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Physical Fitness & Therapy

I don’t really have any conclusions yet, here, but thought I should write out some of my thinking as I pursue answers. (I also don’t have any photos for this post, sorry!)

I’ve read with interest and fascination a few bloggers recently diagnosing and starting to work with lingering body issues that were impacting their riding. In particular, Austen at Guinness on Tap (part 1 and part 2) and Megan at A Enter Spooking (here) both talked thoroughly and thoughtfully about specific injuries. Jen at Cob Jockey also talked about her own body weaknesses and how they affected Connor.

Like any other thirtysomething equestrian, I also have some longterm physical stuff. I have gout, which is chronic and inherited and occasionally flares up. I also have a lower back / SI injury from a fall off of Tristan about 12 years ago. Neither had been all that present for me until recently.

In September, I signed up for some intro classes at our local CrossFit affiliate. I knew I needed some additional form of exercise beyond riding, I knew that it needed to be class-based, and I knew that a lot of equestrians I really respected really liked CrossFit. So I gave it a try, and like many before me, I got really hooked. I’m now going three days a week, on my riding days off.

I’ve made huge strides in a lot of the areas I was hoping for: overall body awareness, strength, core strength, general fitness, and an enjoyment of exercise that I haven’t really had before.

But about three weeks ago we did an absolute killer WOD and somewhere at about burpee #75 my form started to fail. By burpee #95 I had flexed my lower back & SI one too many times, and it was well and truly re-aggravated.

I’ve also been grappling a bit with exercise-induced gout too: my right foot now clicks with every step, and is stiff and sore some days, in the mornings especially.

Both of those things obviously are impacting my riding – both the action itself as well as the motivation, some days.

What next?

I’ve scheduled a few things to try and help, and am making further plans as I go, so we’ll see what actually works out.

First: I have about 6 weeks of physical therapy appointments scheduled specifically to address my janky SI joint. The initial injury was a compression at speed, from hitting the ground headfirst on a fall from Tristan, so we need to unlock it and then re-teach my body how to move smoothly without pain. I have a series of exercises to do that, and to strengthen and stabilize the joint itself.

Second: I have talked through the strain with all my regular CrossFit coaches and am carefully limiting myself in exercises that are triggering it. Burpees in particular; I am taking them slowly and really engaging my core and bearing down to move correctly and with as much stabilization as possible. That means my WOD numbers suck right now on burpee days. Oh well.

Third: I have called around to both chiropractors and massage therapists and will hopefully be doing both in the next few weeks to also relax & loosen around the joint.

I don’t yet know whether this will be a longterm challenge, or a shorter-term flareup. I hope that by attacking it aggressively right now, I’ll both fight back any acute problems and lay a better foundation to prevent them in the future.

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On Sport Boots and My Irrational Hatred Thereof

Buckle up, this is going to be kind of petty and pointless, but I’m going there anyway.

Last spring/early summer, I had Tristan flexed by our local lameness vet. I wanted to just get a good read on his soundness by an expert. I honestly half-expected to be doing hock injections. To my surprise, Tris flexed pretty darn sound overall, save for some slight soreness in his hind fetlocks.

Tris hasn’t had clean, tight fetlocks in…um…many years. He’s a big-jointed, thick-boned horse anyway, and his fetlocks are just kind of janky. Functional, but janky. So not a hugely out of sync thing for his hind fetlocks in particular to show a bit of soreness.

The vet recommended riding him in sport-style boots to give support to the fetlocks and so okay, I had just shelled out a good chunk of money for this vet to look at my horse. I dutifully borrowed a barnmate’s Professional’s Choice boots to start getting a read for what size and style he’d need. Then I bought my own version of them from Roma, used.

Reader, I fucking hated them.

Hate is a mild word. I saw red when putting them on. I wanted to swear every single second that I was putting them on. I ground my teeth. Were I a spitting person, I would have spat. A lot. Even thinking about putting them on makes my blood boil.

Thing the first: is there any way to put these fucking things on that doesn’t require a perfectly still horse, the exact right angle, the perfect amount of torque, and the stars to be in some kind of astrologically perfect pattern?

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Cute pony, but look at the awfulness that is that bulge on the side from wrapping the fetlock piece.

Because JFC, there is NO WAY to get them lined up neatly, snugly, and in one go-round. I have been putting sport boots on my horse semi-dutifully for about 9 months now, and it STILL takes me 3-5 tries of adjusting the velcro to get it straight, to get it snug, to get it in the right place, on and on and fucking ON. (Adjust upward for the number of times the velcro gets stuck on something, again and again and again.)

Thing the second: I hate the look of them. I haaaaaaaaaaaaate it. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I am pretty darn far from a fashion-conscious or looks-driving horse person. I like things that work, that look neat, and that are (relatively) clean.

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More cute pony. Ugly boots.

I think sport boots look like ass. There. I said it. They make a horse’s legs look thick and blunt and clumsy and UGLY. Doubly so on my already clunky-legged poorly-conformed little mustang.

Thing the third: I loathe the way I have to get them so tight so that they “work.” See exhibit A below: when they are snugged up enough to actually stay in place through a ride and provide some of this mythical fetlock support, they make me a little queasy, and they leave actual indent lines in Tristan’s legs. Even after short rides.

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see that dent?

Thing the fourth, as you may have guessed: do they even work????????? I finally asked the barn manager “how will I tell these are helping my horse as they are intended?” and she shrugged and said it’s a cumulative thing. Okay. So I have to put these on my horse every day for the rest of forever and my only proof will be…his fetlocks are less saggy and sore than they otherwise might be? Compared to…what? Some forever unknowable baseline.

Horse’s legs are complicated and they take a ton of torque and you expect me to believe that 1/8″ thick neoprene (UGH) and some velcro is enough to hold up a fetlock under load? Like. Honestly. How does that work?

(I tried to do some research and one sports boot manufacturer said they “provide more support than polos” like NO FUCKING KIDDING, who in their right mind thinks polo wraps provide support and not just padding and good looks?)

I understand boots that provide some compression around the leg. I understand boots that prevent whacks by injury. I do NOT understand how fetlock support is supposed to be achieved by sheer dint of lining up this one little cradle of neoprene perfectly (which again, see above, IMPOSSIBLE). Walking around, I guess? Okay? But cantering? REALLY?

Actual science and actual vets back me up on this, btw.

Roepstorff is even more skeptical. “In the SDFT, the DDFT, and the suspensory ligament, you have a combined strain force of more than 1000 kg (more than 2,200 pounds) when the horse is just cantering—and much greater when he’s jumping,” he says. “Those are huge forces. You don’t support that by just putting something around it.”

So, here I am, rock and a hard place.

I hate them.

The vet told me to use them. The barn manager agrees with them. (She likes them and a bunch of other horses in the barn go in them.) I know his fetlocks aren’t great. They clearly flexed poorly.

Is there any hope? Is there something I’m doing wrong here? Am I the only outlier in the world that thinks these boots are infuriating garbage? Is there some way I can get over this? I legitimately fantasize about setting them on fire each time I have to put them on his legs.

Are there other boots that might provide some of this vaunted fetlock support? Is there some company that makes a version that is less infuriating and better-fitting? Or am I doomed to either ignore my locally trusted experts and go back to the dressage boots that I quite liked and did offer impact protection, or just suck it up and deal with these things forever?

I’ve thought about trying a few different brands but I don’t have endless amounts of spare cash to drop $100-$200 for boots only to hate them just as much as my current ones, over and over again.

HELP.

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House Post: Decluttering

We have a large (almost 3,000sf) house and we are both packrats, which means that staying on top of “stuff” is a constant battle. The longer I work in museums, the more I want to throw everything in my house away and live like a monk. (Except for books.)

Last year, I did a February decluttering challenge that worked very well, and this year I’m going to repeat it. For each day in February, I’ll remove (or flag for removal via a planned yard sale this summer) an item from my house. Sometimes that will mean throwing things away; sometimes, recycling; sometimes, donating; sometimes, finding a new home with a friend.

If I stay on target, that will be 435 items total. What worked well last year was to get ahead a bit – on weekends or days with more time, I would cross off days in advance, so that I don’t arrive at, say, February 26 on a Wednesday in the middle of a busy week and panic because I have a LOT of stuff to get out on that day.

I don’t follow a particular method – I never got into the Marie Kondo stuff, and I’m acutely aware that for me personally, true minimalism doesn’t work. I do still like stuff, and I don’t feel a whole lot of guilt over that. I just need to get better about not keeping ALL of it because I have so much storage space. Last year, we unpacked a few boxes left over from moving and one of them was just full of random smaller empty boxes. Yikes.

I also read this article recently and it’s been bouncing around my brain: The empty promises of minimalism. So, you know, I don’t believe in “minimalism” as some kind of cure-all for modern life, nor am I touting decluttering as what will fix the over-stuffed nature of my own brain. But I do also know that a neater, more organized space helps me feel more productive and settled, so I will do what I can to advance that.

This weekend, my husband has been traveling, which means I’ve started with a bang and already crossed off several days!

 

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Weekend Reading

One of my quieter goals for 2020 is to do more substantive reading – thought-provoking reading, with actual time devoted to it, not just scrolling Reddit for headlines.

To that end, here are a few articles that I enjoyed and thought a lot about this week.

On Robert Caro, Great Men, and the Problem of Powerful Women in Biography by Caroline Fraser

So writing about women who have achieved a modicum of influence can often feel like watching someone on a precipice: One foot wrong, and it’s the block, the pillory, or the head in the oven. This is true whether writing about a forbidding figure, such as Mary Baker Eddy, the sinister founder of the Christian Science Church, who features in my first book, God’s Perfect Child, or a model of perseverance and pluck, Laura Ingalls Wilder in Prairie Fires. It requires one to follow a more circuitous path than the one Caro lays out, leading not to the exercise of power in any straightforward way but to the subversive, often stealthy assumption of it.

Power and ambition in women are often hidden, buried, shrouded, veiled, disguised, crushed, thwarted, mocked, diminished, warped, punished, or excoriated. Women oriented toward ambition may have concealed such a desire even from themselves.

The Last Time Democracy Almost Died by Jill Lepore

The series’ lead contributor, the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce, took issue with the question, as philosophers, thankfully, do. “I call this kind of question ‘meteorological,’ ” he grumbled. “It is like asking, ‘Do you think that it is going to rain today? Had I better take my umbrella?’ ” The trouble, Croce explained, is that political problems are not external forces beyond our control; they are forces within our control. “We need solely to make up our own minds and to act.”

Don’t ask whether you need an umbrella. Go outside and stop the rain.

I DON’T HATE WOMEN CANDIDATES — I JUST HATED HILLARY AND COINCIDENTALLY I’M STARTING TO HATE ELIZABETH WARREN by Devorah Blachor (satire, in case you were startled)

My hatred for Hillary wasn’t diabolical. I never bought into the whole pizzagate thing, or the whole Uranium One thing, or the whole spirit-cooking-she-drinks-blood-infused-Podesta-rice thing, and I never once believed she was the devil. I would see those posts and just be like, Huh, if people believe that stuff about her, she must be really terrible.

And I never chanted LOCK HER UP or created memes showing her in prison, but I did laugh a little at those memes, because the thought of this accomplished woman behind bars with all her agency stripped away from her was funny to me.

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2020 Goals: January Report

Tristan

  1. Ride a First Level test at one of the two barn schooling shows – this is not going to happen until June
  2. Take notes (however brief) on every ride – yesssss, done for January!
  3. Clean tack at least 1x a month – 1/12, check
  4. Volunteer at 3 events
  5. Take 25 lessons – 1/25 check
  6. *Reach goal: Go to Crossfit 100 times (or roughly 2x a week) for additional fitness – I got wicked sick for the first two weeks of the year so I’ve only gone 8 times in January which is precisely on target but I can do better than that.

 

Business

  1. Keep up with monthly expense/revenue tracking – ehhhhhhh not so hot in January
  2. Maintain 100 listings in the Etsy store – I’ll be up to 84 this weekend with some plans to expand
  3. Mustang gear goes live – posted a preview of this on my business instagram and it blew up which definitely made me feel good about demand
  4. Sponsor 5 riders – 1/5, check!
  5. Table at a horse show – dear horse show organizers, answer your emails? I’ve sent of several inquiries but have gotten nothing back
  6. *Reach goal: Get to 1000 sales on Etsy – 584/1000 and nicely up year-on-year so far

 

General

  1. Try 25 new recipes – 4/25 check! two new cookie recipes, a new waffle recipe, and a new soup recipe
  2. Try making: croissants, eclairs, cinnamon rolls – none of the above but I have plans to tackle eclairs very soon
  3. Declutter in February – BRING IT ON
  4. Finish 5 craft projects – sigh
  5. Finish upstairs bathroom, front guest bedroom, and nook room – made some tiny progress on the upstairs bathroom
  6. *Reach goal: submit Morgan article for publication – I pitched the article to the editor and he’s looking forward to it, now to keep going
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Bucket List Trip: Vienna for the Spanish Riding School

I honestly don’t know how I got started, but back in November I had a thought: I wonder how much it really costs to get a ticket to see the Spanish Riding School perform?

The answer, it turns out, is not a lot of money at all. Around $250 for the absolute front-row best seats in the house. You’d pay far more than that for terrible Broadway tickets.

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That line of thinking led to a “I wonder what it costs to fly to Vienna?” Google search.

Which led to a “What would an AirBNB in Vienna cost?”

So, uh, I’m flying to Vienna for my birthday this year.

I’ve got tickets to two Spanish Riding School performances – one with the standard program, and one with the Vienna Boys’ Choir. I’ve got morning exercise & behind the scenes tour tickets. I’ve got an apartment about three blocks away.

Oh, and my mom is coming with me, because one of the things that led to me saying eff it and booking this trip is that life is short and losing my dad so suddenly last year still continues to ricochet through my brain and heart.

It’s one of the more impulsive and extravagant things I’ve done, and it makes my work schedule in May pretty tricky, but I’m SO EXCITED.

I have no idea what I’m going to do for the rest of the week – I suspect my mother won’t be game for going to morning exercises every single day – so if you have any ideas for things to do in Vienna, let me know!

 

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House Notes Goldilocks Tile

When last I left off with the story of the upstairs bathroom, I told you about how I tore it apart but the photos didn’t load. Sorry about that. Here’s what it looks like right now.

 

I wavered initially, but I’m definitely going to replace that blue tile. Here’s a closeup for you. It’s fine. But it’s very much of the same era as those frilly curtains AND I definitely have to extend the shower backsplash up the wall now that it’s a true shower and not just a bathtub with a sprayer.

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The problem is, I have a specific idea in my head that…is proving problematic to get in reality.

Or maybe more accurately I found it in reality but it’s expensive and with a high minimum order (3x what I need). I’m not quite ready to spend $500 on just tile.

Glossy Cobalt Mini Herringbone Glazed Porcelain Mosaic

It’s awfully bold but I love it.

So, commence searching and ordering near-endless samples of other tile.

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Color was okay, not great, and the pattern was not as much fun as I thought it would be.

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Ugh, boring as hell. Not nearly as deep a color as it appeared in the photos.

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This is…fine. Close. But not quite deep enough in person. And it’s the larger sized subway tile which is not quite the look I wanted.

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I had such high hopes for this one and the color is so awful. Well, I’m sure it’s actually trendy but it’s way too dark & gray for me.

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Here they all are together.

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We went to an actual tile store and I fell deeply, profoundly in love with this tile, but when we checked…it was $40sf and I honestly I forget what the minimum order was because my brain went all static. Still bummed about this one.

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So, this is the current best contender. It’s the larger sized subway tile, which I don’t like. It doesn’t come with the snubbed edges so we’d have to figure that out. And we’d have to lay it individually to get the herringbone pattern, which might not even work with the huge size of the tiles. If this one came in a 1×3 instead of a 3×6 I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

I’ve got some time yet before I have to decide, but…what would you do?