Thursday, July 31, 2014

Showing Abby

Two weeks and two shows later I think it is official... Abby is the best horse ever. I want to write about everything that happened before I forget but it is hard to find the time right now.  I want to remember it... like for-eh-ver ...

Where to start... well, it started on my birthday...

On my birthday I could feel that my back was "twigged". That Monday night I rode but tried to keep it really light and easy. The next morning that twig was pretty flared up and I knew that if I rode I was going to be flat out so I decided that I had to be a little proactive-

I went to physiotherapy for the first time since I was eighteen (I've been told to go to phyio about dozen times for my knee and back but just never got there.) That Wednesday the physiotherapist examined me at length and looked at the CT scans I had last winter and concurred with the doctor that it is my SI joint that is the issue. So he used some ultrasound therapy and some dry needling and showed me some exercises he wanted me to do in order the strengthen my core. I told him that I needed to ride on Thursday, Friday and Sunday for sure but I could take Wednesday and Saturday off. He laughed before realizing that I wasn't joking. "You cant ride", he said. I just smiled and said, "If I can find a way to get on, I will ride."  He clearly hasn't had much experience with horsemen.

And then I woke up the next morning and knew I was in BIG trouble. I had paid for a warm-up in the big arena. Because Abby has been out so little I really felt it was important to get her to the venue on a day that was quiet and get her in that big pen with the grandstands, waste barrels, signage, and people bustling around behind curtains. I managed to get my trailer hooked up and down to the barn. I got my tack loaded and haltered my horse. By that point I wasn't really walking so much as gingerly shuffling along. Abby loaded easily enough, I checked the trailer and I hauled myself up in to the drivers seat... but just couldn't quite sit down. I leaned against the door and propped myself up on the steering wheel and started down the road. I was hurtin pretty good by then. Half way down the road I stopped and had a little pity party. I have waited FIVE years to show this damn horse. I had been trying to prepare for this show for 2 months but had lost the first six weeks to my Very Bad Mistake and then half of the two weeks I had left to my back issue. I honestly felt that if I didn't show Abby that weekend I might never get the chance again. I know that sounds crazy but it just seems like for so many years the stars just wouldn't align and once again I was going to miss my opportunity. I phoned my good friend Barb because I knew she was the only one who's opinion would fall somewhere between sucking it up (I've seen Barb run grand entry with a broken ankle) and playing it smart so I had a hope in hell of riding that coming Sunday. She told me to go in to town and buy some good muscle relaxant/anti-inflammatories and then head out to the show grounds, if by the time I got there I could move a little better then get on but don't work her, just walk her in to the big arena and let her get a look around then walk out. So I took her advice and popped some pills. Sure enough I got out there and was just able to move around just enough to get Abby out of the trailer and tacked. I had parked as far out as I could so that no one would see struggling like a total pussy while getting ready but the flip side was that I had a longer walk to the arena. I wasn't going to go shuffling along like some demented cowboy Steve Urkel and I sure the hell wasn't going to let anyone see me try to mount once I got there. Luckily, Abby is only 14.2HH. I was able to drop my stirrups a few inches and after making sure she was cinched up extra tight and basically crawled on chin-up style. Why did woman have to get the short end of the upper body strength stick? The problem was that I still couldn't really sit down but I figured out that if I leaned on the pommel and took my weight in to my (by then) shaky arms I could kinda-sorta ride. I stood on the sidelines for ten minutes watching everyone else school their horses in the big arena, spinning, running down, stopping and galloping around. When my name was called I slowly walked the perimeter of the arena, letting abby stop and sniff the trash barrels and ogle the stands and then slowly walked out and back to my trailer. I heaved a sigh of relief that I had somehow managed to "get 'er done" and could take my time getting home. I thought I was in the clear right up until I went to pick up the ramp of my trailer. I huffed and I puffed but there was just no way I was going to be able to pick that sucker up. I stood up and looked around. There was a man wearing a cowboy hat (I wouldn't call him a cowboy for reasons you will shortly understand) sitting on the lawn chair just a few trailers over. I took a breath to ask him for a hand but stopped when I realized that he had been watching me struggle my way through untacking Abby the whole damn time and had certainly seen me fail to lift the ramp. Now I wouldn't expect someone to come offer a hand when I obviously trying to suck it up but he saw me look around for a helping hand and he didn't see fit to stand up. I would be damned if I was going to ask him for help. I got that ramp up on my foot, then slid it up on my knee and managed to shimmy it up until it was at a height that I could reach and pull. I closed the door with a thud and resisted the urge to turn around and flip him the bird. Later that night I realized that I probably over-reacted- I should thank that lazy ass bastard as it spiked my adrenaline enough to get the job done and I went home hurting but satisfied.

The next day I couldn't get out of bed.

My DB said there was no way I was going to be able to show by that weekend. I looked him dead in the eye and told him that come hell or high water I was showing my horse and I didn't want to hear another word about it. Of course that didn't stop him. Every time I had to get on my hand and knees to get out bed or had to stand to eat supper he would give me the eye and I'd just say "shut up".

On Friday and Saturday I had my friend and neighbor ride Abby for me. She is very handy with a horse and got Abby tuned up a little and that really helped my confidence that at least Abby was thinking about being a reiner again. By Saturday I was walking and able to sit and drive again. I was about 50% better, enough that I knew I was going to be able to ride, maybe not well and maybe not enough to actually ride a pattern but I was going to be able to get in the show pen even if I had to zero my pattern intentionally. The best thing about what happened was that it completely changed my attitude about showing. Previous to my back going out I was nervous about how unprepared Abby and I were, I was worried about the crowd, the judges, what I was going to wear and if Abby was going to be fitted out respectably. Absolutely none of that mattered by the time I got to Sunday. I didn't care if I had to ride in there naked on a highland pony. I didn't care who watched or how badly we did, I just cared that I was able to go. So many people in this world face a lifetime of disabilities, I knew I was going to be okay, I knew I as going to be able to walk, ride and drive again. What right did I have to complain about a stiff and sore back?

On Sunday morning at 5:00AM I headed to the barn to pick up Abby. The sun had just risen and the mist over the river glowed pink and golden. The pale sky was cut in half by a ridge of dark blue mountains and the damp fields glistened with dew. I was humbled by the beauty of that morning. I recognized that in that moment I was living my dreams. I continued to live out my dreams for the rest of that morning. I showed Abby. My friends and family were there to watch. I smiled at them. I smiled at the judges. I thanked my horse. And I rode my pattern. I didn't zero. I didn't score well either:) But I didn't zero which means that what we did resembled reining enough to grant us a score. I cant begin to say just how highly I think of Abby, she packed me through it. What horse packs a rider through a pattern after FIVE years of standing in a field raising babies?

Of course I wasn't even out of the pen before I was plotting how I could get her fit and ready to show again! Little did I know I would get that chance just one week later.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Mosquito on my Ass

I last posted on the 24th of June. I had just taken Abby up to a club arena and had started to think that maybe I might just make that July show I had set my sights on back in May before having to leave her off due to my very Big Mistake. Other than a handful of very short, very slow rides on very soft ground Abs didnt get any riding until that ride in the end of June. Actually, Abby has had very little riding, period, in the time I've had her since she got pulled off the broodmare field where she had stood for over five years. I got Abby home in November of 2013. I didnt ride her at all until January and those rides were very short and sweet and I remember being so happy and shocked with how much she still remembered. But that Spring I never did really get it together and actually start working her. I would guess, all total, I rode Abby about 30-40 times coming up to the last week in June and nearly all of those rides where walks in the field and on the trail. I rode her twice at the neighbors, once at a local indoor, and a few times at a half I can safely say that I did not have more than ten arena rides on her or any kind of serious work. So when I decided to, (at the end of June) try to get her fit and ready to rein for that July show, I knew that I was going to have to keep my expectations low... but I decided to bite the bullet and just go ahead and enter. I wasn't going to be "ready" but I really just needed the experience under my belt. I paid my fees. I was entered to show on July 13th!

That last week of June I dropped in three times at the neighbors arena, hauled her over to another big arena and had a very short ride in the gravel paddock. I had avoided stopping her at all in that week because I didnt have sliders on her and the neighbors arena is deep and stick- I didn't want her jamming up her hocks but on July 3rd I got a set of sliders put on and the next day I went over to a local indoor with good loose footing. We had a really nice ride at that arena. I am always so impressed with this horse and how totally relaxed she is wherever we go. New horses, new arena, a mirror, jump standards- none of it phases her. It was exciting to finally get to ask her to run down (a little bit) and stop. I was a little surprised that she was wanting to really break down to a soft stop rather than slide but then I realized that I have done nothing but break down to a stop since I've had her (because I didnt have the ground or sliders on her). I didn't want to overdue do it and make her sore so only stopped her four or five times. I really wanted to get her stopping better but thought it was better to error on the side of caution. The crappy part was that during that ride I had asked her to gallop out a little and she had popped her lead and when I picked up on her to bring her down and switch back she kind of jammed to a stop on me and I could feel a little twig I have in my back get tweaked.

I've had chronic issues with my lower back since I was eighteen. Most of time it will just be a little "twig" and if I baby it for a little while I can get past it but every year I will randomly make some motion that will spontaneously set it off and leave me barely able to walk, stand, sit or even lay down comfortably. When Abby stuck that stop suddenly I felt that stab of pain and later that night I definitely felt that inflammation come up but I just took an Advil, went to bed and hoped it would be gone in the morning.

And wouldn't you know it, the next morning was my birthday. You know, that special day wherein the world is obligated to lay off the bullshit and cut you some slack for 24 hours and maybe even grant a few wishes? More than anything I really just wanted to take Marm to the park and go for a nice little trail ride by myself. I felt some tenderness in my hip/back but not enough to not ride. I hauled up to a local park and hit the trail feeling like all was right in the world... for about three minutes until I felt the sudden prick of mosquito on my neck, my thigh, my wrist, the back of my hand, my upper arm, shoulder... everywhere! Marm was tossing her head and swishing her tail like crazy. I had doused us both in repellant but it was no use. Right by the parking lot there is a large field of tall grass so I decided to just pick up a trot and see if I could get out of that infested area. Marm thought this was a great idea and we were quickly hustling down the trail. Five minutes later I slowed to a walk and waited to see how many mosquitos would land on Marm's neck. Within thirty seconds a dozen or were greedily sucking her blood and I was slapping bloody streaks off my own neck too. I stubbornly refused to admit that my morning, my birthday morning no less, was going to be ruined by a mob of vampire bugs! Oh no! So off Marm and I went again. We long trotted that trail for twenty minutes or so before I stopped to turn around. For half my ride my bladder had been protesting that it needed some relief. For half my ride I had been telling it to shut up!  The morning was hot and humid and my jeans were damp with sweat and stuck tight to my thighs. The trail I was on, while not busy that morning (no one else was crazy enough to dare the bugs) was not entirely abandoned either and there was no deeply wooded area in which to step. The idea of exposing one more inch of my skin to the hordes of lurking bloodsuckers was needless to say, unappealing...however,  only slightly less so than the idea of long trotting all the way back to the trailer with a full bladder. I resigned myself to getting off to go but I knew I had to do it as quickly as possible to minimize the time my butt was exposed to the pariah like mosquitos and maximize my chance of missing a fellow rider or walker. I think actually mumbled to myself, "ready, set, GO!" I hopped off, stepped two feet off the trail, peeled off my pants and sat my ass straight down on to a stinging nettle bush. Happy Fucking Birthday! Oh! And it's not like the mosquitoes had any sense of sympathy! Oh no! They sensed my vulnerable state and pounced on my posterior with their greedy little fangs. I told my bladder to stop! Stop quick! We had to run for our lives! But it ignored my desperate pleas in it's own quest for relief. Finally, finally, I was finished. Surely the worst was behind me. But no, oh no, the best part was yet to come- I couldn't get my pants back up. I was hopping up and down the trail, yanking on my jeans and trying to unfurl the tightly bound roll my underwear had become with my backside stinging like the dickens and my horse threatening mutiny if I did not get her moving before she was drained of every last drop of blood in her 1000 pound body all the while I'm craning my head over my should certain that at any moment some tender eyed group of boy scouts would walk around that bend in the trail and catch me with my red spotted behind on full display and cussing like a sailor. But alas, I was granted some small mercy and managed to get my jeans back up... though my panties were quick literally and figuratively still in a knot.

I got back on. We hauled ass back to the trailer. I took this video just as we were getting back the parking lot.

That afternoon I headed across the line to find me a new pair of blue jeans. By the time I got to the Bony Pony in Mt.Vernon my back was feeling more than a little tweaked but I just went slow and kept moving hoping it would loosen up. I did find a nice pair of Wrangler Q-Baby jeans in a dark dark blue that I planned on showing in the following Sunday. My fun purchase of the day was a pair of good ol' fashioned Wranglers that are so old school they are back in style! That night my man took me to an amazing Italian restaurant and then we did something I've been begging him to do since we met... we went bowling! By the time we got home my lower back wasn't just protesting... it was threatening an all out strike. The next morning I took the bull by the horns and made an appointment with a physiotherapist. Come hell or high water I was showing my horse... that is if I could get my foot in the stirrup.