Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Living in Interesting Times

How to start sorting the jumble that is my mind?

I don’t live a segregated life. I’m surrounded by people who aren’t like me constantly. And I love it. It wasn’t always this way. There was a single African American in my entire high school class of 750 people. No lie. One out of 750. He was in my friend circle and I always enjoyed his company. That wasn’t the feeling everyone had though. 

Half my patient population is people of color with the majority being senior African Americans who grew up in the Jim Crowe South and they are my absolute favorite people. Over 2/3rds of Wyatt’s class is made up of people of color. It always shocks me when I hear that people don’t interact with those who aren’t like them. 

I know several racist people who wouldn’t even look an African American in the eye and it angers and frustrates me. I always call them out on it and I just plumb don’t understand how that can still be a thing in 2020. But it is. I know it is. I see it. I hear about it. I adore many people who live it. 

For me, one of the best things I’ve ever done and that I think other people who are white and are having an issue understanding what is going on in our country can do, is to listen. Really listen to what those who have other experiences, other perspectives, are saying. Hear them. Respond to them. Ask questions. I’ve asked some pretty stupid questions and got back interesting answers that changed my view point on the world. And yet I still don’t get it because I cant fully get it because I don’t live it. But I can do my best to understand and I can support those around me. 

One thing that grates on me every single time a major societal issue comes up is that people mistake posting on social media, opinion pieces, likes, etc...with actual help. One of the most powerful political cartoons I’ve ever seen, and now of course can’t find, is a black and white drawing of a person drowning surrounded by a dozen folks giving a thumbs up. This post here makes me feel better because I’ve gotten my voice out there but it does absolutely nothing to help the cause. The African American woman who left her appointment and headed straight to DC to join the protests can’t use my “like” in any meaningful way. But she can use the monetary support. The petition signature. The votes. 

So I urge you all to write away but to also go out in the real world and provide assistance where and how you can. Listen to those around you who are angry, sad, hurting. And vote. Not just every 4 years for the president. Vote for your sheriff, your coroner, your city council. Vote for your governor and congressional representatives. Most local elections go uncontested. How stupid is that? Make local changes and be a bigger part of your local community.

And hug your neighbors. Reach out. Make sure they are doing ok. A lot aren’t. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Auditing Cross Country

Trainer AB shot me a text Saturday about a xc school she was doing all day Sunday. She said she didn't have a horse available for me, but could maybe wrangle something up. I wasn't really up for a xc rodeo especially since I haven't been out on course since February. Instead I opted to go and audit from the ground. 

Sunday morning saw me hesitating. What if I wasn't welcome? Would I be in the way? An unwanted distraction? Would I find myself on the fringe feeling alone? Like the last kid picked in gym class. 

No related media, so you get a dumping of my recent pics that have no other home

Perhaps all of that mental angst was unnecessary. Well, lets be honest. All of that was unnecessary but it is the way my brain works. I'm not inherently a social person though I do enjoy the company of others. It just takes me a while to feel brave enough to do it and until then there is a constant nagging worry that maybe I'm not actually wanted. 

The alternative was intense yard work though, so a drive up north to spend a gorgeous morning watching horses go cross country and soaking up some education seemed the better choice.

And you know what? I am so glad I didn't listen to those voices in my head and went.

The house has been secondary to fixing up the barn but last weekend I got a bee up my bum about how nasty it looked. I did some research on various ideas and put the Hubs to work clearing the front out of all that vegetation

I pulled in and looked around, noticing that I actually recognized most of those present. I said some hellos and quickly found AB and her current group by the water complex. I was a little sad that I pulled in later than I intended as she was just about done with the beginner group. I find that I learn most while watching those close to my own level. 

While I love private lessons, it does perpetuate my tendency to get stuck in my own head. Without seeing other people, I can start to believe that I'm the only one who forgets to relax my elbows, or locks up my pelvis, or doesn't look ahead to the next jump soon enough. Getting to watch others make the same mistakes I do helps to ease this.

This group ended a few minutes after I got there, so I walked back to the trailers to await the start of the next one. And I was pleasantly surprised to realize I knew all three ladies having ridden with the one twice (she was there during my last lesson with AB) and the other two at the Jumping Branch Show. It took them all a few seconds to recognize me in my short hair cut, but once they did it was game on. 

By the time I got home Sunday this was my view. Love it already, but there are big plans for this space. Hopefully it doesn't rain so I can finish it next weekend

I felt so welcome! They all asked about Eeyore, my office and life in general. We talked shop as the one lady has a horse who seems to heal one issue just to get another and they were all genuinely happy to see me there. 

All three ladies are kick ass riders and while I didn't learn a lot watching them ride since AB had minimal to correct and say, it was a glorious morning spent out with friends. We laughed between turns, commiserated about horses being idiots, and congratulated each as they tackled the training level jumps for two of them and prelim for the other with ease. 

Eeyore trying to pretend he wasn't about to chew on his stall door. It wasn't very convincing.

I was in charge of video for the day and at one point the prelim rider lost a boot in the middle of the water jump, so I removed my socks and shoes and went after it to much applause by all. 

I learned a few really important lessons. First, I really miss my orange beast. Really, really miss him. Second, other riders at my same level are making the same mistakes so don't take it personally. Third, go do the things, meet the people and don't worry if you are wanted. An invite means you are and get out of your own damn head. I love these ladies and can't wait until I'm riding alongside them again.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Why Is This So Hard?

Tuesday morning I woke up with a throbbing, pounding head. By Friday evening it was still present and I debated canceling my lesson. I didn't though and instead took too many NSAIDs to be healthy, downed a bunch of caffeine and pointed my car to the barn. 

I had made the mistake of mentioning to MD in my first lesson that the canter is my worst gait. I sit too heavily on my butt rendering my legs ineffective. I tend to get discombobulated and this leads to lack of steering which then makes jumping more difficult. MD took this to heart and the focus for my 3rd lesson was to be the canter. 

It was a beautiful evening that was thankfully dry. The rain had started Monday and didn't quit until Friday afternoon. 

After a blissfully brief warm up, we got to the exercise at hand: a basic hunter course. She had set an outside line, diagonal, outside line, diagonal course with the first three lines set to 4 strides and the final diagonal at a tight 3. 

Before I could jump anything I had to canter the entire course, sans jumps, maintaining an even rhythm with a 12' canter stride, and make a simple lead change both directions. It sounded super easy. I may be a wimp and a little wet behind the ears still, but I have done some course work.

Holy crap but this was hard!!! Like, why so hard??!?! 

We have been going on hikes every other weekend. Its a bit tricky with Waggy as she can't tolerate much but loves going out. 

The first time around I had a complete brain fart. I cantered up the first line beside the jumps on the left lead, made the left turn still on the left lead then freaked inside my head that I needed to change leads, trotted and then realized my error and went back to start again. Ooops.

The second time through, Fenix had a lovely canter with a 10' stride. This is apparently his more natural preference and while nice would have made making the strides difficult. I went again. The third time around he did some amazing auto changes and I let him continue along and while MD said that was perfectly fine, she really wanted me to force the simple change so that I get to work on my transitions and doing them much quicker than I do. So we got to go around again. Finally, this time I got the green light to add in the jumps.

If you are wondering why she does this, I did too and so I asked her. In her opinion, it is very important to be able to do this if you want to jump well. Being able to simply canter the entire course without changing pace, losing the line, or missing a lead then allows you to add in the jumps without issue. It makes the jumps secondary to what you are doing out there. Again, that is her opinion and yours may vary.

I took Fluffzilla for his first grooming appointment. I got back a rat. A well groomed rat. I'm still not over it. 

Anyway...we got to jumping. I did the first half of the course the first time and botched the first line because I let Fenix stay in his 10' canter instead of moving his striding up which meant that we got 4.5 strides and a chip in the line. We also broke to trot before the diagonal because I stuffed him around the turn. We came again and the second time went better through the first line but again we broke to trot around the turn. 

Third times the charm and we nailed it. She then had me do the entire course and folks, I nailed it. It felt amazing!!!! I got him moving towards the first fence and finally remembered the feeling I had when I just cantered it without the jumps. Instead of my brain focusing on the jumps and going "lalalalalalala" between fences, it actually kicked into gear and said "nope half halt we are going too fast" and "move him up you'll miss your distance" and "do not stuff  him into that corner, go wider".

It was so so  so so so amazing. We hit every striding and put in a nice little hunter round. My grin was nearly painful it was so big. 

I drove home feeling really good and for whatever reason my headache was finally gone and as of writing this Monday morning, has yet to return. I'm not sure what nerve was pinched or muscle knotted but the ride stretched me out and fixed me. Horses for the win every single time. Also, this week is a big party. Wyatt is going to take a lesson before me and then my friend B is riding with me and bringing wine along with her. Sicne Friday is also Eeyore's first follow up US, I very well may need that wine. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Who Needs A Gym Membership Anyway

If my goal during Eeyore’s rehab is to work on myself, I’ve found the perfect spot and instructor. Friday night was lesson #2 and I was worn out within 20 minutes. I’ve never worked that hard while riding even during the 100 miler. I was exhausted by the end!

The main focus was my balance point, fitness and seat. I’m pretty good these days in the walk and trot but I tend to sit too heavily on my butt in the canter which results in my feet and legs being pretty useless. It’s the main reason I lose stirrups on occasion and the root of my issues with horse balance around corners and on the circle. 

Fenix is a really good boy. 

MB had an exercise to work on that. After a walk and trot warm up she had me back in the two point. We started in the trot and she would randomly tell me to post then two point then post. The goal was to work on my reaction time and ability to quickly adjust my position while not falling forward or back. That went pretty well beyond my abs and legs screaming at me in defeat. 

Then we moved to canter. I was to two point two strides then sit one and back up to two point for two etc....Holy crap but this was hard for me. Since I tend to sit heavily and not weight my legs/feet in the canter, the quick up and down was really difficult. I’m not sure I ever did it correctly but I did manage a full circuit around the arena doing two sitting and two in two point both directions before my body gave out. By the end I was sitting much lighter and had more weight in my heels so it was working. 

After that she stopped the torture and set up a three fence grid of bounces. It began with a cross rail and two ground poles then the center became a vertical and finally the last was raised to a vertical as well. 

The final configuration. A year ago the height of the verticals would have caused serious anxiety but this was easy and fun. 

My job was simply to remain in two point through the grid and do nothing. One of her favorite sayings appears to be “we take a lot of lessons and pay a lot of money to learn how to do nothing”. The trips went fine. Too fine apparently because she then said “time to make this exciting”

I reminded her that I’m a wimp but she countered with “I’ve yet to see that” which is a testament to Trainer AB and Eeyore over the last year. The height of these fences would have sent me into cardiac arrest last summer and now...well you’ll see. 

MB told me that by the end of summer I’m going to be going through a grid sans hands and stirrups. The reason? On course if you enter a combination and screw up the in, the best thing you can do is leg on, let the reins slip and balance. Also, it builds the core. 

We began with one arm out. It actually went just fine. I even giggled!

Then we did my dominant right hand and while it felt a bit weirder, it still went perfectly fine. So she upped the ante and I had to do it without hands. 

The first trip I did my best to throw my hands out there but then I tensed and completely forgot to actually two point so it all went a bit squirrelly. We made it through but only because Fenix is a saint and knows his job very well. 

I did it again and cheated. I moved my arms away from his neck but held on to the reins still. She called it a good starting point, had me run through with one hand only again for good measure and we called it a night. 

I was exhausted, elated and so very glad I found her. We chatted until well after 9pm again which was fine since our power had gone out at home at 230pm and wasn’t slated to return until 2 am so there wasn’t anything to do but sit in the dark anyway. We laughed and exchanged stories and folks....this is exactly what I’ve been wanting since moving here 6 years ago. Friday nights are my favorite part of the week. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Order Your Horse Today

This popped up on my FB last night and I thought it was pretty funny. It was made in 2013 I believe. I snagged this from The Idea of Order, so please go check them out.

I did both Gemmie and Eeyore on the same form: Gem is in black and Eeyore in blue. Let's see how I'd place my order to end up with these two goofs. 

Starting out, both are pretty cheap being basic colors and breeds. I didn't list Eeyore as an Appy because he only has a couple spots on one butt cheek (the rest being on his brain) but even if he was Appy in color he'd be basic.

Now they start to differentiate. Eeyore would get an up charge based on being sensitive but sane. Gemmie though...maybe she should have gotten a discount for being "rear on fire" :) Gem does catch up to Eeyore though when it comes to soundness. She never took a lame step and could go barefoot on the hardest rocky trail. Eeyore though...I had a time choosing between moderately sound and mostly lame. I mean...when he isn't injuring himself he is perfectly sound however he has been lame 50% of the time I've had him sooo....

Right now both of them have a 10% up charge. Level of training was hard for me. Gem is a beast on trail but really not trained per say so she got down graded. Eeyore though is basically moderately trained. I mean, I ran him start level last fall and didn't die.

Vices was pretty amusing. Gem has none. She is a saint. Add 10% Eeyore though? HAHAHAA! Also, Gem does technically have a pretty good endurance record, so 10% more for her. I don't count the one schooling show as a record for him.

Gem fits the "apathetic to your existence" perfectly. Eeyore? Hubby hates him for how dog like and pushy he can be, but I find it endearing. Mostly. Neither were expensive enough to need to hide the cost from Hubby and I could care less about bragging. No unicorns here. 

Its funny - according to this order form Gemmie would cost way more than Eeyore but in reality he was 3x as expensive as my all business little bay mare. I wouldn't trade either of them or the experiences they have given me for anything. 

What would your horse's order form look like?

Monday, May 18, 2020

So Many Words

First, thank you everyone for your comments on my prior posts. I know everyone came from a place of concern and help and I appreciate it. 

Second, holy crap but I could write a novel about my first lesson at the new barn, FEC. I’m having a hard time sorting through it all! It was AMAZING in so many ways and the greatest part is that with the package pricing I can afford to lesson weekly for the first time in my life. I’m soooooo excited!!!  Also, an old friend of mine randomly showed up to ride that night and we both stared at each other like “wait...what are you doing here!?” and then laughed and talked and had a great time. 

The view from the barn on a gorgeous evening

Seriously, I don’t even know where to begin here. I got to ride a sweet OTTB named Fenix and we worked on the very basics of walk, trot and canter then finished with a single gate jump then a two stride line of verticals. The grin spread across my face within the first few minutes and never left. It was a feeling I’ve been missing lately. 

Trainer MD is a talker. She never stops explaining the whys and the hows and the history and OMG I loved it. I learned a lot in a short period and it kept coming. She is also hilarious and there really wasn’t a moment I could get tense or scared because I was laughing so much. 

I’ll be real here for a minute. I take lessons 50% for the riding/exercise/knowledge and 50% for human interaction where I’m not in charge. I’m not the doctor making treatment plans or the boss making business decisions or the mother or the wife. I take it seriously in that I listen, do my best and try hard but I also giggle a lot and get off subject talking. I’m sure it drives more serious people insane. MB didn't seem to care and interjected enough stories and anecdotes herself to satiate my need. The hour flew by.

I do have a type when it comes to horses. Chestnut with chrome is my favorite color

There were a lot of “huh” and “aha” and “ok....thats different” moments crammed into the hour ride. She is really into rider fitness as a base for safety and I spent a long time in two point at the trot and canter. She said that all her students need to be able to two point for the entire length of a xc course before they do a full course at a show. For starter level, that’s 6 minutes. Time for me to build up some muscles! 

We worked on my issues and my confidence. I learned to canter from a two point in the trot and from sitting in the walk. I’ve never done either of those before. She discussed striding (something I’ve always been fuzzy about) and your eye while riding. We talked about being left behind being a lot safer than jumping ahead and that a long spot feels bad but is safer than a chip. 

I could go on for forever with all the tidbits, history lessons and advice she gave. One eye opening moment was when we went to jump. Everyone I’ve ever ridden with has always started me with trot fences but MD apparently is against that. In her opinion, spending a lot of time trotting fences teaches the rider to have an eye that is much closer to the base. When you change to cantering the fences, the rider is then unprepared for the sweet spot 6’ take off and gets left behind or becomes scared. We trotted a single time for me to get used to Fenix and then cantered every fence thereafter. 

And a pony like face to top it off. I knew Fenix and I would get along just fine

I could keep going. Believe me when I say there was a lot of information shared. I loved it all. And then the even better part? After I untacked and got ready to go MD, my old friend and the assistant trainer all came over and we ended up talking and laughing until almost 10 pm. It is the closest I’ve ever come to finding that elusive barn family I’ve been looking for for years. 

Who knows what the future brings with lessons and once Eeyore comes back under saddle but for right now I really feel like I’m exactly where I need to be. I’m going to learn more than I thought I could learn and have a great group around me. My old friend is even going to start lessoning with me. I’m still smiling two days later as I write this. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Tale of Two Lessons, Part 2

Sorry for breaking this into two parts, but I have A LOT to say here and the last post got long enough. After the bucking spree of my second lesson on the mare I was torn. Part of me wanted to run scared and the other part wanted redemption. Mostly, I wanted to ride my own horse. Sigh.

The hubby told me to go ride for Mother's Day since we weren't doing anything else. Trainer invited me to join a group lesson Sunday afternoon and I figured why not?

My text exchange with Trainer Saturday afternoon

Honestly, I was hoping to see her pull a different horse out of the pasture but there really isn't a different horse available. She has three but one is very strong and tends to run off on even the best riders and the other is currently being leased, so the Appy mare it was. 

I could feel my old familiar friend, fear, welling up inside me as she handed her off to me. I gave myself a pep talk and mounted while chatting with my two riding mates for the lesson. I knew the one from a xc outing last summer and really enjoyed riding with her before. The other lady turned out to be awesome as well. 

Trainer had mowed an oval trail up in a far field with distance markers and her plan was to work on pacing. My stomach immediately knotted up and I wished fervently that I was on Eeyore instead. He would have been brave and a lot of fun to do that with. I'm not brave and I'm not inherently trusting, so the idea of galloping this mare I knew bucks and rears around an outdoor oval had me sweating. We trotted around it and all three spooked hard at some pheasants hidden behind a fence on the back side. While I never wish fear on anyone, I was really really relieved when the other two voiced concerns about riding their lesson horses (one was on the runaway and the other leases the third horse who is a saintly mustang) along this path at a gallop as well. The plan was scratched and instead we worked on a circle at the w/t/c before heading to some log jumps in the center of the field. 

Again, no media, but here is my happiest kiddo catching a large blue gill from our pond Sunday

The logs were tiny. I knew they were tiny. The height was no concern, but I could not jump them for the life of me. I was petrified of this mare under me and her bucking spree of the week before. We did a single log going down hill fine then turned and did a log two strides log combo going up hill and I could not relax. I had a death grip throughout my entire body which resulted in the horse not being able to move forward. Trainer came the closest she ever has to yelling at me about it and I felt like crap as I debated calling it quits right then and there and walking back to the barn. After another pass through  I finally started to relax on her a little which was the exact moment she threw in a small little happy dance buck. 

We finished the field work by stringing the three logs together going downhill starting with the two stride combo then getting seven strides to the out over the last log. The first time through she threw in a buck between # 2 and #3 and I just about called it quits for like the third time in half an hour. Trainer lectured me on not locking up out of fear and I took a deep breath and did the line again, this time doing it fine and being able to quit the exercise there. 

We then traveled back down to the arena to do a small course and all I could think was "please don't buck, please don't buck" I wasn't enjoying this and I felt like I was ruining it for the other two as well. 

The course was shorter with only 4 jumps.

I went last after watching the other two have near flawless runs. Being a bit nicer to myself here, the other two are light years ahead of me in terms of experience and level of riding so they really should have ridden it better, but sitting there wanting to throw up and wishing I could just not, well it didn't really matter to me. Fence 1 was two metal barrels side by side, then a sharp left turn to circle back around to a gate at 2, seven strides to a vertical at 3, then a right circle around 4 to go over it so it was a sideways "S".

I was so darn concerned about those barrels, having never gone over them before, that when we made it over no issue I completely forgot the sharp turn to 2. I felt like a fool and restarted again. We made it over every fence with the correct striding and leads, but Trainer was unhappy with how tight I was and picked apart my seat, my hands, my legs, everything it felt like. I felt like the dunce of the class. 

We all ran through it again and this time I stayed up in 2 point instead of sitting because she hated how I sat and it went a lot better. But it never felt good. It felt stiff and the mare was behind my leg the entire time.

The boys are trying hard to get the cat fish out of the pond. Dusty set juglines but all he caught was this very angry snapping turtle

After that we were all done and sent off to do a short hack through the woods. As we left the arena the one lady turned to me and said "I didn't want to say anything before, but I got bucked off that mare hard last week while jumping. You did a good job with her"

And maybe I should have felt proud of myself or elated but instead all I wanted was to get back to the barn so I could get off her and put her safely back in her pasture. I drove back home in near tears over the last few lessons and how awful I kept feeling. 

It was time for some deep introspection and a plan moving forward because my motto with horses is that is has to be fun. Hard work, frustrating, humbling..sure. But at its core it has to be fun and I wasn't having fun anymore. 

For starters, I won't be getting back on that mare. I can feel my confidence shot and it took me way too long to get to where I’m at to let this horse ruin it all. I brought Eeyore home 2 years ago today and I refuse to return to the rider I was back then. 

With no other rideable options for me at Trainer’s facility, I’ve made a list of places more local to me (she is an hour away) to try out over the summer. One I am really excited about and is super close plus with the package rates I could afford to lesson weekly versus once or twice a month. We will see how it goes and if barns open or not.