Vision

 

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I would like to be back saying how glad I am to have my eye surgery behind me and that I’m anticipating a quick recovery followed by getting back to my regularly scheduled life. Sadly, things didn’t quite work out that way. You can read about it here.

For now life is a bit complicated. I won’t bore you with the details, but it should suffice to say that while I consider myself fairly well adjusted to being disabled, this has elevated the feeling of total helplessness to a whole new level. Regrets? Right now, I’ve got a whole boatload of ’em. Perhaps if things straighten out in a few days I’ll feel a bit less regretful, but maybe not. It probably depends on the final outcome and whether or not I’m looking at another surgery to fix the things that got screwed up.

I miss Dharla. I’ve been out to the barn twice to toss the horses some hay, but I’m not in good enough shape to be around them for very long. Again, that helplessness thing. I looked at the weather forecast for next week and it appears I’ll be missing some stellar spring riding weather. I’m not pleased about having Dharla stand around for weeks on end, so perhaps if the rain clears out I’ll suggest my husband ride her for a bit tomorrow. I know he’d be more than happy to oblige.

Blogging is difficult so I’ll close for now. I hope that as things begin to improve I might be allowed to read and write more. And not having to look at the floor 24/7 would be a big help too!

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In A Fog

Foggy morning

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I haven’t had time to ride in a few days. The weather has been over the top (hot) and I’ve had to pick my activities carefully. I figured since Dharla hasn’t fully shed her winter coat, it would be better to focus on the yard and garden and go back to riding when the temperatures go back to being somewhere near normal.

I’ve been a bit frantic with the gardens. I don’t recall there ever being a spring where I’ve had to uncover and start working my gardens this early. I’ve literally had day lilies shoot up 2-3 inches overnight. If I don’t get the flower beds cleaned up and mulched now, I won’t be able to go back and do it later on, which means TONS of weeding. Here, its a fine line between growing things you want and keeping the invasive stuff at bay.

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I love my gardens, I really do, but every year it gets a little more difficult to do the bull work to keep things under control. Because of my back issues, I can’t do much else on the days when I’m putting lots of energy into the gardens. Typically this is only an issue in the spring and fall, when the major job of splitting and moving things or planting new stuff have to take precedence. I’ve tried doing things in smaller bites, but that really doesn’t make any difference, so now I just hunker down and put everything I’ve got into getting the job done. But it means I don’t have much left in the tank for anything else, including riding.

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My goal is to (eventually) have everything growing where I want it so I can just do the seasonal maintenance. I’m starting to realize that’s probably just a fantasy, but it’s what I’m striving to achieve down the line. We’re in the planning stage of building a new barn (mostly for hay storage) and I’m already daydreaming about landscape options and gardens around the site. I think this is an addiction that never ends!

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On another note, I’m scheduled for eye surgery next week. Almost everything is done and ready for me to be somewhat laid up for a few days. The recovery is supposed to be fairly simple UNLESS there are complications. Thing is, when you look in the New England Journal of Medicine under Medical Screw-ups, my name is listed. Yeah. So while I’m confident I’m making the right decision to do this and I believe I’ve got the best doc for the job, I’m still a wee bit stressed out about it. The last time I got up at the crack of dawn and took a long dark drive to the hospital for surgery, I came out the other side a totally different person. Broken. Damaged. Disabled. Not the happiest of times. That was fifteen years ago this May, but I guess old memories die hard. I’m trying to keep things in perspective, but my track record isn’t the best. Still, I need to get this done. I’ve waited as long as I possibly can, but my vision is too compromised to put it off any longer. It’s my right eye; my dominant eye, my shooting eye. So yes, I’m (appropriately) concerned about the outcome.

Barring any issues, I should be on the mend soon. Or so they say. If everything goes well I’ll be able to use a computer and watch TV (blah), but I won’t be able to read books for awhile. If things go wrong, it gets ugly. I’ll have to spend 50 minutes of every hour laying face down. Possibly for a few weeks. That might be interesting, to say the least. But since I only have two eyes (well, one that works right now) I’ll hope for the best and do whatever needs to be done for a positive outcome. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get back to my gardens  … chores await me!

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PS. I made a new page in the header for the dogs. I thought they deserved a “formal” introduction.

Spring is Sprung

Gardening? I can do that!

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Well, I can’t put it off any longer; spring is officially here. I must admit, it feels a little weird having my windows open in March and walking around with a rake in hand. For two weeks already no less. On one hand, while it’s nice spring has arrived, on the other hand it’s a bit chaotic. As soon as things start popping through the soil it becomes a mad race to uncover and nurture the things I want to have grow, and go after the things I don’t. The last couple of years it seems like the weeds and invasive species have been winning. From rampant chipmunk over-population to spreading mustard garlic (and other invasives), I’m putting out fires everywhere I turn.

Initially, I eschewed pesticides. I tried “spot treating” problems when they cropped up, but I really try to keep my yard, flower and veggie gardens as organic and chemical-free as possible. Lets face it though, that plan isn’t cutting the (garlic) mustard anymore. So last year I decided to take this battle to the Dark Side and started using a few carefully selected chemicals. (If the engineer had his way I’d be spraying everything in sight with chlordane.) I put my magic potions in plastic spritzer bottles so I could hang them on my garden cart and zap the nasty interlopers on the spot. In years previous I did dumb things like “mark” the offending weed with a stick so I could come back and spray it later. With two stick-loving dogs? What WAS I thinking? No, this was serious business and I fully intended to nip things in the bud (so to speak) by hitting the pests with a vengeance.

Problem is, I failed to mark the bottles with what’s inside them. If you’re anything like me you constantly do things half-assed. You tell yourself you’ll get a marking pen and write the name of the potion on the spray bottle later, but you never actually get around to doing it. Instead, you put the chemicals in slightly different looking (read as: recycled) bottles and tell yourself you’ll remember which chemical is which by it’s container. For awhile you keep things straight and know which bottle contains what, but as the summer drags on it becomes a bit of a guessing game. In a pinch, I’ll resort to sniffing a bottle to identity the contents in question, but I never do get that marking pen and mark the bottles. Ever. So chances are when that new patch of Poison Ivy didn’t die off after being sprayed it was probably because I hit it with insecticide, not weed killer. *Sigh*

Eventually, like all good things, gardening season comes to an end. I diligently store the four or five different containers of nasty juice on a shelf; nice and orderly, but still not marked. As I stand and gaze at my handiwork (all proud because for once I actually put my gardens “to bed” and picked up my gardening tools) I tell myself I really ought to figure out which bottle contains what and jot it down, but …. well, I don’t.

Now I’m right back where I started, with weeds and vines springing to life as I try to figure out which bottle contains the concoction I need. Meanwhile, the Poison Ivy, mustard garlic, Virgina Creeper, Wild Strawberry and God knows whatever else has decided to invade my property this year plots their revenge. Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up in the air and say forget it. The bugs, the weeds, the heat and humidity …. is it worth it?

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Hell, yeah!

March 19, 2012

 

 

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I got out today for a ride. The temps are still quite high and the horses are very affected by this. Neither has shed out enough winter coat to be taking temps up in the mid 70’s in stride. So I decided it would be a good morning to begin doing something in the ring.

Our riding ring has always been a “hot spot” with every horse we’ve ever owned. Thinking back, I’ve come to believe this is true because not one horse has ever been comfortable doing anything down in our ring. How hard can it be just to do a few simple exercises in a moderately sized arena? I dunno, I’m not a horse, but based on our history apparently it’s a big deal.

To be honest, our arena was built into the side of a sloping bank. *shrug* We don’t own any flat land and if we wanted a riding ring we were going to have to make due with the land we have. Needless to say, we spent a small fortune on bulldozing and fill. We tried to build the biggest arena the site could hold. It’s not huge, but it’s not piddly either.

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The next project was to plant some seedling white pines along the perimeter of the arena. We did this mostly for erosion control, but also because the arena was going to be in full sun most of the time if we didn’t make a few plans for some shade. So we put bunch of seedlings the size of your pinkie in the ground and hoped for the best.

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You can see the results above. The trees are at the point where I had to hack them back a bit. I was getting smacked in the face when going down the rail. Speaking of rails, they’re made of old salvaged pipe. Not the easiest thing to work with, but it was free for the taking and so we took them and built a fence around the ring with them. Again, it’s not winning any beauty contests, but it’s holding up well and it does the job.

Here’s a view where you can see how the lower pasture drops down the hill below the arena. It kind of gives you an idea of how we more or less just built this thing into the side of a hill.

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And there’s a pretty steep ridge on the opposite side of the arena.

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Why the horses don’t like this spot I don’t know. It’s actually pretty nice. It’s usually very quiet and secluded and we get some nice shade from about 3 PM on. Mornings part of the ring is also shaded. But for some odd reason they all act like it’s the arena from hell. Dharla has never been very comfortable working in it and none of our other horses liked it very much either. For years it sat unused and a ton of wheat grew up through the sand. I finally got tired of it being overgrown and asked my husband to move some composted topsoil down there and spread it around. I figured we may as well plant grass on it and I could at least use it for some agility and herding practice. Then I lost Tia and bought a young, green horse. Oops! Now it could stand to have a load of sand spread around the outside edges, but I’m afraid to ask. My husband already thinks I’m certifiably nuts.

I don’t plan on doing a ton of ring work, but I do think it’s a good idea to work on some stuff from time to time. Today, we just walked around and did lots of leg yielding, stops and backs. I could tell Dharla was gearing up to be full of herself if I asked for any speed, so I didn’t. Perhaps next time we’ll work on walk-trot transitions. I’ll have to see how she feels. I might want to do some ground work with her first and today it was just too hot too soon.

After we putzed around in the arena for awhile we took a meander down the dirt road, up through the woods and down the AL trail a ways. She has a slightly swollen knee from what looks like a minor scrape or bump, so I didn’t want to push her. Besides, the heat was just too much.

Time: 1.5 hr.

Distance: 2 mi. plus ring.

March 18, 2010

Bullet

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Out for another great ride today. I typically don’t ride on weekends unless I know I’m going to be able to get back in the woods and off the beaten path. The AL trail is like Grand Central Station and the vast majority of the people who use that trail are morons and worse. So I try not to have to expose my horse to that nonsense if I don’t have to. Since I’m “retired” I can ride any day of the week and if need be, can give my horse the weekend off or choose to do something in the ring now.

Speaking of which …. I suppose if the ground continues to stay dry I should think about getting back to a bit of ring work. Ug. I wish I could say I like that, but I really don’t. Still, it’s good for Dharla to do a bit of schooling. I guess I should get my butt down there and see if the footing is drying up. It can be a bit greasy if the one side hasn’t gotten much sun.

I also need to think about whether or not I’m going to continue taking English lessons. I’d like to, but I’m concerned about getting stretched too thin with time, energy and cost. I typically ask for an early morning lesson because as the season progresses, I’m (still) ridiculously heat intolerant. That means that by the time I get home, I’m probably not going to be able to ride my own horse if the temps are already inching up. Once we get into summer I figure I have all of about 3.5 hours in the morning to get everything I need to do (outside) done before I have to retreat inside to hibernate in the AC. It’s like living in a bubble; you sit and watch the world go by, but you can’t participate in it.

Although the recession hasn’t had too much of a personal impact on me, I try to live as though it will. I make a tank of gas last at least two weeks, I try not to consume anything I don’t need and I keep a close eye on the bottom line. I always ask myself twice (if not more) if I really need something before I buy it or commit to it, including things like riding, herding and piano lessons. I’ve recently decided it’s time to cut back on the herding. My dog is going on 8 this year and he’s already got some congenital spinal problems. Since it’s never been our goal to compete, I’ve mostly been doing the herding for fun; his and mine. But while we both still enjoy the venue it’s expensive and a bit of a luxury. So I’m going to cut back considerably on that. We might go herding now and then, but it’s not going to be a weekly gig.

Piano lessons are something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but dropped them as soon as my mother would let me. Mom was a piano teacher and all her children studied piano, but we didn’t take lessons from her. Mom would cart us to someone else for that miserable task, then stand in the kitchen as we practiced and yell, “You’re not playing that right!” I hated piano back then, which is kinda sad. Only my brother stuck with piano. He had a true gift for it and played mostly by ear. Anyhow, when I called to make arrangements to take piano lessons I was surprised at how reasonably priced they were. I expect that will help me afford them for some time to come. Oh, and I love playing!

I’m on the fence about riding lessons. I already know I’m not going to show. Even if I wanted to show, I don’t think I could justify the expense right now. The barn where I’ve been taking lessons is primarily a hunter, jumper barn that shows. A lot. And while I’ve had a blast learning to ride English and learning to jump, I’m probably never going to use that part of what I’m learning. Not that it’s not all good … it is. But, well, I just don’t know. I love the instructor and the barn is literally ten minutes away. That makes things easy, but I’m still hedging a bit. It would fall into that “luxury” category for sure.

But back to riding. Since Aldo was going to head out on a ride with R, we decided we’d tack up an hour or so before they were supposed to connect and do a little loop together, Of course, the best of plans always seem to go awry and we didn’t get headed down the road with enough time to do much more than 1/2 hour together. The plan was that we’d ride a bit together, then Aldo would break off and go meet R. and I’d continue on alone. This gave me a good opportunity to see how Dharla reacts at going off on her own, and I’m happy to say that she did very well! Naturally, she was a bit animated for the first few minutes, but she never hollered or fussed and even better, she didn’t try to turn and follow Bullet. I was SO pleased, because this scenario will probably reoccur a lot as the season progresses.

Dharla and I did a couple of nice woodsy loops off the beaten path. We encountered a mountain biker on one of the trails, but we just calmly moved aside and let him ride past. Dharla has always kept her cool with bikers, which is a Godsend because we have to deal with them all the time. Occasionally a biker will come barreling out of the woods and startle us, but even then Dharla has always managed to keep her brains in her head. The more I ride this girl the more I love her! We did a good bit of hill work and just enjoyed being out in the woods alone.

Part of the reason why I decided to do a preemptive ride with Aldo before he left is because I find Dharla’s much less stressed at being home alone if she’s not here when Bullet leaves. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s true. If Dharla’s here when Bullet and Aldo ride off, she spends the better part of the first hour being really stressed. But if we’re not here and we come back and Bullet’s gone, she’s much calmer. At first I thought that was (maybe) because she’s just tired from being ridden herself, but one time all I did was take her down to the arena to do some minor groundwork while Aldo and Bullet left and when we got back to the barn and she found Bullet gone she was still pretty calm. Not that she didn’t holler, she did. But she didn’t run the fence line and carry on nearly as much as she will when she’s at the barn when Bullet leaves.

When we got home I cleaned Dharla up, gave her some hay, then hung out with her for a awhile. I so enjoy her company and she actually seems to enjoy mine! Overall it was a great day. Aldo and Bullet got home several hours later, just before dark. From the looks of things I know I made the right decision to ride alone. We’re not ready for their kind of ride. Yet.

Time: 2 hrs.

Distance: 6 miles (guesstimate: FB rd, AL trail, ridge loop to long trail loop to the wide water crossing & home)

Pushmi-Pullyu

 

 

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That’s a poorly taken picture, but it demonstrates something I think about often. Ever notice how two parts of team can have a totally different approach to a situation? Take my husband and me. I consider us a team. We share the responsibility of having horses somewhat equally, but how we actually do our daily chores can be light years apart.

I like an organized barn, which is odd because I’m not exactly what I’d call a Tidy Tess. In other words, I can overlook a fair amount of chaos. But it really bugs me when it’s my turn to feed the horses and I go out and find the barn a mess. How hard is it to put things away, shut container lids, throw hay twine in the trash, close cupboard doors and rake the barn floor? Clearly, my husband and I have a different method of feeding animals.

We also have an ongoing dialogue about the electric fence. I think it’s inadequate at best, he thinks it’s fine. Fortunately, we don’t have horses who are intent on getting out because if we did, they’d have very little trouble accomplishing their mission. I’ve mentioned (several times) that the hot box isn’t giving as high of a charge as it should. There’s a fairly idiot-proof method of knowing if your fence is working properly. A Geiger counter-type needle spikes each time the fence pulses. There are different zones on the front that show you how “hot” your fence is. Red = no charge, Yellow = low charge, Green = normal charge. Pretty simple, right? Well, our fence has consistently been spiking only as high as the middle of the yellow scale, which means we’re not getting the Full Monty.

So this  is how it goes: a.) I mention the miserly fence charge. b.) he goes out and taps on the face of the gauge a few times and pronounces it “Fixed.” A few hours later I look out and see the horses practically crawling under or over the fence in search of green grass, and we’re back to where we started. Again. Yes, we have a little charger-tester-thingie. You know what I’m talking about. It’s a box with a couple of wires hanging out of it that you hook up to your fence like jumper cables.  From what I can tell (because I’ve never used it), it either shocks the crap out of you if you attach it wrong, or it tells you how much juice is going through your line.

After we’ve gone through the A-B cycle above at least four times, the engineer (Oh, did I mention that he’s an engineer?) gets out the charger thingie and checks the fence. Now it seems kinda obvious to me that you’d want to test your fence in a couple of different places, but typically he doesn’t. Sometimes he’ll announce that the fence “is fine” and other times he’ll say the charge is “maybe just a tad low” (translation: dead), which usually means something’s grounding the line somewhere. It’s impossible to see all our fence line from the barn, so if there’s a ground then someone has to walk the line and try to figure out what and where the problem is.

Sending my husband out to check the fence is a little like asking a toddler to fill out a TP report. I’ve watched him from the house as he wanders aimlessly back and forth, tossing sticks for the dogs, checking the pines for roosting hawks and watching hikers and bikers on the AL trail. He pretty much does everything but check the fence. An hour later he’ll come back and when asked if he found the problem, will report that he thinks he did. When asked what the problem was, he’s usually not very clear about it. “Well, there were a couple of small branches touching the line in a place or two.”

Come Monday it’s back to my shift. I go out to the barn and the first thing I notice is that the fence charger is STILL only charging somewhere in the yellow zone. So I get the horses fed and start walking the line. Usually I find the problem in a matter of minutes, fix it, and go back to the barn. The charger is now pinning in the green zone.

So back to the picture above. My husband is obviously the horse on the left. Steady Eddie. Mr. Slow and Easy wins the race. And I’m the horse on the right, the one all fired up and no place to go until the other half of the team decides to get his ass in gear.

How about you? Do you sometimes feel like you’re a part of a Pushmi-Pullyu team?

Hairy Spring (March 14, 15, 2012)

Who you callin' hairy?

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It’s been freaky-warm for March. Like, the horses are sweating (and shedding). I’m sweating. (Nothing unusual there, unfortunately) Things are bursting into bloom that shouldn’t oughtta. (My blog, my rules: as of now, that’s a word.) I’m not sure what to make of all this. Sometimes the weird weather is working to my advantage, other times … not so much. Take for instance the fact that I can ride more comfortably. Well sorta. There’s that “I’m sweating” thing that keeps cropping up. I’m pretty confused about how to dress for a ride and inevitably, at some point during the tacking-up process I end up having to run back inside and change my clothes. Twice.

Then there’s the sweating, hairy horse thing. It’s weird to have to worry about overheating your horse in March, but they’ve had no time to adjust to the high temps. Being as hairy as they are, they’re uncomfortably warm and itchy. Oh, I forgot to mention itchy. Yeah. Like, right now everything within reach is a potential scratching post, including me. When I’m done riding I can’t get my horse’s bridle off fast enough so she can rub her head on something nearby. Anything. Nothing like having your horse catch the throat latch of their bridle on the corner of their stall and nearly turn themselves inside out before you can get it off. (And hey, please don’t suggest I use cross ties because that would just be too damn easy, OK?)

Shedding is just part and parcel of owning hairy animals. I should be used to it by now. Cattle dogs are said to “blow coat” twice a year. Well, I’ve had my current two Cattle Dogs for eight years and they’re still blowing coat every month. I guess they’re trying to decide which two months of the year work best for them. Oh, and whats with wanting to rub up against me like a cat when they’re shedding? If my house was bugged the dialogue would go something like this:

“Hazer, come!”

“Good boy!”

“OK, don’t rub up against me, please!”

“Hey! Don’t DO that!”

“Stop it!”

“I SAID stop it … NOW!”

“Okay, get away from me … “

*Sigh*  (Followed by the sound of me getting up and moving away from him.)

Rewind, repeat 100 times.

Pretty pathetic, huh?

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I got out and rode on Wednesday and yesterday. Nothing spectacular to report other than the fact that Dharla and I had two really nice rides! Thursday we did another double loop through the woods. This ride is a combo of two trails that I splice together to make one ride that lasts about 90 minutes. This ride has a nice variety of ups and downs, which I like. Depending upon which way I take certain trails, I can choose to work my horse more on the uphill or down. This ride gives me both, with a bit less rockiness than some of our other more over-used trails. It used to be that our trails were somewhat rocky in places, but now that we’re having to share our trail system with a gazillion mountain bikers and hikers, the erosion has seriously degraded many of the longer trails. This really sucks for the horses. For now, Dharla is barefoot and I’d love to be able to keep her that way if possible (Less work. I’m NOT a barefoot zealot). But it will depend upon how rocky the trails get. Glacial activity in this area left layer upon layer of rock beneath the surface of the soil. The more traffic the trails get, the more these ancient glacial deposits are exposed.

The hubby isn’t doing too great. Not much I can do about that except fret and push him to advocate to get his needs met. Today, you have to literally fight to get a doc to cut to the chase and address your pain issues. God damn if the medical system doesn’t piss me off. As the daughter of a physician and speaking as someone who worked in the field, I have NO tolerance for where medicine has gone, particularly when it comes to treating acute and chronic pain. Don’t freakin’ get me started!

Too late ….

The medical community would like to have the public believe they’re ready and willing to treat acute and chronic pain, but when the rubber really meets the road they’re nothing more than a bunch of big weenies. They’ve allowed themselves to be bullied into a position where, on one hand they have the tools and are perfectly capable of helping patients cope with pain, but they’re afraid to commit to actually DOING it. Too much prescription abuse, too much over-prescribing, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, people with perfectly legitimate needs for pain treatment are being forced to beg and jump through countless hoops just to get minimal, often temporary relief. Now it’s one thing that I’ve been forced to continually go through this degrading, demoralizing process for the last fifteen years, but to watch family and friends have to struggle with it is entirely different. It makes “going postal” start to feel like a viable option.

If what they say is true and being angry is bad for your health, I’m so screwed.

March 9, 12, 13, 2012

Garden Guard

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I’ve been busy and that means I’m falling behind on logging my notes for each ride. Not that there’s all that much difference from one ride to the next right now. The ground is still pretty sloppy at times and I’m having to pick a choose my rides accordingly.

On another note, my husband is suddenly struggling with what sounds like might be a bulging disc in his neck. Nothing specific happened to cause this, but he’s had problems on and off for a few years … though nothing this acute. I know he hurts and can relate having struggled with back issues for over 25 years, but what freaks me out even more is that being disabled myself, I depend on him to do some of the bull work around here. I can help with things like unloading hay and daily chores, but there’s no way I can keep up with some of the other stuff that needs to be done …. especially in the spring, when just normal upkeep is a constant battle.

Last night my husband tossed and turned until 2 AM, whereupon he finally just got up and moved to his lounge chair in the living room. I felt bad for him, but there’s little I can do to help besides remind him to take some ibuprofen on a regular schedule. He saw his massage therapist on Monday and the Chiro yesterday. (No adjustments, just some massage and electrical stim.) Nothing seems to help. I guess today I’ll be calling around to see if we can get him into see someone because he really needs some relief, especially at night. You can’t operate heavy machinery on little to no sleep. It’s downright dangerous. So that’s weighing heavily on my mind today as I write this. (3/14) I also have another eye appointment today which means I’ll be dilated and lose the majority of my ability to see all afternoon. Sheesh  ….

Now, back to my regularly scheduled program:

3/9 (Friday) was a nice long ride down the AL trial. We had an excellent hack with no real sticking points. When I got to River Road where I normally turn around I wanted to mix things up a bit so I had Dharla go down a very steep path to the road below. She was a bit hesitant and we ended up circling the approach several times before she decided she could do it. Thus far we’ve only taken this path coming up, so this was new for her. On about the fifth approach she stopped, looked down the steep incline, then committed to it. I made a big deal out of encouraging and praising her. The rest of the ride home was uneventful.

Distance: 6 mi.

Time: 2.5 hrs.

3/12 (Monday) Another nice, almost hot day. We’re breaking March records all week I guess. I decided to combine a couple of woods loops in hopes that by staying in the shadow of the hills and ridges it would keep us out of the direct sunlight. Dharla is still pretty fuzzy and with the unseasonably warm temps I don’t want to over heat her. It’s very early in the season and neither horse is conditioned to working in the heat yet. Besides, I’m pretty bored riding the AL trail after using it almost all winter. Dharla seemed happy to be off riding something different too. We didn’t encounter anything unusual or have any issues. I worked on using my seat to navigate in some places. It always amazes me, how responsive Dharla is to the slightest shift in my weight.

Time: 1.75 hrs

3/13 (Tuesday) Today started out with rain and lots of clouds, but the forecast called for mid-day clearing and then rising temps. So I kept a close eye on the weather, then shot out as soon as it stopped raining and saddled up. The sky still looked threatening and I was slightly under-dressed for the wind that picked up mid-ride, but eventually it cleared up and got nice. We rode the AL trail today, but I had limited time due to a mid-afternoon piano lesson so we kind of hoofed it. Mostly trotting, but a few short stretches of loping thrown in for kicks.

Dharla seemed a bit spookier today than she’s been lately and I also thought she  seemed a bit logy. Not sure why because that’s certainly not her norm. She might have just been having an “off” day, but crap … I so worry about Lyme. The ticks have been horrific already. I go over the horses with a fine tooth comb at least twice a day, but it’s a useless battle and both have had several nasty bites and swollen spots already. The dogs I can protect with that nasty Vecter and Advantix stuff, but the horses are so screwed. If anyone reading this knows of ANYTHING I can use that’s safe for horses, I’m open to suggestion. We live only a few miles from Lyme, where the notorious Lyme Disease first got noticed by the medical community. So far one dog has had it three times, the other dog has had it twice, Beanie had it twice, Tia had it once, Bullet has had it once, and I had it once. My husband has never been tested, but I bet he’s been exposed and no doubt, Dharla will be too if she hasn’t already. Ug. One more thing I don’t like about living in the North East.

Anyhow, it was a nice ride and we made pretty good time.

Distance: 5.5 miles

Time: 1.5 hrs.

March 9, 2012

 

Practice at the Equine Affaire

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Today I managed to salvage some dignity after Wednesdays ride. Dharla and I got out for a nice jaunt along the AL trail on this intermittently sunny and STILL very windy afternoon. What’s with all this nasty cold wind? We’ve been getting warm temps, but the wind has made the last few sunny days feel much colder than it should. Booo! It’s hard not to get your hopes up when they predict temps in the mid 50s and low 60s. To be able to ride in moderate temps without being harassed incessantly by bugs is a dream come true so it’s a huge letdown when you have to bundle up like the Michelin Man because of high wind.

But I digress. I pulled on a few layers and Dharla and I headed out. She’s in heat, which explains a bit more about Wednesday’s brief battle of wills in a few places. I wasn’t sure how she’d be today, but I was going to keep an open mind and I was not going to lower the bar. My expectations are not beyond her ability to meet as she easily showed me today with no complaints or problems.

We worked on walk/trot transitions with a few short canters thrown in just for the heck of it. I could tell Dharla was feeling feisty, so I didn’t let her get too fired up. Her spooks are becoming a bit less dramatic. That’s a good thing. She was listening to me and relaxing, so I took this as an opportunity to work on consciously being and staying relaxed myself. I kept checking in with my legs and back to make sure I wasn’t bracing or stiffening up. Boy, is it a challenge to keep my broken body relaxed. It probably hasn’t helped that Dharla has been very spooky this winter, but I can feel her relax more and more when I relax too. The funny thing is that I’m not nervous or worried mentally, but for some reason my body just involuntarily tightens up. Muscle guarding is common when you have extensive nerve damage and significant chronic pain, but I think I can get a better handle on this if I’m willing to stay conscious about my tenancy to tighten up and brace. My goal is to retrain myself to really relax while staying alert and ready to calmly handle anything that comes our way.

We had a delightful ride! The wind got pretty chilly toward the last half hour or so, but I was glad we got the chance to get out and enjoy some quality time together.

Distance: 6 miles

Time: 90 minutes (approx)

March 7, 2012

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There are days when my Australian Cattle Dog is a LOT smarter than me.

I got out and rode today, I’m just really behind logging my notes. Maybe that’s because my ride on this day wasn’t one of my best rides. Thing is, I knew better than to ride. I had planned to get out around noon on this windy, sunny, warm(er) day, but due to a miscommunication with a friend things got all screwed up. I clearly stated that I wanted … well, actually I needed to ride around noon or 12:30. My morning was busy and I had things I had to do later in the afternoon that couldn’t be bumped into the next day. Sometimes I can be very flexible with my riding time, but other times it’s gotta get squeezed in wherever it can. This was one of those days. Truth be told, it probably wasn’t a good idea to try to accommodate a riding pal, but I have trouble saying no. Unfortunately, I also assume people operate under the same principle as me, which is to say that when you’re riding a borrowed horse you do it when it works best for the owner, or you take a pass.

So I gave the horses some hay around 11:30 and brushed the mud off the Lumber Wagon. He’s shedding like crazy now and I returned to the house covered in layer of blonde hair. I waited and puttered, and waited, and puttered more. Meanwhile, the horses ate, then both laid down in the dirt (again) to take a little sunbath and snooze. And there I sat at 2 PM, still waiting, blood pressure rising by the minute. Getting more and more frustrated (and desperate), I put a call out at 1:10 and was assured she was on her way. But no, because it takes fifteen minutes, twenty tops to get from there to here. Bottom line, we didn’t get started until after 2:30 and by then I was in a silent snit.

I hate riding in a pissy mood, but sometimes I have to admit it happens. I try to let things go as soon as I saddle up, but if I’m being honest, that doesn’t always happen either. I know Dharla senses when I’m not myself. I’m stiff, more apt to brace and be impatient. And I was.

So we got out, but we didn’t do squat because both horses were pretty fired up and I’m probably a bit overly cautious when someone is riding my husband’s horse. I guess you could say we ambled, which was not what I had planned for that ride, but there you have it. Later that night when I thought about the ride I made a promise to myself to trust my gut and speak up when something isn’t going to work for me. When I called at 1:00 I should have told my friend the ride was off and gone out alone, or not at all. (Because I was already pissy and short on time by then) I should set a time that works for me and not budge from it on days when my schedule is tight. My horse should never have to suffer a miserly ride because of a series of events that have nothing to do with her.

So I rode, but I hate myself on days like today.

Ride: 6 miles

Time: 2.5 hrs