Face Plant

Saturday Winifred and I had a jumping lesson. As we went through the flat portion I was planning the title of this blog post. Winifred the Hunter! He was SO relaxed but not lazy. We even received a few “super” comments from trainer. Of course I still had my normal “your leg is too far back” comments as well but I am working on it and was overjoyed to have Win moving so nice and relaxed. So what happened?

We started jumping like normal just going back and forth over a trot fence. Trot fences are not his specialty but he looked and acted like a pro at them! Next we were asked to trot over a cavaletti, canter a broken line to an X, then around the corner to a triple (1 stride to a 1 stride). He did the cavaletti great but got a little stronger on the broken line which got an “easy” from trainer. He was not bad but getting stronger. He came of the X and decided he was having fun and got a little stronger still. Let me be clear though at no point was he out of control! We weren’t even going fast by any means he was just wanting to. One of the things that I know that he likes to do when he rides strong like that is to take the long spot and I sometimes get left behind. Saturday though I did something that I have NEVER done before on Winifred….. I jumped ahead. My only (flimsy) excuse is that I thought he was going to take the long spot but I should have known that he is too smart going into a triple to take the long spot. He slammed on the brakes and I launched over his neck.

I landed directly on my face. Thank God for helmets! I know that I landed right in front of him and got into a ball as fast as I could. He did end of stepping on my right hand but trainer said that he tried everything he could to avoid trampling me and jumped me instead. Once he cleared me he stood there until I got up then he decided to take a walk towards the hay cart. I guess he decided that I was fine and he deserved a snack. Lol.

I am not the best communicator when I am hurt so my behavior after worried my trainer. I got up but stumbled because both of my calf muscles cramped for a moment. Once I saw someone grab Winifred, I started walking across the arena. Since I was not talking yet everyone thought I was confused but in reality I was going to get the Kleenex out of my jacket to help with the blood. Trainer finally got me to sit down, as I am still looking around, I apparently looked very confused. Trainer asked if I could remember what happened to which I immediately stopped looking around, focused on her, and answered, “yes, I jumped ahead. I am just looking for a Kleenex.” This caused trainer and everyone to breathe a sigh of relief and laugh.

Trainer asked if I wanted to get back on but at that time I could not close my hand. My amazing friend LT walked with me up to the clubhouse and then went back to take Win back to the barn and untack. BO (who is also my other trainer) got me some ice and within a few minutes I was able to close my hand. All I could think that that point was that I needed to get back on! Luckily, I was able to catch LT before she untacked Winifred and brought him back to the arena. Trainer was happy to see that I wanted to literally get back on the horse! We did a trot fence to loosen back up then the original mini course. I was worried that Win would be nervous and maybe he was but his reaction was to take his time and went at a beautiful perfect pace. The entire time we came around the corner to the triple I could hear trainer, “sit up, sit up, sit up…..” I may have learned that lesson the hard way but damn it I think I won’t be doing that again!

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Really not a pretty picture of me but not too much damage done. (Why does my forehead look so big in this picture????)
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It is hard to see the swelling but it got pretty big later that night but all good now!
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Winifred: “That is the last time I let her pick the spot!”
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Goals

Now that you met my new boys the big question is, “what do I want to accomplish with them????”  If you had asked me this question in the beginning of September I would have told you that the only goals I have are to continue to strengthen my back, lose weight, improve my confidence and equitation, return to the show ring, and in general not die. These are still part of my goals but they have grown a little.

My goals with Luther are a little simpler and easier to attain. Since he is semi-retired from jumping I will not be showing him, although I have considered taking him in to a flat class. He is hilarious to ride during a show because he is ON! This is a horse that I have wear spurs and carry a crop with to get to move forward on a regular ride but if I ride when we are hosting a show he moves out like he is 10 years younger. He also loves jumping so much so that when I started riding him and I could not get him to canter I would ride him towards a fence. He would get so excited that he would finally pick up the canter. Recently he has had an increase in his stiffness so my goal with him is to get him back to shape where he can do a small line again. I think that a full course would be too much but I know how much he loves jumping and a small line is achievable. Seriously he loves it! If other horses around him are jumping he gets so excited. I am not sure that this goal will be achieved in the winter though due to extra stiffness from our tundra like winters.

Luther grazing

Goals with Winnie, this is the tougher one. The last time I showed was August 2015 in the 2’3” division before my back surgery. My goal was to get back to showing in 2018 but that was about it. I was pretty satisfied with this as a goal until September 17th. It was the day of Medal Finals and at the end of the day my trainer, D, told me that she had been thinking about it and she decided that my goal is to be in the ride off for the 2’6” division Medal Finals. I was blown away that D believes that I can accomplish that when I didn’t even believe that I could qualify for Medal Finals let alone be in the ride off. (A little insight on me, I am not good in believing myself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that I suck but I would put myself in the average to below average abilities group.) D setting this goal both elates and scares the crap out of me! I can’t explain what it means to me to have my trainer think that I am good enough but now I am scared about letting her down. Setting a goal for myself means that I am the only person that I have to “answer” to but having her set it puts a lot more pressure on me. I am still not sure I can achieve this one but there is a small seed in me that D planted that says maybe just maybe I can do this.

What are your goals this year?

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The View from Up Here

My big news is that I have gotten back in the saddle! And I cannot express how excited I am that my return is on the one and only amazing JB! As you know from my last post it has been 8 months since my butt has sat in a saddle and it has been a LONG 8 months! While my core strength is not where I want it I could no longer last without riding.

JB View
Oh how I have missed this view!

If you have ever felt the pain that I did you will understand why I was so scared to try riding but if you are reading this blog you are probably like me and understand that my insides would not heal without being able to ride. Riding is just part of who we are. That drive out weighed my fear and I asked my trainer, S, 3 weeks ago if she had anyone that I could ride. This was a tricky decision because I definitely needed a horse that was super smooth and would be tolerant of my atrophy of equitation skills. Lol. While I absolutely adore and love Tango I am afraid that his gait is part of what lead to my back issue so he was out of the question besides he has a great new partner right now. S’s horse, Newman, has been broken for some time from too much play in the pasture so he was out. Our schooling pool is very pony rich but only 4 horses. And of those that we do have; Rusty is way too bumpy, Pie is amazingly smooth but she has a full lesson schedule so it would not be fair to add another rider to her, Radar is decently smooth but busy like Pie, and then there is Willy but he older and for the little kids. My booty would be mean to him. Lol. I got a little frustrated but I understood and knew it would be hard to find the right one.

My jaw dropped when I got a text from S a few days later that said “Do you want to ride JB?” To understand why my jaw dropped I need to give you background on JB. He came to our barn in September and is being leased by A. The first time I noticed him in the pasture I just remember my eyes getting huge and I think I drooled a little!

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The amazingly handsome mammoth, JB!

JB is a 17.2 10 year old warmblood. He has done everything from 2’6” hunters to the 1.35 meter jumpers. A will be showing him in the 3’6” jumpers and open eq. I got to see A jump him in a clinic held at our barn in November and I was in awe of his athletic ability! A is amazing with him and fearless! I remember commenting that I was in love but at the same time I am not sure I could ever imagine feeling confident on such an athlete. Granted I will not be jumping him but even sitting on him was like a dream!

I am starting slow with just once a week only walking and trotting. I will talk about maiden ride in my next post. Today I just wanted to show off this handsome mammoth!

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Selfies are hard when you have a giant head!
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I was hanging out at A’s lesson when I felt someone watching me and turned around to see JB creeping on me from behind a standard! Lol
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Oscar had to prove that JB isn’t the only animal creeper in my life. LOL

I’mmmmmm Baaaaaack!

Hello Blog World! I am back! Sorry I have left you for so long but it has been a quiet and depressing 8 months. Trust me you would not have wanted constant updates during this time. After my back surgery I was up and down emotionally. Both my neurosurgeon and my physical therapist felt that I could get back to riding “someday” but were not sure if jumping would be sustainable in my future. I had to wait 3 weeks post-surgery before I could even start PT.

When I did start I was doing 3 days a week and eventually bumped up to 4 days a week. I will admit that PT was frustrating. I am used to healing quickly. In fact when I had my knee surgery my physical therapist told me that I was one of only 2 patients he had ever had pedal a bike both backward and forward on their first session. FYI the other guy was a semi-pro football player. I told him that he must have had any equestrians as patients before me cause we are one tough breed. 😉

But this time recovery was slow. I started in the pool literally just walking through the water. I told my therapist that I didn’t think it was challenging enough but she told me it had to be slow for a reason. Eventually I came out of the water and at that time a friend of mine hurt his ankle and had to have PT as well. Randomly he not only picked my place but had my therapist as well. Twice a week she had us both at the same time and I am pretty sure that she wanted to pull her hair out. My friend and I are both very competitive and bicker like we are siblings. It made the sessions go faster for us but she threatened to change our schedules on more than one occasion so that we were not together. Unfortunately, due to insurance reasons PT did not last as long as my therapist and I wanted. She sent me on my way with a list of exercises to do and a “good luck!” I did ask her when she thought I could ride. She said that she could not make that decision without seeing my future progress but not to even consider it until April. That was October.

Another interesting thing happened in October. ***If your get grossed out easily skip this paragraph.*** I found out after my first knee surgery that I was allergic to “normal” stitches when my incision split open from the inside. Turns out the stitches didn’t dissolve and my knee was majorly infected. I had to have emergency surgery to go back in and clean out the whole thing. Scary! But even scarier is an infection on your spine. I forgot to mention to my surgeon that I am allergic to stitches so when I came out of surgery with staples I breathed a sigh of relief. Um yeah, I didn’t think about the fact that I had internal stiches.  I was petrified when the incision on my back became fire engine red and split open. Turns out I had 12 internal stitches that my body was rejecting. Luckily, they were much closer to the surface of my body than my those that were in my knee and my body actually “spit” them out. The gross part was when I would feel the end of one break through my skin, I had to pull it out. The worst was when I was in a meeting at a conference in Vegas and pulled 2 out. I had to slyly hide them in a napkin and put another napkin on my back and hope the blood didn’t soak into my work clothes! If anyone noticed they were gracious enough not to mention it.

Gross talk over.

In the meantime I continued to eat like I did when I was very active. Actually to be honest I think I ate more out of depression. So no big surprise that I put on weight. But I re-joined Weight Watchers in January and I have lost 26 lbs! I do not know what I weighed at the end of last summer but according to the way my clothes fit now I must weigh the same. Which is still fatty status but I am still working on it. 🙂

The last 8 months have been tough. I went through a hermit phase where I barely went to the barn at all. It was very difficult to see all my friends riding and do the things that I can’t. It was a lose-lose situation. I missed the horses but got depressed when I went out. I know that some people could not understand my absence but at least one person at the barn understood. Her and I talked about a time when she was injured badly and wasn’t sure if a comeback would truly be possible. I didn’t stay away cause I no longer loved the horses. I stayed away cause it was too sad to think that I might not get back to where I was.

Where am I at today though…… I still wake up stiff every day but I have found that if I do my work out first thing in the morning it loosens my back. Bending over is still tough and can be painful but I am working on strengthening my core. I can’t sit very long without pain but work bought me an awesome standing desk which let’s face it is better than sitting regardless of back issues. I still have the cutest, most wonderful and special dog in the whole world! (Can’t have a post and not mention Oscar.) Tango is being leased by a 16 year old girl who is an amazing partner for him. I am very happy for the both of them. I do have some big news but this post is getting quite long so I think I will announce that later……………

 

Back Pain

I am sorry that I have not posted in a week but I really didn’t think I had anything exciting to post. I have been riding but very lightly because of my back and then it hit me I should post about that! For those of you who read my very first post I listed a few things that I have to fight against to ride and one of them is that my body is broken. Lol. Well fractured is a more accurate wording.

Last September was my first incident. I started riding Tango but I was still showing Ace. Everything was great until the MHJA finals. My lower back right in the center started to hurt when I bent over but it was when I was cantering T when it was like someone punched me HARD! I fell over his neck and thankfully he was a great boy and just stopped. I dismounted, took some motrin, and went home. The next day I could not stand up straight but yet I couldn’t bend over to put socks on either.

I am very lucky because my cousin’s fiancé is neurosurgeon, M. I called my cousin, A, and she told me to go to the ER and when he was out of surgery he would come see me. He felt around and talked about how I was bad and didn’t drink enough PowerAide while at a show. He said it was very likely that I strained my muscles and didn’t have enough electrolytes for the amount of work I did at the show. He gave me some muscle relaxers and told me to take it easy. I did and after about a week I was back to normal.

Move a few months ahead. Christmas Eve morning I got a frantic call from my sister that I had to come over because she hadn’t wrapped any presents yet! Lol. I bent over to grab my favorite yoga pants and I felt pain like I have never felt! I hit the floor and literally could not move any of my lower half of my body without sever pain. It was so bad I had to pull on furniture to move me across the floor to reach my phone. I called my cousin and she told me to get into the ER immediately and that M was going to call an MRI team in and he would meet me there. Now who do you call when you are on the floor and have no pants on especially on Christmas Eve??? Your most reliable and best friend of course! Casey dropped everything and came over. Ok mushy time, I am so grateful for her. She not only took me to the hospital but she stayed even though she was supposed to race her horses that day. She refused to leave until she knew my cousin could take me home. Ok on to diagnosis.

I wish I had my MRI report so I could detail it all out but the worst of it is that my 4th and 5th lower lumbar vertebra are fractured and because of that I had 2 budging discs and degenerative disc disease. The interesting part is that some of the fractures were so old that they were remodeled but there were some new ones as well. M told me that at some point I had to have had an accident that crushed my 2 vertebra together causing the fractures. He said that he never knew anyone who didn’t know the exact moment that it happened because it is so painful. Well….. I am pretty sure I do know when it happened. When I was 12 I had a horse rear so high at a show that he flipped over backwards on me. We both landed on the front of an SUV. My parents were never (and still aren’t) fans of me riding so they wanted me to call it quits then so there was no way I was going to admit that I was in so much pain back then.

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Back to present day. Due to the compression everything in my back was angry and inflamed which was pushing my discs out of place plus I have arthritis up most of my spine. M discussed the treatment options with me and while he said surgery is in my future. The surgery will fuse my vertebra together which will stabilize them but it will lower my mobility. While that is going to have to happen at some point he suggested that we try a non-surgical option first. We decided to do a series of intra spinal injections of steroids. They would feed a needle up my spinal column and the steroids would ease the inflammation allowing my bones and discs to move back to their correct position. Oh and no riding for at least 2 months. M wanted more but as family members we negotiated. Lol

The injections were an interesting experience. Definitely an awkward experience and super crazy that you feel the liquid being injected and your bones moving! I had 3 of them over 3 weeks. I started to get some pain relief after the 2nd injection and was nearly 100% after the 3rd. I still have issues sitting too long since it compresses my spine but with a standing desk at work my back has really been great until last week.

Friday before the show I had a weird incident where my legs just gave out and I fell to my knees on pavement and then I had the show on Saturday. I am not sure if it is one of those things over the other or the combination but I am back to constant pain. Sunday I was back to barely being able to get my socks on. I know that my weight does not help but both the oral and injected steroids caused me to gain quite a bit. I will admit that I am pretty nervous that this pain is going to take over my life again. I really do not want to give up on riding but I also want to be able to wear socks!

Looking back on all of this the back pain didn’t start until I started riding Tango. I am hoping the silver lining of him being up for sale is that I can look for a horse who may be a smoother ride. My trainer D wants me to find a flatter jumper because T is round and actually snaps over fences.

Anyone else have to deal with chronic pain?

Are you there Blog World? It’s me, Rachel.

Hello blogging world! Where or where to start? I suppose I should start by introducing myself. I am a thirty-something (a lady never tells her age!) who has been in love with horses my whole life. My parents said they knew they had a problem when their 2 year old ran away from them and straight into a horse pasture and I never looked back. I am currently at a Hunter Jumper barn but Hunters are not the bulk of my background. I really only re-entered this world in 2014. Part of my blog name is based on the fact I do not own my own horse but I am leasing a sweet 16.1 OTTB, Capital Gains aka Tango. As I said he is my leased pony but for ease of this blog I will call him mine. Tango is 20 years old and some days he acts it but then others (like last night when he grabs the bit and charges down the line) you would think that he was 5 years old again! Tango is definitely challenging at times but I think he has made me a stronger rider and I love him.

I do not want to overload my first post by giving my entire life story (I will save that for later). I will give you the challenges that currently face me as a rider: I am old, my body is broken down, I am fat (ok ok I will be PC and say plus sized), and I am taking on a new discipline after almost 15 years of not competing. Sure I have ridden in this time but not consistently, not competing, and not jumping. It was only after a severe heart break at the end of 2013 that my childhood trainer reminded me that the barn door was always open. Getting back to this sport saved my life and gave me such a feeling of joy that I honestly had forgotten could exist! When I was in my depression I could not stand the people who would tell me that everything happens for a reason but now that I am on the other side I am a true believer. Because of riding I am the happiest I have EVER been and I may not have gotten here in my former situation. That is not to say that I don’t have challenges but they are all worth it in the end and give me an even greater sense of appreciation every time I slip into the saddle or simply kiss my horse’s nose.  I also have to give a shout out to the most amazing and handsome dog in the world, Oscar, for helping me though that time too. Don’t worry folks you will certainly see pictures and hear more about him!

Why is this chick blogging do you ask? Well I have a very good friend I met at my barn who has a blog Stampy and the Brain. Kristen convinced me that I am amazing and HAVE to stop depriving the world of my incredible thoughts! Ok maybe she didn’t put it that way but she did tell me that this is a great way to create a diary of my riding progress. I have a tendency of self deprecating so I figured it would be nice to look back and say “hey I have made some progress!” Let’s just hope this doesn’t backfire on me and I find I have zero progress!

Oh and I hope you get the reference of the title of this post. 🙂 

Tango and I after our debut in the Adult Primary division
Tango and me after our debut in the Adult Primary division