Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mulling Things Over Post-Fort Valley

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

24 hours post ride: Q looked 90% improved on the night before. Still lingering sensitivity around girth area and some inflammation along the tendons in her forelegs, but nothing excessive or worrisome. Her attitude is perky and spunky and that is so very telling.

48 hours post ride: Q looked 99% better. No lingering sensitivity at her girth area any more, though it feels like she developed some pretty bad galls that will peel away in coming days. Forelegs were slightly stocked up, but it is hard to say if this is due to the ride or due to her not moving around in the field prior to my arrival. Q stocks up easier than any horse I've ever been around. She's in red-hot flaming heat though!!

72 hours post ride: Q is totally back to normal physically. Skin already peeling away from the gall areas. =(


Things That Didn't Work

Girth: Quite obviously! Q has developed some minor issues in the past, but they were quite hit or miss. For the future I intend to 1.) wash the damn girth and get out any socked in mud and dirt, 2.) if her hair is long, shave the girth area to keep it short as this worked very well last winter when we had no girth issues, 3.) apply body glide liberally, early, and often, and 4.) tighten the girth to it's usual tightness instead of "being nice" because clearly, loose girth on this horse with that saddle leads to a wealth of problems.

Pad: This was rather hit or miss as I've never ever had an issue with this pad before in all the miles ridden in it. Likely, the issues with the pad were a spin off from the girth problems. But all the same, I am trying a new pad out. I traded my AP Woolback with inserts that no longer was useful for my non-AP-shaped saddles for a dressage-shaped Skito with inserts. While I haven't ridden with the setup on Q yet, I have on Griffin multiple times and I have to say I am IN LOVE with this Skito pad so far! I'm much more impressed with the inserts than the Toklat or Barefoot inserts that I have used with my Woolbacks. The construction of the pad is much nicer, also, as it is less bulky than the Woolback which I really love. This relationship has lots of time to go south, certainly, but for now I remain very optimistic that I've found a great new option!
Raising my stirrups: Knee pain I'd been experiencing was completely alleviated. However, ankle pain was achieved. It was achieved to such a level in my right ankle that the ankle was swollen for 72 hours or so post-ride. I still need to tweak this around to see what is going to work best for me. Previous knee pain was only an in-the-saddle thing. It never lasted after. The ankle issue lingering for days after is no bueno. And the pain is centered around the same tendons that I've always had issues with since my competitive swimming days, so that's no good. More tests are needed...

Conditioning of the horse: I seriously dropped the ball with this between RBTR and FV. Or maybe you could say I was testing the theory of that whole "they keep their conditioning for X weeks/months". Either way, I only had two long rides on Q between beginning of August and end of October - an 18 mile flat ride on the rail trail and a 10 mile walk ride over the gnarly terrain of Dolly Sods. Aside from those rides, I probably rode Q only 4 or 5 additional times in the 12 week period between RBTR and FV. Those rides were short and based upon either dressage or jumping.
The less conditioning showed in Q through the ride. She definitely regained her spunk at the end, and her CRIs noted that she wasn't too bad off fitness-wise, but her lack of motivation for much of the second loop and parts of the first loop concerned me a lot. I need to do better by her and get her out more. And clearly, her tushy needs more hill work than it was getting if the cramp was truly what was going on at the end!

For the future, I need to get back to my conditioning program that was doing so well. 3 workouts per week: Hill sprints. 1 day cross training. 1 trail ride. Additionally, 2 long rides per month. 

To supplement the former program I want to add in MORE dressage work and work in the sand arena. I'll likely keep the number of conditioning days the same, but just jumble around what I am doing.

Q needs to learn to carry herself better than she does. Since I've begun taking lessons again, I'm realizing how on the forehand she is so much of the time. It's hard to ride and it's hard on her body and mine. She and I both need to buckle down and spend some time working on our bodies before we can be better.

Rider fitness: I dropped the ball here, too, but miraculously it didn't bite me in the ass. During the ride I was body sore ALL OVER almost like the body aches you get from the flu. It was very odd. But it didn't last past that day for whatever reason. The sorest part of me was my left calf, with my right calf being a close second. My right ankle was also swollen for up to 72 hours post-ride. Aside from that though? Other body soreness was quite discountable. I was lucky!

 For the future though, I'm going to get myself on a steady yoga regiment. I retain fitness due to my lifestyle, but I don't have much strength. Over time, yoga will lend both strength and a greater awareness of my body and balance. These will all help improve my riding for me and for my horse - which I owe to both of us. And besides - I've wanted to get back into yoga since I hurt my shoulder and was initially forced out of the practice.

Things That Worked

Eating and Drinking for the Human: I had half water/half gatorade in my bottles all day. I guzzled it. I also made a point of eating a chicken salad sandwich or a wrap with turkey/provolone at each hold in addition to some other little snacks. I like the sandwich wrap protocol because I can put it in one hand and do other things while at the check.

Homemade stirrup turners: Saiph noted that I should do a how-to post on these. And I will. But I need to tweak the design some more to be 110%. They did help me a LOT, though not entirely with the shin issues I had been having at the OD. The shin issue I got on my right leg may have been referred pain from the ankle issue this time though. More tests are needed...

Having a Buddy for the Horse and Rider: This was absolutely ESSENTIAL for Q; it kept her from wigging out over things and kept her moving down the trail when she really didn't want to be. It was also awesome for me because it kept me out of the dark places in my head where I have been a lot for the past two months. If you've noticed me not writing as much, or posting things with less text and more photos, this is why: bad headspace that leads me to not talk or want to talk to anyone, not write or want to write anything, not ride or want to be around the horses even. It's been rough, but it is getting better, and this ride and all of that time spent with Nicole and Lily really, really helped a lot. And I'm really grateful for that, and I'm pretty sure she knows it. =) And if you don't, Nicole, here's me telling you again how grateful I was for all of those hours and miles with you!

Other Thoughts and Mullings

- My internal freaking out re: Q not drinking/eating during the first loop/first hold is still in my head. The only reasoning I can come up with for why she behaved as such is that 1.) she rarely drinks during the first loop, so she was probably just being normal in those regards, 2.) she had a HUGE mash with 2+ gallons of water that she downed before we set out on the first loop, so she likely had a lot of water from this + many pounds of Triple Crown Sr. in her belly, 3.) the water we'd given the girls through the night had been nailed pretty hard so she was likely drinking through the evening + eating hay, 4.) she peed at the check (YAY! big deal for the horse who used to hold it around people all the time) and was pooping fine all day. All in all, a pretty good situation. Still, despite those facts, any time she's not being a complete pig about food or drinking to the utmost degree I'm likely to worry.

I need to be able to calm myself down about things though and focus on the facts. My worrying during the hold and my constant urging for her to eat something of anything (she ate some peppermint treats here and there, mouthfuls of alfalfa here and there, a bit or two of grain here and there) completely barred my mind from the obvious awesome answer of, "LET HER GRAZE!" After she'd peed and right as we were about to head out, she finally had an opportunity to graze a little and she took FULL advantage of it. I was all D'OH about my idiocy of not letting her do this before because I know how good grass can be for them at these times. Silly, human. Lesson learned.

- My horse isn't a leader. Or at least not yet. But really, I'm not sure she will ever be. She's wiggy about things and she's got a nasty spooking habit despite my best efforts with her - many chronicled here.

She's so incredibly LOOKY at EVERYTHING she encounters! I joked with Nicole that she'd make a great ski patroller because we're expected to have our heads on a swivel at all times - and that is EXACTLY how Q is!

I think the most I can do is continue to get out with her as much as I can and just expose her to many things and often; maybe she'll relax one day? I will also do my best to continue working on myself and being calm as much as possible. I'm getting a lot better. I'm calmer and unbothered by 85% of her spooks now. It's just those big ones that occur for reasons I cannot figure out that still irk me. Her horse instincts and the way she FLIES into retreat mode with NO CARE for the rider on her back sends me into a fury. She simply sees red for a short time and cares not for me at all.

It's confusing to have her see red in these moments after she's tackled numerous other things that obviously worried her with relative good grace - a lofty trot, a concerned ear, a stink eye look, and maybe a few hesitant steps. To deal with 6 things like that and then the 7th monster-object have her EXPLODE with a crazy spook is so irritating to me on a level I can't explain. I know it shouldn't be. I know she is a horse and she's just reacting, but it is so very challenging to remain calm with her when she loses her marbles like that. I'm practicing calm and meditation and mindfulness as often as I can to improve myself so I can be there for her and continue to be a supporting partner/leader/rider/whathaveyou; it's just hard sometimes. :-\

And because it is hard and because it is frustrating, it lends itself to me not wanting to ride her in certain situations. It isn't fun to have to be SO on guard about things. To have to be SO ready to potentially fly off at any moment.

Sorry, just having a whine-fest over this issue.

Bottom line is I'm still trying so hard to make it better and I'm not giving up yet.

- Q *was* in heat for this ride. So a lot of the troubles and weirdness re: eating, drinking, spooking may very well have been attributed to this. She's a lot better with many things since we have begun SmartMare Harmony and magnesium, but she can still be an idiot about things when she is in heat. All the same, it's worth noting that she was in heat for me to read back on later when I have concerns about future issues.

- I think some of the soreness she experienced may have been due to shitty riding on my part. I haven't been riding much at all in the past two months. I can't two point for very long at all right now vs. before I could two point for 30 minutes and more. I'm weak. I'm sloppy. I need to fix this. Yoga and telemark skiing this winter should put me back in a solid state of fitness. Add lots of hopeful riding, and by spring I should be good again. Shame on Liz.

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