Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Life in General

I worked Thurs, Fri, all day Saturday then filled in for another shift yesterday (Monday) and now I have two days off so I'm having a little trouble getting out of my pj's and off the couch.  I was actually pretty nervous about the shift I was filling in for yesterday because I had three group classes and I'm really only confident about teaching private lessons and only have one group class per week which is only four students.  So, two back to back group classes, each one with six kids I didn't know at all sounded really overwhelming.  Well, the first class only had five kids I didn't know because my daughter is in that class.  And I actually knew a couple of the kids from when they came to camp over the summer.

As it is it turned out fine and I think I did a lot better than I thought.  The aunt of one of the tweens who volunteers came and volunteered to help with chores and classes too and for the first class one of the other instructors came and helped so it was much less overwhelming.  The second class was older girls and another staff member was available to assist because she was done with watering/feeding chores so that went better than planned to.  The first two classes I didn't feel like I was very effective - I never do with large groups because it's just not what I'm used to.  It is very different than one-on-one and the other instructors who do teach the groups do it all the time so they've learned how to be effective whereas I just feel very out-of-place and disoriented because it's so wildly different than what I'm used to. 

My last class was a lot of fun because it was only three adults who were all very self-sufficient and honestly I didn't feel like I was really any better of a rider than a couple of them.  So I did what I do with my kids but amped it up to a little more complicated concepts - I taught what Trainer K and Beth Glosten have been teaching me.  I even told them that, I said that everything I was telling them was literally being parroted by me from them because I don't feel like I can take credit.  I feel like I'm literally telling my students word-for-word what Trainer K and Beth tell me.  Regardless, they said they got something out of it so yay Beth and Trainer K!  The director of the school had made some suggestions too but we didn't get to that because first we had to work on relaxation and balance, the former of which is hard to get adults to embarace when they're riding.  It's a lot easier to get a 9 year old to relax on a horse than an adult.  Myself included! 

One of the students from that class is switching over to private lessons with me next session because we're getting rid of the 7pm lessons now that winter is coming (thank God - it was so cold by the time the sun went down!).  She made a joke, "A few more sessions with her (me) and I'm going to be sleeping on my horse!"

At the end of class the staff member who was riding the director's Mustang, Kiddo asked me if I would ride him for a few minutes because she's only seen kids ride him and she'd like to see an adult with a little more experience ride him.  After a few minutes of debate with myself (the director has implied I can ride any of the horses who are big enough for me - obviously not the ponies - and had already briefed me on what you need to ride her horse - but I still worry about riding other people's horses without their permission right there and then).   Anyway, we decided it was probably ok, and the other two students were more than happy to ride an extra few minutes.

Kiddo was a wild mustang when he was young and after being gentled went straight to the director and her horse trainer.  But I've never used him in a lesson, never handled or even really met him, so when his rider handed him to me, he looked at her with a lot of fear like, "Where are you going? Who is this lady?"  And when I put the reins over his head he backed up a little and his eyes looked really terrified so I told them to just give me five minutes with him so we could get to know each other before I rode him.  I asked him to walk with and he refused to move.  The staff member tried to jump in and make him walk with me, but I asked her to let us work it out together - it's part of getting to know each other.

So, basically we just stood next to each for five minutes and got used to each other's energy.  I scratched his withers and just stood there and eventually he started to lick and chew (a sign of relaxed submission) and tried to bonk me in the stomach with his nose (a sign of playing) and sure enough, when I asked him to walk on he happily followed me all around the arena like we were best buds.   After that riding him was great.  He prefers little to no rein contact and just riding with your leg and seat.  And although I was able to do that just fine, when we'd change gaits like go from walk to trot I would unconsciously pick up rein contact and a minute later remember "Oh that's right! No contact for him!" and let it go - but amazingly he didn't react at all to that, I'm not sure he really noticed and if he did he didn't care.  Once again, another horse I've ridden there who is so incredibly sweet and willing and just all around a good heart. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Big spooks, little spooks

Maiden is all better today.  This morning I listened to her heart and took her temperature before riding and everything was completely normal.  Although she did try to threaten me by swinging her butt toward me and making the posture to kick out when I started to take her temperature, but someone I managed to not be dissuaded and got the thermometer in anyway while dodging her butt and pushing her back over at the same time.  I was proud of myself because if she had succeeded it would've been twice as hard to take her temperature the next time.  And I swear I saw a little word bubble above her head pop up and say "Why did that not work? I was sure that would work! I am befuddled now."

Though she was physically fine her mental state was a little wonky.   She was fine on the lunge line and doing very well attempting to stretch and do some lateral bending while working out and she was very sweet afterward and enjoying bathing in my encouragement that she was trying hard.  When we started our warm up portion of our ride she was acting when she walked by the outside arena door like she wanted to spook but she was keeping it in check because I was keeping her mind occupied with directions (time to stretch, time to turn this way, keep listening to me not your anxious head, etc).  We did a little trotting and she was fine albeit still attempting to be a little distracted.

Then we were heading down the long wall toward the outdoor arena wall and she just skidded to a stop and started hopping off to the side.  I said no, go forward and she planted her feet in the ground, flattened her ears and her whole body went rigid.  So, not wanting to die because I have a busy weekend ahead of me I tried turning her around to go back to the other side as long as she'd just keep going forward.  It took some doing before she'd do that and when she did she took a couple steps then skittered off to the side away from the door.  I was getting a little worried because there was an instructor teaching a beginner in the middle of the arena, but I also figured it was Maiden so surely she wouldn't get much more freaked out if I keep her attention.

I asked to go forward again and once again she went a couple steps and skittered off to the side, and then started dancing backward.  I quickly told her to move forward and she ignored me and continued to scurry backward and started hopping, trying to rear.  I whacked her in the butt as hard as I could with the dressage whip and said, "Walk on!" in my most authoritative voice and she stopped hopping and walked a little ways forward before I stopped her because her ears were straight back, she was breathing heavily and her whole body was simultaneously rigid and shaking and I figured it was time to get off before I got thrown off.  So, I got off and walked her around the arena and past the scary outside door and she hopped and tried to jump and acted like a bear was after her for a few minutes.  Finally she calmed down and was following me like a normal horse and I thought, "Well, shit, now I have to get back on because if I don't I've just taught her that she can spook really badly and be done working.  Damnit!"

So, we walked back over the mounting block and as I was stepping up on it and putting my foot in the stirrup to mount I was fighting against the thought in my head "I am so going to die. I am so going to die."  But once I was up on her she was fine as normal.  Maybe a little wary but back to the Maiden I know.  And we walked around at first and even walked by the scary place at the outdoor arena door and she was fine and ended up trotting around even past the scary place and she was fine.  Phwew!

Ah, but scary stuff for me was not over!  I agreed to go into work early so I could ride this big draft cross, Jesse who was not actually bought as a lesson horse but as the personal horse of pony school's director's husband.  But they were going to use him in some classes I was teaching and the director wanted me to ride him first and get to know him.  I was looking forward to that until I got to the camp and fellow teacher Miss T. (who already know Jesse and had ridden him and was going to "brief me" on him) came out of the tack room carrying a bareback pad and his bridle.   I asked her why we were riding bareback and she said nobody uses a saddle on him because it's better for his back and one shoulder that is prone to getting stiff from unbalanced riders.  I said that was fine but that I hadn't ridden bareback since my accident in January so I was a little worried (ie: when I came off Maiden bareback and got rushed to the E.R. on an backboard in an ambulance and had a broken sacrum and broke the transverse process of my L4).  Miss T. said not to worry and I had that moment of debating whether I should piss everyone off and just run away or if I should trust the director and Miss T. that he was safe to ride bareback.  After all they're using him for lessons with beginners.  How unsafe could he be for a riding instructor with experience riding?  Urgh.

So, peer pressure to be good at my job and not totally run away and ditch everyone won out and once again, after kicking at the arena footing and saying "I probably won't break anything falling on this" I stepped up on the mounting block and had to fight the "I'm so going to break something," voice in my head.  But once I was up on him, it felt familiar and natural and being a draft he's nice and wide and super comfortable.  And as it turns out he is an amazing horse!  He's unbelievably sweet and incredibly attentive and has this way about him where it's almost like he's saying to you, "I'll do whatever you ask. I just want to be good. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it!"  On top of his sweet, attentive and motivated attitude he also has lovely smooth gaits with these big, fluid strides.  You feel like you've got this benevolent giant as your dance partner and nothing bad could ever hurt you as long as he's with you.  I was completely in love with him after just fifteen minutes of walking and trotting with him!

I was pretty tired by the end of the day.  Not from physical exertion so much as having to face my fears twice in one day! But I also felt really great about it and my confidence is just a little bit higher because of it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's not a crisis, it's slapstick

Sunday my lovely husband came out to the barn where I board Maiden and fixed my stall door that was sticking.  The boarding situation is such that we need to do all the repairs ourselves because the owners are just not capable of doing repair type things.   My door was not opening or closing without me leaning over and picking it up from the bottom and pulling it and that just wasn't working for me any more.

While he was working on the door I had pushed away a bunch of the shavings in Maiden's stall and had a pair of metal clamps (there's probably a name for them but I just called them "the clamper thingies") that I was using to try and pull up some of the rubber mats so I could dig out some of the old, soiled (read: covered in pee) shavings and uneven debris from wet, rotten wood that was under them.  After I finished doing that I tried pulling one of the rubber mats over to get rid of the crack between it and the other rubber mat (where soiled shavings kept sneaking in to lodge under the mats).  But it was so heavy and so lodged into it's spot that the metal clamper thingies ended up slipping right off when I pulled hard enough and I flew backwards and landed on my back in a pile of "soiled" shavings.  Yuck.  My husband yelled down from the ladder, "What are you doing?!" To which I (a little cranky because I was lying in pee-soaked shavings) yelled back "Don't yell at me!" (he wasn't actually yelling at me but didn't sound as compassionate as I preferred),  to which he said, "I've got enough going on up here I can't deal with your crisis down there," to which I pointed out, "This is not a crisis, it's slapstick."

After all is said and done the door works well and the floor of the stall is cleaner.   Unfortunately, none of that mattered to Maiden today because she wasn't feeling well. I was supposed to have a lesson working on how to help her move laterally to strengthen her back, but as I was on my way to the barn, I got a text from Trainer K saying that Maiden had been lying down out in the turn-out paddock and was pawing in an uncomfortable way when it was time to come in.  So, no lesson for us.

I spent the morning trying to listen to her heart rate (but it wasn't until the last time I tried that I was able to really hear it) and taking her temperature and basically watching her to see if she showed signs of colic.  We've got two other horses at the barn who have fevers and stomach problems so we wanted to be ultra  careful and if this was something catch it before it turned into anything too serious.

The first time I took her temperature she pooped out the thermometer and she was a little pissed off when I stuck it back in.  The trick with taking a horse's temperature is you have to tie a string to the thermometer and clip it to their tail, otherwise they can clamp their tail down and lose the thermometer inside of them.  Yuck.  Also, their butt just happens to be very close to their back legs so it's still a little unnerving for me to take a horse's temperature. And I'm certainly not going to be the one to try to fish it out if the horse uses their tail to clamp it in too far.

It turned out her heart rate was too high (maximum should be 44 beats per minute and she was at 52) and her gums were so pale that it didn't really work to try and test for capillary refill.  I asked Trainer K what it means if a horse's gums are so pale you can't even test for capillary refill and she said, "It means you're trying to give me a heart attack, aren't you?"  So, she texted the vet who was far away with her patients for the day and she said to watch Maiden to see if anything changes for the worse and if so call her partner if it did.

We fed her hay in small quantities and walked her around and checked her heart rate a couple more times.  I tried to check her capillary refill but she still had pretty pale gums.  Trainer K said she seemed dehydrated so I cleaned her water buckets and gave her warm water because I was told they like warm water when it's cold out and sure enough she drank a lot of it which was good.  We decided to take her temperature again so I pulled her out of her stall and held her while Trainer K tried to put the thermometer in and this time Maiden had reached her limit with pokes and prods and she bucked as soon as the thermometer hit her butt and then shot out with her back legs.

Then I did something that later surprised me when I thought back on it, I said, "Here, let me do it." Normally, in situations like that I always want Trainer K to do the hard stuff even if it is my horse.  But at that moment I forgot that I usually wimp out and want her to do it if she's there and found myself thinking, "Crap - I don't want her getting hurt because my horse is being bitchy. If anyone should be putting themself in danger with my horse it should be me."  Later in the day I looked back on that being my first reaction to Maiden acting up and I felt kind of proud of myself for not immediately thinking "Aaack! You deal with it! You're the one who knows more than me!"  As it is, thankfully, she did not kick me and she did not have a fever.  Eventually, her heart rate went down to 34 beats per minute and she seemed back to normal.  So, hopefully whatever it was passed.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Don't Be Shy

I'm not a huge Cat Stevens fan although some of the songs still make me feel like I did when I was a teenager. "Don't Be Shy" is one of those hippie songs that really was very valuable to me growing up.  Our family was one of the typical 1960's families where you were expected to "look good" and not show those ugly emotions like sadness or anger in public.  My parents of course have caught up with the times are much more relaxed but the 60's and 70's were very tense and image-oriented for us.  So, some of the hippie and punk rock songs of that era were valuable to me in relaxing  ... and allowing myself to be socially unacceptable - which I've apparently been embracing every since.

I'm finally crawling out of the abyss of this bad cold and am starting to have the energy to catch up with everything.  I had my normal amount of energy yesterday at work which was great because I had a great experience with my first student of the day.  She is five years old and super motivated because her parents said if she takes riding lessons for five years and really tries they'll get her a horse and she is bound and determined to meet that goal.  She is an absolute joy to work with!  But yesterday was extra exciting because she was really scared to trot last week and we worked through it this week and by the end of the lesson she wasn't scared of it anymore and wants to trot her entire lesson next week.  Seeing how excited and proud of herself she was, and seeing how excited her mom was for her was so awesome - that right there is why I love this job even if it does pay three times less than my last career.  But honestly, to be able to be a part of those moments in a child's life make it more than worth it!

Amazingly I received my human massage license in the mail a few days ago.  I was sure with how long it had already taken it would be 2014 before I received it.  And that means that instead of going through all the hoops of taking the national test and getting certified for equine massage, all I have to do is apply for an endorsement on my human license.  Yay! I'm sending that application in today.  I'm not going to start working professionally until I'm done with the 200 series of my equine massage program though because I want more education before I start professionally practicing.  Still, I can't believe I'm actually achieving this goal that a year ago seemed impossible with thoughts like "how will I afford school?" "How will I have time for school?"  And just that feeling (that thankfully I ignored) that a middle-aged woman with Rheumatoid Arthritis and severe joint damage can't be an equine massage therapist.  But honestly, my teacher's never seemed to notice.  I don't think they even know.  But I've gotten so good at compensating using my hands and arms in such a way that most people don't notice I have almost no range of motion in my left wrist and very little in my right and limited range of motion in my elbows.  So there world! I did it! So there!

As part of my education I went to the Gerd Heuschmann clinic a couple days ago in a neighboring town.  That was really cool because it validated so much of what I'm learning to hear a well-respected veterinarian talking about all the same stuff I'm learning not only in my equine massage school but also from Trainer K when it comes to riding and training Maiden.  I was actually telling the director of the pony school about it and telling her that so much of what he said is stuff she wants us to focus on when we're teaching and she said that's because she's a huge fan of us.  Very cool.

I had hoped to be able to meet him and say hello, but I ended up having the opportunity to have lunch with him.  I went to the local PCC to grab some deli food and went to the barn where the clinic was thinking that I would go up to the break room and eat my food while catching up on my class notes for pony school.  But I got up to the break room and he was eating lunch with the barn manager and no one else was there.  I couldn't believe that! Here is an opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Gerd Heuschmann in a casual, one-on-one environment! Where are the rest of the clinic participants? But it was fun for me because as soon as I told him I was in school for equine massage therapy he had a lot he wanted to say!  We also talked about other things, and one of the best non-horse pieces of advice he had was "You should move to Germany so your daughter could go to university for free."  I had no idea college was free in Germany.  Wouldn't that be nice.  I actually went home and looked at the map and said to my husband, "German's a pretty easy language and I used to know it - I'm sure it would come back quickly.  And they need software developers and look! Germany is right next to Austria! We could holiday in Vienna and I could hang out at the Spanish Riding School!"  My husband wasn't quite as impressed with that idea as I was.

A little 80's punk rock to start your day.  This song probably saved my sanity as a messed up teenager.
Now I just hope my daughter doesn't relate to it when she's a teen!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

da plague

Every time someone says they have a bad cold and it's awful and I should stay away from them I always think "how bad can it be? It's just a cold.  That's what cold medicine is for."  Sigh.  But now I've got a cold that I swear even cold medicine is not helping very much.  Today it's slightly better (as in the cold medicine is working) but I've been slogging through trying to get stuff done after being away for a week and it's been difficult coughing up alien goo and feeling like all my energy is sapped.  Not to mention my ears being plugged so much that when I sneeze everything gets louder.  Waaaah.

I muddled through a half day of work yesterday then begged one of my co-workers to take my last two classes (which thankfully she could) and I've not really been working Maiden very hard and our rides are basically walking and stretching.  I have started her on some lateral work which she hates, but it's going to help her get into shape a little more.   One thing I've noticed is that (although it might be a coincidence) three times now she has entered a trot transition with her neck relaxed since we started doing the lateral work earlier in the week.  Usually the trot transition consists of an energized walk with her neck relaxed and her poll low, then I prepare by shortening the reins just a tiny bit so that she doesn't stop relaxing but so I still have contact if she throws her head up, ask for a trot and boom! Her head shoots why up and she throws it back as far as it can go and hollows out her back like a big "U" and starts to trot.   Meanwhile, I'm quickly shortening the reins and asking her to stretch but there's quite a few steps of upside down trot in there.  Trainer K. says to ask her to trot just as she's starting to stretch down and that works great in theory and the timing makes perfect sense in my head, but actually getting my inexperienced body to achieve such timing is a huge challenge.  You can theoretically know all of this stuff, but training your mind/body connection to have something like perfect timing takes a much longer time than just intellectually grasping the concept. 

I think a lot folks who don't ride horses (or aren't actively involved in training in any sport) don't understand that just because you know how timing works doesn't mean you can instantly make your body do it.  If you could you could just read a book about dressage (or basketball, tennis, etc) and instantly be a pro at it.

In other news the school got back to me on my idea and says we should talk more next month about it.  I've been thinking a lot about it and it's a rather sticky subject and I can understand now why some vet and farrier schools don't require horse handling prerequisites.   But I'm excited to talk more about it with them.  I'm just excited to possibly contribute something to what I think is an already great program. 

And speaking of which I have two of my three case studies picked out already for my second portion of school.  I'm going to use my horse, Maiden and Geir, one of the lessons horses at the school.  He has a sore back right now and the director is giving him some time off.  I've never worked with him because he's a big old Fjord and usually the older, more advanced riders use him and all my students are very young, beginners.  But after just one session of working on his back I was completely in love with him!  Initially he was wary about me working on his back where it's sore, but once he got comfortable with me he enjoyed his massage and when I was done, he wrapped his head over my should and kept it there for a moment and sighed like he was hugging me!  Now when I walk past his paddock his ears perk up and he comes to the fence to see me!

The other horse I'm totally in love with is Bandit (well, all of them really).  I use him for one of my students who although she's only 9 years old and very small, she's a little more advanced beginner than my other brand-new-to-horses students.  Plus, her lesson is during a time when there's a group lesson with lots of ponies being used so we can't use them.  Bandit is a full size Fjord/Paint mix and he's just beautiful.  But he's also the biggest teddy bear in the world.  He is always so present and so aware of what his little rider is doing and yesterday she trotted him around the arena twice all by herself and they both did really well.  Horses like Bandit are few and far between!

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.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Everything today is coming through a filter of "I'm sick".  I came down with a bad cold when I got home from my week-long class.  I'm not surprised since I was anxious about it and didn't sleep well for much of the week and I'm sure that took a toll on my immune system.  Last night was the worst so far - tried to go to sleep, woke up with a much worse sore throat and having trouble taking deep breathes because of the phlegm that had collected in my throat and was so fatigued I didn't want to get out of bed, but I felt too horrible to stay like that.  Finally,  my sweet husband got up and set up the humidifier which helped enough for me to get some choppy sleep.

But that's not the worst of the badness.  Last night after everyone else had gone to bed and I was putting off lying down because it made me feel worse, I heard a *thunk* right behind the couch that sounded like something fell.  I looked around to find out who it was and found my old cat, Buddycat struggling up into one of the chairs in the living room.  I picked him up and he started yowling at the top of his lungs, so I sat with him a few minutes until he stopped screaming.  But then he started having spasms in his belly so I took him in the bathroom and put him on his bed in there.  He's nearing his nineteenth birthday so we know he's not long for the world but this all seemed very sudden.

I put him on his bed and he tried to crawl behind the toilet, so I pushed his bed back there and put him on it.  Then he puked all over himself and when he was done was lying there, literally covered in puke and totally listless.  I tried to pick him up as gently as I could but he cried every time I moved him, so I put him in his litter box (because it was softer than the floor) to clean the puke off his bed, and then tried to gently clean it off him as best I could.  I put him back on the bed and he lay there panting and listless for awhile until he pooped all over himself and the bed.  I cleaned it up as best I could, moving him as little as I could, then slid a clean towel underneath him between any poop that was left and the bed.  Then he puked on himself again, I cleaned that up as best I could and slid another layer of towel under him.  I found an eye dropper and got some water into his mouth so at least he stopped panting, and then he fell fast asleep.  I finally turned off the light and closed the door (the other cats would not leave him alone otherwise - Nermal was confused and curious and Snow was very worried) and he slept through the night.

He's sleeping on our bed as we speak (yes, we cleaned him off more before letting him do that) but we're waiting to see if he's going to bounce back or if this is it for him.   I have a feeling this is it for him.  And I'm very worried about him suffering for very long.  If he won't eat or drink today I'm thinking we should have him put down before it gets any worse for him.  Afterall he's had a much longer life than most cats get to enjoy.

I got him before I was dating my husband when I lived down by the Seattle Center in what I guess is the junction between Belltown, South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne.  I worked at Pima Medical Institute and one of the vet tech. students had a cat who'd had kittens so I too him.  I actually met him the day after he was born.  I had another cat named Zooey from the book Franny and Zooey and I could either name this kitten Buddy or Seymour after one of the brother's from the book.  But Seymour went crazy and may very well have been a pedophile so I chose the name Buddy.  We weren't allowed to have pets in our apartment building and a couple times when the elderly manager would come up to fix the sink he would pass Buddycat who would sit on the coffee table and meow at him and the manager would point at him and say "No pets," and then never bring it up again.

Before he was even a year old after I started dating my husband he rode cross country with me when I moved to Atlanta.  So, he's been in almost half the states in the U.S.  He got so big that our old neighbor, Kinnon (after they had a baby) used to sing (to the tune of Winne the Pooh) "He's Buddy-the-cat, Buddy-the-cat, you wouldn't call him skinny but you might call him fat ..."

If it is time for him to go I will definitely miss him, but I don't want him to suffer like our old dog, Boone did.  We waited till the very last minute with him and we even had an appointment to take him in and put him down but he died in our laps an hour before the appointment.  I think in his case that's what he wanted, to die at home with us.  But I don't think BuddyCat wants to wait and suffer that long.  I'm not feeling able to deal with this very well while I'm sick either.  Blah.  I'm supposed to be taking it easy so I'm well enough to go to work on Thursday to teach my classes.  Blah.  Well, it will be what it's going to be.  I can only do what I can and just accept the rest.

Here are a couple of my favorite photos from the old days.   First one is of him sleeping on the windowsill at our old house in the city.  Second one is my daughter and Buddycat having a picnic on the front porch of our old house in the city.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Horsey camp for me

I was out of town all last week at a week long course for equine massage.  I am now certified to do maintenance massage for horses as a student practitioner but I'm only halfway done in my studies to be a professional equine massage therapist.  I'm excited to say I know what I'm doing a lot more than I did a week ago.

Leaving my family for six days was actually a really big deal for me.  The longest I'm usually away from my daughter is about two days and that's few and far between, like when my husband and I go away for the weekend for our anniversary.  And I've never gone away totally by myself since my daughter was born (almost ten years ago) so that was very unusual.  I felt really excited once I got on the ferry by myself and was driving to the house I was renting a room at.  But then when I was unpacking the first night I got really sad and felt like crying for most of the evening.  The second day I was so busy in classes all day I didn't have time to think about missing my family, but then I passed a group of 10-year old girls at the deli picking up stuff for dinner and that made me feel very weepy.  I adjusted by the third day though and was enjoying time to myself in the evenings after class.  Part of that though was I was starting to be really tired by then because we'd spend the whole day in classes alternating between lectures and hands-on work with the horses and get back to our lodging in time to make dinner, watch a little tv or read and fall into bed.  Then get up and do our homework first think in the morning before class because we were too tired to do it the night before.

It was all very interesting though and I learned more in those five days than I did in the distance learning - or maybe I should say what I learned in the distance learning gelled into a coherent form during the five days of on-site education.  I came home and did an assessment on Maiden and Trainer K asked if I felt anything I could work on for her and I said I could write up a full-page assessment on her of everything she needs help with.  It's amazing how two weeks ago I couldn't recognize a lot of things and now I can feel all sorts of stuff - dehydrated fascia around the lumbar spine region, bilateral hypertonicity in her semitendinosus, adhesions in her brachiocephalicus, severe hypertonicity in her deltoids - just to name a few.  Not to mention the mess that is her bilateral Longissimus Dorsi.

The classes were also fun too though, not just enormous amounts of information. I don't think I've laughed that much in a long time.  Unfortunately, most of it loses the humor in translation.  I'd love to share the funny moments with everyone but when I try to it just doesn't come out right unless you were there.  There's a certain punch-drunckness that comes from taking all day classes several days in a row with a small group of people.

One thing that surprised me was not everyone had a lot of hands-on horse handling experience.  Most of the folks did, there were women there who were professional trainers, and high-level competitive riders, and one woman who had founded and runs a horse rescue.  But there were a small handful of women who didn't have a lot of recent horse handling experience and one actually said to me "I'd like to see what happens when you go out and handle [one particular horse]."  I asked why and she said "Because you know what you're doing.  You work with horses all the time." Which is true I guess, I'm out working with horses every single day.  But I still think of myself in regards to professional training, riding and instructing as being in kindergarten as compared to Trainer K, Beth Glosten, Trainer KL, my boss at the pony camp, etc as all being seniors in high school in comparison.

I did notice the difference though when working with a couple of the horses.  Most of the horses were either retired performance horses, or in rehabilitation.  A couple were very large - over 17 hh's which translates to their withers (or highest point of their back - what a layman would think of as their shoulders) being 5'8" tall.  Which means their head when held up is well over six feet tall.  Which means for someone like me who is 5'5", if they hold their head of I can't even remotely reach the top of their head from the ground.  Anyway, one of the larger horses in particular was problematic for a small handful of students who told me "horror stories" about how they couldn't even give this giant horse a massage because they couldn't get him to stand still and he kept trying to stomp on their feet and push them up against the wall.  Of course, being the nervous-nelly I am, I was very worried after hearing this about working with him.  So, when it was my turn I asked the instructor if I should be worried and she said he's completely fine, just set your boundaries right away and he would be perfectly fine.  Of course right when she was saying this another student walked by and said, "Oh! He's so hard to work with! I couldn't even give him a massage it was so hard!"  and the instructor said, "Don't listen to the stories, just set your boundaries and you'll be fine."

So, I went out to catch him in the field to work on him and sure enough he  was a doll!  A gigantic doll, but he reminded me so much of Trainer K's. horse - a very big kid who had lots of energy and just wanted to play and was really connected.   He was very mouthy and had a ton of energy and he did stomp his foot a lot, but the latter was a reaction to trying to kinetically let go of tension in his neck when I was massaging him.  It was a very innocent and quite appropriate action to the situation.  So, it occurred to me that if this were six years ago when I'd only been back into horses for about a year, doing equine massage would be very overwhelming.  Only one or two of the horses we worked on were dead-broke and stood perfectly still for everything.  The rest were typical horses with their own personalities and their own ways of relating which might seem confusing if you aren't around horses all the time.  So, I was feeling very grateful that I waited as long as I did to learn about this field because the horse handling experience I have made it all a lot easier - I got to spend all my energy focusing on learning the massage portion instead of worrying about how to handle the horses.

This is a photo one of my new friends/classmates took of me and the gigantic guy that I loved so much.  I wanted to take him (and half the other horses I worked on) home with me!