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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I hate why questions

I ran last night. In the rain and the wind, through the flooded streets and sidewalks. You see, I’m toying with the idea of an ultra marathon again. When I mentioned it this morning to S*, my co-worker, her response was “why?”.

I hate why questions.

S* and I have discussed how it seems that our brains never turn off. We are constantly thinking and evaluating and planning. My brain literally never shuts off – there’s never peace and quiet. Except……

….during the last half of a 100 miler, or a marathon, or a backpacking trip.

Then, and only then, I have peace and quiet in my brain. It’s like these events are a significant accomplishment within themselves that I can stop for ~48 hours and say “it’s a enough”. I don’t have to prove anything to myself or anyone else. It’s enough. Until my body is pushed to the limit, that peace and quiet doesn’t come.

That’s probably the best answer I can give to the question I often get: “why ride a 100 miles?”.
There’s other superficial answers I can smile and give – “I love the trails”, “The bond with my horse is amazing”, “I like riding fast” – but the truth is I never feel totally at rest unless my body is in motion and close to exhaustion.


It's useful to look at "sister" sports to explore possibilities for endurance. Eventing is a "sister" sport because of what it demands from the horse, among other reasons. Another sport I consider a "sister" sport is that of ultramarathon running.

I've toyed with the idea of running ultramarathons (and once expressed that idea to my mom, who said "get another horse") and generally keep an ear out for anything interesting occuring in that sector.

A blog recently addressed a topic I've certaintly had on my mind. Read it here: and then tell me what you think.

Ultramarathoning started out much like endurance - a bunch of crazy people trying to go further than anyone else just because. $$ changes a sport. Good and Bad changes. I can see both sides and am totally undecided whether I think it's a good thing or not.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Credit where credit is due

In response to Michelle's comment below - I did not invent this little theory of learning. Here's the wikipedia summary here:

Over the years I've heard a lot of different versions of the learning theory, most recently from my trainer. It's a theory that seems to work most of the time. Before I knew about this, I would have conversations with family members about the different "kinds" of horse people - mostly based on the level of fear/respect someone had for the horses. The discussion generally resolved into:

Beginners - Horse people who are beginners, but don't know they are beginners. These people typically have no fear, or at least no imagination and scare the rest of us into an early grave.

Novices - The beginner who has realized they are not invincible. They often struggle with fear issues and have begin to realize how much they have to learn.

Intermediate - A rider who can normally stay on for all 3 gaits, isn't prone to panicking. Has a healthy respect for the horse, but isn't generally reactive. Capable on most horses. This rider is cautious, but not dealing with fear.

Advanced - This rider seems to have no fear, but this comes from knowledge rather than ignorance. They can stay balanced and on top of the horse most of the time. Riding seems to come naturally to this person and they seem to move effortlessly across the field on even the most difficult of horses.

Once I learned about the 4 learning stages theory, it fit so nicely into the family discussions we had that it immediately appealed to me.

Does anyone else have any learning theories they especially like and want to share?

The learning process

Farley has been very forward in dressage. That’s what being mudbound and pen bound for 2 weeks will do to you. It’s a nice change – I’m finally getting a real connection back to front, forward in front of my leg, and throughness. Even though I don’t love jumping the way I love dressage, it’s been worth the price of the jump lessons to get the impulsion in dressage.

Usually on gaits and movements we are hovering between a 5 and a 6. Farley, as an arab is non-traditional which means we start at a 6 or 7, not necessarily an 8 like the warmbloods that have been bred to suspend themselves around the court like carousal horses. Farley has to be MORE relaxed, with MORE swing, and have a better connection to look as good.

I fight tooth and nail for my 7’s. It’s a fact of life that I’m going to end up with 5’s, and if I can get a 7 for every 5, and 6’s everywhere else, that’s a 60%!

That’s why, when my trainer remarked that I had a solid 7 trot, I thought “why not try for the 8?”.

So I went for it.

There’s a lot more distance/change between a “7” trot and an “8” trot, than a “6” and a “7”.

I found out that Farley probably has an innate “7” trot. ME, as the RIDER influences whether that trot becomes a 6 or an 8.

After 18 months of dressage the puzzle pieces are finally coming together. Even before my trainer made suggestions I could FEEL that I needed a half halt or more outside rein or inside leg or inside bend or more forward. I worked on “plumping” that trot. I had to make sure my leg stayed long, the inside leg at the girth, the outside slightly back, that I wasn’t pulling on the left rein, that my elbows stayed soft, that my thumbs stayed on top, that I wasn’t tucking my chin, that my knees weren’t gripping, and that I wasn’t behind the motion. And this is the short list!

We never truly got to that 8 (unless it was a nice judge!) but I could feel it there – right below the surface. The best part about it was I could feel how to get it – I, as the rider, was having a significant impact and helping my horse be better than she could be on her own.

This concept has a correlation in endurance (you knew I was going there!). I think one of the “tricks” of endurance is having the experience to know where your horse’s starting point is. Is the horse a 50 miler that is doing LD’s because of the rider? Or is it a 50 miler horse that is doing 100 miles because of superior ridership? Or is it a 100 miler horse, who is only able to do fast 50’s because of superior riding? Having all the puzzle pieces fall into place takes time.

Endurance and dressage both have in common what EVERY learning process has in common. Namely the “4 stages”. I’m sure most of us have come across this in some variation at one time or another, but I don’t think there’s any harm in doing some review.

The 4 stages can be described as follows:

Unconscious Ignorance – You are doing it wrong and don’t even know it, because you don’t have the experience or knowledge to know better. Anyone learning something new falls in this category. Even if you have knowledge of something related (ie – coming into enduance from another discipline) you WILL spend a brief period of time here. Even people experiencing tremendous success can be in this stage depending on the talent of the horse and luck. People here usually don't seek mentors, and if they do, don't usually benefit greatly from them because they don't know that they don't know!

Conscious Ignorance – You know you are doing something wrong, and may even have a good idea what it is. But you don’t necessarily have the tools to fix it. People in this stage can benefit greatly from a mentor or trainer.

Conscious Knowledge – You recognize problems and inconsistencies and have the tools and knowledge to “fix” them. It takes conscious thought, and effort, but you can usually anticipate problems and take steps to prevent problems AND increase your chances of success (however you define that) even past the innate ability of your mount. People at this stage make the best mentors - they have the experience and knowledge, but are still having to make a conscious effort to put their knowledge into practice.

Unconscious Knowledge –At this level the horse+rider team can achieve things that perhaps neither of them would have accomplished by themselves. The team is more than the whole. They know what needs to be done before they *know* it and it seems to just happen. Most of us spend just brief periods of time at this stage. Those moments are magic and are why I ride. IMO these people make the WORST mentors and are NOT a good choice for the stage 1 and 2 people to try and emulate.

Most people move between stages as new situations present themselves. Moving between stages 3 and 4, and even stage 2, is natural and is the learning process. One word of caution – unless you are an Olympic level rider you probably don’t spend THAT much time in stage 4. So if you are sitting there patting yourself on the back for being at stage 4 for the last couple of years, you are tragically (oh gasp-the horror) probably in stage 1. (Tongue in cheek of course - but there is a kernal of truth there....).

Where are you in your journey with (insert choice of sport/hobby here) in relation to the idea above?

When I started endurance with Minx, I was definitely in stage 1. I think I moved out of that stage quickly, only because I was on an unsuitable horse who made it very obvious what I didn't know very quickly. In that way, I think people using non-traditional endurance horses have an advantage. I spent a good year in stage 2 with Minx. I was aware that what I was doing was wrong but didn’t have the tools to fix it. After getting Farley, I briefly slipped into stage 1 again – thinking that because things were going very very well that I was in stage 3. However, the success wasn’t necessarily due to any new applied knowledge – it happened because I switched horses and my new horses happened to have a talent for endurance. The first half of season 2009 is a good example of being in stage 1. Things were going well and continued to go well for ~300 miles before I moved into stage 2 in the latter half of 2009 after Farley's first and only pull. I think in 2010 I finally moved into stage 3, and even had some brief glimpses of stage 4. It’s a wonderful feeling.

By analyzing how I progressed in my learning, hopefully with my next endurance horse I’ll stay in stage 3, or move to stage 2, but can avoid stage 1 again. IMO, stage 1 is where most of the heart break occurs, not to mention injury to horse and rider. Understanding this progress also helps me when I've, for whatever reason, slipped back a stage and I'm struggling. As long as I continue to consciously seek knowledge and implement it, and then critically evaluate, I'm likely to emerge from the situation better equipped and even more capable.

I went through a similar progression in dressage. Currently I’m bouncing between 2 and 3, with brief glimpses of 1 still.

I want to hear how your journey is going! Whether it’s horses, music, or anything else!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Xmas

I attempted to write several posts today, all of which have fizzled out into incomprehensible sentences and messy paragraphs. Which is a bummer because I have a TON of good topics - just no ambition (or apparent ability) to concisely formulate ideas into something anyone would actually READ.

So instead, I'll wish my readers a Merrry Christmas. I'm looking forward to an extended weekend with the boyfriend, random website updates, a bike ride around the buttes, and maybe a run. Or, if it keeps raining I may be canoeing across a lake that used to be the town.

I'm off to my jump lesson, where perhaps today, unlike last week, I won't squeak in terror at a 2'3" oxer (Farley rolled her eyes at me as she went over the jump, complete with a lead change).

Monday, December 20, 2010

A milestone, and of newbies

Before diving into the topic today – which is courtesy of Endurance Granny – I wanted to share a special milestone.

Aarene over at the Haiku Farm, suggested I develop a rental program for the renegade hoof boots. After making numerous suggestions, she became my first customer a few weeks ago.
This week, Fiddle and Aarene sported a red set of rental boots and successfully returned from a test ride with boots intact – after going through sand, creeks, and mud.

This report was especially satisfying as there were several challenging aspects to the fitting:
· It was long distance – I had to rely on pictures and e-mails. In fact, this was the first hooves I’ve fit long distance!

· There weren’t current measurements – the measurements came from last fall/winter when Fee’s shoes were pulled. New measurements couldn’t be taken because Fee was still in shoes.

· The measurements weren’t as precise as I usually like – the measurements were to the ¼” instead of the 1/8”.

· Fee has feet that are asymmetrical.

So, when I got the good news that the boots are staying on, as you can imagine I responded with a huge WHOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!!!! The fit isn’t perfect and there’s a few adjustments I’d like to make – but the nice thing about renegades is that as long as you are close, the boots will usually stay on well enough to ride in them until you can fine tune how much cutback is needed etc.

Then I got something even better – A pic of Aarene and Fiddle in “full” Standardbred-trot mode looking perfectly in harmony. And because my boots were in the picture, I felt like I was part of that picture. And that was one of the best feelings in the world. I admit I haven’t done much today at work besides stare at that picture of happy rider and horse on the trail, doing what both obviously love to do.

Aarene will probably post on her blog (see side bar) soon if you are interested in more of their adventures.

Now on to the real topic of the day
Endurance Granny posted on the subject of novice disappointment, a topic I probably have touched on before.

I struggled with this during the first couple years in Endurance. In fact, on my website ( I wrote the following in the endurance section main page - Learn all you can, do the best you can by your horse, and remember - "if you are having a tough time, there's probably someone else out there who's gone through the same thing and has come out the other side more or less intact" – a tribute to my first year. I didn’t complete a single ride my first season – and lamed my horse to the point I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to ever do endurance again. It seemed like everyone around me was completing rides easily. I started endurance for the sole purpose of completing the Tevis – a goal that seemed impossibly far away at the end of my first season.

As a goal oriented person used to creating game plans and meeting deadlines – it was a hard pill to swallow that I had failed. And yes, I would use the word “fail”. Aside from the non-completions, I had a lame horse who was miserable. Oh yes – that is a fail.

Gradually I realized that even the self-proclaimed “newbies” in this sport weren’t really newbies the way I was a newbie. Yes, we are all eternally learning in this sport, HOWEVER the newbie with less than 1000 miles is on a different learning curve than the “newbie” with 5,000 miles.

It seemed to me that people were great at giving advice, but seemed to lose touch with how it felt to start out in this sport. This is completely understandable! It’s easiest (and natural) to give advice where you are NOW, not where you used to be. And, while time gives perspective on the past, sometimes it can be a bit rosy in hindsight and you lose the intensity and raw-ness that was present when it was happening.

After talking to endurance riders I respected and who were willing to talk candidly about their experiences over the years, I realized that most, if not all, endurance riders did go through the same trials and tribulations in their first 1000 miles, that I was experiencing. The problem is, that at any one time, only a small % of riders are at a certain stage – which includes that critical mass of newbies under 1000 miles.

Because I know how badly I felt, and how frustrating it was to see people who were moving out of the stage I was in (LD’s, starting 50’s) and into the next one (100’s, Tevis) with an ease I couldn’t imagine – I wanted to help someone who might be struggling in the same way.

Among other reasons that’s why I started a blog. It’s the truth from a perspective and being IN THE PRESENT. Some day, when I’m a widely successful vet and endurance rider (hey – we all have dreams right?) I want to be able to tell people – “what you are going through is normal and it gets better”. And if they don’t believe me – then go read my blog. I may have changed my mind or have a different perspective now, but it doesn’t diminish the power of writing in the present.

You may wonder why I write about the “1000 mile” point as being the cut off. I would agree with those who say that endurance is about continuous learning no matter what your mileage, and that the more I learn, the less I know. I'm less apt to see issues in black and white and consider the grays. However, talking to other endurance riders, I’m under the impression that the steepest learning curve comes in the first 1000 miles. I feel 1000 miles is a significant accomplishment – something that’s echoed by AERC. At 1000 miles you are recognized at the convention and your mileage patches become less frequent – no longer are they awarded every 250 miles. One thousand miles is also a major horse accomplishment and is the first recognized mileage levels for our equine partners.

For those newbies in the throes of what seems to be never-ending disappointments and challenges I want to offer you this comfort – it does get better. You will accomplish more than you ever dreamed possible if you continue to seek advice, critically evaluate, and stay flexible. I have journals from my first year that have pages completely soaked in tears. I wanted to do this sport SO BAD. Would I have felt the same way if I had met my deadlines and plans? Maybe not.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Important Lessons

Yesterday I learned two very important lessons.

VIL (Very Important Lesson) #1
Boots are important when working with horses

I am assuming that *some* of us are not exactly perfect when it comes to footwear around our horses. Although my shoes I wear to the barn are usually closed toed, they are not always sturdy boots. Boy was I grateful for my sturdy leather boots when, last night, while spraying the bottom of her left hind hoof out in prep for trimming with a hose she spooked. She leapt backwards, jerking the hoof out of my hand, where it landed (toe first) into my top of my left foot, and then slightly reared as to let me feel the FULL impact of all those extra calories squished onto her frame.

Result - one broken toe. The middle one. Not bad!

VIL (Very Important Lesson) #2
Cats don't like coffee

I had a...malfunction with the french press yesterday and managed to dump my cup of coffee into the cat's water. It was a hellish morning and after I finished swearing (coffee ended up on the counter, on the floor, on my pants, on my....)I threw the rest of the pot in the cup and bolted out the door. The cat water was merely discolored and *I* thought it was fine. Miss picky and Mr. Fatso apparently disagreed and insisted that their water be sparkling clean. *sigh* So, witness Melinda scrubbing the cat water this morning while kitties meow, acting so abused that I would even consider premium ground decaf french-pressed coffee as suitable for drinking.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An open letter

I wanted to share with my readers an e-mail I wrote for my favorite e-mail list - the yahoo new100milers list.

It's that time again - time to inject Farley's hocks. I got 8 1/2 months from the last set of injections and probably could have stretched it out another 4-6 weeks, but standing in the mud and the cold for 3 weeks hasn't helped. On Monday near the end of my dressage lesson, she started to pop her should out going to the left on a trot circle and be quite fussy. She's often fussy, but there's a certain kind of fussy, paired with resistence that is her telling me it's time to do the hocks. On the trail it's taking longer for her to warm up. During the jump lesson yesterday, she was jumping very well, which suprised me - she loves jumping and was probably just jumping through the pain - but there were still indicators it was time - short strided on the left hind during the trot, not wanting give me decent transitions (which require weighting the hindquarters).

I wrote this to Ann, who had asked me about my experience with injecting. I know most of you *lived* this with me as I fretted and worried over this issue in the early spring, but I think it's worth re-stating my current philosophy.

Ann -

It's been a really positive thing for me and Farley. Once it was said and done, once I had made the decision, after the injections, I had a new horse. In my opinion, it was one of the single best things I've ever done for my horse. Doing it forced me to set aside my pride and evaluate objectively what was best for my horse based on the scientific evidence available and the advice of a vet I trusted.

If you want to read about some of the agony I went through trying to make this decision, go back and read my blog posts from march and early April. The hardest part was dreading what people would think of me for keep my horse sound with a needle. After talking to my vet I used for this (a top lameness vet in the area) I felt differently about the decision. He said that fusing of the hocks was something that naturally occurred and there was likely not any management changes that would have produced a significantly different result. Similarly, there isn't anything (in his opinion) on the market that can be given orally that is as cost effective or effective as hock injections.

The best way of keeping her sound for as long as possible is to continue to ride her - which I cannot do if there is a continuing cascade of inflammation in the joint. Controlling inflammation is so important - inflammation and pain are NOT your friend. I used to think that if the horse was a bit sore, that the pain would keep them from "over doing" it. After talking to the vet and doing some of my own research, I have come to understand that although the former seems intuitive, keeping inflammation (and thus pain in some cases) low/controlled is paramount for the continued health of the horse.

I also asked the all important question - by making the pain go away and continuing to ride, will I do further damage to this horse because I am using artificial means to keep performing? The answer was an unequivocal no - To the contrary, the way to keep inflammation low and the joint healthy was movement - and injections reduce the inflammation so the joint or system can keep moving.

One thing to remember is that xrays changes do not correlate well to amount of lameness you may be experiencing. The left hock (the worst one) showed very little change, however my horse is also very wimpy (which I like!). She had very typical movement of a horse with fusing hocks. I felt guilty for waiting as long as I did to inject. She moved so much better and was so much happier - it was truly the right decision for us.

Another little note - the soreness showed up in the dressage much earlier than anywhere else, so now I use that as my warning sign - if she starts to struggle at collected trot on a circle, I start looking at possibly injecting. I don't wait for it to show up on the trail.

One reason I am so open about my experience is that so many people aren't. Many many many top horses are injected in this sport and no one wants to talk about it. so here's my philosophy about injecting and other meds now: I do the best I can, but sometimes confo, life, and being human means things don't go perfectly. When that happens, as long as I am doing no harm (making something worse in the long run) - then the decision is easy - I'll do the intervention that gives her the most comfort and keeps her active, until she lets me know she wants to retire.

So I inject when I need to, and after a hard work out I may even pop a bute tab or two to keep inflammation down. *shrug* It's working so far. I think it's a good compromise between compromising my horse for my ideals (and trust me - I still don't like the fact it takes a needle to make her comfortable) and keeping her sound and happy for a sport she loves.

I know this is a bit controversial, but please be nice - I've NOT had a good time at work this week, it has poured for the last 24 hours and I STILL haven't unloaded hay or trimmed feet. Oh - and I've gorged on candy my trainer brought back from Hawaii for me - which is an incredible sugar rush when all I've had a paleo diet for the past week or so.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soaked Hay

Today I have decided to start soaking my horse’s hay. Or at least, that’s what it looks like.

Today they were predicted showers, not unremitting downpours. In fact, it was a paltry 40% chance of showers.

Today I bought hay, since at approximately 11 am it looked like this forecast was accurate. Although it was overcast, it wasn’t raining. I had plenty of time to buy hay, go to my (working) lunch, and unload hay at the stable.

As you can imagine, that neat little plan started to rapidly disintegrate (much like my bales, currently in the back of the pick up) the moment I walked into the feedstore.

They had only 2 bales of the hay I feed.

Then it started to sprinkle.

I was faced with a choice. Buy 2 bales, which will get me through next week when they are expecting a load – but risk them getting wet….OR return tomorrow (which is the date I really do need that hay!), hope it’s dry AND hope no one else has bought the bales.

I bought the bales.

I parked in downtown and went to my lunch.

It started to torrentially downpour.

Lunch ran late.

I had to go directly back to the plant instead of unloading hay.

It rained even harder.

I texted my co-worker (and fellow livestock owner) and asked the rhetorical question – “I have hay in the back of my truck. Do u think they r getting wet?”

It continued to pour. And pour and pour and pour.

Finally, after a surprisingly busy day I’m at home. The hay still isn’t unloaded, it’s still raining, and (surprise!) the hay is wet.

In hindsight, I perhaps had a lapse of judgment. However, considering it is 9pm and I worked 1am-5am, 9a-3:30p shift today, I’m thinking that if the hay is the only causality of the day, I’m doing pretty good.

On the other hand, I’ve had bales get soaked in downpours (like the one in the back of my truck coming home from the Nevada ride last season) that ended up just fine to feed.

More tragic is the fact my horse’s feet didn’t get done today, AGAIN. I missed my farrier’s appointment last week and it’s time for me to pull on my big girl mud boots and get the job done myself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Post recommendation

I really enjoyed reading this post today. Andrea from Eventing-a-Gogo talks about breeding and buying in a very lucid, well thought out way. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I've been picture-free on the blog for a while, which is ironic since one of the reasons I started blogging was to share pictures.  Pictures were a way of distracting the reader from the poor writing skills of my blogging efforts!  I'm not posting pics because in all honesty, I'm taking less pics.  I've gotten in a rut.  I'm used to undergoing some sort of life change every 2-3 years and I've been in my current career, at my current address, doing my current activities for almost 5 years.  However, knowing that it's all going to change in 6 months has made me determine to pick up the camera once again. 

I present a dirty (and slightly blurry) pony, and a slightly cleaner one post-brushing.  And last (but not least), while on the subject of friends, a picture of me and the boyfriend - my best friend for the last 12 years - at a work xmas party recently. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


How many of you horsey people out there have real friends that don’t also participate in horses?
While I find that having horses and participating in horse sports lets me meet lots of people and be social, I have very few real friends. I just don’t have time unless they want to visit while mucking a pen. I don’t get out for coffee or a movie very often. “Just hanging out” when there are chores to do is almost impossible.

Many people seem offended when I let them know that I really don’t have time to invest in a relationship beyond the casual conversation at work, or “small talk” at the stable when we happen to be there at the same time. It’s nice to be able to say “we should have coffee sometime”, but I don’t because I know it will never happen and I don’t make promises intentionally that I know I won’t keep.

I hear over and over again “you should make time”. For better or worse, horses make up a significant part of my life. Family and a long distance boyfriend take up much of the remaining time. I DO make time for those things that are important in my life, but I cannot spend my time feeling guilty because someone has decided that they want to be friends and then feels snubbed because I can’t commit to the same level. At this point in my life, just because I may enjoy someone’s company doesn’t mean I can necessarily commit to a friendship. I actually start to get nervous if I start feeling “too close” to someone that could mean a friendship that I might feel obligated to make time for.

Not to mention it’s easier to find something in common with someone if their passion matches yours. If 80% of my life is spent thinking, riding, and caring for horses, then it makes sense to have friends that have that same passion, especially because most of my family doesn’t share my passion, nor does my boyfriend.

There is something commendable about having a life-long friend. However, more likely most of your friends will come and go based on what life stage you are end. I think sometimes we (meaning “the culture we live in”) has a hard time letting go of friends. I think Facebook/Myspace and other social media is a testament to not being able to let go of the past. I hear regret in people’s voices when the talk about not having seen a friend in some time, or losing track of a friend. I used to feel this way to. “We were such good friends!”, “Why can’t I make this work?”. Reading CS Lewis’s “Four Loves” book helped me to understand that often friendships originate in a certain life circumstance (a hobby, a club, a similar lifestage) and when that circumstance change, often the friendship will fade as well. It’s normal, and growing apart from friends as life moves on is part of life.

Recognizing this has helped me to live “in the moment” with my friends. We are friends RIGHT NOW because of work, or endurance, or blogging, or church, or tragedy, or life stage. When that circumstance changes, so will the friendship. I tend to not talk about the future – as in “someday we should go get coffee”, or “wine tasting would be really fun” – if we are going to do something then let’s DO SOMETHING SOON.

During Christmas I often start to feel regret as I think of all the friends whom I have basically “ignored” over the last year that I wish I still had a relationship with – fencing and college buddies, past hobbies and clubs, old co-workers, college roommates. But then I remind myself that life changes and so do friendships. I remind myself of the good times we had and if I know their address, I’ll pop a xmas card in the mail just to say hi.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You are my sunshine....

I’ve been stuggling through each day. My head is full of wool and I wonder if people think I’m a drug addict because I can’t enunciate my words and my eyes won’t focus.

On weekends I sleep until noon and am in bed by 6pm the following evening. It’s sheer torture to get out of bed, not helped by the guilt I feel that I should be getting up earlier and if I would just had enough self control and will power I could do it.

I’m not writing, running, working out, or feeding my body anything useful. I scrounge around the kitchen eating various nefarious things that will last me Tues-Thurs until I can get to my boyfriends house or parents. I haven’t been grocery shopping is eight weeks.

Sunday night, as I lay in bed, still awake at midnight I asked myself “maybe I’m depressed?”
And then I had a revelation – I have SAD! (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I had completely forgotten. After all a year is a really long time… (I’m kidding). Of COURSE I’m depressed – it’s mid December, it’s been rainy and overcast for weeks and I haven’t seen the sunshine since…I don’t know when (hehehehehe – a bit of Johnny Cash). Additionally, Farley and I are on a bit of a vacation – so for the last 3 weeks I’ve been riding sporadically.

No wonder I wasn’t getting anything done! In the summer when I feel like this, it usually means I need to take a bit of a break from everything to refocus. However, if I try that strategy in the winter time (and that’s what I’ve been doing) it just gets worse and worse and worse…..I have to use a completely different strategy to keep my brain happy in the winter.

Every year I forget that I have SAD. In fact, I probably posted about this HERE, around this time last year. When I called my mother and shouted excitedly – “I know what’s going on-I have SAD remember?????” – I could sense her rolling her eyes as she said “of COURSE that’s what’s going on!”. I forget. I truly do. And it takes me until mid winter to remember and start doing something about it. I never used to struggle with this – it started when I accepted a mostly indoor job 4-1/2 years ago.

I’ve managed this successfully every year through a couple, simple behavior changes during the winter months (in California defined as Dec-Feb). There may be a time when I go on medication for this, but for now – I’m doing OK. I started yesterday and I already feel better (as evidenced that I’m actually writing a post!)

1. Get outside for a 30 minute walk in the middle of the day. This is TOP priority. Nothing else is more important right now than that walk in the sunshine.

2. No more guilt about not getting up early “enough”. My work is flexible and nobody will comment about my arrival unless it’s after 9am. If during this time of the year I need 10-11 hours of sleep a night to feel good – than that’s what I’ll do. In my experience, the sleep thing resolves itself if I take care of #1. Yes, most times of the year I revel in my 5am wake up time. But if 7:30am is the earliest I can manage right now, than that’s good enough.

3. Eat real food. I can get away with more carbs and sugar in the summer time. In the wintertime, an excess of sugar, processed food, or junk food just create a cycle of tiredness and lethargy.

4. Get out of the house and get stuff done. Last night I finished ALL my xmas shopping. This may very well be the first year I haven’t wanted to break down in the store in tears during xmas shopping because I felt so tired and horrible and so “non-xmas-y”.

5. Replace all the burnt out bulbs in my apartment. Let there be light! Go with the highest wattage recommended. No guilt about leaving them ALL on if necessary in the mornings and evenings.

6. Eat breakfast. I may not be hungry or even want it. But I’ll eat it. And it won’t just be a fried egg or a packet of too-sweet-instant-oatmeal-like-food. Today, I started my day off with a 2 egg omelet with asparagus, mushrooms, and green onions. I’ve gotten away from eating breakfast in the mornings. But, I’m finding that the less often I eat in the mornings, the less I am ABLE to eat in the mornings – let’s say…at a 100 mile endurance ride! I need to get back in the habit of eating a regular REAL breakfast and see if that makes a difference to my GI tract during stressful events.

7. Work out as I’m able. Some days it will just be my afternoon walk. Other days I’ll squeeze in a bike ride to the stable, pilates, or my exercise ball. From experience – if I’m getting enough sunshine, enough sleep, and giving fuel to my body – getting enough exercise isn’t a problem, my body WANTS to move.

8. Make time to write every day. It might be a blog post, my website, the CBA column, my novel, or something entirely different – the quality of my writing is a good indicator of my mental health.

In conclusion – it’s so nice to be back. Maybe next year I’ll start being proactive in….October or November instead of mid-December. Maybe I’ll schedule a little reminder for myself on my ipod: “now is the time to start my winter schedule”. Or maybe my mother really will send me a sign to hang on my wall like she threatened: “I have SAD!”.

Now that my brain isn’t wooly, I’m going to go finish some of the posts I have in the works! (I attempted one yesterday on the merits of a single horse versus multiples and realized it was so incomprehensible *I* wasn’t even able to read what I had written. Obviously had not gotten enough sunshine!).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pigeon Fever Update

Culture came back negative, but vet still isn't convinced it isn't pigeon fever. As it has progressed, it looks less and less like pigeon fever and more like a bit combined with cellulitis, however I'm still taking precautions until a decision is made either way.

Here's a link to an information page about pigeon fever: There's many links from reputable sources on google. There's conflicting information, but I try to stick to veterinary sources, or sources like

I'm not sure who the anonymous commenter was, but I encourage you to do some research. The pus coming from the wounds is highly infective, and it can survive in the soil up to 55 days. Horses can be contaminated through a fly bite, but also through the bacteria entering open wounds, or through the mucous membranes on a handler's clothing, hands, footwear etc. Therefore it is prudent to take additional measures beyond fly spray if a horse with pigeon fever is being treated on the premises.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A question of ethics

A horse in your boarding stable has chest and belly abscesses that is indicative of pigeon fever. The vet is called and the abscess treated, in the meantime you are told to treat it like it is pigeon fever. Several months ago a boarder let you know that a different local boarder stable was having an outbreak of the disease, but was not quarantining the facility, or notifying people trailering in. Several of your boarders go to this stable for various events, so it’s very possible this is pigeon fever.

What do you do?
Do you do what my boarding stable decided to do?
  • Instruct the boarder not to tell anyone
  • Do not notify anyone, including those boarders who regularly trailer out of the facility for lessons at other facilities
  • Keep the horse in its current pen with no monitoring or control (horse can be petted and touched with no restrictions).

I would hope not. I would hope that you would notify those of us that regularly travel to other facilities for instruction and competition and not place those facilities and horses at risk. I would hope that you would make the horse unavailable to the casual passerby by either moving it into a remote location or placing signs on the pen that say “Don’t touch me!”. Signs plastered all over the facility that scream “pigeon fever” are not appropriate, especially when it’s unconfirmed, but I think some notice and precautions ARE required.

The boarder caught in the middle of this told me because she would have felt awful if I she hadn’t told me and then Farley had come down with it. So, she told me – which I am grateful for. I can take precautions and also make informed decisions about where I take my horse and what I do with her.

I was very angry last night. How dare the BO put my horse at risk? And all the facilities and horses that may have come into contact with mine if I was competing and training? (Farley and I are currently on a 3 week vacation from lessons so fortunately it isn’t an issue right now). What if I had petted my friends horse when she wasn’t there one evening, and then gone out to Farley’s pen?

I think some very simple things can be done by a stable that promote education and awareness without causing panic.

Before confirmation of the disease:

  • Make the horse unavailable to the causual passerby through virtue of location or signage.
  • A heads up to those boarders (at our stable, this would be 2-3 people) traveling to competitions or other facilities, that there might be an issue and they need to seriously consider the potential risk and perhaps discuss with the owners of the other facilities before hand.
  • Change the feeding and watering rotations so the affected horse is taken care of last.

(Notice that none of these recommendations involves prematurely giving notice to everyone and the general public and worrying them unnecessarily, but may help minimize the severity of the outbreak while you are waiting for confirmation).

After confirmation of the disease

  • Post a fact sheet on pigeon fever in a common area. Hand it out to boarders that have questions.
  • Ask the vet for instructions for how boarders should monitor their horses for the disease and what precautions can help prevent the spread of disease. This can include temping, hand sanitizers, not sharing grooming equipment or tack, staying out of common hitch rail and arena areas if your horse comes down with the disease etc.
  • Develop a plan of how you are going to monitor the horses that are boarded with very little owner participation (ie not monitored close), without unintentionally spreading the disease by handling each one of them.
  • Strongly recommend that horses do not travel on and off the property until outbreak has cleared. Post this is a public place. Maybe mail it out to the boarders.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened here (a horse may or may not have an infectious disease and they keep it a secret), but it is the worst. This is why Farley is in a back pen, away from foot and horse traffic, around horses that are rarely used or taken out of their pens, on a dead end corner.

Maybe I’m totally over-reacting. What are your thoughts? I’m less pissed this morning and more resigned. I think the trick is not to have any expectations other than if this was a self care facility, and then when I get more than that, be happily surprised. Confirmation of the culture should come today. Definitely crossing my fingers!