Sunday, August 16, 2020

Moving Day

 Today was hard.  While moving Theo only an hour away isn't that big of a deal, what it represented was a very big deal.  I've handed Theo over to Trainer D to manage.  Until further notice, she's completely in charge of his schedule.  She'll be riding him and using him in lessons.

I'm very proud of myself that I didn't cry while dropping him off or setting up his new locker.

His western tack is with him since her son is trained to ride western and in love with Theo.  I can see him happily jogging around with a nine year old that thinks he's amazing.  It's a reining barn so I won't be surprised if his western dressage training gets some use.  He's an incredibly cool horse to ride in western tack and I hope someone else can enjoy that.  I think Trainer D is looking to branch out a bit and she couldn't find a better partner than mi papi.  If she wants to dip her toe in the ranch horse or western dressage ring, Theo is perfect.

I caught part of one of his lessons today and he helped a young lady finally achieve her goal of cantering.  Perfect walk to canter, keeping the beat like a vaulting horse while she grinned.  He's getting to help so many people reach their goals now.  I have to take a break, but he's still at work.  A job that he now seems to love.  Trainer D is there every step of the way to protect him and that makes all the difference.  He's a beloved partner, not the Thigh Master that people dread being stuck with.  He goes for trail rides and jumps the jumps and gets all the cookies.  If someone needs to learn to jump or canter, he's the boy.  Carefully, with big releases.  Trainer D is very protective of his mouth since she intends to show him herself once the pandemic is over.

Five years ago I took him to our first two-phase and was proud he stayed in the dressage ring.  Today I handed him off so he can do his thing while I figure out how to get my health back in order.  I finally have a pretty good idea of what happened and while it's still degenerative, it's long term.  I can't hang with him right now because I start to think that one ride wouldn't hurt.  I could just swing on, I wouldn't do much, surely it would be safe . . . 

Nope.  The more time I spend with him, the more I want to do the dumb thing and ride.  This is for the best.

I didn't take any pictures today.  I didn't have it in me.  He was happy to get in the trailer and very happy to find a new stall full of hay.  I don't expect this to be a big change in his world.  Same trainer, many of the same students, just a different stall and turn out.  And arena.  He might be squirrely for a bit as he gets used to the new outdoor rings but Trainer D knows what she's in for and she's ready to take it on.  I left all of his lunging gear, just in case.

Hopefully, next spring, I'll be able to put my foot in the stirrup again.  In the meantime, I've got a half marathon to train for and a garden to manage and a whole string of bikes to exercise.  I might even put Peyton back in obedience classes to fulfill my competitive tendencies.

I miss him already.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

My new string

 So what does a tack ho do when there's suddenly no tack to buy?  They become a cyclist, obviously.  And if you think there's a lot of tack for horses, you have not yet flipped through a bike catalog.

Shopping for bike stuff has the down side that you are forever trying to figure out if something will work with your bike.  It's nothing short of a full fledged research project to try something like wider tires.  Because then you need wider rims and is that going to clear the frame?  Does it come with the right attachment for your brakes?  Is it the right size hub?  Is it thru axle?  I usually chuck the laptop at the husband and tell him to pick things out for me because that's just way too many dang numbers.

The clothes are also a bit . . . odd.  I'm used to lots of spandex in my clothing and thinking that it's really just the worst idea but who the hell designed road cycling clothes???  At least in the equestrian saddle I could sit on the more unpleasant looking bits and then sit up straight.  Not so with cycling.  There's really nowhere to hide with road bike clothing.  Thank goodness for mountain biking clothes.

But similar to horse math, there's bike math.  I had one bike at the end of 2019.  ONE.  An old mountain bike I bought back in 2007 that I thought was going to help me lose weight and improve my cardio.  But having terrible cardio meant that it was no fun to go for a ride and I had zero skills off road.  I hated that thing and it sat in a garage for years.  I would occasionally bust it out to ride around a park or something with my husband who's an avid mountain biker, but it sat and did nothing for many years.

The husband in his happy place, wearing a jersey about drinking and his beer socks.  I don't know why I go places with him.

Then I picked up running.  My cardio and strength improved quite a bit.  When I hopped on that old mountain bike again, it didn't suck nearly as much.  I started following the husband around some basic trails.  Cycling didn't bother my knees the way my constant running did so a plan started to form for cross-training.  I visited my brother, an avid cycling racer, and saw his indoor training set up where he could basically play a video game with his bike including simulating hills (Zwift).  I was sold and ordered the basics in December 2019.

I've upgraded a lot since December, it now moves side to side and the thing at the front simulates going up and down hills

Heck of a lot more fun than running on a treadmill all the time.  And then the pandemic hit, the snow piled up, and I didn't have much of a choice.  Ride the indoor rig or bust.  It didn't beat up my knees like running so I could ride the bike five days a week, no problem.  I did workouts, group rides, even did a race.  I came in last but hey, it was an experience.  The snow melted and I wanted to take my new found fitness outside.

Riding outside is HARD.  There's potholes and hills and cars and squirrels and omg.  The road bike I bought for my indoor trainer was terrible when I took it outside.  It was really not my size though it was the smallest frame the company made.  I had to adjust it to fit me and that made it 'twitchy'.  Like an OTTB having their first cross country school of the spring, I spent the whole ride waiting for it to unload me.

Bad bike, no cookie.  I miss the lack of traffic from lockdown.

I got smart and did research on what I would actually need to ride outside.  Then I discovered that bikes were selling out across the country due to the lockdowns going on.  Ugh.  But I had an ace in the hole:  I'm tiny.  The only bikes left for a lot of shops were the odd size ones, like size XS.  Enter the unicorn.

Complete with the perfect pink pedals I found for her

This beauty is my 2020 Liv Avail Advanced, size XS.  It's a carbon composite frame, disc brakes, Ultegra groupset, and all the other stuff my brother said I should get.  I dunno.  All I care about is that the brakes are very effective, it's actually the right size for me, and it's super pretty.  So, so pretty.  The paint is actually opalescent when it's in the sun.  The ends of the handlebars are anodized metal so they're rainbow.  This beauty is steady as can be and faster than I care to go, but a lady about it.  It's a bike that will serve me well for many years and I have so much fun on it.

But having this dreamy road bike made me realize my old mountain bike sucked.  Again, too big for me.  Also had picked up a weird squeak in the front fork.  So the mountain bike was sold to a (tall) teenage girl looking for her first grown up bike and the unicorn was soon joined by the beastie.

This is my Liv Intrigue, size XS.  Just like when saddle shopping, if you find a company that fits, stick with it!  Especially with mountain bikes it was painful to find something small enough for me.  I tried some other brands and while the numbers said they would fit, riding them was kind of terrifying.  You could tell they were designed for men that are taller than me.  My Liv bikes are actually my size and it's wonderful.  Compared to the unicorn, the beastie is a big, heavy, burly beast.  This is the bike I take to the mountain bike park and on wanders all over NH.  It's also super pretty.

No horses allowed, what a waste.  Perfect place for doing hill work and long gallops.

The final addition to my string is for commuting.  I live in a very hilly area and as I start to venture into the office again, I don't want to be stuck in my car.  It's only 10 miles to get to town, totally reasonable on a bike and a very pretty route.  But those hills are so painful.  I don't mind doing them when I'm out getting some exercise but I don't want to show up at the office as a puddle of sweat.  And then try to do it again on the way home after a long day at work.  So I got my cheater bike.

This is a Trek Super Commuter+ 7, an e-bike.  Yes, it has a motor.  I still have to pedal but it gives me a little assist or a lot of assist if I turn the settings up.  According to the heart rate monitor, I'm still getting the same workout I get from a 2 mile jog over my 40 minute commute so I'm still working out but not showing up to the office completely worn out.  And if I get to that one damn big hill and just can't deal with it?  I crank it up to 'Turbo' and fly on up.  I've loaded it up with bags for my laptop and a change of clothes which makes me extra thankful for the assist.  All loaded up, it's approaching 60 pounds.  I didn't want an e-bike but now that I have one, I only need my car once or twice a week.  Win!

I have three bikes that actually go places and the indoor rig.  They do a pretty good job of covering the basics for me.  My light, fast, fun road bike, my burly, go anywhere mountain bike, and my practical commuter.  And here I was thinking people just bought one bike.  Apparently not!  I certainly don't want to take my mountain bike on a long road ride, it's just too slow.  And I took my road bike on a trail once, it was funny but not ideal.  They're pretty specialized pieces of equipment so I ended up with a small string.

Of course I have my eye on another bike for gravel rides but between my string and my husband's (he's got a MTB, an e-MTB, a fat bike, a road bike, and his indoor bike), we're going to have to discuss storage systems before either of us add any more.  

Friday, August 7, 2020

Second Opinion

 I'm sure everyone can appreciate how frightened I was when I was referred to a neurosurgeon.  That's a certain level of 'holy crap' that's not fun.  Impingement of the nerve, degenerative disc disease.  I wanted to ask 'how much longer do I have, doc?'.  I was horrified, frightened, and not at all willing to talk to a neurosurgeon.  I had to do a project for work on the results of spinal procedures (I work for a healthcare cost transparency company) and lets just say, those numbers are not pretty.  40% of procedures aren't necessary?  18% are worse after the procedure?  Those are not odds I'm cool with!  And with multiple levels involved (C4 - C6 for those watching at home) and anterior and osteoarthritis, I was considered 'complicated'.  Ha.  Ha ha.  Ha ha ha.  NO.

Fast forward to me bringing a copy of my MRI images to the chiro. I didn't tell my neurologist, I just picked up the disc and brought it to the chiro.  Fun fact, they must release your images to you and they don't get to ask why.  They are yours and you can have them.  Do not listen to anyone that tells you otherwise, this is protected by law.  I filled out a form and they handed me a disc.  I didn't even see my images before this, I just got a phone call stating that I was being referred to a neurosurgeon.  I was frightened and not even sure my chiro would see me anymore.  That scared me a lot considering she'd ended my SI pain and I really didn't want that to return.  But who would treat someone that was so messed up that she might be paralyzed and needs a surgeon?  I brought her my images so she could decide whether or not to continue treating me.

My chiro showed me my images and . . . I'm not dying.  I have 3 bulging discs from C4 - C6.  C5 is right on the line of 'bulging' and 'herniated'.  It's pushing hard enough to deflect the sheath around my spine but my spinal cord is still traveling in a straight line.  My spine is irritated but not crushed.  She pulled up my x-ray and pointed to the bone spurs she'd spotted before around C5.  My MRI was exactly as she expected.  She's been doing this for 30 years, she's seen some things.  Am I injured?  Yes, absolutely yes.  Is my spinal cord impinged?  Yup.  Do I have neurological symptoms?  Sure.  Do I need surgery?  No, not yet.

Key word:  Yet.  One day I'll have to do something about this.  But considering what's going on, they're going to want to fuse part of my neck.  Which means I'm going to see problems above and below the fusion in the future.  I'm not in pain, I'm fully functional, why would we start that roller coaster before we have to?  So there's no surgery in my immediate future.  It's just chiro, PT, and some Advil for the days where things flare up. 

I'm still not supposed to do things that will accelerate the timeline.  No sitting trot, no broncing ponies.  BUT . . . things are looking up for my return as a h/j princess.  I'll never be able to go back to being the one that gets on the naughty pony without a care but everyone has to retire from that role at some point.  I can work toward loping around a 2'6" course with my butt out of the saddle.  Yes, there's a risk, but a reasonable risk.  At least it gives me something to work toward.

I do like to jump

Theo heads north in 9 days.  It's going to be tough but at least I have some real hope.  I do my PT, I let my chiro open up that space to take pressure off my spine, and I'll be able to put my foot in the stirrup again.  I'm not done yet.  It will be my jumping saddle but hey, that's not exactly a burden.  I do love jumping.

I think my neck situation needs a name but I haven't come up with one.  Wonky neck?  Damn discs?  There's so many options.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Cervical spondylosis and an indefinite hiatus

I really, really thought I was getting back in the saddle.  But a long delayed neurology consultation has brought that process to a screeching halt.

 My horses have always brought me so much joy

Way back in the winter I went to my PCP because I was concerned about some pins and needles problems in my hands and feet.  Fleeting, not impacting my life, but it was unnerving.  While I was there, he observed a twitch that I'd developed but had been attributed to my anxiety by my previous doctor.  It was the first time a medical professional actually saw the way my head will occasionally tic the the side all on it's own.  My little 'tic' went from anxiety quirk to real problem very suddenly.  I wasn't concerned, surely it was anxiety.  Wouldn't there be something other than a tic if I had a real problem?

Best picture of me on a horse ever taken, of course it was with my princess

I went to my consultation and got a pretty thorough examination.  My balance and coordination were overall given an A.  I had a bit of trouble with the 'touch my finger touch your nose' test but I could do it.  Just took me a second to convince my hand to hit the small target.  And he noted my range of motion in my neck is limited.  I shrugged.  No pain, my chiro has taken care of any pain and already told me that I have some bony changes.

He immediately said I was going to go get an MRI of my neck.  Apparently my little 'tic' is actually neurological.  My many years of being lawn darted by naughty ponies is coming home to roost.  My chiro mentioned that my neck was pretty screwy after she took an x-ray but I wasn't actually concerned because I had no pain.  I went to her for my SI pain (which she got completely under control) and I only noticed a difference in my neck when my sleep improved.  Apparently my neck is a bit of a big deal.  A very big deal.

The meathead taking me around my Training level eventing debut

Here's where it gets hard.  I need to avoid irritating my neck while my chiro gets things under control.  She's made a lot of progress while I've been on my riding vacation.  She's not exactly eager for me to go back to beating my spine up by sitting trot.  My neurologist is throwing a flag on the play because I really shouldn't be taking a blow to the head and neck.  Theo is wonderful but he's got a mother of a spin.  It would be very easy for me to have a violent interaction with the ground.  The word 'paralysis' was brought up.  I really, really don't want to be paralyzed.

Mi papi has always been a handsome dude

Theo is going to be heading to a new barn near Trainer D.  She will be keeping him happy and in work.  He's really bonded with her and she loves him.  He will, frankly, not miss me a bit.  He's got a very nice lady that sees him five times a week and thinks he hung the moon.  He'll teach some kids to jump and some nervous ladies to canter.  Trainer D wants to take him to some shows and I can play the part of supportive owner.  I'll wear a sun dress and a big hat.

Best dressage pony

As for me?  I'll keep running (approved activity) and road cycling (approved activity).  I'm allowed to do some mountain biking but I need to buy a neck brace in case of unplanned dismounts.  Full suspension bike is actually pretty easy on the neck and the chiro would rather have me on the mountain bike where I'm more upright.  Neurologist is a mountain bike rider himself and thinks the road is better for avoiding dumb crashes but the neck brace is a solid compromise.  It's almost like he knows what I'm going to do while I'm goofing around on trails . . .

Regional championships

I'm heart broken, no lie.  It's been very difficult for me to accept this.  Will I get back in the saddle in the future?  I don't know.  Posting trot and cantering out of the saddle are not a problem and Theo is settling with age.  It's quite possible you'll see us in the future doing 2' hunter courses with my fanny never really touching the saddle.  My chiro is feeling good about my progress and doesn't think I'll be so limited in the future.  If he completes his transition to perfect school master, he'll be perfect for letting me put my foot in the stirrup again.  But that's not today.  Today, I am starting to pack up his gear and bringing my dressage gear home.

Reviewing our tests at a show

This wasn't the ending I'd planned for my dressage career but we achieved so much, I can't be too disappointed.  I certainly won't throw myself into a desperate attempt at getting those last scores at the risk of more neurological damage.  I'm only 41.  I have a lot of years to plan for and if I play my cards right now, those years will be pain-free and active. 

Champion at New England Western Dressage Championships

So the blog will probably be on indefinite hiatus as it's a horse blog and I won't be in the saddle.  I expect to post the occasional update and if Theo goes to a show, I will definitely post pictures.  Maybe, one day, I'll get the green light and you'll see pictures of me in the saddle again.

Second level super star

Until then, give your ponies a hug and enjoy any chance to get in the saddle.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Exiting lock down

So there's this pandemic thing going on . . .

Yes, I'm fine and Theo's fine.  Back in March Covid-19 brought my state to a screeching halt.  My office went on mandatory work from home and all non-essential businesses were closed.  At first I had planned on keeping Theo in work through the lock down but as advisories changed I found myself in the high risk category.  I have a cardiac condition.  Fun!

I went into full lock down for six weeks.  I left my house only for groceries or for my chiropractor to keep my SI pain in check.  No barn, no visits with friends, nothing.  It was very hard and the cabin fever was real.  I redirected a lot of my attention into gardening.

I did not see Theo for six weeks.  He did stay in work since Trainer D was working at the barn to keep the stalls clean and the horses fed.  She worked him and let others working at the barn ride him.  I handed all control of him over to her.  It was a relief to be able to do that so I felt no guilt while staying at home and doing my part to flatten the curve.

The barn started to open back up but I found myself in no hurry to rush back.  2020 goals are not going to happen with all of the shows cancelled so what's the rush?  I'd already been having trouble with my motivation before all of this happened.  I left Trainer D in charge of him as her lesson program restarted.  I rode my bike and took care of my roses.

I got an email saying the barn was for sale but I didn't think too much of it.  Barns don't sell quickly and in this economy?  Could be quite some time.

Whoops.  Barn sold very quickly and I met the new owners tonight along with the rest of the boarders.  No changes announced, Trainer D is still in charge of training, but the day to day care will have a new face starting Friday.  Hm.  Legs's owner was there and goaded me about not coming out to ride for almost three months.

Three months?  How did that happen?  It's like I entered some sort of worm hole when I went into lockdown.  I blinked and suddenly it's summer.  Theo is dappled, gorgeous, and happy.  Everyone tells me how sweet and perfect he's been.  He hasn't put a foot wrong in any lesson and has quite the fan club.  Even an offer should I ever decide to part with him.

Of course he's still Theo.  I also got a bill for the three water buckets he destroyed when he went through a phase of demolishing any bucket that dared to be less than half full.  Also knocked over the barn owner and escaped before sunrise one morning.  And broke another halter.  Heathen.

I set the date.  Friday, I return to the saddle.  I have a big bruise on my butt due to a wipe out on my bike (clipless pedals are not for the klutzy) so I did not want to ride tonight while at the barn.  Theo got hand grazed and cookies instead.  I'll go back on Friday and see how much I've forgotten during lock down.  I tried to keep up on my cardio with running and cycling so hopefully it won't be too pathetic.  There's all new management, I can't be hands off mom while that's going on.  Maybe once I feel confident in the new management I can give myself permission to slack again but for now?  Time to be a helicopter mom again.

Please, Theo, be as nice to mommy as you are to those kids you cart around.  I have more cookies than they do.  And I pay for your food.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


It's pretty easy for me to forget just how cool my horse is.  Yes, he has melt downs sometimes but most of the time?  He's just the coolest pony.

He jumps, he dressages, he does western, and he'll do all three while carting around a very nervous rider.  Since I took over his training and care, he's taught three different riders that jumping is supposed to be fun.  He was the first cantering partner for two nervous adult ladies.  This time I tossed on a new friend so she could try his western gear.  I hopped on her adorable little white pony (and realized her child sized saddle really does not fit my middle aged posterior). 

Theo showed her how a turn on the forehand works, how to back up nicely, and what a jog is like.  She went from being terrified of the huge horse to jogging around comfortably and giggling.  Compared to her short striding partner, Theo felt huge.  Theo, being Theo, put his head down and jogged around like the old pro he is.  When she struggled with dismounting from a western saddle, he stood like a statue and waited for her to figure it out.

The dichotomy with him is so striking.  He can be so very naughty but I trust him so much when it comes to teaching.  He knows his job and is perfectly happy to do it.  His new friend gave him cookies and lots of pats so it was a good night in his eyes.  Minimal work, maximal love.

I rocked around on the pony to try him out, he was a bit like a little sports car once I gave him a big poke with my western spurs on.  The jeans were not at all comfy in the jump saddle and my calves will have interesting marks tomorrow but it was fun.  I may need to kidnap the pony for a jumping ride in the future.  Very jealous of his autoswap.

I offered my friend to put her in Theo's dressage tack and show her how to go sideways.  She looked intrigued.

My horse is a treasure.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The great unknown

I went for a trail ride today.

I'm taking this as a victory.  I rode Theo out in the open in the middle of winter.  Like riding in corn fields out in the open.  I only felt like crying once and only begged for 'my mommy and vodka' once.  For the most part I did fine and even took pictures.

Theo didn't put a foot wrong during our school in the arena or during our 20+ minute trail ride.  Thank you, Theo, for being a damn saint even when your mom is convinced things are going to go wrong.  Let's be fair, I have a long history of Theo melting down when taken somewhere new and exposed.  But I've also been stuck in the role of 'advanced rider' which means Theo is in the front and has to cope with whatever meltdown is happening behind him.  It's not relaxing.

I'm sure it was confusing for my friend on Legs that knew me with Fiona.  Back when I was addicted to hunter paces and was known to do three or four hour trail rides.  All of a sudden going out for a trail ride with friends was outside of my reach.  I was genuinely terrified when they pointed to the trail we were going to follow.  No trees, no cover, and Theo had never seen it before.  Oh, and Legs had bolted on this trail in the recent past.  I nearly backed out but my friend gave me a look and I followed them out to the great unknown.  Which turned out to really be the great unknown because I didn't know about any of these loops or fields we can ride on.  H/J barn with trail riding?  Wow.

It was awesome.  Theo was so happy to get out of the indoor and just walk around.  About half way through I actually relaxed and let go of his face, earning a big snort and sigh from my patient pony.  With two perfect trail ponies for company, this was not problem for him.  By halfway through, it was no problem for me, either.

I guess I'll be participating in Saturday trail rides with my friends in the future.  Theo is thrilled.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Sneaky anxiety

CW:  Mental health and anxiety

The problem with generalized anxiety is that it can be so insidious.  It's not a single thing, at least not in my case.  It's a little spike of inappropriate fear, an obtrusive thought while driving, a little tightening of the chest when checking email.  When you've lived with it for a long time it becomes normal.  It's fascinating to me to talk to people that don't have generalized anxiety and realize that opening my email at work should, in fact, be a non-issue.  Huh.  Who knew?

Like most people I know, my generalized anxiety gets better and worse. Often things are good and I barely notice.  It's just how I am.  I prefer to not take medication most of the time due to the charming side effects and that's fine.  I'm the picture of high functioning and I've been taught lots of coping strategies.  Running and horses are really good for anxiety and accompanying insomnia. 

Then something happens and things are not okay.  I'm guessing this time it was the stress of the holidays, year end deploys at work, and my trip home to Minnesota that set me off.  I got back with a bad upper respiratory infection that kept me at home for awhile.  When I went back out into the world, I was freaked about everything.  Seriously, every little thing.  Every time I drove my new car I would swear I could hear something wrong with the engine and I'd spend my drive with the music off, trying to find that noise.  But I didn't notice that I was unusually anxious.

Problem is that when you're always freaked out about everything, it doesn't register as something being wrong!  It wasn't until my hubby noticed me reaching for something with a shaking hand that he raised the red flag.  I shouldn't be shaking just sitting in my living room.

Long story short, I'm on medication until further notice.

Why is this on my equestrian blog?  Couple reasons.  One, this has a major impact on Theo.  I have to imagine some of my avoidance of the barn is related to my anxiety about getting hurt.  Logically I know I can ride absolutely anything that horse throws at me but in the moment, I am out of scale terrified.  He's not even trying to unload me, it's just protest bucks.  I should be mildly annoyed, not looking to dismount.  It's also hard on Theo when I'm riding scared since I am less consistent and he feeds off of my emotional state.  There's a reason he's been so nervous in the 'spooky' end of the ring.  Because I've been tensing and waiting for the spin.

What are you spooking at, mom?

Two, visibility.  I don't see my anxiety as something to hide.  I have a chemical imbalance that sometimes gets away from me and I need to take medication to get things back in place.  Some folks need their medication every day, some are like me and don't always need it.  It's all very individual, just like most things we choose for ourselves.  I know other equestrians have similar battles to fight.  Just putting it out there that I'm fighting it too and how it's going for me.

And how is it going?  Better.  I didn't notice how tense I was until it started to ease.  It's crazy how quickly people can normalize something.  I signed up to ride Theo in a jumping clinic so that's a good sign.  And I'm most of the way through the email backlog I let build up.  I'll just keep plugging along, pay more attention to my stress levels, and give myself all the support I need.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Rounding the bend

Trainer Z's visits are always memorable.

"He's holding you hostage up there!"

"I know you feel like you're about to die but trust me, you can ride this."

"Get it done or this is never going to stop!"

"I don't care if he bucks, gallop!"  "Of course you don't care, you're not on him!"  "Don't make me chase you because I will!"

"Feel that?  That is throughness!"

Potato vision!  But at least I have some media

The plan today was to pick up the pieces after our introduction to flying changes.  Theo was so far behind my leg he might as well have been in another state.  He weaponized his changes to keep me from getting him in front of my leg.  Swapping leads all over the place and bucking kept me from kicking him back up into the bridle.  Trainer Z was right, he was holding me hostage.  And I did not want to do what was needed to kick through this.  I don't particularly enjoy riding Theo's tantrums, he's quite powerful.  But as she said, if I don't do something, it will never stop.  So I sat up, sat back, took a deep breath, and kept kicking.  I ignored all of the drama going on underneath me and just kept kicking.  I'm back in my snaffle bridle full time while we pick up the pieces and rebuild.

It was a very sucky 30 minutes of convincing him that I was no longer going to back off due to his theatrics followed by a very productive 30 minutes with quality trot and canter work.  I got my pony back.  The one that has a rock solid counter canter and easy transitions.  The one that takes the bit with confidence and fills up the bridle.

We also rearranged my thigh blocks.  It never really occurred to me that my short thighs mean that my knees jam into my blocks at entirely the wrong spot.  She pulled them loose and twisted them so they don't force my knee back.  We then shortened my stirrups by a half hole and my legs settled in against his sides.  Well, that's a thing.  It's not a total fix but it did stop my saddle from forcing my knee off of his barrel and my heels into his sides.  I'm planning to pull my blocks completely off my saddle for a couple rides.  Assuming that's a step forward, I'll look into getting some smaller thigh blocks.  I'm also going to borrow a Prestige saddle from Trainer Z and I'm talking to EQ Science about a test ride.

I needed this lesson to start to rebuild my confidence.  And Theo's.  Trainer Z said something similar during our lesson.  We had to introduce the changes because he was so dang good at the counter canter.  Fine, that's done, now we go back and pick up all the mess we made.  He learned a lot and it changed his canter for the better.  Now I need to find some of the joy again and kick my way through all of the nonsense we've picked up along the way.

Mid-level dressage is hard.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Perfect timing

I rode two days in a row!  One day was a 30 minute ride in my western gear, one day was a shortened jumping lesson, but it's a start.  Theo was ridden three days in a row and he was slightly disgruntled about the whole thing, but he likes the treats.

While slacking off chatting during my lesson, I mentioned to Trainer D the struggle I've been having keeping up this winter.  I asked if she had anyone that needed some saddle time that would be a match for Theo.  As the fates have it, she has an advanced student without a partner right now.  Her two horses are retired and the horse she'd been riding just went on stall rest for soundness issues.  She's been catch riding a senior QH and a stinky pony.  Trainer D wants to put her on a horse that she can really enjoy and jump.  She's also got a very good seat so the occasional spook won't be an issue.  I know her and I've seen her ride several times on different horses, she's got really good hands and a soothing personality.

It's perfect timing.  I'll get two days a week where I know my horse is being worked in a controlled, professionally supervised way.  Theo gets to have an experienced rider jump him which he loves to do.  The student gets a horse that is safe and fun to jump so she can do things that are more fun than cross rails and trying to install brakes on naughty ponies.  Trainer D gets to work with Theo three times a week (2 lessons and 1 training ride).  Apparently Trainer D and Theo have been getting along like peas in a pod.

It's a weight off of my shoulders.  Theo is a horse that needs to be kept busy, now I can share that work with two other people.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


It's not really a training struggle this time, or a Theo struggle.  This time it's all me.  I don't want to go to the barn.

There, I said it.  I don't want to go to the barn.

A large part of it is the weather.  We had a nasty cold snap with a high of 8*, about 6 inches of snow, and most of a week where temps are at 15* or lower when I'm able to get out to ride.  I have a policy of not making my horse breathe hard at 15* or lower, so no real point in riding.  And it's just freaking cold.  I went out for his massage and my fingers hurt after spending 1.5 hours in the 10* weather.  Rather than ride, I went home to have a hot cocoa.

I'm trying to make this okay in my head.  I usually take a week or two off in the winter due to the stupid weather.  This time is a bit different as I technically could be out there riding.  I just don't want to.  So Theo is enjoying a vacation where's he's been ridden about 4 times in two weeks.  Two of those rides were with Trainer D.

I'm hoping my motivation will come back with the sun.  Right now, I'm being a total introvert and barely leaving the house.  On the positive side, it's given me a bunch of time I don't usually have so I got caught up on the vacuuming and I've had more time to cook, which I love doing.

Strip steak, butterfly lobster tail, asparagus, and sauteed wild mushrooms

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about my complete lack of desire to go ride.  I've got plenty of interest in doing other things, just not going to the barn.  I may have stumbled onto all the things I miss out on when I'm riding five days a week and how relaxing it is to come home from work, putter around the house, hit the treadmill, and be done with my day.  Riding takes up at least 2.5 hours each day.  I can get a lot of vacuuming done in that time. 

I may need to start looking for a half leaser again.  There's life outside the barn and I've missed it.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Riding the beast you made

Well hello there, it's been awhile. 

After my lesson with Trainer Z, we had an ice storm.  Whelp, day off for Theo.  Then I tried to ride him on New Year's Eve and instead we ended up cowering in the arena while ice and snow fell off the roof for about 20 minutes straight.  Thank goodness I'd planned on lunging so I wasn't sitting on him when it started.  It sounded like constant thunder right over our heads and things were falling by the windows.  I gave up (poor Theo was shaking, it was so bad) and warned Trainer D to lunge him before his Wednesday training ride.  

I flew home to Minnesota to surprise my mom for her birthday and while I was there, my brother so kindly gave me an upper respiratory infection.  I flew back and then spent a couple days doing nothing but keeping the couch from flying away while my lungs tried to leave my body via hacking coughing fits.  Disgusting.  Trainer D was kind enough to keep Theo in work while all this was going on and he even gave the barn manager a jumping lesson.  He was a saint.

Also got a massage, lucky pony

I finally made it back to the saddle on Friday after over a week off.  It was a jumping lesson and I had to keep stopping because I couldn't freaking breathe.  Theo was a good packer pony and added strides as needed to keep me safely on top.  I was like a sack of potatoes with overcooked noodles for legs.  We did nothing more technical than a four stride line.

Trainer Z returned yesterday (Sunday) and I was dreading my lesson.  I'd barely been able to ride and Theo was very snorty and wide eyed with our crazy windy weather.  Everyone was telling me how sassy and wound up all the horses were being.  I went into the arena like someone facing a firing squad.  Trainer Z is a nice trainer but she does not suffer fools gladly and I was feeling very foolish.

We decided to work on canter but not flying changes.  He's got the idea, time to focus on something else and not set off Theo's winter brain.  I got read the riot act on my newly found contact problems in the canter.  Theo's dramatics have led to me giving up the contact completely in an attempt to keep him from losing his mind.  So he flails and guesses at what I want, which makes me give it up more in an attempt to keep him chill.  Trainer Z spent probably 20 minutes getting us to canter forward on a straight line down the quarter line.  My contact was all loosey goosey and he was hanging out behind my leg badly.

We couldn't do a freaking collected canter around the ring.  It was both embarrassing and enlightening.

My glitter boots, however, are not embarrassing.

Even without trying we got probably a dozen clean changes so it seems he has the mechanics figured out.  Now we can do something else with our time.  Like getting him back in front of my leg and back in the bridle.  I had managed to wrap myself up in so many knots that I was trying to touch nothing to prevent the bucking and jumping about behavior.  Nope, that's not how that works.  Kick him up into the bridle and show him what I want.  I can't spend years making him strong, fit, and sensitive only to quit riding when he gets frazzled.  I made a mid-level dressage horse, now I need to ride it.

We did get our forward, straight canter back and that felt fantastic.  We also got what I dare say was our first two steps of a more than medium trot while he was still wound up from the canter work.  I had him trotting as big as he could and I asked for a bit more and this other gear showed up for a split second.  Like I felt his back shift as he ate up more ground and Trainer Z started cheering.  I don't think even Theo knew he could do that as he had to shorten up again almost immediately but he was quite proud of himself and ready to do it again.  I stuffed him full of sugar.

Theo has managed to land in the role of schoolmaster which is crazy considering he is learning along with me.  Trainer Z has said a couple times now that he's just like teaching on a school master.  I get it right, I get a nice movement.  I screw up, he does something else.  I keep worrying about ruining him but the reality is that he's getting this faster than me.  He learns it, then waits for me to catch up.

I'm under strict orders to refocus on the fundamentals for two weeks and fix our contact problems.  I'm also on the market for a new saddle as it appears I'm moving past what my current saddle can help me with.  The more I sit, the more Trainer Z thinks my saddle is fighting my short thigh confirmation.  So joy and bliss, I'm going back on the saddle market.

Didn't I just finish with saddle shopping?