October 27, 2011

Thoughts on Riding While Pregnant

I'm not planning to ride past 20-weeks, but why? Plenty of us ride up until the labor pains come. Am I being a chicken? Nope. Do I like following doctors orders? I've never been too good at that. So why?

If my livelihood were riding and training, I likely would not be so cooperative with my OB. I am a good rider with a Velcro arse after all. If I had additional horse options I would keep riding less risky mounts past the 20-week stage and ride until I gave birth, my balance got so out of whack I couldn't do it, or my belly got too big to get on and off. However, since this is my one and only (that's the plan), and it's not my livelihood to be in the saddle, and the only horse I have to ride is an unpredictable 4-year old warmblood mare, I figure I can suck it up for 5½-months and not ride. It won't be easy of course. I will definitely be risking my mental stability by not riding. Also, the closer that 20-week mark gets (only 5½ weeks left) the more I start thinking/realizing that I may not be totally on board with doctors orders.

For anyone who has the audacity to ask me why I'm still riding, I've found that telling them my doctor said it was okay usually puts the issue to bed right away. After all, who is going to argue with doctors orders? Granted, I still don't look pregnant, so it's not really an issue as of yet. As a visiting trainer to our barn said the other day in retort to my being 4-months along "you are going to be one of those tiny pregnant women". I couldn't quite tell if it was a complement or not, but I decided to take it as one. I have after all gained 2 pounds! Anyway, even if people know I'm pregnant they don't seem to think about it. I think it's an out of sight, out of mind, sort of thing. I'm guessing that disapproving people won't really get in my business about it until I look pregnant.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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October 25, 2011

Good bye cold, hello winter!

I woke this morning to 25ºF temperatures and frost covering everything. I was excited by the frosty temperatures, as it means snow and winter are finally on the way.  Call me crazy, but I love winter. I love frozen ground and lack of mud. I love the sun shining off the glittering snow. I love sweaters and hot chocolate. I love skiing and snowball fights. Most of all, I love winter in Montana. Now granted, if I didn't have an indoor arena, I might have more issues with winter, but as I have an indoor to ride in, I take great delight in the change of the seasons.

Rose...learning to winter like a Montana horse

Maximum Oregon winter coat length...keep on growing!
My cold has finally gone away, so I can breathe, function, and ride once again. Yesterday I headed to the barn to find a very fluffy Rose munching away on her hay pile. She skeptically watched me muck her paddock, while not moving an inch. Normally she follows me around and sniffs my wheelbarrow.  All I can imagine is that she focusing all her energy on growing more hair. Currently she's at her maximum Oregon winter coat. It is my hope that she will turn into a massive woolly mammoth before the real cold weather arrives. If not, I guess we'll have to deal with blankets. Normally I clip her, and do the blanket routine all winter, but since I won't be riding her past November my plan has been to leave her fuzzy and naked. We shall see.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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October 19, 2011

Darn Cold

My dear sweet husband brought home a cold virus last week, and regardless of all my best attempts to not get it, I've been suffering from full on cold symptoms since Sunday. This of course has kept me from the barn the past two days. In denial, I did drag myself there on Monday to ride, and Rose was a good girl and we worked a bit on our half-halts. However, once Tuesday rolled around I was in full on tissue box couch mode.

The only thing worse than having a cold is being pregnant and having a cold. This means no drugs to ease the symptoms, and let me tell you, it sucks! Sucks big time. There are only so many hot showers and mugs of hot water and lemon one can drink to ease the symptoms. I'm hoping that I'm over the hump as my sneezing seems to have slowed down this afternoon. I feel the count down clock ticking away every day I don't ride as every day December 1st gets closer and closer. I have aspirations to ride tomorrow, or at the very least make it to the barn and longe my girl.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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October 17, 2011

Yes, I'm PREGNANT and I'm riding my horse!

How's that for a sensational post title?

You may have been wondering why my blogging got a little sparse and my adventures got a bit tame this fall. That's because in early August we happily found out, after a year of trying, that I was pregnant! I'm currently at 13-weeks (4th month) along and this is my first pregnancy. It's pretty exciting, but at the same time a little nerve racking. Of course I found out when I was only 3-weeks pregnant, because apparently I am a great HCG hormone producer. I immediately became freaked about about the controversial complications that come along with the combination of being a riding addict and pregnant. Also, the fact that it took so long to get pregnant had me worried about loosing it during every stride of sitting trot or spook. As a result, in the first few weeks I irrationally cut back on my riding and cancelled my fall showing and hunting plans. I also stopped exposing Rose to any new things that might pose a falling risk.

Morning Sickness
So far, I have not suffered from anything remotely related to morning sickness. It is a big relief to not have to dismount mid-ride and vomit all the time. I know that I'm in the minority and I count myself very lucky in this regard! Oddly, I've spoken to a few equestrians who all said they never had morning sickness and rode through their pregnancies. Maybe there is a connection there...and riding is actually good for pregnant women? Research paper anyone? I'm sure every doctor in the USA would cringe!

When to Stop
I know that many equestrians ride right up until the day they give birth and prior to actually getting pregnant that was what I always imagined that I'd do. However, regardless of how mature Rose is most of the time she remains an unpredictable 4-year old. For instance, recall our recent longeing incident? I was 10 weeks along at the time, and it definitely opened my eyes to few good realizations. I'd never heard of a pelvic girdle before, but at that moment as I lay face down in the sand with a bloody elbow, I was really happy to know that the baby was still protected by it! Had I been further along it could have been a bad situation. I realized then that Rose just isn't the right horse to ride long term during pregnancy. Transversely, I don't want to give her a full year off either. I don't think that I could physically or mentally handle that, and she likes having a job to do. So what should I do? This is a question I asked myself a lot in the beginning. I came to the conclusion that I would allow myself to wuss out come winter and stop when it got too cold to ride comfortably...or maybe abide by doctor's orders.

No More Jumping
Regardless of my nerves of steel and riding addiction, I did stopped jumping Rose when I was around 5 weeks pregnant. She was doing well and I didn't want to take any chances with her suddenly deciding to stop at fences. Plus it was getting really tempting to put the jumps up...and teaching her to jump bigger would likely be a BAD idea while pregnant. If she were more experienced with jumping I would likely still be jumping her.

The Dreaded Doctor Visit
I was looking forward to our first 8-week ultrasound and seeing if there was really something in there. Sure enough, there is a healthy little "peanut" in there waving it's stubby hand. It certainly looked like it was practicing a dressage salute to me! However, I was greatly dreading the "I am addicted to riding horses and I turn into a sucky person without my fix" conversation with my OB. I fretted over nothing. It turns out I have an awesome and understanding doctor who was happy that I voluntarily stopped jumping. As such, she threw me a bone and said that I could absolutely keep riding until I am 20-weeks along without any argument from her. That means I can ride until the beginning of December, coincidentally when the cold season arrives. Since Rose is due for her 4-year old vacation this winter anyway that works out well. She'll just get to relax for a few months longer than originally planned. It does however mean, 5½-months of no riding (including the 6-week post-baby recovery). That's a thought that doesn't sit to well with my "riding fix", but I figure I can still sort of get my fix by spending the time honing Rose's groundwork and teaching her a few pointless but highly entertaining tricks. Although after that longeing situation, I am re-thinking ground work. Maybe we'll just stick grooming until baby is born?

The Husband
So, what about the other half's opinion on my continuing to ride? I know that many non-horsey husbands and family members make foolish requests that their baby carriers immediately stop riding "those dangerous animals". Like we haven't already given up all the fun vices of life, not to mention just some basics (I very much miss roast beef sandwiches, sushi, and oil painting...acrylics just aren't the same), so why not just pile one more on the heap? That is just adding insult to injury (or pregnancy) if you ask me. Lucky for me, I am blessed with a non-horsey husband who fully appreciates how horses keep me "sane" and from day one has encouraged me to keep riding. Best husband in the whole world! 

Anyway, that's my big news that I've been dying to share with you all for months now. Fear not however, unless there is an interesting topic that pertains to training/riding Rose while I'm pregnant, I won't be boring you with discussions of onesies and organic diapers. First and foremost, this blog is and will remain about Rose and our training adventures.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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October 14, 2011

Developing real Half-halts

Somewhere along the way Rose graduated from learning the rough and ready basics of getting started to refinement. That's where we are now in my opinion. She knows fundamentally how to go, stop, change direction, etc. but now she needs to learn how to do it all in a balanced and refined manner.

In our lesson with trainer C yesterday we started working on half-halts. I've been aware for a long time that our half-halts didn't really exists and were more of a "hey, slow the hell down for just one second" whilst using lots of hand kinda thing. I was delighted that by the end of our lesson Rose was really listening to half-halts from my seat and making tiny incremental changes as asked. She had a lovely balanced trot, with a nice slow rhythmic tempo, and we made lots of little half-halts through the gate. It is so fun to work with Rose when she "gets" it. She's so proud of herself that it is just adorable. In addition she is so smart that she hangs onto everything she just learned. I know when I go out to ride her today that those half-halts will still be there, and I full intend to keep working on them for a while.

So what did we do?
  1. Starting out trotting we did trot-walk transitions entirely from my seat and NO HANDS. Luckily I did teach Rose a while back to walk and halt entirely from my seat, so this was old news to her.
  2. Next I'd start to ask for the walk, but then push her on into a tiny trot right at the apex of the downward transition, only using my seat...again NO HANDS.
  3. Once she figured that out, then we were able to just ask for the half-halt within the gate, rather than asking for the walk. Once she'd half-halt, I'd ask her to supple and stretch through her neck more accepting a long contact (almost stretchy-trot) and ask for slightly more forward trot. Anytime she'd start to rush forward I asked for a half-halt immediately. The result was a beautiful even tempo trot that felt like heaven!
  4. Finally we implemented this a few times at the canter until she got it, and then we ended on a good note when she gave a beautiful half-halt in the canter.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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October 11, 2011

Rose's barefeet get a trim and we think about Andrea & Gogo

As I awoke this morning to a cloudy drizzly fall day, I was reminded of mid-winter in Portland. I shrugged off the dreariness, content in the knowledge that unlike in Portland, the mountain storm would soon pass and the sun would return. I layered up in some warm and waterproof clothing and tamed the excitement bubbling up within me as I headed to the barn. Rose was due for her 4-week trim this morning, something which I always look forward too. Standing in the cross-ties, I soaked in the morning hustle and bustle of our little barn and happily chatted away with my farrier about how good Rose's bare-feet were doing and I paused for a moment and quietly thought about Andrea and Gogo.

Andrea's blog; Eventing-a-Gogo was one of the first barefoot performance blogs I came across when I decided to try and keep Rose barefoot. Never having had a barefoot horse before, I knew almost nothing about it. I learned much from Andrea's trials and tribulations over the years and her knowledge of barefoot eventing. Without having stumbled upon her blog, I might have long ago succumbed to the "traditional" way of doing thing and have put shoes on Rose. Rose who is in full work and is completely sound on her rock hard awesome bare feet. So, I'd like to let Andrea know that she and Gogo are in our thoughts today, and we are ever so thankful that their blog came into our lives when it did. What Andrea is going through today is one of the hardest parts of horse (pet) ownership. Regardless that we try to do the most humane and "right" thing for our animals, when the moment comes, it is our hearts that break with the loss of a friendship that we are forever saying goodbye to.

Hug your horse today!

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October 6, 2011

Subtle Transitions

I have been working on subtle transition cues with Rose ever since our last lesson. It is amazing the change not only in the quality of hack but in her attitude as well. She is transitioning to the trot with the tiniest flexion of my thigh muscles, and the canter as well. No leg pressure needed. In turn our downward transitions are improving as well. I'm using more seat, however subtle, and much less hand. More or less, I'm just thinking the transition I want, and she's giving it to me! As a result she is much quieter and is using her hind end nicely and is stretching down and into contact. All of this is without spurs by the way. She's a super sensitive horse, so I've never really used spurs with her. However, I didn't realize she was capable of being this sensitive. Previously she'd go around behind the vertical and heavy on the forehand, tearing my arms off and knocking me off balance. It is so much easier to focus on my position when I'm not fighting an 1100lb horse for an hour.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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October 3, 2011

Dressage Reining? Yes we can!

This past weekend was my team's first IHSA show of the season, and I was really pleased with the caliber of our riders, especially given the complete lack of recognition and funding from the University.  I have got to work on changing that around. But I digress, the kids did very well and it was fun to watch the western portion. When I rode IHSA on the East Coast we only had a Hunt Seat team. I found it interesting that the western horsemanship position is very similar to dressage. Aside from that, rail classes are rail classes and there isn't much difference between the hunt seat rail classes and the western, except for the blingy western outfits. Now the reining class, that was interesting to watch. I wanted desperately to hop on one of those horses and do a big fast, small little, quarter line canter and sliding stop. Ah, but I was coaching not competing. Maybe I'll throw my hat in and do it Alumni reining next year.

As I was inspired by the reining at the show, I thought to myself "I can do that, Rose can do that, and I'm pretty sure my dressage saddle can do that". So, today I gave it a go. After a nice warm up working on our balance and transitions I decided to mix things up for Rose and do some simple reining patterns. After all, she already knows figure eights and simple changes. The big change was going from halt to canter, and of course those turn on the haunches. Guess what though? She loved it. I let her stretch long and low and canter her little bum off. She had no problem going from halt to canter and nailed all the transitions. Our sliding stop was definitely more of a trot to halt dressage transition, and our turn on the haunches is rusty, but we got them anyway. It was such fun! I can only imagine how exhilarating it would be to do on an actual reining horse.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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