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



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of the Year Recap: 2013, the Year of Discomfort


If you want to know what I'm referencing in the title, go read this great article that Liz shared recently:


It's about always pushing your limits. And 2013 has certainly been a year of testing limits.

January
We moved from the temporary housing offered by the travel nursing agency in VA to an apartment of our choice in MD. Why? Because my job and my horse were both in MD and I was doing 70-mile round trips 6 days a week between work and visiting Lily. Charles knew he wouldn't be in a travel nursing position forever. Even if he'd ended up working at the D.C. hospital permanently, the MD apartment we chose is in a sweet location, right next to 3 of the main highways in this area, and it was only a 30-minute drive for Charles from home to the hospital. Time-wise, it took him just as long with traffic to get to the hospital from the VA apartment (7 miles from the hospital but driving with the flow of traffic + within the city), as it did from the MD apartment (18 miles from the hospital, driving against the flow of traffic)!

I worked with Lily in some of the coldest weather her and I had ever experienced yet. She was spazzy some days and others she gave me great rides. We had our first ever snow ride - I'd never ever ridden in the snow before, & Lily had never been ridden in snow before, as she was born and raised in FL. We did this within the confines of the outdoor arena.

SNOW PONY!!!

And this month also marked the day when I started corresponding with Liz outside of the blog realm via FB and e-mail. She became the first blogger to learn my real name.


February
With Tina and Houdon, we discovered the Bayou trail on which I would later finish Lily's rehab.

Following Tina and Houdon on the Bayou Trail.
We tried a solo ride on it, as the going was much easier than going through the opposite loop with the million ditches and river crossings (this was when Lily was still really iffy about crossing water) and did more groundwork on the trail to desensitize her to obstacles. Lily battled an abscess and was on brief stall rest, but it was not the first time that this would happen that winter. Frustrating. By the end of February, I wasn't so much tired of the cold, I was tired of struggling with layers of clothes and the mud in the fields and on the trails.

I wrote a post about blogging, wondering out loud to y'all about developing a larger following. I received some really great advice from all of you, which is what led to the creation of the FB Wait For The Jump page, and also to me just starting to comment a whole lot more on the blogs I follow. Wouldn't you know it...my followers more than tripled.


March
Lily was lame again, this time with a stone bruise. Her teeth were floated by the new vet at the barn vet's office, and I won my Wintec Pro Contourbloc on eBay.


Wintec Pro Contourbloc on Lily
I started riding Sally's OTTB, Jezebel twice a week to exercise her. I was officially tired of the cold. I'd been fine while a part of me thought it would always be cold (remember we had just moved from an area where it was the same temperature year-round), but when everyone started talking about spring, I started to really look forward to it. I'd never experienced a real spring.


April
The worst month of the entire year, and I know this was true for several other bloggers. The one highlight of the month was going to DC with Charles to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Gorgeous!!


But the rest of the month sucked balls. On April 1st, Jezebel bucked Sally off into the arena fence, breaking Sally's finger and the fence simultaneously. Jezebel had had some on again, off again lameness since the previous November. Sally asked me to work with her the day after she was thrown. I decided to try her on the lunge first and Jezebel was so lame she was trotting in front and cantering in back. The vet diagnosed her with a small suspensory tear. Since Sally couldn't handle her mare due to her hand, I started helping out with Jezebel's rehab. While trimming Lily, my farrier removed a little too much of her left hind frog, revealing the fact that the old puncture wound from the previous summer was still there. Lily was pretty sore on that leg after that and not improving. I thought she had something horrible like pedal osteitis from the old puncture wound and that I would have to put her down. I had the new vet, Dr. R, out to look at Lily. She blocked out at the fetlock, not the hoof, and that is how we discovered that the main source of her lameness was a mild annular ligament strain, not so much the puncture wound. We later radiographed the hoof anyway, injecting contrast dye into the hole of the old puncture wound, and discovered that the hole was maybe 1/2" deep. We decided that we weren't going to worry about it.

Lily's left hind, with contrast dye injected into the puncture wound.
May
A week later I was picking the hoof when Lily jerked and made the old puncture wound bleed. When I returned the next day, her entire leg was swollen past her hock: cellulitis. She had to go on injectable antibiotics for that that created an extreme aversion to injections that took a good 5 months to cure. I stopped riding Jezebel after we realized her back was too sore from being laid up (I actually never rode her again after that; Sally hired a trainer who is much braver than myself.) I posted a lot in May as we started Lily back under saddle (while heavily sedated to avoid injury to herself and/or me) for progressively longer walks. I failed at long lining with her, and have not revisited this, though I still think it's something every horse should be able to do. Lily's back was sore from standing in the stall, so we struggled with finding the right combo of medications to keep her comfortable. She started showing signs of ulcers while on Previcox. We finally settled on just Robaxin (methocarbamol), which kept her back pain-free during the remainder of her stall rest. Since she had bucked on two separate occasions despite sedation, Charles accompanied me to the barn for my rides on Lily for a long time, just so he could hold her bridle while I got on. I decided to let Lily's roached mane grow out after this. I have never felt so continually afraid of riding a horse, especially a horse of my own. I started to really, really hate stalls and the whole idea of keeping a horse locked up in one. I secretly promised Lily that if we made it through this rehab, I would set her free.

Lauren and L. Williams were super supportive during this time, for which I am eternally grateful, and I started to realize just how awesome blogging can be. Liz and I continued e-mailing in RL.

I started the Today's Run series. Since I wasn't riding all that much, I had all of this extra time and I wanted to work on being a fitter rider. So I started running again. How did I keep myself on track? By posting photos from each run every day I hit the pavement as the seasons changed.

Photos of pine tree candles (aka new growth), from the Today's Run series.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing this series and it really helped keep me in line. It's too bad I'm a huge wuss about running outdoors in the cold.


June
More of the same as May, except Lily and I started trotting under saddle for a whole two minutes. I never wrote about it, but at this point I was going through a phenomenon that is common in the medical field known as compassion fatigue. I was tired, I wasn't sleeping well. I was tired of work, I was tired of Lily's rehab, I was tired of drugging her for rides yet being terrified not to, I was tired of worrying, I was tired of wondering if she'd be okay and what she would be like once we could go back to normal work-wise. I was tired of wondering if she'd immediately re-injure herself the minute she started turnout again. Astarte, my calico kitty whom I adore, seemed NQR. I took her into work for her 6-month senior bloodwork (in cats older than 10, we recommend a CBC, chemistry, thyroid levels and urinalysis every 6 months to make sure everything is working right) and one of the vets heard what she thought was a gallop rhythm in her heart, so I scheduled an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) with the cardiologists at work. It was a week before we could be seen. A week of worrying. Heart disease in cats can be particularly awful: if not treated with medication, the cat can end up with a condition called a saddle thrombus, where a clot can lodge itself in the bifurcation of the aorta, the artery that supplies blood to the hind legs, cutting off all circulation. It is excruciatingly painful. It is a lot more common than you might think, and most of the time it is a death sentence. It is one of the most horrifying feline emergencies because the cats come into the hospital SCREAMING in pain. Even if you get the cat through it, once it happens there is like a high chance of reoccurrence within the first year after the event. I think you can understand my worry.

The cardiologist found a completely normal heart in Astarte, which was a huge relief. I started a post on all of that but I still have it in my Drafts folder. It was too much at the time to even finish.  I was thankful that I had a massive discount at work to be able to afford all of that, but at the time I was so tired, so burned out, that I was having a really hard time coping at work. My mom's cat became really sick back on the island, and I was helping her through that. Bastet ultimately died and my mom was ripped into tiny little pieces; I had no way of even adequately comforting her from a distance. She adored that cat; she was an extension of herself. My friend Mark's beagle, Timmy, also started to deteriorate and I was helping him with that as well. Everyone in the blogosphere seemed to also be having a hard time with the health/soundness of their horses. L. Williams lost her beloved Carlos at the end of May, and I can't even begin to explain how deep that hit home, especially because he'd been lame around the same time as Lily. I cried for them. Lauren recently wrote a great post honoring those we lost this year.

June was among the busiest months of the year in our ER and we were having a really horrible run of deaths. Not due to any wrongdoing; there were just A LOT of really sick animals being brought in through the door that we couldn't save, either because the animals were too far gone, too old, or the owners couldn't afford treatment. We were averaging over 25 emergencies during a 12 hour shift (that's a lot, people. We had 2 techs, 2 doctors, and 4 emergency rooms to work with. When you need a doctor and a tech to monitor and treat the dog that is trying to die on the table, while only 1 other tech and doctor are available to handle the other equally critical emergencies coming in through the door plus labwork and xrays, it can get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly.) Deaths per shift were averaging 6+.  Morale in general was low at work because of this both among doctors and techs, but given what was also going on with pets that were close to me, it started to become increasingly harder for me to deal with other people's worry, to work on other people's animals. I struggled every time an animal was euthanized and fought back an overwhelming urge to cry every time I had to process a deceased patient. I kept this to myself. I'd tell myself I'd cry in the car once I was driving home, but then I was terrified of allowing myself to let all of that emotion out. It was...too much. I started actively looking for non-veterinary jobs but, while there were plenty of jobs to be had that I was more than qualified for, the thought of doing something else didn't make me happy either. I really withdrew into myself for the rest of this month. Charles noticed big time; I couldn't put into spoken words the way I felt and didn't want to try; I felt that by voicing it out into the air it would make everything more real and somehow set in stone. He started consistently reading the blog at this time because, interestingly, it was the one month of the year when I posted the most, simply because just writing everything that was going on, even if I was omitting more than half of what was really happening, really helped me get through this rough patch. It also helped Charles understand the way I was feeling without me having to speak. I read articles on compassion fatigue and waited for things to get better. For awhile there, I really wanted a vacation from my life. June was a very dark month.


July
This month marked the big turnaround of the year for me. It started out crappy when Sally, my main barn buddy and the writer of the My Ex Racers blog was evicted from the barn. This caused a cascade of barn drama that resulted in my farrier/trimmer firing the entire barn. I was forced to start trimming Lily's feet myself. I'd already been doing maintenance trims on her, but for the first time I decided to really take matters into my own hands. It was Fear #1 that I had to get over this month: will I screw up my horse by trimming her? I think we're doing well so far.


I started 4 minutes of trotting with Lily, and she had her final ultrasound, where everything looked great!  The end of her rehab was suddenly in sight: we were scheduled to be able to start full work by August.

July is my birthday, and I wanted to celebrate it. I wanted to do something different, wild, go some place we hadn't been to before.

At this time, Liz invited us over to Elkins to visit. I wrote 4 posts about it, going over everything in detail because I wanted to be able to remember all the things in the future. It still fills me with joy to remember it because it was the trip where I decided to start overcoming ALL the fears.

Getting to meet Liz, Kenai, Q and Griffin in person was one of the big highlights of this year. I met a pretty amazing human being who has changed my perspective on so many things!

She's seriously one of my best friends now.


I wish we lived closer!
Second fear: diving into a natural body of water. I don't know why this was a big deal, to tell you the truth. Just one of many things I hadn't done in like 16 years.

Success! I didn't die!
Third Fear: standing on the edge of a cliff. I have a TERRIBLE fear of heights.

See that fin of rock?
That's where this photo was taken!

Fourth Fear: galloping on the trails. What if the horse stumbles/spooks/falls/trips/bucks, etc at speed? I used to love the idea of this while growing up and after several bad experiences in FL had developed a fear of it. This one in particular seems especially silly now when looking back on it. It was a new fear and one that I'm especially happy to have resolved. Not that Lily and I gallop on the trails, though - the only place she'll gallop is on the Hill of Doom in the back woods, but that's it. She has a good head: she won't go faster than a canter even on the few instances when I've asked for more, and she won't canter if the footing is at all questionable.

Some galloping occurs in this video. 
I was riding Little Bit, leading on the trail. Not only did we gallop, I trusted him enough to film it!

Fifth Fear: Riding bareback. Liz had picked up on how much I missed this from previous blog posts. I had not done it in such a long time, and the last time I had attempted on Lily, she had bucked me off! I didn't get back on that day, and that always screws with your head. So I got to ride bareback!

On Q
On Little Bit

It's like what Charles always says about dancing: you might not know the steps, but if you pretend that you know what you're doing, it will look like you do. So I pretended I was much braver than I really was and as a result, BECAME much braver! It was nice to have my 17-year-old self back after 4 days in the mountains with Liz.

The minute I returned to the barn, I aced Lily (she was still in rehab) and took her on the trails. By myself. I wanted to hold onto that freedom I had discovered with Little Bit, and I wanted to achieve that same feeling with my own mare. And thus I conquered the Fifth Fear this month: riding Lily alone on the trails consistently.

Among my fave "ears" photos of her, and the first taken when we took our rehab onto the trails.
I started taking her out every time I rode her, weather permitting. Every. single. time. While continue to taper down her ace dose as we started approaching the end of her rehab. And not only did we not die, we started to have FUN while riding alone out there. We started to trust one another. And my goals with her returned to a goal I had toyed with in the past but never seriously: endurance. I've always, always wanted to try it and in FL I thought she'd be great at it, but with her anhydrosis down there and the heat year-round, I knew it would have been insane to attempt with her. Now? She was sweating GREAT this past summer (there is a theory that anhydrotic horses are cured once you move them to an area where it's not hot 24/7 and I believe it now), and she started to tell me she was okay with this trail riding thing. I started thinking we can finally give this sport a whirl.

My mom came to visit for two weeks. It was her first time in the DC area so we gave her The Grand Tour! July was, simply put, the month I set myself free.


August
Lily's rehab ended. We started turnout in small doses, first in the square pen at the old barn, then in the hospital paddock with Ramsey, a buddy. I rode Ramsey while his leaser was out of town and remembered what it was like to ride geldings.

View of the big field between Ramsey's adorable black-tipped ears.
I struggled with Lily's irrational hormonal swings and she had a 1-week vacation from riding because I didn't want to deal with her hysterics while in heat.


September
I wanted to keep my Free Lily promise to her. And we just couldn't afford the board at my upscale barn anymore. While looking for field board options, a coworker offered me the opportunity of boarding at her small barn for free in exchange for helping out with chores. I could turn out Lily there as much or as little as I wanted - there were also stalls available. We moved but the coworker rapidly became unreasonable in her demands. I had gone to visit Sally at her new barn a couple of times and really liked it. It was closer to home, too, and they had openings available for both field board and stall board. We moved again. Lily started out there on 12/12 stall/turnout and was rapidly transferred to full field board when another boarder decided she wanted field board too: Lily would have a buddy with her 24/7 and the stall board mares would be out with the two girls 12 hours a day as well. At this point, I finally completely stopped acing Lily for rides.

She was supposed to be well back into full work by now, but I was afraid of doing a lot of w/t/c with her since she was quite unfit. She had been inside a stall for 23 hours a day for the past 4 months. We needed to re-condition her muscles, ligaments, and cardiac capacity. There was a vast array of trails at my new barn and plenty of people to go out with. We started trail riding. A LOT. Solo and in groups. And that's pretty much all I did and posted about for the rest of September! Trails, trails, trails! This is how I worked on getting a baseline fitness on Lily: by doing plenty of LSD (long slow distance), as it is called in endurance. Trail work was mostly at a walk, sometimes for up to 2 hours at a time, with mileage ranging anywhere from 6 to 8.5 miles per ride.

Gorgeous late summer trails
The river at the park across the street

Oh, and Charles and I did the Electric Run in DC!



October
Busy, busy, busy!! October was jam-packed full of fun. I celebrated Charles's birthday, our 4th wedding anniversary, 8th anniversary together, and 1st anniversary living in the DMV. Lily had a chiro adjustment. I started adding some very short sets of trot and canter to Lily's trail work when riding out alone. Our first longer ride alone (5.7 miles) was pretty awesome.

And Liz came to visit us! TWICE! Here 

One of my favorite photos of the ones Liz took that day.
And here.
Liz on McTavish, our barn's resident Haflinger
I fulfilled one of my goals for this year, which was to canter Lily on the trails, and Charles caught it on camera!

October was also the month in which the Fort Valley endurance race occurred, where Charles and I went to crew for Liz. It was my first time at an endurance ride and our first time camping in cold weather (23 degrees, to be exact!) We had SO. MUCH. FUN. If I was attracted to the endurance sport before, this experience officially made me fall in love with it. Charles still considers that trip one of his highlights of the year. (Yay crewing husband!)

Team Q
November
We started adding in some occasional faster work to our trail riding and finally averaged 5mph in a solo ride. I had our local saddle fitter come out and adjust both of Lily's saddles. She was able to do the Alta Escuela, and after some minor adjustments, it turns out that my Wintec Pro does fit Lily well after all! I did my Training Recap post on Lily, which went over the big lows and highs in her training for the past two years. (Still want to turn that into a tab at the top for future reference for readers.) Returned to South FL the last weekend of the month to visit Charles's family and go to his cousin's wedding. We had a lot of fun!


December
December started out with the adventure that ensued after losing one of Lily's front Renegades. I tried to re-tell it in as funny a fashion as I could; at the time everything was happening I was upset about the boot, yes, but I was laughing internally thinking that the whole thing would make a good story. We never found the boot, but I was pretty amazed by the persistence and support of my friends who insisted we continue looking and accompanied me on the search.

Lily showed some mild NQR signs that resolved after several days off work. The stocking up I now think was unrelated & just the first signs of her scratches infection brewing. I had the vet prescribe meds when it wasn't responding to over-the-counter products, and later on, after 2 weeks of being back to her new normal self (bright but calm) I had bloodwork run just to make sure that this is really the New Lily and not that she's been feeling crappy. Everything came back 100% normal.

The rest of the month has been kind of all over the place what with extra shifts at work for both myself and Charles, and bad weather and/or bad footing almost every time I've been off. By bad weather I'm referring to freezing rain or just rain. Blecch. Lily has averaged about a max of 3 working days a week this month instead of our usual 4, which is fine by me. Horses boarded in pasture can retain their fitness levels for up to 6 months, which is another perk of the outdoor life. Our work has been focusing more on cross training by practicing dressage in the arena (because when the rest of the world is a muddy mess, the footing in our arena is actually perfect!) and LSD rides with Kathy.

The big highlight of the month was our small barn Christmas parade on Kathy's birthday.


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There have been many wonderful moments this year, and one of them has been meeting you all. When I started this blog over 2 years ago, I was hoping to get to eventually experience this aspect of having a blog, but I was completely clueless as to how to get there. How to get here. I have met so many friends thanks to this blog, thanks to Lily! I quite literally have friends all over the country now, and it's all you guys that read, comment and provide your endless support. Thank you so much for reading!



AAAANDDDD...if you've made it this far reading extra-long post, you'll get to know: 
I will be doing a giveaway when I reach 100 followers. 

I think I now have close to 50 between here and the Wait For The Jump Facebook page.

The giveway will be this:
A portrait, drawn by moi, of your horse or any horse that you love.

Here are some samples of my work:









All of the portraits above, except for the 4th one (ink on white paper), are of friends' horses, using a photo or a variety of photos as reference. That 4th one from the top down is 100% from my imagination.


So, if you're interested and are not officially following by "liking" the Facebook page or signing up on the right through Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs, go ahead and do so, and spread the word. :) I will explain the contest rules once I can tally 100 followers.

21 comments:

  1. ^^ What she said! How did you hide this from us?!! :O It's been a rollercoaster of a year for you guys--sooo glad you're back on a good track again! :) :)

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    1. I actually haven't hidden it. Lol There's more of my artwork in the tab "How I Became a Vet Tech." :) I was an art major going into graphic design before I decided to switch careers.

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  2. Wow! What a year. Let's hope next year is a little less "exciting."

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    1. Only exciting in the best possible sense!

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  3. My two best friends and their hidden artistically abilities. Tsk tsk tsk. The world wants more of it!

    I've had such a blast with you and Charles this year. I CANNOT wait for all of the fun that we will have in 2014. Skiing. Beaches. ATL for the ARC convention. And further adventures with our own horses at rides. :-) Maybe we'll get you two on a raft in whitewater this summer. Or climbing?!

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    1. And I also love that you mentioned the discomfort thing again :-)

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    2. We have great whitewater rafting out here that the bunch of you could do!!!

      And we are hoping for a trip to the East Coast.

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    3. Liz: YES WE SHALL DO ALL THE THINGS!!!

      Karen: I've told Charles repeatedly that we need to make a trip out West. He's never been to Colorado but would happily go there on vacation; I want to show him that it is NOT like Southpark! (Colorado was one of the places I had pushed for us to move to when we decided we were leaving FL.) He's never seen the Rockies. I think you may make it East before we are able to make it West, but it IS in the works. :)

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  4. Wow, what a year, sounds like we all had some struggles. Here's to a better 2014!

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  5. April really was the worst month.I'd also read The Flinch by Julien Smith (free), its a lot like the article you posted.

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    1. April sucked. :( I'm so so sorry L.

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  6. So glad your year turned around. So very happy I found your blog and got to share your story.

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    1. Me too!! I found yours when Liz mentioned you, and when I went to check yours out, I realized you had my blog on your blog roll and started commenting. I'm still catching up with yours, but I'm so happy we met! I guess the word met should be in " " until we meet in Real Life, but I think that interacting directly with someone through various electronic media other than just Blogland counts as meeting someone. :)

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  7. Big year! Very glad to be getting to know you. :)

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    1. I'm glad to be getting to know you too Hannah! I love your blog; I hope Tucker's physical issues resolve and you get to share many, many more adventures with him in 2014!

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  8. I just stumbled upon your blog today, but it sounds like you had an amazing - and extremely busy (wow) year. I am hosting a 2013 Year in Review blog hop - I would be thrilled if you would add your link to the collection. :-)

    http://talesofanewbiehorsebackrider.blogspot.ca/2013/12/year-in-review-2013.html

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    1. Welcome Laura! Thank you for the invite! I added my link to your blog hop, and will be checking out your blog! :)

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