Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Farm ... new title

The last few weeks have been very hectic, selling our house in the suburb on the Eastside of Lake WA and buying a small farm on a somewhat remote island in the Puget Sound. It's not as remote as Vendovi Islandwhich is an island that I would've loved to have bought had it not been several millions dollars, and had I  been able to afford the boat one would need to go anywhere off island (like say to buy groceries).  Luckily, our new island has grocery stores and feed stores and restaurants and coffee shops and best of all a ferry.  That last part is very helpful. 

The farm is amazing!  As one of my friends who lives on the island said when she came over on Sunday, "You totally scored!"  We have four crossed-fenced pastures and one paddock that I'm going to fill with pea gravel to make it a mud abatement area.  We have woods and more woods and more woods.  One of the pastures is set up for goats and another is very flat without a lot of trees which will work well to build an outdoor arena.  And it is remote! If you squint really hard from an upstairs bedroom you kind of see a small portion of the road through the trees (the non-county maintained dirt road).  You can't see any neighbors from our house which is really nice.  Because apparently, we are cranky and unless you are our friend we don't like being your neighbor. 

I would say we don't like neighbors but I did like having our last next door neighbors so close and then our friends literally just a few hundred feet around the corner from us.  But I don't miss the neighbor two doors down who would start her day with a drink and a toke of pot and then spend a good portion of the day sitting in her boy's bedroom peaking out through the blinds to watch what the neighbors were doing so she could bitch about it.  Or the neighbors who never kept up their yards and left trash in them and it would then flow into our yard or just looked really nasty and tacky.  And this is from someone who will never live up to her mother's standards of a clean house - so that tells you how nasty their yards really looked.

I've got Girlfriend living at home now which is great.  I can make sure she gets her medicine every day without having to go somewhere else.  And more than that I can control whether or not she has company.  She was alone for the last month of so at the last place I was boarding her because the other two ponies left and I did not like that at all (neither did she).  The pony school was hoping that Geir could stay for the rest of the month to be used in camps and I said that was fine except it would mean Girl would be alone at our house for three weeks which wasn't ok.  I knew that the camp wasn't using a little pony named Bugsy anymore and mentioned maybe I could buy him (I adore him - he's like a little 10 hh version of Girlfriend) but the camp director asked if my daughter would like to have Frosty, a little POA who my daughter absolutely loves.  I was seriously shocked because he is a very sweet, very bombproof and adorable pony!  But apparently, he's been having some stiffness and pain and can't work the long days that camp requires.  They don't know if it's arthritis (probably) or what, but he's fine for an hour or so of work but after that it's too much.  So, he's come home with us for retirement and we are thrilled!  As we speak they are grazing in the pasture in the front yard looking very happy with their new home.  And I love going to sleep at night hearing them rustling around and snorting under my window!

I have big plans for the farm, but right now the biggest task at hand is unpacking and figuring out where everything goes.  We came from a larger surburban house with a three car garage to a house that is 210 square feet smaller and has no garage at all.  So, we're trying to figure out where everything is going to go and what to store and what to throw away.  It looks pretty chaotic right now. But it is still SO COOL! I've wanted to live on a farm my whole life and now I do!  It took till I was 47 years old but I can finally stop saying "Someday I'm going to live on a farm".  Yay!

So, no more "urban homesteading" for me.  I finally have room for goats and chickens and a huge garden and a huge greenhouse and ... there is a lot I'm going to have to learn.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fossa ... my new favorite animal

Things have been a little crazy in my life the last month or so.  Our family found a house we loved on the magical island and despite what my husband said on the ferry out there - that you don't put an offer down on a house the first time you see it in person - we put an offer on the house.  It was accepted, the inspection went well and now we've just been waiting for our house to sell before we close.  Our house went up for sale six days ago and we've had two offers.  I guess tonight we decide who we're going with.  Needless to say it's been crazy.

Getting our house ready to sell was a lot of work but wasn't too bad in the grand scheme of things.  Just a few painting touch-ups and throwing a lot of stuff into storage.  We sent Missy the Australian Shepherd to my parent's place and I just took the pitbull everywhere with me whenever I left for showing.  The first two days we were basically kicked out of our house for the full day because of open houses and so many agents bringing people through.  It's been worth it, it's just been very stressful.  This morning I'm just all over the place stressed worrying about the logistics of the selling and buying contracts and everything, so I've been trying to do stuff to relax, like watching a nature show about lemurs.  That's where I learned about Fossa's - a member of the mongoose family.  But they look like some sort of strange hybrid of mongoose and wild cat.  They're pretty cool.  And they're also endangered.  I think I may take up a new cause of "Save the Fossa"!

In other news, Geir is doing very well and continues to get stronger and in better shape as time goes on.  Yesterday in our lesson we actually tried doing a leg yield at a trot and he was able to do it for a few steps and I was very proud of him!   Our new place on the island will have room for him and Girlfriend and if I'm lucky another horse for me to ride so I can go on trail rides while my daughter rides Geir.  But we'll have to see about that after we're all settled.  I do have my eye on one horse who is for sale but I'm not sure if he'll still be available by the time we're all settled in.  And I'm not sure if he's too expensive.

My application to take the instructor training progam with Peggy Cummings was approved, now I just need to send her my two letters of recommendation from Trainer K and Trainer KL and send her a video clip of me riding and teaching.  I really have no idea what I'm getting into and if I can even afford this program but it's something I really want to try and do.  Trainer K said she looked her up and thinks she sounds wonderful and is very supportive of me trying to follow this course.  Peggy was apparently a student of Sally Swift and that is someone I've heard quite a few trainers speak very highly of.   I read a book by Sally Swift several years ago but Peggy seems to have her own thing going on too.  It makes sense when I hear what she says that she was a student of Sally Swift, but she also has her own way of seeing things too, she is not just an extension of Sally Swift.   And I'm hoping that's what I will be too - not just "teaching Peggy's method" like I'm a parrot of all that Peggy Cummings is, but that I can use this educational opportunity to learn how to be a good teacher myself too.

Every now and then I start to find myself thinking, "I wish I'd started on this career course when I was younger - like in my 20's - so I'd have a lot more time to pursue it," but at 47 years old I do have several years realistically to pursue this career course.  A couple days ago my daughter and I were at my parent's place on Mercer Island (to hide from an open house at our house) and we decided to go swimming in Lake WA.  We were slowly lowering ourselves into the water from the dock, whining and complaining about how cold it was, and this 90 year old man walked by us in his flippers and just jumped straight into the water and swam off.   Later when he came back he was talking to my daughter and asked her how old she was, so I asked him how old he was and he proudly said, "Ninety years old.  My uncle taught me to swim in this lake in 1931!"  So cool!  When I said I was 47 years old it sounded really young and I realized how I could have several decades of life left to live so what the heck - I'll just keep doing what I'm doing!  Dave and his wife (who is in her 70's) said they hoped we would come swim with them again because as Dave put it,  my daughter "puts a smile on his face".  His wife has grandkids my daughter's age and he has great grandkids.  Wow.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Subject ...???

I've been working every day this week which has been a little tiring for my brain.  Miss T. had a bit of an accident (I'll let her tell you about it) so she is taking the summer off.  They hired someone to replace her and we have a two week break starting next week, but I said I'd fill in for her classes this last week of Spring Session.   Wow. I never realized just how much mental energy I use up teaching little kids.  Not only do I have to be "on" but I also have to think on my feet for both helping them and making sure they are completely safe.  It's a little easier to teach the teens because I don't have to be entertaining.  I just need to think on my feet for helping them and keeping them safe.

Part of what I have to think on my feet about is how to help with body memory.  That has become a huge subject in my life over the last year of teaching is how to get the concept past a child's brain and into their body.  Little kids, especially (under about 14 years old) don't have as much control over remembering to change a body memory behavior, so I have to use exercises and games to make the exercises fun to help their bodies learn what they should be doing for being safe and effective.  Some of the kids are sponges and will do anything I ask them if it means they can ride more effectively, but a few (who completely exhaust my poor introverted mind) just need to be entertained constantly.  So, it's difficult to teach them without making it "fun enough to be worth their while".  Wow.  I am so not a gradeschool teacher or children's entertainer.  I can do it really well (entertaining and trying to keep a borderline (or something full on) ADD kid entertained) but after a half hour all I can think is "I need to be alone and drink a cup of coffee and not see or talk to anyone for at least an hour" because all my internal energy is depleted.

I am awfully sad not to teach my teens anymore because they are trying really hard and I've seen them make huge improvements and that is really awesome and I'm so proud of them.  And a couple of my little kids who are very serious about learning are hard to say good-bye to.  One little girl who I've taught all year (she's in kindergarten) apparently cried before class yesterday because it was our last class.  I'm pretty attached to her and her mom now too so I gave them my email and asked them to please update me how her riding is going and to send photos and when they buy her first pony in four years I would still go with them like I told them at the beginning of her lessons.  Another mom of one of the teen volunteers told me her daughter was very disappointed I was leaving because she had specifically asked to have me as a private instructor in summer, and I was disappointed too because I would have really liked to work with her.  She's sweet and smart and has the potential to be a very good rider.  I could've had fun working with her.  Ok, it's quite obvious to me that my teaching days are not over, just on hold for the time being.

My foray into equine massage, small as it is, is very fun too, though.  I was very excited yesterday to hear that my short massage I did on Trainer KL's foster horse had good results.  I'm also happy that Geir is starting to move a little differently since we've been working with him and I've been massaging him.  Not that I want this AT ALL, but yesterday he got irritated because I was asking him to do something hard for him and he bucked a little and I was thrilled.  Not because he bucked which is he is NOT allowed to do, but because I could feel that his back was looser and stronger when he did that and he would not have been physically able to do that nine months ago.  It was not a bad buck by any means (my daughter could've ridden it out which is what's important) but the fact that he had the back strength to do it made me very happy.  I'm starting to get a little more confidence in my beginner riding and I'm learning a ton from Trainer KL on how to ride and support a horse in beginning level training.  I feel like I'm fully back into that "learning groove" I was in with Trainer K. and I was worried I wouldn't find that again.  So life is good!

Here's something random for you. Yes, it's true - I love Tony Bennett.

Monday, June 2, 2014

... and right next to an active volcano.

I spent last Saturday either in bed or on the couch recovering from uber-energy-drain illness I caught from my daughter.  It was actually very good for me despite I was feeling depressed from inactivity.  But as I explained to my co-worker Miss T. (who was doing the same thing because on Friday she had a farm accident and dislocated her shoulder) it is not a sign of being a "pussy wimp" (her words ... mine would probably be "lame ass") it is actually a sign of strength.  It is a lot harder (emotionally and mentally) to rest and take care of yourself than it is to power-through and keep going even though it hurts and you know you're messing yourself up even more.  It's ironic because when I was young and in the worst of panic disorder/PTSD/etc. I had a period of barely being able to even move outside my comfort zone, but in order to heal from all that I had to push myself to do hard things.  Eventually, it became a habit to push myself.  Like when I was in halo traction with a broken neck after being hit by a drunk driver - I had a friend drive me through the intersection a few times where I had been hit because I knew if I didn't I wouldn't be able (emotionally) to drive anymore.  But it's time to find a balance.

On Saturday my husband took my daughter out to the magical island to look at a small horse farm (that I'd been trying to get him to look at for a month) and unfortunately, he got out there and declared that it was absolutely perfect for us and in the perfect price range, but someone had already made an offer on it on Friday.  So, we missed out on that.  I'm sure that's fine because it just wasn't meant to be.  But I amused myself (while watching a marathon of The Good Wife on Amazon Prime) looking at horse properties for sale in hopes of finding one that would be perfect for my rehab boarding facility.  I did find one in Enumclaw that fit all of our criteria (well, except for it being a horrible commute to Seattle) and as I was looking at all the photos and stats I did find myself muttering, "Totally perfect except for that being so close to an active volcano thing."

Yes, Enumclaw is under an active volcano and I must admit that common sense (which tells me I'm incredibly stupid for living Seattle to begin with when we're on such a big fault line but at least we aren't literally living right over the fault line like we were when we lived on Capitol Hill) tells me that we really shouldn't buy property underneath an active volcano.  Then the group, collective mind-numbness-thinking creeps back in and I think "But it's such a beautiful farm at a good price and how often do volcanoes erupt ..."  and then I harken back to the 1980's when Mt St Helen's erupted and that was hard enough on Enumclaw and Puyallup (and Burien where I grew up).  We had to miss school and were told not to leave our houses for a few days if at all possible because everything was covered in ash.  We had to go go my cousin's house in Puyallup about four days after the eruption and it looked like they'd had a blizzard of gray snow and it was still falling.   But Mt Rainier is substantially closer and geological maps show Enumclaw right smack in the path of the lava/mud slide path.   Like all those folks who suffered through the Oso mudslide ... do I want to be one of those people that says "It might be a bit hazardous to live under an active volcano but I haven't heard any warnings from the government so it's probably ok ..."  or do I want to err on the side of caution and the government has enough trouble dealing with it's huge debt and not having folks in their own departments know what's going on? 

I guess it's a moot point because the commute would be far too much for my husband.  And my farrier, vet and riding instructor probably wouldn't come down there.  But it's really a beautiful property.  Here - one of you guys buy it. Really, volcanoes don't erupt here. That's just craziness. (the good news is, is that at least with volcanoes - unlike mudslides and earthquakes - you get warnings and can evacuate yourself and your animals in plenty of time). 

In other news, I still didn't have the energy yesterday do both visit my first real equine massage client as a professional and scribe at a schooling show at Lake WA Saddle Club, so I had to cancel the latter. But it was still pretty great to be able visit my first paying client.  I am actually glad the State took so long to figure out how to do the endorsement on my massage license because it gave me a lot of time to do no charge massages and become a lot more comfortable with what I'm doing and become more confident in my abilities.

I love this photo - it's the view from my client's living room window.  I have dreams of that being the view from my living room window someday.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Some serious couch time and randomness

My daughter was sick all last weekend with some sort of nasty cold/flu thing with a fever for three days and lots of coughing and sleeping.  I'm feeling like I was run over by a small ATV this morning (not a truck per se ... just a small ATV) and I'm not sure if it's because I'm coming down with it or I'm just old, tired and have RA.  But I'm enjoying time on my big, plush purple couch with my coffee and looking MLS listings for houses and farms for sale.  Seriously, everything is so expensive and this is from an Eastside software developer family.  Sheesh.  Or as my daughter has started saying, "Oh Jesus!"  (she got that from her dad).  I told her there are an awful lot of conservative Christians in our lives who take very literally the "thou shalt not use the Lord's name in vain" commandment so whenever she accidentally blurts out "Oh Jesus!" she has to quickly follow it up with "Please, help me,"  so I don't get any lectures about raising a 10-year old heretic.  It's also funny because I'm starting to get my husband (the majorly anti-religion agnostic) to follow up with "help me" too after he says, "Oh Jesus".   Of course my profanity of choice when I'm really angry or frustrated is "Oh Jesus fucking Christ" which pretty much no follow up will help me get out of.

FYI ... I believe that "thou shalt not use the Lord's name in vain" means that you will not commit acts of hatred and then attribute it to "God's will" or say it told you in the Bible to do it or whatever.  I believe that homophobia is a direct act of going against that commandment because no where does Jesus say that being gay is a sin.  He recognizes that it is not allowed in that time and place and there are laws against it, but he does not say "God hates fags" or even says gay folks are going to Hell.  He pretty much says no one is going to Hell except if you're a greedy bastard it will be harder to get into heaven than fit a camel through the eye of a needle.

I had a dream last night that I brought home a pet camel and my husband was a good sport and let me keep him in the house.  No idea where that come from.

Regardless of all that, I am enjoying my couch/sloth time and really enjoying this weird, little foot roller ball thingie that I got to see if it would help with the RA in the connective tissue at the bottom of my feet.  And it really does help.  I also got orthotics specifically for folks with arthritis to put in my boots when I'm on my feet 8+ hours at work and they helped too.  Granted they are made for people with Osteoarthritis (which is caused by break-down of the cartilage, usually by over use) as opposed to what I have, Rheumatoid Arthritis (inflammation and joint/tissue damage caused by immune system attacking and breaking down my own body), but they still work.

I only have a week left after this week at my riding instructor job.  I've had some calls about massage jobs at spas and a bookkeeping gig so I'm not too worried about finding a part-time job that will pay the bills.  But I will miss working with my students and the horses.  I know someday I will take up teaching kids again, just not sure when and how.

On that note, here is my cheesy song of the day.  I heard this on the radio a couple weeks ago and it reminded me how I feel about my own, personal concept of God ... which is too long to explain in one blog post/paragraph, but he is not a judgmental jerk, and he's not a doormat who lets evil folks walk all over him, and he does not hurt people or "let bad things happen" to "teach them lessons", and he's not a "him" or "her".  It (I suppose) is all the strength of goodness in the universe which can kick any evil ass in the long run any day.  But it still nice to have around and infinitely comforting and hopeful.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Your ritual sacrifice appears to have worked ...

The weather has been weird the last couple weeks - sunny when it says it's supposed to rain and not raining enough when it does (and they said it was supposed to be sunny).  So when it finally poured down rain the other day I thought of the pilot episode of the original Dr. Who series when the Dr. and his cohorts somehow end up in an ancient Aztec village where they are about to sacrifice some guy to bribe the rain gods.  I was thinking how I could kind of understand where they were coming from because I was frustrated for my garden's sake at the lack of substantial rain and they did not have the luxury of hoses the just had to pull around the house.

Before I forget I have to write down my "a-ha!" moment at my lesson today with Geir.  Our on-going issue with him is his balance in the turns and especially going to the left he really leans to the left and then counterbends his body to the right so does what Gerd Heuschmann described at his clinic last week "a false bend".  We've been working on that and when he's feeling stiff he will start to lean so far to the left I feel almost like I'm on a motorcycle taking a tight turn and I've been putting my weight more in my right leg to both keep me upright and in hopes of convincing him to straighten up a little, and then because he's drifting into the middle of the arena, I'll try to leg yield him over.  I've got my body turned the way I'm supposed to, and reins doing what I'm supposed to (inside rein up slightly but not pulling).  But when I told this to Trainer KL that I'm having to lean a bit to the right to keep myself balanced she suggested I not do that for the sake of Geir's balance issues and instead of bringing my leg back for a leg yield, give him a leg aid at the girth and ask him to engage that inside shoulder.  So, it wasn't a "Wa-la! He is now doing perfect corners!"  but I saw a big improvement in him immediately trying to engage that inside shoulder a little more and not leaning so much to the left which made me not want to lean to the right to compensate.

I also realized I was trying to force his body upright by leaning to the right a little also.  Something I know intellectually not to do - we ask for movement from the horse, we do not push or shove.  So, that was very cool and reminded me how much I have to learn about which part of the body to encourage movement from and how to encourage that movement in the way that I can ask the horse to do the movement himself instead of trying to push his body into doing it.  I'm not sure if that makes sense to anyone who doesn't ride but it was just another piece in the puzzle of how to perfect this "dancing with the horse" type of riding I'm trying to achieve where I'm leading the dance, not throwing his body around the room.   I love "a-ha moments"   :)

In other news I've been very cranky with social media sites the last few days.  Especially so with all the postings of how the phrase "not all men" is just another way to oppress women.  Good lord, people.  Do you honestly believe that if the killer was a psychopath woman who wrote a giant manifesto on killing rapist pigs and the sluts that enable them, that women would not be saying "Not all women" are like this?  I thought this blog post expressed what's been bothering me all week.

The chickadees in the birdhouse outside our kitchen window have had quite a dramatic time of it.  One of the babies died last week and the dad was trying to push/pull it's little dead body through the hole in the birdhouse.  I told my husband the dad chickadee needed help so he went out and pulled the baby out for him.  There were still some babies left though so the parents were busy bring food and taking away little fecal sacks (I didn't know they did that - it was pretty cool watching them clean house like that).  Yesterday one of the dogs found another baby (but this one more full grown) in the backyard and the bird house appears to be empty. I know there were more than one baby in the bird house so I'm hoping that it just means the babies left and only one did not make it.  It's been far more emotional for me watching this little chickadee family than I'd expected it would be.

And in completely unrelated news, I have a crush on Judge Abernathy from the Good Wife.  Not the actor - the actual character.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The end of an era ...

I knew this day would come eventually because this wasn't a permanent endeavor from the start, and I was already feeling burned out on working Saturdays, but somehow the pieces fell together and I gave notice at the pony school.  Mainly, I need to not work Saturdays and have more time with my family and I need to find a part-time job while I build my equine massage practice that pays more, especially because Maiden is coming back from Montana soon.  Apparently, she's been exhibiting chronic lameness the weeks while she's been there and her new owner can't afford it.  I'm bummed that I'm getting back a chronically lame horse but I have hope that since she was doing well with what I was doing with her before, she'll do well again when she's back.  But it's going to be a lot of extra expenses I hadn't budgeted for.

So, I'm very sad about no longer teaching.  I'm hoping this is not a permanent thing to not teach either, I'd like to go back to it someday when it's more practical for my life.  I know it's the right time though because I was extremely worried about what my boss would do to cover my shifts over summer and within an hour she was able to move things around and completely cover all of them.  So, that to me is a sign that it is the right time.  Also, there are a bumch of spas hiring part-time LMP's  right now and if I picked up one shift a week that would cover all my horses expenses plus some.

And I will be working one hour a week still at the pony school.  I have my one special needs student who I am good friends with her family and I know she doesn't acclimate to change well so although I think Miss C. or Miss T. would be perfectly fine with her, I'm not sure she'd be perfectly fine having a new teacher.  So my boss asked if I would mind coming in to teach one lesson a week and I jumped on it like some freaky chocolate addict who someone said, "You have to never eat chocolate again but oh hey - do you want this last Hershey bar?"  So, I guess that is a sign that my days of teaching are not completely over with.

So, this is good. Change is a good thing and it's been a good year of just teaching and going to school but now it's time to start earning money again and following new opportunities to new adventures.  But my heart is feeling pretty heavy too. 

On a less intense note Mr. Geir and I had a great lesson this morning with Trainer KL.  Probably the worst part of the lesson was that it looks like it's snowing from all the cottonwood seeds blowing around, and when I'm thinking really hard I usually breathe through my mouth and that didn't go so well with all the cottonwood seeds flying around.  I had to cough and spit a few times and add  "keep your mouth shut" to all the stuff I was thinking of doing.

My daughter and I are a making a mix cd for her BFF because she (her BFF) is getting a MP3 player for her birthday this weekend.  So, we've been picking out songs that she thinks her friend will like.  It's cute to have a little 10 year old girl describing her friend's musical taste, "She likes accoustic melodic stuff ... kind of country but not too country ... with lots of pretty singing.  No Rockin' stuff like I like.  And no rap like I like, she doesn't like that either.  No Pitbull either, and just one of the Macklemore songs, just the Thrift Shop one, the version without the swear words, but no other ones." She takes it so seriously, it feels like I'm talking to myself as a teenager.  I also realized that this song could easily have been my teenage anthem.  Thirty-five years late but still, it speaks to the 12 year old that hovers around in my mind.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Running away from my problems

I started up my Couch 2-5K runs again today after a few months off.   For one, the arthritis flare-up in my feet has gone down a lot, another reason is my jeans are really tight and I don't like tight clothes.  Plus one of my teachers from equine massage school posted photos from running the Beat the Bridge run this morning and that was the last straw of inspiration.  It also helped that I found out that on my app I don't have to use the "chipper and supportive" Constance which is the default audio track for telling you when to walk and jog.  Instead I can use Johnny Dead who just happens to be a zombie.  That worked much better for me.   I made an agreement that if I do this consistently for two weeks I can buy myself a pair of Asics.  I'm hoping that will give me more support for when my RA is attacking my ankles and the connective tissue on the bottom of my feet.  It certainly brightened my mood even if my feet and ankles are killing me now.

I had a stressful week and could barely sleep a couple of nights during the week and had one hell of a terrible headache one morning.  I was wondering if there was anything in the world that would cheer me up and sure enough when I rode Geir it cheered me up.  Today he worked hard and was a good sport about it the whole time.  I was riding bareback and it took me a few minutes to get comfortable with it because I haven't ridden bareback in a few months.  By the end I had found my groove and was really pushing him to find his groove and not counter-bend on his turns.  I decided to try everything that I had heard at the Gerd Heuschmann clinic and it seemed to work well.  Unfortunately, without having much work at all last week Geir was out of practice with not counter-bending but eventually combining stuff I learned from the clinic to stuff I learned from Trainer KL I managed to get two corners without counter bending! Or as Gerd called it "false turns".   Yay!  I rewarded him with stopping at the big water trough (which had just been refilled with fresh, cold water) and realized he was breathing quite heavily, so we just walked around and practiced our stretchy walk that he's starting to get good at. 

Geir hasn't been getting turned out with his friends because he's so fat (I can relate with the whole jeans not fitting thing) and can't be out on pasture grass for very long.  I was thinking of taking him out to the pasture with his friends after our work-out but then the head of the school would have to bring him in later when she came to do chores and I didn't know if she wanted to do that.  But then she showed up she asked if he'd been cooled down enough and I said yes and she cautiously asked if he wanted to go out with his friends and I said, "Definitely! You don't mind bringing him in later?"  There are a few pastures at the school but the big one is on the other side of two very large fields used for growing crops by the neighboring organic farm.  So you have to walk down a long path we call "the chute" to get there, but once you're out there it's a huge pasture of several acres that goes all the way to a line of trees that runs along the Sammamish River Trail.  Our eight big horses were already out there munching away and when Geir got to the end of the chute he trotted happily out to the middle of the pasture and when Pal saw him, he twirled around an cantered as fast as he could to him (I love how bonded Pal is to him) So five of the other horses followed him  until they were all circling around him.  As quickly as they came, they turned to disburse, all except Pal who stayed with his butt practically touching Geir's butt while they ate grass together.  If I ever move to a farm and bring Geir home I'm going to have to beg the school's owner to let me buy Pal and bring him with us.  Besides being so bonded to Geir he is one of those rare truly sensitive, gentle, kind Quarterhorses who hasn't got a mean bone in his body.

Last week my daughter went to her training to be a volunteer for the school and although I was working that day I really didn't see her the entire four hours.  She loved it and did her first official shift Friday after school.  I made a point of not being anywhere near her because I was feeling anxious about her being in charge of ponies by herself (without another volunteer helping her - now she was the one in charge).  Luckily Miss C. was in charge and she's pretty devoid of fear and thinks of my daughter as a lot more mature than I do (she's only 10 years old and can't weigh more than 62 pounds so I feel like she's this tiny, helpless little creature despite having a reputation for pushing her to face her fears and challenge herself - inside I am still freaking out).  Her jobs include bringing ponies in for classes and taking them back out to their paddocks afterward.  She needs to help the little kids in class with grooming and making sure they follow safety rules, and she needs to be in charge of keeping the pony on lead line during the class for safety for the little kid student.  She also has to pick out stalls, paddocks and clean and fill water buckets (which she's helped me do for a couple years now so I'm not so worried about it).  Although the pitch forks are taller than she is!  Needless to say, when I asked Miss C. how she did, she said she did great.  It really is very cool to see her branching out and being more independent and responsible. She's the youngest of the volunteers except for one who is only a year older than her, but the rest are mostly 13-16 year olds which is good for her to be around.  And she of course thinks that's super cool.

A photo of Pal and Geir ... Geir is actually closer to the same height as Pal but the angle of the photo makes him look much shorter.  Pal is really quite beautiful when he's not covered mud (well, I think he's beautiful even covered with mud!)

A photo of the "track" I am running for my Couch 2-5k.  Some of it is gravel but a lot of it is the boardwalk over the wetlands and the creek.  Today I went just under two miles with walking/jogging.  The plan is to work up to doing a 5k in 8 weeks I think.  I find it hard to believe I could do that because I've always been pretty bad at running and endurance - but we'll see.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Things I get excited about ... and not ...

I got to do a ground lesson with one of my students yesterday which I was both excited and nervous about.  The nervous part was more that teens would rather ride a horse in a lesson than do a ground lesson.  I would rather ride a horse in a lesson than do a ground lesson, come to think of it.

But my student and the horse were not particularly getting along.  She's been doing very well with the riding aspect as far as not kicking or pulling on his face as much and he balance has become much better, but the dynamic that she doesn't like him and he is wary and defensive was getting in the way of truly successful rides.  He did not see her as the leader of the situation in our lessons. He saw me as the only leader so when he would get confused or not understand he would rush over to me (he's a very sweet, sensitive horse) so I thought a ground work lesson would help establish a better relationship between them.  And I was happy that my boss was on board with that idea.

Thankfully, my student did not think it was boring or annoying as I had worried she would.  We started out with some basic ground/liberty stuff to talk about intention and body language.  I tried my best to describe what I was saying but getting my conceptual thoughts out into words coherently is still a challenge so not sure if I succeeded at that.  Then we did some free lunging and I started teaching her the concept of leading a horse with your body language, which is hard to explain in one session because there are so many subtle details - it's like you are molding the horses movements by your body - like you're dancing together - and anyone who has done a lot of dance and been the lead in dancing knows there is a lot of subtly you can't quite express all of in just a half hour.

But I felt like it was a great lesson and at the end of it I asked my student to lead the horse across the arena to the door just by having him follow her (no halter or lead rope) and he lowered his head in his relaxed way and followed her licking and chewing and didn't even look twice at me.  Which was a huge improvement from the beginning of the lesson when I was on the other side of the arena and she was to interact with him but he had his eye on me the whole time and was mostly ignoring her - waiting for his cue from me on what *I* wanted him to do.

In other news I apparently seem to have developed Sjogren's syndrome, which I'm none too happy about.  I haven't had any formal tests but I have all the symptoms and my eye doctor tested my eyes a couple days ago and said they are severely dehydrated.  So, now I need to drink more water and put eye drops in my eyes several times a day along with after every half hour I read or am on the computer.  She's going to check again in two months and see if my eyes are less dehydrated and if not "ramp up the treatment" ... not sure what that means except putting eye drops in my eyes every five minutes.  I actually haven't noticed any difference in my eyes yet (they've been stinging a bit for months now and on really bad days feel like I have grit in them which drives me crazy).

The RA has been acting up again too.  By the end of the day I'm hobbling around with a lot of pain in the bottom of my feet - so much so I feel like whining and am constantly wanting to sit down.  It helps that I have a job I like (despite I'm on my feet the whole time) because it takes my mind off of it.  Although I think I'm going to need to soak my feet in hot water for awhile when I get home.  Also, the fatigue is kicking my butt! Good lord.  I finally pushed myself to go back to pilates after three weeks yesterday and I felt like just lifting my arms to do the warm-ups was going to crush me.  But I also felt a lot better and had more energy by the time the hour was over so I'm glad I did it.  I just need to be really conscious of making sure I do lots of self-care.  I'm keeping up on my Humira right now which is helping, my eye doctor said to up my Omega 3 intake and that will help, up my vitamin D and I'm going to start making fresh ginger tea in the evenings because that helps inflammation too.  And this too shall pass.   And I really need to lay off the critical thinking like how I should lose weight to look better and I should be accomplishing more ... blah blah blah.  I'm doing pretty damn well for having what some what call "physical disability" (I don't like to use that term in regards to myself because it gets me down and freaks me out) but I do need to realize that I am doing great for where I'm coming from and be kinder to myself and not so critical.

And in Geir news, he is doing wonderfully.  My daughter struggled with riding him a bit last week in her lesson because he is very "friends oriented" and when her class was lined up on the wall and it was her turn to take him out in the arena to trot he turned really fast on her and trotted back to the line and she got frustrated and said he "wouldn't listen" to her.  It's not that he wouldn't listen, it's that he is like a very large, strong, little kid with very strong ideas.  And when he wants to be with his friends, he needs a rider to be "bigger and stronger" (conceptually - not physically) to tell him "No, we're going to do this work and THEN you can go back to hang with your friends".   So, he will listen, but you have to let him know he needs to listen to you.  That's why he is not good for beginners alone in a class because if you're at all insecure he'll (in a very friendly way) say "Oh, well, if I'm in charge I'm going to stick with my friends!" and galumph over to his friends no matter what the timid little rider is trying to say.  But if you catch him *before* he does that he will listen.  But you have to catch him as he's giving that subtle cue of asking "Hey - can I go back to my friends?" before he is turned around and heading toward them.  So, my daughter and I talked about it and sure enough, when she paid a lot of attention and was able to hear his body language when it said, "Can I turn and go back now?" and she said "No, listen to me," before he had turned to go back to his friends, she was able to ride him successfully even when all the other horses were lined up on the wall and she had to take him out in the arena to trot.  I was so proud of both of them!

It's time for my daughter to choose a new song to work on in voice lessons.  We just had a recital and she sang Katy Perry's "Roar" and did a surprisingly good job (she comes from a long line of non-talented singers).  She chose this song.  Which means I will add it to my repertoire of pop songs I am learning to play on piano so I can accompany her when she practices.  Oh my.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Migraines and Sutures

I was brushing my teeth last night and suddenly I felt like I was on a boat in rocky waters.  A few moments later my head started to hurt right over my left eye and quickly spiraled into "I have to lie down, damnit" pain.  I felt too bad to go downstairs to get ibuprofen so I took some Tylenol and half a valium (in case it was a tension headache ... I wasn't sure since I haven't had a migraine in twenty years). and went to bed and did some lymphatic drainage around my face and neck.  It did help the pain go away until I got up this morning and started moving around. 

Migraines - through truly the suck of all sucks - are also fascinating.  When people say they feel like their head is going to explode, it really is how they feel because there is so much vaso-dialation in the head that the pressure is so intense.  I've seen people rub their head and complain "Oh, I have a migraine" but I'm always dubious because they're still up and functioning.  Everyone I knew (including myself) can not fuction at all during a migraine until it's over and you're in that weird "migraine hang-over" place where you feel like you still have "memory of the pain" but it's not so bad you can't function, and you feel kind of traumatized and wiped out.  There is no definite "this is what causes some people to have migraines and some people to not" although there are definitely recognized triggers for people who do get them.  It's one of those mysteries that if I had gone into medical research I would've probably wanted to study them.  Well, that and/or autoimmune diseases.

Speaking of "if I'd gone to medical school" - my vet was out yesterday to do a follow-up after four months of Geir being on Adequan to help with stiffness in his hind end.  I gave her some of my equine massage cards and told her that perhaps one day I would actually be certified and could work professionally so could she refer me? She said definitely (yay!).  (I'm STILL waiting for the Dept. of Health to sort out the fiasco of who gets my application and how do they process it ... seriously? They even asked me "Where did you get this application and where did it say to go?" and I told them on the Dept. of Health's website and I mailed it to the address given with the instructions ... aaaargh). 

Anyway, I said I had a lot of fun following her that one day to all her appointments and she said I'm welcome to come with her any time I want.  So, I may jump on that and go again with her a couple more times.  She also said it's a good way to meet people and connect with future clients.  I said if life had been different I would've liked being a vet and she had a "excited little kid moment" and said, "Oh, can I show you something cool?" and pulled out her phone and the first photo was of a horse's leg completely ripped open all the way down to the bone.  It literally looked like they'd taken a large chunk of flesh, muscle, tissue off the front of the horse's leg.  Of course it was after the wound had been cleaned so it looked more like a surgery photo than a photo straight after the accident where it's all chaotic.  I said I had no idea what to do in that situation.  How would you cover it to patch it up? Take tissue from somewhere else?

So, she showed me the next photo which was right after she'd sewn it up.  It was a very intricate pattern - not just a straight line of stitches.  She literally sewed it together like a patchwork quilt or puzzle pieces.  I asked how she'd been able to find skin to do that and she went back to the previous picture and showed how she first used the deeper tissue to pull it together and then sewed that together, which pulled the outer skin closer together in order to be able to sew that together.  She showed me the five days later photo and it looked really good.  Then she explained that it would look worse for a bit because the body would "eat away" any dead skin edges and the would would look a little more open, but that is a natural part of the healing process before the body then starts healing the healthy tissue ends together.  Totally fascinating!  And amazing to me what one can do with such a bad injury.  But then that's how I decided to hire her was watching her sew up a nasty wound on a horse at my old stable and being so impressed with what a good job she did.  They were hiring fairly recently for a vet assistant that could ride along with the vets in their practice and they would train on the job for a person to get certified, but honestly, I'm loving the equine massage stuff too and it's far more challenging for me than being a vet tech - fun as that would be if I worked with my vet.

Poor Beetle was very sore the other day when Miss C. was riding him so she asked me to look at him.  We took him and Geir out on the trail just to stretch their legs but when we came back I asked if she could walk/trot him in the arena so I could see what she was talking about.  He balked at the idea of trotting and instead of his normal long, low neck and happy swaying trot, he did lower his head, but in a defensive way, with his ears pinned back, and his movements were jerky and strained.  The conversation turned to "What do you think caused it?" and I realized in a professional situation the best thing would be to say "There's no way for me to know, but this is what I'm feeling."  Although, as a friend I too want to know what caused it and try to figure it out.  He just recently went back to turn-out in the big field so the obvious assumption is he yahoo-ed and either slipped and fell or strained something.  But as a professional there is no way to know what caused it and making assumptions is no good.

Miss C. asked if I thought she should keep riding him to help him stretch or give him time off.  I said that wasn't my call to make that it was her decision, but that he was having stiffness, pain in these areas and she should watch for higher levels of discomfort and pain and make her decision based on that.  Then I added, "But as your friend I would say no, he's in too much pain right now and the stretching aspect of riding would be over ridden by the pain aspect."  Then I put my professional hat back on and said I'd show her some ground stretches which damnit! I didn't end up having time to do!  Well, things are more lax when you're only practicing your professional role with friends.

The cool thing was, his left side of his longissimus dorsi was like a hard wire running along the side of his spine.  His right side was hypertonic but nothing like the left.  I've honestly never felt anything like that before.  I made Miss C. feel it and said, "This is nowhere near normal!"  So I focused mostly on that part of his back because of time constraints.  First I did some manual ligament therapy (which is really, really cool stuff!) then did a little myofascial release in order to actually loosen stuff up enough to get to things, then found a couple very uncomfortable stress points and worked those out.  When I was done Beetle had yawned and stretched and farted all over the place and the wire in his back was gone.  When I walked him back to his house he had his head practically on the ground and was swaying happily with his walk.  Unfortunately, because I didn't have a lot of time, I worry that it was a reaction to compensating for other stuff going on, so it's going to come back.  And sure enough I did hear from our boss that Miss C. said he was really stiff again yesterday.  So, I need to find time to spend a whole hour looking at what other stuff is going on with him.

But I love the solving the mystery aspect of massage.  And I love how happy the horses get when you can help them feel better.  Beetle was so happy near the end of his massage he turned his head and gently tried to groom me!  The same thing happened with Pal yesterday when I was working on his lower back on some "stuckness" around where he had a crushed sacrum (which is why he was retired to the school after being a competitive reining horse).  After he threw his head all around, yawned a bunch of times, shook out his whole body and farted, he decided to thank me by trying to groom me.  That really, right there makes it such an awesome job!

If you need some cuteness this morning, here is a video of the director of the school I've been studying at, giving a massage to an animal most of us don't have the opportunity to work on: 

Monday, April 28, 2014

I've been thinking a lot about this ...

Last week I posted a photo on social media (that I thought was a non-descript photo of someone far away) and asked if my horse trainer folks could clarify if the horse was being ridden in classical dressage form, or if (as it looked to me) the horse's head was being cranked down.  Well, my big mistake there is that no photo on the internet is "non-descript" and that apparently people can figure out who they think the photo is just by the arm and hand in the photo (although as of the end of the fiasco two people were swearing they had proof it was the person they thought - and they both had "proof" it was their person (which if they both had so much proof it literally meant it was two different people).

So, big lesson learned:  do not use any photos of anyone or anything that aren't my own with approval from the subject of the photo because someone will "figure out" they know that person (even when in this case they obviously didn't because two people couldn't be right).  Because I don't want to make a discussion on the best functional way to train horses turn into belittling individuals.

The other thing I thought was since I'm trying to build my business as an equine massage therapist I really can't afford to be controversial.  And I don't have the stomach for it. 

But I've been thinking about it a lot from my instructor point of view too.  And as a riding instructor it is my responsibility to teach my students how to ethically and fairly handle their horses.  Why did I feel such a strong pull in my heart to become an equine massage therapist and a riding instructor? It's because I want to do what is best for the horses and be an advocate for them.  That is more important to me than being accepted by the community that uses Rolkur or abuses their horses.  Now granted there is a large community of high level folks here in the Pacific Northwest who achieve Grand Prix level without doing that and luckily I've only come across one trainer out of many, many who I felt was abusing his horses.  And we are lucky in our arena we have so many qualified judges willing to put their time into Pony Club and schooling shoes and other educational avenues to teach folks you can achieve high levels of training/riding all the way up to Grand Prix champions without abusing your horses.  So, it's not like I've found much need to speak out around my area (yet).  But I also don't want to fall into that trap that exists in so many communities (be it horses, or other sports, or religions, or whatever common interest has drawn folks together) where we all feel we have to be silent when someone is doing something abusive to a creature who is at their mercy.

So, I've decided that I will continue to pursue my education in how to train horses the correct way - the non-abusive way - the way that empowers them to use their bodies correctly and soundly for years to come.  And I will not hold my tongue in public forums if someone asks my opinion.  I've been looking at a lot of blogs this last weekend from folks who are trainers and want to stop the abuse that is Rolkur (or the more politically correct term "hyperflexion" or "deep and round") and so far all of them show photos of riders where they either block out the face or blur it.  I don't want to do that because if I did stuff early on because I didn't know any better and I can look back at photos from when I was a kid or even eight years ago and critique it.  Like "Hey - I'm not wearing a helmet and I'm leaning forward" "I'm totally bracing/standing in the stirrups there and not using my core as balance"  "I'm pulling my horse's head too hard with the reins and she's not on the bit, she's bracing against it".  I would be humiliated if someone put an obvious photo of me up and started going off about it.   I also don't want everything I say about handling horses to be about the negative - don't do this, don't do that, I hate it when people do this or that.  Many of the training blogs seem to focus more on what NOT to do, then advocating what they've found *to do*.

But I also am not going to just blindly walk around saying "Everything's fine. We're all on equal footing. We all have places we need to improve."  Because the truth is, yes, all us students are always improving (and that includes trainers because all the ones I know still clinic and are still learning).  But if a student or trainer is actively hurting a horse, I'm sorry if it rocks the boat, but that is not ok.  And if that trainer is teaching his or her students how to actively hurt the horse that is even worse!

How does that work though as an equine massage therapist? Well, my professional title only gives me license to talk about what I feel in the horse's body and what I can do to change that.  I have no qualifications to say *why* I feel that stuff in the horse's body or how the horse should be used/trained or any of that.  Just "this is what I feel"  "this is what I can do to change what I feel to something more comfortable and functional for the horse."  That's it.  When I've got that hat on that is all I will say.

But if a client who uses Rolkur techniques sees a social media comment or a blog post about my belief as a horse owner and riding instructor on how horses should be trained/treated and they are offended, well, that's too bad.  I can find other clients.   And if a trainer is that worried that I am not knowledgable enough to tell the difference between using side reins for training a horse properly and using Rolkur then that's not my problem.  I'm not going to pretend everything is just rosey and peachy-keen wonderful in the horse community if I run into folks where it is not.  And if I am hired by someone who I see abusing the horse in my presence I'm not going to smile and say "it's just their way" I'm going to be blunt and say I am not comfortable with that and excuse myself and say there are many fine equine massage therapists out there but I can't work with that person.

My love for horses (and other animals) comes first over money or prestige.  And if that makes me controversial that's fine.  I'm not going to pick on individuals or nit-pick them in public or start arguments about it, but I'm damn well going to stand up and say "There IS a proper way to train your horses - one of love and respect and challenges that are appropriate for them.  And I can not stand by and be silent if people are cruel to their horses - even if it is just out of ignorance."

I think what really helped me clarify this position for myself was talking to some fellow horse professionals who are confident enough and educated enough to understand the balance.  Trainer KL has been an enormous help with me in learning how to choose where my boundaries should be for myself (she hasn't told me what those boundaries should be but given me good information for me to make my own choice where they should be).   So, I can rein myself in and not be over the top confrontational (which I tend to want to be) but I don't have to give up my values for a career.  No way. 

This video also inspired me.  I like the way he focuses almost completely on the positive but acknowledges there are some negatives out there.  But 90% of what he's showing and saying is positive and really gets the point across well. 

I actually found this video to explain to some of my students how we're training Geir.  To them, Geir is a sweet horse who is already rideable so what are we training him for?  And during my training lessons,  to the naked eye I'm just out there mostly walking (or occasionally) trotting in circles talking to Trainer KL.  How in the world is just walking around in circles not noticeably doing anything "training him" and what the heck am I talking to her about while I'm doing that?  Well, this explains a lot of what we are doing/talking about.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

One of those afternoons

We're having one of those Sunday afternoons at our house where everything is oddly peaceful.  The dogs are sprawled on the floor sleeping, one cat is buried in couch cushions sleeping and the other is under our bed sleeping and my daughter and husband are both reading.  Nobody is very motivated to clean up the clutter that is our kitchen island counter or coffee table or wash the dishes.

My week off from work has disappeared and it's back to the grindstone tomorrow.  Even not working it seemed like I was awfully busy.  For one thing I started Geir in the serious work-out mode.  Not just getting ridden lightly two or three times a week, but actually working out.  Now if I could just get motivated to do that myself.  He's been getting worked on the lunge line with a loose side rein to help him bend, and ridden with more trotting and a more active walk (not his half-asleep shuffle he enjoys) and every couple days he gets chased around for some cantering and yahooing.  He's still - as Trainer KL described it - trying to figure out where his feet go in the canter so he's not balanced or strong enough to be working under saddle with it yet, but he's building his strength, balance and endurance by doing it on his own during free lunging.  He's taking to it like a sport.

Speaking of him being the super-Fjord, I was working him in the outdoor arena this morning and it was incredibly windy and he seemed pretty oblivious to it.  His other Fjord friend, DJ, and his owner were also working in the outdoor arena and we decided to take them out on the trail around the neighboring farm to stretch their legs and relax after their hard work.  I figured since it was so windy we'd go try and if he seemed really angstful or anxious we could just turn around and come back or I could just get off and walk him back in the worst case scenario (which is hard to imagine with him). 

As it was both the boys were totally relaxed about it.  They looked around a little like when bicycles would whiz by on the neighboring Sammamish Slew trail, or when the plastic on the greenhouse walls would rattle and blow or the plastic they laid over the crops would undulate like black waves in the wind, but they didn't seem concerned.  Geir was extremely concerned about the puddles and even though DJ plodded through them with no problem right in front of us, Geir would bend his body in all sorts of contortions to not step in them, no matter how much I used my body and reins to try and keep him straight.  If we'd had a lot of room in front of us I think he may have gone through them if he could trot at full speed but then we would've run right into DJ's butt.  And since DJ is quite a bit younger, bigger and stronger I didn't want to see what that would look like.  But despite being seventeen and a little fat, Geir is still a Fjord and my leg aids were no match for his complete unwillingness to step in a puddle.  Finally after about thirty or so puddles I got him to walk through one and he got lots of pets and snuggles and praise.  But the next two he avoided like they were portals to Hell.

At one point he tenses up his body like he wanted to jump over one and I told him "If you jump over this puddle I will be so amazed and proud but at the same time will fear it is the first sign of the apocalypse."  I miss jumping.  I do worry that might be one of the things I am too old and breakable to do again, but after the trick-riding class a couple weeks ago I'm feeling the need for some more adrenaline inducing challenges.

I am looking forward to seeing my students after a week off, I have to admit.  Miss C. and I realized we refer to them to outsiders as "our kids".  I have three students right now who are "special needs" (is that still a P.C. term?) and I've been doing some research on how to be a better teacher to them.  So far what I've been reading goes along with what I instinctually would think of doing when trying to come up with teaching strategies on my own, so that is nice.  But I still worry about not having any formal education in therapeutic riding so I've been doing my homework.

I was telling my brother about one of my students who does not have a corpus collosum (the part of one's brain that connects the right and left hemisphere).  This is a hard to describe neurological issue because it's such a hard to pinpoint thing, what the communication between hemispheres means to the way a brain works.  Despite what doctors said 27 years ago, she is not a vegetable as they predicted, but can walk, talk, dress herself, do simple chores, ride a bike and now she is learning to ride a horse.  I do think a lot about how she must relate to the world though because it's hard to fathom.  She lives in the moment completely and does not have a concept of how long an hour or a day is.  But she remembers experiences and things that happen to her, she just doesn't really connect to the time frame of when they did.  She also doesn't distinguish all the time between what really happened and what she thought was happening.  So, if she found an empty box and thought her brother threw the contents away, that is how she'll remember it, even after she's told he didn't throw it away, it was taken out and put somewhere else.  You can't really hold a conversation with her because her brain doesn't work in the way needed to verbally interact.  And she can't make leaps of logic like "if you do a then b or c could happen" - but that's also nice because she is not able to be conniving or manipulative because her brain doesn't work like that.  She also has no filter and will say everything she thinks and feels as it's happening.  So, if you're a jerk, she'll just blurt out that you're scary and hide behind a trusted person.  If you're a cute guy she'll giggle and say you're really cute.  And she's extremely loving and happy, although she is kind of skittish and nervous like a horse.  Basically, she views and experiences the world much like a horse.  It's very hard not to instantly like her because she is such a truly innocent soul.  My husband commented the other day that she's kind of the embodiment of Buddhism or the complete being of one's self without ego. 

Anyway, what was interesting to me was that I was telling my brother about her because he also works with kids with special needs (only he does it with advanced degrees and immensely more formal education than I have) and when I was telling him about this student he got really sad and said it was absolutely tragic.  I tried to explain if he met her he wouldn't be sad for her but the subject really seemed to bum him out so we didn't talk much more about it.  I think if he met her he would see that sadness or pity were not emotions that are evoked when you meet her.  As one of the teens who assists me in her class said about her after they met, "How could you not like her? She's great! And she's a walking miracle!"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bumbling along ...

I've been trying to write a business plan for what I want to do with my equine massage career, now that there is some hope I may actually be certified someday (I've been going around with the Dept. of Health for some reason trying to get certification.  I finally called them on Monday and found out that my application had been sent to the wrong department and had been sitting dormant for two months and nobody had planned to do anything with it because it wasn't for their department so they just shoved it away.  Even though I sent it to the right address.  Luckily, I found someone who said she would make sure she found the correct department - although she didn't know where that was even though I told her and I told her about the info. on the Dept. of Health's website page where I downloaded the application - still it was very hard for her to find anyone who knew what I was talking about in the actual Dept. of Health.  Even though it is listed right there on their website that this department does exist - apparently know one there can actually find it.  Anyway, I'm supposed to call her back next week and see if they managed to find out where my application goes so it can be processed and maybe I'll get certified ... sigh ...)

Anyway, there is hope that one day I will get my certification and will be a professional equine massage practitioner and I have a whole business plan worked out in my head and I am in the process of putting it down on paper.  It involves rehab. boarding where people board their horses with me temporarily while they're on stall rest and needing rehab. care.  I'll work directly with their vet and farrier to make sure I follow all rehab. instructions (hand walking, bandaging, administering meds, etc) along with therapeutic massage.  It's something that is apparently really needed for those folks who have horses, love them dearly, but have to work 40 hours a week to be able to afford them and just can't be out at their barn they board at two or three times a day to soak hay, or give meds or hand walk twice a day.  There are some wonderful places that do stuff like that (I'm modeling my idea on a mini Pegasus Horse Farm.) But they are extremely expensive and I will be more affordable - that said I will also not offer the premier rehab services or training that they do either so if people need that they go to them - I'm not directly any sort of competition for them.  I'm more for the layman horse owner whose hobby-show horse has gone lame.  Not the Emerald Down race track owners or professional Grand Prix riders.  Maybe some day I could grow and add water therapy and professional trainers to staff but for now it'll be a much smaller, humbler business.

I would also like to offer Horsemanship for College Students classes because I think there is a big need for that.  It would be a class/clinic on basic horse handling and ground safety for people planning to go to vet school, equine massage school, or farrier school who have no horse handling experience.  I am not surprised that the smaller schools like farrier and massage schools don't have horse handling classes because their focus and mission is very clear-cut and those schools are much smaller operations than state universities.  But I also found out that they don't teach that in pre-vet or vet schools either.  My vet said at her school they expect you to come in with a prerequesite of knowing how to handle horses and she said that there were one or two in her class that struggled because they had no horse handling experience at all.   So, I would like to offer that class too.  I know some awesome horse folks I could hopefully get on board to help me teach a class like that and I already have a sample curriculum.

So, now the question is where will I have this facility?  That is the big question.  My husband is currently not on board with moving our family to horse property any time soon and works in such a stressful field that he doesn't want to project any time in the future when he will be on board.  So, I'm looking at the feasibility of renting/leasing space to do this.  I did want to do all this on "the magical island" but I'm not sure if I'm leasing space I could pull that off without actually living there which is not currently an option (moving being not something my husband is on board with even if it was to a rental).  So,  I'm trying to do that "open mind" thing and just keep my eyes open until I find a way to manage to follow this dream.  I've had a couple ideas that don't sound practical at all, but that just makes me think they aren't quite the right idea yet and I just haven't found the right idea.  I'm one of those people that no matter what happens clings to the belief that when I find the right direction I'm meant to go, the barriers will fall away.  Even if it is scary and uncomfortable at first.  That's how it was when I quit office work and decided to work completely with horses.  I kept my eyes open for any possibility and refused to limit my thinking and it all started the fall together. 

I was reading an article recently in Scientific American about the Einstellung Effect and I'm trying to be very cognizant of not falling into that myself and just looking at the "easy answer" (but the one that doesn't work) and not actually seeing the even easier answer (the one that does work).  Much easier said than done!

And for a good morning song - this is one of my daughter's current favorite songs that I hear frequently throughout the day now since I got her the cd.  Yeah ... I had to say something about the stripper scene in the video and my daughter's reply was not to be so serious and make such a big deal out of stuff that is a non-event. Yep.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Collection Controversy

Doesn't that subject line sound like a sequel to one of the Bourne Identity movies? Ok, maybe not to anyone else, but it does to me. 

I had a little kerfuffle on a social networking site yesterday for asking questions about how to see the difference between proper and improper body mechanics of horses being ridden.  It's something that I am trying to learn as I continue my education as a riding instructor.  And when it comes to Dressage - my discipline of choice - it can be very, very hard to see if you aren't really well educated in horse bio-mechanics.  And although I am getting there, I am not quite there yet.  But then this is why I go to clinics and scribe for judges at schooling shows (and probably drive them nuts asking as many questions as I can get away with).  But I made the mistake of posting a photo and asking questions about it, assuming since you couldn't see the rider it would be fine.  But someone popped up out of the woodwork and started posting about how this was some bigwig trainer and she could prove it and posted a bunch of links and photos of him and the facility the photo was taken out and I quickly deleted the whole thread.  So, that was a fiasco that totally stressed me out.

Because as an instructor it's ok to be "controversial" in regards to saying "In my opinion you're riding that horse in such a way that it's hurting it".   I've heard plenty of instructors and judges say behind closed doors they don't like how someone else may do things, and some folks (like Gerd Heuschmann) make a living out of loudly declaring that such-and-such is hurting the horse.  Now granted I appreciate Gerd for that and how passionate he is about it, but I would not want to be him.  And more than that, I don't just have an instructor hat anymore, I have a bodyworker hat.  And there is the big issue.  I can not be controversial as a bodyworker.  I can't expect to have a successful business and bring my talent (which I believe I have - I just need much more experience and education to really be good at it) to help horses be more sound and better performance horses, or help them rehab from injuries, if I'm "that instructor with all those strong ideas".

So, where is the balance?  I want to be able to have discussions with folks on training issues, but I can't do it in public forums because if I say "Oh yeah, I've learned that x-y-z training hurts the horse ..." suddenly I'm now not wanted at any facility where they do that, or where they are thinking they might be perceived as doing that.  For instance, if I were to say "I don't like Rolkur - I wish people wouldn't do it",  I also runs the risk of anyone who say uses side-reins for training thinking I am not a good person to work on their horses because I'm too opinionated and will be rude to them (the irony there being I use side reins for lunging when called for and every trainer I know does - and side reins are not the same as Rolkur but folks may not know that I know that).  It's that fine line.

That said, I found a good article about my question from yesterday  as it pertains to wearing my hat as an instructor.  Now, this may sound silly to any Grand Prix riders or trainers or judges out there, but try to go back to when you knew very little and you may remember what it's like to be trying to learn the intricacies.  But one of the ways I'm learning to train Geir to frame up is by having a firm contact with the reins.  This is not just Trainer KL,  I did the same stuff with Maiden with Trainer K.  Developing contact with reins and using ones body to support movement flowing from back to front is all part of conditioning and training.  But it is confusing where that fine line starts and where it ends.  How do I as a rider feel that?  I would like to continue to learn to ride to higher levels of Dressage and also eventually teach higher levels.  But I need to really understand why I'm doing things and what the intricacies are.  Luckily, Trainer KL is very good (like Trainer K was) at explaining these things so that will be my question today in class. 

But apparently, talking about this stuff in a social network or public forum and asking others opinions is going to get me in trouble because it will alienate folks who do it differently when it comes to being a equine massage practitioner.

I didn't really take into account this issue when I thought of pursuing these two career paths simultaneously.   I don't do well with navigating these types of waters.  It feels very political and I think it would do me well if I could find some sort of public relations course on how to stand up for what I believe in without ruining myself as a business person.  I used to have a lot of respect for the judges and high up trainers I know just because of their knowledge and expertise, but that respect has now grown even bigger because none of them have totally destroyed their reputation by spouting off about their opinions like I am want to do (Gerd of course being the exeption).

A song to celebrate a sunny Spring day.  I used to listen to this song a lot twenty-one years ago while recovering from a broken neck and ever since then it's been very comforting.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Levels of Reality Beyond Our Immediate Senses

My daughter is really into the shows Cosmos and Into the Wormhole so I've been getting a hefty dose of family-oriented science lately.  I like it because it gets my imagination going and my poor little brain needs things to keep it working or it uses all that energy to worry.  I kind of have a crush on Neal Degrasse Tyson just because I could listen to him talk forever.  It's not like how Buck Brannaman's voice is just so relaxing you could happily sit and listen to him read a grocery list, it's the ideas and the knowledge that come out of the former's mouth.   I guess I should say I have a crush on him despite that he (accidentally) destroyed Pluto's status as a planet.  Right now he's talking about Tardigrades.  They are so cute. I think I'm going to make stuffed, plushy Tardigrades.

One of our ponies at pony school was feeling very cranky so we started working with him more outside of classes.  He's pretty small and not as old as some of our small ponies so all his "work" was mostly leadline rides with our young beginners as they are building balance and body memory. But he was definitely unhappy.  Then we all started taking turns working with him, lunging him and giving him some challenges.  I don't know what others have been doing but I found that he was really good at liberty ground work so after I work him lunging at walk, trot and canter, I do some liberty work with him.  Suddenly, he became the perfect pony for me!  He watches me out of the corner of his eye the whole time we're working together and is always waiting for my instruction and then happily and willingly does what I ask.  He seems very quick at figuring out what I'm asking and is excited when he gets it right.  And I'm seeing that he was just waiting for something to keep his smart little brain occupied.  He's currently my favorite of the ponies (yes, that changes every few weeks so everyone gets their chance apparently).  I'm a lot like him I think.

Speaking of ponies who need work, Geir is getting fat.  So, I need to make time to work him at least four times a week beyond just the lessons he's used for.  The head of the school asked if I wanted her to put him more classes, but because of his amazingly sweet temperament he's best used for beginner kids who are either disabled, very afraid, or have balance issues, because he's so strong and sturdy. So, his lessons are basically standing still dozing, walking slowly and trotting around the arena maybe once.  So, I need to make sure I have time to keep working with him to get him in shape myself.  I do think he's doing better.  Trainer KL has been a huge help in teaching me how to get him into shape.

I want to get to that point someday where I can actually train my own  horses but I'm still feeling so ignorant regarding proper horse body mechanics.  I'm doing pretty well with human body mechanics for riding but I feel like horse body mechanics - using one's body properly - is still such an unreachable enigma.  There are so many contradicting modes of thought on how a horse properly uses their body and what that looks like.   I don't have the wherewithal to be a controversial person like Gerd Heuschmann who claims to know all the answers about training.  But I do want to know for sure I am teaching my students correctly.

I don't know if I'm ever going to get my endorsement from the State to be an equine massage practitioner.  Ok, obviously I will someday but I sent in my application two months ago and I haven't heard if they've ever even received it.  So, I'm just giving up for the time being on making a business doing equine massage.  I will obviously do it for a job at some point and I'm really enjoying using what I've learned on my horse and the ponies at pony school.  But right now my only job is riding instructor so I'm trying to focus more on studying that.

I also want to get back to working on my writing.  I need to finish up my novel based on Toadie because I had an idea for a new novel that takes place on an island based on Poveglia, after reading an article this morning that it is for sale.

Friday, April 11, 2014

This is what middle age and chronic illness looks like ... apparently.

Last weekend I was taking my Manual Ligament Therapy course and the school had written on a white board some of their upcoming classes and one of them just said "Trick Riding" for this weekend.  I asked what it was and they said stuff like standing up on a horse while it trots, etc.  I figured there was no way I could do it but I asked some more questions and one of the teachers (who'd taken the class last year) said not to worry, they wouldn't have us standing on the horse in the first class or even going up on our knees or anything.  It will just be fun stuff and learning how to fall and doing emergency dismounts.  So, I signed myself and my daughter up.

But I forgot that at this time last year my daughter had such a bad phobia of horses (after my fall in Jan. '13) that she wouldn't even get out of the car to be in the same barn with ponies who were quiet and tied up.  So, not surprisingly she got very anxious and said she didn't want to take her class.  So, I gave it away to my husband's BFF who has been making and effort to "try lots of new things".  But just in case I packed her helmet and told her if it looked like fun and she changed her mind she could have my lesson time.  Unfortunately, for me it only took ten minutes and she started edging toward the ring with a strained look and Gino, the instructor asked, "Do you want to ride now?" and she said, "Yes! Please!" and I had to hold to it and hop off the horse and give her a chance.

To be honest I wasn't sure if I could do it.  When I got there, Gino (the instructor) said I was going to be going up on my knees on the horse and I said I wasn't sure I could do that cause I'm old and breakable and he blew that statement off and said, "Sure you can."  He showed me how to sit on the horse and hold onto the handles on the vaulting harness - and it's quite different from Dressage - you have your legs straight and out to the side and point your toes.  I asked him why and he said it's just a look, just like riders have a heels down look, vaulters and trick riders point their toes.  He said the legs out were a way to learn to balance without holding on with your legs at all so you have to balance right at your core.  But it's also "a look".

I was pretty worried at first because you have to kneel on the horse and support your body with your arms and feet and with all the joint damage in my wrists I was worried about that.  I also worried I wasn't strong enough.  As it is my core is getting nice and strong but I have a lot of strength training to do still for my legs and my upper body as far as "push-ups" and "bench press" muscles go.  I can carry a 125 lb bale of hay but that's more core strength.  So, now I want to work on before the next clinic next year.  But the point is I did it!  And it felt really good!  Nine years ago when I was struggling just to be able to grasp things in my hands or walk up and down stairs because the Rheumatoid Arthritis had hit me so badly, I was concerned I would never be physically strong again.  I also had years of re-occuring nightmares of being crippled.  So, to be able to get out and do this class was awesome!  And I did pretty well for a middle-aged woman and really well for a middle-aged woman who is technically "disabled".   Yay! Life is good.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All about necropsies

There are two dueling parts of me - the super-empathetic, bleeding heart part of me and the super-into science part of me.  Well, usually they aren't dueling, usually those two parts of me get along fine and even the "I love everything magical and spiritual" fits in quite well with hard science like biology and physics because both of those are extremely magical sciences that encourage you to use your imagination and stretch your concept of reality in order to continue to learn.

But they do clash when it comes to dissection.  Or necropsies.  The reason this topic came up is I was at a weekend class and I saw that they had some photos of a horse behind the big horse skeleton they recently put up (about six months ago I think).  It turns out it was one of their horses and I made the mistake of asking, "How did you get the skeleton out?"  (because I've heard from hunters how incredibly hard it is to butcher a deer or elk and how you have to be really strong ... plus, they aren't preserving the skeleton and are just taking off the meat).  The teachers both said they did a necropsy and seemed to think that would satisfy my curiosity (poor teachers!)  but of course it did not.  I had to ask how they got the skeleton out (the answer "very carefully") and what they did with the other organic material (there are a few options but the most practical is to burn ... or "cremate" it if you want to sound more delicate).  And I asked how the bones were cleaned and there are a couple options apparently - something I think they called a beetle pit where other creatures clean the bones or putting them underneath a lot of organic material like manure for several months and let the remaining organic material break down.  Then I can't remember what they said they did after they took them out after several months - I'm pretty sure they said there was another step - then they sand the remaining fatty tissue off ... I can't remember why they said it hardens.  They can't get the marrow out of the bones so on the skeleton there are sticky places around the joints that look like dried honey and that's the marrow slowly seeping out over time.  Oh, and of course since they're using it in a classroom setting they sterilize the bones with a bath of hydrogen peroxide or something like that for students touching them.  I had a ton of other questions but of course that was not what the class was about so I sadly let the subject drop.

Needless to say a couple months ago when I brought the dogs in as practice bodies for the canine massage class, the pitbull walked up to the skeleton and gently opened her mouth next to one of the legs as if to say, "Can I? Really? Can I?"  because to her it was the best treat in the world.

I wasn't sure what a necropsy was so I did a google search on it and found this page.  (warning - there are photos).  I had to say out loud to myself a couple times "Poor little guy is already dead.  He's not there anymore."  I'm getting better with that with animals.  There is no way I could watch a human autopsy though without fainting.  I'm pretty sure I will never be able to do that.  But I'm getting better with veterinary stuff.  I think the turning point was when Girlfriend had a bloody nose in the wash wrack with my vet and me and I was wearing my raincoat and she was wearing waterproof coveralls and we were both totally covered in blood and I had to take the drain cover off the drain because horse blood clots are too big to get through a drain cover.

What I can't deal with still is horses who are terrified or in pain and screaming and panicking.  I mean, I can deal with it but it breaks my heart and makes me feel terrible inside.  On Saturday Maiden left to go live in Montana with a friend of mine who is taking her with her to college this September to use her in some sort of natural horsemanship degree program at U of Montana in Dillon.  I know it's a great opportunity for Maiden and I'm so happy to be able to give my friend her own horse to use in the program (that's a requirement is to be able to bring your own horse) but it was hard to say good-bye to her and harder knowing how bonded she and Girlfriend are.  So, it's good that they left Saturday while I was in class or I would've been a complete emotional wreck and not been able to do anything to help Girlfriend and probably would've made her feel worse by my being so upset.  Yesterday once we were home and I went out to see her she was doing fine but her eyes were so sad!  They were very blank and sad and resigned and there was nothing I could do to make her feel better.   She has the mini and and another horse in the pasture right next door and we were going to put the mini in with her - but she just ignores him anyway and doesn't like him much.  So, that was heartbreaking.  But she'll adjust.  And I've got some ideas of finding a friend for her.  Sigh. 

This is where the bleeding heart part of me comes in and I can't just step back and say "She's a horse. What's the big deal?" because you can look in her eyes and see the depth of emotion she feels.  She may not be able to think about the future and plan like us or concoct schemes or take steps of logical reasoning and figure out logic puzzles, but she has the same depth of emotion and memory as we do and it's hard to see her so sad.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Temporal Conundrums

This morning over breakfast my daughter asked if I'd heard of The Grandfather Paradox (yes, these are normal over breakfast conversations for us ... it's hard for my non-morning brain to keep up with).  I said I hadn't heard that name for it but I probably had heard it before, I just didn't remember the name.  After she explained it I said that yes, I'd heard of it.  And said perhaps he traveled into an alternate universe and was caught between the two realities in a circular - rather Escher loop of realities which would cause what appeared as random changes in each reality but when examined closely would actually be a coherent intermingling of the two realities. Like a Gordian knot.   Then I had that feeling of "Ouch ... brain hurts ... must get my first cup of coffee ..."  Her dad sited an old series of Godzilla movies where there were actually two Godzillas and only one that they thought was the only one was killed and that the grandfather could have a twin that the grandson killed and then never knew about.  I kind of tuned out during that conversation though because I was still waking up.

What's ironic is that earlier in the morning my daughter asked me what I thought her natural talent is.  I said she had a good eye for film making and design, she understands math easily and she understands science easier than many people.  So, I probably set myself up for that pre-coffee conversation.

In other news I am finding that my education on horse massage is actually helping me with human massage.  Specifically the differentiating between Stress Points and Trigger Points.  We had learned about Trigger Points in human massage school but I'd never even heard of Stress Points.  I asked a physical therapist aide friend what the difference was and how to treat them and she said they leave that up to us massage therapists to deal with.  Interesting.  I'm not sure if Stress Points are taught these days in human massage courses and if they were when I went to school a long time ago I don't remember it.  But I'm finding them to be extremely valuable to know how to treat even with humans.

In fact, I have this area on my right leg that has literally been too tight to stretch for about fifteen years.  It has hindered my range of motion enough so that sitting cross-legged is difficult, but it hasn't gotten in the way of much else although I'm sure it affects other part of my body to compensate when I'm riding.  So, this morning I decided to see if I could locate what's going on in there myself.  Fifteen years ago I went to a very good massage therapist to work on it and she did some deep tissue work, but also was not looking for Trigger or Stress Points.  I found a Trigger Point and managed to work that out and found a Stress Point but by then I had to get up and make breakfast and tend to my scientifically inclined daughter. But what was cool was there was a big release of tension from the Trigger Point and an improvement in my range of motion!  It's not all worked out because I still have a Stress Point and I have all the tension from years of compensation going on in the muscles around it and possibly even some chiropractic issues that may need to be addressed, but it was a very cool feeling! And it gave me a little bit of a sense of what the horses must feel when I work out some of the kinks they have. 

It's pretty cool to see the differences I can make in the horse's movement but to actually feel the difference myself was really powerful for boosting my motivation to continue down this path and help a little bit with my confidence (which ebbs and flows with each day).