Thursday, March 9, 2017

Finding Fun

My daughter is getting better and more confidant in her riding by leaps and bounds. She's almost 9, and finally physically ready to tackle the finer points of horsemanship. I teach her what I can, but I'm not really good with beginners. She also expressed an interest in jumping, a skill I never learned, so I decided to haul her over to a friend so she could learn to jump.

My friend has an army of school ponies at her Hunter training barn, all of them veterans of teaching squealing little girls the finer arts of patience, stubbornness, and pulling a pony's head up out of the grass. It was an eye opening experience for my daughter. Up to this point in her life, she had only ever ridden my trained dressage horses and her pony that I train for her twice a week. She had never experienced the humiliation of coasting aimlessly around an arena on a been-there-done-that lesson pony who is not interested in your subtle dressage cues. Not gonna lie, I may have laughed at her. But, it was totally in an understanding way.... hey, I've been there!

After a few lessons she got the hang of it, and is starting to learn how to convince a disinterested lesson pony to pay attention. It's a "must-have" experience for anyone who wants to learn to ride and train horses well.

I was talking to my own trainer about it, and sharing a laugh about mutual experiences getting drug off into the weeds by surly lesson ponies, when he made a very good point. "You just have to make sure it's fun. Don't worry about the frame and the position right now, that will come with experience. She has to have fun."

One of the things I struggle with the most in teaching her myself is that I don't really know what 9 year olds are capable of in terms of horsemanship. I look at the pony and think, "Dammit, the reins are too long and he's not on the bit. She's got her hands all over the place and he's moving at half the speed of snails. Gotta fix that." Then I tell her to fix it and it devolves into a shouting match between us and nobody is having fun anymore.

Watching my friend teach her, I realize that much of what I expect from her she just isn't capable of yet. It will come with time and experience. And the only way for her to gain experience is for me to step back and let her have it. So for now, I sit on the mounting block outside the arena and let her meander and figure things out for herself. When she has a question, she asks it. Nobody yells, everybody has fun.


My eyelid only twitches a little when his head is in the air.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Athleticism, Or Something

Jack often reminds me of Stuart from MadTV. Remember Stuart?

I'm dating myself, here.


Stuart was a character who was supposed to be a little boy, and was constantly looking for attention and getting into trouble. His catchphrase was "Look what I can do", then he'd do something completely bizarre. That's Jack to a "T".

"Look what I can do."


What Jack lacks in grace and control, he more than makes up for in sheer enthusiasm.

What do you even call this?




If only his pasture mates wanted to play as much as he does.

"Hey, Guys! Look at me!!!" Guys! Guys! YOU'RE NOT LOOKING!!"


Someday I'm sure we'll be able to channel all this energy into some lovely dressage work.



Straightness: 0
In other news, I do not need new hips. YAY!

I saw an Ortho who looked at my films and said, direct quote, "I wouldn't send my dog to that idiot."  I do have arthritis in my hips, but it's not inappropriate for my age and activity level. This Ortho is familiar with horse people and how we abuse use our bodies, so I trust his judgement. I gotta say, he impressed the hell out of me when he told me that his only goal is to keep me riding for as long as I want. That is not something any other doc has ever said to me, most say "You need to stop riding", others just sort of ignore it. This guy actually wants to enable my addiction!

His diagnosis for my hips, after reading through my (extensive) chart, looking at all my films and examining me, is that I probably have trochanteric bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa on the outside point of the hip.



Treatment, for me, is stretching exercises and corticosteroid injections. If I could take NSAIDS, that would be the better treatment, but I can't. He believes it was caused by a dastardly combination of my use and abuse, my lumbar scoliosis, and having an inflammatory disease (IBD). He also believes that the problem with my sacroiliac joint is that it's "rebelling" against the stress being placed on it by everything else that's screwed up in my lower back.

So, there we have it. It took a team of specialists, enough diagnostic imaging to make me glow in the dark, and one visit to a raging quack, but I think I finally have a pretty good handle on what's going on with my back and how to treat it. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Changes

So, in my hiatus from blogging I noticed that a few things have changed. I no longer have a reading list on Blogger, which is annoying because now I'm going to have to track everyone's blog down individually. I also no longer have a Blogger app for my iPhone (they switched the app to Android only, because Google). How annoying.  I may have to switch platforms, except I'm super lazy and probably won't do that. How does everyone else keep up with blogs?

In other news, Jack either ran into something or was bitten by one of his "friends" (with Jack, there's no telling) so I guess I have to wait for the swelling to go down before I do anything with him. I mean, I suppose I could still ride him or something, but it's cold and windy today so I'll just let him heal while I screw around on the internet and drink wine do important blog research.

Looks painful, better let that rest.


These posts don't write themselves, after all.




Thursday, March 2, 2017

Getting Back To Good

It took six months, but I'm finally in a place where I'm enjoying riding and working with horses again.

I wish I could say there was a blazing epiphany involved, where the heavens opened and trumpets blared as I realized my true calling in life, but it was really just sort of a non-event. I never stopped working with horses after Spider died, because my horses live on my property and either I handle and train them or they turn into a feral menace to society that neither my farrier nor my vet will appreciate, but I definitely lost the "spark" for awhile. I was just going through the motions. Then, one day, I woke up and was actually interested in going out and riding. After awhile I realized I was even looking forward to it. I found myself really engaging with the horses again, enjoying their antics, wanting to spend more time with them, not getting as frustrated with Jack being Jack or my kids' endless requests to ride and groom their horses. I still tear up at least once a week over my Spider, but now it's more about happy memories and less about my loss.

We had a lot of fun together.


Of course, once I actually get interested in riding again, the weird weather and my health problems have conspired to keep me from riding as much as I like. January and February are always bad months for my IBD. I don't know if it's a lack of sunlight, poor diet over the holidays, being more sedentary in the cold weather, or a dastardly combination of all three, but I always get an IBD flare this time of year. So, they play with my meds and try to get things back under control while I stew.

The last time I went to the gastroenterologist, he recommended I see a rheumatologist for my various odd aches, pains and swellings. So, I randomly chose one of the two rheumatologists in my area, and off I went. Turns out my random choice was a poor one.

I sat in the waiting room for two hours before I was seen. First Red Flag. Then, when I get into the exam room, the first thing the guy says is, "You seem awfully young for lower back problems. Do you have some form of IBD?" Seriously? I told them this was why I made the appointment when I made it, I filled out five pages of history that clearly listed that I have a diagnosis of IBD, was referred by a gastroenterologist, and listed four medications that are prescribed for IBD. So, I pointed to my chart that he had casually tossed onto the counter and asked him, "Did you read that?". The smarmy bastard says, "No. I'm talking to you now. I want you to tell me what's going on." Second Red Flag. At one point during the exam, I tell him I've had SI injections and they helped, he responds: "You've never had SI injections. I'm the only doctor in the tri-state area who can do SI joint injections". Third Red Flag. At this point I'm done, but the twit wants to do x-rays and he's got an in-house x-ray. Fine. Take your damn x-rays. He reads the x-rays, and tells me my hips are shot and I'm going to need double hip replacements soon. Naturally, I'm a little skeptical. He takes this as a personal affront. Fourth Red Flag.

I am getting a second, third and fourth opinion. The first thing I did was go see my physiatrist, who examined me, sent me for new x-rays and referred me to an orthopedist who specializes in hips. I also made an appointment with the other rheumatologist in my area. I'd like to believe this guy was just talking shit, but he doesn't do hip replacements, so what's his motivation? I will say that even if he's right, I won't ever go back to that smarmy shitweasel because his attitude sucked.

In the meantime, I'll keep on keeping on. I feel motivated again, and I'm excited to be getting back into the swing of things. No sketchy diagnosis is going to keep me down.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sizing Up The Great Red Menace

"The Great Red Menace" is my nickname for Jack, because a horse with a four letter name absolutely needs a four word nickname. He's not really too much of a menace, either.... unless you count all the stuff of mine he's broken and his desire to stand nearly on top of me at all times.

At All Times.


As a two year old on the track he was measured at around 16.2, then I acquired him and had him gelded. Throughout his 3rd, 4th and 5th year he grew, and grew, and then grew some more and I never bothered to measure him again, mostly because I don't have one of those horse-measuring stick-things. (Also because I kind of didn't want to know.) But, for some reason, USEF always wants to know how tall the horse is on all their stupid forms, so I figured I should probably figure that out.

Pictured: Precision Measuring Tool.


Since I know I'm 5'3 (or 63 inches, or 160 centimeters), I figured I could just stand next to Jack with the stick on my head and then figure out how much taller he is than me. This ended up not really working.

They used to let me run laboratories at Rutgers.

Then, I remembered that I own a tape measurer, so I decided to use that instead.

This worked much better.


Verdict: Jack is almost 69 inches tall. (This wasn't exactly a precision operation, more of a rough estimate.) Thats about 175 centimeters, which is 17.1 hands according to the Centimeters to Hands Conversion chart I found online.  Also, I found out that I am 15.3 hands. Good to know, I think that's how I'm going to start listing my height on medical forms.

Emma over at 'Fraidy Cat Eventing recently started a sort of unofficial blog hop when she posted her OTTB's pedigree, so I thought I'd jump on that bandwagon while we're discussing The Great Red Menace.

It's blurry because I'm a dumbass, clicking on it makes it clear.

He's not the worst bred, not the best bred. His sire is pretty successful as far as racing goes, but the only thing Jack got from him was the color. I've never heard anything about Strong Contender as a Sporthorse sire, or Maria's Mon. His dam is pretty well bred, but she only had two starts and never placed.  (With a name like "Eighteen Shots", what do you expect?) Terlingua (Eighteen Shots' sire's dam), was also the dam of the notorious Storm Cat and supposedly the source of his attitude. It does not seem to have passed down to Jack. 

Jack himself was purchased for $3K as a two year old, had three starts, and came in dead last every time. His breeder seems to have a few other horses running, but I've never been able to find any contact info, so that's a dead end. (My theory: He's in hiding after hearing about the dismal career of Good Man Jack.) His only trainer is my good friend and neighbor, and she didn't even have him that long. So, that's all I really know about Jack.

Come to think of it, I've owned Jack for longer than anyone. He's less "OTTB" and more "BDTB" at this point.

 (That's "Backyard Dressage Thoroughbred"). 





Sunday, November 27, 2016

Finally, Something That Can Be Fixed.... Probably (Maybe)

I think we have a winner in Steroid Injection Roulette!

My Sacroiliac Joint!

Wooohoooo!

I had it injected 3 weeks ago, and my pain and function are markedly improved. I can stand up straight and walk without a limp, and I'm no longer in crippling pain. I still have aches here and there, since I also have pretty bad arthritis throughout my spine and hips, but it's manageable.

After noting that the SI injection helped, my Physiatrist sent me to Physical Therapy. The PT did a more thorough review, and noted that my IT band (a band of connective tissue that surrounds the muscles that run down the outside of the femur) and my piriformis (a muscle in the butt) are extremely tight and reactive on the left side. And by "reactive", I mean that I seriously want to hit anyone who starts poking at those areas. It's very ouchy.

I tried finding a picture with SI, IT and piriformis in it, but I came up empty.

I had always known those areas hurt, but it had paled in comparison to the pain in my lower back so I ignored it. The PT thinks either the SI pain was caused by those two areas being out of whack and pulling on my SI joint, or my SI being out of whack caused those two areas to be painful. Chicken or egg doesn't matter here, we start by fixing the IT band and the piriformis.

How does one do that? With tedious stretches and exercises to strengthen my left leg and my core. It's ouchy and annoying, but I guess it's working. I won't really know until the injections wear off. On the bright side, since SI isn't a typical joint it doesn't break down after repeated steroid injections like other joints. The Physiatrist says I can have as many injections as I want! Hopefully the PT will keep me from needing them, but it's nice to know that's an option.

On the horse front, I'm still not doing much. I go through the motions, but my heart isn't in it yet. I still cry a few times a week. I get frustrated easily. It's all still very raw.

Jack is having a tough time with the transition, too. His role has changed from "Third Wheel" to "Serious Work" and he's not really sure what to do yet. He's still the same lovable goofball, just a very confused and frustrated lovable goofball.

We'll get there.


Friday, October 7, 2016

And Then Everyone Was Lame.

I make a plan to get my ass in gear, and then it all goes to hell.

After Jack's saddle fitting, it rained for three days straight. Somewhere in that time frame, Jack decided to brew up an abscess. So, I can't really do any "work" work with him, but I can take him out and just fuss with him. He enjoys any sort of attention, so it's still a win.

Over the many years I have spent with horses, I have found that the single most important thing you can do with them is just simply to hang out with them. We often focus so much on training programs and lessons that we forget to just spend time with our horses. Horses and humans are both social animals, and we both thrive in situations where we are allowed to interact freely with others. You don't really get that social interaction if you're just schooling your horse, just like you don't get to be super chums with your co-workers during a high stress project at work. If you want to develop a relationship with someone, you've got to go outside the work environment.

Honestly, my kids are the best trainers I've ever met.



I'm also lame, but that's not big news because I'm always lame. My back is acting up again, but this time I'm even more annoyed because I haven't been riding!

See, for years every Doc I saw told me that my back problems were being made worse because of of my riding and they couldn't "fix" me until I stopped riding. Well, guess what? I haven't ridden seriously since Aug 7 and my back still friggen' hurts! So, I went to my physiatrist and said: "Fix this."

My new tentative diagnosis is Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction. That's mostly based on the fact that they've treated my spine, hip and knee with no improvement.  The SI joint is nearly impossible to assess with x-ray and MRI, and the pain it causes mimics lumbar spine, hip and knee joint pain. It's basically a diagnosis of exclusion: My back, hip and knee hurts, they've all been treated, let's inject the SI and see if that helps.

So, I'll be getting that done.

On the bright side, I have been in complete remission from my Crohn's since starting immune suppressant drugs. This is the longest I have been in remission since my diagnosis in 2005. I have had three colds in the 6 weeks my kids have been back in school, but I'll take colds over Crohn's any damn day!

I guess we're moving forward now, huh?




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