Friday, October 17, 2014

Growing Pains & Self Reflection

"Disclaimer…. this is not a horse blog… infact my horse centered blog has been decidedly un-horsey as of late...perhaps I should start a new blog! But, it does pertain to things that ultimately make my horse life more attainable… and might give someone else hope, perspective, and forward momentum… so read on at your own risk! For those of you who just want to hear about the horse already… we will return to our regularly scheduled program shortly! I have a lesson on Sunday and will finally have something to share in that department. "

47 days ago I gave myself a challenge and while I haven't accomplished all the small pieces of that challenge my life has drastically changed for the better in ways I could never have imagined. And, the even better news is that I have 53 more days and a lifetime after that to keep moving forward.

My goals were smallish: loose weight, eat healthy, ride more, blog more, be more positive, do things that make a difference. Be accountable! For the first time in a very long time I can say I set a goal that I am following through on, and that I am truly happy. And, it didn't happen in the way I had imagined.

In fact, everything went out the window with in a week of giving myself the hundred day challenge. My focus jumped from accomplishing the smaller goals above to finding a new job… that new job is what has been a springboard towards accomplishing my smaller goals and going beyond.

The short version of a long backstory is that I graduated college Suma Cum Laude ready to face the world, and thinking that having my degree after 8 years of hard work would be the magic answer to officially becoming a self-sufficient happy "grown up" member of society. What followed was a hard life lesson in self worth.

Finding a teaching job now or then was/is hard. The demands put on teachers are almost unattainable. As a result I took the first job that came along rather then believing that I was worthy of the best, taking my time, and being picky. While that job as an ESE facilitator in a charter school was one I could have stayed in long term and learned from I wasn't making enough to survive or getting the support I needed as a new teacher to continue to grow. From there things snowballed. I took a very difficult long term sub position followed by a middle school reading position where I dealt with some very challenging students, and a very unsupportive administration.  I left that position feeling so defeated and wondering if I had made the right decision to in becoming an educator. Perhaps I was just not cut out for it. I took on a private school position where I felt more secure because my knowledge base was so broad in comparison to other staff in the small school that I was finally able to have moments where I felt I contributed positively even through many many struggles, but in the end I was left unsatisfied because the school's financial limitations, and choices,  made it so difficult to meet the students needs appropriately. At this point it was time to rectify and give it one more go or give up. I was living at home again because of car issues and financial difficulties and I'd pretty much hit a low.

As miserable as I was, I think it took hitting that low point, and taking ownership of the fact that my choices brought me to that point rather then looking at it as though all these bad things had "happened to me" for me to finally fight back. What's the saying…? Something along the lines of if you keep getting asked the same question and being told your wrong change your answer? I had to change my mental approach to life.  One small step at a time I began to do just that.

In july I moved out of my mom's house despite it being a very real fear in my mind that I would not find a way to pull my own weight and support myself. It was long overdue time to cut the safety net I'd created for myself… something I needed to do in order truly move forward.  I finished my recertification. I applied to 3 counties and I started interviewing. To say that I had focused intensity was an understatement. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept job applications and interviews…  some times having one interview a day while still working 60 hours a week, and taking the time to continue applying. I felt lost… and that's an understatement. Two years in a private school and I was so far behind current teacher evaluation trends that I had plenty of moments of "what if I can't cut this?" I was grumpy. I was tired. I'm pretty sure my roommate wanted to kill me.

But, then something happened. I found a job. I found the right job for me, something I should have made a focus all along. And, I did it in two weeks in a climate where despite there being a teacher shortage, the competition for jobs is still very intense. Making it all happen in such a short time period made me realize that despite my own poor self image of prior experiences someone still saw something in me that until that moment I couldn't see in myself.

I am now a proud member of the Tildenville Tiger family teaching gifted, and ESE students… even taking on the role of ESE staffing specialist. And, while I have A LOT to learn for the first time in a very long time I am happy. I feel like goals are attainable. I don't see them as  challenges that will never be overcome. In large part thanks to the support of my principal who is taking the time to give me tools.

I changed my approach because past choices weren't working. I prayed to God to put me in the right place, and to give me courage and self worth. I said thank you instead of always asking, but never really giving back. And, I took action to make the changes I wanted happen. But, I also directed my focus towards positions I knew would be a better fit and I was open and honest about my struggles.

The end result is that I found a job where I can give back and make a difference, where I can feel successful, and where I am no longer afraid to ask for help because I feel supported by my principal and my fellow teachers. And, I'm able to give back everything I've gained in my short time at Tildenville by helping other new teachers who feel as stuck and as scared as I did. In doing so I'm realizing just how much I know, just how much I have to give, and just how capable I am.

As a result of the positive and self confident attitude I've developed, I've also achieved my smaller goals with family support loosing a total of 33 lbs in 2 years, becoming more fit, more active, and more healthy, becoming financially independent, and being able to do more with my riding and my horse.

I'm finally where I wanted to be 5 years ago, and should have been all along. I don't regret my past. In fact God has made sure to surround me with reminders of it in the people around me…. God puts you where you need to be. Perhaps I needed to go through those challenges to help others. I learned a lot of things the hard way. I look around me now at other new teachers, at my roommate, and some of my  younger friends and I see the lost version of myself in a few of those faces. I also see what they can become. And, I better see myself and just how far I have come. The reality is they will have to fight there own battles, but I hope I can use my experiences to set positive examples.

I also recognize there will be challenges still to come, but I fully intend to face them head on with confidence and positivity. Bring on the last half of my positivity challenge!

Go forth and make a difference in your life or someone else's.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Hundred Day Challenge...

Soooo this was supposed to be a long overdue update on our move... Why we moved... Where we've been... And why we're now back where we started... But then I decided that I probably would have spent the entire blog complaining about a lot of negative experiences. Honestly I'm tired  of focusing on the negatives and ready to focus on the positives... And, so, without further adu... I give you my 100 day challenge....

I've seen a lot of people doing a lot of good things lately....

I got challenged for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which I fully intend to take up just as soon as I find someone willing to hold a camera and 5 spare minutes to accomplish the task... I also plan to donate, because that's what's really important and it's a good cause... You all should too!

In October the 22nd annual Chdren's Miracle Network Trail
Ride takes place to benefit Schans research for kids with cancer... It's an awesome cause that I've donated to 4 years in a row now and I plan to make this year number 5. If you live in the central Florida area or can travel in,  come join me!

Another great cause, and positive movement is the ride it forward challenge, which is what actually inspired this blog. Joe a former Biggest Loser contestant, is riding across the US to support living an active lifestyle, and is specifically working to help kids realize that getting off the the coutch and away from electronics can be a good thing... This is especially near and dear to my heart because I work with kids!

Joe rides a bike, but talks about getting out and getting in to shape all sorts of different ways, and I think horseback riding is an amazing option. You not only have to be over all very fit to ride effectively, but it teaches balance, coordination, teamwork, and responsibility.

Last summer I kicked myself in the butt and lost 25 lbs... And improved on my riding skills, but then things just kind of stalled out. I got busy with work. Rio got hurt. My main riding buddies lost their horses and my trainer moved to Ocala. We've been stuck in a rutt for a good 6 months now.

But, seeing all these positive movements have inspired me to pick up the pieces, dust myself off and spread a little posativity of my own...

I'm giving myself a week to plan and organize and 100 days (starting September 1st) to accomplish the following:

- Get back into healthier eating habits
- Exercise every day even if it's just taking 5 minutes out for sit-ups & push-ups on my way out the door
- Ride or work with the horse a min of 3 days a week...he's closer &
I have a lighted ring... No excuses now!
- loose the remaining 23 lbs to reach my goal weight
- Do something positive for someone else just because every day!
- Blog progress, updates and just in general weekly
- AND... Hopefully inspire a few others to start thier own 100 challenge whether it be getting in shape or just accomplishing something you've been putting off...

It also doesn't hurt that by putting it in writing I now have to follow through!

Stay positive... Move forward... Love life!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Journey Come Full Circle

Have you ever made a decision and then spent what seams like an eternity looking back and wondering if it was the right decision? But, once you've made the choice you really can't undo it and you, probably will never know what would have happened had you made the opposite choice?

I feel like that's the last 2 & 1/2 years of my life… at least when it comes to decisions I've made regarding my horse, which, lets face it is an irrationally large priority in my life. Only my other horse friends will ever understand that.

I made the choice to move my horse from a barn that he'd spent two years at. A barn where I had friends. A barn that was as professional as a backyard barn can be. A barn, where I could see him everyday thanks to a lighted arena. A barn that, for the most part, is affordable… unlike so many in this area. And, I regretted it every day since I left. Its one of those places that, without God's good grace and timing you can't go back to because they are always full.

I wanted to follow friends so that I'd have people of my riding level and competitive ambitions to ride with. So, I took a risk against my gut knowing the horse boarding market, and what was likely to happen. I can't say that all the stress, hopping between barns wasn't worth it. I made stronger friendships with the girls that I followed. I meant and made new friends along the way. Despite the issues and challenges at each new barn I'm still grateful that I meant those people and learned from my experiences there.  Despite challenges and disappointments I don't want to point fingers or complain.  I improved my riding exponentially, and meant a trainer who I will always have great respect for. And, the bond with Rio is that much greater because of it.

Mostly, it made me realize and appreciate what I had left behind. When I wonder what the purpose of this journey was, I think maybe it was for me to realize that I can overcome challenges, and achieve anything I want to anywhere I go. I never had to leave to do what I wanted to do despite the barn not being show oriented. But, maybe I had to leave to realize that. It also made me realize that I have to make the best decision I can for me and my horse no matter what others want, and not feel bad about making that decision. I'm going to take what I've learned, and go after what I want.

In August Rio and I go home, unplanned by me, but somehow I think I had God on my side. And, I can't wait to see what the future holds, and what we can accomplish.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jail Break...

Its been one week since Rio stepped on a nail… longest week of my life. I keep holding my breath waiting for him to turn up lame indicating an abscess or bone infection. So far everything looks good. Thank GOD… And, I do mean thank God. I feel like everything that could go wrong went wrong, but in the best possible of circumstances. And, I truly attribute that luck to the heavens. 

The nail was "Just" long enough and hit in just the right place to possibly have hit the bone… so any hope that it was small and not going to be a big deal went out the window after 6 sets of X-rays confirmed an 80% chance that it did in fact hit the bone. 

When it was all said and done the problem was caught and treated quickly and aggressively and I truly hope we've dodged a bullet. I found the most amazing vet who has been working with me all week to treat him. He's bent over backwards to make it as affordable as humanly possible. Everything that was done should have cost me about $1500, but total I think I put about $1100 into him thanks to some very nice discounts. 

We moved barns, yes AGAIN, and I think this barn is a keeper FINALLY. The owner is amazing, knowledgable, and has been a huge help and very patient with my emotional state during all of this and with all the work involved to keep him moving forward infection free. 

Today, I broke down and bought Cavallo boots for Rio. The nicker and happy winny as he trotted away to find his girlfriend tonight made spending yet more money VERY worth it. He's been locked in a stall 24/7 for 7 days now. So, he was very happy to be outside… and not attached to a person at the other end of the lead rope. 

Rick, my most awesome farrier comes out to trim him Wednesday. I'm hoping for more good news. Dr. Mike cleared him to start riding in 2-3 weeks assuming the farrier also clears him, the whole is closing up by that point and I ride in the cavallos. 2-3 weeks of no riding is so much better then no riding for 6 months. 

There is still a chance that 2-6 months from now an infection or abscess will rear its ugly head so in the mean time I'll be praying… a lot. But, everything that could be done has been done, and now its all in his hands…

Happy weekend all!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pay It Forward...

My new motto… Go Forward. 
When the unthinkable happens it can be easy to be negative. I've spent a lot of time worrying about a lot of things, and I decided recently that it was time to clear out the negativity in my life. What brought on this life changing event you may ask? Cleaning out boxes I found dog tags I had purchased in support of spinal cord injury research in honor of Christopher Reeve… my new motto of late is "Go Forward". It's what's pushed me to look for a better job, and to move out of my mom's house and into an apartment… to let go of my past and stop acting like a victim of it… to "go forward" and make my situation better because there's not an option for it not to be. Tonight that faith was tested when my best friend was hurt.

Spot the jail…?
I got a call around 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening that my horse had come in from the pasture lame and upon further inspection had stepped on a nail. If you don't know anything about horses this seems like a minor issue that can be fixed by simply pulling the nail out of the foot…  not so unfortunately. 

Four traumatic hours later, 3 sets of x-rays to confirm what parts of the foot the nail had hit, and a procedure that involved putting a tourniquet on the leg to inject I.V. antibiotics directly to the foot in hopes of preventing an infection of the coffin bone, I'm looking at a best case scenario that there will be no infection and the hoof will heal in 3-6 months… I'll be out about $1200 all said and done. Worst case scenario the nail hit his coffin bone… he ends up with an infection of the bone and either needs a $3500+ surgery and continued treatments or worse needs to be put down. I can't even allow myself to think about the latter option. Rio is my best friend and has been with me through thick and thin over 10 years. So I'm praying and asking everyone else to pray for him, and for me too that everything heals with out complications.

That being said I have some AMAZING people in my life, and while I wish this hadn't happened at all there was a lot of luck on my side. We caught the problem with in about a 6-8 hour window at most which means he wasn't sitting there with a nail in his foot over night or longer. The nail was still there and we were able to do radiographs to confirm proper treatment before removing it. Had the nail not been in place when we found him or had a well meaning boarder or barn owner pulled it out not knowing any better the whole could have sealed up and I would have never known why he was lame or that there was a possibility of bone infection until it was too late to do anything about it…. there's a lesson to be learned for any horse loving readers out there that aren't educated on what to do in the case of a puncture to the foot… NEVER pull out a nail or foreign object with out the help of your vet no matter how harmless it looks and when in doubt about anything ALWAYS call the vet out… had I left it till morning I he could very well be in even worse shape.  

As I sat crying and feeling completely helpless about all the what ifs my friends were there to pick me up and keep me positive. 

getting X-rays 
One of the other boarders even offered the comfort that should worse come to worse she would help me find a way to pay for it and pay her back… this is a person who really barely knows me and she's telling me hey don't worry we'll figure it out. My roommate drove me out there… went and got me dinner, picked up medications and disinfectant for his foot, and let me cry on her shoulder and I know she hates emotional stuff like this! My trainer, and my ferrier both offered to help and gave me sound advice. And, when I finally found a vet that would come out at 7:00 at night on a 3 day holiday weekend it turns out he's a lameness specialist… that and he gave me a major discount on all the stuff he needed done, and is going to try to work with me as much as possible.

The new barn owner where we are moving has offered to help with his care and let me ride one of her horses until Rio is on the mend…. Her friend is dropping everything to move us tomorrow on short notice so that he will have a dry clean stall to stay in rather then being out in a paddock. friends have all offered to help come out and clean and bandage his foot because I have to work 10-12 hour days. I feel so completely and utterly blessed that so many people are rallying around us and I hope that one day I can pay that forward. 

Please pass this on to your friends! We can use all the prayers and help we can get… and if it helps someone else in the same situation avoid the disaster of potentially pulling an object of a punctured foot and escalating an already bad situation than that is worth it too. 

Thanks to everyone who has offered support! Rio and I love you all!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Don't Blink

Don’t Blink. Blink and the next thing you know life has somehow fast forwarded with out you even being aware of it.

Its April. The last time I posted… well I’m not even sure when that was (sorry!). How did that happen?

March has come and gone, quietly marking the anniversary of a few life changing events… for me at least. And, I would be amiss not to share them here.

In March 2009 I lost my Grandma who, outside of my mom and my sister I was probably more close to then most of my family members. Just two weeks later I lost my mare Katie.

Last Christmas with my Grandma

Katie was one of those once in a lifetime horses. More significant, maybe, because she was my first horse.  She was just a little bay Quarter Horse, but during our 18+ year partnership she taught me how to ride and a whole lot more about what it means to be human, to love, and to build a partnership.

She was thrown away by her humans , left to starve, and landed in my life at a time when I needed her even more then she needed me.  On the day I found out my mom had paid to buy her from the people who’d left her to starve and she was mine I remember brushing the skinny, muddy little horse and wrapping my arms around her. I promised her I’d never let anyone else hurt her. I promised her she’d always be with me and I kept that promise despite many hard times and life transitions.

She was small, with an unclear past, and at times a giant attitude and a big buck, but she was mine and somehow we found a bond and a partnership that lasted almost 2 decades.

Katiedid 2005

It was also in March/April of 2005 that I started leasing my current partner in crime Rio and it was in March of 2008 that I bought him. He wasn’t my first horse, but he was the first horse that I’d sought out, bonded with, intentionally bought by myself no help, no intention to sell on to someone else, not a rescue, not my sister’s horse or a friends horse…  A really big, grown up decision. Somehow despite moves, and changes, and job losses, and school, and life struggles we’ve made it to our 9 year mark together and I pray every day that he will always be with me and that I will always be able to be there for him in the way that I was for Katie.

Rio at 6 years old 2005

In March 2012 my niece was born making me an Aunt. And, GOD, I never knew I could love someone so much. She is the most amazing little girl with so much personality, and I hope that I will always be able to be there for her.

A year later in March my nephew was born… he is so much like my sister… who despite our occasionally turbulent relationship and differing opinions is probably my favorite person on this Earth…. Shhh don’t tell her that.  He’s going to be such a sweet caring little boy if you can pinpoint a kid’s personality at only a year old. He’s so smart, and so handsome. I hope that he stays his sweet, out going self.

Liam & Aunt Sammy

Evelyn Rose & Aunt Sammy

I hope that all the ups and down’s of life don’t change who they are inside right now, the way life has a tendency to do to most people.

It was March of last year that I started taking lessons with my most amazing trainer which has changed the way I ride. I've learned more in one year then I have in more then 20 years experience. 

So it seems March is destined to be full of so many memories… good and bad for me… what is the saying… in like a lion out like a lamb?

March this year hasn’t proven to be much different. This year I’m at a cross rode trying to decide on some career changing choices and hopefully put myself in a better position financially and tackle some demons that I’ve been hiding from for a while now…. Through it all my Pony has kept me sane.
I hope that through all the changes and choices I make this year that I’m able to continue to keep Rio in my life, and to grow with him.

We have grown so much in the last year and I hope to find time to share more about that in the next few days. If you read my blog, and you’re still with me after a sever month hiatus… stay tuned!

Rio March 2014

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Everything Happens For A Reason...

My new saddle... in need of matching stirrups though...
this happened to come from my dressage saddle. 
Cliche I know, but its true everything happens for a reason and I firmly believe that. Take for example, today. I was supposed to be out riding on the Children's Miracle trail ride, but 5 minutes before I leave the house I get a call my partner in crime has a stomach bug and is sick. I was depressed about not going because I love this event so much, especially given I could have ridden with other friends once I got there had I not canceled my original trailering plans.

But, as it worked out my trainer happened to have a saddle for me to try and just happened to be showing at Silver Sands this morning (about 30 minutes from my new barn). The trainer comes all the way from Lees Burg almost 90 minutes away so its not exactly an easy feet between our crazy schedules to make lessons happen so when she called and said she'd be this way I was actually a little upset I thought I'd miss her by going on the trail ride. When my friend canceled our plans it ended up working out perfectly for her to stop by on her way home from the show.

Stubben Siegfried 
Now keep in mind we've been shopping saddles for 3 or 4 months if not more, with no luck. We probably tried 6 or 7 different saddles of varying shape/sizes tree widths and most did not fit him and OR if they came close to fitting him they did not fit me. Even the dressage saddle that I have and have been riding him in for the past 8 years didn't really fit him 100% correctly and it was too big for me.

I wasn't exactly holding out hope that this saddle would work given that I'd tried a similar saddle 2 weeks ago (a version of an older Stubben) that clearly did not fit the minute you sat it on his back with out even having to seriously look at it. BUT... drum roll...... this one  actually fit him really, really well! And, the better news is that it fit us both appropriately! So I am now the proud owner to be of a Stubben Siegfried all purpose saddle originally made in Switzerland and sold for over $2400 brand new. I'm getting it for about a fifth of that price and my trainer is amazing because she's buying it and allowing me to use it until I can actually afford to buy it off her which is going to entail me selling my 2 saddles both of which don't fit Rio, but are good saddles. When its all said and done I should actually make money if I get my asking price for the two I'm selling and Rio finally gets to ride in a saddle that doesn't make his back sore.

It was amazing to actually feel him loosen his back muscles and swing underneath me. He's a good mover and always has been for a foundation bred Appaloosa, but now I have a better understanding of why he took so long to truly warm up under saddle and go at his best. He may  not have been noticably sore to the touch with the dressage saddle, but I would ride 30 minutes of walk trot just to get him moving freely because the saddle was sitting down on his spine. And, when I rode in any other saddle it was always obvious that it made him very sore the next day.

Part of the reason I started looking at new saddles was also, so  that I could do some more jumping. If you've ever jumped in a dressage saddle you know its not the easiest thing to do. My trainer is bringing out jump standards since I don't have any at my current barn and I'll be set to "jump" (no pun intended) back into regular training now that I have a saddle that allows proper form over fences.

For the sake of trying a jump with the new saddle before making a decision we hopped over some drainage pipe covering that was out in the pasture.... more like a small novice cross country jump then a show jump fence. It was about 2'6 solid and fairly wide.  Let me put this into perspective for you. Rio used to stop at a small 6 inch cross rail throwing on the breaks and looking back at me like I was crazy when we first attempted jumping years ago. Since working with our current trainer his willingness to approach a jump has improved hugely. He's been taking small cross rails that were a foot or less and more recently I started taking him over verticals slowly raising them to see what I could convince him to do. He'd been over logs on the trail, but nothing more then 6-12 inches wide and barely off the ground. Until today the most he'd done was a 2'3 vertical which is super skinny, not really all that big or imposing looking  fence, but enough of a jump that the horse has to do more then just step over it.

I thought for sure the more solid object would send us straight back to square one, but not only did he take it easily he cleared it more then once and from a trot on a short approach with a rider, who' lets face it,  may not be green in her over all riding skills,  but is when it comes to jumping and seeing distance. I was absolutely over the moon with his work today.

As for me, I felt a little awkward and out of sorts in the saddle at first and I was unsure, but the more I rode the more comfortable I became with the saddle. I'm used to having more of a knee block for support, but that's only because I was riding with a shorter jump length stirrup in my dressage saddle so my knee would hit the more prominent knee roll and I would use that as a crutch to support my seat, but in reality I was never riding in correct position no matter what I did short of dropping my stirrups which created other issues for me so I was never really free to move with the horse or use my body effectively when riding.

The trainer's assessment was that Rio did indeed move much more freely under this saddle and that she'd never seen my position better then it was after riding in this saddle for just 30 minutes. I made the decision to go ahead and get the saddle knowing that I would have to work to build up my muscles and muscle memory to a point where I am truly riding correctly, and that while it was a very different feel this saddle would help me accomplish that. It helped the decision making process that my trainer was so supportive of the choice and so knowledgable being a former international level evener and Grand Prix jumper with years of experience behind her. I am beyond blessed to have found her. Especially given that there is no way I could have purchased a second saddle with out first selling my other saddles. She so willingly stepped in to help out and is just an amazing fiend and teacher.

I was also happy to see that she was happy with Rio's weight gain! I see him all the time so sometimes I think its wishful thinking that he's gained, but she took one look at him after not seeing him for 3 weeks and said "no, he looks a hundred times better". I hopped on him bareback while we were waiting for my trainer and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually very comfortable. His top line has filled out quite a bit and it wasn't like riding on... I can't even come up with a good description, but if you've ridden bareback on a skinny horse you now its not comfortable....

I'm getting to know the owner and other boarders and really like the new barn, and most importantly Rio is happy and healthy.

Over all, despite missing out on the trail ride, it was just a really good day!