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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

One Headlight

On the Lily front this week:


Work was weird. I swear all week we've been having delayed effects of the super full moon from last weekend. Our current class of veterinarian interns is finishing up, and the new class just started this past week. Yes, a whole new class of baby doctors to train (if you're a tech working at a teaching hospital, YOU will be training the next generation of veterinarians. Not everyone is cut out for this, but I love training baby doctors and watching them grow, until they get to the point where they know more than we do, and can stretch their wings and fly! :) It's exciting stuff.) One of our more laid -back new baby doctors was spending time in the ER. These interns are SO new out of school that their licenses haven't even kicked in yet-they get to watch and help out as techs for their first 2 weeks, until their licenses start on July 1st. Then the fun begins. The new intern with us on ER, C, had proven to be a huge help, eager to learn, with a happy and outgoing attitude. If she is able to retain those qualities through the most challenging year of her career, she will do fantastic.

On ER we take client phone calls. We had one phone call in particular where I was vaguely warned by the operator beforehand, something that rarely happens. With some trepidation, I took the call. Here is my side of the conversation:

"Yes, that is a normal color."
"As long as it goes back in, it is fine."
"Yes, that is completely normal."
"You may want to consider taking the teddy bear away from him if he's getting that excited about it."
"It can get stuck and then you might have a problem requiring an emergency visit to the vet's office. In a worst case scenario, surgery might be required. Definitely take the teddy bear away."
"If you can't handle him around other dogs, you may want to consider obedience training." I gave examples of places that offer obedience classes and even suggested books.
"Yes, I think neutering is an excellent idea. It will certainly help with the behaviors you have mentioned." I gave helpful suggestions of where she could have her pet neutered at a lower cost, ranging from the local Humane Society to any regular general practitioner vet.

During the beginning of the conversation, I watched C cover her mouth to keep from laughing, while I face-palmed. I was complimented on handling the call well. I've handled some pretty random and downright bizarre phone calls, especially during my brief stint as hospital receptionist while recovering from an injury, but this one was pretty awkward. It really did sound like a prank phone call, but as far as I know, it was the real deal. No radio show host announced a prize at the end of the conversation...

I'm constantly astounded by the number of people who decide to get a pet without doing any kind of research on their behavior and care beforehand!! At least this client was asking questions, though, and she was trying to make the right decision by neutering her oversexed dog.

That afternoon, I went to the barn with the intention of just taking Lily out and hand-grazing her. I put the rope halter and lunge line on her, and took her into her paddock to eat grass. 15 minutes into hand-grazing, I decided I would let her trot for her 2 minutes. Remember now that she's sober. I had her walk for 5 minutes on the lunge, then asked her to trot, going to the left first. She did great-we did 1 minute. Then we changed directions and I asked for the trot to the right.

Airs above ground ensued, including the following:

Because this is TOTALLY what a horse with a hind leg ligament injury should be doing...
I kid you not. This is what you get when you cross a Thoroughbred with an Andalusian!

She was playing. She wanted to play SO bad, and had this uber-goofy expression on her face while trying to change the energy of our interaction. I remained calm. "Trot" I said patiently, each time her feet touched the ground. After the 4th attempt, calmness won, and Lily conceded to simply trot around me to the right for 1 minute. I had her walk for 15 minutes after that, and then moved her to the really good grass outside of the paddock and let her eat for 20 minutes.

I am the owner of one seriously athletic goofball.

I don't think I'll be riding her sober anytime soon, that's for sure!

And I don't think we'll be repeating this day's stunt sober, either.


Sedated her with 3 mls of ace IM, and covered every inch of her with fly spray. Switched out her blingy browband for her mosquero browband.

Fancy, yes. But this kind of browband is a staple in traditional Spanish tack, and its main purpose is to keep flies off of the horse's face.
Then took Lily into the outdoor. We did one lap around the arena, and then I took her into the big field again.

She felt funny...because she was so sound!

We had taken maybe 5 steps into the big field when it started to drizzle. We rode around for 5 minutes, but the drizzle started to get stronger. I turned Lily towards the indoor, and as luck would have it, one of our awesome boarders came running across the indoor at that precise second to open the gate for us!

The skies opened up for real at that moment, and it really started to pour. We had seeked shelter with perfect timing.

We worked the rest of the 25 minutes in the indoor. Lily's trot was, to use my fave of Beka's adjectives, amaze-balls! She's going so well in the mullen mouth pelham right now, too. She still leans a little on the bit at times, but is starting to just stay where she's supposed to. I've been riding her off of the "snaffle" reins of the pelham more than anything.

She even allowed me to take a dressage whip from the rack on the wall without dismounting, and without freaking out over the fact that I had a whip in my hand. (We haven't practiced this in awhile.) It was pretty funny actually-she knew it was there, in my right hand, and kept her right ear cocked in the direction of the whip and was fine with it 99% of the time...until we would walk past the outside gate of the indoor tracking left, when the light would hit the whip (it's just a normal dark green dressage whip; it's not like it's white...). At this moment, she would warily half pass 3 strides towards the center of the arena, in a subtle attempt at getting away from the whip.

Silly mare. If I turned her nose in to the left more, and kept my left leg on, she couldn't focus on the whip anymore, and relaxed. So afterwards, we approached the gate in a shoulder-in around the corner. She was a good girl.

A year ago, Lily used to bolt if she realized I had a whip in my hand.

Afterwards, I took my time grooming her, since it was still pouring outside and I didn't feel like getting wet in the rain. I continue to check her back after rides to make sure she's still feeling good. I got this little video for you guys:

What a pain-free back looks like. :)
Back when I had her on Previcox only, just running a fingernail lightly down her back like I do in the video would elicit a flinch and twitching. Not anymore! And I can press all down her back without any more flinching.
Robaxin is da bomb. I used to think it didn't make a difference for sore backs. I am happy to say that Lily's results have proved me wrong! She has been on Robaxin only (no Previcox since discovering her ulcer signs) for the last 2 months.


Work was horrible. HORRIBLE. Not in terms of caseload, but in terms of what we saw. It was the single most horrible day in my veterinary career so far. I left work supremely upset with the human race as a whole. I really do do my job for the animals, not so much for the clients. But it just breaks my heart into tiny tiny little pieces when we can't do more for them. When we can't save them. When their owners just suck and it's the animal that pays the price. We see less of that here overall than in South FL because owners in general are better educated, more financially stable, and more willing to do what is best for their pets. But Saturday took the cake. I spent most of the day with my hairs on end because I was so, so, so disgusted and horrified, I was having a physical response to it. My skin was literally crawling from the horror. I foresee nightmares in my near future. :( Both Mare and L.Williams have written about this subject when it applies to horses, but it is just as awful when the same thing happens to cats and dogs. With cats and dogs, I do have a problem with convenience euthanasias IF the animal is young and/or healthy, of good temperament with no behavioral problems, with an issue that can be resolved fairly easily/inexpensively. That person should not have pets, period. If you can't handle minor issues in the road of pet ownership, don't have pets! Cats and dogs are much easier to rehome than horses, especially when they are in the condition I mention above. *If* you have tried it all and still can't find your pet (cat or dog) a home, then consider euthanasia. However, you might have a problem finding a vet that will euthanise a healthy dog or cat. But, in attempting to do so, you might find a vet or tech willing to take that animal on as their own pet. I have witnessed this countless times in my 6 years as a tech. This actually happened today, too. We weren't going to kill the healthy pet, we weren't going to let him get dumped in a shelter to be killed all alone, and we weren't going to have him be released onto the streets to try to figure out how to survive on his own.

Because there are things worse than death. One of the cases today was a living example. The dog had been suffering for God knows how long, completely neglected despite living in his owner's yard. In my mind, some people really should be required to have a license to own a pet.

I told Charles about the 3 horrible cases we saw, and he asked what ethnicity and social class they were. In case you are wondering, they didn't fit the norm: all 3 pets were owned by middle-class white Americans.


The highlight of my day was the thought of going to the barn and riding Lily. Back in December, I had ordered the sheepskin cover for the Alta Escuela saddle, called a zalea.

Traditional white zalea
I had originally ordered it in black, but we were in June and still no news about it shipping from Spain. I couldn't fathom that it would take longer to make the sheepskin than it would to make an entire saddle. I spoke with Lisa at El Sueno Espanol, who was in charge of the order, and asked about just getting the traditional white sheepskin zalea instead, figuring Ludomar *should* have that color in stock (black is special order). As it turns out, they did have it in white, so white is what I got. I was excited to put it on the saddle and try it out. Yes, it will be a dirt magnet, but that's what stuff like Leather Therapy Laundry Solution is for. (It really does work!) Mattes Melp works great too.

Lily happily came to her stall door to greet me. I was carrying the zalea in its bag and she sniffed at the stuff I was carrying, until she realized I had a Bag of Death. She snorted and backed away, coming back when I continued talking quietly to her, but she refused to sniff at the bag again. Silly, silly mare. Yes, we have done bag desensitizing in the past. The list of Stuff To Do When Lily Can Be a Horse Again just gets longer and longer...

Lily was really good for her ace injection (3 mls again). I hung out with her afterwards, like I always do, scratching her withers and loving on her. She was a little tense overall, but okay. I left the stall to get my stuff set up and grab my grooming tote, set up her haynet so she could munch while I got her ready, and entered the stall a 3rd time with a currycomb to start grooming her.

We go through this routine every . single . ride. Today, however, Lily gave a huge startle when I went to start currying her. She had been 100% aware that I was going to touch her-I had not surprised her, had not moved suddenly, had not made any weird noises. Just raising my arm slowly caused flinching today. I think I have repeated on this blog ad nauseum that I have never, EVER struck this mare.

With a sigh, I proceeded to do more Kermit the Frog desensitizing, in the stall this time. When she stopped flinching (after 30 seconds; she just needed a reminder), I continued on into a (quiet) Russian dance.

Or as much of that as you can do in an 11x14 stall while still keeping a 4' distance from your mare...Oh yeah, and I didn't do any of those insane jumping jack stunts that occur around 3:00.

Lily initially cowered in the corner (also for about 30 seconds), then relaxed when she realized I was not coming any closer to her. The second she showed the slightest sign of relaxation, I stopped and held still, praising her, "Good girl!" With each "Good girl," she'd turn her head to look at me and give a huge snort, "You are CRAZY, woman!" I couldn't help laughing.

Within 5 minutes I could Russian dance with jumping jacks while doing Kermit the Frog arms, and she didn't care. No more flinching when I touched her, either. I turned her around so I could do this again from her left side, and that only took a minute. She finally relaxed enough to completely ignore my antics and dig into her hay.

Life with the Tiger Lily, I tell you. Sometimes I wonder if I had chosen to nickname her Tiger instead of Lily if her temperament would have been different. Braver overall. I had chosen Lily because it was similar to Lely, her original name, and the name to which she responded. She will turn and look at you when you call her Lily.

I felt better when Jackie stopped by to say hi a few minutes later, and mentioned that the other night while picking Lily's stall, the mare had become extremely nervous for no apparent reason. Lily loves Jackie, and is used to other people going into her stall with her in it to clean it, so there is no real logical explanation for her behavior. Jackie is good around horses, too, especially nervous high-strung creatures like Miss Mare. Jackie had not witnessed any of our most recent interaction, as she had just arrived from work, so I told her about what had just happened. (I was thrilled to realize that Lily continued to eat her hay calmly while I demonstrated the crazy arm-waving I'd been doing). I think Lily is in heat again and might be hypersensitive due to that, but I'm thinking I'm going to have Dr. R check her eyes when she comes the first week of July for summer shots.

About 40 minutes after the ace injection, Lily was starting to look sleepy. I put the zalea on the Alta Escuela (it is a perfect, perfect fit since it is made by the same saddle company specifically for this saddle) and tacked up.

The saddle looks huge with the white cover on it, and Lily has lost a lot of muscle that we are slowly putting back on, so I think this makes it look even bigger! But she worked as well as she always has in the Alta Escuela. We rode in the indoor, since there are less distractions there and she had been so wired prior. Alex was playing soccer outside with his daughter and Kristin, our one single child boarder, and Lily was a little distracted by this whenever we walked past the outside gate of the indoor, but she just looked curiously and carried on.

She did great and towards the end, I simply looped the pelham "curb" reins over the Alta Escuela pommel and rode her off of the "snaffle" reins only. Here's another video of that, riding one-handed. Much easier with one set of reins than two!

Afterwards, I took this little sequence of photos:

It is always hard to get her to pose for photos because she always wants to be close to me.
"What are you doing over there?"

"Come over here, or I'll come to you."
As she slowly turns on the haunches, all by herself...

"What are you doing? Stop taking photos!"
One Headlight by the Wallflowers was playing on Pandora at that moment, so I had Lily follow me around the arena while I danced to the music playing through the headphones. Which she can hear, of course-she always flicks an ear when the music changes while I'm riding her, despite playing it low enough that I can hear outside sounds.

Come on try a little
Nothing is forever
There's got to be something better than 
In the middle
But me and Cinderella
We put it all together 
We can drive it home
With one headlight.

Dancing involved lots of gentle arm waving to the beat of the music while having her follow me, then reaching over slowly and petting her face. She started out rolling her eyes whenever I waved my arms, then stopped reacting when she realized she would get petted every time.

So silly. I love her.

I set up her mush to soak while I groomed her, and she wanted to nuzzle, so I took off the crossties. She nuzzled and sniffed at me, then tried to walk into her stall! I put her back on the cross ties, but with only one of them attached, and she kept turning her head around to watch me, impatient:


"Why are you taking so long? I want my [second] dinner!"

When I was finished, I let her go back into her stall to eat while I put away my stuff.

It was a good ending to an otherwise awful day. This is why Charles is all for me owning a horse, despite our student-loan-poor situation: it is better for me than a psychiatrist!

Friday, June 28, 2013

I Wanna

If you haven't seen this horse before, you are totally missing out. Here ya go!

I wish my mare would let me ride her bareback...I hope we can try that again once she's all better. 

Back to Running!

Didn't do any strength training this past weekend as I was DONE each day after work. I keep forgetting that I want to leave the phone on Endomondo or Cyclemeter during a Sunday shift just to get a gist of how many miles I walk during a busy day at work. I'm betting on 5 miles.


Didn't feel like going to the gym alone, so waited until Charles got out of work. We ended up going for a run. Had sent the Asics Gel-Cumulus back to Zappos. After wearing them to work a single time last weekend, they had made my Achilles tendon hurt more than ever. Traded them for Brooks Glycerins. OMG...They felt like running on pillows. I'm keeping them for running and wearing the Ghosts for work.
Wore an ankle brace just in case, and did the Cyclemeter 5K program:

Warm-up 5 minutes
Run 1 minute, walk 1:30 minutes x 8
Cool-down 5 minutes
Did 2.41 miles. Tendon didn't hurt at all, during or after.

Charles ran ahead. The 1 minute sets were piece of cake for both of us, but there was no reason for him to be holding back, so I told him to go ahead.


Strength training at home, whole body. Boring. Ramped it up for lower body: did weighted squats (20 lb kettlebell), reverse lunges (no weight) and weighted walking lunges with side rotation (20 lb kettlebell). Awesome exercise:

Someday I'll look that fit...

Aengus was being extra-helpful, distracting me with his adorableness while I was trying to stretch afterwards. :)


Worked (other people wanted days off during the week this week and the next, so I switched with them just to not have to work over the damn weekend.) Went to barn afterwards for an hour and a half (only hand-walked and grazed Lily.) Went for a run at home. Wore ankle brace and did the Cyclemeter 5K program again:
5 minute warm-up; 1 min running, 1:30 walking x 8; 5 minute cool down. 
Did 2.34 miles. Tendon didn't hurt during or after.

They're ALIVE, not plastic...
I still do a double take.


Apartment complex gym. Did 15 minutes on the elliptical (1 mile), then 25 minutes upper body on the dual pulley machine. Don't know wtf I did on Wednesday, but I had a twinge right at the top of my left sciatic nerve. Minor, and it was better today, but didn't want to aggravate it with lower body work again.
Followed up with 20 minutes on the elliptical (1.6 miles).

Added a playlist to my Pandora on the iPhone. As it turns out, if you add Pitbull as a channel, you'll get all of the awesome dance songs from South FL. Charles and I complained about the radio down there all the time because it seemed all of the stations played the same kind of music 24/7. It got old really fast listening to the radio in the car. However, if you played any of those songs in a club, you'd get to watch me dance my legs off, and I do like that kind of music for working out too. So I got to listen to the likes of Pitbull, Flo Rida, David Guetta, Black Eyed Peas, and LMFAO while working out today.

Not crazy about the official video, so you get to listen to it with lyrics. :P I love this song.
Wild Ones by Flo Rida featuring Sia

Oh, and the walk between the gym and the apartment is a little over a quarter mile (0.27 mile to be exact). I measured the distance with Cyclemeter today. :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Field of Dreams

The big field
Ok. Walking around and around and around in an arena is BORING. Boooo-ring. I've been DYING to go on the trails, but that is a big no-no until Lily is at least cleared for turnout, I think. God forbid she torque that fetlock on the uneven footing of the trails.

Since it's been *almost* South FL hot this week, all of the horses have been inside during the day so they can take full advantage of the shade and their stall fans. They love this: you'll walk down the aisles, and they're all napping with their faces towards the fans.

Yesterday's forecast for our area in Maryland. 47% humidity. Oh, and it said 94 with a "Real Feel" of 101 for today? No, it did not get that hot today.
Yesterday's forecast for the area that we used to live in in South FL. 67% humidity.
That humidity percentage is what will kill you. Charles and I have a huge heat tolerance, and so does Lily, having come from tropical climates. Our current 47% humidity in MD is fine. But when the humidity soars above 70% and the temps feel over 100+ degrees, that's when we may have start having problems. If it gets to that point around here, Lily will get hosed down BEFORE riding so she will stay cool, and I'll have a bottle of water on the arena fence.

It was late afternoon and overcast by the time I got to the barn today. Lily was happy and comfortable in her stall. I gave her 3.8 mls of ace, because I wanted to be able to take out to the big field for our ride. I thought she would enjoy this, but I bumped up the dose because every time I've taken her out there sober for hand walks in the past, she has gotten quite "up".

Just starting to feel sleepy
I fly-sprayed her and tacked up. We did our first 5 minutes in the outdoor. Lily was sleep walking along, when I noticed one of the jumps had a very colorful tarp over it. Lily saw it 30 seconds after I did, just as I was thinking, "We should totally walk closer to that!" Lily gave a huge startle, ducking her front end like a cutting horse, then stopping with a giant snorty blast, and staring at the jump.

I immediately asked her to walk on, eventually making it back to the jump so we could circle around it. She did her one-eye one-ear head cock at it, then stopped watching the jump.

We moved on into her paddock, where she still seemed bored. We walked for another 5 minutes in there, and then we walked into the big field.

I was honestly expecting her to be a little more enthused. Her ears went up, but her walk didn't change. It wasn't long before the flies were driving her crazy, despite the fly spray. I use UltraShield Red, too - a decent fly spray! We walked for 5 minutes, and then I asked her to trot. She refused. I insisted. She trotted a few strides, then broke back to a walk to bite at her chest and shoulder, trying to get the flies off. I pointed her towards the field gate, and relieved, she happily walked out and back into the arena.

Poor mare.

So yeah...I had this really cool mental picture of us trotting in the big field, but the flies put that notion to an end.

The fly situation was nowhere near as bad if we were off of the grass, so once in the outdoor arena, we picked up the trot. Her trot has been feeling FABULOUS!!! We're still only doing the single 2 minute session in the middle of the half hour walk, but her trot actually feels better than her walk. I've been letting her stretch after each trot session, which she seems to look forward to.

We then walked for another 15 minutes.

"Why do you keep pointing me at this thing? This is dumb.."

Sweat! My previously anhydrotic mare, sweating! :)
She's fine as long as it's still getting cooler at night.  The most difficult time of year for us in South FL was between June-October, when during the day you'd hit 90+ degrees with a heat index that made it feel like it was in the 100s; 80% humidity, with nights staying in the 80s. I'm not exaggerating. Once it reached that point, there was no relief to the heat and humidity for MONTHS. Even One AC year-round and beer in the summer made no difference in her very minimal sweating (only under the saddle pad) once the weather turned into this nightmare. The heat was obliterating, nullifying, stupefying. Those are my words for it, and I was raised in the tropics. Yes, it was THAT BAD.
Rides during those months in South FL were limited to evenings or very, very early mornings, and during those months Lily pretty much had to stay in her stall 24/7 so she could have access to her fan around the clock. She was hosed down before rides, and I carried a bottle of water mixed with alcohol to spritz her with. We walked, trotted, and did minimal canter work, depending on the weather. My first summer owning Lily, when we discovered the problem, I was going to the barn in the middle of the night to hose her down-the BM would turn off the fans at night and I'd find Lily panting in her stall. :(
Everyone tells me it gets really bad with the heat and humidity here, but if it's like it is now, we'll be fine. And at least there are breaks to it: at night and when storms roll in. Plus the worst of the heat is only for 2 months. YAY SEASONS!
And that was that. I think next time we go in the big field, I'll just give her the 3 mls of ace. I wish I didn't have to drug her for these rides, but we just don't want to risk her exploding when she has her injury. :(

I wanted to hand graze her afterwards, but the weather had other plans too. Grrrrr... It started to thunder as I was untacking. I was able to hose her off, coat her in fly spray all over again, put her away in her clean stall with the fan on, and run to the car before it started pouring.

Friday, June 21, 2013

This Week


Apartment complex gym
Did 15 minutes of hills on the treadmill at 3.5 mph (forgot to look at the miles I did total. Maybe half a mile?). Then another 15 minutes on the elliptical, where I put in 1.5 miles. Followed that up with 30 minutes of upper body strength training on the dual pulley machine.
Charles ran on the treadmill. He did 4 min run, 2 min walk x 3, then 3 min run, 2 min walk x 3. I was very proud of him. :)
Achilles tendon was slightly on & off sore.


Started in apartment complex gym. Did 15 minutes on the treadmill, with incline. Put in a whole mile in that 15 minutes. A girl arrived and started working out on the treadmill next to me. If there's one thing I hate more than tiny gyms, it's working out in a tiny gym with a stranger next to me. Yes, I'm a huge weirdo when it comes to that sort of thing. Plus the girl didn't even say hi, which everyone else around here does. I finished my 15 minutes, then left the gym & went out into the neighborhood, where I walked a full 2 miles in 33:49 minutes. That's a 16:42 minute mile walk pace.
Achilles tendon was sore. :(

A band was setting up outside one of the condo buildings.


Apartment complex gym
15 minutes on elliptical to warm up. Did 1.27 miles in those 15 minutes. Followed up with 40 minutes strength training on the dual cable pulley machine, working mostly upper body and core. Did 2 circuits of high reps and low weight (10 lbs for each arm, 20 lbs for back, 30 lbs for core); including 2 sets each of reverse lunges (6 reps each leg, with 60 lbs. Wimp) and squats (20 reps, with 60 lbs.)
Followed up with 15 minutes on elliptical. Did 1.37 miles in 15 minutes.
Achilles tendon didn't hurt at all.
Walked home to cool down.


Apartment complex gym
35 minutes on elliptical; did 3.02 miles. Achilles tendon didn't hurt at all-maybe a week of stretching is paying off? Walked home to cool down.

Will add a 3rd strength training session over the weekend with the kettlebells at home.

I find it funny that my entire goal of upper body strength training right now is to get my arms back to the way they looked when I was mucking stalls every day. That was my gym: the barn. I looked a thousand times more fit then than when I had the personal trainer! Owning horses is awesome. :)


Lily's feet, a week after a trim with the farrier. I touched her up today. Her hooves grow SO FAST, and with her on stall rest she doesn't wear them down at all on her own.

Right front (flatter foot)
Heel angles look weird, but take into account the angle of the ground. :)

Right hind

Left front (clubbier foot)

Left hind, with the V almost grown out on the front of the toe.

Left front

Left hind. You can see the puncture wound-the dark oval in the center of the frog. We've been leaving it completely alone; the farrier hasn't touched the frog sulcus on this hoof since we re-discovered the wound 2 months ago.

Right front. She has a big flare on the lateral side of this hoof. It is 100% due to the position she assumes when grazing/eating from the ground: this hoof is always in front and angled funny.

Right hind. She became a little thrushy on this frog  last month, but it's pretty much cleared up.

Their hooves say so much. Looking at these photos, you can totally see how she toes in slightly in the front, and toes out slightly in the back. 

She has stopped stocking up since permanently moving her back to her regular larger stall. She's been fine being there by herself when the other horses are out. 

She was good today; we rode in the outdoor and she felt great!

Lily says, "Yes! Scratch my withers right there!"

Thursday, June 20, 2013

2 Minutes

Here is a video of us walking, NOT looking like drunks (this is what she looks like on 3 mls of ace):

Oh God, and no, we don't have chickens at the barn...those were birds singing from the rafters! They don't sound that loud in person. We have a lot of little finches that hang out at the barn and pick through the horses' poop. :)
I love those finches. They showed up the second it started to warm up, back at the beginning of spring.

And here is a video of Lily's trot session today:

The footing in the indoor had not been dragged recently so it was very uneven, which is why she trips a couple of times. I've been riding her in there because it's harder than the footing in the outdoor at the moment.

We did get 2 of the counted walk, but of course today the day that we had the camera, we sucked royally at the counted walk so I'm not posting them. :p 

Distracted and hollow-backed in the beginning...


Stretching, but keeping withers up. I was really happy to see it looked exactly the way it felt!

This was my fave photo of the day. As you can tell above...

Stretching on a loose rein at the end.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Achilles's Heel

And on another note, I had a feeling this was going to happen sooner or later:

With all the running lately, my Achilles tendon decided to flare up. Ugh!

All the Greek gods had nice butts...
A million years ago  10 years ago, I was going through a phase where I was so allergic to horses, I would go into anaphylaxis around them. I kept Lucero, but we had a family friend that would do his stall for me, because just that would make my trachea close up. That's what it felt like. I could feed and water him, and pet him briefly, but even grooming was out of the question. It was a huge, huge bummer. This was close to the time I was graduating from my bachelor's, which also meant I was carrying an extra 20 lbs around.

I needed to exercise, so I decided to pick up running. During my freshman year of university, one of my classmates was this girl who did mid-distance running. She was ripped. I had never seen a woman that fit before in my life. I wanted to look like that. So I took up running with that goal in mind. Also, it didn't require a gym membership nor fancy equipment.  However, I had always tooootally sucked at sports. Any kind of gym (PE)-type sport, I sucked at. Volleyball, softball, basketball, you name it. Except for horseback riding. And the high jump. (Go figure; I shocked the pants off my high school class when I qualified for the high jump division for our annual field day and got 2nd place for my class among the entire high school-I cleared a five foot jump before I was disqualified.) Oh, and fencing. I took fencing as an elective class in university and discovered I was really good at it, to the point where I was selected for the university team, but the team was never made official. My weapon was the sabre-it is the only one of the three (foil, sword aka epee, and sabre) with which you can strike as well as poke (with the sword and the foil you are only allowed to poke). They call it "touching with the edge of the sabre's blade." Uh-huh...I beat all up all the boys in our class. Haha...

Kapow! Fencing with sabres. See? "Touching with the edge of the blade."
Back to the subject. So I took up running. And I signed up for a race, a year in advance. The race was a 10k, of all things. The World's Best 10K, on the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge in San Juan. I had never run a mile, and here I was signing up for a 6 mile race. I figured a year was plenty of time to train.

So I bought books on running, subscribed to Runner's World, purchased a pedometer, and started running, alternating running and walking. My ultimate goal was to run the entire 6 miles, especially when I discovered that not only could I run a whole mile (physical ed teachers take THAT!), I could run three! 6 miles should be easy, right?

I was met with adversity.

One day while running around my boyfriend's neighborhood, completely zoned out, I missed an exposed pipe in the sidewalk, tripped, and fell to my knees. When I got up, I realized I had a giant hole the size of a penny on the inside portion of my patella. I could see the ligaments underneath through that hole. And blood was trickling down my leg. An elderly couple saw my bloody leg as they drove by and  stopped to check on me. They happened to know my boyfriend's parents, and gave me a lift to the house. We debated going to a doctor for stitches, but it was a solid hole, and I figured might as well leave it open to let it drain.

The next day, I hobbled to the university walk-in clinic for x-rays. My knee had swelled so much it hurt to wear jeans, and I had to drive using my left leg. The x-rays were clean. After 2 weeks of resting, icing and NSAIDs, all of the swelling had disappeared and the wound was healing well, but it hurt like crazy still. I dragged myself to my regular doctor. He looked at the x-rays and examined my knee, and decided to try...acupuncture. This doctor was awesome that way: when Western medicine didn't work, he resorted to Eastern.

He put the needles in my patella, then stuck what looked like small pieces of cigar to the needles. He lit the "cigar" pieces on fire, and I felt the heat travel through the needles into my skin. It didn't hurt nor burn; it just made my entire knee feel pleasantly warm.

Acupuncture with heat
The treatment lasted 15 minutes.

I had hobbled into that clinic. I walked out, no limp in sight. The pain had disappeared as if by a magic wand. I have very mild arthritis in that knee now, and the patella sometimes feels loose if I'm not working out regularly (so yeah-totally know how horses with stifle issues feel), but...WOW. I believe in that stuff now. I was told to wear a knee brace for the next 10 days, and then I could start gradually re-introducing running.

I followed the doctor's directions to a T. Soon I was able to go back into full gear. I still have the scar on my knee from that wound.

Running with my brother on Arroyo beach
And then my left Achilles tendon started to throb.

It would throb in the morning and at the beginning of a run, then I'd warm up out of it, so I continued to run. I was running 5 days a week, but I wasn't being great about stretching.

And the pain started to get worse.

And worse.

And since I'm a stubborn workout maniac (I may have sucked at sports, but I was great at interval cardio and strength training prior to this, and like I've mentioned before, I have the determination of a bulldozer...), I continued.

And then I had to stop, because my Achilles tendon started to SWELL. Actually, after one particular run I was shocked to discover there was so much swelling that I couldn't feel the tendon at all-it was twice the size it should be. Palpating it hurt like crazy. Icing wasn't helping to bring the swelling down all the way.

And then I bought the book Running Injury-Free by Joe Ellis. And reading his book, I realized I probably had a partial tear of my Achilles tendon.

So I stopped running for awhile. For a couple of months, actually, and joined a gym so I could cross train on the elliptical machines and in Spinning classes. And I stretched, and stretched, and stretched after exercising.

The book's influence didn't stop there. The book mentioned that a common cause of running injuries is using incorrect shoes. So I went to a running store and had my stride analyzed. And discovered that I couldn't have been using worse shoes for running...I'd been using trail New Balances that were made for overpronators, making them very rigid. I underpronate, which means I need a flexible, cushioned shoe. The guy at the store pulled out a pair of Asics and Sauconys, I don't remember which models but they weren't the super popular ones at the time. Both felt like walking on clouds. They had a little track inside the store where you could jog to try out the shoes. (The store was awesome; it closed shortly before I left the island. :( ) My tendon didn't hurt at all either of them. I ended up buying both pairs of shoes.

As it turned out, the Sauconys were too cushy, and would make me sore if I wasn't careful. The Asics were perfect. I started running again, slowly. And with an ankle brace.

And the Achilles tendon healed remarkably well. I've always felt the fact that it's weaker than my right, but it healed smoothly-no lumps, bumps or thickening.

And I ran the damned 10K. And I watched Paula Radcliffe break the world 10K record at that race, too. And I made the stupid mistake of not paying attention to the course map. I figured, "The race is named after the Teodoro Moscoso bridge, so it'll be just the bridge!" I remember thinking I hadn't thought that bridge was 3 miles one-way when we'd driven over it, but oh well. So coming back over that bridge, I was flying, running all out thinking, "Almost there, almost there!"...And as I was running past it, I realized that the finish line was on the opposite side of the road blocks, in the other lane: there was still another half of the race left! Going uphill. I ran-walked the last 3 miles and finished in 1 hour 20-some minutes. But I finished!

My biggest frustration with the entire thing was that I'd lost maybe 3 lbs during the whole ordeal.

After that stressful year, I lost interest in running for awhile, and just focused on the gym. On Spinning, on strength training, and putting miles on the elliptical. I'd do distance "runs" on the elliptical, and on days that I got bored with it, I'd do hill workouts and interval training on the treadmill. I was putting in 5 miles per session easily.

The gym had several personal trainers. You could pay for sessions separately, but your gym membership included a monthly fitness evaluation, with body fat % measurements, by one of the trainers. At that time, the trainer would also do a strength routine for you depending on your fitness level and goals, and they would take you around and show you how to use the machines so you could perform the exercises in correct form. Basically, you ended up with a free trainer session once a month.

I hated the first trainer that evaluated me; he reminded me a LOT of one of my most hated phys ed teachers from school.  One of those super-fit hard asses that frowns upon the unfit. (Can you tell gym class traumatized me??) I missed the next couple of months' evaluations because I didn't want them done by him. And then after the race, I asked for another eval, and as luck would have it, I had the opportunity of having it done by a different guy.

This guy looked like a pirate. Full beard, glasses, big guy with a belly, but with huge shoulders and arms that told the tale of years and years of major strength training. He wore leather cuffs on both wrists. He looked like a barbarian from a medieval war movie whose time machine got stuck in a gym.

That's when I learned what a good personal trainer is supposed to be like. Super laid-back; he listened to my goals and took the time to really check my form and show me how to adjust the machines so I could get the most benefit from the exercises. I could ask him questions on the floor and he would happily answer them for me. He noticed when I was improving, when the weights went up, when I exercised longer, even though I wasn't an official training client. And his workouts really, really made a difference. He changed my entire gym experience. And I lost 20 lbs.

During one of my fitness evaluations later, it somehow came up that I'd done the 10k the year before. He asked why didn't I try it again. I told him about my injuries. He gave me a routine that would strengthen my body in a way that allowed it to run without further injuring itself.

I followed it. And signed up for the race, only 3 months before the date.

I did my distance runs, both the year before and during those 3 months, at El Parque Central (Central Park), a gorgeous park with trails in the middle of the San Juan metro area (among other things; it is a huge, huge sports complex that was inaugurated in 1979 for the Pan Am Games, which gives you an idea of its size and diversity). If you ran there with any sort of regularity, you started to recognize people. There was one lady in particular that had the looks of a long-time marathon runner. You know the look: 9% body fat, wiry as all get out, gazelle legs. I used to shuffle around the trails, struggling during the first year, and have her run past me in the opposite direction, always with a smile and a nod. She'd go past me 3 times in the time it took me to do 1 lap around the park! I secretly admired that woman, and yearned to be able to run that effortlessly one day.

I saw her again during the 3 months of training prior to my second 10k. I was going at 10 minute mile pace, flying (for me) down the trail, head up and just enjoying the music on the iPod. As she came up in the opposite direction, I saw her recognize me, give a huge smile, a nod, and two thumbs up.

That was 9 years ago. It is still one of the big highlights of my time spent running.

I ran The World's Best 10K again, alternating 5 minutes running, 1 minute walking, for the entire 6 miles (hey, Jeff Galloway runs his marathons like that), and finished in an hour and 5 minutes, feeling like I could run at least another 3 miles. Remember the year before? I shaved an entire 15 minutes off my time, despite run-walking the entire distance.

It was awesome.

Ready to rumble, pre-race

After the race, with my completion medal and Gatorade.
Not long after that, I heard about Flonase, and that's when I started taking hard-core allergy medications, which allowed me to go back to riding. I started running less, and at the end of that year, I moved to FL, where I took up cycling instead for a while. I had a hard time running on 100% flatness-I missed the varying terrain of PR.

My first thought when we arrived in Alexandria, VA, on that dark night before Sandy hit the Northeast, and we realized that there are hills here, was "I can start running again!"

Running and just working out in general absolutely changed the way I trained and exercised horses, because I had felt firsthand how awful it is when you push too hard too soon.

So now? Cross training in the gym, maybe for a couple of weeks. Then running on trails only (not concrete/asphalt) for a while, while going back to walking more than running. Wear an ankle brace and wean off of it again. For those of you that look forward to the running photos, I'll start that up again once this is better. The pain is dull, mild, and infrequent-it's just a mild tendinitis right now; I just don't want it to get to the same point it was before. For now, I'll just do a weekly workout summary.

And did anyone notice? I did, the minute she was diagnosed: same leg as Lily. Left hind. And technically, the same part of our anatomy. The Achilles tendon on a horse is above their hock, but their suspensory does the job of our Achilles tendon: support the entire body's weight, and allow the foot to flex up and down. So yeah-this is why I've been so cautious with her rehab. I know exactly how she feels!