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Lesson Notes: Outside Flexion

I had a lesson this afternoon with the barn owner / main trainer, who I rarely ride with for lots of reasons – most of them schedule. But I’d been hoping to get a time with her before she heads to Florida and today worked out!

I clipped Tris just a little bit before the lesson, since he is fully fuzzy and it was 75 this afternoon, and crossed my fingers that it would not set him off. It did not! And he was hot and blowing enough that I was glad I did it.

Overall, I was really happy with how it went. Some things went well, some things I was able to fix, some things I can take away and chew on. Brief notes:

– we worked on counterflexion on the long sides as a way to keep him straight through his shoulders; flex a smidge to the outside and think of the inside rein as the rounding rein, then drive him forward through that momentary channel. Keep repeating that in tiny increments and think of building power and push through like climbing up a staircase, a little bit at a time.

– my posting mechanic is screwy lately. I am lagging a hair behind him, which is making me fall too far back in the saddle, putting me out of sync with him and catching him in the mouth just the tiniest bit – but enough to back him off when my leg his telling him to go

– we worked on sitting trot for a while without stirrups, which has become a very good way for me to access his hind legs and bring them up for better collection. He is verrrrrry heavy but we integrated some of the counterflexion from earlier and he started to get softer

– need to work on keeping my hands forward. Some more. Always. Sigh.

I have been slacking on the gym and can feel the difference in my posting mechanic especially, but I am in an ugly mental place about the gym. I want badly to go back, but doing so means a very early morning wake up call (the only time that fits my schedule) and worrying about COVID exposure. So…I have been working hard to integrate more exercise in all areas of my life, but it’s not enough. In short, stupid COVID.

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Joint Injections in a Cushings Horse

As readers will know, since I mention it more or less incessantly, Tristan has Cushings. He is also 26 years old and still in moderate work, which means that his body needed a little bit of extra help.

I’ve thought about joint injections many times in his past, and this summer was when all the stars finally aligned for them: I had the extra funds, he was struggling a little bit to truly sit in his hind end, and we have a team of vets who are very familiar with him and his way of going.

I want to be clear that he wasn’t obviously “off” or anything that I was dragging my feet on supporting him through. It was more like we wondered if his disinterest in really flexing deep through his hind end was some stiffness or discomfort, or a training issue.

Injecting steroids into a horse with Cushings is always a dicey thing. Cushings is a disease that greatly impacts the metabolism and many horses with Cushing’s are also exquisitely sensitive to steroids. Many are insulin resistant and prone to laminitis as well, and have to be carefully managed. Some people choose different joint therapies for their Cushings horses for that reason – whether non-steroidal injections or different treatments entirely. That’s totally a fine and smart choice for some situations! But as I’ll describe below, we felt comfortable going with traditional steroid joint injections.

There were a couple of factors working in my favor.

  • Tristan is not insulin resistant. Though it’s extremely common for Cushing’s horses to have IR as a comorbidity, Tristan does not – something we have verified through testing as well as observation. He is an air fern, but he does not pack on fat in the way that horses who struggle with their metabolism often do.
  • Tristan is not prone to laminitis or foot-soreness. Though we take great care to adjust him to grass, he has never shown even a tiny bit of heat in his hooves, indications of pain, or anything of that kind. In the past, when he has run high fevers, he has not shown any heat in his hooves (though we packed in ice just to be careful).
  • Tristan has been able to receive small doses of steroids in the past with no incident. Once or twice each summer we’ve had to resort to dexamethasone to control his hives, 10mg at a time, and he has shown no signs of intolerance to that.
  • Tristan is overall in very good health right now; he has no other stresses on his immune system except for some summer allergies. That is not always the case for him! But it is for this moment in time.
  • Finally, Tristan’s Cushings is well-controlled. He does not change presentation with seasons, he does not show any of the outward typical symptoms like hairiness, and his levels are consistently good. He tolerates Prascend, and is on the lowest possible dose of one pill a day.

With all of those background factors in mind, we also did a couple of extra things to be very sure it was okay.

  • We pulled blood for an ACTH test to make sure his levels were acceptable at the time we were injecting him. We did not want to depend on the test we’d done a little less than a year previously.
  • Each time he got injections, it was first thing in the morning and barn staff kept a very close eye on him through the day.
  • We worked closely with both of his vets – his regular vet and the lameness vet – leading up to the injection. Both of his vets know him very well at this point. His regular vet did his last round of shots a few weeks before the planned hock injections and gave him an overall clean bill of health, and his lameness vet watched him trot out, did a chiropractic adjustment, and was in the loop with our regular vet on everything leading up to the injections, including his near-perfect ACTH test.

On June 1, he had both hocks injected, and on September 7 he had both stifles injected. Both injections were without incident! In between them, he also had to get another dose of dexamethasone for his allergies, and he tolerated that extremely well too.

It was a lot of work and a lot of preparation, much more so than the average joint injection for a sport horse, but it was absolutely worth the time and planning to be sure. Part of the deal with managing a senior horse is the extra planning involved for just about everything – and honestly, it’s a privilege to be able to still do this for him, so I have no complaints.

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Reading Updates

I fell off the wagon of doing these monthly, but here, have a randomly timed reading update!

  • one book in French (0/1)
  • five books about horses (3/5)
  • five books about Vermont (4/5)
  • five books from the “to be read” pile (5/5)
  • one book of poetry (0/1)
  • one play (0/1)
  • five books by authors of color (12/5)
  • three books about museums (2/3)
  • five award nominees (Hugo, Nebula, Dragon, Pulitzer, etc.) (7/5)
  • two books about science (2/2)
  • three classics (0/3)
  • three books about organizing/politics (4/3)
  • three memoirs or biographies (2/3)

As a note, any category that’s crossed out no longer has accurate numbers. All of those categories have increased since I stopped counting.

I am working on three books right now that will cross out two of these categories. They’re just meaty and slow, but really good.

I had a couple of five star books in this last time period, but there’s one in particular I want to call out.

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Peterson was a revelation. I knew I liked her writing – I follow her Substack newsletter, and liked the original article on burnout when it appeared – but wow.

I admit, I went into this thinking it would be a bit cathartic, a bit “oh, yeah, obviously” and I’d get a couple of good thoughts from it, much like some of the political organizing/memoir books I’ve been reading this year.

I was wrong! I wanted to stop and re-read whole sections. I wanted to highlight and take notes in the margins, which I never do. I sometimes stopped and closed my eyes and just sat with a sentence.

I say all that from the fairly profoundly privileged position of someone who has a full-time job, owns a house, does not have kids, engages in an expensive hobby, and pursues many passion projects. So I don’t even have the financial and societal pressures that are experienced by many of the people in this book. It still spoke to me, very deeply.

I also did not expect it to read so much like a manifesto. It’s not just a litany of complaints; it’s a continued, firm argument that things do not have to be this way, that you cannot fix them personally by taking a weekend off now and again, and that we need to work together for profound societal and political change.

I finished reading this a few weeks ago, and typing this, I want to read it all over again.

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Horse Culture of 18th and 19th Century Virginia Zoom Talk

A coworker tipped me off to this talk, and I was able to watch it live this past Wednesday night. I thought it was really terrific – it’s a bit simplistic in some spots, but the historian is a horse person herself and she does a really good job of acknowledging and detailing the enslaved Black labor that made early Virginian horse culture work. It’s a really great way to spend an hour – grab a pile of tack to clean and tune in!

Here’s the link to the talk, hosted by the Wilton House Museum.

It’s good for 30 days, so will disappear on October 10, 2021.

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Possibly NSFW? Chafing!

Okay, well, I’m going to just put this out there.

I’ve actually had this topic on my mind for a little while now, but never could quite articulate it.

Maybe it’s also something you struggle with?

Here’s the short version: in the summer, whenever I shave above my knees, the next time I ride (no matter when), I get horrible chafing and skin breakouts.

exhibit A: thighs my peasant ancestors would be proud of; I mostly am too, because they let me do all sorts of things, but fuck do they also get in the way

The longer version: I mostly avoid shaving above my knees! I have spent my whole life sucking at conventional displays of femininity, why attempt it now? I don’t like to wear shorts anyway (I spend the summer in capris or jeans or long skirts), I don’t even own a bathing suit anymore, so I just…don’t.

But then sometimes I do. Because I want to wear something shorter, or think about buying a bathing suit. And WITHOUT FAIL, even if I have the sharpest razor, the most careful preparation, the best after-care, even if I follow every internet tip I can find, within 2-3 days, basically, the next time I ride, I get horrible, HORRIBLE chafing misery. The skin breaks out, it gets irritated, I am alternately in pain and unbelievably itchy, I regret every choice that led me to that moment.

It’s some combination of even the mild irritation of my skin + my substantial weightlifting/riding thighs + the snugness of breeches and my seat in the saddle + summertime sweat and funk. Sometimes the inside of my knees also gets it, but rarely as badly, and I just deal with it. (They are almost always patchy red and irritated, sometimes a little hive-y/bumpy from extra irritation, but only rarely as bad as my thighs.)

It can happen in the winter, but it doesn’t generally, and also, I care much less about shaving carefully in the winter because I wear three to five layers at all times. There’s also less sweat, and my winter breeches are usually fleece-lined and/or less snug. Etc.

I’m just sick of it. Obviously I’m not going to just stop riding, but I’d like to think about wearing shorter shorts, or a bathing suit, without feeling exhausted and miserable and even more like I totally suck at being a girl. (Which I already know I do, but I don’t like having it so obviously rubbed in, y’know?)

Does anyone else struggle with it? Have you figured it out, or have you just given up, or am I alone in my weird body stuff?

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Small Things Roundup

I am still plugging away, just haven’t felt much like writing.

Tris is now pretty firmly in a 3-4 days of work per week schedule. Usually one of those is a lesson and one is a light longe. I almost never work him two days in a row – mentally more than anything it’s not right for him.

He is pretty darn fit, and still quite sassy. If I ride in the outdoor arena I can count on at least one bucking fit or attempted bolt. Lately, I’ve gotten to a better place about responding to those by saying “okay, work for it, then” and making him use all that energy to really sit.

In good weight and pretty good muscle for his circumstances!

He got his hocks done in June, and I’ve scheduled his stifles for September 7. Both are in the nature of experiments and I will have more thoughts on them later. Overall, positive, but not transformational.

Our biggest challenge has been managing his allergies; he’s coming down off his second hives blowup of the summer. I hate them – not to deal with necessarily, but because it means we have to do a whole dance of dry lot turnout or stall rest, and then slowly figure out grass turnout again. He loves grass so much and it’s so hard to see how much he wants to go on pasture, but…sigh.

We have no show plans for the fall; just keep poking along at what we’re working on, learning things and keeping him fit and healthy and happy.

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House Post: Next Room!

It’s been a while, but we’re on to the next room!

I couldn’t find any before pictures – they’re around somewhere – but so far we’ve removed the top layer of wallpaper and the chair rail from the room off the kitchen. Which is sort of our second dining room / mud room / entry room. It’s poorly defined all around, unfortunately. Getting a better sense of its use will be part of this renovation.

I was able to save all of the chair rail. It’s really nice wood, maybe someone will want it! I’m going to list it for free locally.

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Boosting the Signal: Charlotte Merle-Smith’s Paralympics Bid

My barn owner / trainer is on her way to Germany with Charlotte Merle-Smith, the US Paralympic Dressage Team traveling reserve.

Charlotte is originally from Vermont, and we all know how I feel about Vermont and Vermonters. Not to mention amazing dressage riders who work hard in the face of incredible odds.

Charlotte’s Go Fund Me is fully funded, but she’s undertaking a huge journey to Germany and maybe on to Tokyo.

If you have a little extra to spare, could you consider donating?

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House Post: Porch Roof Updates

Honestly, between the 30% increase in material costs and the endless rain, we picked exactly the wrong moment to do this project, but…at least it’s getting done? Sigh.

Anyway, progress! In between rain.

First, the contractor pulled out the old fascia/trim to get a look at things and to match the trim (which is matched around the house and part of the original look).

Then it rained for a very long time and we had to wait for a stretch of 2-3 days without rain to do the next stage: removing the old roof.

Actually, turns out, removing three old roofs. Yeah. There were two other layers of roofing underneath that top standing seam metal roof. FFS. Another layer of stamped tin and another layer of verrrrrrry old asphalt shingles. So all of that went! Back down to the joists, and then starting over with proper new sheathing and proper underlayers.

The angle of this photo makes it look like the roof is flat; I promise, it has angle!

Then he ripped out more of the fascia part and sistered in better supports, because the whole roof was sagging a bit too much, yikes.

Some of the not great underneath.

Then it rained for five more days.

And as of today, we have some of the roofing back on! More next week with the hopefully final project.