I have to confess to an obsession: I stalk the FEI Eventing ponies in Europe. I half-blame Amanda for her role modeling in horse stalking (ahem, every Mighty Magic and Tullabeg Fusion baby ever), but I’ll own my pony bias. It started with Iggy the Pocket Rocket and even though Archie is horse/hony sized (15h), I’m now 120% on the eventing pony train. I love a little guy.
I watch the CCIP* and ** events on FEI and stalk results. I follow an embarrassing number of FEI pony riders on Instagram. I google pony names and breeding and photos of them. I creep sales ads.
The truth is I probably wouldn’t be able to ride 80% of them – they’re spicy, sassy little things over there with straight up jet packs attached to their feet. Does it stop me from daydreaming? Absolutely not. The Europeans man, they’re like, “Oh it’s 14h? Of course it can jump 1.1m XC” or “It has questionable brakes? Perfect pony for a 9 yr old.”
Americans are so weird about height – I see so many ads where people won’t look at anything under 16h and I just don’t get it. The day I went from a 16.1h horse to something hony sized, it was like angels sang. I’m short and it’s just harder for me physically to ride something big. I don’t think I’d ever want to jump at the FEI level, pony heights or not (the CCIP* jumps 1.05m which is still bigger than I care to face down on a XC course), but I love that there’s this high level of competition available for them. Did I mention you have to be under 16? Bold kids.
So, I’m exposing myself as the creepy FEI pony stalker. And if you see a fancy eventing pony show up in Indiana… don’t uh, look at me.
Things I have done (in no particular order): taken birthday photos of my horse, fallen off the mounting block, discovered my horse can gallop (…ish), HORRIFIED my trainer with new purchases, taken jump and dressage lessons and ordered new brushes.
Things are going well, obviously.
Last week we celebrated Archie’s 10th birthday with a hat and treats and his own personal song. He wonders why he puts up with this from someone nearly 30 years old, but I keep an endless supply of cookies coming, so it’s a very quiet voice.
I did fall off the mounting block. Nobody’s fault but my own. Sad day for the bench in front of it though, as I managed to take out a 2 x 4 with my shoulder. Feeling pretty badass/Iron Woman though. (Nothing is any worse for wear, horse, human, mounting block, except for the poor bench…)
Archie has taken to trotting up to the gate when everyone else gallops and thinks jumping more than about 6 jumps is too hard, so we’ve both been signed up for conditioning boot camp. It’s more entertaining than it sounds, as it mostly involves me babbling through trot sets, practicing Tik Tok dances, occasionally FILMING tik tok dances, and my horse spooking at the fence. To his own pasture.
My new purchases include the navy glitter boots Amanda put me on from Epplejeck and RAINBOW UNICORN stirrups. My trainer, she of the ‘I hate bling’, was rightfully horrified and asked if I’d stolen said items from a 12 year old. What she doesn’t realize is I take absolute delight in horrifying her with these things and her reactions only encourage me. (See: the time I put a rainbow halter on my horse)
We’ve had some great lessons, jumped some fun course and done dressage-y things. But none of that is particularly interesting so just.. look at pictures? I’m really good at this blogging thing.
Last week I managed to fit in two lessons – a dressage lesson on Thursday and a jump lesson Saturday. It was Archie’s first ‘real’ dressage/flat lesson since the week he arrived (he’s been here two whole months this week!) and by the time it was over, he was pretty sure this eventing thing is dumb and hard and stupid.
Sorry dude. You wanna do the fun jompies, you gotta do the hard dressaging. He was actually really good once we got going – he definitely knows things, even if he pretends not to (ahem, shouder-in). We worked a lot on my elbows (….forever will be) and keeping him responsive and tuned in. Lots of reminders he has to travel straight, go forward and pay attention. The walk and trot really aren’t bad at all and I think will come out of winter show-ready. The canter is a little harder; he protests that going forward is SO HARD OMG by sucking back so hard you have literally nothing underneath you. He rides better in a half-seat, but it’s like sitting is totally foreign to him. Which, I would forgive and understand coming from a hunter barn, if I didn’t know that his first seven years were as a western horse. You know this dude. Until the forward is fully established in the canter, we can’t do a whole lot with it, so we’ll just be reinforcing that lesson for a while.
He was one sweaty pony after our lesson and slept hard that night I’m told.
Our jump lesson on Saturday was another working with the jumps super small and focusing on being relaxed and happy around the whole ring. He really is getting the hang of things and looked downright happy to jump around! Progress. We did a few small courses that had some technicality to them, but at jump heights where everything was no big deal. Lots of repetition over things we know we can do without a problem, building the confidence and trust bank, so when it comes time for me to ask him to do something he’s less sure of, he knows I won’t ask him anything he can’t do successfully. He still lays his ears back over fences, so we may play with him in a bonnet to see if it’s the feeling of air/wind he dislikes (or if he just thinks he’s being more aerodynamic…)
I’m so happy with how he’s coming along. He hasn’t been the easiest horse to get along with or start off, largely in part because I really just wanted Iggy back. But time heals so much and he’s starting to heal that hole a little bit each ride. I know in two months, I’m already a much stronger rider mentally, in terms of how I think through my decisions and react.
Now if we could convince him to stop standing in the rain all day so when he comes in he isn’t soaking wet…
I just finished this post and went back to proofread and realized it reads like a latter from war, which is depressing, but also they don’t get to go bra-less in war, so we’re WAY better off (besides all the obvious reasons). I thought about not posting it, but it’s my blog and these are my experiences and writing them down has been therapeutic…
Still here, still healthy, still alive (and thankful for all). Still working 7 days a week, with no real set hours (true story: this week someone asked me my work hours and all I could say was…. all of them?) except maybe when I’m asleep which ranges from 10pm to 2am. Great fun. I’m in a weird in-between area where I’m working from home, but also very much on the frontlines of this thing from a logistical and strategic point of view. I’m constantly on the phone with my physicians who are there, I’m coordinating clinical initiatives… It’s a strange place to be.
My barn followed suit after my self-quarantine last week and shut down to everyone except essential staff. I did go out on Sunday morning (uh, I think it was Sunday?) and grab some tack that needed cleaning. To clean with all my abundant spare time I guess? Yeah, I don’t know either, but having a saddle sitting on my kitchen chair and a bridle on the table makes me HAPPY OKAY.
As much as this all just royally sucks, professionally it’s been a huge opportunity for me (and yes, I have a lot of guilt around that I’m dealing with). My skills are put to use every single day, I haven’t been this challenged in years and I love it – it’s the kind of work and thinking I thrive on. I keep the guilt at bay knowing it’s not as though I caused this and my output is directly affecting patient care and our physicians positively. (Doing some cool things around resource utilization planning, staffing quarantines and clinical predictive models to identify patients at high-risk of complications early.) The whole team is working equally as hard and we’re all planning our vacations come the end of this… mine is going to include a super long massage, just saying.
My days are bookended with my scavenging my kitchen for something easy, edible and containing some nutritional value, showering and collapsing into bed. The weather has finally started to perk up some, so the windows are open and the fresh air has been a welcome addition to my day.
Not much pony-related to relay – Iggy is living his grand old life, playing with his buddies in turnout (got a video of that yesterday), begging my BO for cookies and generally thinking he’s retired. That’s going to come as a rude awakening…
Spring season is all but canceled. Hopefully we’ll still get to have event camp in June and show this fall, but I’m not holding my breath or making plans for much right now. There’s a very real possibility we see a resurgence/second wave (feels wrong to talk about while we’re still in the first, right?) this fall and even if the public measures taken aren’t as extreme, work will be right back here all over again.
Not much more to report – Finn the JRT now thinks he eats dinner at 3:30pm because his sense of time is completely miswired, I have no idea what day of the week it is at any given moment, and I rotate through three pairs of the Best Sweatpants Ever. My fun for the weekend was mowing my lawn and my new hobby is letting the dog in and out 968234 times a day.
Stay healthy, stay sane, wash your hands and hug your horse if you still can. More from the frontlines later…
Many of y’all know I’m an Auburn alumna (and if you didn’t, I’m genuinely amazed because I’m about as obnoxious as they come). I didn’t ride while I was there, either NCAA or recreationally, and I definitely wasn’t eventing at the time, but it’s been really fun to see the Auburn Eventing team be so successful. (A team that didn’t exist when I was there!)
They currently have an online auction going until Friday, March 13th at 6PM CST. If you’re in the mid-atlantic/southeast, you don’t want to miss it – it’s chock full of lessons, schooling days, LRK3DE tickets, and gift cards for all kinds of things (bags of feed, farriers, coaching). Some things (like a schooling pass to Morven Park) don’t even have a single bid on them yet.
Unfortunately none of the lessons are close enough to me to take advantage of, but if you’re local enough, it’s a great chance to get a great deal and support a great time while you’re at it.
While I’m hinted at the origin story behind the blog’s name before, I realized I never actually put it somewhere for people to understand. So, in a fit of boredom (omg -6 degrees is TOO COLD PEOPLE) I finally wrote something up. It’s under About, but can also be found here should you find yourself curious.
With that, here’s to hoping for a warmer weekend so I can actually like, ride my horse? He’s had his feet done, seen the vet (just routine), has a new saddle, made friends in turnout (would love to know why his friend Freddie thinks licking his muddy legs is fun?) and now it’s time to kick spring off. IEA is going to be here before we know it!
We’re 10 days into 2020 and it’s been… a year. Already. Could we just chill and have a drink here for a second and not jump headfirst off a cliff? Apparently not.
First things first, I came back from vacation to a box from Genny for Secret Santa! She knocked it out of the park too. The Charlie Mackey book I’ve wanted, a snuggly navy hat, an adorable keychain charm and the best smelling hand lotion (that mayyyy be already partially gone) – it’s like she knew everything that would make me happy and sent all of them.
But then the new year came and with it, brought a gross disgusting virus that laid me flat out for four days and had me hacking my lungs up. Lovely. Luckily, I recovered from that in time to go pick up the cabinets for the kitchen island I’m building – had a whole plan how I was going to prime and sand this weekend, lay out the island next week… Well.
In unloading said cabinets (yes, ALONE I KNOW IT WAS DUMB OKAY), I managed to get two of the three done. And then promptly dropped the third and caught my right middle finger between it and a metal pole. After cursing a lot, I went inside and watched it gradually grow larger and turn fun colors all night. But, I mean… it’s a finger, right? I was out of tape at home so I figured I’d just ask a nurse at work the next day to tape it.
Not so straightforward seeing as one of the docs I work with looked at it and went, “Uhhh you’re not taping that, you’re going to a hand specialist like.. tomorrow.”
Sure enough, I can’t do ANYTHING STRAIGHTFORWARD.
Normal people break their foot – maybe an easy to fix bone, a toe, etc. I break my foot (circa 2016), I break a weird ass bone and end up in a boot for 5 months.
Normal people break a finger, they buddy tape, go about life. I break a finger, I end up in a massive splint contraption for 10 days before finding out if I need surgery to fix the fact that my finger is now crooked. Awesome.
Mix in we’re also working on a scar on my chin and that appointment happened Wednesday afternoon so I have a bruised face.
I am well on my way to being in pieces by February.
But at least my health insurance deductible might be hit by then?
(HAHA I haven’t even mentioned the bunny I found and how I fostered a damn RABBIT with a Jack Russell in the house…)
I was recently lamenting to a non-horsey friend about trying to find a pair of ice boots I liked that wouldn’t break the bank. They inquired more about what we used them for and how – and then proceeded to turn my world upside down. I’ve been a loyal ice-er for years of my horses (and self) – not after every ride, but certainly after a XC school, on any soreness, at a HT or a tough jump lesson. It’s good horsemanship, right?
Until she told me I might still be stuck in the 90s and… totally wrong? Apparently the most recent research is showing ice may not be the most beneficial thing for recovery. Think I’m crazy? Me too.
Because I’m good at writing about shoes, horses and spending money, but not great at science, I just straight up brought some quotes in to do the talking.
“The rationale behind recovery ice packs, baths and cold tubs goes something like this: the cold stimulates your sympathetic nerve fibers, which react by signaling blood vessels in the area to constrict and send blood back to your core to protect your vital organs. This rush of blood away from the extremities reduces blood flow to the areas you’re icing and slows the metabolic processes in these regions, including the inflammatory response, and thus reduces any swelling that might otherwise happen. The pressure of the water may also provide some compression against your muscles and blood vessels, which could also slow swelling and inflammation. Finally, icing relieves pain by numbing sore areas, at least temporarily… There’s no question that icing can reduce pain, at least temporarily, he told me, but it comes at a cost. “Anything that reduces your immune response will also delay muscle healing,” Mirkin says. “The message is that the cytokines of inflammation are blocked by icing — that’s been shown in several studies.” Instead of promoting the process of healing and recovery, icing might actually impair it, he says.”
“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post
In other words – sure, ice will numb things, but for how long and at what cost to performance?
“Gary Reinl, a personal trainer and prominent icing skeptic who over the years has worked with professional athletic teams, elite military squads and coaches and trainers around the world, says the problem is that icing merely slows blood flow to the area, it doesn’t halt it indefinitely. Once the icing stops and the blood flow returns to normal, whatever process you were trying to hinder will proceed again. The swelling will continue and the inflammation will start. The only thing you did was delay things, he says.”
“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post
Well. Huh. So I decided not to take this at face value and to use my university journal access to dig myself. And… sure enough, that’s what I found.
“There was marginal evidence that ice plus exercise is most effective, after ankle sprain and postsurgery. There was little evidence to suggest that the addition of ice to compression had any significant effect, but this was restricted to treatment of hospital inpatients. Few studies assessed the effectiveness of ice on closed soft-tissue injury, and there was no evidence of an optimal mode or duration of treatment.” – The use of ice in the treatment of acute soft-tissue injury: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, American Journal of Sports Medicine
“The authors reported ice to be no more effective than rehabilitation only with regard to pain, swelling, and range of motion. Ice and compression seemed to be significantly more effective than ice alone in terms of decreasing pain. Additionally, ice, compression, and a placebo injection reduced pain more than a placebo injection alone. Lastly, in 8 studies, there seemed to be little difference in the effectiveness of ice and compression compared with compression alone. Only 2 of the 8 groups reported significant differences in favor of ice and compression.” – Does Cryotherapy Improve Outcomes With Soft Tissue Injury?, Journal of Athletic Training
“Cold packs were applied to exercised muscle for 15 minutes at 0, 3, 24, 48, and 72 hours after exercise. The exercise significantly elevated circulating creatine kinase-MB isoform (CK-MB) and myoglobin levels. Unexpectedly, greater elevations in circulating CK-MB and myoglobin above the control level were noted in the cooling trial during 48-72 hours of the post-exercise recovery period. Subjective fatigue feeling was greater at 72 hours after topical cooling compared with controls. Removal of the cold pack also led to a protracted rebound in muscle hemoglobin concentration compared with controls. Measures of interleukin (IL)-8, IL-10, IL-1β, and muscle strength during recovery were not influenced by cooling. A peak shift in IL-12p70 was noted during recovery with topical cooling. These data suggest that topical cooling, a commonly used clinical intervention, seems to not improve but rather delay recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.” – Topical cooling (icing) delays recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
“Significant training effects were three times more frequent in the control than in the cold group, including increases in artery diameters in the control but not in the cold group. It is concluded that training-induced molecular and humoral adjustments, including muscle hyperthermia, are physiological, transient and essential for training effects (myofiber regeneration, muscle hypertrophy and improved blood supply). Cooling generally attenuates these temperature-dependent processes and, in particular, hyperthermia-induced HSP formation.” – Post-exercise leg and forearm flexor muscle cooling in humans attenuates endurance and resistance training effects on muscle performance and on circulatory adaptation, European Journal of Applied Physiology
Similarly, a 2015 study reported on two experiments looking at how cold water immersion influenced how muscles responded to a strength training program, and found that cold treatment reduced gains in muscle mass and strength and blunted the activation of key proteins in the skeletal muscle. The studies “challenge the notion that cold water immersion improves recovery after exercise,” the authors wrote.
“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post
So – definitely a conclusion saying more research is needed, but also not an insignificant amount of research saying that cold might be doing less good than we thought, or even hurting recovery?
Needless to say, this has my little brain spinning. Do I keep using ice? Stop using ice? Only compression? I haven’t come to a complete conclusion yet. Not to mention, a lot of these are talking about muscle recovery – a moot point in horses who have no muscle below the knee.
For now, I’m going to continue to ice after XC schooling and at horse trials, but maybe lay off after any general rides, even if they’re harder jump schools.
As soon as event camp was over this year, budget season started at work and free time became a concept of a past life, meaning actually doing more than talking to work friends about it until their eyes glazed over was not happening. But, it’s a Thursday afternoon, things are… creepy quiet around here and I’m taking full advantage.
Just like last year, camp was my favorite week of the year. Ponies and horse friends all for a week straight? Best summer camp ever.
Day 1 started with a dressage lesson with Sharon White and one other BN rider. I knew I wanted to work on transitions and our canter, because… well the struggle has been real this year. She had us warm up on our own to get a feel for the horses and then jumped right in, having me focus on keeping my hands in line to the bit and pushing Doc up and into the bridle. I took notes after my lesson and… have no idea where they ended up, of course.
We focused on getting him equally supple to both sides – using my inside rein forward and out instead of back while holding the outside rein and shoulder, getting him to bend around my leg. As we kept riding, she really focused in on the expectation that he should not take all my leg to keep going and he should respond to a “whisper” vs needing to shout. All things we’ve obviously heard (many times) before… but how easy is it to forget that I’m not his engine and don’t need to be “pedaling the bike” every step. By the end of the lesson, he was going as well as he ever has with me and it felt amazing.
The afternoon brought a stadium lesson with Tim Bourke. I loved riding with Tim last year, although apparently as he informed me this year, I “scared the shit out of him” when I casually revealed I’d broken my back and been on my horse for a week mid-lesson. Oops? I assured him I had no surprises to drop on him this year and off to work we went.
We started with a grid of trot poles – five if I remember correctly. Trotted through, then started building them up into jumps, eventually becoming a full grid of one strides. We had an outside line set for 6 we did in 5, 6 and 7 strides, focusing in on adjustability and eventually added a full course – grid to a single oxer, down the outside line in 7, back up the grid the other way, single vertical, rollback, outside line in 5 coming down – needless to say, the only way I remember that is because I texted it to someone that afternoon. I was also nearly dead when I finished, but talk about worth it when you hear Tim Bourke tell you that it was “nearly perfect” and the best stadium round he’s ever seen you ride. Um, air punch celebration much?
It definitely wasn’t perfect – I botched a distance coming into the grid spectacularly for instance, but when I said as much he brushed it off with a great lesson – things won’t always go right (in fact, never), so what makes it perfect was how you react to it and keep riding. Which, for one of the first times, I was able to on a stadium course.