Saturday, April 30, 2022


 Third time is a charm, right?

He has no business being this pretty

Third ride back and I feel fine.  I did have my first encounter with 'omg it's going to kill me' Theo when the arena doors dared to slide against each other and creak as we were trotting past.  Fortunately I've ridden that enough times to know reflexively how to stop him.  Hold the left rein like it's the only thing keeping you alive and sit back.  He stopped straight and stared.  Trainer Z was on supervisor duty and decided to latch the doors to stop the noise rather than have us have a set back.  And then we marched off and acted like nothing had happened.  Kind of glad we got that out of the way.  I still know how to get deep in the saddle and how to stop that spin before it can start.  Theo stopping straight isn't a problem.  That spin?  Let's just not do that, papi.

I actually rode him enough to get him breathing hard.  It's a good thing, Trainer Z is taking him to a clinic tomorrow and it's his first trip off property in a long time.  But she noted my strength, fitness, and confidence appear to be fine now and asked if I'd like to get back into formal lessons rather than supervised free riding.  Yay!  Next weekend I'm camping but in two weeks, it's back to the grindstone so she can fix my wayward hands and teach me how to correctly ride my Third Level pony that she has all tuned up.  I couldn't get a clean canter-walk today so I know it's time to get back to formal training for me as well as Theo.

Mom is still crooked, news at 11

I did some sitting trot to check that out and it wasn't bad.  Just a couple minutes and I can tell that it's something that's going to require careful management but we can at least work on it.  Theo's trot is appalling to sit but I only need to do it for three minutes or so at a time to get through a Third Level test.

Am I thinking about that Bronze again?  You betcha.  And why not?  I may be embarrassed to have my trainer get on my horse first at the show but that shouldn't stop me from finishing what we started. 

Watching Trainer Z work with Sparklepants

Once Theo's going Third in the show ring with Trainer Z, I want to take a shot at those last two scores.  Last year I couldn't ride more than thirty minutes without suffering the next day and couldn't really sit the canter.  Now I'm riding 45 minutes with real work and doing fine with nothing more than some Advil that night.  Who knows what I'll be able to do in 2023?  And he's very polite about his changes now that he understands the request.  They're about 75% confirmed right now, per Trainer Z.  Once I'm back in formal lessons, I can learn how to ask for them correctly.  I don't need to win, I just need two 60's.  

Yes, I'm starting to hope again.  We may not be done just yet.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

So foals, how does that work?

 I hinted that Trainer Z and I were discussing a potentially cool upcoming project as it appears my neck is going to let me play for awhile longer.  We talked a couple times and now it's kind of becoming a thing.  For the first time in my life, I want to own a horse with a pedigree.  I want to know where they came from, who bred them, and what they were meant to be when they grew up.  I want to have baby pictures and watch someone look like they're flying a kite while getting the baby around a triangle.  And it's the perfect time since Theo would be around 23 by the time this theoretical baby was old enough to become my primary focus.

I'm going to buy a foal.  

I still feel like screaming every time I say that.

I'm very lucky that Trainer Z is on board and this is far from her first rodeo.  She's got one due at the end of the month and her four year old stallion was born on her property.  And he's such a riot, he's turning into this total clown that loves to watch her working the other horses.  He will also peer in the window while she's using the wash stall, it's hilarious.  

Just look at this weirdo

As much as I love her horses, her breeding program isn't for me.  Her horses are getting scooped up by people with grand, CDI type goals.  They need a lot of horse and I, frankly, have reached the point in my life where I don't need that much horse.  I need smaller gaits, not bigger.  And I want to be closer to the ground.  I'm tiny, damn it!

I wrote about what I want back in 2019 (before all hell broke loose) and it's more true now then when I wrote it.  I want short, sturdy, hairy, and fun.  I need enough power and brains to go up the levels but not so much I live in fear of what will happen.  And with my changed status, Trainer Z was ADAMANT that I not look at big, powerful, dressage bred WB.  As much as she'd enjoy having another fancy baby in the barn, she likes her client in one piece even more.  And I think she just likes the idea of having a fancy pony in her herd.  And we both immediately latched on to it being a stocky, native breed pony.  None of these mini-WB ponies.  Good feet, good brain, lots of self preservation.  Or, in her words:

Think: THICK, small, round, cute, and fancy.

So we're shopping.  She reaching out to her contacts, I've started reaching out to the few Welsh Cob breeders I know (Quillane and Castleberry, for those that are curious).  The plan is to find the right foal and to have Trainer Z manage the baby until they're safe enough for my AA butt.  Probably five or six years (because I'm still dumb enough to get on a five year old).  So a very nice start for the pony, growing up at a barn with their care and training supervised by a GP rider that's also a breeder.  And I can help with the ground stuff!  I have no restrictions on handling so I can get them ready to show in the breed ring or the DHSB stuff.  

Now comes the hard part.  Picking a foal.  Especially as I've never done this.  Trainer Z is absolutely helping but she's got a business to run.  Some of the leg work has to fall on me, especially as we're diving into a breed she hasn't shopped for in the past.  I have Welsh cob pictures and pedigrees all over the place right now, trying to figure out what's going to work for us.  I didn't realize how hard it is to get a feel for the mares since they don't usually have under saddle pictures or even decent confirmation pictures.  My eyes aren't trained to understand a broodmare belly. 

So for those that have done something crazy like this, how did you do it?  How did you pick the perfect one?  And what questions should I ask the breeders?  Because asking 'are your horses awesome?' doesn't seem very effective.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

So far so good

 Another Saturday, another lesson.  After our success last week, I came into my lesson today with the goal of seeing what the world of the possible is.  Can I really ride my horse?  What is my limit?  I tacked up and hopped on with the intent of not riding like a w/t up down student.  I was schooling Third, damn it, I can at least pick up a contact.

Trainer Z left us mostly to our own devices since the whole goal is for me to figure out my new normal.  I pushed Theo's buttons a bit and he tested me to see if I was serious about things like taking a contact on the right rein and listening to my left leg.  Seriously, Theo, it's been seven damn years.  Yes, I am serious about you getting off my left leg.  I even did a canter lengthen while saying 'wheee!' at him to encourage him to actually push.  

In some ways, it's like I never left.  We worked on shoulder in, filling the outside rein in both directions, and transitions.  A million and one transitions.  It's lovely sitting on him when he's in professional training because he's already supple, fit, and symmetrical.  I just have to work on me.  I sat trot a bit to see what I've got.  I don't know if I'll be able to sit a medium but the collected wasn't bad.  I ended up working him for 45 minutes and it was an actual ride.  He actually yawned with his post-work super soft eyes in the cross ties so I felt like I accomplished something.

As for me?  I'm not perfect.  I'm comfortable but I can tell I've got some inflammation.  I took some Advil and I'm doing some ice.  It's not bad but I'm being cautious.  If I'm good tomorrow, then I'll say 45 minutes of actual riding with some sitting trot is in the realm of the possible.  Not enough to keep Theo in work all by myself but enough that I can ride him in a lesson once a week and start to get my groove back.

Trainer Z was very happy to see us actually working with him on the contact.  Not a Second level frame yet but a lot better than last week.  And Theo is such a ridiculous cuddle bug.  I swear if he could fit in my pocket, he would.  Not everyone knows how much he likes having the insides of his ears brushed with his tail brush and he appreciated my knowledge of the details.  It may just be me projecting but he does seem happy to see me.  

Trainer Z and I also had a talk about the future.  Theo has a clinic on Monday and has entered his first show of the season in June.  I've also booked a choreographer to get his Second level freestyle started for a hopeful fall debut with Trainer Z.  And one other exciting potential plan but we'll see what comes of that.  

Monday, April 11, 2022

What the heck happened?

 This is a question I've asked myself a lot recently and Trainer Z asked before my lesson.  How did I go from riding 5 times a week to not being able to ride at all so quickly?  In 2019 I was riding very regularly.  Sitting trot, big bucks, all of it.  My last show was fall of 2019 and I was riding Second Level complete with multi-day show theatrics from Theo.  By February I was seeing a doctor because of my involuntary head movements.  By spring I was out of the saddle and by summer, I had a diagnosis I didn't want.  If this is a decade old injury, what the heck happened?  Why did I have to stop riding?

Sitting the trot, NBD

There's two working theories after talking to my PCP, neurologist, and chiro.  Both link to the summer of 2019 and my two ER visits.

I had that nasty bout of Lyme disease that sent me off to ER due to high fever and not being able to turn my head because my neck was in so much pain.  They thought I had meningitis.  In hindsight, my whole body was inflamed and it certainly set off the damage in my neck that I wasn't even aware of yet.  I've had trouble in the past with my neck being stiff and sore but never enough to really register as a problem.  Lyme certainly made me aware that neck pain SUCKS.  Anytime I mention Lyme occurring just before symptoms start I get sighs from the professionals.  Lyme is such a pain in the ass.  It was treated promptly and I shouldn't be a chronic case.  Shouldn't being the key word.  It's not like they can test for it.  It will forever be just a coincidence.

I also had that incident where I got clobbered by a 2x6 when Theo tore the fence apart at GMHA.  No concussion but I took the hit across the back of my shoulder and my neck.  I remember laying in that ditch while my body felt like it was rebooting.  I also remember my neck and back hurting quite a bit afterward.  

Either incident could have taken my neck from potential problem to actual problem.  The two happening about a month apart?  Yeah, that was not ideal.  Of course my little head tic was assigned to my anxiety since no one ever saw me do it and it's not a typical symptom of nerve impingement.  It wasn't until a doctor actually saw it and tested some of my neurological functions that they realized something else was going on.

Everything in the imaging is old, cold, and set so if the head clobber incident caused problems, they should be over.  Lyme, on the other hand, can take a long time to settle down.  Like years.  It's only been in the last couple months that I've started to feel normal again.  My involuntary head movements have stopped.  After my ride on Saturday, I saw the chiro on Monday.  She said everything felt good and my body was completely normal.  Well, normal for me.  Woohoo!  I still have scoliosis and a twisted pelvis but that's normal.  For me.  Seriously, it's whacky sitting on Theo when he's all symmetrical and almost forcing me to ride him evenly.

Told you you're crooked, mom

Oh, remember my left shoulder that would just fail sometimes?  The one that plagued me with Fiona when jumping and Theo would cause to fail?  Guess what that is now attributed to?  Impinged nerve.  So glad I didn't let them talk me into rotator cuff surgery.  Apparently my scoliosis is the reason I ride crooked and the reason my left arm is prone to problems.  My arm has been consistently functional since I started getting regular adjustments.  The lingering issues from my little neck flare up consist of occasional episodes of pain from my neck trying to stabilize itself and my left hand not being able to help me open candy wrappers.  Lost some fine motor skills on that side.  I dropped my left rein once during my lesson which is a nuisance.  

Can I just get a new body?  This one is defective.

But I'm starting to feel like my old self again.  I have to stay on top of anti-inflammatories and use ice if I'm starting to get symptoms but it's all pretty manageable.  The hubby still insists that I not jump or ride unsupervised but that seems reasonable considering my latest x-rays and the horse I have.  I do have bone spurs and issues that would be a problem if I fell again.  There's no shock absorption left in my neck.  I know as well as any equestrian that falls are a matter of when, not if, but I can avoid courting disaster and can remove situations where I'll be moving at high speed toward an obstacle.

My next lesson is set for this Saturday since I feel fine after my first lesson.  We're scheduling a whole 60 minutes this time but planning on lots of breaks.  My legs were sore and tight after my first lesson.  I forgot what a lazy ass my horse is.  Since I don't seem to have completely lost my seat, I've been greenlighted for spurs.  Thank goodness.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Back together again

 It took a month longer than planned but it happened!  My first lesson in over two years.  Also my first ride on Theo since he was summarily thrown out of his barn and his job as a h/j horse which led to him needing some rehabilitation.  

We waited to make sure we'd have good Theo.  After his spring clip, evil spring Theo came out for an extended visit.  The usual week of chaos around the equinox turned into two weeks of chaos with the early clip.  After that he had a week that was mostly good but not consistent enough for Trainer Z to call it safe.  This last week he was consistently very good so I got the green light to come out for my first 30 minute lesson.

I was so damn happy to be tacking and grooming my pony.  He was so quite cute and cuddly, it's like we never spent a day apart.  I swung on and settled in.  After a few seconds, Theo recognized the babbling creature on his back and stretched out into this long, chill walk.  Trainer Z was in the middle of the ring, his girl had cookies, Theo knew the drill.  

We walked, we trotted, we cantered.  We even leg yielded and shoulder-in'd.  Trainer Z is mostly occupied with us getting our groove back and my confidence being rebuilt but she's also taking this as a chance to rebuild me.  I'm very out of riding shape and Theo is completely tuned up.  I only have to work on me so it's a unique opportunity to do something about my possessed hands and twisted position.  Theo was a very good school pony for me and I was grinning in the canter work.

I'm scheduled for another lesson next weekend.  This will hopefully be my new lesson time going forward.  I'm so, so excited.