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

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Magic

Yes, because THIS happened!!!

Last Sunday night we had a nasty storm system moving into the area. Low pressure systems have always given me headaches: when we lived in the tropics, I always knew when the tropical storms or hurricanes were really going to hit. Since moving to the Northeast, we discovered that I still have the same issue...but with winter storms. I can literally predict the weather these days based on the amount of sinus pressure I get 24 hours before the event. The head trauma helped to enhance my "superpower".

Okay, so I can't control the weather like Storm but I can at least warn you about it. ;)
To a degree.
On Monday I woke up to pouring rain and so dizzy from the sinus pressure that I couldn't walk a straight line. Vomited 10 times before I could get some ondansetron down, and then just crawled back into bed. I felt as bad as I had on the day of the accident. It was awful. I was so upset: it was probably the lowest mental point I'd been at since the accident. I slept two more hours and got up to run errands with Charles. I was able to function on Dramamine and Advil Cold & Sinus. As the day wore on, I felt better and somehow, magically, the dizziness pretty much disappeared by Tuesday morning. And I mean 98% of it disappeared. It was the most normal I'd felt in a long time, even with the craziness at work over the holiday. I was running down the hospital hallway to grab yet another emergency and thinking, "OMG I can actually do this now!" It was pretty awesome. I just didn't want to get too excited because of what had happened on Monday.

I had been planning on trying to ride this weekend for the first time since the accident. It was honestly the one thing I'd really wanted for Christmas: to be able to ride again. And it seemed like the Powers That Be were going to grant me my wish.

Friday finally came around and I woke up way too early but hung around the house so I could open Christmas gifts with Charles (we had been working opposite schedules over the holiday and hadn't really seen one another since the 23rd) before he had to leave for work at 10:30 am.

And then I sort of puttered around the house for the next two hours. You'd think I'd be excited, right? No, I was actually pretty nervous. But I finally figured I could just go to the barn and play it by ear: if I ultimately felt that riding was a Really Bad Idea once there, then I could just longe the girls instead.

So off I went and felt better and better about the whole idea the closer I got to the barn. Once there, I helped Kathy and Zoe get the hay ring Kathy had ordered for the future round bale set up. And then I went to get Lily.

She stopped eating when she saw me coming down to the big field. She was a tiny speck in the distance, but she saw me. She started walking towards me when I was a few yards from her. (I would love it if she would canter up to me when I call her name, but just having her stroll towards me or wait for me to come to her is enough. She really did use to run away from me as recently as a year and a half ago.)

She zig-zagged while walking behind me, looking back at her herd but the other three mares continued grazing unconcerned.

I tied her up at the fence and gave her a flake of hay to eat while I groomed and tacked her up. Lily was super calm and relaxed. I longed her very briefly in the paddock in front of the barn, just having her trot around me twice in each direction to see where her brain was at. Since all I've done with her in 6 weeks is longe her two times. And she was absolutely fine.

So I got on. She'll stand still for me to swing on and normally she tries to walk away from the mounting block before I have my right foot in the stirrup. It is an argument I've had with her for a long time but fussing at her about standing still sometimes just makes her more reactive.

This time, however, she shifted her weight as if to move...then chose to stand still. I'd like to think that she decided to wait because maybe something about me didn't feel quite right? We walked around the paddock on a loose rein and then I played with some lateral movements at a walk while holding the reins in one hand: leg yields, quarter turns and changes of direction, whoa and reinback. We walked and we walked and we walked. Initially I thought I'd just walk for 30 minutes, but about 15 minutes in I decided to try trotting. We trotted 5 steps and I realized that posting at the trot was still a definite no-go. Back to a walk. And then I thought, "I wonder if I'd be okay at the canter?" I must've suggested it with my body because Lily just picked up a canter from the walk without me asking for it the second I formulated the thought.

And so we cantered...and I was FINE! No dizziness whatsoever! So we cantered in both directions around the paddock a few times, transitioning from walk to canter and canter to walk. It was like I'd never stopped riding.

After that we called it a day.

Love her!
The mares all had their dinners and then they were all released in the back field so they could investigate the hay ring. Deja was leery about it, Gracie snorted at it then walked over to investigate, Queenie went and stuck her head in it right away looking for hay, and Lily walked over and sniffed it.

That's Lily in the blue sheet. Gracie is wearing the green.
And then she stuck her head in it too.

On Saturday I headed back out with Charles. Lily was a little spicier this time but still very good. Charles took photos:

Leg yielding while riding one-handed.

We started with a long walk warm-up then added the lateral work gradually. It was basically the same warm-up from the day before. And then Lily picked up a trot of her own accord, her slow smooth trot...and I realized I really can ride the trot if I don't post!

Please ignore my hideous equitation and just look at Lily. I was using the inside leg to ask for bend. Heel should be down anyway.

And then we cantered!

I called it a day at around 45 minutes. It was a really great ride and it was wonderful beyond words to be able to ride normally again.

Lily barely broke a sweat. I set her up with her dinner while I showed Charles how to longe Gracie in the Bungee Straightjacket: to my surprise, he had asked me several weeks ago if I would show him how to longe. I set up the whole rig for him, explaining what each part is supposed to do so he would understand what he was looking at and the mechanism of the gadget, but I told him I don't really want him to worry setting up the bungee system himself especially since he only really works with Gracie when I'm around.

Gracie was hot to trot and more than a little zoomy to start with, so I had to work her on calming down, which seemed an exercise in futility. The mare really, really needs consistency so that she can be consistent. I can't lose my patience with setbacks when I can't work her regularly at the moment. Charles squatted on the ground to watch a safe distance away. I was able to show him her whoa and how he needs to immediately release the pressure on the longe line as a reward when she responds to his request. I showed him how to ask for changes of direction from the whoa. G-mare obeyed but continued to be very "up" while in motion. I eventually gave up and handed the longe line to Charles hoping that maybe with a different person holding the line Gracie would settle down.

I wish I had taken photos. I'm still doing something wrong with my energy around her. She was zoomy for Charles too in the beginning and I did have to adjust the rig and thread the longe line through the inside bit ring to clip it to the surcingle to give him a little more control. But soon she had settled and was trotting out really, really nicely for him, reaching into the contact, drooling and stepping up underneath herself like a dressage horse. Charles did an excellent job at touching and releasing pressure on the longe line when needed and using a very quiet, very calm body language. Not something I told him about; he just picked up on it while watching. He really is a natural around these animals.

He hand walked Gracie afterwards to cool her out and then she too had her dinner.

It was a great first weekend on our way back to true normalcy.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!


  1. So happy for you!!! So exciting that C is interested in learning to work Gracie. I wonder if having her "own" person (especially since C is so laid back and calm) will fill a need she is missing.

    I laugh every time I read "Bungie Straightjacket".

    1. And super proud of your horse taking care of you.

  2. Yay! So glad to see that you are riding again :)

  3. Exciting!!! A perfect Christmas present from the horses.

  4. Ooh yay! I'm so glad you felt well enough to ride- it really is good for the soul I think :)

  5. So good to see you back in the saddle! Hooray!

  6. Yay! An excellent Christmas present! So happy to see you back in the saddle and kudos to Lily for being such a good girl and taking care of you.

  7. The best present!

    I wonder like Karen if Gracie having her own person will make a difference. Mares are so very particular

  8. yay! congrats for getting back in the saddle!

  9. YEAH! Congrats, that's great news!

  10. Gracie kind of reminds me of Faran. I never had much luck with him because I had the wrong energy for him, but hubby was great with him. Anyway, I'm thrilled you're back to riding and that the dizziness has improved so much. Hopefully this concussion will soon be a distant memory so you can move on and have fun with Lilly again!