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April 24, 2016

We're Still Here, Still Crazy

My intentions to update you remain overwhelmed by assignments, but I couldn't leave a gaping hole for guesses, so I shall at least attempt The Bullet Approach:

  • To each person who has shared & those who continue to share support, kindness, laughter, & even just saying hi – THANK YOU, YOU ARE AWESOME. 
  •  
  • I apologize for any impressions that I may be sitting in a hole of self-pity, (ok, I'm human, I totally own that there was some egregious despair) however life stepped in & ripped the cover off the hole in short order. 
    • Field research season opened for roaring business at work, leaving little time for whimpering. 
    • See splashy horse (unless on a mobile)
    • It's also nearly the first weekend in May, which means – click the countdown to Heart of the Carolinas 3DE in the left sidebar to visit event central...GO LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY THINGS, THEY TAKE A LONG TIME TO MAKE! ;P  There's more on the way, thanks to great sponsors & my fantastic Sponsorship Assistant:  Erica, you rock
     
  • Encore & I are picking away at this whole rehab thing.   I'm not sure where we are right now, but today was sunny, 70F, with a light breeze, & we walked through a green forest of birdsong: vireos, warblers, wrens, thrashers, gnatcatchers, woodpeckers, even the wild turkeys.

    Each note landed gently on my heart, seeming to say that the Moment is here, the Moment is now, & this Moment has much good.  That is a melody I embrace.  There has been more than enough darkness, today I unquestioningly cherish the sun.
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  • Back on a lighter note: HOTC 2016!  There will be some seriously amazing new elements this year.  You will still be able to follow the live media feeds on Twits & InstaThingies (you know you have it in your diary: “Be entertained by eventer79's ridiculous sleep-deprived commentary.”) & I'll share more very soon. 
    • Hints: listen in when Sally O'Connor joins us – yes, THAT Sally – and meet both new & familiar equine crafts(wo)men. 
    • On top of the Mother's Day craft contest (eventers + beer + glitter markers = no-lose possibility), annual Southern Eighths KY Derby party, the return of our flying volunteer veterans, & did I mention a collection of mind-blowing prizes??? 
    NOMS??!?
  • Solo sends his shiniest magic to all of you, although he is still working on transferring an unfathomable amount of dull winter fur into every single one of my pores.  Note to self: do not open mouth while brushing horse on windy spring days.  Or eyes. 
So for now -

When your eyes are tired 
the world is tired also... 
The dark will be your home tonight. 

The night will give you a horizon 
further than you can see. 

Iris woke up today!
You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in... 

Sometimes it takes darkness & the sweet 
confinement of your aloneness 
to learn 

anything or anyone 
that does not bring you alive 

is too small for you.

 -excerpt from Sweet Darkness, poem by David Whyte, thanks for the discovery to Calm Things
 

April 3, 2016

Remember To Not Forget To Not Ride


I watched my horse's eye soften as I worked my hands over Encore's neck, back, & hindquarters, seeking out knots & tension to ease away.  Each time my thumbs dug into a hard burl of muscle, Encore's lower lip quivered & his head dropped lower...and lower...and lower.  He licked his lips & sighed in thanks.

As our horses keep us running in circles (some of them voluntary...), the line between remembering & forgetting & which side we're on (is it the one we're supposed to be on??) can get blurry.  Going through our bodywork ritual, I'm reminded once more of the importance of being NEXT to your horse.

If it sounds familiar, it's because I've combined & updated several (very!) old posts with added comments here to knock the dust off these critical routines.  These tiny tasks, many that take only seconds, are what collectively add up to a well-managed horse.  This is what makes a horse(wo)man, not just a rider.

Take The Time

Take the time to palpate your horse's large muscle groups before & after a ride to look for tender spots.

...to look in his eyes:  are they bright, alert, free of cloudy areas or spots?

...to run your hands down each leg so you know if that knot is new or old.

...to lay a palm on each hoof as you pick them to check the temperature & wiggle each shoe to check for tightness when you lift his feet.

...to really notice the colour, shape & texture of his frog & sole so you know if they change.

...to run your fingers up the back of his pasterns to check for fungus like scratches.

...to take him out on a hack to condition him on hills & uneven ground at the walk & trot. Don't get trapped in the sandbox.

...to watch him walk away from you as you turn him back out to watch for any stiffness or unevenness.

...to give him a day or two off for a grooming spa or some quiet handgrazing so his body & mind can rest each week.  Let him just be a horse.

...to glance into his feed bucket -- is he cleaning it up? 

...to watch him eat. Is he chewing easily & evenly or does he just mash it & let it fall out of his mouth?

...to inspect his manure & watch him pee. Is everything normally coloured?  Is the flow & consistency of all his waste the same every day?

Fight the urge to rush, get to know your horse's body & habits so that when something does change (oh yes, we know it will), you will be the first to know.  Early detection is key to maximizing his chances at recovery, comfort & longevity.  Tendon, muscle, & joint also each need time to rest & recover from micro-injury & stress that comes with work (or equine existence :/).  It is our responsibility to respect that need & to ensure that we are not asking our horses to work in pain or discomfort.   

Encore & I finished with some carrot stretches to each side -- I make him stretch his nose at least to his flank (no cheating & moving his feet!) in each direction.  Upon recheck, his back muscles are softer, his withers are less sore & the knots along his haunches are smaller.

It's a continuous process, but one I must not to forget in the bustle of every day.  Happier body = happier horse.  Happier horse = happier me.  It's that simple.

I eternally love Grumpy Cat...

March 22, 2016

And Just Like That, It's Over

But it was spectacular...
Dr. Bob just left with my last piece of hope.  Encore has torn a cruciate ligament in his left stifle, which means jumping is just not going to work.  I was told there was nothing I could have done to prevent it, I'll have to work on convincing my brain of that.

I'll write more later when I can see, but we won't see a horse trial again.  We did blister that stifle, as it will still tighten the laxity in the joint.  Dr. Bob says we can still hit the trails, still climb mountains, which is Encore's favourite thing anyway.

I'm pretty tired of writing "still."  Rehabbing that stifle will begin in a day or two with W/T work & I can add canter when he feels ready.  Which I'm posting as a reminder to myself that (hopefully, can you cut me ONE dang break, universe??) all isn't lost, because most of my favourite riding experience & memories are our many expeditions.  And I suppose it saves me a lot of money in entries.

But my Training Level horse, who was all ready to take me to my 3-Day...nope.  Horses...why?

   

March 20, 2016

Stupid Stifles Suck

I appear to have an 's' theme lately.   I'm not fond of this addition.

Encore continues to enable my phenomenal overthinking powers.  It's probably easier to just turn the volume up for you (warning: brain insides not necessarily or consistently rational), internal dialogue follows -

Ok, I'm finally able to begin putting us back together.  Topline & butt need remuscle-ing.  Task doable!

Learn your stifles (pic digilibraries.com)
DEC:  Hmmm, he still feels a bit loose behind.  And is sore in left stifle after a brief but focused long line session.   I don't feel evidence of any tears, consult Dr. Bob (wow, thanks Android, for automatically filling in his name in draft, way to rub it in).

No edema or other damage found; cortisone for both stifles & a steroid to help boost us up out of the unfit-loose-sore-more-rest-unfit maddening cycle (want to avoid blister if possible).  Commence Plan Hill-acious.


JAN:  Hey, muscle definition!  We can hop some things calmly!  I'm still getting some slip behind, we just work through it, right?  Bute & baby steps?  Annual back injections (see TFS Injection 101 here), check, they take 3 weeks to settle, patience, right?

Right?!

FEB:  Mmmnggghm, this is still NQR.  I KNOW him, the vibe is off & he's crabby.

Test on hills.  Not terrible.  Test in arena.  Maybe he's better.  Test on longer trail hills.  Dammit.  Not better.

Pampering is so exhausting...
MAR:  Inspect saddle.  Some small lumps, time to fluff, ok, try other saddle, will have fitter out to adjust.  Better.  Wait, what was that?

Put hands on horse.  Oh, maybe the 20 knots along left side of withers, back & butt explain something. *facepalm*  BUT.  Task doable.  Commence Plan Bodywork. 

Test bareback to remove confounding saddle variable.  Better!  And lots of nice new pops in carrot stretches as things relax.  AND I can work deep into hips & stifle tissues without pain response like he had when he DID tear something.  Yay!

Wait, maybe - nope, not better.  But muscles feel smoother, continue bodywork.  What if I - no, waffle time is over.  Let's get to the bottom of this. 

Yeah, that's the condensed version. :/   But we reconvene with Dr. Bob Tuesday.   There will be heinously thorough inspection, but research & consultation indicate: act now, get the rehab done, so maybe, hopefully, please pretty please, we can bloody well MOVE ON.

 At least that's the Plan.

March 5, 2016

How To Get To Good: Be A Better Lab Rat


Encore & I always look like this. Ha.
You get on your horse, warm up & organize your various pieces & parts, & then you begin work.  Ask him to move forward, connect back to front, create suppleness & adjustability, aiming for the best you can create at both of your levels of ability.  Obvious, right?

We often even think of that process as "easy" in that we can say, "Sit up straight, apply leg, maintain steady, elastic rein connection, do that breathing thing."  And if we do all those things properly, our partner will reward us with a round, rhythmic canter, stepping up through his withers & pushing energy out through the bridle.

Stop me now if that works out for you every time.  Anyone?  Buhler?  Yeah, the devil's in the details.

Solo: Master of Subtle Opinions...
On Monday, your horse decides "leg" means "let me show you my best llama impression!"  Wednesday, his response is, "Eh?  Did you say something?"  Thursday, your left elbow is convinced "steady connection" is best achieved by "death grip against my horse's locked jaw."  You're sorted on Saturday, wow, that canter felt great -- so when you have a chance to get on a different horse, you apply the same process...only to enjoy the Trot At Terminal Velocity with as much bend as a 2 x 4.

Fortunately, we have helmets to deal with the subsequent *headdesk* repetitions!  But what gives?

I posted a teaser quote from a current reading project, so now I'm following up on my promise for more.  Mary captures the individual approach horses require from us, even from one ride to the next, with a great analogy:

"Imagine that each horse, in his evasive movement, resembles one entrance to a maze, which has at its center the good movement we are seeking. With every horse we go on a unique journey & initially, in particular, the feelings he gives us & the difficulties he poses may be strikingly different. The knowledge we glean from one journey may only serve to confuse us on the next – at times we may even have to do the exact opposite of something we previously experienced as being a surefire way of getting us to the center."

Y U play hard to get, cheez??
My suspicions are supported:  our horses really do use us as experimental laboratory mice!  I knew I could hear snickering as I blundered about in search of that cheese with perfect bascule...

What I like best about her imagery though, is that it shines the focus on each ride, each journey, as a puzzle (there could be a puzzle-lover bias here, heh) instead of an assumption.  To solve a puzzle, we have to think about the process, breaking it down into progressive steps towards our goal of a nice transition or a balanced circle.

Mentally, this automatically puts me in the moment, listening to my body & feedback from my horse, then trying something different if we aren't at "good" yet.  At the same time, it subconsciously gives me the critically important freedom to do "the exact opposite of something" that I tried before, creating the opportunity to discover, hey, if I let go, my horse really doesn't run away.

BAM.  (extra hunter Solo for Lauren, hee)
Which I have far better luck with than my approach from past years, of "I did all the things, this is still sucking!"  Trapping us in a dead-end, repeatedly walking into the same wall, blindly hoping it will just fall down & present a full cheese platter.

Now I have a cheese craving, dangit.