Monday, August 29, 2005

By The Skin Of My Teeth

I wouldn't categorize the show this weekend as a huge success, but I did somehow manage to accomplish one goal. I won the USDF/Dover Adult Amateur Medal for riding Second Level, Test 1. I got a really nice medal and a $20 Dover gift certificate. I have no idea how I got this. The test was one of the worst ones I have ridden. I went off course twice! But the judge was very encouraging, especially when I suggested I should just be excused. She wouldn't let me! She said I was riding a nice test so far and to just think for a moment about the test to get back on track. It worked. And I just barely scraped by with a score good enough to qualify for the medal. I was shocked when I found I had won. Somehow I had achieved that goal. All the rest of my tests were judged by another judge who didn't like Jimmy, so she never gave us a qualifying score. I still think I rode better than I did in June, so while it sucks that my scores were lower, she was seeing some issues with Jimmy that weren't present in June. J was extremely tense on Saturday and jumping out of his skin basically. I had problems with him breaking into the canter when he was supposed to trot, or flying like a bat out of hell for the medium canter. In other words, he was strong and tense. So I can't argue with my scores, but I still rode better overall. I even rode second two for the very first time without a reader. I had one second when I forgot what was next and Jimmy messed up at that point, switched canter leads and I got 3s for changing rein and counter canter because I decided not to correct it. I was mad at myself for that one. I should have corrected it immediately and saved the counter canter score.

For me, the Dover Adult Amateur Medal signifies never giving up in a dressage test.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Not So Bad

Zoe got her cast off last Tuesday -- what a relief for both me and her! Doc said it has healed extremely well, "better than could ever be expected". I have to keep the leg bandaged until the proud flesh is gone from the heel cut, probably another few weeks. That means she has to stay in her stall that long. Ugh. It isn't the easiest thing to bandage her up. I have to put medicine on her heel, cover it, then wrap the foot with vetrap. She paws all the time, so before you know it the toe is worn off and she starts working to get the whole foot bandage off. I've tried duct taping over the vetrap, but yesterday she had that off when I got there. Good thing it takes 2 days for her to get it off. I am changing it every 2 days, so luckily it seems that it is exposed only for a few hours before I change it. We still expect her to heal nicely and to have no permanent damage. I have to count my lucky stars for that.

Jimmy is progressing nicely. On Sunday I rode through 2 of the 3 tests I'll be riding this weekend. It was a huge workout for Jimmy, but it did help identify some things we need to work on. He is very sticky at the leg yield, especially to the right. I also need to work on the travers and continue with the simple changes. We'll do better this weekend than we did at the last show, so I already feel good about where we are. There is always something to improve.

One issue with Jimmy is that he doesn't like it when I ride with a whip. He gets tense and tends to rush around. It isn't any fun to ride him at all. I tried riding with a whip last night to help get him to move away from my leg at the leg yield, but all he ended up doing was pulling against me and rushing into a canter. It really seemed counter-productive. I dropped the whip after a short time and kept up with the light ride. At the shoulder-in he still doesn't want use his hind in, so I struggle to keep his shoulders over. He just pulls through me the entire time. I'm sure we'll get better at it.

I am looking forward to this show and dreading it at the same time. I look forward to seeing my scores improve, but I am anxious about forgetting the test or messing up. As long as I am having fun with Jimmy and feel that we did the best we could for that test on that day, then it is a success. The competitive side of me wants to get 70%+ on everything and clean up all the classes, but that really can't be my focus. I would be a huge ball of stress if that is how I approached it. Jimmy would be stressed out, too, and he doesn't like to be stressed out. Thank goodness my darling husband will be coming with me. He keeps me together more than he knows. Now if only he could read my tests to me!

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Good and the Bad

Had a clinic this weekend. Since Zoe is still in her cast, she stayed home for this one, so it was just Jim and me. I should have known from the start that Jimmy would not be a happy camper on Saturday. He didn't want to load in the trailer and was quite persistant about it. However, after about 5 minutes of disagreements, he did go in nicely. We hosted lunch at AW, so I took my time and ate with everyone else (I was the first ride after lunch), then went and tacked Jimmy up. Our warmup consisted of one walking lap around the outdoor arena, and then DB showed up. That was my second signal that Jimmy wouldn't be a happy camper. He didn't get his preferred warmup time! He can be pretty unforgiving about that.

And so this ride was set with the tone of an unforgiving older horse being crotchety about not being warmed up properly. He did okay with the early part of the lesson, when we were still in "warm up" mode, but as soon as we switched to work mode he got tense. For the next half hour we would try to encourage him to release his jaw, supple, come through. For the next thirty minutes, I felt like I had a brick at the end of the reins. He was not about to be loose and relaxed for me. We tried shoulder-in and he did it with his head stuck out, and when I asked him to supple, he got more tense and slowed down. We tried simple changes with more resistance. DB wanted me to ride with a whip to get him to move forward -- it only succeeded in making him quick and more tense. It was not fun at all. Finally, he gave me permission to drop the horrid whip and Jimmy relaxed a bit. He still refused to be supple and through. I couldn't wait to get off of Jimmy. Halfway through I wanted David to get on him so he would understand that nothing I did made Jimmy relax, but I tried to work through it myself. Our very last simple change was decent and then the lesson was over.

Unfortunately, a bad ride affects the rider emotionally. I was depressed the whole time afterwards. I felt awful and nothing was fun after that. At least I could focus on videotaping the other rides afterwards and that kept me from sulking a bit. Too bad the other rides were the babies. That made me think a lot about Zoe and how behind she is. Stuck in her stall for 2 weeks. Even with that, she was already behind the others. I felt like I am wasting her. She should be out there showing her stuff already! But then I remind myself that I have only been riding her since April. The others have been ridden for about a year now. Next summer is going to Zoe's year. And looking forward to that makes me excited.

I take Zoe to the vet tomorrow morning to have the cast removed -- FINALLY. I am more worried about the rub sore from the cast than I am about the heel at this point. It is a nasty sore. I hope there is no scarring and no damage of other parts due to the rub. Of course I am anxious for the confirmation that she will not have any lameness or any problems with the leg. I hope to heaven she is 100% after this. That beautiful gait.....

Oh, I should end on my positive note, and that is Sunday's clinic on Jimmy. It started out better with him getting on the trailer. However, an unfortunate thing happened and that is that the lead rope slipped off his back and he stepped on the end of it with his hind leg, felt the pull backward and pulled his head up and started backing out like a maniac. He hit is head on the trailer, taking a tiny bit of hair off above his left eye, but worse is he back 3 strides out of the trailer and smacked his rump against the corner of the barn doors. Huge tufts of hair stuck on the edge of the door. He scraped off quite patch of hair, but it was all superficial and caused no real problems. He went back on the trailer with no problem. So, before Sunday's lesson I made sure to warm Jimmy up the way I normally do, nice and slow and long and deep. We had a perfect warmup and by the time DB got to us, he was stretching over his back nicely and being very cooperative and happy. My old Jimmy was back. We had a quite nice lesson. Shoulder-ins, travers, leg-yield, simple changes, walk pirouettes all were done well. Jimmy just felt great. Our timing for the simple changes has improved a great deal, so I do expect better scores on those in the next show. Whoohoo!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Proud Moment

Stuff like this makes me soar for hours. I am so proud and feel such a level of accomplishment when good things are said about my horses. The chiropractor came on Sunday and worked on Jimmy. She said this was the best he has ever been, and she has been working on him for years. His back was in excellent shape, his "normal" bad spot on his hip was hardly reactive, and he was good all over. She was really impressed. I felt validation for my training and reassurance that I am riding correctly and training him correctly. It feels so good! I was noticing on Saturday how well muscled he looked. His topline is strong and fleshy. His neck muscle is well-defined the full length of his neck, and his withers have a nice, sloping shape to them. A few months ago the dressage trainer commented on how well his hind end is muscled now. Jimmy keeps getting stronger and stronger. But, really, having a good chiropractic exam was the pinnacle of compliments. We've been through very ouchy times, mostly caused from my old saddle that just paid for Zoe's vet bill. But the ouchiness kept us from progressing. Now we are flying! I do owe it quite a bit to my new saddle. That was well worth the time and money to get a well fitting saddle. In fact, Jimmy has now muscled out so much in the withers that the saddle should be adjusted to fit it better. I'll have to look at doing this in September.

Anyhow, the compliments yesterday made me so happy and feel as though the time I put in to being consistent is well worth it. I never thought I would be a "good" dressage rider, but I see now that I can be damn good. It does take work and time, which my husband is not so happy with, but putting the work into it is my dream. Jimmy is such a great partner, and I don't know if I'll have a horse like him ever again. Zoe is going to be much different to train and ride, so I want to enjoy Jimmy has much as I can now. I want to succeed with Jimmy to our ultimate ability. Yes, I think now I am a driven rider with goals and a training plan. That's the difference from 2 years ago.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

My So-Called Good Fortune

According to my husband, I am the luckiest person on earth. Yesterday the vet bill arrived. The damage is $1122. That's about what I expected, but doesn't cover all of the follow-up costs -- medication, removing the cast, coming out to check on the swelling of her knee. The "lucky" part is that on that very same day I received the check for selling my old dressage saddled. After commission to the shop that sold it I cleared $1040. So, amazingly, I have the bill pretty much covered. I just had to trade a saddle for the vet fees. Quite honestly, it has made me relax a bit. I was pretty worried how I was going to pay for all of the costs. I didn't intend to use that $1040 to pay for vet bills; I had intended to use it to pay down a credit card (that included the cost of purchasing my new saddle). But I have to admit that this seems like a pretty perfect use of the money. So one small crisis adverted.

Other good news today! The chiropractor came to work on Jimmy. She said he is the best she has ever seen him. She worked on him last month and he was even better than last month. I find that pretty amazing. I also think it is testament that I am training Jimmy properly and that we really are getting better and better with each ride. I have been concentrating on keeping Jimmy straight and bending through properly. I have also been working on getting him to use his back in the canter, improving the quality of the canter. It's nice to feel that my work has been making a positive difference. It makes the time I am putting into it worth it. We should do well at our show at the end of the month. What a great feeling.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

No Bill Yet, So I Am Happy

Underneath I am worried as all heck about the bill for Zoe's treatment. I haven't been able to build my emergency horse funds yet. I have $400 extra only, and that was really for emergency board. So I am looking at my finances to try to figure out how I can pay what I expect to be a whomping bill without using any credit. I already know I will have to divert funds from paying down other debt, but at least it will only be temporary. I'm tired of having tight months. With the income we have, we shouldn't have tight months, so I don't really understand it. Well, in a sense I do because my goal has been to have no consumer debt and I have been putting in hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month to achieve this. We are almost there, but need another year. Extra bills take away from this goal and that is why I worry. But we will be fine, so I can be happy. We get to go to Disney World in January. :-)

My rides on Jimmy have been good this week. I've been practicing the advice from Tom V. and it is helping. Keeping him straighter and bending more true makes a difference. We've had better transitions and really good flying changes! I think I'm getting it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

$1,000,000 and Climbing.....

....the amount of money you need to support your horse habit.

I'm finally recovering from my weekend, which theoretically started on Friday with a vacation day. I had the day off so that I could ride in a clinic with Tom Valter, an expensive clinician who comes to our area periodically. My ride was scheduled for 11 AM at a barn about 45 minutes away.

The phone rang at 7:50 AM, right after my husband left for work. It was the owner of my boarding barn. Zoe had a bad cut on her leg and he thought I should call a vet right away. I know it's bad when Sam says to call a vet; he's not usually one to call a vet immediately. I get on the phone with my vet's office. Doc is on barn calls on Fridays, but they said if I could get Zoe there this morning that he could come back to the clinic to look at her. They didn't know when he would be able to get to my barn to check on her otherwise. I knew she needed stitches, so I wanted to get her to the clinic soon; however, I didn't want to lose my lesson with Tom (I'd still have to pay the clinic fee!). I asked whether I could bring her in at 3 PM instead of this morning, but they insisted no, bring her in this morning.

At first, while still at home, I thought I might need to leave Zoe at the barn and let Doc make the barn call when he could. When I got to the barn and actually saw the injury I knew I had to get her some medical attention right away and forget worrying about missing the clinic. So I made several calls around and got the clinic organizer to let me change my ride time to the afternoon. One problem solved at least. Hey, I wouldn't be losing my $110!

The next thing I had to do was prepare Zoe to take to the vet clinic, which happens to be about an hour away. She was walking fine on the injury -- a deep cut to her right front heel. The blood had clotted and there was very little bleeding, but there was also a lot of dirt and debris around the wound. So I very gently washed it off, cleaning it with soap and betadine. Zoe was patient with this and didn't move around a lot or protest. I got the the outside of the wound and surrounding area cleaned off as best as I could. I didn't attempt to lift the flap of her heel and clean the inside of the wound, which appeared to have much more debris in it. But I am not a vet, so I didn't attempt to do anything that had the potential to cause more harm than good. I covered the wound with a sterile pad and wrapped the foot and ankle with vet wrap to hold it on. It took about an hour and a half to do all of this, but I was finally ready to put on the shipping boots and get on the road.

Do I really want to go into details about getting to the vet clinic?? I guess I have to. I called my friend who was just at the clinic recently to get directions. There was road construction on the way and a bridge was out, so I needed an alternate route. She gave me very good directions. I followed them, but at a crucial point convinced myself I was wrong and got on the highway -- going the wrong way! I went 14 miles out of my way, but got back to the point where I made the error. Now I still wasn't convinced I was on the right road, so I called my husband who very gratiously looked up the area on mapquest. I told him the road I was on and the crossroads and after 10 minutes of thinking I must be going the wrong way, he confirmed that this was right! Whoohoo! Going well so far.

I got to the part of the route with which I was familiar from previous trips to the clinic, but when I hit a four-way stop, I had another doubting moment. I felt I was supposed to take a right at this stop, but I couldn't remember for sure. I called my husband again. He frantically looked at the map online (remember, he didn't really know where I was trying to go). A big truck came to the stop behind me, so I had to make a snap decision. I went straight. Wrong! So I had to turn around about a mile down the road, come back to the stop sign and take my turn. By that time I was only a few miles from the clinic, but it felt like this trip had been going on for hours and hours. I gave a call to the vet clinic to confirm yet again that this was the right way. They said it was and I relaxed a hair.

When I got to the clinic at 11 AM they wanted me to sign a paper first thing saying that Zoe is my horse and I assume financial responsibility for her. (i.e., Sign my life away.) Then I went out to get Zoe and brought her in. The next greeting I get was from a barn manager type who said, "No one told me you were coming until just now." I didn't know what to say, but she made me feel guilty for some reason. She also made me question whether the Doc knew I was coming. I thought perhaps she was the one who does the initial assessment of the wounds and would be cleaning Zoe's wound. She had me put Zoe in a stall. I asked whether I should leave my unprofessional bandage on or take it off. She just shrugged and said probably leave it on. Okay. Next I went back to the front counter and asked, "What's next?". Everyone up there gave me blank stares. What the?!? I asked for "Jackie" as that is with whom I had been speaking this morning. They just said they didn't know where she was and that the door was closed so maybe she was in town. Whatever that meant. I left thinking that I would be getting a call soon enough.

I got back to town, picked up Jimmy and drove to my clinic. We got there about 2:00. Not bad. I had my lesson, which went pretty well. I think T.V. was a bit impressed with how much we have improved since the last time he saw us. Well, as impressed as T.V. can be, I guess. He still complained about my dirty bridle. I didn't clean my tack that morning as I had planned to do due to the emergency with Zoe. I told Tom too bad about the dirty tack. He didn't pick on anything else. We did a lot of work on the right rein. Apparently, that was his theme this weekend. So we cantered for what seemed like a loooong time to the left so that I would use the right rein connection. I got the picture.

Before loading Jimmy back up I gave the vet clinic a call. The person told me I would get a call when my horse was ready to go. She wouldn't say whether Doc had seen her yet or not. If I didn't hear from Doc Friday evening, then I should call back Monday morning to find out what was going on. Uh, I don't think so.

I took Jimmy home. Called my husband, who agreed to come out with me to drive up to the clinic to check on things. We got to the clinic after 8 PM. I looked in the window of Zoe's stall and saw that she still had the same bandage I had put on to take her there. It was apparent that Doc had not come back to tend to her. I was enraged. I found someone in the barn feeding and asked how I could talk to Doc. She said he was up at the house. I told her I brought my horse in this AM and no has tended to her yet. I demanded to see Doc. By this time was crying. She gave him a call and he came down a while later. While waiting, I walked Zoe around, crying and angry.

Long story slightly shorter, he tended to her and said she would need surgery. The cut was deep and in a place that stitches wouldn't be able to hold. She would need a cast and 2 weeks stall rest. She was ready to come home on Sunday. She's doing alright in the cast, which comes up to about her knee.