Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Living with a Half Halt (warning...a serious post follows)

I'll be honest, I was grateful to see 2012 come to a close.  What a crazy year it was for me.  I was given my dream, my gorgeous mare. Spent months rehabbing her back into a healthy, fit, show horse.  Moved to a barn that will help us achieve our very lofty goals and FINALLY started dressage training.  I have everything a girl could possibly want.

Except that last year, my years of aches and pains, constant icing of joints, downing advil, and making excuses for why I couldn't do something, was diagnosed.   I now know that I live with Psoriatic Arthritis.  It first attacked my lower spine, then my ankles, then hands, then fingers.  No wonder sitting the trot and trying to get a horse that's heavy in the bridle off of my hand was so much more difficult that it should have been!

Tightening the girth, buckling the bridle, even picking hooves was and is a struggle.  Holding just a single set of reins, not to mention two sets is a challenge.  Once I can close my fingers down around them, I have the strength to hold them, but opening them back up, even to just shorten them takes an incredible amount of concentration.  Reminding myself to relax my lower back sometimes just doesn't work.  On bad days, the muscles just don't release, at all.  Those are the days that I am most embarrassed of my disease. You can hide the fact that your hands hurt by pushing through it, sucking it up and concentrating and making jokes about it while tacking up .  You can't hide a locked spine when you ride. You just look like the mess you already feel like inside.

All of this carries over to daily life activities.  Washing my hair, brushing my teeth, putting on makeup, opening bottles, putting gas in my car, grating cheese, even typing on my keyboard.  All normal activities I took for granted only 5 years ago.

I won't even go into the crazy side effects of the drugs I must take...but some days it seems the pharmaceutical companies have a sick sense of humor.  Nausea helps create some pretty silly 20 metre circles!

So, for 2013 I have decided to stop hiding my disease.  I will let my friends, family and yes, even my trainer, know that I am hurting and some days need some extra help.  I'll enter the ring with my head held high, and will do my best to halt and salute at X, even if it takes me a few more seconds than it should to lift my head back up and readdress my reins.   I have decided that from now on, this disease is just a half halt.  It's my little reminder throughout the day to slow down, make a slight transition, and listen to what my body is telling me. With a little help, I can still reach my goals.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm?

I've now owned K for eight months.  We've been at our new barn for three.  For three months I've seen my horse transform into exactly what I've been hoping for.  She's now in a snaffle, collecting, listening to me, and focused.  She's fit, has some nice muscle tone, and is happy.  This is what we were hoping for when we decided to move to a show barn.  I no longer worry about my horse when I'm not there, I can see the care and the experience that is given to my mare.

Knock on wood, but we've now gone three months without injury.  I haven't even given a thought to my vet.  My goals for us have grown...I plan to get us to Regionals this coming show season, and if the Horse Gods will allow, maybe even Nationals?  But I still have trailering in the back of my mind.  If a four hour ride to Regionals is going to be too much for her, then Nationals in Oklahoma will always be out of the question. 

Our first show is two months away, and I am starting to feel like we will be ready.  Only the show grounds are the same as the last time we pulled to a show, closer this time as our new barn is closer, but I still have this fear that she hasn't overcome the trailer issues.  I've invested a small fortune in B Kalm past, and still pray to the Horse Gods for guidance.  

Only now, I have a trainer who is involved, knows my horse well, and is ready to help us get to where we want to go.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Beginnings

We moved, and without an injury at that.  We started the morning with a little B Kalm paste.  Let it be known that Bubblegum flavoring and coloring probably not the best idea for a horse paste, but we did manage to get a lot of it in.  It was just enough to take the anxiety away for the trailer ride.

After packing up my tack store amount of horse items, we loaded K in the trailer, turned on the trailer cam, and pulled away from the barn.  No screaming or kicking.  With my little trailer TV, I was able to stalk K and see that she was calmly watching out the window.

After the 30 minute ride, we safely arrived at our new home.  We were greeted by a multitude of whinnies, which K had to return.  We pulled her from the trailer, looked her over and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  She hadn't even broken a sweat. 

As we walked into the barn, every Morgan head in the barn was peeking out of the stalls to see who the newcomer was.  K was also very curious, turning to look at everyone as we walked by. She settled into her stall quietly, and immediately started to eat.  Her stall is open and airy, with 30 foot ceilings and a skylight, along with a view of the indoor arena.  This is the horse version of the penthouse.  Her next door neighbor happens to be the same neighbor she had at the barn we trialed her at...she already has a barn buddy.

I unloaded my tack, set up house, and headed home.  K watched me walk away, not in a "take me home" kind of way, more like "See ya Monday, Mom!" 

We're going to really enjoy our new home.  :)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Can't Leave You, With a Bad Goodbye...

Yes, I'm channeling a little Clint Black.  We move barns in 5 days.  And though I've made light of it in my last post, it was a hard decision to make.  Saying goodbye to our trainer, who has helped me through my first few months of horse ownership and taught me to ride again after so many years away, is really tough.  I've made some really good friends who have helped me through a lot since K came into my life.

The decision came after our last show, when I realized how badly I needed my trainer.  And although I got through the trailering ordeal with my friends and hubby, going to our first show that we trained so hard for on our own was disappointing.  I wanted that coaching from the rail, needed the help with the horse, and am still left wishing our trainer had been there to see us win.  I also realized that although Hunter Pleasure is fun, and we do well in it, it's not my passion.  I'm still yearning for that dressage ring.

I started out my horse search looking for the perfect dressage horse.  And then bought her.  And now that she's starting to work better in her snaffle, I'm ready to start training.  Hard.  And our barn isn't a dressage barn, nor is it a Morgan barn.  So when one has the goals of testing in Training Level at a Morgan Show, one must find a barn that can get them there.

No matter how exciting it is to move to the show barn, leaving good friends behind is always hard.  Especially when they threaten to take the wheels off your trailer in order to get you to stay.  :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Colic happens...

  Three days before our big show.   K has been slightly off on her front left ever since the trailer ride and I'm starting to get worried.  I decide on three days of rest instead of work to be sure she is ok to go.  And then the unexpected...colic. Finding your beloved horse thrashing around in her stall, unable to get up is one of the scariest horse moments an owner can have.  I call the vet immediately, trainer gives Bannamine, and I hand walk for two hours while the vet tries to get to us.  She's tubed, examined and impactions pulled out.  And we get the news: No trailering or showing this week.  I literally felt the wind pulled from my sails. 
  She recovered pretty well, was on a limited diet for four days, but also went into heat.  So last week I had a lame, colicky horse in heat.  Not our finest hours.  And she's still off, and can't be ridden.  What's a girl to do with no rideable horse, no show season and no tears left to cry?  Find a new barn and show tack for next season of course!

We move to our new show barn on the 15th.  Next show season is going to be amazing.  :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

When you're up you're up, and when you're down you hug your horse

We started at the barn at 5 am, got K and the two other horses loaded and on our way. Hubby drove. I could hear some kicking back there, but checked once at a stop light and all looked fine. Got to the show, pulled out the other two horses, and got to K. She was drenched, I mean absolutely drippin in sweat. Her show sheet was drenched, and ripped. Pull her out quickly and into the stall at the show, and start drying her off and getting her to drink. She recut above her eye, same place as last time, and has two big scrapes at her point of hip. Her hip is bleeding and swollen. I have a break down and just start bawling. This is what I had been so scared of and it had happened again. Hubby snaps me out of it, and I start working on the wounds. I had packed all her boo boo meds from the last time, just in case, so cleaned it up, put the antibiotics on, and then the corona paste. I scratched my first class, Halter Hunter Type. I let her rest for an hour, and she seems calm and happy, eating and drinking, I call both my trainer (he's home sick) and my vet. Both say she is ok to show. Bleeding stops, scrapes are superficial, swelling goes down.

I tack up, go into our first class. She just knows what to do and where she is. She's in full show horse mode, and takes first. Then takes first in our second class. I was elated, so proud of her. I then head over to the trails class, which was very intimidating. She completes the whole thing, including one of those swim noodle car wash set ups, a jump, a waterfall,a gate, and a buried tarp among other things. We take third in trails which was so exciting, since we'd never done anything like that at home.

It's about 90 degrees when our first of two canter classes start. Our first class is equitation...I enter the ring wanting to find a competitor to vomit on (a little tip given to me by an online friend). Target is identified, I smile and end up taking third place, couldn't believe it. Our second canter class goes very, very well. We have collection, we have great cadence, I'm confident. We're on the correct lead...and then the horse in front of me rears up, high. I use my inside leg to move K close to the rail as I see the horse is rearing towards the inside. K thinks I'm asking for a flying lead change, which she does beautifully, unfortunately, and then I can't get her to change back. Have to bring her back to the trot and back up into the canter on the correct lead. Judge sees the whole thing. We still placed though with a 5th. So after 5 classes, I take her and hose her off, feed and water her. A lady gives me some Ace pills for our trip home for her. She takes them and looks a little drowsy. I'm hopeful the ride home is going to be calm.

Another rider from my barn hears my name called over the sound system, I won high point that day for our division. Can't even believe it, it was so amazing to win on our first show together, the rosette is my most prized possession at the moment.

So, we load up. K is fine, we pull away from the show grounds and I hear something going on in the trailer. The truck is moving I jump out and climb up on the trailer to see whats going on, and there is K, all four hooves up against the front of the trailer, back against the padded butt bar, and she's pushing her face against the window to get out. She's stuck. I went into complete panic mode screaming for my hubby to get out and help me. I open the trailer, we pull the other horse out (who's an angel through all this) and get to K. At this point the show execs have heard us, and run out to help. I get the bumper open, finally and K falls to the ground, and is struggling to get up. She finally gets up, the show exec slams the bar up on her, loads the other horse and yells to get her home asap. I'm hysterical. She hugs me, tells me its all ok, get her home fast. Its a 45 minute drive, and I can hear her doing it again back there. I pray the whole way home, completely stressed, that she comes out of this without a broken leg. We pull into the barn, finally, pull out the first horse, get to K, who is once again drenched in sweat, shipping boots shredded, and pull her out and hose her down. I look her all over. No new cuts but the cuts from the morning are now bleeding again. I find that her rear shoe is dangling off. Find the shoe puller and get it off, her hoof wall is cracked, and chipping. I was an emotional mess. I am so thankful for my barn friends, who helped me get her hoof taped, wounds bandaged, trailer cleaned and put away, and all my tack away while I stay with K to calm her down. I finally get her into her stall and she eats and drinks, and I can leave.

Hubby took me to dinner, sweat, blood and tear soaked, and got me a huge glass of wine to calm me down. At that point I finally can think logically, and realize it all could have been so much worse, and our farrier can fix the foot, the wounds will heal before the breed show and I can celebrate our performance during the day.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Six Days and a Wake Up

 Show day is only seven days away.  I'm not nervous at all, which is a miracle in itself.  Only five months ago I was showing on the back of a Thoroughbred that did acrobatics in the show ring that the Spanish riding school would be proud a walk/ trot class.  And though I loved and still do love Grace, my new mare is simply amazing. 
 We've worked through bit issues, collection issues, flexing issues.  Six more days of training, and we'll be loading into the trailer and going to our first show together.  This is where my nerves lay.  The only time I trailered my girl, she had an accident in the back of the trailer, which resulted in a month of nursing a hurt fetlock, a swollen eyelid, and am expensive vet visit.  This time, she will be wrapped, traveling with barn buddies and kept busy with hay even on this short trip.  And along with a week of prayers to the horse gods, and fingers crossed, we will make it to the show grounds unscathed.
 With new show shoes, a new show saddle, and many, many hours working together, we're ready to take home some ribbons, if only to prove to hubby that my new horse is indeed a winner.