm not qualified to be the one teaching it, it doesn't mean it was a stupid idea.  Just not the right fit for that situation.  And I don't have to be humiliated to show my face back there for my next practical in Spring.

As always it made me feel better working with Maiden.   Trainer K. said we need to start working harder on helping her develop her topline muscles and using her body correctly and that just plain lunging with the halter isn't helping her learn how to do that.  It seems to be going well when we're riding, she does really well going "long and low" and trying to engage her core with help from me as a rider.  But yeah, lunging she's still using her body incorrectly quite frequently although she does try once in awhile to not be so hollow and upside down.  So, today I started lunging her with the lunge line through her bridle and attached to her girth to help her with her lateral bend.  Doing it this way is good for her because the lunge line can run through the bridle and loosen as she relaxes and lowers at the poll and gets tight as she hollows her back and throws her head back, so it encourages her to use her body correctly, but it doesn't force her into an particular position or hold her body in a certain way.  She gets really freaked out about having the lunge line like this because she seems to think I'm going to pull her head down and force it to stay there, so I had to keep a lot of slack in the lunge line to help her feel safe.  She ended up coming around well and relaxing and really trying hard to use her body correctly and we did some concentric circles and some gait transitions.  I could tell she was trying very hard and I was very proud of her!

We were having a nice relaxing ride with lots of stretching and we even had a couple really nice walk to trot transitions where she actually kept her neck relaxed and didn't throw her head way up and back during the transition like she did every time when I first got her.  M.  was riding her stunningly beautiful OTTB, Tiberius and out of the blue said "You want to switch horses?"  Normally, I am all about musical ponies and getting to ride as many different horses as I can but today I just wasn't feeling on top of my game at all from stress and being sick.  But come on, how can I say no to riding another OTTB?  Especially one who reminds me so much of Toad?  But I still wasn't feeling so sure about my abilities so I went out and got my eventing vest just in case.

It took me a few minutes to get on him because he kept backing away from the mounting block and was not at all happy about me trying to get him to stand still and at one point stopped and looked at me dead on and I swear a little word bubble popped up above his head that said, "I don't know what you're trying to do and I don't like it so let's just throw down! Right here! Right now!"  I stared him down for a minute or so (which I hear you're not supposed to do for some reason but it seemed the right thing in my gut to do at that moment) until he sighed and started chewing.  I backed him up to the mounting block and told him what a good boy he was and then he was fine for mounting.

He is sooooo different from Maiden.  For one he's very slow and heavy footed and quite a bit bigger than Maiden and you can feel how much stronger his legs are than hers are.  She's a very wide, kind of squishy horse and he's a big, tall, lean mass of power.  He's also hard to get going in this weird total lack of impulsion sort of way until you learn to communicate in a way he understands.  Which I apparently did not do because for Maiden it's light squeeze, if that doesn't work tap with the dressage whip, then light squeeze to go faster and if that doesn't work, tap with the dressage whip.  Apparently, that's not what you do with Tiberius because the second thing resulted in a strange little hop/buck and kick which M. Said "Yeah, he doesn't like that. Use more leg."  Ooops.  We did end up getting going a little better and went around the arena at a trot which was that lovely Thoroughbred trot that I like so much.  Although he stops on a dime which was unexpected.  Ok, he didn't slide or anything but he stopped very abruptly which pitched me forward a little bit, which was kind of scary for me because he's so narrow I felt like he could just slip right out from under me if he wanted to.  I think I'd want to get to know him a little more with some ground work before I rode him again, but it was fun to get to ride a different horse and good for my confidence that I did it.  I think I will from here on out though prefer my wide horses like Maiden because she really takes you with her if she suddenly spooks and goes careening off sideways or bolts.

It was good for my confidence to try something new like that even if it was a little scary for me.

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