Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pony Camp and nerd jokes

Someone posted "21 jokes only nerds will get" on Facebook and I'm still chuckling to myself over the one that says "The programmer's wife asks him to run to the store and buy bread. She adds "If they have eggs - get a dozen." The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread."  My husband doesn't find that one as funny as I do.   The other one that made me laugh out loud was "A Higgs-Boson walks into church.  The priest says "We don't allow Higgs-Bosons in here," The Higgs Boson replies "But without me, how can you have mass?"  =snort=  Yeah, that's a good one!

Yesterday I went out to the stable to have a riding lesson right after pony camp and Trainer K. suggested I go into the arena and stand on the mounting block and tell her if I thought I could ride in that heat.  The "I want a lesson before she goes away for a week to a clinic with Andreas Hausburger from The Spanish Riding School!" part of me said "Yes," then the "I really don't want heat exhaustion" part of me said, 'Ok, probably not."  It was 90 degrees outside and over 100 degrees in the arena and the idea of doing a bunch of cardio in that heat (ie: posting trot) did not sound good.  So,  I went out earlier today so I could ride before the heat and by the time I was done riding at 11:30am it was already getting hot again.   My leasee has a riding lesson at 5:30pm tomorrow and I'm not so certain it is going to happen which would be disappointing because she too will have to wait quite awhile for another one till Trainer K. gets back.

I think things are going to work out with my new Leasee (she needs a nickname ... hmmm ...).  She's very unfamiliar with Dressage and at her last ride I had to switch the way she was holding the reins because she had them upside down (she was holding them the proper way if she were doing neck-reining with one hand) but the bigger picture that she and Maiden click and Maiden is calm and happy with her and she seems to adore Maiden and communicate well with her is more what I'm concerned about.  When she talks about the Western horses she rode in her lessons previously their shenanigans sound a lot more dangerous than Maidens.  Ok, granted an experience I had with Maiden ended up me up in an ambulance, I still find that to be rider error more than horse related.  I still feel Maiden is safe if you're not completely unfamiliar with horses.  I think Leasee is right on the "it's ok" side of the line of being experienced enough to be with Maiden once or twice a week - especially because one of those times she'll be having lessons with Trainer K.   Much like I was when I first got Girlfriend.  Although honestly, I'm still amazed I never came flying off of Girlfriend the first few months I had her - or even the first few times I tried out riding her.  

Maiden is also a lot easier to tack up and put a bridle on than some of the ponies at Pony Camp.  Yesterday I was putting Bugsy's bridle on and he actively tried to chomp my hand.  The Greenie (teen volunteer) who was working with me said, "He tried to bite me so many times yesterday - can I work with you in the crafts classroom?"  I said I already had promised another Greenie but I'd pull rank and tell one of the older Greenie's they had to switch with her.  They're really great little ponies who are very safe with the kids but they need some benign little bad habit outlets I suppose after hours of packing around excited little kids who wiggle and dance on their bikes despite the best efforts of the instructors and Greenies.   I'm really getting attached to the ponies and have found myself addressing them as "Hey Little Buddy," and "How's it going, my friend."  Yesterday I was telling Trainer K. that my daughter is going to get back on a horse again and said "This time is it my friend, Dreamy the Halflinger."  I don't know where the "my friend" came from except I feel like I bonded with him when I taught a lesson with him.  And he stepped on my foot twice.  Sigh.

That's a big deal, too!  My daughter is going to get on a horse again for the first time in seven months!  Or more specifically for the first time since my broken sacrum/L4 accident.  She really seemed to enjoy working with me all week at camp and when she was out somewhere on the farm by herself running and errand for me she met one of the younger instructors (I think she's about 21) and really liked her.  So, I signed her up for a lesson and the owner put her on Dreamy because he's "dumb and kind".   And because he's a Halflinger he's not really tall, but he's not one of the ponies because she's said she doesn't want to deal with "bratty ponies".  I have not been able to convince her that these are very sweet ponies and not at all like the little freakazoid ones she rode with that crazy, drunk riding instructor we tried out for a couple months before switching to Trainer K.   I think my daughter's been turned off ponies for life after that experience.

I enjoyed my week at pony camp.  I felt like I was really in my element.  My biggest concern for next week is that it was so hard for me to learn 14 kid's names.  I'm wondering if we can do nametags for more than the first day so my poor addled old brain doesn't explode.

Meanwhile, Maiden is doing well.  Since it was so hot yesterday I gave her a bath (which of course meant I had one too ... I have not figured out how to wash the mane of a 15.3 hh's horse with her head up in the air without taking a shower myself).  When I rode her today it was too busy in the arena to lunge so we walked around for awhile before I got on her back, but I still think she wasn't very warmed up and Trainer K. calls her a "cold backed horse" and when her muscles aren't warmed up she's kind of stiff and cranky.  And she was cranky.  I tried to use some contact to ask her to stretch when we first started riding and she got angry and started doing her little hops and backing up.  I started to panic a little because 1) she was backing up kind of fast and aggressively and 2) I could hear the loud, bitchy old trainer riding up behind me and I didn't want to deal with him yelling at me so I made a poor decision and let the contact out a bit and Maiden immediately moved forward.  But then when I applied some contact with the reins again a few steps later asking her to stretch she got REALLY pissed and this time started throwing her head and hopping.  I didn't let up (while cursing myself for wimping out and letting up a few steps ago) and held steady, gave her some leg, gave her a little whack with the dressage whip when she started to jig backward.  Then she did her angry piaffe and I stuck with it until she finally acquiesced and  went forward.  I said "Good girl!" and let the reins out all the way to the end so she could stretch her neck way out and then we were all good for the rest of the ride.  But that second time I  had to use Herculean will to stay calm.  I told myself I could just ignore or tune out if bitchy old trainer started yelling at me.  Plus, Trainer K. was in there and he usually doesn't mess with me if she's there because professional boundaries say one trainer should not mess with another trainer's student and he will stick to that if another trainer is there - if not it's fair game to be completely unprofessional, boundariless and inappropriate.  Sigh. But I also forced myself to breathe and stay calm and instead of worrying about what she was going to do just calmly say, "Oh, so you think it's a piaffe day, huh? Well, it's not," and remember I am the lead pony here - not her!

Anyway, we had a much better ride after that AND when we were cooling down and I'd taken my feet out of my stirrups (which in and of itself has been a huge deal because I've been scared to since the accident) I actually felt confident enough to do a little trotting without stirrups for a 20 meter circle.  It wasn't much but it helped me feel like I really made it over a lack of confidence hump!  I know I *can* do it - I've ridden walk, trot and canter bareback in lessons (not on Maiden but two other horses) but I've been really scared to since January and it felt good to feel confident enough to try it again.  Not confident enough to go further than a 20 meter circle, but even that was enough to make me feel proud and excited and like there's still hope for me!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Soil, Wu Tang Clan, insurance companies, and horses of courses

Summer vacation is a time of not getting to listen to my own music without loud protest and not having a moment of quiet.  So, I'm enjoying that everyone is sleeping in and I can listen to the Cure without a tween reminding me how uncool and annoying my "old people" music is.  And that it is kind of quiet - except for the dogs wrestling.  Which seems to happen all the time now.  This would not be a problem if they would do it outside but the pitbull wants to stay really close to me and 70 pounds of pitbull and 40 pounds of Australian Shepherd wrestling on my feet is not my idea of a good time.

I am happy to report  it rained really hard for an entire day mid-week right after I planted the last of my summer starts so most of them are doing really well.  We have two raised beds in the Community Garden that are surrounded by rabbit fencing because the bunnies like to eat the strawberries in one of the beds, and the other bed appears to be totally inhospitable to growth for any of my starts.  I've tried broccoli, peppers and beans and none of them survived even though they received the same amount of sun and water as the cabbage in the bed right next to them.  And as the peppers and broccoli in the beds in the Secret Garden.   The only difference is the soil looks "weird"   (side note: Wu Tang Clan just came up on my iTunes playlist and I could've sworn that I took all of that playlist off after my daughter turned three and started singing lyrics to music she heard ... hmmm ...)  Ok, so back to my weird soil.  It looks normal on top until you scrape off the very top and underneath it is crumbly and white and tan/brown and doesn't look like any soil I've seen before.  It's the same soil that I filled all four beds in the Community Garden with two years ago so I thought maybe it just had a lot of compost in it from turning over the weeds in the winter.  But I'm thinking that's not it because is compost white? Is it fungus? Mold?  What's frustrating is I've searched some organic gardening books and the internet and am not finding the answer.  I need to take a sample to some Master Gardeners and ask them.  This is the time of the year some of the students at the UW Master Gardeners program set up booths outside garden stores to answer questions so I'll have to find out when/where they're doing that next.  This is one of those weird questions I get obsessed with and even though I am going to replace the soil in that bed, I still want to know what's going on with it.

Pony Camp starts on Monday so I stopped by the school to find out where all my craft supplies will be and get my instructor t-shirt and just run through the basics with the other instructor.  My daughter's task was to cut out pictures of horses for the photo collage project and in my anal retentive way I decided it was better to have more than necessary so we spent a couple hours last night watching tv and cutting out horse pictures.  I got more done that my easily distracted tween did.  Especially when her dad brought in the mail and she had a new American Girl magazine.  That was kind of the end of that.  So this morning my right hand/wrist is aching like crazy.  It doesn't help that my insurance sent me a letter saying that I can't fill my Humira prescription with my neighborhood pharmacy, I have to fill it with their "specialty" pharmacy.  And dealing with them is a lot like dealing with tech support with any huge corporation.  You talk to a customer service rep. most likely in some other country who has had no training but has a script to go by at best and you get transferred around a lot and get a hundred differing directions on how to get your prescription transferred to them from your regular pharmacy or your doctor.  And so far after four days none of the directions have worked.  I think their point is to get the patient so frustrated that they say screw it - I'd rather be crippled by my disease than have to deal with your bullshit.  There is a special place in Hell for insurance company CEO and officers.  Well, either that or Hell is lined with Juniper,  packing peanuts and a never ending phone call with insurance companies and tech support.

I had two riding lessons for the first time in at least two months this last week and that was really cool.  Maiden is coming along really well and once I make it clear what I want from her she picks it up quickly and tries really hard.  And I am understanding conceptually what it is I'm supposed to be doing but it's hard to get my body to do it and I struggle with expressing the concepts with the correct vocabulary.  I *know* what my horse's body is supposed to look like when she's using it effectively, I just don't express it well and that makes it sound like I have no idea what I'm talking about.  For instance, she is supposed to be stretching her neck out and down to engage her core and use her back correctly and get impulsion from her hind end.  And she should be open at the axis of her spine - not have it bent over so she's looking backwards under her belly.  But I tend to say "put her head down" which has a lot of meanings and isn't that accurate for "stretching her neck out and down".  Finally Trainer K. said, "Ok, stop right here - I am chopping off your horses head right at the poll and you are no longer allowed to talk about the head because it's not there anymore!"  So I started saying things like "I stopped the transition to trot because she threw her bloody neck stump in the air and I need to try again."  I'm trying.  I'm sure that equine massage school will help me express the concepts correctly too.

It's also hard to get my body to work correctly because it's a lot like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.  I need to take up contact and give her a nudge with my legs to go forward and if she doesn't immediately move forward give her a tap with my dressage whip. Only,  I have to flick my wrist without moving my hand or elbow backward because if I do that it changes my contact on the reins.  So I have to be holding the whip such that it is in the same position facing back over my leg at all times - even when I'm trying to hold a steady contact while Maiden is throwing her neck stump around in irritation because she doesn't want to stretch her neck because it's hard work.  And I have to keep my legs back even when she jerks around and I can't tense up any of my muscles while doing this and of course I have to keep my  balance and steer even when she's trying to scrape me off on the wall or trying to veer into the middle of the arena.  So, I'm trying to do all this and Trainer K. yells, "Now do it while trotting."  Aaargh!  Yes, I'm going to pat my head, rub my stomach, count backwards in Russian while doing multi-digit long division in my head and cross my eyes all while doing a posting trot.  I need a lot of practice to get my body able to do all of it at the same time correctly!  It's a big study in isometrics and balance really.  I'm glad I'm taking pilates for core strength and balance or I'd be totally lost.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

That whole Buddhist issue ...

I've always been more sensitive than I'm comfortable with in regards to violence and people/animals getting hurt.   As a teenager I thought there was something wrong with me because so many kids enjoy super violent video games and watching movies like Faces of Death and it was all too upsetting for me.  In fact, it's so big of a deal to myself that when a friend took me target shooting a couple years ago and all they had were human sillouette targets I didn't even feel right shooting at imaginary people and had to pretend they were zombies.  Sigh.  That's not to say I haven't had my violent moments in self-defense but generally when not in "protection!" mode I'm too sensitive in my opinion.

My freaky St. Francis, Buddhist, hippie-dippie self reared its ugly head again today when I decided that the wasp traps (that I've been obsessively checking like a lobster fisherman in Maine) weren't working and I had to be more aggressive to get rid of the two wasp nests being built in the eves above our front porch.  I thought I'd try to knock it down with a strong, jet stream of water since it was too dangerous to just knock it down with a big stick.  So, I turned the hose on them and next thing I knew there were wasps scrambling around in the roaring water and it was like a wasp tsunami.  And I felt *awful* for them and almost stopped what I was doing.  Then I remembered how upset some of my friends and their kids get about the wasps hanging out around our porch and how there are a lot of people around who are allergic to bees.  So, I continued my assault until both nests fell down into a pile of drowned wasps.  Sigh.  I put on some gloves and picked up the nests to put in the garbage and saw a bunch of wasp larvaes and burst out with, "Oh! You had babies!"  =sniff sniff=  I'm a horrible mass baby wasp murderer.  I'll probably have nightmares again like I did last summer when I had to kill the trout that my daughter and her friend caught because the dads had so many excuses not to do it themselves.

I also put down the weed barrier along the main street above our neighborhood so that another of the house owners can bring in some bark to put down over it and hopefully we'll get that strip looking acceptable for the first time since we've lived here. I'm trying not to be pissy because only four other families have put any time into helping us maintain and only one other family who's put in more than an hour or so.   At least a couple other households have donated money/plants.  But that still leaves a majority who seem to think it is not their responsibility or problem.  I am bitterly waiting to find out if the weed barrier stays down or if neighborhood kids are going to rip it up before the bark gets put down.  You would think it would be left alone because it's on public property and obviously not to be messed with, but there are some kids around here (everywhere - no more so here than anywhere else) who dumbass parents are too lazy or stupid to teach them proper boundaries.  I'm already prepared to give up on the project all together if that happens and just quit the whole HOA thing out of total frustration. 

And ... a bird just flew in our dining room through the sliding doors and thankfully figured it out and flew back out.  Ours is not a good house for being a bird and getting stuck - what with two dogs and three cats.  My daughter really wants to have a guinea pig and even wrote a letter as one of her writing assignments telling us why she should have one, and I agree that she is probably old enough and responsible enough for one, but I  fear the poor little guy wouldn't live through our house full of pets.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A four piaffe lesson

I had a riding lesson with Trainer K. for the first time in over two months and I didn't do as badly as I expected to.  One of the things I've been struggling with is getting Maiden motivated to actually get some exercise and walk and trot faster than a slow crawl.  It's easier under saddle to get her going but apparently we are not going fast enough to really get the work-out she needs.  Which I find incredibly ironic considering that  my last two horses were always going too fast and when I rode Misty I was always told "If you're both having fun you're going too fast".  So, it's a brand new learning curve for me!

So, we addressed me pushing Maiden harder to work-out more and to be firmer with her.  I've been so worried about her discomfort with the bit and fear of someone hurting her with it that I've been riding with a much too loose rein/contact and it takes a good fifteen minutes before she'll finally start stretching her neck and engaging her back.  And then when she does she slows down because it's work to keep walking and trotting at a fast pace with your back engaged if you've been doing it wrong this whole time.  But she needs to do that to get in better shape and learn to use her body correctly.  Just like me going to pilates - I hate it while it's happening but I always feel proud of myself afterward and I can see results now a year after starting it - mild results but results still.  I catch glimpses of myself in the mirror and my posture does seem better a lot of the time.

Anyway, today was an exercise in learning to have contact and not giving in when Maiden balks and stops.  If she starts to get angry I automatically loosen the rein and she's learned now that all she has to do is throw her head and I'll loosen the rein.  But it's now to the point where she is taking advantage of that.  What Trainer K. had started to teach her was that contact was the signal to stretch her neck and engage her back and as soon as she did that she got praise. But I've been riding her for a couple months without doing that so she's been getting away with not engaging her back and when she does slowing down.  So today's lesson was a big "get back with the program" that ended up with at least four arguments that ended up with Trainer K. saying "Don't let go of contact until she stretches! Keep her moving though!" and Maiden getting angry to the point that she'd piaffe in place while throwing her head for a couple minutes and then finally move forward.  Except for the last time where she piaffed and started to quickly back up and my only solace was I was pretty sure she's not strong enough to rear with a rider on her back, but I wanted to panic and let go of the contact but Trainer K. said that would teach her all she has to do is threaten to rear and I'd give in, so I kept it up with the contact, some leg and a smack with the dressage whip and she finally said "Fine! I'll stretch my neck, engage my back and go forward!" and then she did quite lovely and I gave her lots of praises and pats.  Once I got the hang of increasing contact the moment she started to lift her head, she would start to lift her head - increase contact - stretch her neck and drop her head and all was well.  Then a minute later she'd start to lift her head and if I was on it and increased contact she'd stretch again and keep going and we wouldn't get into a piaffing fight.

I don't mind when she piaffes as a tantrum, but it did scare me when she started to go backward.  Trainer K. said that wouldn't happen if I'd followed through asking her to go forward as soon as she started her piaffe tantrum.  But it's become a bad habit that as soon as she does that, I let go of contact to appease her and that is teaching her a very bad habit.  So, a lot to think about and focus on in my practice rides from now on.

I still can't believe the crappy trainer she was with for a year between getting out of the rescue and the girl before me buying her - I still can't believe he taught her to piaffe and passage but didn't teach her to go forward or use her body correctly.  And people actually respect this guy!  It blows my mind what idiots are out there claiming to be trainers who do things that really hurt horses. Of course, there are people like that who claim to be coaches in kid/teen sports who hurt them too.  I wish there was some way to oversee careers like coaches and horse trainers and anyone who trains kids or animals for sport so that you could weed out the stupid bozos who do more harm than good.  But as long as you have people who want fast, quick results without real substance and who don't care if it hurts their child or their pet - you will have stupid bozo trainers and coaches.  Grumble.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Thunderstorms and horses ...

I thought that the weather forecast for today was that it would be low 70's and sunny so I was pleasantly surprised with it started to rain this afternoon.  Not to pleasantly surprised that we had a thunder and lightning storm while I was out at the barn with CM who is getting to know Maiden so she can do a partial lease with her for a day or two per week.  I have never seen Maiden's reaction to a thunder storm so I was pleasantly surprised to see that she didn't even flinch the first few claps of thunder.  And she tends to be more spooky on the lunge line.   I was much more surprised to see one of my fellow boarders jump on her horse bareback right as the thunderstorms started.  Surprisingly her horse didn't seem to notice either.

As CM and I were discussing whether or not she should ride and I was telling her that personally I wouldn't just because I'd want to be ultra-safe and that though I'd never seen Maiden bolt or go crazy I wasn't going to guarantee it wasn't a possibility if other horses started freaking out,  M. came in the arena and said the storm was getting closer and CM agreed it was a good idea to go the safe route and not ride.  No sooner had she put Maiden in the cross ties than a clap of thunder rumbled by much closer and it started to hail on the plastic roof of the barn.  Penny jumped straight up in the air with all fours off the ground in her stall, Gandolf reared up with his head showing over the wall of his stall and Maiden got a bit of a wild look in her eyes.  But once we assured her she was fine she calmed down.  Thankfully, Penny calmed down quickly too and Gandolf ... well ... Maiden lives in a stall next door to Gandolf so she's gotten used to him and his dramatics.

But I have to say I was very happy about how Maiden didn't even seem to notice the thunder.  It made me feel more confident that if another thunder storm rolls around I'll have a better chance than I thought of being able to get off of her when it starts as opposed to having her flip out and either throw me or have me sadly attempt an emergency dismount - both things I'd like to avoid as much as possible.

In gardening news we have a ton of strawberries so I made my first batch of strawberry freezer jam.  I have no idea if it turned out ok.   I guess I should probably try some now that I've given away a few jars and for all I know it tastes horrible.  I'm concerned that it may not have set well and is too runny so I'll check that tomorrow too.  There was a whole article I read on how to troubleshoot things like it being too runny and all that but I'd have to look up specifically what the fix is for that.   I also found a decent recipe for wheat/flax bread for bread makers that I like.  The only thing I think I will change about it is to add just a touch of apple cider vinegar and maybe 25% more salt just to give it a little better flavor.  Otherwise, I'm actually pretty happy with it which is more than I could say about some recipes I've tried in the past for bread maker breads other than plain old country white bread.

I also managed to get some starts in the ground today right before it started to rain which was good timing.  Broccoli and bell peppers.  Tomorrow I'm going to plant the watermelon starts under the little portable greenhouse my husband put together for me.  I've been told watermelons will not grow here because it's too cold but I'm hoping the August warmth under a greenhouse will do the trick.  We will see.  It's an experiment.  Much like the broccoli which I'm not sure what's going to happen there since I've never tried to grow it.  The pumpkins are still doing well and are still fungus free - and oddly enough my roses are fungus free so far too even though I'd also been told it was impossible to grow fungus free roses in this area too.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just a blip in the system ...

I was out walking the dogs in the woods this morning and thinking about stuff I need to do and life and such and suddenly it hit me "I'm never going to make any money at the massage thing or at this teaching riding lessons to little kids thing!  We're going to go broke and I'm an idiot for even trying and what the heck am I doing?  I need to go get an accounting job!"

It seemed like a very real and very logical light bulb moment until I realized I'd been fighting against that type of thinking for years and I needed to just tell that part of me to shut up.  I've noticed that ultra-logical and unhappy "don't do what you enjoy because the only way to be a responsible adult is to be miserable at your job" thinking comes up whenever I hit a snag in the process.  The latest one is that I went all the way to downtown Seattle last weekend for a continuing ed. class that cost $160 and I'm not going to get any credit for it.  That's not to say that the 4.5 hours that I was there I didn't learn a lot of really cool new deep tissue techniques but since I didn't stay the full 8 hours I won't get any CE credits.  Bah.

I wanted to stay the whole time but I went out to lunch at Boom Noodle in the U-Village and even though I was feeling fine the whole day up until then, an hour after lunch I was sitting on a massage table listening to a lecture and all the sudden I couldn't concentrate and all I wanted to do was lie down on the massage table.  Then my stomach started having shooting pains and things started rumbling around in a disconcerting way in there.  Then I jumped up and scurried off to the bathroom where I spent about fifteen minutes crunched up in pained ball expelling much unhappy badness.  I felt a little better but figured I should pack in and go home so I excused myself and shuffled off to my car.  I made it about a mile and had to pull over and use a gas station bathroom.  Then I barely went another mile and had to stop again, then again not very far and had to pull over again.  The third gas station bathroom there was nowhere to hang up my purse so I was crunched over holding onto my purse like a teddy bear and whimpering "This sucks! This isn't fair!"  It is a long, unpleasant drive back to the boonies when you're not feeling well. Damn Boom Needles and their questionable bean sprouts!

Anyway, I'm not getting any CE credits because I didn't finish the class.  Bah! That sucks!  And is very frustrating.  But I just found an aromatherapy course online that will fill my last required CE hours and isn't too expensive so I'm just going to do that then I can sign up to take my test to get my human massage license again.  It's just so expensive! Sigh.

On a happier note, I went to pony camp to watch some bodywork on the ponies and it was very interesting.  Ann Rogers came up to check everyone's posture and adjust them as needed and check how their saddles are fitting them.  It was pretty cool to watch her and see how much she could see that I am only just beginning to see.  She brought a really cool book for the camp director that I spent a long time looking at and I immediately ordered one when I got home.

Another good thing is I let my daughter skip school because her allergies have been awful (or she has a cold - hard to tell) and had been up sneezing and coughing a lot the night before.  So, I told her she had to come with me and she brought some books to read while hanging out in the classroom.  But she did come out and take a tour of the camp with me and I told her what she'll be doing when she comes with me for the preschool kids camp the first two weeks of summer.  She'll be helping with arts/crafts and taking the little kids to the bathroom so I can stay in the classroom.   She took it very seriously and seemed very excited about it.   She enjoyed looking at the ponies but said she wasn't going to be riding any of them.   But then Ann brought the director's husband's horse, Jesse, out to the arena to roll and my daughter squealed (quietly) "I love him! He's wonderful! I want to ride him!"  which is funny because he's a draft cross and really big.  Even for me he's really big.  Probably 16 hands but unlike Maiden who is 15.3 and normal horse size Jesse has the enormous draft build with the huge feet almost as big as my head.  But my daughter apparently likes the big horses.  She also wants to ride Beetle who I rode once a few months ago and is really sweet.  Not sure if she'll start riding again, but I'm glad she's getting more comfortable around horses again.   She did say on the way home "I don't ride ponies any more because they're bratty but I'll ride big horses.  I'd rather be up high anyway."  Interesting.

Off to take care of my horse and do lots of studying for my equine massage course.  I also need to finish the first rough draft of my novel before mid-July which is now only a month away.  I'm going to have to get a lot more strict with myself about putting aside for fiction writing!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Eight-hundred pounds of Haflinger on my foot

Today when I went to go work at pony school in the morning the director just out of the blue said, "I only have one kid in my group class today because the other's couldn't make it so I'll have you take it and it will be your first private."  Squeeeee!  It was a great way to do it because I didn't have any time to freak out about it.

It went pretty well.  I felt like I was flailing a little but my student (who was six years old) appeared to not notice.  She asked if I was going to be teaching during the summer and she asked in a "I'll get to see you!" sort of way - not in a "Oh my god I sure hope you aren't my teacher!" sort of way.

We worked on keeping her bottom in the saddle when she asks the horse to stop, then played Simon Says (which is what I used to play with my daughter when I would take her on lead line rides when she was a toddler) then I took her on a "trail ride".   The trail rides are where you walk down the path past the CSA farmland then back and around the camp through all these really cute obstacles like the noodle forest and the umbrella jungle.  It's really very clever and fun.

My only unpleasant and worrisome experience for me (because I completely over-thought it) was when we were on the "trail ride" down past the crops and Dreamy decided to lunge for grass.  Haflingers are a lot stronger than plain ole little ponies and even stronger than Toad my 16.1 Thoroughbred.  They're kind of like the pitbulls of horses because they are very bulky and all muscle and when they want something they want something and a little tug from the handler is not going to divert their attention.   I had to pull out all my tricks to get his head out of the long grass and in the process he managed to land one of his lumbering front feet on my foot.  But success of the day! I did not swear! I just say "Hey! Get off my foot!" and had to lean into him to move over because the "poke poke move" thing doesn't work on him.  We managed to make it back to the barn in one piece and right before going to the arena he dove for the tiniest bit of grass near the goat pen, I yanked back and he landed squarely on my foot again.  Second success of the day - I didn't swear! It did fly out of my mouth "Seriously? Seriously?! You're on my foot again!" but it was easier to push him off this time.  Doh!

Thankfully, the director of the school had some strategies she taught me to keep that from happening again.  Yikes!

What I ended up overthinking was that we are always telling the kids to "watch your feet" and I was not able to do that (twice!) and also we tell them it's horrible to have your foot stepped on by a horse and honestly, often it is (see back in 2011 when Sinatra broke my toe stomping on it).  So I hope my student didn't walk away thinking "What's the big deal? She got her foot stepped on twice and she was fine" because I was just very lucky.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I think I'm finally getting it!

The next month or so is going to be challenging as far as finding time to ride my horse.  Pony camps start in a couple weeks and I'll be there with my daughter all morning for two weeks straight.  I can probably go ride afterward if I can find a playdate for my daughter but we'll see how that goes.  I'm hoping that working at pony camp is a positive experience for her.  She's 9 years old so old enough to take on some responsibilities and she's excited about earning a dollar an hour (under the table from me - the camp is not paying her because they have a hoard of tween girls who volunteer in exchange for earning hours to ride the ponies).  We'll see.  Her fear of horses seems to be waning the farther we get away from my "little mishap" in January and the closer we get to working with ponies.

I've been really into nicknames for things lately.  I think "little mishap" is probably the best description of me falling off a horse and breaking my sacrum and L4 transverse process.  There's a group of moms at my daughter's school who have a seriously weird little cliche thing going on that I was tired of referring to them by a slew of names to I decided they are henceforth to be know as the "drunk bitch moms" or DBM's.  Only because that sounds mean and I certainly don't want to be mean, you can only say it if you cross yourself.   It really perfectly describes them because they float around with this "you can't be a part of" unfriendliness and superiority but from what I know of them I'm not sure how they justify being superior - at least to me.  They're not prettier or richer and granted they spend way too much time and money on clothes and their appearance but that is really the only difference.   And I know people who spend a lot more time and look a lot better than they do who are much nicer and more open to other people.  And they're definitely far from smarter than me.  So, it really comes down to they drink (a lot!) and I don't drink, they appear to have no other hobbies than shopping and drinking and they think they're better than everyone else.  I think all neighborhoods have DBM's.  I find them fascinating to be honest because I'm not sure what they base their superiority on - if it's really on the clothes they wear that is really sad because I (and other moms they've shunned) could just as easily go buy the same clothes but why would we? What a waste of money and they'd just get ruined at the barn anyway.

There's also a new family in our neighborhood that is basically the perfect nuclear bully family.  Everyone in the family is a bully in the most unbelievably stereotypical way.  They're so text book it's almost like they're not real.  Like the CIA said "This is your cover - you're the family of bullies" and they took bullying behavior right out of the cheesiest books and movies they could find.  We need to come up with a good nickname for them that's more creative than just "the bully family".  Especially because the word "bully" is often used to refer to pitbulls so when I say that word I envision cute little pitbulls and this family is not even worthy of loose cute associations.

The strawberries have gone crazy in the community garden.  I put down organic slug bait around the raised bed with my cucumber seeds and yet it looks like the slugs have eaten my cucumber starts.  So far the horticulture oil mix I've been spraying on my pumpkin starts has kept away and powdery mildew and fungus.  But they're still very small.  I've been checking on them every other day.  I've been spraying my rose bushes too and so far so good.

Maiden is doing well as usual.  She was a total fruitcake the other day when I went to get her from the pasture.  Gandolf is a bad influence on her and despite my constant reminder to her that she needs to "be her own horse" she is still a herd animal and freaks out if another horse freaks out.  Toadie actually got to the point where she would listen to me over the other horses, but for one, Toad was way younger than Maiden and two I was the first person (besides Trainer K) she'd ever had a chance to actually bond with.  Maiden on the other hand has had three owners just since she was rescued when she was eight years old and who knows what went on her first eight years.  But we're working on it and slowly making good progress.

So, I brought Maiden out of the paddock and turned to re-lock the metal gate because I don't trust that Gandolf won't freak out and run right through the hot tape (which currently isn't hot so it's essentially useless) so I can't leave the main gate open.  Anyway, Maiden had to turn so she was facing the gate while I did that (because the lead rope is only so long) and Gandolf decided to freak out and go yahooing around his paddock.  So Maiden went straight up in the air and tried to bolt but ... gate was right in front of her, she couldn't go right because of the lead rope and she couldn't go left because I was there and she couldn't go backward because there was a big mountain of compost so ... she ran in place for a minute just like a Warner Brothers cartoon character.  I held on tightly to the lead rope and told her to "Quit!" which sent her even more over the edge but that coupled with letting the tension out of the lead rope and quietly saying, 'Stop. Calm down." and she got her senses back rather quickly.  I've never seen a horse run in place before.

She was fine the rest of that day and she was an angel today.  Except when the vet who was there to look at Firefly's injury stopped to take a look at her teeth.  Maiden pursed her lips shut and gave her the stink eye at first but finally relaxed and decided the vet was not going to steal her teeth by taking a quick look.  Firefly's injury, by the way, looks wonderful.  The vet was really nice about explaining to me how it's healing, where it's draining and what Firefly can and can't do as the scar tissue strengthened.  She also explained how it is hard to tell how strong the coronet band will be after healing because scar tissue is not as strong as healthy tissue so there will have to be precautions so it doesn't open up again (this is the injury where the back of the foot near the coronet band was severed off a couple months or so ago).  I really appreciated that because it's not even my horse but it is very helpful for my education for massage therapy especially when it comes to healing from injuries.  The vet recommended that once it's completely done draining and is stronger that he have massage to help break up excess scar tissue and to help circulation in the muscles as they become stronger.  I may see if I can practice on him because once he gets to that point in his healing, it will be when I'm about ready to start needing horses to practice on.

Trainer K. was heading out so I didn't get to talk to her while riding but I felt like I might actually be getting it - this posture thing - and I had to control myself from having a little kid moment and yelling out the door "Come see if I'm doing this right! I think I'm finally getting it!"  So, that gives me hope.  I've been really struggling with getting a good seat and undoing a lot of my bad habits in riding and posting (which is as much of an art as ballet I swear!)  so it's exciting that I'm finally starting to get it a little bit right (I think!).  Regardless of whether or not I was really getting my posture right, we had one of those rides that felt very synchronized and like we were dancing together.

Apparently, tomorrow the guy I worked for at my last bookkeeping job is going to do work on my next door neighbor's house and I'm hoping I don't run into him.  He's the one who fired me because some girl kept emailing him asking he'd found a reason to fire me yet so she could have my job.  I'm not sure if I should be thankful to him because although I'm very short on income right now and we're living slightly beyond our means I'm at least headed in the right direction of what I want to do. Or if I should continue to have a bad taste in my mouth about it because it was a sleezy thing to do?  I think I will be grateful that it happened because I am on the right path now, but I don't think I'll be running over to say "hi" or anything.

Still, despite slimeball things that can happen in life, I am very happy with the path I'm on.  I could totally immerse myself in studying equine anatomy/physiology, kineseology and pathology but I only have so much time I can do that.  At least for the time set aside for it I can totally immerse myself in it which is really fun and energizing and exciting.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Storm is not chopped liver

I hadn't thought about it until today but with all this bitching and moaning about how Seattle doesn't have a basketball team since the Sonics left - duh! We have the Seattle Storm!  If all the die-hard basketball fans would just quit their whining they could follow the Storm and support them.  I don't know why men's basketball is the end all be all.   I caught the Storm game against the Phoenix Mercury and it was a great game!  I am going to bring that up every time someone complains about how "Seattle doesn't have a basketball team"

It's been a fun but long weekend with one un-fun part at the end.  Yesterday I spent eight hours at Pony Camp and helped with four group lessons and sat in on the volunteer orientation for the teens and it was a lot better than the first full Saturday I spent there.  For one thing I wasn't quite so lost or disoriented and I had a little more confidence that I would be able to learn how to teach and that I know the material that is being taught.  And I felt like I understood the purpose and mission of the classes with the little kids much better.  So, it was easier to get in the groove and work with the kids at the developmental level that they're at.

For instance, if you put a four-year old on a pony and teach her how to ride in a group of other kids about 4-6 years old you're going to have this experience:  you tell the four year old how to steer her pony and she thinks is super cool and says "Yay! I can do that!" She then shows you how she can do it.  A minute later she sees something shiny or her little brother up in the stands or thinks of something super funny and she starts giggling and babbling about something non-pony related.  Meanwhile her pony (who has the emotional maturity of a four year old) happily realizes that his rider has checked out up there and turns and starts trotting straight for another pony that he wants to bite.  Four year old freaks out because she has no idea anymore how to steer her pony and you are scooting at breakneck speed to grab her pony's halter before he bites the other four year old's pony's butt.  You then realize that for the rest of the lesson you are holding the pony's halter no matter how many times 4 year old says "You let go! I know how to steer!"  Yep.  It's pretty darn cute.  I keep meaning to get photos of the ponies but just haven't had time yet and need to find a time when no four-year olds are on them so that I'm not posting pictures of other people's kids.

After work on Saturday I went and met someone who is going to lease Maiden so that is exciting and takes a little financial strain off of me which is very nice.  Sunday morning Maiden and I had a great ride together, then I went and helped a little bit with the weeding in the common area owned by our HOA.  Trying to get people who live in our cul-de-sac to help with maintenance of that area is like pulling teeth.  One other family works super hard on it like my husband does then another family did come out for a couple hours, then surprisingly one of the dads from India came out and helped and one of the dads from Nigeria came out to help.  The dad from India wasn't totally lost but the dad from Nigeria seriously looked at the gardening tools he picked up like (as another neighbor said) "they were Egyptian heiroglyphics he was supposed to read".  Kudos for him for stepping up! He grew up in what I think is the biggest most urban city in Nigeria so I'm sure gardening wasn't a big part of his childhood.  The photos I've seen it looks huge and urban like Chicago or New York.  I spent a lot of time trying to imagine a childhood that did not involve lots of animals and playing in the woods every day and climbing trees and playing in creeks and swimming in lakes and the Puget Sound.  I honestly can't imagine it.  I feel like a childhood like that would be bereft of joy but so many people grow up in apartments and condos in the heart of huge cities and are quite happy.  It's very outside my realm of experience and kind of fascinating to me.

After gardening the other family helping with the weeding project invited me to a local gym to go swimming.  Their boys were going so I brought my daughter with us and we all had a great time - at first.  The kids were doing cannon balls and going back and forth from the hot tub to the pool.  The mom and I swam laps at first then hung out in the hot tub for awhile.  Around the time we decided to head out (after about 90 minutes) I noticed in the water that my daughter's back looked a little red.  When she got out of the water it looked like her whole torso was starting to break out in hives.  Walking to the locker room she said her hands and feet inched terribly and when we got in the locker room she admitted that for the last fifteen minutes or so it was starting to feel hard to breathe.  Aaaaaack!  Definitely up there with the worst thing a parent can hear "Mom, I'm having a hard time breathing."

I did a quick mental assessment and saw that she was definitely turning into a walking bunch of hives and that she was not wheezing and has no history of asthma so the difficulty breathing was the beginning stages of anaphalaxis.  Inside my mind was racing "Ok, get her in the hot shower - wash everything off quickly and hopefully the hot steam will help open up her air passages! If it doesn't help give her benadryl and if that doesn't help call 911 and give her prednisone - wait! Benadryl and prednisone are at home and getting into the car and driving home will take 15 minutes.  If it doesn't get better call 911 and keep her in the shower and they can come into the dressing room to get her and I can wrap myself in a towel and ride in the ambulance and have my husband meet us at the hospital with my clothes! Ok - that's the plan! Go!"

What I actually said out loud in a casual "la de da - nothing big happening here" tone was, "Yeah, that can happen sometimes with allergies. But I bet the hot steam will help.  Let's get you washed off and breathe in that nice hot steam and you'll start feeling better."  My daughter was (rightfully so) concerned and asked, "What if it doesn't help?" and I said casually,  "It will.  And if it doesn't I'll take you to the doctor and she can give you medicine to help," and my daughter asked, "What if I can't breath at all," and I casually said, "I doubt that will happen but then I'll call 911 and the nice medics will come right to the gym and into the locker room and give you some medicine that will help immediately.  It'll all be fine."

So she got in the shower and I started washing her hair and tried to casually ask her to take her swimsuit off (and then felt like burning it).  We spent a lot of time in the shower washing her hair and her body off and me trying to keep her from touching her swimsuit again.  By the time we left the shower and she dried herself off the hives were fading and her breathing was going back to normal (phwew!).  By the time we got home it was all gone so I didn't have to give her any Benadryl even.   I asked the lifeguard at the gym what they used to treat the water and he swears it's just the same chlorine all other pools use but there was definitely something in the pool she had a reaction to.  My neighbor said possibly someone jumped in without showering and had a penicillin medicated rub on and she swam through it as it washed off of them.  That's a possibility but very slim possibility.  So, I'm thinking another allergy test.  Right now we know she's allergic to pennicillin/amoxillin and morphine (both anaphalactic) and grass (hives).  Good lord.  I came home feeling pretty traumatized but thankfully my daughter was fine and skipped off the boys' house that had been swimming with us to play video games and eat corndogs with them.