Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sometimes you have to hurt to feel better....

I will be going in for surgery tomorrow. The procedure will take about 2 hours and recovery will be approximately 6 weeks.

Good news:

Chronic pain in neck and back will be greatly reduced.
Six weeks of nothing work-related.
May be able to do light gardening while off.
Can watch all my box sets (House, CSI, Lonesome Dove, Thorn Birds, Mad Men, Saving Grace) without interruption.
I will be able to read my Book Club book well in advance instead of a few days before the meeting.
Chronic pain will be reduced.
I am planning on trying out some hot BBQ recipes that I never seem to have time to do.
I will be able to sort out my winter and summer closets.
I will be able to sit on my deck for morning coffee without having to rush.
I can have my vodka sodas out on the deck at 5:00 p.m. instead of 6:00 p.m.
Did I mention, chronic pain will be reduced?

Bad News:

I will not be able to ride for 6 weeks.
I will not be able to drive for a couple of weeks.
I will not be able to dig up those dead shrubs that are driving me mad or replace them.
I will be bored.
I can't ride for 6 weeks.
I will not be able to have my vodka soda for the first week of my recovery because of my stupid pain killers.
Did I mention that I will not be able to ride for 6 weeks?

Shannon at It's Quarters for Me and I share the same approximate date for getting back in the saddle. In the meantime, we will be living vicariously through other bloggers to ease our withdrawal. Even when I do start riding again, I will have to arrange for someone to put the saddle on Gem's back because I won't be able to lift 75 lbs. (OK, it's only 35 lbs.!!) up that high. In addition to being behind in my lessons, my body will have to acclimatize to riding again. My goal is to work up to cantering/loping again by the end of the summer.

This surgery was booked last November. It will put a bit of a damper on this summer as far as riding goes, but I will benefit long-term and I am looking forward to being able to enjoy riding pain-free. I should be in great shape for Fall and Winter riding, which are my two favourite seasons for trail riding. Jean will be riding Gem during our regularly scheduled lessons and I have arranged for LA to ride Gem once a week. Just because I can't ride, doesn't mean that he has time off, too! I will keep you posted on how Jean and LA do. :-)

What was I thinking...?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Three Times the Charm

Charlie is adorable. He's cuddly, cute, and energetic. He's got a wonderfully happy personality when he is with us (not so with visitors - he has fear issues from not being socialized properly). Charlie is the newest addition to our dog family. We picked him up from a rescue located in Montreal. He's very smart (he had to learn English!) and believes that he is the size of a Mastiff when in reality he is 10 lbs. of Tasmanian Devil. It was a bit of an adjustment for everyone in our household. He came to us with attitude. There was a lot of fighting at the beginning, which we were not used to. Our dogs had always gotten along, even when new ones were introduced. The difference here was that Charlie was an adult dog (3 yrs. old) when we got him, was not neutered until he went to the rescue group and although loved by his previous owner, Charlie had lived a solitary life before he came to us. Our three dogs have sorted it out amongst themselves. The similarities between Charlie's story and Gem's prior to becoming part of my life is actually quite amazing.

When I ask my dogs to "come", my older girl and male will come immediately. Charlie will pretend that he didn't hear you. He casually looks away (she doesn't mean me) and may even start to saunter off in another direction. You ask him to come a second time in a sterner voice...maybe he will look at you (wonder if she means me?) and start to slooooowly walk in your direction. You ask him a third time in a much sterner voice and he will look at you (oh, she does mean me!) he will pick up the pace and come right to you. Having to ask Charlie 3 times to do something is now the norm. Unless, of course, there is a C-O-O-K-I-E involved, then it reduces the number of requests to 2. Why??

I have come to recognize the same pattern with Gem. When we first start our session, he's not bad. I think he's more excited about hanging out with the other horses than he is with hanging out with me. :-) We do our warm up. OK, now it's time to work.

Me: OK, time to to do crazy 8 patterns. Let me press my leg against you to show you which way I want you to go.
Gem: What?
Me: Come on, now. I am pressing my leg against your side. Move it.
Gem: You talkin' to me?
Me: LET'S GO!!! Move it! I want you to curve this way!
Gem: Oh! You want me to do the crazy 8 pattern.
Me: sigh

This scenario is usually played out throughout our session. It might only happen sporadically, or it might happen every single time I ask him for something. Of course, it usually happens when I am having a lesson. LA seems to regularly see the worst of him. I am at a loss on how to make him more consistent with his response. On a bad day, it can be exhausting.

But, when we have a good day, it rocks. Today happened to be a good day. The sun was shining and the temperature was around 12 degrees Celsius. It was windy and the dust was flying, but we didn't care. Gem and I rode out in the front paddock. The moment I put my foot in the stirrup, I knew it was going to be a good ride. I could see it in his eye. His trot was amazing; steady, consistent, his head slightly tilted to the inside, his chin was down. Another rider commented on how good Gem looked. My seat was solid, my hands fairly quiet and I was conscious of my breathing which was easy and strong. At a walk, we did squares to practice turning and bending. He stood patiently when I asked. We worked together for well over an hour. Today's ride erases the last bunch of exhausting rides. It was an awesome afternoon. Wish LA could have seen it. :-) BTW, I wouldn't recommend dust as an exfoliant.

What was I thinking....?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Strip Tease

We have been hovering around the 10 degree Celsius mark the last couple of weeks, dipping to 3 degrees at night. I am itching for the warmth and to be able to wear my summer ensembles. Sleeveless blouses, light-weight cotton jeans, t-shirts that show all my lumps and bumps. Come on, Summer! Come out, come out wherever you are!!

Over the past 18 months, I have learned what not to wear when it comes to riding. I have also learned that sometimes what you have to wear is not necessarily the most comfortable. It was a learning experience for me this year when it came to dressing for the cold. I had to buy my snowboarding pants and a heavy duty winter jacket. I wore long johns and learned to layer my clothing properly. We ride in winter unless it drops to -15C (5F). There was only one time that I felt cold and it was because I only wore one pair of socks instead of two. I learned that it's OK to look like a Yeti, as long as you stay warm. Gem looked like a bear.

Now it's time to de-layer. Yeah, baby! Hard to believe that a month ago I was still wearing items of my winter ensemble. My layers are now reduced to a t-shirt and a cotton pullover and riding jeans. I dusted off my summer riding shoes and have been wearing them for a couple of weeks now.

Gem is de-layering, too. He grew a fabulous winter coat. So thick and luxurious and shiny. The last few weeks he has been shedding like a maniac. When I brought him in for lesson a couple of weeks ago, he was caked in mud. He likes to roll as much as the next horse, but this was over-kill. One of the Young Ladies told me that they roll because they are itchy and it helps them shed. Makes sense to me. De-layering is not as kind to me as it is to Gem. He is starting to look sleek; me not so much. :-)

My weapon of choice to remove his dead hair is a sweat scraper. It has little teeth on one side. As I lightly drag it over Gem's body, it picks up all of the dead hair. I am careful not to be too aggressive with it. The hair flies all over the place. Gem likes this part of the routine. If he were cat, he would be purring when I use the scraper on him. When I sweep up the aftermath, it looks like someone's bad toupee has been left in the aisle.

Last week we had our lesson outside for the first time this year. It was wonderful! It was early evening, and even though the temperature was starting to drop, I was actually getting a glow on! I am looking forward to the warmth and wearing light clothing. I am looking forward to eating dust and having sweat running down the back of my neck. Wait...sweating????

What was I thinking....?

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Gem and I celebrated our first anniversary yesterday! Yay! I can't believe it's been a has flown by!

STA was my sanity check when I was looking for my new companion. If it wasn't for her, Gem and I would not be partners. I took her for lunch yesterday to celebrate and spent a lovely afternoon (yes, we left the restaurant at 4:30 pm!) laughing and talking about my "ah ha" moments over the last year. There were quite a few firsts and milestones for me as a new owner and rider.

The first time I got on Gem and didn't hyperventilate because of his height.

The first time I actually understood what "easy keeper" meant and was thankful that Gem is.

The first time I realized that my right leg was easily clearing Gem's back when I mounted and dismounted. A far cry from when I first started riding.

The first time I was able to pick up the 75 lbs. (OK! It's only 35 lbs!!) Western saddle, lift it up over my head and place it on Gem's 16.2hh frame without causing bodily injury to either one of us. :-)

The first time I was coordinated enough to have his bridle hooked on one arm, take off his halter and hook it on the other arm and then put on his bridle smoothly and without coordination problems.

When I taught Gem to wait so he didn't push me through openings. He now "waits" in middle of the arena so I can tidy up before we go back to the barn.

When it became natural to have my heels down in the stirrups.

The first time I rode by myself in the arena and wasn't afraid.

The magic I feel when we are both connected and our session is fluid and "on".

Understanding and loving that he has a goofy side to his personality.

How pleased and proud I was when Gem didn't freak out on me when another horse struck out and bit him on his side as I was hand walking him.

Realizing his 18-wheeler size and accommodating it.

The first time I loped and even though I was terrified, I knew that I wanted to feel that thrill again.

The first time I steered Gem using my legs only.

The first time I knew what it felt like when he "gave" on the bit.

The first time I actually trusted myself and Gem enough to go on a trail ride with other boarders.

The first time I recognized how Gem's power felt under me as I rode.

The first time he recognized his name when I called.

The first time I realized that patience was going to be my biggest challenge.

The first time he lowered his head to my chest, closed his eyes and dozed off as I rubbed his chin.

The first time I realized that he knew he was smarter than me, but he chose to be patient with me.

I love him.