Friday, July 15, 2016

Tending My Own Acre

The radio silence around here is not because things are boring and uninteresting, or because I have things I can't blog about (although I do have some wonderful secrets these days!), or because I'm not riding.  Just the opposite, actually.

I've been tending my own acre.  I stole this idea from a post I read on Anne Lamott's facebook page a couple of weeks ago.  (Anyone else follow her?  She's awesome.  I found her in a TED talk a few years ago and just adore her.)  Somehow, after 35 years of life, I looked around and realized that I was working really hard on helping other people with their acres.  I can look back on childhood and adolescence and early adulthood and find a lot of stops along the way that lead to this.  I will probably always do this to some extent.  I am a fixer, to a fault.  

But lately I have been doing things that make me happy more often.  I've been spending quiet evenings at home in my lovely cottage with my adorable cat, watching whatever I want to watch, reading whatever I want to read, listening to the music I like, eating whatever I feel like cooking (or not cooking!).  Sitting in the hammock listening to the cows.  At first it felt selfish, but now it feels good.

I've had lovely weekends lately.  I farm-sat for a friend a couple of weeks ago and it felt like a mini-vacation.  Her place is beautiful, and all her animals are just so sweet and easy to be with.  



Tucker and Fuzzy
best buds
DQ invades H/J barn

I have been cuddling every dog I can get my hands on.  I swear lately they all seem to just know I need love.

Sammy & Linus
Thea & Milo
I have been spending quality time with some of my favorite people, doing fun things, and not letting myself feel too guilty if that means Tucker gets an extra day off.

Camden Yards
This man has been sick, which is terrifying, because I cannot yet fathom the world without him in it.

But like the Superhero I've always believed him to be, he is recovering and strong and in good spirits, and amazing his doctors.  I sat in the hospital waiting for him to go into surgery, and my grandmother nudged me to wheel her chair closer to his bedside.  So I did, and they held hands.  "There, that's what he wanted," she said.  And I was in that moment so thankful to have this example of true love in my life.

I had a great ride this week.  It was drizzly and humid and gross out, but I dragged myself to the barn anyway and climbed on.  Tucker started off rooting the reins out of my hands and I had this moment of panic because I had no idea what the "right" way to fix it was.  I decided to just keep going on with my ride and talk to Amy about it in my upcoming lesson.  And the more I worked him, concentrating on getting him straight and forward and trying to feel where that errant right hind leg was at all times, the rooting went away.  

We ended on true, solid, correct contact.  Moving off my leg, between my hands, taking the bit, in balance.  And I realized the problem just went away on its own and there was no need to panic in the first place about what the "right" way to fix it was.  And then I realized there were much larger lessons there to be learned, and I once again thanked the heavens that I have this horse in my life to teach me these things.

I'm tending my acre.  And it's beautiful. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Game Changer (or, Why Everybody Wants to Be Us)

There comes a time in everyone's life where an idea comes along that changes everything. Sometimes, that idea takes flight, and turns itself into a plan.  And then that plan gets legs, and becomes action.

By way of background, for those of you who may be new to the blog or new to my life, the Wine and Pony Club is a thing.  Well, I mean, it's not really a thing, there's no official club.  It's just that I love wine and I love ponies and whenever possible I try to combine those two things.  And it turns out I'm not alone in this.  Hence, Wine and Pony club.  Membership is free, voluntary, and open to all who like wine and/or ponies.  You're welcome to join.  Or start your own local chapter.

As I've mentioned on the blog before, mimosas and trail rides go perfectly together.  And here is where the game changer comes into play. This past weekend we decided to seriously up our mimosa game.  With on the go pouches.  Filled with the breakfast beverage of champions, orange juice and prosecco.

My barn friend Alyssa found them on the internet and they clipped perfectly to the d-rings on our saddles.  I used a double-end snap for mine to make it easier to get to.

The weather in NJ was perfect this weekend for a trail ride, sunny, breezy, just hot enough that you didn't really feel like working them.  I managed to recruit a fourth person to join us in the driveway with "do you want to come on a trail ride?  We have mimosas."  (Which, incidentally, is the best pick-up line in the world.)

Look at these views!

Snack/mimosa break

On the way home again
If this isn't living the good life, I don't know what is.  These days I am just so happy.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Good Weekend

Friday night I had a fantastic ride with Tucker.  There were lots of cavaletti and baby x's set up in the ring so I spent the whole ride trotting and cantering through those exercises.  He was focused and forward and seemed to be really enjoying himself.  He had a bit of a hard time understanding a row of canter rails (I think they were set a bit long for him) and kept breaking and changing his lead (???) through them, but I just kept adding them in until he figured it out.  I tried my best not to hold his hand too much and see if he could read the question himself, and he did!  Eventually he cantered through and bounced them and didn't try to change his lead or break to trot, so I gave him big pats and let him cruise around the ring on a long rein at the trot and quit on that note.  Good boy.  

A Tucker at the end of the rainbow
Saturday was the wedding, which was an absolute blast.  Bride was beautiful, weather was perfect, food was great, company was fun.  Just the kind of night I needed.  It's been far too long since I've had a chance to party with this girl (my lovely sister-in-law, my best friend, who I introduced to my brother about 12 years ago).

Sunday I spent the day at my grandparents' house, floating in a pool, hanging out with my nieces.

I'm not a kid person, never wanted my own, don't have the patience for them, but I absolutely love these two little girls.  

Their newest thing is face-timing with Tucker.  They call my phone in the evenings when they know I'm at the barn and ask to see him.  Adorable.

A very good weekend, indeed.  I woke up with a smile on my face today, for the first time in weeks. It feels like I'm turning a corner.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Two Lists

Things that Made Me Happy this Week:

1.  I had great rides on Tucker.  He is soft and bendy again.  I need to work on getting him to go forward but that's a much easier task now that he's using himself correctly.  Soft and bendy and not hanging on my left rein is a huge improvement.  He feels a whole lot more comfortable and he's relaxed and quiet.  Amazing what a full set of functional joints will do for a guy!

2.  I love coming home to the cottage.  It's pretty and quiet.  I look outside and all I see are green fields and red barns and cows.  I look around and think about what kind of art I'd like to find for which space and what little additional pieces of furniture I'd like to hunt down.  I love that I can decorate it any way I want to.

3.  Sterling is very happy with our new living situation.  He is following me from room to room. Wherever I go, he goes too.  If I'm making dinner, he hangs in the kitchen.  If I'm watching tv, he curls up on the couch.  When I get out of the shower he's sitting patiently outside the bathroom.  I had a friend over for dinner and he hung out under the dining room table.  He spends the whole night curled up on the bed.  This is all new behavior for him.  He has always come to greet me at the door when I get home, and he's a very friendly cat, but he's never been quite so attached to me.  He either knows I need company or he's just happy the whole place is just ours.

4.  One of my best friends came over and I made us a nice dinner.  I barely saw her when I was with Ethan, I don't really know why.  Was it because I was always taking care of Ethan?  Was it because I always felt like things were strained between them, so we had to make plans without our respective other halves?  I don't know.  But we live close to each other now, so she's back in my life on a more consistent basis and it's going to be good.  Cottage martini nights are a go.

5.  My brother took me out to lunch and we split a bottle of wine on a beautiful day, in the middle of the week.  It was a treat, and a pick me up.  Brothers are so good like that.

6.  In response to my last post, one of my friends offered to give me a TV she isn't using.  The generosity and capacity for giving and caring that my friends (both in person and online) have shown me lately is astounding.  They are lifting me right up out of all this sadness.

7.  I made friends with a baby cow.  She licked my hands.  I'm in love.

8.  I went out and bought myself a really pretty new dress and shoes for a wedding I have this weekend. There was a good sale so I didn't have too much buyer's remorse about spending money on myself (I never buy clothes) and it made me feel good. It's going to be a fun wedding.  At least, I'm going to make sure I have fun.  I'm not going to allow myself to get drunk and sad.  I'll be drunk and happy and dancing instead!

9.  I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning talking to a very old friend.  Someone who understands me better than anyone.  It was very much something I needed.

Things that Have Made Me Sad this Week:

1.  I had this realization that my life story has changed.  I had this story of my life in my head, that I had a bunch of failed relationships up until my early 30s, many of which ended due to how much time/money/attention I spent on my horse, and then I met Ethan, who loved horses, and loved animals, and loved me, and everything changed.  And we bought a house with land, and turned it into a farm, and everyone lived happily ever after.  But that's not the story anymore.  Ethan was just another failed relationship, and I'm back to being single.  It's his house, not our house.  I know that now I have room to create another story, but the disappointment I feel makes me sad.

2.  I dream about Ethan every night.  In the dreams we are happy and in love and I feel so good. They feel completely real. Waking up from that in the middle of the night is soul-crushing.  The mind plays tricks on you, and it sucks.  It's my subconscious giving me what I can't have, or something like that. It will go away with time, but yeah, it sucks.

3.  I'm still having a hard time letting go of all the things he said to me.  I keep telling myself that it wasn't all bad and I don't have to feel like a giant failure and I'm not screwed up even though he said I was.  Sometimes I even have to go back through our old messages to convince myself that I didn't make it all up, that he really did love me (or at least he said he did?) and I did make him happy at some point.  But it's painful to try so hard at something and still have it all fall apart without warning. I really didn't see it coming.  Just days before everything ended I stopped on my way home to pick up his favorite candy as a nice surprise.  And then suddenly he was saying what a horrible relationship we had and how we'd be better off going our separate ways, and I should probably find somewhere else to stay.  I'm still trying to make sense of it, even though it will probably never make sense.

4.  I have this nagging feeling of what other people must be thinking.  (I know, it's never a good idea to focus too much on what other people think of you.)  I'm sure he's repeated to his family some of the things he said to me, that I'm ungrateful and spoiled and I want everything to be my way and I'm always mad at him and nothing he does is ever good enough. I know none of that is true, but they have no way of knowing that.  I did care about these people and it hurts to know that they probably believe these terrible things about me (and I don't blame them for it, my family blindly takes my side too).  I feel like I ruined his siblings' wedding pictures for all eternity because I'm in them.

5.  This past weekend he was at a wedding (which I thought I was going to, but since he waited until dumping me to book his flight, I guess he never planned on bringing me along) with a big group of his friends.  I thought it wouldn't bother me much to see the pictures, but boy, it did.  These people had become my friends, too, they were people I looked forward to seeing, people I cared about. I know that most people have had relationships fail and they understand how these things can go.  But I have these awful thoughts about what kinds of things he's told them about me.  In weak moments, I envision them telling him that they never liked me anyway and he's better off without me.  I don't think that's how they really feel, but again... the mind plays tricks.

6.  I'm mad at myself, because when I met Ethan I was happy.  I had a good life, I was content.  I had learned ways of making sure that loneliness didn't get the better of me.  I had accepted that I was better off as a single person and that love and marriage and being half of a couple isn't for everyone. I even went so far as to say that coupling is just a false construct that society has convinced us we need, that marriage is an antiquated concept, that love is an imaginary thing that industries made up in order to sell more greeting cards and diamond rings and houses.  Then I met him.  And I let myself believe that I could be like everyone else.  I wanted to believe so badly that I let myself become all attached and vulnerable and invested in a guy who would inevitably leave me because that's just how these things seem to go.  And now I have to pay the price, because I'm sad, and I don't want to be sad.

There are lots of things in my life to be happy about. These things have been enough to get me through the last three weeks, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and even to make me smile and laugh.  You'll notice the first list is longer than the second list, which is awesome. But the other stuff is still in there too, and I want to be honest on the blog and not pretend it's all rosy and baby cows and happiness and sunshine.  But there ARE baby cows and happiness and sunshine too.  So, the short answer is that I'm going to be okay.  It's just... it sucks until it doesn't.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cottage Life So Far

So, this weekend I moved into the cottage.  It's adorable, and there are cows, and I'm finding that more and more friends are close driving distance away, which I hadn't even realized when I signed the lease.  I haven't met the downstairs neighbor yet, but I hear he's a nice guy.

I went to the barn on Friday night and had a lovely trail ride around the property with my boy.  It is a special sort of horse who can have two full weeks off and then go for a long solo hack on the buckle outside the ring his first night back.  He is taking great care of me these days.

After I rode on Saturday (Tucker is sound!!), I went over to the cottage and swapped keys with the old tenant, and then headed over to meet friends at the local Hard Cider Festival.  Picked myself up a Melick's Farm t-shirt so I fit in around town.  First night there was a little lonely.  I left Sterling (my cat) at my friend Amy's house during the move so he wouldn't run away with the door open, and had no tv or internet, not even a clock radio.  Spent most of the night convincing myself that every little noise I heard was the stealth approach of the local ax-murderer.  (Turned out to be a beetle pinging against a light bulb, but you can never be sure.)

Sunday I got up bright and early, had coffee with my friend Chrisie, who lent me a stall in her barn to store my things last week, and then headed back to the cottage with my trailer in tow.  My awesome, strong, hard-working, loyal, owed-many-beers-now friends met up with me again and we were able to get all my furniture in by 1 pm, and managed not to get rained on.  Spent the rest of my day listening to the cows mooing in my backyard and unpacking my kitchen.  

Got really close to a nervous breakdown in King's supermarket that night because "Our House" (Crosby Stills & Nash) started playing and I had a flashback to one of the first nights we spent in Ethan's house slow dancing in the kitchen around a plastic folding table.  (Oh the irony, it was never "our" house.)  Literally had to walk around repeating out loud to myself "you're okay, you're okay," until it was finished playing.  So...  finally got a chance to be that crazy lady in the grocery store, I'll just take my sushi and my pint of ice cream and go home now.

I took Monday off work, finished unpacking in the morning, went to Walmart for all the random odds and ends I needed (their music selection was much less emotionally jarring), picked up Sterling from Amy's house, got a tiny TV on loan from my mom, went to Comcast, returned my trailer, found another grocery store so I wouldn't be traumatized again, found the liquor store and stocked up on wine.  Came home and hooked up the cable and internet, and then cooked myself a delicious dinner. Made one of Ethan's favorite meals, to remind myself that while he may have broken my heart and kicked me out of my home, he doesn't get to eat my home cooking again.  Ever.  So there's that. 

Sterling and I had a nice evening together and I went to bed not sad.  I can't really say "happy," but "not sad" is a step in the right direction.  I did burst into tears earlier in the day because I found one of Ethan's socks with mine.  Took me by surprise.  One minute I was mundanely filling my dresser, the next minute I was doing that hyperventilating hysterical crying that feels like it's never going to stop. The thing is that most of the day I'm handling things so well that when something like that reminds me that I'm actually heartbroken, it just catches me off guard.  And it hits me like a tidal wave.

And then I feel stupid, because why do I miss someone who said such horrible things to me and decided life would be a whole lot better without me around?  And why am I crying over a sock?  All in all, I know I am doing really well.  My therapist said she was impressed with how I handled everything.  I'm not really beating myself up for getting upset.  But honestly, a sock?  I mean of all the ridiculous things.... 

I know it's a process.  And I know that I've had plenty of relationships end and I've always managed to get through it and move on.  I also do believe that I'm better off without him.  He's never going to change and become the considerate, caring person I wanted him to be (the person he can be, when he feels like it, but most of the time chooses not to be).  There are moments of sheer relief when I realize it's been weeks and no one in my life has been mean to me or hurt my feelings or yelled at me. But there were plenty of good moments too, so I still miss him, and I know that will take time.  And I still can't help but try to sort out why it ended.  Even though I know that's a dead end and I should focus on moving on.  And a lot of the time, I am focused on moving on, and I'm not sad.  But here on the blog I don't have to pretend everything is just fine and dandy all the time.

I'm looking forward to riding my now sound and happy horse this week.  And I'm looking forward to coming home to the cottage, and hanging art and curtains and adding finishing touches to make it feel like home. I'm making plans and staying busy and eating ice cream and doing all the things you're supposed to do to get through a break-up.  I'm going to stay strong.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In Which We Inject All Four Legs

So, I did end up having the vet come out yesterday morning.  The heat and swelling were gone from his fetlock completely thanks to icing and poulticing, but he still wasn't sound on hard ground.  Given that he's been not quite sound on hard ground for six weeks, I figured it was time.  

Oh boy, was it time.  After I gave her Tucker's complete medical history starting from birth, because that's what you do when you're his mom, we went out to the flat area in front of our indoor and Tucker dutifully displayed his gimp.  We did fetlock flexions, more gimp.  Blocked his right sole, no change.  Blocked right coffin, sound on the right.  Blocked left coffin, sound up front (sweet relief). 

She had me take him in the indoor so we could see how he moved on better footing, and as soon as he trotted in there she said "Oh!  He's fancy!"  Yes, he is when he's not limping along like he's walking across a mine field of legos.   My poor child.

I told her I didn't like how his right hind looked now that his front end was sound, which she agreed with (I'm either a good client or the worst one ever, I can't decide). We flexed his right ankle first and dear lord, the poor thing hobbled away on three legs.  

My heart sank, my stomach flipped, I was immediately overwhelmed with guilt.  The mom guilt is so intense when it's your own horse!  I've seen other horses flex and jog off lame a whole bunch of times, but I was not expecting my boy to be three legged lame.  She blocked the ankle so we could see how the right hock looked, and that was positive too.  A little less in the left hock, but still not great.  

Ultimately she recommended injecting both coffin joints, right hind fetlock, and both hocks.  So that's what we did.  First we sedated and scrubbed him:

The sleepiest most pathetic of Tuckers
Sorry, I didn't take photos of the actual injections.  I wanted to concentrate on what she was doing. But I did capture his various stages of drunkenness:

"I can hear you. Are my eyes opening?"
"Seriously I'm opening them as wide as I can."
His plan for the next week is two days of just turnout, Friday tack walk, Saturday a little trotting, and Sunday light hack.  No grain for the next 3 days because of all the steroids in the injections (laminitis risk) so he'll just get his soaked alfalfa cubes when everyone else eats.  Then back to normal next week.  I'm SO glad she didn't want him stall rested after all this.  Tucker does not do stall rest!

I feel a little terrible that I had to inject all the things, cause I feel like I should have had him evaluated/treated sooner, but I'm relieved that we had this taken care of and he's going to be feeling better.  I'm also incredibly thankful that the heat and swelling in his fetlock wasn't evidence of a soft tissue injury.  I was bracing myself for 6 months of time off.

He's usually so sensitive, but today the vet said he was quite stoic.  Maybe as he's gotten older he's gotten less wimpy about pain?  Anyway, given his age I'm going to make sure I have him seen at least twice a year to make sure he doesn't get that painful again (especially now that I don't have to justify the expense to anyone but my cringing bank account).  This boy is just too good to me to let him get sore, ever.

There are a lot of parallels here... Tucker and I are both took a while to figure out what exactly was going wrong, but we are both now on the path to things getting a whole lot better.  Tucker got blocked, I blocked Ethan's phone/email/facebook, so I never have to hear horrible things about myself from him ever again.  I feel free!  

Friday, May 27, 2016

When Do You Call the Vet?

I'm really curious to get the range of answers on this one, cause I constantly second-guess myself on this.

I sadly don't have the budget to exhaust every possible avenue when something is potentially wrong with Tucker.  I think most of us horse-owners are in the same boat.  Tucker has been slightly off up front, here and there, at random times over the past - I'd say - month or so.  I'm wondering if my game plan falls in line with most other people's, or if I'm more or less conservative in my approach than others are.

First, we did chiro and acupuncture.  His wither was all jammed up, we fixed it and I noticed a major difference in how he was traveling.  All of a sudden he was moving more freely and going forward and I didn't feel like I was trying to steer a lopsided surfboard around turns.

Then we had a lesson where Amy and I didn't love how he was going, so we flexed and jogged him on hard ground and noticed he was a little positive after fetlock flexion in both sides, and a little positive in the right hock.  Right hock is usually a little positive with flexion, fetlocks were new for him (not that I flex him all that often, to be honest).  The next day he colicked, so it's very possible he wasn't going well in my lesson because he was starting to get uncomfortable.

I had my farrier out on the following Tuesday, who found he was positive to hoof testers on his front heels and changed his shoes around to resolve that issue.  Great, I was hoping that would eliminate the front end ouchiness I was seeing on and off.

I had good rides last week/weekend, but I was riding very lightly and not asking for much because as I think I've mentioned, I was going through some shit.  He felt fine, but I was riding inside where the footing is softer anyway.  He did have some minor little cuts on him, which I learned was because Tucker and Goose fell in love with a mare across the fence and apparently neither one of them subscribes to the bros before hoes rule.  Mare was moved, and they stopped trying to kill each other in the name of love.

Tuesday he saw the dentist so he had the night off.  Wednesday night I had a friend scheduled to ride him and he had a bit of heat and swelling in his left front fetlock/ankle, a slight pulse in the foot, and wasn't sound on the turns to ride. We all thought it was probably an abscess, given the bruising and the fact that it came on all of a sudden.  I had my friend cold hose and wrap for the night, just so the leg didn't blow up with the humidity.

Yesterday he was a little off trotting in the field, as per my barn manager.  Last night he jogged pretty sound on the driveway and in the round pen (though in the round pen he went prancing around like a demented llama for reasons only Tucker understands, so adrenaline may have been at play).  There was a little bit of swelling, a little sensitivity to poking and prodding on the fetlock, and no pulse in the foot.  Barn manager explained that she's going to run electric along their fence line because apparently now that his lady love has been moved, he's trying to climb out of his field to find her. He's a hopeless romantic, what can I say.  [Srsly. Tucker. Stahp.]

Had my farrier out this morning, who said he doesn't think it's in the hoof.  No reaction to hoof testers.  He did say there's a bump on his ankle, which looks like he's banging it on something.  Both my farrier and my barn manager think Tucker's fence climbing activities are to blame.  

Given the on/off questionable soundness, I made an appointment with a vet for Tuesday morning, which I can always cancel.  My plan is to take it very easy this weekend, and ice and wrap him as much as possible.  Might poultice too, just to draw the heat out.  If there's still heat or unsoundness, I'll have him looked at Tuesday.  Not sure I have the finances to go full boar at addressing the situation at the moment, but at least I can get an expert eye on him.  

If it turns out he just banged himself pretending to be a mountain goat, and he's perfectly sound in two days, I can always cancel the appointment or reschedule it for later when I don't have a giant security deposit bearing down on me.  Or, I might proceed with it anyway to see what she says, given that he's had some on and off issues for a while now.  He is fourteen... it could be time to start paying attention to things like routine maintenance.

So out of curiosity, I'm polling my readership here.  Would you have already had a vet out by now? Would you try to treat this yourself for more than just the weekend with conservative work and ice/wrapping?  If your horse presents as slightly off (not head bobbing lame, which makes it a more obvious choice), do you get someone out right away in case it's serious, or are you a wait and see kind of person?  Would you have called the vet asap if your horse seemed colicky in the morning, or given him a few hours to see how things went?