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).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Comparing apples to chainsaws

This last week seemed to be the week of comparing myself to others in my head even though I intellectually knew the comparisons were like apples to chainsaws.  Not apples to oranges, apples to chainsaws.    For instance, I was feeling very down last weekend because I'm not as pretty and thin as my two co-workers who are 18 and 13 years younger than me.  Even though I know that's silly to compare myself to someone who could be my daughter my emotions were doing it anyway.  Finally got myself out of that mindset.  Then I was being haunted by the fact that all the women my age on television are super skinny compared to me.  Intellectually, I realize that is ridiculous to focus on but emotionally I was having a hard time getting rid of that gnawing angst.  It's like the ghost of shallow, dysfunctional beliefs floating through my emotions.  They've passed for now, but I imagine they will waft through again and I will have to do the same thing and just let them pass by like really heavy fog.   Reminds me of this song by Radio Nationals  (I love that band btw - even though I think they finally broke up for good awhile ago).

It did cheer me up on Tuesday that Geir and I had a great practice training ride together.  He still is struggling to be able trot corners with a proper bend but that is something that will take time to work up his muscles and get in shape.  We were really struggling  with the side pass but he finally did two beautiful steps and it felt for a few seconds like we just glided sideways.  He got a big hug for that! Literally.  He's the only horse I've ever owned where I can lean forward in the saddle and give him a big hug around the neck without him freaking out and trying to buck or scoot out from under me.  I could do that with Maiden but most likely she'd pin her ears and buck.  Geir just stand there and sighs.

Last weekend when it was sunny out I took my daughter for a trail ride out around the farm next to the pony school.  We couldn't go as far as we wanted because Geir started to get nervous being out there without another horse and I was not willing to put my daughter in that challenging of a situation.  I know that Geir is so safe he wouldn't do anything but my mom-instincts just wanted it to be a good day and didn't want him to even scoot with her on him.  It was a truly over-protective moment but oh well.  Nobody seemed to mind.  But she also got a chance to ride him in the arena to get him warmed up and I was so happy with how he did with her.  He is learning to walk a little faster when I ride him (part of getting in shape) but with he he walked soooooo slow.  And he was so relaxed and sweet and gentle with her!  She hasn't been riding him in her lessons because she's enamored with one of our newer ponies, Frosty.   She was the first at the school to ride Frosty when he came to us a few months ago and really wanted to ride him in her lessons.  So, I'm glad she got to reconnect with Geir.  He really is an amazing little horse.  So solid and so sweet.  I really didn't know him when I bought him, I was just going on the school owner's word and the more I get to know him the more I am amazed at what an amazing and wonderfully rare kids' horse he is.  The school does have an unusually high number of incredibly bombproof horses gathered in one place, but Geir is in a class all by himself as far as the perfect first horse for a kid goes. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Well, I didn't make anyone cry ...

I happened to be messing around on Facebook and saw a post that Miss T. was down with the stomach flu today.  I texted her and asked who was filling in for her classes today and she said she was going to try and power through and come in because no one was available to sub.  I pointed out that none of the parents (including me) wanted her to bring her germs so stay home and the boss and I would figure something out.  That something was me taking her classes and rescheduling my private lessons.  Which is fine, although I really only teach private lessons and have only taught a handful of classes so it was a little nerve wracking.

It's a very different deal teaching a group riding lesson than a private.   And to add to that we usually have two instructors and three volunteers helping with the class (so one person per kid on a horse except for my daughter who can ride independently in class which is good because we have five staff and six kids on ponies).  Anyway, I'm usually the instructor in there helping Miss T. but with no Miss T. it was just me - and instead of just being there in case anyone needs me, I had to be the lead teacher.  And one of our volunteer teens was sick too.  So, it was a challenge for me.

Private lessons for kids takes a lot of parenting skills but leading group lessons takes a lot of entertainment "being on stage" skills.  Which I do have, but only in small increments.  Miss C.  does that all day long several days a week.  I'm not sure how she gets all that energy to keep that up for so long.   When our boss asked how it went today I really didn't know what to say except, "Well, none of the parents were glaring at me and I didn't make anyone cry."  And as one of the volunteers added, "And no one fell off!"  So I guess it was a success.

I am still really enjoying this being an instructor thing.  I can't believe I've only been doing it for seven months because it's starting to feel very comfortable and second-nature.  I'm finding it's a lot like my process of writing - which is I have a specific goal in mind when I go into it, then I just see what flows through me and where it takes me.  Its like somehow all the knowledge I've been hoarding over the last eight years (that I've been back into horses) comes out of dark little pockets of my brain and flows through my mouth without me totally knowing what to expect that I'm going to say.  Some stuff is even stuff I learned when I was a kid riding Hunter/Jumper and I realize I had completely forgotten about it until it came up in a lesson.

Something I've been thinking about recently is something someone said to me eight years ago that really had an effect on me, in a negative way at first and now in kind of a "screw you" motivational way.  I was volunteering at a horse rescue to ease my way back into horses and I'd forgotten everything from when I was a kid.  So, I had just signed up for riding lessons and was volunteering cleaning stalls in order to get back into the swing of things.  I mentioned to the head of the rescue that I would like to become a horse trainer and she said that would never happen because I didn't have enough horse experience and even she - who'd been riding her whole life - wasn't arrogant enough to think she'd ever be a trainer.  So, I should just be realistic and not plan to do that.

A couple weeks later at one of my riding lessons I off-handedly said to my instructor that I'd like to someday be a trainer but that was kind of a stupid goal for a 39 year old woman who hadn't been around horses in over two decades.  She said "Why in the world is that a stupid idea?" and told me to keep taking lessons, read everything I could and immerse myself in learning about horses and if I wanted to eventually be a trainer, I could learn enough to be a trainer.  Thankfully, I decided to listen to her instead of miss negative-pants back at the rescue.

Of course, in the process of immersing myself in learning (or re-learning in some cases) after a couple years I realized I did not want to be a trainer.  Much as I love working with horses, there is an element of perfect timing needed when training horses that I'm not completely sure I have the talent to ever master and the responsibility of mastering that timing on a completely instinctual and almost psychic level sounded too daunting.  And the other reason - dealing with the horse owners.

After a year of following Trainer K. around like a puppy and watching every move she made and studying everything she said and did with attention to every single little detail (obsessively like some sort of weird educational stalker ...) I realized that owners were probably the most annoying thing in the world because no matter what Trainer K did, they (or I in the case of her training my horses) would come along and inadvertently send the training two steps back because of their own amateur way of dealing with the horses.    That would drive me nuts! And it would drive me nuts even more if the owner was the type who would ruin all the work I'd done by their own ignorance and then get mad at me for "not doing a better job with their horse".  So, I wrote off the idea of being a trainer years ago.

But I had continued to dream about being an instructor and audited clinics and took lots of notes and listened (like an educational stalker) to the clinicians, and read as many books as I could and watched videos and debated different training techniques with my horse friends and on internet forums, and then when I was given the opportunity to learn about teaching and get a chance to do it at the pony school I jumped on it.  And now I think it's ok to say that I'm maybe kind of successful at what I'm doing right now and maybe some of my kids might kind of be actually learning something productive about riding.  But I have to admit that there are still times when I expect to run into that lady who used to run that horse rescue and she'll say to me "Who do you think you are being an *instructor*? Didn't I tell you you would never be good enough to do that sort of thing?"  I guess I would say back, "Well, I did just spend the last eight years completely immersing myself in learning to the point where I've gone to school for equine anatomy/physiology/kinesiology and I grill every horse professional I know about what they're doing and how they do it.  I even wrangled Gerd Heuschmann into having lunch with me to pick his brain.  I raised my hand in front of an auditorium full of people to ask Buck Brannaman his opinion on an issue (even though I'd rather die than speak in front of that many people).  I have dedicated most of my energy into learning as much as I possibly can about horses and how to handle, ride and care for them and how to teach others to.  So WTF makes you think I can't be an instructor?"

I think what is most baffling to me is why I feel more affected by what she said than what my first instructor (as an adult) said to me only a couple weeks later about how all I had to do was try to learn and I could do whatever I wanted.  So, I'm still amazed this instructor thing seems to be working out well.  I'm enjoying it even more than I imagined I would!

I was telling one of the tween volunteers she should google Spanish Riding School of Vienna because she said she'd like to be a riding instructor when she grows up and I said she was young enough she could go be an Eleve there and that would be an amazing education.  If I am ever reincarnated I would want to do that ... since I'm a little too old now to do that.

Monday, March 17, 2014

R.I.P. Tasha

I just found out via a facebook post that Tasha, a horse from the barn I used to board Maiden out, died.  It appears she died either last night or this morning.  I am crushed.  As crushed as if a friend had died.  Yes, she was old (I believe she was 31 years old now) and she was slowing down, but one is never ready for a good friend to die.  Even though I haven't seen her for months she had such a positive impact on my life and on my daughter's life. 

She was a very rare type of horse that was truly bombproof and kind but with enough spunk to not render her a "zombie horse".   She helped me gain quite a bit of confidence riding bareback at walk, trot and canter.  She helped my daughter gain confidence by being the first horse that she cantered on independently (she started out cantering on the lunge line but by 8 years old was cantering her by herself).   There are not many horses I feel my daughter is ready to canter on safely, but Tasha was one of them.

I guess if you're not a horse person, or even if you are but never met her it's hard to express how special this horse was.  She was a character and she had a distinct personality, but she was also a good, kind soul and made a lot of people's lives much better because of her life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Embarrassing accident of the day ...

There is this thing called Vasovagal Synocope which is basically another name for fainting.  There are a lot of reasons it can happen to people ranging from drug reactions to the site of blood to my particular weakness - nerve pain.  It is basically where the blood leaves your head, your blood pressure drops quickly and dramatically and you faint.  It's happened to me a few times and all except for when I had the Norwalk virus and was dehydrated it has been because something hit/hurt a nerve (like hitting my funny bone really hard or something like that).

It doesn't happen with just plain ole pain in my case.  When my old foster horse, Sinatra stomped on my foot and broke my toe a few years ago it hurt so badly I couldn't touch my toe for ten minutes and just sat on a stool, gritted my teeth and rocked back and forth for ten minutes and ocassionally choked out "I'm fine. Leave me alone" to bystanders who kept asking if I needed anything.  But once when I was driving across country I got up one morning, whacked my elbow on the bathroom counter and had to lie down for fifteen minutes after fainting and thus made us get a late start out on the road.

Today I was riding Geir in my lesson and thinking far too much about trying to encourage him to bend a bit more to the right as we were walking to the right and I did see we were close to the fence around the outside of arena, but didn't think we were *that* close, when "wham!" my knee hit one of the big, thick, metal support poles right on the side of the kneecap where the nerves are (the saphenous nerve to be exact).  I grabbed my knee, swore a little bit, rode Geir away from the wall and stopped.  Trainer KL asked if I was ok, and I realized I felt like I was going to throw up so I slid off of Geir (and made sure to land only on my right foot) and hobbled over to the mounting block to sit down.  Trainer KL was giving me some tips on how to make my knee feel better and my head was swimming and I was trying to figure out a way to explain my knee would be fine but I was feeling sick.  Then my ears started roaring, my eyes started to black over and I realized I couldn't sit up any more so I just laid down in the arena and all I could think of to say was, "I'm fine.  I'll be fine.  Just give me a minute."  Geir thought that was quite interesting and started inspecting my half chaps for treats so Trainer KL took him and said calmly it concerned her that her student was lying on her back in the arena.

I finally was able to explain that I was having a vasovagal reaction to nerve pain and would need to lie there for a few minutes.  Which turned out to be about ten minutes.  I tried getting up after a few minutes and sitting on the big water trough that has a huge lid on it that we sometimes use as a mounting block and asked Trainer KL to get some water for me and thought I was feeling well enough to take Geir's reins.  But as soon as she walked out of the arena, I had to lie down on the water trough because I wasn't quite ready to sit up.  Geir once again took that as an invitation to inspect my breeches for treats.

Thankfully, it passed and I was able to get back up on Geir and work on some side passes and walking.  About the time I got back on him the school owner came out to stuff hay bags and I was very glad she didn't come out ten minutes before and get freaked out about why her employee was lying in the middle of the arena.

I really hate having moments like that where I am completely at the mercy of what my body is doing.  But I'm glad it passes quickly.  What is ironic is that my knee stopped hurting long before the vasovagal symptoms completely went away.

Thankfully, it was sunny out.  But I don't think I realized how bad arena floors smell.  And this particular outdoor arena floor is the softest, nicest arena pea gravel you could possibly find.  But it still smells bad.

Well, it's a nice day out and I don't have to work so this afternoon I'm going to start preparing the garden beds for planting.  I'm going all out this year and testing the soil for nutrients and making my own fertilizer recipes to bring them all up to standard.  Last year I conquered powdery mildew - this year I'll conquer soil nutrients.

Another one of my daughter's songs she likes - but now it's becoming *my* happy song -


Friday, March 7, 2014

Accidental Trick Riding

Cavalia ended up being fun for our whole family - not just the horse girls (myself and my daughter).  Even my husband liked it.  Although, the Odysseo show had less galloping and trick riding than the original show that my daughter and I saw a couple years ago.  But they had a troupe of dancers from West Africa who did some great dances.  My husband said (sarcastically) that they seemed to be showing an underlying theme of indigenous people being controlled by long-haired ren-festers on horses.  Even though he was kidding, it struck a cord of annoyance in me reminding me of many people I knew when we lived in Seattle who insisted that just because you had dark skin, you must surely be victimized and oppressed, but fear not for this white person was here to be your champion.

Ok then.  So Cavalia was quite fun and I felt a little emotional during a couple scenes (mostly when all the horses were out on stage) where my eyes actually teared up a little by how lovely it was to see all those beautiful horses right in front of me (we were in the second row) and knowing all these people had paid to come an appreciate who wonderful horses are.  Yes, I know that sounds cheesy but just deal with it.

Monday I got to do my own accidental trick riding.  In front of a student nonetheless.  I had a few minutes beween lessons so I thought I'd hop on Geir bareback and get in fifteen minutes of riding.  My next student (who is an adult) was early so I asked her to come hang out in the arena while I rode and we'd talk about the new horse I was changing her to for her lessons.  I was chatting away about what makes her new lesson horse tick and the differences between he and Jesse, who she had been riding, and I put the mounting block next to Geir just like I always do, and I stepped up, swung my leg over his back and to my horror realized I could not hoist myself up all the way on to his back.  Now that he has more energy he has developed an annoying habit of walking off as soon as I start to get on ... no big deal if I'm actually on his back because then I can just use my seat cue and a the reins to remind him to stop.  But that's not so easy when you're hanging off his side.  I tried to hoist myself all the way up but I still couldn't do it, then I thought about sliding off, but I wasn't really in a good position to do that while he was walking, so I asked him with my voice to "whoa", he didn't understand what I was talking about apparently, so I managed to grab both reins with my left hand (the one not wrapped over his neck along with my right leg which were both keeping me from face planting while hanging off his side) and gave a little, gentle pull and said "whoa" and he stopped and I slid off and he looked at me with the sweetest look of asking "WTF, Mom?"  Meanwhile my student is across the arena saying, "Oh no! Are you ok? What happened? Are you ok?"  I was mortified.

I did realize that I normally turn the mounting block over so it is much taller when I get on Geir bareback so it wasn't like I just suddenly got enormously weak and couldn't mount him like usual, I just wasn't thinking when I put the mounting block next to him the short way.  And after all was said and done I'd managed to get a nice, big muscle strain in my right Glut Medius.  About the same place I had a large, thin circular lined bruise from a couple days before when I'd been walking backward talking to two young students during one of my classes and fell over a barrel that was cut in half and landed on my butt right on one of the edges before toppling backwards and ending up spread-eagle in the middle of the arena.  Apparently, that was pretty funny because one of the tweens who had the young kids on leadline was still trying not to laugh five minutes later.

Tomorrow is my 47th birthday and I'm trying to positive about my age.  I've long since given up the hope that guys will stop and look at me when I walk down the street because they think I'm pretty. I think those days are long gone.  But I also do miss the idea of "having my whole life ahead of me".  Hopefully, I still have a good forty years ahead of me of riding horses and bouncing around, but it's not quite as big of a possibility as when I was in my 20's.  For some reason, my mom doesn't think that "at my age" I should picking up heavy things and doing things that are "hard on my back".  I can pick up about 75 pounds (although I'm not particularly happy picking up anything over 50 pounds ... but I can still do it) and my Mom said to me last summer, "Promise me you'll stop picking up heavy things once you turn 50."  I've been thinking about that ever since and thinking about how if I stop picking up heavy things my back will get weak and that would suck.  So, I think I will pick up heavy things as long as I physically can.  And I wonder why there are certain demographics who feel that just because you are 50 or over you have to stop being physically active? As though physical activity will somehow hurt you more at that age.  Falling off horses will hurt you more.  Dropping 75 pounds on your foot may hurt you more.  But physical activity doesn't seem to be bad for you at any age.  I have not been able to wrap my head around that reasoning.  Just as I still can't wrap my head around the reasoning that if you keep your child indoors then they will be healthier.  Well, unless you were in China where pollution is so bad, then that might actually be valid.

And in other news, PayPal is a mess.  I think they're trying to update their site but all that seems to have happened is they'll take me to a "demo" of their new site, but if I try to do anything on there (like create "pay now" buttons in my merchant account) it just defaults back to the root menu and I can't do anything.  I finally tried to exit out of their "fancy schmancy new site" and go back to the Classic site (which apparently doesn't work anymore either) and got a "send us feedback what you don't like about the new site and what you would like better" and it wouldn't let me just close it without writing anything (stalkers!) so under "what would make you like the site better" all I could think of to write was "if it worked".  Grumble.  Grumble. Grumble.  This is why I don't have a career working with computers.