Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bumbling along ...

I've been trying to write a business plan for what I want to do with my equine massage career, now that there is some hope I may actually be certified someday (I've been going around with the Dept. of Health for some reason trying to get certification.  I finally called them on Monday and found out that my application had been sent to the wrong department and had been sitting dormant for two months and nobody had planned to do anything with it because it wasn't for their department so they just shoved it away.  Even though I sent it to the right address.  Luckily, I found someone who said she would make sure she found the correct department - although she didn't know where that was even though I told her and I told her about the info. on the Dept. of Health's website page where I downloaded the application - still it was very hard for her to find anyone who knew what I was talking about in the actual Dept. of Health.  Even though it is listed right there on their website that this department does exist - apparently know one there can actually find it.  Anyway, I'm supposed to call her back next week and see if they managed to find out where my application goes so it can be processed and maybe I'll get certified ... sigh ...)

Anyway, there is hope that one day I will get my certification and will be a professional equine massage practitioner and I have a whole business plan worked out in my head and I am in the process of putting it down on paper.  It involves rehab. boarding where people board their horses with me temporarily while they're on stall rest and needing rehab. care.  I'll work directly with their vet and farrier to make sure I follow all rehab. instructions (hand walking, bandaging, administering meds, etc) along with therapeutic massage.  It's something that is apparently really needed for those folks who have horses, love them dearly, but have to work 40 hours a week to be able to afford them and just can't be out at their barn they board at two or three times a day to soak hay, or give meds or hand walk twice a day.  There are some wonderful places that do stuff like that (I'm modeling my idea on a mini Pegasus Horse Farm.) But they are extremely expensive and I will be more affordable - that said I will also not offer the premier rehab services or training that they do either so if people need that they go to them - I'm not directly any sort of competition for them.  I'm more for the layman horse owner whose hobby-show horse has gone lame.  Not the Emerald Down race track owners or professional Grand Prix riders.  Maybe some day I could grow and add water therapy and professional trainers to staff but for now it'll be a much smaller, humbler business.

I would also like to offer Horsemanship for College Students classes because I think there is a big need for that.  It would be a class/clinic on basic horse handling and ground safety for people planning to go to vet school, equine massage school, or farrier school who have no horse handling experience.  I am not surprised that the smaller schools like farrier and massage schools don't have horse handling classes because their focus and mission is very clear-cut and those schools are much smaller operations than state universities.  But I also found out that they don't teach that in pre-vet or vet schools either.  My vet said at her school they expect you to come in with a prerequesite of knowing how to handle horses and she said that there were one or two in her class that struggled because they had no horse handling experience at all.   So, I would like to offer that class too.  I know some awesome horse folks I could hopefully get on board to help me teach a class like that and I already have a sample curriculum.

So, now the question is where will I have this facility?  That is the big question.  My husband is currently not on board with moving our family to horse property any time soon and works in such a stressful field that he doesn't want to project any time in the future when he will be on board.  So, I'm looking at the feasibility of renting/leasing space to do this.  I did want to do all this on "the magical island" but I'm not sure if I'm leasing space I could pull that off without actually living there which is not currently an option (moving being not something my husband is on board with even if it was to a rental).  So,  I'm trying to do that "open mind" thing and just keep my eyes open until I find a way to manage to follow this dream.  I've had a couple ideas that don't sound practical at all, but that just makes me think they aren't quite the right idea yet and I just haven't found the right idea.  I'm one of those people that no matter what happens clings to the belief that when I find the right direction I'm meant to go, the barriers will fall away.  Even if it is scary and uncomfortable at first.  That's how it was when I quit office work and decided to work completely with horses.  I kept my eyes open for any possibility and refused to limit my thinking and it all started the fall together. 

I was reading an article recently in Scientific American about the Einstellung Effect and I'm trying to be very cognizant of not falling into that myself and just looking at the "easy answer" (but the one that doesn't work) and not actually seeing the even easier answer (the one that does work).  Much easier said than done!

And for a good morning song - this is one of my daughter's current favorite songs that I hear frequently throughout the day now since I got her the cd.  Yeah ... I had to say something about the stripper scene in the video and my daughter's reply was not to be so serious and make such a big deal out of stuff that is a non-event. Yep.


Friday, April 18, 2014

The Collection Controversy

Doesn't that subject line sound like a sequel to one of the Bourne Identity movies? Ok, maybe not to anyone else, but it does to me. 

I had a little kerfuffle on a social networking site yesterday for asking questions about how to see the difference between proper and improper body mechanics of horses being ridden.  It's something that I am trying to learn as I continue my education as a riding instructor.  And when it comes to Dressage - my discipline of choice - it can be very, very hard to see if you aren't really well educated in horse bio-mechanics.  And although I am getting there, I am not quite there yet.  But then this is why I go to clinics and scribe for judges at schooling shows (and probably drive them nuts asking as many questions as I can get away with).  But I made the mistake of posting a photo and asking questions about it, assuming since you couldn't see the rider it would be fine.  But someone popped up out of the woodwork and started posting about how this was some bigwig trainer and she could prove it and posted a bunch of links and photos of him and the facility the photo was taken out and I quickly deleted the whole thread.  So, that was a fiasco that totally stressed me out.

Because as an instructor it's ok to be "controversial" in regards to saying "In my opinion you're riding that horse in such a way that it's hurting it".   I've heard plenty of instructors and judges say behind closed doors they don't like how someone else may do things, and some folks (like Gerd Heuschmann) make a living out of loudly declaring that such-and-such is hurting the horse.  Now granted I appreciate Gerd for that and how passionate he is about it, but I would not want to be him.  And more than that, I don't just have an instructor hat anymore, I have a bodyworker hat.  And there is the big issue.  I can not be controversial as a bodyworker.  I can't expect to have a successful business and bring my talent (which I believe I have - I just need much more experience and education to really be good at it) to help horses be more sound and better performance horses, or help them rehab from injuries, if I'm "that instructor with all those strong ideas".

So, where is the balance?  I want to be able to have discussions with folks on training issues, but I can't do it in public forums because if I say "Oh yeah, I've learned that x-y-z training hurts the horse ..." suddenly I'm now not wanted at any facility where they do that, or where they are thinking they might be perceived as doing that.  For instance, if I were to say "I don't like Rolkur - I wish people wouldn't do it",  I also runs the risk of anyone who say uses side-reins for training thinking I am not a good person to work on their horses because I'm too opinionated and will be rude to them (the irony there being I use side reins for lunging when called for and every trainer I know does - and side reins are not the same as Rolkur but folks may not know that I know that).  It's that fine line.

That said, I found a good article about my question from yesterday  as it pertains to wearing my hat as an instructor.  Now, this may sound silly to any Grand Prix riders or trainers or judges out there, but try to go back to when you knew very little and you may remember what it's like to be trying to learn the intricacies.  But one of the ways I'm learning to train Geir to frame up is by having a firm contact with the reins.  This is not just Trainer KL,  I did the same stuff with Maiden with Trainer K.  Developing contact with reins and using ones body to support movement flowing from back to front is all part of conditioning and training.  But it is confusing where that fine line starts and where it ends.  How do I as a rider feel that?  I would like to continue to learn to ride to higher levels of Dressage and also eventually teach higher levels.  But I need to really understand why I'm doing things and what the intricacies are.  Luckily, Trainer KL is very good (like Trainer K was) at explaining these things so that will be my question today in class. 

But apparently, talking about this stuff in a social network or public forum and asking others opinions is going to get me in trouble because it will alienate folks who do it differently when it comes to being a equine massage practitioner.

I didn't really take into account this issue when I thought of pursuing these two career paths simultaneously.   I don't do well with navigating these types of waters.  It feels very political and I think it would do me well if I could find some sort of public relations course on how to stand up for what I believe in without ruining myself as a business person.  I used to have a lot of respect for the judges and high up trainers I know just because of their knowledge and expertise, but that respect has now grown even bigger because none of them have totally destroyed their reputation by spouting off about their opinions like I am want to do (Gerd of course being the exeption).

A song to celebrate a sunny Spring day.  I used to listen to this song a lot twenty-one years ago while recovering from a broken neck and ever since then it's been very comforting.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Levels of Reality Beyond Our Immediate Senses

My daughter is really into the shows Cosmos and Into the Wormhole so I've been getting a hefty dose of family-oriented science lately.  I like it because it gets my imagination going and my poor little brain needs things to keep it working or it uses all that energy to worry.  I kind of have a crush on Neal Degrasse Tyson just because I could listen to him talk forever.  It's not like how Buck Brannaman's voice is just so relaxing you could happily sit and listen to him read a grocery list, it's the ideas and the knowledge that come out of the former's mouth.   I guess I should say I have a crush on him despite that he (accidentally) destroyed Pluto's status as a planet.  Right now he's talking about Tardigrades.  They are so cute. I think I'm going to make stuffed, plushy Tardigrades.

One of our ponies at pony school was feeling very cranky so we started working with him more outside of classes.  He's pretty small and not as old as some of our small ponies so all his "work" was mostly leadline rides with our young beginners as they are building balance and body memory. But he was definitely unhappy.  Then we all started taking turns working with him, lunging him and giving him some challenges.  I don't know what others have been doing but I found that he was really good at liberty ground work so after I work him lunging at walk, trot and canter, I do some liberty work with him.  Suddenly, he became the perfect pony for me!  He watches me out of the corner of his eye the whole time we're working together and is always waiting for my instruction and then happily and willingly does what I ask.  He seems very quick at figuring out what I'm asking and is excited when he gets it right.  And I'm seeing that he was just waiting for something to keep his smart little brain occupied.  He's currently my favorite of the ponies (yes, that changes every few weeks so everyone gets their chance apparently).  I'm a lot like him I think.

Speaking of ponies who need work, Geir is getting fat.  So, I need to make time to work him at least four times a week beyond just the lessons he's used for.  The head of the school asked if I wanted her to put him more classes, but because of his amazingly sweet temperament he's best used for beginner kids who are either disabled, very afraid, or have balance issues, because he's so strong and sturdy. So, his lessons are basically standing still dozing, walking slowly and trotting around the arena maybe once.  So, I need to make sure I have time to keep working with him to get him in shape myself.  I do think he's doing better.  Trainer KL has been a huge help in teaching me how to get him into shape.

I want to get to that point someday where I can actually train my own  horses but I'm still feeling so ignorant regarding proper horse body mechanics.  I'm doing pretty well with human body mechanics for riding but I feel like horse body mechanics - using one's body properly - is still such an unreachable enigma.  There are so many contradicting modes of thought on how a horse properly uses their body and what that looks like.   I don't have the wherewithal to be a controversial person like Gerd Heuschmann who claims to know all the answers about training.  But I do want to know for sure I am teaching my students correctly.

I don't know if I'm ever going to get my endorsement from the State to be an equine massage practitioner.  Ok, obviously I will someday but I sent in my application two months ago and I haven't heard if they've ever even received it.  So, I'm just giving up for the time being on making a business doing equine massage.  I will obviously do it for a job at some point and I'm really enjoying using what I've learned on my horse and the ponies at pony school.  But right now my only job is riding instructor so I'm trying to focus more on studying that.

I also want to get back to working on my writing.  I need to finish up my novel based on Toadie because I had an idea for a new novel that takes place on an island based on Poveglia, after reading an article this morning that it is for sale.

Friday, April 11, 2014

This is what middle age and chronic illness looks like ... apparently.

Last weekend I was taking my Manual Ligament Therapy course and the school had written on a white board some of their upcoming classes and one of them just said "Trick Riding" for this weekend.  I asked what it was and they said stuff like standing up on a horse while it trots, etc.  I figured there was no way I could do it but I asked some more questions and one of the teachers (who'd taken the class last year) said not to worry, they wouldn't have us standing on the horse in the first class or even going up on our knees or anything.  It will just be fun stuff and learning how to fall and doing emergency dismounts.  So, I signed myself and my daughter up.

But I forgot that at this time last year my daughter had such a bad phobia of horses (after my fall in Jan. '13) that she wouldn't even get out of the car to be in the same barn with ponies who were quiet and tied up.  So, not surprisingly she got very anxious and said she didn't want to take her class.  So, I gave it away to my husband's BFF who has been making and effort to "try lots of new things".  But just in case I packed her helmet and told her if it looked like fun and she changed her mind she could have my lesson time.  Unfortunately, for me it only took ten minutes and she started edging toward the ring with a strained look and Gino, the instructor asked, "Do you want to ride now?" and she said, "Yes! Please!" and I had to hold to it and hop off the horse and give her a chance.

To be honest I wasn't sure if I could do it.  When I got there, Gino (the instructor) said I was going to be going up on my knees on the horse and I said I wasn't sure I could do that cause I'm old and breakable and he blew that statement off and said, "Sure you can."  He showed me how to sit on the horse and hold onto the handles on the vaulting harness - and it's quite different from Dressage - you have your legs straight and out to the side and point your toes.  I asked him why and he said it's just a look, just like riders have a heels down look, vaulters and trick riders point their toes.  He said the legs out were a way to learn to balance without holding on with your legs at all so you have to balance right at your core.  But it's also "a look".

I was pretty worried at first because you have to kneel on the horse and support your body with your arms and feet and with all the joint damage in my wrists I was worried about that.  I also worried I wasn't strong enough.  As it is my core is getting nice and strong but I have a lot of strength training to do still for my legs and my upper body as far as "push-ups" and "bench press" muscles go.  I can carry a 125 lb bale of hay but that's more core strength.  So, now I want to work on before the next clinic next year.  But the point is I did it!  And it felt really good!  Nine years ago when I was struggling just to be able to grasp things in my hands or walk up and down stairs because the Rheumatoid Arthritis had hit me so badly, I was concerned I would never be physically strong again.  I also had years of re-occuring nightmares of being crippled.  So, to be able to get out and do this class was awesome!  And I did pretty well for a middle-aged woman and really well for a middle-aged woman who is technically "disabled".   Yay! Life is good.


video

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All about necropsies

There are two dueling parts of me - the super-empathetic, bleeding heart part of me and the super-into science part of me.  Well, usually they aren't dueling, usually those two parts of me get along fine and even the "I love everything magical and spiritual" fits in quite well with hard science like biology and physics because both of those are extremely magical sciences that encourage you to use your imagination and stretch your concept of reality in order to continue to learn.

But they do clash when it comes to dissection.  Or necropsies.  The reason this topic came up is I was at a weekend class and I saw that they had some photos of a horse behind the big horse skeleton they recently put up (about six months ago I think).  It turns out it was one of their horses and I made the mistake of asking, "How did you get the skeleton out?"  (because I've heard from hunters how incredibly hard it is to butcher a deer or elk and how you have to be really strong ... plus, they aren't preserving the skeleton and are just taking off the meat).  The teachers both said they did a necropsy and seemed to think that would satisfy my curiosity (poor teachers!)  but of course it did not.  I had to ask how they got the skeleton out (the answer "very carefully") and what they did with the other organic material (there are a few options but the most practical is to burn ... or "cremate" it if you want to sound more delicate).  And I asked how the bones were cleaned and there are a couple options apparently - something I think they called a beetle pit where other creatures clean the bones or putting them underneath a lot of organic material like manure for several months and let the remaining organic material break down.  Then I can't remember what they said they did after they took them out after several months - I'm pretty sure they said there was another step - then they sand the remaining fatty tissue off ... I can't remember why they said it hardens.  They can't get the marrow out of the bones so on the skeleton there are sticky places around the joints that look like dried honey and that's the marrow slowly seeping out over time.  Oh, and of course since they're using it in a classroom setting they sterilize the bones with a bath of hydrogen peroxide or something like that for students touching them.  I had a ton of other questions but of course that was not what the class was about so I sadly let the subject drop.

Needless to say a couple months ago when I brought the dogs in as practice bodies for the canine massage class, the pitbull walked up to the skeleton and gently opened her mouth next to one of the legs as if to say, "Can I? Really? Can I?"  because to her it was the best treat in the world.

I wasn't sure what a necropsy was so I did a google search on it and found this page.  (warning - there are photos).  I had to say out loud to myself a couple times "Poor little guy is already dead.  He's not there anymore."  I'm getting better with that with animals.  There is no way I could watch a human autopsy though without fainting.  I'm pretty sure I will never be able to do that.  But I'm getting better with veterinary stuff.  I think the turning point was when Girlfriend had a bloody nose in the wash wrack with my vet and me and I was wearing my raincoat and she was wearing waterproof coveralls and we were both totally covered in blood and I had to take the drain cover off the drain because horse blood clots are too big to get through a drain cover.

What I can't deal with still is horses who are terrified or in pain and screaming and panicking.  I mean, I can deal with it but it breaks my heart and makes me feel terrible inside.  On Saturday Maiden left to go live in Montana with a friend of mine who is taking her with her to college this September to use her in some sort of natural horsemanship degree program at U of Montana in Dillon.  I know it's a great opportunity for Maiden and I'm so happy to be able to give my friend her own horse to use in the program (that's a requirement is to be able to bring your own horse) but it was hard to say good-bye to her and harder knowing how bonded she and Girlfriend are.  So, it's good that they left Saturday while I was in class or I would've been a complete emotional wreck and not been able to do anything to help Girlfriend and probably would've made her feel worse by my being so upset.  Yesterday once we were home and I went out to see her she was doing fine but her eyes were so sad!  They were very blank and sad and resigned and there was nothing I could do to make her feel better.   She has the mini and and another horse in the pasture right next door and we were going to put the mini in with her - but she just ignores him anyway and doesn't like him much.  So, that was heartbreaking.  But she'll adjust.  And I've got some ideas of finding a friend for her.  Sigh. 

This is where the bleeding heart part of me comes in and I can't just step back and say "She's a horse. What's the big deal?" because you can look in her eyes and see the depth of emotion she feels.  She may not be able to think about the future and plan like us or concoct schemes or take steps of logical reasoning and figure out logic puzzles, but she has the same depth of emotion and memory as we do and it's hard to see her so sad.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Temporal Conundrums

This morning over breakfast my daughter asked if I'd heard of The Grandfather Paradox (yes, these are normal over breakfast conversations for us ... it's hard for my non-morning brain to keep up with).  I said I hadn't heard that name for it but I probably had heard it before, I just didn't remember the name.  After she explained it I said that yes, I'd heard of it.  And said perhaps he traveled into an alternate universe and was caught between the two realities in a circular - rather Escher loop of realities which would cause what appeared as random changes in each reality but when examined closely would actually be a coherent intermingling of the two realities. Like a Gordian knot.   Then I had that feeling of "Ouch ... brain hurts ... must get my first cup of coffee ..."  Her dad sited an old series of Godzilla movies where there were actually two Godzillas and only one that they thought was the only one was killed and that the grandfather could have a twin that the grandson killed and then never knew about.  I kind of tuned out during that conversation though because I was still waking up.

What's ironic is that earlier in the morning my daughter asked me what I thought her natural talent is.  I said she had a good eye for film making and design, she understands math easily and she understands science easier than many people.  So, I probably set myself up for that pre-coffee conversation.

In other news I am finding that my education on horse massage is actually helping me with human massage.  Specifically the differentiating between Stress Points and Trigger Points.  We had learned about Trigger Points in human massage school but I'd never even heard of Stress Points.  I asked a physical therapist aide friend what the difference was and how to treat them and she said they leave that up to us massage therapists to deal with.  Interesting.  I'm not sure if Stress Points are taught these days in human massage courses and if they were when I went to school a long time ago I don't remember it.  But I'm finding them to be extremely valuable to know how to treat even with humans.

In fact, I have this area on my right leg that has literally been too tight to stretch for about fifteen years.  It has hindered my range of motion enough so that sitting cross-legged is difficult, but it hasn't gotten in the way of much else although I'm sure it affects other part of my body to compensate when I'm riding.  So, this morning I decided to see if I could locate what's going on in there myself.  Fifteen years ago I went to a very good massage therapist to work on it and she did some deep tissue work, but also was not looking for Trigger or Stress Points.  I found a Trigger Point and managed to work that out and found a Stress Point but by then I had to get up and make breakfast and tend to my scientifically inclined daughter. But what was cool was there was a big release of tension from the Trigger Point and an improvement in my range of motion!  It's not all worked out because I still have a Stress Point and I have all the tension from years of compensation going on in the muscles around it and possibly even some chiropractic issues that may need to be addressed, but it was a very cool feeling! And it gave me a little bit of a sense of what the horses must feel when I work out some of the kinks they have. 

It's pretty cool to see the differences I can make in the horse's movement but to actually feel the difference myself was really powerful for boosting my motivation to continue down this path and help a little bit with my confidence (which ebbs and flows with each day).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Comparing apples to chainsaws

This last week seemed to be the week of comparing myself to others in my head even though I intellectually knew the comparisons were like apples to chainsaws.  Not apples to oranges, apples to chainsaws.    For instance, I was feeling very down last weekend because I'm not as pretty and thin as my two co-workers who are 18 and 13 years younger than me.  Even though I know that's silly to compare myself to someone who could be my daughter my emotions were doing it anyway.  Finally got myself out of that mindset.  Then I was being haunted by the fact that all the women my age on television are super skinny compared to me.  Intellectually, I realize that is ridiculous to focus on but emotionally I was having a hard time getting rid of that gnawing angst.  It's like the ghost of shallow, dysfunctional beliefs floating through my emotions.  They've passed for now, but I imagine they will waft through again and I will have to do the same thing and just let them pass by like really heavy fog.   Reminds me of this song by Radio Nationals  (I love that band btw - even though I think they finally broke up for good awhile ago).

It did cheer me up on Tuesday that Geir and I had a great practice training ride together.  He still is struggling to be able trot corners with a proper bend but that is something that will take time to work up his muscles and get in shape.  We were really struggling  with the side pass but he finally did two beautiful steps and it felt for a few seconds like we just glided sideways.  He got a big hug for that! Literally.  He's the only horse I've ever owned where I can lean forward in the saddle and give him a big hug around the neck without him freaking out and trying to buck or scoot out from under me.  I could do that with Maiden but most likely she'd pin her ears and buck.  Geir just stand there and sighs.

Last weekend when it was sunny out I took my daughter for a trail ride out around the farm next to the pony school.  We couldn't go as far as we wanted because Geir started to get nervous being out there without another horse and I was not willing to put my daughter in that challenging of a situation.  I know that Geir is so safe he wouldn't do anything but my mom-instincts just wanted it to be a good day and didn't want him to even scoot with her on him.  It was a truly over-protective moment but oh well.  Nobody seemed to mind.  But she also got a chance to ride him in the arena to get him warmed up and I was so happy with how he did with her.  He is learning to walk a little faster when I ride him (part of getting in shape) but with he he walked soooooo slow.  And he was so relaxed and sweet and gentle with her!  She hasn't been riding him in her lessons because she's enamored with one of our newer ponies, Frosty.   She was the first at the school to ride Frosty when he came to us a few months ago and really wanted to ride him in her lessons.  So, I'm glad she got to reconnect with Geir.  He really is an amazing little horse.  So solid and so sweet.  I really didn't know him when I bought him, I was just going on the school owner's word and the more I get to know him the more I am amazed at what an amazing and wonderfully rare kids' horse he is.  The school does have an unusually high number of incredibly bombproof horses gathered in one place, but Geir is in a class all by himself as far as the perfect first horse for a kid goes. 



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Well, I didn't make anyone cry ...

I happened to be messing around on Facebook and saw a post that Miss T. was down with the stomach flu today.  I texted her and asked who was filling in for her classes today and she said she was going to try and power through and come in because no one was available to sub.  I pointed out that none of the parents (including me) wanted her to bring her germs so stay home and the boss and I would figure something out.  That something was me taking her classes and rescheduling my private lessons.  Which is fine, although I really only teach private lessons and have only taught a handful of classes so it was a little nerve wracking.

It's a very different deal teaching a group riding lesson than a private.   And to add to that we usually have two instructors and three volunteers helping with the class (so one person per kid on a horse except for my daughter who can ride independently in class which is good because we have five staff and six kids on ponies).  Anyway, I'm usually the instructor in there helping Miss T. but with no Miss T. it was just me - and instead of just being there in case anyone needs me, I had to be the lead teacher.  And one of our volunteer teens was sick too.  So, it was a challenge for me.

Private lessons for kids takes a lot of parenting skills but leading group lessons takes a lot of entertainment "being on stage" skills.  Which I do have, but only in small increments.  Miss C.  does that all day long several days a week.  I'm not sure how she gets all that energy to keep that up for so long.   When our boss asked how it went today I really didn't know what to say except, "Well, none of the parents were glaring at me and I didn't make anyone cry."  And as one of the volunteers added, "And no one fell off!"  So I guess it was a success.

I am still really enjoying this being an instructor thing.  I can't believe I've only been doing it for seven months because it's starting to feel very comfortable and second-nature.  I'm finding it's a lot like my process of writing - which is I have a specific goal in mind when I go into it, then I just see what flows through me and where it takes me.  Its like somehow all the knowledge I've been hoarding over the last eight years (that I've been back into horses) comes out of dark little pockets of my brain and flows through my mouth without me totally knowing what to expect that I'm going to say.  Some stuff is even stuff I learned when I was a kid riding Hunter/Jumper and I realize I had completely forgotten about it until it came up in a lesson.

Something I've been thinking about recently is something someone said to me eight years ago that really had an effect on me, in a negative way at first and now in kind of a "screw you" motivational way.  I was volunteering at a horse rescue to ease my way back into horses and I'd forgotten everything from when I was a kid.  So, I had just signed up for riding lessons and was volunteering cleaning stalls in order to get back into the swing of things.  I mentioned to the head of the rescue that I would like to become a horse trainer and she said that would never happen because I didn't have enough horse experience and even she - who'd been riding her whole life - wasn't arrogant enough to think she'd ever be a trainer.  So, I should just be realistic and not plan to do that.

A couple weeks later at one of my riding lessons I off-handedly said to my instructor that I'd like to someday be a trainer but that was kind of a stupid goal for a 39 year old woman who hadn't been around horses in over two decades.  She said "Why in the world is that a stupid idea?" and told me to keep taking lessons, read everything I could and immerse myself in learning about horses and if I wanted to eventually be a trainer, I could learn enough to be a trainer.  Thankfully, I decided to listen to her instead of miss negative-pants back at the rescue.

Of course, in the process of immersing myself in learning (or re-learning in some cases) after a couple years I realized I did not want to be a trainer.  Much as I love working with horses, there is an element of perfect timing needed when training horses that I'm not completely sure I have the talent to ever master and the responsibility of mastering that timing on a completely instinctual and almost psychic level sounded too daunting.  And the other reason - dealing with the horse owners.

After a year of following Trainer K. around like a puppy and watching every move she made and studying everything she said and did with attention to every single little detail (obsessively like some sort of weird educational stalker ...) I realized that owners were probably the most annoying thing in the world because no matter what Trainer K did, they (or I in the case of her training my horses) would come along and inadvertently send the training two steps back because of their own amateur way of dealing with the horses.    That would drive me nuts! And it would drive me nuts even more if the owner was the type who would ruin all the work I'd done by their own ignorance and then get mad at me for "not doing a better job with their horse".  So, I wrote off the idea of being a trainer years ago.

But I had continued to dream about being an instructor and audited clinics and took lots of notes and listened (like an educational stalker) to the clinicians, and read as many books as I could and watched videos and debated different training techniques with my horse friends and on internet forums, and then when I was given the opportunity to learn about teaching and get a chance to do it at the pony school I jumped on it.  And now I think it's ok to say that I'm maybe kind of successful at what I'm doing right now and maybe some of my kids might kind of be actually learning something productive about riding.  But I have to admit that there are still times when I expect to run into that lady who used to run that horse rescue and she'll say to me "Who do you think you are being an *instructor*? Didn't I tell you you would never be good enough to do that sort of thing?"  I guess I would say back, "Well, I did just spend the last eight years completely immersing myself in learning to the point where I've gone to school for equine anatomy/physiology/kinesiology and I grill every horse professional I know about what they're doing and how they do it.  I even wrangled Gerd Heuschmann into having lunch with me to pick his brain.  I raised my hand in front of an auditorium full of people to ask Buck Brannaman his opinion on an issue (even though I'd rather die than speak in front of that many people).  I have dedicated most of my energy into learning as much as I possibly can about horses and how to handle, ride and care for them and how to teach others to.  So WTF makes you think I can't be an instructor?"

I think what is most baffling to me is why I feel more affected by what she said than what my first instructor (as an adult) said to me only a couple weeks later about how all I had to do was try to learn and I could do whatever I wanted.  So, I'm still amazed this instructor thing seems to be working out well.  I'm enjoying it even more than I imagined I would!

I was telling one of the tween volunteers she should google Spanish Riding School of Vienna because she said she'd like to be a riding instructor when she grows up and I said she was young enough she could go be an Eleve there and that would be an amazing education.  If I am ever reincarnated I would want to do that ... since I'm a little too old now to do that.



Monday, March 17, 2014

R.I.P. Tasha

I just found out via a facebook post that Tasha, a horse from the barn I used to board Maiden out, died.  It appears she died either last night or this morning.  I am crushed.  As crushed as if a friend had died.  Yes, she was old (I believe she was 31 years old now) and she was slowing down, but one is never ready for a good friend to die.  Even though I haven't seen her for months she had such a positive impact on my life and on my daughter's life. 

She was a very rare type of horse that was truly bombproof and kind but with enough spunk to not render her a "zombie horse".   She helped me gain quite a bit of confidence riding bareback at walk, trot and canter.  She helped my daughter gain confidence by being the first horse that she cantered on independently (she started out cantering on the lunge line but by 8 years old was cantering her by herself).   There are not many horses I feel my daughter is ready to canter on safely, but Tasha was one of them.

I guess if you're not a horse person, or even if you are but never met her it's hard to express how special this horse was.  She was a character and she had a distinct personality, but she was also a good, kind soul and made a lot of people's lives much better because of her life.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Embarrassing accident of the day ...

There is this thing called Vasovagal Synocope which is basically another name for fainting.  There are a lot of reasons it can happen to people ranging from drug reactions to the site of blood to my particular weakness - nerve pain.  It is basically where the blood leaves your head, your blood pressure drops quickly and dramatically and you faint.  It's happened to me a few times and all except for when I had the Norwalk virus and was dehydrated it has been because something hit/hurt a nerve (like hitting my funny bone really hard or something like that).

It doesn't happen with just plain ole pain in my case.  When my old foster horse, Sinatra stomped on my foot and broke my toe a few years ago it hurt so badly I couldn't touch my toe for ten minutes and just sat on a stool, gritted my teeth and rocked back and forth for ten minutes and ocassionally choked out "I'm fine. Leave me alone" to bystanders who kept asking if I needed anything.  But once when I was driving across country I got up one morning, whacked my elbow on the bathroom counter and had to lie down for fifteen minutes after fainting and thus made us get a late start out on the road.

Today I was riding Geir in my lesson and thinking far too much about trying to encourage him to bend a bit more to the right as we were walking to the right and I did see we were close to the fence around the outside of arena, but didn't think we were *that* close, when "wham!" my knee hit one of the big, thick, metal support poles right on the side of the kneecap where the nerves are (the saphenous nerve to be exact).  I grabbed my knee, swore a little bit, rode Geir away from the wall and stopped.  Trainer KL asked if I was ok, and I realized I felt like I was going to throw up so I slid off of Geir (and made sure to land only on my right foot) and hobbled over to the mounting block to sit down.  Trainer KL was giving me some tips on how to make my knee feel better and my head was swimming and I was trying to figure out a way to explain my knee would be fine but I was feeling sick.  Then my ears started roaring, my eyes started to black over and I realized I couldn't sit up any more so I just laid down in the arena and all I could think of to say was, "I'm fine.  I'll be fine.  Just give me a minute."  Geir thought that was quite interesting and started inspecting my half chaps for treats so Trainer KL took him and said calmly it concerned her that her student was lying on her back in the arena.

I finally was able to explain that I was having a vasovagal reaction to nerve pain and would need to lie there for a few minutes.  Which turned out to be about ten minutes.  I tried getting up after a few minutes and sitting on the big water trough that has a huge lid on it that we sometimes use as a mounting block and asked Trainer KL to get some water for me and thought I was feeling well enough to take Geir's reins.  But as soon as she walked out of the arena, I had to lie down on the water trough because I wasn't quite ready to sit up.  Geir once again took that as an invitation to inspect my breeches for treats.

Thankfully, it passed and I was able to get back up on Geir and work on some side passes and walking.  About the time I got back on him the school owner came out to stuff hay bags and I was very glad she didn't come out ten minutes before and get freaked out about why her employee was lying in the middle of the arena.

I really hate having moments like that where I am completely at the mercy of what my body is doing.  But I'm glad it passes quickly.  What is ironic is that my knee stopped hurting long before the vasovagal symptoms completely went away.

Thankfully, it was sunny out.  But I don't think I realized how bad arena floors smell.  And this particular outdoor arena floor is the softest, nicest arena pea gravel you could possibly find.  But it still smells bad.

Well, it's a nice day out and I don't have to work so this afternoon I'm going to start preparing the garden beds for planting.  I'm going all out this year and testing the soil for nutrients and making my own fertilizer recipes to bring them all up to standard.  Last year I conquered powdery mildew - this year I'll conquer soil nutrients.

Another one of my daughter's songs she likes - but now it's becoming *my* happy song -

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