"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 in Review

I didn't do this last year because 2011 had been a tumultouos year and I didn't really feel like re-hashing it. In January 2011 I had just had my heart horse taken away by a vindictive horse rescue owner (if you want to read about it, go to My Equestrian Journey), and found myself adopting a very green and beautiful warmblood cross to take his place. Rhythm's terrible issues with bolting and spooking turned out to be the result of some sort of neurological disease that we could not afford to have worked up at the time for 3 different reasons: I had a broken toe as a result of him falling on me, which had made me miss work and my hours had been cut once I was able return, plus I had no health insurance at the time and had had to pay all of the expenses out of pocket; getting Rhythm worked up was horrifically expensive in South FL, and even if I had been able to come up with the money, the accident had finally shattered my confidence to the point where for the first time ever, I couldn't see myself ever getting on a specific horse again-I was too terrified of him, especially now that I understood why his issues had not responded to training: he couldn't help it. He was spooking on days when he felt vulnerable due to his disease. And Charles and I just weren't willing to go into another huge debt for a horse that I had no intention of ever riding again. The stars aligned for Rhythm and us: my vet happened to have a client who needed a companion horse for her elderly gelding, and so Rhythm quickly found a home. And that is how Lily came into my life-the rest I wrote about here when I had time. I had been very unhappy and felt extremely unfulfilled at my previous job, and so my professional life found me taking a position as an emergency and critical care veterinary technician at a start-up emergency and referral practice. Despite being relatively new to the profession and one of the least experienced techs there (4 years of experience at the time, 3 of those in referral practice) I quickly became one of the lead technicians there. My confidence in my skills grew, and I finally started to feel and see the potential that others saw in me. We were struggling financially, however, and other than work and the barn, Charles and I weren't really doing much else with our lives.

In contrast, 2012 was an epic year for us.

January
My mare became a little spitfire with the cooler weather, a side of her that had been unknown to me before. She bolted on me for the first time ever that month.

Judy and I went to Homestead with Sarah to try out Paso Finos and Trote-Galope horses and had an absolute blast while doing so. This post is still one of my greatest hits-I think most of the views my blog has had have been due to that post!


It finally dawned on me that maybe part of Lily's issues with inverting were due to poor saddle fit, and I started looking into the Ludomar Spanish saddles. In the meantime, I tried out Judy's Wintec Pro Dressage, and discovered a consistently and completely different mare-one that was a lot more willing to give me her back! In trying to get her to settle, I discovered how to get Lily working long and low for me for the first time since she became mine.




February
All of us from the barn went to Tree Tops park with 2 trailers and 4 horses, and we had a lot of fun. It was our first outing since Judy had taken over the barn, and it would be our last with this group due to barn drama that would eventually ensue. At this time, though, it was unimaginable in our future: Elisabeth and her hsuband, Judy, Dianne, Mark, Ines, Sarah, Charles and I had a really great time on an unseasonably warm day.


Lily acted somewhat frisky and herdbound, but she proved to be an awesome trail horse in a completely new environment, and gave me some more of this:


I thought Lily and I were doing great for the most part-we had gone to working correctly maybe 15% of the time to more like 50% of the time. However, during one workout where I was having a hard time getting Lily to start coming onto the bit during the warm-up, Judy decided to get on her and try to figure out what the problem was. Lily did not like all of that contact and threw Judy, which resulted in my trainer's torquing her knee. She was out of commission for almost 2 months, and during that time I worked with Rose, her Azteca, to keep her on the rehab program ordered by the vet after a strained suspensory. Each ride on Rose was supposed to be compensated with a lesson with Judy.

March
Judy and I went to watch the dressage and jumper shows at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, and I became melancholy watching all of the professional riders. I mentioned my old dream of riding at the Olympic level, and Judy started feeding that dream-she said it was something I could most certainly still do if I wished to. I honestly didn't think so, not for lack of talent, but for lack of money. However, I allowed myself to listen to her. Lily and I were going through a particularly rough patch, and after one major freakout from her and an optimally timed ad for a gorgeous Donnerhall grandson colt, I put Lily up for sale and went horse shopping. The Donnerhall colt sold within 24 hours of me going to look at him, and 2 girls came to try out Lily: one was a total failure and almost got thrown, the other did fantastically well on her. The second girl happened to have a Selle Francais gelding for sale, and we discussed trading horses if her gelding worked out for me. Other than being a fancy breed, this gelding didn't have much going for him and at most would have been a resale project. We did not click-there was no chemistry, and after coming back home and riding Lily, I couldn't see myself living without her. That, and the fact that even trying to get recognized at the upper levels in dressage, whether at the Olympic levels or not, was a hugely expensive ordeal. Judy had an outrageous plan B, and she even offered to sell me Rose, but ultimately I am SO GLAD that I came to my senses. In the process started to reassess my goals with Lily: I would continue to explore dressage with her, but only up to the point where she would allow us to go. My competitive dreams slowly started to fade at this point-I realized that I did not need to compete to be happy with the horse I have.

Judy was trying to get certified as an ARIA trainer and needed a video of her giving a lesson to a student on a First Level horse. Lily proved she could do the movements, so Charles filmed the video. We discovered Lily leg-yielded a lot better to the right than to the left, so there were a lot of shots of her leg-yielding to the right.
Our first, and rather tense, leg yields

This ended up being a problem, as it became the focus of our lessons even after the video: instead of stepping back and working on getting her comfortable leg yielding in both directions at the walk before moving up to the trot, we did a lot of leg-yielding to the left at the trot in our lessons, which only succeeded in making her more and more resistant to this. I still don't understand what the point of rushing her was. It has taken almost a year to correct her intense resentment of leg yielding at the trot to the left, and she will still swish her tail in annoyance when asked. Around this time, I started to lose faith in Judy as a trainer, though she gave me many exercises that I would add to my training toolbox. March was also the first time I got a flying lead change out of Lily. :)

I didn't write about this, but that month Lucero, my Paso Fino back in Puerto Rico, became very sick, and Mark and I also had a really nasty argument about a really stupid issue, and both of us being knuckleheads, neither one of us admitted defeat, so we simply didn't talk to one another for almost 2 months. It was a really rocky time for me. There was also some drama beginning between Elisabeth and Judy, which started a war of passive aggression that created a very tense environment at the barn on the weekends when we were all there.

I didn't write about his either, but in March, one of the owners of El Sueno Espanol stopped by with some Ludomar saddles for Judy and I to try out on Lily and Rose, and I ordered my semi-custom Alta Escuela saddle.



April
It was such a busy month that I didn't even write in the blog! April was a huge breakthrough for Lily and me. We went to the Manuel Trigo clinic in Stuart. It started out as a negative experience, but resulted in this:


At the clinic, we experimented with a Spanish bit and discovered classical dressage, which Lily seemed to really like. This became key in her future training, and allowed us to explore a whole new realm of possibilities in dressage. Lily's body began to change by leaps and bounds.

May
May was a weird month. Judy started dating a guy that turned out to be toxic for her, and we watched her personality and priorities at the barn change. Maybe it wasn't the guy-maybe she was just showing her true colors. Either way, it seemed that May was the start of Judy's loss of interest in the barn, and the beginning of a lot more work for the rest of us. I did not write about this, as I had shared the link to the blog with her and I didn't know how faithful of a reader she was at the time.

Part of the reason why I wasn't writing as much was because I was exhausted even on my days off due to the added barn work. I stopped riding Rose at this time because Judy's health issues had resolved for the moment. Plus Judy owed me over $700 in lessons and artwork at this point, and I didn't want to keep adding to that bill. Of course, most of Judy's dates were now occurring on the weekends, so I stepped back and waited for her to let me know when she could schedule a lesson with me. I figured eventually things would fall into place with the boyfriend, and she'd have time again for lessons. This never happened. Part of it is my fault for not bringing it up like this or letting Judy know exactly how much she owed me in lessons, but up until that point, she had always been pretty good about keeping a mental tally about these things herself. I trusted her to have an idea-of those $700, $300 were from artwork she had commissioned from me. She did not keep track this time. I wouldn't discover this until it was too late.

In May, Judy evicted Elisabeth from the barn, and this temporarily resolved some of the tensions at the barn.

This was the time when Charles and I really started talking about leaving South FL. He began collecting information on travel nursing companies, and applying for jobs locally in the Orlando area.

Lily flourished. This was her at the end of May-no inversions in sight!:

                                      

                                     

June
My best friend Diana FINALLY moved from the horrible barn down the street to our barn, bringing Bali, her Percheron cross mare, with her. I can't begin to say what a big deal this was for me-I had been begging Diana to move for the last 2 years! It would be nice to have a friend around at the same times I was at the barn, and Diana needed to get out of the scary environment at her old barn. She had been talking about moving for the last 2 months, so Judy had been given a heads-up way in advance. Flooding rains in May finally prompted Diana to get out-all of the stalls on that property were flooding, and Bali had been standing day in and day out in 2" of mud.

Bali
However, Judy charged Diana for the 2-minute trailer ride down the street from her old barn, and this contributed to further friction between our barn manager and the rest of us (Diana is a nice person and had been planning to give Judy a hefty tip anyway just for the trouble of hooking up the trailer). Why a trailer ride to a barn so close? Diana had to pretend she was sending Bali to an off-site lease so she could safely remove her mare from the property, and we had asked Judy if she would be willing to help out. Diana had other people she could ask for a pretend trailer ride. However, Judy had said yes-it wasn't a problem. She would gain a boarder and another person to help out with chores around the barn. At the last minute the day she was going to pick up Bali, she decided that there were other things she'd rather be doing (going on a date with the new boyfriend, specifically), and decided to charge Diana for the inconvenience. I was not happy with this. Diana could have asked someone else if it was going to be a problem, but the day of the move was not the time to decide you have an issue with doing a favor. It was just so unprofessional all around. If she was going to charge for moving the trailer, it should have been discussed 2 weeks prior, when we first asked her about using her trailer to move Bali. This is what a professional would have done, and it would have been taken well. However, deciding to charge a fee at the last minute for something originally discussed as being done for free just seemed plain spiteful, especially to the new boarder moving in.

I also started doing a lot more groundwork with Lily, which made a huge difference in her work under saddle. Her skittishness during her heat cycles began to dissipate.


July
Mark and I finally made peace and started talking again. What a relief!

Bali had a nasty colic on July 4th, which was not handled well by Judy. Mark and Dianne discovered the mare dull and listless in her stall when they fed in the morning, and called Judy, who lived right across the street, to let her know what was going on. It took Judy over an hour to show up. Mark and Dianne left, assuming Judy would take care of Bali while waiting for Diana. Diana showed up to find Bali down in her stall...and Judy riding Rose in the arena! I was at work and could not help, but pretty much everything you should not do with a colicking horse was done with Bali. By the time I got out of work in the evening, Bali was still colicking-she was dehydrated and painful, because Judy had only given her half doses of my Banamine. Being a draft cross, she is stoic and the only one who could see how uncomfortable the mare was was Diana. I gave Bali a full dose of medication and stayed at the barn until 11:00 pm, when Bali finally seemed back to her normal self. Diana was not a happy camper-she still wonders if Judy was deliberately trying to hurt her mare. I was not impressed with our barn manager's ability (or lack thereof) to handle a boarder's horsey emergency.

On July 8, Lily and I celebrated our first anniversary together with a trail ride in the park, where we cantered on the trails for the first time.


Charles had an interview with a brand new hospital in Orlando, but they wanted him to start at the end of the month! Our townhouse lease wasn't up until November. We tried to figure out how we'd finagle this one, but as it turned out, we didn't have to: Charles didn't get the job. He had 3 other interviews with Florida hospitals between West Palm and Orlando and none of them panned out. I began feverishly looking for travel nursing jobs for him, trying to figure out a location where there would be an abundance of jobs so we could just relocate permanently while still allowing him to bounce around from one job to the next in the same area.

We celebrated my birthday in Wolf Lake with the horses, where Bali proved herself to be quite the seahorse, and Lily got used to being in the water again (we had taken her there the year before, but she didn't remember).

Bali having a blast splashing in the water!

"Mom, why you do this?"

Around this time, more tensions came up between Judy and me, and I had finally lost so much faith in her that I just decided to not even try to talk about it. At her boyfriend's recommendation, she decided she needed to move-they were going to move in together, however he was not offering to help her out financially with the deposits. She had offered to let me buy the Wintec Pro and pay it off in installments (this would have allowed me to still have a dressage saddle I could compete in), but I had just bought a very expensive semi-custom saddle and had had no money left over to even start paying for Judy's saddle. Out of the blue one day she asked me to pay for the saddle in full. I had just told her the day before how Charles and I were struggling financially, and I very literally freaked out. I told her I did not have the money and she could sell the saddle at our local tack store. What irritated me about this? I had ridden Rose for Judy for 2 months consistently for 3-4 times a week to keep her in work. We were supposed to exchange that work for lessons. As mentioned in May, when Judy started dating, she was going out on the weekends, so I had stopped asking for lessons, hoping that Judy would let me know when she was available. The $700 she owed me was twice the amount she wanted for the saddle, and I had been hoping that at some point we could discuss simply exchanging the saddle for the work I had put into Rose and the artwork I had done for Judy. Of course, the moment when Judy was asking for money was not the time to tell her exactly how much she owed me, so again the whole subject went undiscussed. The saddle was put up for sale at our local tack shop, and as far as I know, it's still there. Judy had to come up with the money for her new apartment on her own. 

I took a job as a relief technician on the weekends at an overnight emergency clinic to get additional money for our own move. I also stared doing extensive research on equine transport companies and getting quotes.  

In July I also had Lily's front shoes removed, to officially start our barefoot journey.

And my saddle finally, FINALLY arrived after a long, long wait! With the Alta Escuela, we started looking like this:

Judy broke up with her boyfriend, and she almost completely removed herself from the barn. We never knew when she would be in a good mood when she was there, and were often submitted to dirty looks and glares for no reason. I tried a few times to continue being her friend, but in the end I threw in the towel. I continued trying to be friendly with her because Judy had been very good to me, but the change in her was obvious and not for the better. 

August
Lily continued to progress without shoes, showing me how much better she moves without them. Diana and I went riding together in the park. We continued our ground work and progressed to work at liberty in the arena. 


I gave notice at my previous job and started working full time at the emergency clinic where I'd previously been doing only relief work-they paid a lot more, and we needed the extra money for the move. 

We had Tropical Storm Isaac. Judy also proved to not be the best at managing the barn during natural disasters, having Mark and Dianne do all of the storm preparations by themselves while she hid at home (Diana and I both had to work the days before and of the storm itself). This was the talk of the barn for a long time:

Right smack in front of Bali's walkout "to act as a windshield". Diana swore Judy really had something against her.
Which, if you know anything about hurricanes, can result in this:


After the storm, I noticed Lily resting her left hind a lot, and this marked the beginning of the struggle with her punctured frog. 





At the end of August, I ordered my own rasp and trimming equipment. At this time, my Paso Fino Lucero was euthanized-he had lost his long battle with heaves. 


September
This was the worst month of the year for me. I was still mourning over Lucero, when Shakti, my kitty whom I'd had from the time she was a kitten, started vomiting blood. She was also having diarrhea with blood. I'd known for a long time that she had cancer-she had been steadily losing weight for the last year, and she had a lot of muscle wasting around her head and back (cachexia, one of the big indicators of cancer). I suspected  intestinal lymphoma or carcinoma in her digestive tract. I had never had her properly worked up because she became a fiend at the vet's office to the point where she wouldn't even recognize me. Just sedating her was an ordeal-you couldn't restrain her, as it would make her more violent. I've seen the way cats are treated when they wig out at the veterinarian's office and hated the idea of having her go through that. And for what? I knew what was wrong, and I had no intention of putting her through chemo. So I just waited for her to let me know when it would be time. 

It was time exactly 10 days after Lucero's death. I made arrangements at work, and Charles brought her in. She died in her favorite place in his arms, peacefully. She had been a muscular 15 lb cat in her good days. She was down to a skeletal 5 lbs on her last day on earth. The vet was able to palpate an enormous mediastinal mass in her abdomen, confirming my diagnosis. I cried a lot the rest of September.

Charles started interviewing with travel nursing companies. We were trying for the Virginia Beach area, but all of the jobs were popping up in the DC metro area. We both applied for our Virginia licenses and got them.

Lily and I started trying more advanced lateral work, and I had a real barefoot trimmer come out to work on Lily's feet. 



October
This was such a hectic month that I only posted once. I pulled a wood splinter out of Lily's foot and had it radiographed: the images were clean. 

Charles was hired by the Georgetown University Hospital. We had to move up here by October 28th, so he could start to work on October 30th. I didn't have much time to ride after that, as we were in a flurry of activity to get everything packed and make arrangements for the move. Charles barely had enough time to get his DC RN license.

Lily had a battery of vaccines and one last trim with our FL trimmer. She shipped to her current barn in Maryland on October 21st.



We left South FL on October 27th, driving right in front of Frankenstorm Sandy all the way up the East coast with our one remaining kitty, Astarte. 

We made it safe, sound and dry, and even got to see Lily at our new barn before the storm hit. I thought she was slightly lame during our visit to the barn, but thought maybe I was being paranoid. The weather change was a big introduction to winter, and Charles got to see autumn for the first time in his life. 


We didn't even lose power during Sandy, though NY and NJ weren't so lucky. 2 days later, it was confirmed that Lily was indeed lame, and she had some extreme bruising in her right front hoof, probably from pawing in the trailer for 5 hours straight during a layover in Savannah on the trip North. We tried Cavallo boots on her and she had another week off, during which she recovered well. I started riding her in the boots. 


November
I started a new job at one of the biggest referral practices in this area. We rode on the trails with Tina for the first time, and Lily was introduced to ditches. In my attempts to do groundwork with her over a stream on the same trail, I had a very close call, during which Lily only stepped on my right foot instead of my body. I was alive, but my foot looked like this afterwards:



Despite having health insurance, I never had it looked at because I needed to continue to work-I preferred to not know and plod on, than to know for sure I was walking around on a fractured foot, or God forbid, be told I needed to rest it for 4 weeks-I needed to keep my new job. I knew it would heal better if I didn't know. I'm pretty sure it was fractured in at least 2 places, but I hobbled on thanks to ibuprofen, Vetrap and an old pair of wide, very broken-in sneakers. 

Riding seemed to make my foot feel better, so I continued to ride as often as possible. Lily was turned out in the big field with the other horses, and it was a nice non-event.



We met our farrier/trimmer and Lily got her Eponas on her front feet only. 



Back in Florida, Judy relinquished management of the barn to Dianne, and moved Rose to a full board facility with a bad reputation in the area. Of course she barely gave 2 weeks notice to the remaining boarders that she was leaving, then tried to sell all of her stuff (which she wouldn't be using) to Dianne and Mark. This included some stuff that they themselves had paid for (like the hoses), and stuff that wasn't hers to sell (the large black rubber water tub-that had belonged to the previous manager; and my pair of cross ties). I had donated my cross ties to the barn, but when I heard Judy was trying to sell them off as her own, I had Dianne hide them and say I had taken them, along with my old bottle of Banamine. Apparently this created a lot of wrath in Judy, because she defriended me on Facebook. Oh well. I suggested setting up the second wash rack, I drilled the holes in the walls for the eyehooks myself, and I paid a lot of money for some rather shitty cross ties from the feed store that weren't even adjustable. The cross ties in that second wash stall were my pair. I did tell Judy that I had done all this, but of course she wouldn't remember a year later. I refused to have her try to sell my cross ties as hers, however, so I made sure Dianne and Mark would have them. 

Judy managed to alienate Mark and Dianne, who are really nice people, and for some reason believed Diana was now her best friend-she even tried to convince Diana to leave with her. Diana, who still thought Judy had deliberately tried to harm Bali. Judy left the barn alone, with all of her stuff. Even Sarah, who had been very close to Judy, felt like Judy had betrayed them all. 

I really hate barn drama, and I'm so glad to be out of that situation. I really do hope that Judy finds happiness in life, and realizes that true happiness is found in oneself, not in a man. 

December
Lily finally started to grow a winter coat. We had some awesome workouts. 





We went on another trail ride with Tina, during which Lily owned those ditches, and my foot got better. We adopted Aengus, our new kitten, who has turned out to be a great match for Astarte:



Lily and I participated in a riding clinic with one of the trainers at our barn, and worked on new things together. We also did our first solo trail ride and it was a huge success:



The in-laws came to visit and we did a whole lot more exploring. We have hopelessly and thoroughly fallen in love with this place:








And we had our first bit of snow in our new home:



So yup: all in all, like I said before, 2012 was most definitely an EPIC year for Lily, Charles and me! 

Goals for 2013? I'm not big on setting goals-I like to just do better than we did last year. I do have some vague goals: I'd like to start working out for real at some point in the near future, since I don't have barn work to keep me fit anymore. I'd like to start working with a quality trainer who will take Lily and me further along. I'd like to canter on those trails that lead from the barn. I hope Charles gets a steady job that pays a lot more. I hope we can resolve our student loan issues in a way that allows us to live as we are now and still have some money left over. And I wish for love, happiness, health and prosperity for us and our families. 

And for you and yours too. :) Thanks for reading!



















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