Friday, June 26, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XXI

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

A customer called us a few weeks ago to complain that a truck driver had done some damage on her property--drove into a door (?!?) or something.  We asked her when it had happened.  "Oh, a few weeks ago."  Seriously?  Did she take any photos?  Of course not.  Did she say anything to the driver at the time?  "Um, maybe."  Did she call the trucking company to report it and start a claim?  No, she was calling us.  Now.  Weeks after the fact.  Ugh.  We told her she needed to report it to the trucking company.  While we're their customer, and will call them to give them a heads up, the person who received the damage is the one that need to provide any documentation or evidence, and the one to whom a check, if any, would be made out, so they have to work directly with the trucking company.  And apparently they're surprisingly easy to work with on these sorts of things.  Guess it happens all the time and they're used to it.  Heh.

Anyway, we told our customer service rep at the trucking company, and then forgot about it.  Today, the customer called again and was all pissy that she hadn't heard anything back.  Well, did you call the trucking company to report it?  You didn't?  Then how do you expect them to call you back?  Yeah, we told our customer service person, but that's not the same as the claims department, and we just kind of gave them the heads up that they'd be getting a call, not an official report, since WE DON'T HAVE THE FULL INFORMATION.  That's why we told YOU to call them.

Sheesh.  Told her again that she needs to report it.  Wonder how effective that'll be since it's now been a few months, and she apparently still has no photographic evidence.  I bet the driver "won't remember" it, either, at this point.  Ugh.

* * * * *

Update:  The customer never called the trucking company, and is likely never going to do business with US again, because she couldn't be bothered to properly report the claim, and that's somehow our fault.  Oh well.  Good riddance, I guess?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Arya Gets Shot ;-)

Don't be alarmed.  The title is punny.  :-)  We FINALLY got around to doing the "spring" shots.  It just never seemed like the right time to do them, between upcoming rides (endurance or group trail rides, and not wanting the horses to be swollen or sore for them) or whatever, but we finally decided to do it last night.

I've given my cats fluids and injections subcutaneously, but hadn't yet given any creature an intramuscular injection.  Luckily (for her and me) a horse is a much bigger target than a cat!

I showed up at Shar's and fetched Arya.  She walked away from me, as usual, then stopped a ways away, as usual, but luckily it happened to be right next to the fly mask she'd rubbed off.  Handy!  So I picked that up and set it aside for later.

I've read that there's less swelling and soreness at the injection site and in the surrounding body part if their muscles are warmed up before the injection then exercised a bit afterward, too, to help spread the stuff around.  So I lunged Arya a bit beforehand.  Shar said something about getting started, and I begged her to wait and let me watch.  The vet had demonstrated how to do it without actually DOING it, so I figured it'd be good to watch it actually being done before attempting my first one.

Shar did it--tap tap tap in the spot you're going to poke, then jab!  Then draw back the plunger to make sure there's no blood (which would indicate you're in a vein, which is a bad thing for pushing a vaccine into), then push the stuff in.  Easy peasy.

So I followed suit--tap tap tap, jab!  Flash hadn't reacted when Shar poked him, but Arya did NOT like it.  She kind of startled and took a bit of a step, but luckily not into me (broken rib!) or on my foot (sandals!).  Luckily, I'd anticipated something like that and wasn't still holding the syringe, so it just stayed there, hanging off her like a tranquilizer dart.  Heh.  So I stepped back to her, pulled back, no blood, and pushed the stuff in.  All done, easy peasy.  Whew!  I massaged the spot a little, but I'm pretty sure she'd long since forgiven me for that little poke (actually, it was a pretty big needle!).

Then I was going to lunge her to let the stuff vaccine work its way into her muscles, and Shar asked if I minded lunging Flash at the same time.  Huh.  I guess not.  They get along great, and they both know what they're doing.  It was in the round pen, so no ropes to tangle up.  When Shar let them both in and I had TWO horses moving around me in a circle, though, I felt like that guy that controls like six or eight horses bridleless and even rides them Roman style.  Ha!  At first they were one right behind the other, but by the time we'd done a few circles, they were directly opposite each other.  But when I signaled them to halt, they both did.  When I signaled them to come in toward me, only Arya did.  Heh, I'm not Flash's person, so why should he come to me?  But no one got hurt, so it's all good.  After the running in circles and getting poked, they got a nice little treat:

Doesn't get much better than that!

Sunriver Endurance Ride

The Sunriver Endurance Ride is not too far outside of Bend, so of course the plan was to go.  Originally, the plan was that I'd be doing LDs (limited distance--25 or 30 mile rides) by then, but I didn't feel like Arya and I were ready.  We hadn't been able to do much conditioning since then.  She'd probably survive it, but I wasn't sure I would, and we hadn't been working on balancing while trotting downhill or conditioning for trotting uphill, so yeah.  Plus this was a 30-mile ride, and I had the feeling that those five miles would make ALL the difference for our first ride of that length, so just not the right time to try it out.  So Arya and I entered the 15-mile Intro ride.  Same as before, you still do a vet check before and after like the "real" riders, but there's no mid-ride vet check, and you don't get anything on your record for completing.  But it costs much less to enter, so there's that.  :-)

Shar hasn't been feeling well lately, so she hasn't been doing much riding, either.  Plus she's decided to sell Goodwin and is in the market for another horse to eventually someday replace Flash when he retires, and a friend of hers had one she could try out, so she was going to bring him to the ride.  30 miles probably isn't the best way to try out a new-to-her horse, so she was going to ride the 15-mile intro ride as well.  And a friend of hers has been wanting to have a horse to ride at a ride sometime, so Shar offered Flash to HER, and a plan was set.  Four "teams"--me on Arya, Shar on Ammond, Marie on Flash, and Janelle on her horse whose name I didn't catch were all going to ride together in the intro.  Originally, Kirstin was going to join us, too, but she had other things come up and didn't make it.

Shar was planning to head out there Friday afternoon, so I took a half day off from work.  I originally planned to stay with her in the camper, but as I was packing stuff up Thursday night and thinking of all the stuff I'd need to remember to pack in the morning, I wondered why I was bothering for such a close ride (I googled it--26 minutes from my house to ride camp, barely longer than my daily commute!), so I texted Shar in the morning to ask if she mind if I bailed on the "camping" part and just slept at home.  :-)  However, I still planned to head up there Friday afternoon along with her.  After I got off work, I ran a couple errands, then went to Shar's house to help load up the heavy stuff (water jugs, entire hay bales), then left her to finish the last few things as well as her own packing, and went to my house.  I picked up my cold stuff (I'd already gathered the rest of what I would need, mostly from Shar's house) for that day (yay for not having to pack tomorrow's stuff too!), and the kiddo, and we headed up the hill.  I figured between driving faster than Shar and her having some stuff to finish and errands to run after I left, that I'd beat her to camp, and of course I did.  She gave me Janelle's number so I was able to text her and find out where she was parked, so I parked next to her but didn't unload my stuff yet, just in case.

While Nathan and I were sitting in the shade of Janelle's camper with her husband, Shar texted to say she'd left Fred Meyer.  Then she texted a few minutes later to say she just realized she'd forgotten the dog food she said she'd bring Janelle (who'd forgotten to pack theirs), and asked if she should turn around or if I could get it.  Well, it's a lot easier for me to drive my Camry down the hill than for her to turn her rig around and waste the gas, so I went and got it.  No biggie.  Passed her pretty close to town, actually, got the dog food, and got back while she was still getting the early stuff unloaded from her rig.  We set up the corral (thanks to help from Nathan and Janelle and her son), put the horses in it, and got their food and water set up.  Then we took a quick break for some food of our own, registered and vetted our horses, went back to the campsite for a bit, then headed to the ride meeting.  The original plan was for Shar to take a quick ride on the new-to-her horse, plus me to take a quick ride on Arya (hadn't been on her in nearly a week, since the clinic), but there wasn't time.  Oh well.  No new info at the ride meeting, so that was no big deal.  I announced a green bean party, but no one came right away, and apparently by the time a couple people came and checked, I was gone.  Oops!  But seriously, I wouldn't have wanted to be up super late anyway.  I went home at 9:00, so I wouldn't have wanted to stay a whole lot later.  Oh well.

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early (AGAIN--after getting up early both weekend days the weekend before!) got my cold drinks ready to go, and hit the road.  This time, I left Nathan home.  When I got there, we learned that Kirstin wasn't coming, and we'd been planning to delay our departure well past the actual start time to wait for her, so we no longer needed to kill time, so we decided to just tack up our ponies and go.  After a few tack adjustments and stuffing the bags to the gills with cold water and gatorade (and a few calories of pure sugar just to keep me going but not intended to be filling), we set off for the starting area.

Sure enough, no one else was starting with us, so that was exactly what we wanted.  Marie was already mounted, and as I went to get on, Janelle offered to hold Arya for me, and asked if I planned to put the bit in her mouth.  Um, yeah?  I already put her bridle on...  Apparently the buckle that holds the bit to the cheek strap came undone.  Yikes!  Glad it wasn't broken (unlikely with my synthetic tack, but you never know), and glad Janelle noticed it!  I fixed it and mounted up.  Shar and Janelle stayed on foot at first--they wanted to get out of sight of camp and have the ponies focused and walking calmly before they got on.  Janelle was riding a really green mare, and the horse Shar was riding was fine, but new to her and if his buddy (the mare Janelle was riding) was acting up, she figured she should just mirror Janelle as far as riding or walking.

Shortly after leaving camp, the trail made a turn and started up a hill.  Janelle and Shar didn't want to slog all the way up the hill on foot, so they mounted up.  But Janelle's horse was still acting up a bit, and she just wasn't comfortable.  Janelle thought that the strange horses (Arya and Flash) could be adding to it, so she and Shar decided to quit the ride for now, have Marie and me go on, and they would attempt a ride later on, just the two of them.  I felt so bad for them, having entered (and paid!) to ride the 15-mile ride, and now turning around literally FEET into the ride.  But I hoped they'd be able to have a nice ride together later on.  Marie and I continued on down the trail.

With it being just the two of us now, theoretically, we should be able to make better time.  We did some trotting, and Flash would just go faster and faster and faster, and Arya was actually moving out and keeping up with him really well.  But her going faster and faster was worrying to me in multiple ways.  Probably the least ACTUALLY problematic was that my thighs were clearly not in shape for this, and the extra beats per minute were really wearing me out.  It also just plain scared me.  Arya has NEVER bolted or run off out of control, but it still freak me out to go very fast.  That's just something time (and practice at doing it) will have to take care of.  The third potential concern is just that she's a young horse and her feet, bones, ligaments, and cardiovascular system need to work up to being fit, not that we were working SUPER hard, and the faster she goes, the harder it could potentially be on all of those areas.  But mostly it was the first two things in my head that had me hollering at Marie, "a little slower please!" and she'd bring Flash back to a slower trot.  Oh, and I do know that Shar feels that Flash's best, most efficient trot for his physiology isn't the fastest he can go, either.

So yeah, we trotted quite a bit there at the beginning, on some wide singletrack and then some more open dirt roads.  Arya was VERY concerned about Flash getting too far ahead of her, and would have preferred to have her nose tucked right under his tail.  I worked hard to keep her back from him a bit.  He doesn't mind, but it's not a good habit to have, plus if he stopped all of a sudden, or stumbled, she'd be in his lap and it could potentially be a huge mess.

We had a few people riding longer distances using our same loop pass us.  EVERY time someone passed us from behind, Arya acted like she was being goosed when the riders were still rather far behind us.  She does NOT like other horses sneaking up on her.  I really hope she gets over that with more exposure!  A couple times she threw in a quick canter stride and even kicked out (or crowhopped?) a bit, but luckily Flash was always in front of us to break her stride before she really got going, or we might've changed the "never bolted" situation.  Who knows.  She probably wouldn't have gone too much further even if he wasn't there.

At one point, we actually came upon some riders ahead of us on the trail.  That was unexpected, since we left so much later than everyone else, but between all our trotting and all their walking, plus their horses disliked being passed even more than Arya did, we caught up to them.  They pulled their horses WAY over, we walked calmly past them, then I asked whether they preferred us to walk or trot to get away.  For some horses, I think it goes better if you get it over with faster and are out of sight faster, so walking (or even cantering away) might be preferred by their riders.  They hold them back briefly, then it's out of sight, out of mind.  But some folks would prefer you walk away to keep their horses from freaking out, which is fine, too.  I think they actually ended up halting their horses entirely while we walked away, as they were out of sight behind us faster than I expected.

We came to the first set of water troughs, and neither Arya nor Flash were too interested in drinking, but I think Arya took a few sips.  There was a four-way intersection here (which made it such a good spot for water--kill two parts of the same loop!), but the trail marking folks did a GREAT job making sure people knew where to go (besides discussing it in the ride meeting and letting us know we should turn left from where we came in both times we saw it, there were paper plates with instructions, and flour on the trail, too).

Back down the trail a bit, we broke out of forest into a hillside clearing with a nice view.  We tried to take some pictures, but Flash was dancing around quite a bit, wanting to get down the trail.  But I managed to get a shot of Marie and of the view, and she managed to get a shot of me:

We continued on down the trail, and came to some downhill sections.  I commented to Marie that this was something I needed to work on with Arya, but she wasn't great at trotting down hill with me on her back, so asked if she minded walking them.  She said we'd make good riding buddies when she rides her horse, then, because she doesn't trot downhill well, either, so we proceeded to walk downhill for a while.  And a while longer.  And a while longer still.  It was pretty terrain, but we were both getting tired of all the downhills.

Then Marie pulled Flash to a stop and said she had to pee.  Well, isn't that good timing--so did I!  So we picked opposite sides of the trail and did our business.  I just held onto the rein (which I'd removed from the bit and clipped to her halter), and Arya started getting antsy to find MOAR FOOD and wandered off, tugging me off balance in the process.  Ugh.  But no harm done.  Marie re-mounted using a stump that she said crumbled under her (much less significant) weight, so I had to just mount from the ground.  I found the highest spot I could, but still pulled the saddle over quite a bit, but managed to straighten it out.  There were MORE downhills.  It was really pretty, and all the manzanita smelled good, but it was brushing against us (or at least against me and Arya, who are admittedly wider than most other horses and riders) quite a bit.  Here's the view I had most of the ride (though the scenery changed), since we stuck behind Marie and Flash most of the time:

Arya and Flash both tripped quite a bit.  I speculated it was a combination of the shadows (horses don't have the best depth perception since most of their field of vision is monocular rather than binocular) and the fact that the trail was SO dusty that the rocks sticking up were all the same color, plus some were probably buried in fine dust that appeared to have different terrain than was actually below the surface of the dust.  So yeah, there was a lot of tripping.  I kept telling Arya (not that she listens to me!) that she needed to watch where she was going on the trail, and not just keep her eyes on Flash's butt.  :-)

The trail was really pretty, and we kept our eyes open because we knew we were coming to the point where our 15-mile green loop took a huge shortcut to avoid doing the entire 30-mile pink loop we'd been following and would be rejoining after the shortcut.  Luckily we saw the ribbons and didn't have to backtrack at all.  :-)  The shortcut was very brief, then we rejoined the pink loop right at a water trough.  The horses drank a lot more at this trough than at the first one, and I popped a handful of Mike & Ikes to keep my blood sugar up, and we hit the trail again.  Finally, the trail was heading uphill after all the downhill we'd been doing.  Arya peters out fast, but I figured I should at least TRY trotting uphill as long as she could, then give her a walk break, then back to trotting, etc.  So we did that.  We slowed to a walk where it got really rutted and rocky, then back to a trot when it seemed safe.

Marie thinks we were walking, but I wonder if we were actually trotting at this point, but regardless, Arya tripped and tripped HARD.  She went down on her knees (and skidded her chin in the dust), and I came off.  My head, neck, and shoulders hit the ground first, my back kinda crumpled, then the rest of me flopped down.  It knocked the wind out of me a little bit, so I was gasping for a minute, getting dust and dirt in my mouth but luckily not lungs.  I evaluated myself and seemed relatively unhurt, though of course taking a tumble is never without short-term pains.  As I unfolded myself and stood up, I realized my chest hurt on the right side (not in the "oh no--chest pain!" sort of way--like my ribs).  I was pretty shaken up, but otherwise doing okay.  Marie suggested I walk for a bit to get the kinks out, and that seemed like a good idea.  I checked Arya over, too, and she didn't seem to have any scrapes or anything, though she was dirty (as was I!).

I was rather surprised at how quickly Marie dismounted and came to my aid--she must've done a flying dismount.  Apparently she saw the fall, too, because she heard Arya trip and looked back just in time.  Too bad she doesn't wear a GoPro so I could see video of it.

Oh, and I looked at what caused the trip after I got up and dusted myself off.  It was a large rock in the trail--about 2-3 feet wide and sticking up 2-3 inches from the ground.  Pretty hard to miss.  Sheesh, Arya!

I hand walked her for a quarter mile or so, but as the trail got steeper, I figured I'd rather ride than walk, though my chest was a bit sore.  I was a little nervous getting back on after a fall.  Marie reminded me that it wasn't Arya's FAULT--she hadn't tried to ditch me, but that actually wasn't super-comforting, because the nature of it being a total accident meant it also wasn't very preventable.  But I did hope that taking such a tumble would make her more aware of her feet.

Between my new aches and having seen the saddle slip so far last time I mounted from the ground, this time Marie held the opposite stirrup while I clambered aboard.  Mounting actually went fine, but when I bent over to put my right foot into the stirrup, it REALLY hurt my chest, so I asked her to do me the favor.  I said I may or may not be up for trotting, so let's just stick to a walk at first and play it by ear.

Shortly after I got back on, we saw the paper plate announcing the photographer ahead.  The sign was placed far enough that folks trotting at a pretty good clip would have enough time to spread themselves out and smile for the camera, so we had plenty of time to prepare.  I patted myself down to try and get the worst of the dust off and tried to suck in my ample tummy.  I neglected to realize, however, that my helmet and the add-on brim I have were also very dirty, so the purple and black appears rather beige in the photos:

Marie and Flash, me and Arya

Filthy and sore, but still happy

Arya knew we were headed home, so she was perfectly willing to walk quickly and lead the way.  (Up until this point, when she was in the lead, she'd walk for a bit, then figure that it was too scary, and slow WAY down to let Flash catch up and pass her so he'd be in the lead.)  But she was keeping a careful eye out for anything scary, like stumps and logs, especially those baked silver in the sun.  A squirrel darted right in front of us and she barely blinked, but a silver log snuck up from nowhere (i.e. had been there all along, of course), and she darted sideways.  Silly girl.  Her snaking her head back and forth, I didn't mind.  But the darting sideways really hurt my ribs, especially at the trot, so I asked Marie to always lead while trotting the rest of the day, though I didn't mind having Arya in the lead at the walk (and she walks faster than Flash, especially when headed home).

Speaking of trotting, all day I'd been working on my position based on the feedback I'd gotten from Celena at the clinic--keeping my feet "out in front of me" (actually just nicely under me instead of BEHIND me, but to me it feels like they're way out in front), a "slouch" in my back (again, it just feels that way, and looks from the outside as if you're sitting up straight), etc.  But when we started trotting after I'd fallen off, my body was WAY more crooked than normal (which is already crooked enough).  My right leg was trailing way behind, and I just couldn't muster up the core strength (or didn't want to, because PAIN) to get it back "in front."  When walking, I could hitch it forward, but not at the trot.  Then I also realized that because I was protecting my right rib cage area, I was slouching forward and twisting to the right, and I couldn't make myself ride straight without bracing somewhat, so I planted my right hand on the water bottle right in front of the saddle as a crutch to keeping that side more forward than it otherwise wanted to be.  I also completely forgot about switching up my diagonals every so often, which I'd been so diligent about doing before.  Yeah, I was kind of a mess.  But we were going, and doing okay, and there wasn't a TON of mileage left to go.

Finally, we arrived back at the water troughs at the four-way crossing.  Yay!  I wanted to dismount so I could kind of wash up a bit using my bandana.  OUCH!  It was probably a big mistake to get off, in retrospect, as riding hadn't hurt THAT much, but dismounting did.  First the twisting and bending to swing the leg over, then much worse was laying on my belly over the saddle and sliding down (my preferred method to dismount, since I kick both feet out of the stirrups well before landing so I don't risk her moving off while I still have one foot in the stirrup).  OUCH ouch ouch ouch ouch.  So as I washed my face, I decided that I was gonna walk for a little while, if not the whole way back.

I even jogged a bit on the downhills (not that it's much faster than a walk, honestly).  But as I went along, I realized I was wearing my helmet, so I took that off and strapped it to the saddle.  Then I realized it'd be kinder to Arya to take her bridle off, so I hung that from the saddle as well.  Then I realized she might appreciate a looser girth, so I did that as well.  Then I realized that now that I'd done all that, and since it was probably only three miles or so back to camp, I might as well just walk the rest of the way rather than get her all situated to ride again and have to dismount again.  So I told Marie that was my plan, and said she was welcome to ditch me and head back to camp on her own.  She demurred, but I said it really was fine.

She walked along with me a while longer, but when I again told her I really was fine if she left, she decided to go ahead and do that.  So she mounted back up and trotted off, and Arya and I were alone.  This was on a long straight section of road, so that was rather boring and scant on shade, but we took a few grazing/shade breaks (including another pee break which was another adventure--I need to start tying her well away from me while I pee), and it was fine.  The road turned and got nice and shady for a bit, and it was rather pleasant to just walk and enjoy spending time with my horse.

I worked on some "personal space" issues with her, especially necessary because she walked much nicer on my right side, which was also my bad side.  So I really didn't want her pushing into me (she's not incredibly rude about it, just wants to be close, but it's still not acceptable) or pulling on the rope (which I was holding with my right arm, which HURT when she pulled on it).  So I held the dressage whip in one hand and waved it or even tapped it on her chest if she got too far ahead of me, and I jabbed the point of my elbow into her shoulder if she got too close to me.  It worked fairly well, and she got the idea pretty quickly.  However, in the clinic, Celena was teaching us to teach our horses to have responsibility--show them what you expect, let them do the wrong thing, correct them and show them what you expect again, ad nauseum.  So I was working on having her on a slack rope and having her keep herself in the area I wanted her (outside my bubble, but not so far ahead or behind that she was pulling--shouldn't be too hard), but every time she'd make the mistake and I'd correct her, she'd act all contrite and get right back in the spot she should be, but then she'd just do it again and again and again and I got really really sick of it.  Eventually, I realized that if I just kept enough tension on the rope (holding it with my hand, and letting the weight of my hand hang from it, but not pulling on it), she actually kept herself in the right spot really well.  So much for responsibility, because I was much more interested in my personal comfort at this point.

We plodded along as the road turned, then went back into a LONG straight stretch without shade again.  I'd really been hoping we were nearing the end, but could see ribbons blowing in the breeze FAR ahead, plus knew we'd have to get back onto singletrack at some point to get back to camp.  I kind of lost a bunch of motivation seeing the road stretching out in front of me and started feeling pretty dejected.  I stopped OFTEN to rest in the shade, which didn't help our forward progress any.  I trudged slowly.  I took this photo of our shadows on the road.  The sun was nearly overhead, which made Arya's shadow look funny.  Her ears were shorter and her head was entirely undefined:

Finally, FINALLY, we came to a turn onto singletrack.  Yay!  Maybe we're nearly back to camp!  Then we came to a set of water troughs.  This was a big "yay!" at first, as I soaked my shirt and bandana and cooled off quite a bit, which felt so good.  But it was also a huge disappointment, realizing that they don't put water troughs super close to camp, since there's water IN camp, so we had to still be at least a mile away.  Ugh.  As I trudged away from the water, the going got a little tougher, because while the singletrack was shadier, it had DEEP dust and was much harder to walk on than the hard-packed road had been.

I had originally told myself that even if it was five miles back to camp, no biggie, as I regularly hike/jog that distance, but I was really frustrated with how much harder it is to "wog" with a horse tagging along.  If she'd stay a couple feet behind me (and I could trust her not to hit my foot with her hoof like she did at Paulina!), it might not be so bad, but she really wanted to be in my space.  And maybe she sensed I was hurt and thought I needed a cuddle, but yeah, not so helpful from a 1300 pound horse!  Plus I started having a bunch of negative thoughts.  I was having to micromanage Arya's position in order to stay comfortable, so apparently I wasn't a very good horsewoman and couldn't just get her to be "responsible."  My irrational frustration and unfairly nagging at Arya weighed on me, too--I'd get more pissed off than was probably warranted due to my own pain and frustration and end up taking it out on her, then feeling bad for it.  I started wondering whether this endurance thing was ever even going to happen--my original plans for the season had been to do one intro ride and then quickly move up to LDs, and now I was having a hard time even "completing" an intro ride.  I was doubting whether I should even be riding, as fat and out of shape as I am--maybe it was my fault she stumbled, and clearly being heavy doesn't make hitting the ground any easier.

And you know how when you have pain that's kind of bad, but not bad enough to outright cry, but it just nags at you enough that it eventually builds up and makes you frustrated and irritable and you eventually end up crying because of all the buildup rather than the acute pain itself?  Yeah.  I was at that point.  I started crying, and then the gasping breaths of crying hurt my ribs even more, and then I started having those doubting thoughts even more and I just sat down and had myself a really good cry along the trail, gasping and sobbing and probably making mud on my face.  Luckily, no one passed me during the worst of it.

Shar had warned me that I would cry and doubt myself during my first LD, but I wasn't prepared for it to happen during my second intro ride.  Though I guess it WAS a test of endurance, to continue on foot when in pain, though neither the riding nor the hiking were very long distances in and of themselves.  So yeah.  I guess I hit that wall.  We'll see if it happens on my first LD (well, the first LD I actually manage to go the distance in--I entered the LD at Still but only made it a few miles).

A few people did pass me while I was on foot.  Nearly all of them checked to make sure I was okay (as well as a runner who happened to be out there on the same trails, too), which was really nice of them.  One person made an off-handed comment about really needing to finish their ride that made me wonder whether they thought I was trying to hold them up, but whatever.  I'd just get as far off the trail as I could when folks came by.

One time, I was holding Arya off the trail because of a dad and his two kids on bikes up ahead.  I was headed uphill and they were coming downhill, and the son was gaining speed and the dad kept yelling at him to slow down.  Arya did spook a bit as he came whirring right by us, and kind of nudged my ribs a bit which didn't feel good, but luckily nothing worse happened.  The dad apologized profusely and said he'd have a talk with his kid about trail etiquette (horses have the right-of-way over all other users), which was awesome.  You do hear about bad situations on mixed-use trails, but every biker and runner and non-horse user we met that day (as well as all the endurance riders we passed and were passed by) were AWESOME, getting off the trail, talking to the horses (one guy said he was instructed to do that earlier in the day by some riders, and it really does help the horses to see a bicycle/rider/helmet combo as a human rather than some weird scary being), chatting about how our respective days were going, etc.  It was really great.

So after a good hard cry sitting on the side of the trail, I got up and trudged on.  It was uphill and really dusty loose footing, plus I was still blubbering occasionally and also pulling off into the shade when I could, so I was going SLOW.  Poor Arya has probably never walked so slow in her life.  She was actually being really good about staying in the spot she was supposed to, but she kept turning her head to look at me as if to say, "Really?  You can't walk any faster than this?"  I sympathized with her, saying "Yep, worst trail ride ever, eh?"

A couple ladies passed us, and I asked if they knew how much further it was.  They said a half mile.  This was both a huge relief (that it wasn't farther) and a huge disappointment (that it wasn't 50 yards).  Keep trudging.  Then I saw a sign that said it was a quarter mile back to the sno-park where ride camp was, but pointed in a different direction than where the ribbons went.  Uh oh.  Apparently the sign was pointing out the more direct route, so I REALLY wanted to go that way.  But between not being sure if it would dump out at the right spot in camp and therefore really save me any extra "mileage" anyway, and not being sure they wouldn't eventually send riders down the trail the way they expected us to come (we were going REALLY slowly, and were probably taking way longer than Marie would've estimated when she told them how long ago she left us), I decided to take the marked trail.  They were still a half hour or so from sending a rider our direction, but it was probably still the right choice.

Finally, we made it back to the junction where the final quarter mile or so of trail was the same quarter mile or so of trail that we'd started on.  I even jogged a tiny bit where it was downhill.  Arya knew we were back and really really really wanted to go faster and get back to camp, but I had to remind her that no, we were going slow.  Partly because I couldn't go any faster at that point, and partly as a matter of discipline and respecting my space while I was on foot.

We finally trudged into camp and were greeted by my riding buddy Marie as well as Shar and Janelle!  It was so good to see them right there at the finish line and vetting area!  I undid all her tack and Marie helped me get it off her and onto the ground (had to have tack off for the vet check).  I took her to the water trough, though we'd been going so slowly since the last one I didn't think she'd be TOO parched (and she wasn't).  Probably should've encouraged her to eat a little bit, but didn't really think of it.  Marie very kindly offered to trot her out for me (I'd done some jogging on the trail even though my ribs were sore, but not the peppy kind that you need to do for a trot-out), but I stuck with them both for the exam.  She got all As, except a B on gut sounds (which in my mind, a B isn't BAD, just means they're not as vigorously noisy as an A--she'd been grazing on and off for our entire hike, and pooping occasionally, so I wasn't worried in the slightest).  So we officially "completed" another intro ride (doesn't count in the actual ride records, but at least we vetted out as "fit to continue," and as long as the horse and rider both went the mileage, it doesn't matter how much is on foot vs. riding, so even if it had been a real ride, we would have been find on that aspect.

Marie walked her back to camp for me, while I tagged along, and Arya really wanted to get back to camp and was pulling her tricks on Marie, only worse--bumping into her and trying to pull ahead.  But Marie scolded her and all's well that ends well, so whatever.  We put her in the pen, and she immediately started chowing down on hay.  I probably should've given her some slop and a little bit of electrolytes, but I wasn't really thinking straight.  Oops.

I changed out of my tennis shoes, which I'd been riding in, back into my sandals.  It was SO dusty, both at camp and on the singletrack trails, that I joked that there was more dirt than feet in my shoes, and I really wasn't that far off.  They're trail running shoes, meant to be well-ventilated, which is a problem in the super fine dust of Central Oregon.  There was so much dust around my toes that my toes felt like they were jammed into pointy shoes a couple sizes too small.  So changing into sandals was a relief, though of course my feet got filthy.  Honestly, though, they were filthy inside my shoes and socks, so at least they might as well be free to move, right?  Here's what they looked like AFTER I got home (so the AC had been blowing on them the whole drive home):

Yes, a couple friends and I got pedicures the night before heading up into the filth to ride our horses.  Ha!  Yet another reason to wear sandals instead of shoes, though, right?  To show off the toes!

We sat around near the finish line waiting for Janelle's son to come in from his 50-mile ride, chatting, horse-watching (more fun than people-watching, usually), etc.  We saw Celena finish her 80-mile ride and get a completion.  We thought she came in first place, but apparently she was second.  Regardless, great job and a fast time, and it was fun to be there to cheer for her.  Saw a palomino (excuse me, dunalino) whose breed we were debating amongst ourselves when I spotted a Mustang brand.  Ha!  Go, Mustangs!  Marie had to leave to drive back to Portland, and Janelle's son finished, so Shar and I headed back to camp to pack up.

I lamented the fact that I'd kind of promised to be the fetch-er and carry-er of heavy things since Shar hasn't been feeling well, and now I was in at least as bad of shape as she was.  Oops.  But as long as I lifted with my legs and didn't bend over very far, I was actually able to help carry the panels just fine (we just always had both of us carrying one panel together rather than ever using a 1:1 ratio), and even lifting the hay bales back into the trailer (a little lighter now, luckily) didn't go too badly.  We cleaned up the poop and hay, and were ready to go.

I swung by the house to grab Nathan, and we met up at the Mexican place in Tumalo to cap off our "weekend."  (Well, we were technically only halfway through the weekend, but it felt like and entire weekend's worth of exertion and filth!)

Sunday, I did exactly NOTHING.  I even had Nathan fetch and carry for me as much as possible--my thighs were really sore from riding (clearly I wasn't ready for 25 miles, let alone 30, if 10 riding plus 5 hiking made me that sore!), plus of course my ribs were really sore.  Breathing hurt, so that's pretty much a constant thing, but any sort of bending, twisting, or reaching just added to the pain.  At first, the pain wasn't acute enough to think it was broken, probably just sprained or bruised or whatever.  And it's not like I'll bother going to the doctor--the "cure" is exactly the same regardless whether it's broken or not--take it easy and take pain meds as necessary.  But in the past few days since the ride, I've felt the tell-tale "crunch" when I move a couple times, just as my tailbone has done ever since I broke it giving birth to a 9 1/2 pound child, so yeah, pretty sure it's actually broken.  Ugh.

In the immediate aftermath, riding wasn't impossible, just unbalanced, but the dismounting was DEFINITELY painful, so we'll see how soon I feel like riding.  Definitely giving Arya and myself a week or so to recover before even thinking about it.  She walked and trotted fine after tripping, and Shar hasn't reported her walking or trotting unevenly in the pasture, so I think she came out of it completely unscathed.  But you know what?  I'm pretty sure she WAS watching her step much more carefully after the tripping incident than she had been before it.

Anyway, we survived, but it did show that we're clearly not ready for an LD, and without much riding between now and Bandit, definitely won't be then.  There are two different days of intro rides, though, so I might make it a goal to ride both days, if I can get some riding in between now and then to get my thighs in better shape!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Clinic, Day 2

So Day 1 was a big success and I think we were all looking forward to Day 2.  I had to get up early for the second weekend day in a row, which I wasn't thrilled about, but I knew it'd be worth it.  I got my Starbucks and made it to the ranch a little before 8:00.  

We started with some stretching and exercising on the lawn again, then did some stuff with an exercise ball--Celena only had one, so we had to take turns, but it was actually really good to be able to watch the others do it.  First, she had us sit on it and get balanced.  Then she pressed on our shoulders gently to start us bouncing.  We weren't supposed to either resist or add to the bouncing, but just "ride" it.  After a few bounces to get the rhythm and feel the motion, she had us concentrate on "sitting the trot" by concentrating on the downward motion and trying to sink our weight into our "saddle," as many of us do when trying to sit the trot on a real horse.  (All of this was much harder on the ball than on an actual horse, by the way, because your balance is much different than in the saddle when your legs can hang all the way down.)

Then, she told us to concentrate on the "up" instead.  Have you seen the video online of a subway taken from the station platform?  The frames per second are just perfect so that if you concentrate, you can imagine the train either coming or going.  The power of the human brain is amazing.  When Celena told us to concentrate on the "up," we actually "rode" lighter and bounced higher.  Now granted, bouncing higher isn't necessarily a good thing when posting the trot, at least if you come down harder, but if you sit lighter, that IS a good thing, and it's just amazing to see the difference your thinking can have on your posture and even the physics of riding.

Then she had us "post" on the ball, for which we did have to generate the bounce ourselves, and that was HARD work.  But she wanted to be able to help us feel the correct position and the correct motion when she was able to be right next to us, and touch our legs to position them without having to jog alongside a trotting horse.  :-)

Then we transitioned into another GREAT exercise.  I think probably the one that, for me, was the biggest epiphany.  We paired off and were given a pair of reins (similar to a pair of pants or scissors, I'm pretty sure they're still a pair even if they're just one piece).  We took turns being horse and rider, and I started off as the rider, with Beverly as my "horse."  The reins were clipped together where they normally clip to the bit, and the "horse" held the clip ends of the reins in their hands.  Celena had the riders do various things while "halted," such as pick up the reins like we were chatting with friends, finished up, and decided to ride off.  The "horses" were surprised by how aggressive just taking up the contact like that could be.  She had us start with a very loose rein then slowly increase the contact and have the "horse" tell the "rider" when they could feel it.  We were all shocked by how loose the reins were when the "horse" still felt the contact.

Soon, we switched to walking around with our "horses."  Again, we were amazed at how little contact the "horse" could feel, and how jarring a normal halt cue felt to them.  We tried to see how gentle the cue could be and have the "horse" still feel it, and it was surprisingly subtle.  Then we tried turning.  First the way we normally would, then the way Celena had been teaching us, with the "hitch-hiker thumb."  The old way worked, but did feel abrupt to the "horse," and like you were jerking it around and telling it where it HAD to go.  When doing the opening rein method, you gently restrict the motion to the "wrong" side by holding that rein steady, and ALLOW the horse to move in the desired direction by removing the pressure from that side, so rather than pulling the horse around, you're encouraging it to head in the new direction, and again, it was amazing to hear feedback from the "horses" about the difference in cues and to see and feel how subtle the cues could be and still be effective.  We did a bit of "trotting," too, then switched.  Since I'd heard the feedback from my "horse" already, I probably wasn't as surprised by feeling the cues as a "horse" myself, but it was still so amazing to sense the differences that the horse must feel, especially since it has a bit in its mouth (or at least Arya does--some people ride with various other setups that don't involve a bit) instead of pliable reins in its hands as we did.  We finished up with an exercise where each person held one end of the same rein in each hand, and one partner closed their eyes.  The other partner "gave" and "took" the rein, and the goal of the person with their eyes closed was to maintain the same level of contact--not to pull back or allow to much slack, but just to maintain gentle tension.  It was harder than it looked, but all of these exercises gave us some really good perspective on what our horses might be feeling when we ride.

So, after all that "book" learnin' (no horses, anyway), we got our horses and headed down to the arena to work on more groundwork.  And if you're seeing the photo below and noticing that the arena doesn't appear to have any fences, you're right.  It's kind of like an infinity pool.  :-)  There's an above-the-arena retaining wall on one long side, with a pasture just above it.  A hot walker at one of the short ends at roughly the same grade as the arena, the "gate" at the other short end, at the same grade of course, along with the trail obstacles and some paddocks at that end, then the other long wall is a retaining wall, but the arena is the high side, and it drops down to a lower level and then an irrigation canal just below the arena.

Anyway, we worked a little more on ground-tying (aka "responsibility" while at the halt), and backing up, etc.  Then it came time to back through poles laid out in an L shape.  Actually, two nesting L shapes providing an L-shaped aisleway to back down.  I started Arya off easy, just backing straight out, not through the whole L.  Then added in the L.  Her poor feet were so confused.  She just doesn't seem to understand picking them UP to avoid the poles.  She plants her feet wherever she was originally going to plant them, they wobble, and she panics (mildly, but still).  She sometimes tries again, moving them a millimeter or two, but often just loses it and decides to back up or move forward quickly to get off of the offending "terrain."  So in the L, she would often end up backing straight out of it at the junction rather than turning around the L.  So I'd slow her WAY down, and try to get her to just calmly back up one step.  Stop.  Move the haunches or front legs if necessary.  Then back up.  She started getting the idea, and we eventually backed up all the way from the front to the back of an L without stepping on a pole.  Yay, us!

We had a mix of mares vs. geldings, but all the horses were BIG, and all but one were bays.  One lone palomino stood out.

After the backing through Ls, Celena asked who wanted to work on the trail obstacles and who wanted to work on "circling" (aka lunging).  The group was kind of split, so she just gave the obstacle people some pointers and gave hands-on help to the circling people.  I've worked on the circling exercises with her before in our smaller lessons, so I opted for the obstacles.  There was one that was a partial oval of tires, about the size and dimensions of a one-horse trailer, stacked on the ground, with barrels on top of the tires.  So the sides of this "trailer" went up to about the horse's eye level, though it didn't have a roof.  The ultimate goal is to back the horse in until its butt touches the far end.  But Celena warned us that that might not be possible in just one day and that we should take it slow.  Introduce the obstacle, let the horse go in head first, check out the surroundings, knock over a barrel or two, etc.  Slowly work up to backing in, and depending how the horse did with just backing in a few inches, maybe that would be it for the day.

So.  I took Arya over to the obstacle, and she snorted and blew and checked it out thoroughly, and I just let her.  No pressure.  Once she seemed comfortable with the funky smell of the tires and the tall barrels and so forth, I asked her to step in it (front first).  More heavy breathing.  Another step.  And so forth, till she was pretty much all the way in.  She was sniffing around the barrels, and one fell over.  Good!  Better now while she can see it and understand what just happened than if the first time one fell over was while she was backed in.  I put it back up, she kept checking stuff out until she seemed fully comfortable (having treats would have helped even more, but I didn't have any on me).  So then I parked her in front of the opening, perpendicular to it.  I backed her up and moved her forward a bit, until she was lined up with her butt near the opening.  I'd back her a step, move her front or back end as necessary to adjust the aim, then back her another step.  All the while letting her sniff and breathe and whatever she needed to do to be okay with this situation.  If she seemed to nervous at any time, I was ready to call it a day, but she always calmed right down in a few seconds whenever she did get nervous, which wasn't even every step.  So we kept backing up, until her butt was right up against the barrels.  Woo hoo!  What a GOOD, brave girl!  I hollered at Celena, but she was too busy teaching the folks in the arena, so she didn't hear/see.  Oh well.  I was SO proud of Arya.

So of course she got a break, and I headed into the arena.  I should've stayed in "break" mode, apparently.  But I got bored with just standing watching other people do circles, so I listened in on Celena's instructions, and I think she even came over to give me a quick tutorial, and we gave it a shot.  The idea is that when the horse is circling one direction and you want to switch directions, you slide the rope just so with one hand, and move toward the horse's hip to get it to move away from you, and the horse should turn around and head the other way.  Easy peasy.  Well, Arya didn't understand, probably because I wasn't doing it right, and I think she was also like, "How much are you going to ask of me today, woman?!?!"  And she basically said "screw you guys, I'm going 'home.'"  And turned tail toward me and kicked out, whether in defiance or frustration or just whatever.  One of her hind feet nailed me in the belly.  Rather hard.  Her other foot didn't hit me, thankfully.  And lucky for me, I'm fat.  Not just "overweight," but well and truly fat.  And she hit literally the fattest part of me.  So I quickly realized that I wasn't permanently injured, though I was in rather a lot of pain at the moment.  If I'd been skinnier, she could have broken my hip bone.  If she'd hit me in the head or shin or something, it could have easily meant a hospital trip.  But she hit me where I can most take it, though it did bruise rather spectacularly.  I'll spare you the photographic evidence.

So.  When I doubled over from the kick, I also let go of the rope.  Arya made a beeline for the "gate" but then stood there as if she didn't know what to do with herself now that she'd freed herself from my tyranny.  Ha!  Someone caught her, and Celena (after checking that I was okay, of course), asked if I minded if she worked with her a bit.  Um, duh!  Yes, please!  And put the fear of God (and me!) in her while you're at it.  So Celena asked us all if she should punish her for what she just did.  No, of course not.  It was much too late by this point.  But she did point out that she could push her limits again, and if she showed any signs of even THINKING about kicking out, she could make it clear it was a very bad idea.  So Celena got busy making Arya turn back and forth, back and forth, and sure enough, she got a bit pissy about it, and Celena made it really clear that that couldn't happen, and Arya seemed rather contrite and obeyed quite nicely the rest of the session, so I took her back up to the barn and put her away for lunch.

Lunch REALLY hit the spot after the stress.  Over lunch, everyone was picking Celena's brain about riding endurance, and when talk turned to taking care of the horses after and she said she was a big proponent of wrapping the horse's legs, people had a ton of questions.  So finally, Paige just went and fetched the supplies and even provided herself as the "horse" for the demonstration.  She even put that leg on tippie-toe to better simulate the horse's pastern and fetlock.  What a good sport!

Soon enough, it was time for the riding portion of the day, and this time my group was riding first.  I wasn't even sure I'd feel okay riding, since my big belly might hit the pommel of the saddle, but it was actually okay.  I probably wouldn't have wanted to go for miles, and I didn't do a TON of trotting, but it worked out.  We did similar stuff to the prior day, working on making our steering cues as subtle as we could by using our body more.  I honestly don't remember much about the specifics.  Heh.

Look at my awesome hitchiker thumb there!  And you can see the trail obstacles in the background.  [Photo by Karen Weiderman]

We were taking turns riding so Celena could watch one person at a time and give her feedback, and whenever I wasn't actively riding, I made sure to "park" Arya in the shade as it was HOT, and she's a dark color plus I needed to stay out of the sun as much as I could, too.  We were about done for our session when one of the attendees wanted to try cantering.  She hasn't cantered her horse much, and wanted Celena's feedback.  So I "parked" in the shade, and was turning as far as I could in one direction to watch, then turning back around when she passed behind me.  She was about done with the cantering and trying to slow her horse to a trot with just her seat cues.  I saw the horse break gait to a very bouncy canter, then snapped around, and the rider was on the ground.  Apparently she lost a stirrup, so that plus the bouncy trot just bounced her right off.  Reassuring to her to know the horse wasn't TRYING to ditch her, though, I think.  She got back on for a minute, but just wasn't feeling it, and I think the shake-up plus the heat were getting to her.  So I walked up to the barn with her and tried to keep an eye on her for a while.

At some point I realized I hadn't seen her in a while, so tried to track her down to check on her, and didn't see her in the barn or Celena's house (our home base for the weekend).  I looked down toward the arena, and sure enough, she was sitting down there (in the shade, though!), watching the other riders take their turns.  So I headed down there to do the same.  I don't have any photos of me riding, really, but got some of the other riders:

Working on a "light seat" while trotting over poles:


I think this was while doing a "twisty trot," twisting the upper body one direction on the "up" beat of the trot, then the other direction on the next up beat:

The original plan left the possibility of a trail ride open for Sunday night, but we were all pooped and hot and exhausted and tired, and did I mention POOPED, plus I'm sure the horses agreed, so we called it a night.  I took care of Arya's food and poop situation, and headed home.  Shar would fetch her in a day or two.

All in all a great weekend, though a couple of us had bruises to show for it.  But I think even those of us with bruises would agree it was worth it and would do it again.  Thanks, Celena!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Clinic, Day 1

So, I signed up for a riding clinic with the trainer I've taken a few lessons from.  Different clinics work differently, but this was basically lessons bumped up a few notches.  We met in the morning, discussed what we each wanted to work on throughout the weekend, then discussed the agenda.  We'd have some stretching and yoga-type exercise outside, then groundwork with the horses, then lunch, followed by riding.  We'd ride in two groups (there were five riders, so three and two in each group), with the non-riders observing and/or helping out while the others rode, then switch it up.  Then maybe an optional trail ride in the evening if we were up for it.  Same basic agenda Sunday as well.

We went outside to stretch and exercise on the front lawn.  It was shaping up to be a hot day, but at 9:00 a.m., the warm sun felt so good.  We worked quite a bit on relaxing body parts, first one at a time, then an entire leg, for example.  We twisted our torsos with our arms relaxed, whapping ourselves with our own hands.  :-)  After an hour or so of stretching, relaxing, and exercising, we all fetched our horses.

Celena talked first about responsibility.  On the horse's part.  This means that if you ask them to walk, and set a speed, they should continue walking that speed until you ask them to change the speed or gait.  Similarly, if you ask them to stand, they should stand until you ask them to move.  She said this absolutely did NOT mean fussing with them to stand still, as of course that would have the opposite effect.  Halt the horse, maybe give it a command, definitely show it that you mean for it to stay put with your body language and a jiggle of the rope, then drop the rope and move away, out of their space.  Then the hard part is you don't try to PREVENT them from moving.  You have to let them make the mistake, THEN correct it, or they won't have a clue what you're trying to accomplish.  So when they move, you get the rope back, put them back where they started, and give the cues to stand all over again.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  So of course we were all self-conscious about having our horses stand still the rest of the weekend.  Or maybe that was just me.  :-)

We worked on getting the horse to lower its head, back up, and back over a pole.  Theoretically.  Arya isn't good about picking her feet up high enough to clear a pole on the ground (not even up in the air!) while walking forward, so when I realized she just didn't care if her feet hit it going backwards, either, but was frustrated when she'd put a foot down and it was unstable.  So we just worked on backing her front feet over a pole, then forward over the pole, back and forth.  Others were backing their horses over multiple poles.  Oh well.

We started working a little bit on lateral work, just moving the hind end around, pivoting around the front end.  The poles were laid out in squares so you could use them as a guide (between the horse's front feet and back feet), but that stressed Arya out too much--when she'd get close to a pole, she was in a hurry to get over it and not paying attention to my cues anymore, so we moved away from any poles and just worked on moving her hindquarters around.

We took a break for lunch (delicious!  and especially hit the spot after working out in the hot sun), then broke into groups for the riding session.  I was in the second group to ride, so had plenty of time to kill while the riders fetched and saddled their horses, so I went down to check out the newest baby at Sabiq Arabian Ranch.  There's a pen with mama, a yearling (I assume mama's baby, but I'm not actually sure), and the newest baby.  The yearling was napping so hard she was snoring.

The baby was curious, but just like the prior night, mama kept shooing the baby away.  But I did get to snap a few photos, and even got to touch her muzzle a little bit once mama trusted me a bit more (I was petting the mama too).


Then mama and baby wandered away for a little nursing session in the shade...

For the riding session, Celena put us non-riders right to work.  She wanted the riders to be able to concentrate on their positions and relaxing their body and stuff right from the get go, so it was our job to hold the horse, first at a standstill, then leading it around, while Celena directed the riders on what to do.  They had their feet out of the stirrups, so we were just there to ensure the horses didn't take off or dodge sideways unexpectedly, and to keep them moving and steer them around each other so the riders could focus solely on the motion of the horse and their own body, and not where the horse was going or whether it would stop or take off.  So we walked probably a mile or so in the hot dusty arena before being released from our duties to watch from the corner of the arena.

The riding started off with just walking, focusing on position still now that they had the reins, and then on navigating some obstacles and using the "opening rein" technique--instead of pulling backwards (and probably toward the midline a bit) on the rein, which actually twists your body in the opposite direction you're trying to cue the horse to go, if you open your arm from your body like a swinging door, and if you hold your thumb up it looks like you're hitchiking, you cause your body to twist in the direction you're asking the horse to go, releasing pressure from the direction you want it to go, and it's much more pleasant and obvious for the horse.  It was amazing how weird it felt at first, but how effective it was.  We worked on soft halt cues and breathing into the walk cues, etc.  Very focused on breathing as well as positions of all one's various body parts.  Very intense riding, mentally if not physically, even at the walk.  Then they did some trotting.

Then it was time to tack up and switch off.  Riders put their horses away and came back to the arena to hold/walk our horses while we rode without stirrups and while focusing on relaxing, etc.  I asked Celena to evaluate my position, as the saddle hurts my hips so much, and she said my saddle was too small (for me, not Arya, but it's more like I'm too big, which I'm working on, and it's not easy to make the saddle any bigger, and it fits Arya, so I'm just gonna have to deal), but I also had my legs too far down and behind me.  She asked if the stirrups could be placed any further forward.  Well, yes, they can, but when I did that, it felt like a chair seat.

Quick visual example:

This is the ideal riding position--head, hips, and heels all lined up.  Knees go in front, of course, and torso might lean forward a bit at the faster gaits and for jumping, but the idea is that you're in balance, and if the horse disappeared all of a sudden, you'd hit the ground and remain standing because you're balanced.

This is a chair seat--see how the rider's feet are out in front of their body?  If the horse disappeared, the rider would fall over backwards.  It's also harder to post the trot, because you have to work harder to maintain the "stand" for a brief moment at top of the motion because your butt is still behind your leg instead of directly above your knee.

Celena encouraged me to give it a try, so while my very patient "helper" just stood around holding Arya, I worked on moving the stirrups.  It's not easy to do, as they're way up under some thick leather and hard to reach, let alone get enough leverage.  I was able to do the first one with the saddle on Arya, but then I had to take it off to get the other one done.  Finally got it adjusted, put the saddle back on, and mounted up.  Yup, REALLY felt like I was in a chair seat and my feet were too far forward.  Celena disagreed and even took a photo to show me my feet were directly under me.

Yeah, definitely need to lose weight, but my feet aren't nearly as far in front of me as it felt.  [Photo by Celena]

In fact, she said I needed to focus on keeping my feet out "in front" (as it feels to me) or they'd be too far back.  No bracing, but she wanted me to keep remembering to push them forward until it felt all wrong to me.  Great.  :-)

So then it was my turn to get led around without stirrups and stretching and relaxing while the horse moved under me.  I'd done similar work in the semi-private lessons with Celena before, so luckily it wasn't a big deal that I'd missed most of her instructions while working on the saddle.  Then it was our turn to ride, first at the walk then at the trot.  Like I said, it was amazing to realize how small of a cue the horse can feel and how effective you can be with your body movements, etc.  We actually got a really great lesson on that on Sunday morning, but that's getting ahead of myself.

Man, my horse is wide!  [Photo by Karen Weiderman]

  Yeah, my legs really are pretty far behind me, eh?  [Photo by Karen Weiderman]

After the ride, we gave the horses a quick water break, and the horses who'd just had a bit more of a break got saddled back up for our trail ride.  Both Celena and Paige (who attended the clinic as a rider but is also an employee or helper or whatever of Celena's so she had dual roles all weekend) rode bareback.  Woo for them, but not happening for me anytime soon!  We started up the hill I'd come down on Arya before--nice and steep.  Celena had us stop a couple times, and tweaked the order the horses were in, etc.  I took up the rear for the most part.  At the top of the hill, we all stopped for some talk about our positions, breathing, etc.  While we were standing there to listen to Celena, Arya peed.  This is HUGE.  :-)  She's never peed under saddle with me, even on our longest rides so far, and in fact doesn't pee while tied to the trailer or any other time when she's around me.  I've only seen her pee from afar in the pasture once.  It's not a huge problem that she hasn't, but had me mildly concerned that maybe she would hold it in longer than she should if she was worried about peeing under saddle or whatever.  So the fact that she did means I can worry less about that as our rides get longer, though of course it'll still be something in the back of my mind, as it should be.

From there, we headed toward the pasture with the stallion in it that got her all riled up the last two times we'd been here.  But first, the two dogs that were tagging along were play-fighting and made some of the horses nervous.  One in particular, who was in the front of the group, started dancing around, so the rider got off.  I could totally sympathize, as that was me the night before.  But so far, Arya was cool with the dogs (though we had a buffer of a few horses between us and them).  We proceeded onward, with one rider on foot and the rest of us still aboard.  As we got closer to the stallion, Arya got a little more antsy, and Celena kept reminding me to breathe and walking me through it as we went past.  The stallion was just ALL riled up, galloping back and forth and snorting and prancing.  The other horses were a little worked up, too, not just Arya.  Horses are herd animals, so if one is running, it could mean it's running from danger, so their instincts are to run, too.

We actually turned at a junction, and stayed alongside the pasture with the stallion, which I didn't love, but what can you do.  :-)  We stopped and stood for a minute, not far from the pasture, and the stallion kept running around.  Another horse had just about reached its limit, and that rider hopped off.  Then Paige hopped off the horse she was on, as bareback isn't a time to try to sit out too many shenanigans.  So now we had three riders on foot and three still on board.  Arya was doing pretty okay.  She wasn't thrilled about the stallion, but had come to accept that he was gonna run around like an idiot and she was just gonna have to walk/stand calmly.  She really REALLY didn't like that we proceeded to walk through a hay field that had recently been cut, and I didn't let her graze on ANY of it.  (She gets really snarky when I let her eat once or twice then prevent it later on in the ride, so as pissy as she gets when I don't let her eat at all, it's worth it.)  We worked on lots of serpentines, practicing the opening the door / hitchiker thumb.  Celena said she was pretty impressed with me riding through the nervousness earlier on, and working on distracting her (and myself) now.  I gotta say, I was pretty proud of myself and her, too.  We'd had a good day working together.

The other riders mounted up, and we all rode back to the ranch without further incident.  The other group apparently clocked four miles in the arena (more trotting, plus I was standing still while working on my saddle), and I clocked two.  Plus probably at least a mile of walking.  Then the trail ride was two miles.  So I rode a whole four miles, but it felt like much more.  Between the various exercises and such, I was tired and sore.

Celena had made dinner for us, so we enjoyed some delicious lasagna, delicious Caesar salad, and REALLY DELICIOUS cheesy garlic bread, followed by some super-delicious cheesecake.  I went home, stuffed, sunburnt, tired, and very happy.  Things went really really well for us, and I felt like I was really the leader and Arya was really tuned into me.  And of course I was looking forward to what the next day would bring...

Darlene and Max came over, as well as a couple "wows," including Chiquita Poquita.  [Photo by Karen Weiderman]

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XX

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

My boss is currently poring through our payables files.  I asked him why, and it's to find what rate we usually pay for a certain customer via a certain trucking company.  Because when he contacted them to reserve a truck, they asked HIM what the rate is.  Seems to me, we should be able to say it's a penny per mile.  If they want to question it, then clearly THEY have the ability to look it up.  So why should we have to?  Sheesh!

Oh, and then when two weeks passed after a load delivered and we still hadn't seen an invoice from them, I called, and after getting a runaround and an "I don't know" that seemed like she thought that should be the end of the conversation, I finally found out that our guy, the same one who asks US to tell him what he should charge us, never forwarded the rate to the billing department, and that's why they hadn't invoiced us.  Um, shouldn't you have a process in place to make sure you invoice your customers in a timely manner?

A different freight company also hadn't billed us a load from a few weeks ago.  When I called them, they said it was because the DRIVER hadn't given them the paperwork.  Um, you rely on the drivers to drive your billing process?  Bad idea!  I faxed them the paperwork I had to hopefully start the ball rolling.

But seriously, why should I have to be the one to prompt them to bill US?  (This isn't just the trucking companies, either--there was another company who still hadn't invoiced us for a packing slip I had from April, so I called to let them know they might want to send an invoice and we'd be happy to pay it.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

SAR, Day 1

So, Arya and I are all signed up for a weekend clinic with Celena, the trainer we've had a few lessons with (both with Shar and Flash and solo).  So Shar hauled Arya over there on Thursday, and the poor thing had to spend the night all alone in a round pen with no one to help her eat the hay.  ;-)  Actually, poor Emma was apparently beside herself when Shar returned with the empty trailer and Arya never emerged from it.  Wonder if she'll ever settle down before Arya gets back again.

Anyway, so Arya settled in with her food on Thursday, and I went to check on her, and I have to admit, just show up so she wouldn't think she'd been moved there without my permission or something.  I dunno, just wanted to show up that first day to reassure her.  Didn't ride Thursday.  But Friday, I get off work early, so more daylight, more time to ride and still get home at a reasonable hour, I decided to ride.  Celena was planning to ride that night, but a little harder core than Arya and I are ready for, so decided to go solo (unless anyone else wanted to join me, but no one did).

I tacked her up, and she was actually a little "dancier" than usual.  But usual is tying her to the trailer, and this time she was tied in the pen she'd called home for a little over 24 hours, though it was still a relatively "strange" place for her, so whatever.  Walked her down to the arena (down a small hill).  Celena had set up some trail obstacles ("car wash" of pool noodles dangling down over a "bridge" of railroad ties, plus a tarp to simulate a water crossing, also bounded by railroad ties; both obstacles also had pinwheels spinning in the breeze).  But first, there was a stray pool noodle on the ground, so I picked it up and batted it around her, whapping her on the body, legs, and eventually her face.  She barely batted an eye.  I asked her to step over it, and she did.  I asked her to step up onto the bridge with the pool noodles dangling over it, and she hesitated a bit, but then did.  And rushed right off of it again!  So we practiced a few more times, eventually stopping at various points along it until she was able to be nonchalant about it, including the pinwheels, which she minded far more than the noodles.

The next one, the square of railroad ties with a green tarp with swirling lines spray painted on it, PLUS with pinwheels and pool noodles in the corners, was MUCH more concerning.  She pawed at the railroad ties a few times, tentatively stepped in and back out, and eventually got both front feet in.  She got a break and some praise for that, then when she rushed out, I made her do it again and again until she could do it calmly.  This obstacle was right next to a pen with a mom and new-ish baby foal.  The foal came running up to check us out, and was totally cute, then the mom came over and made the baby get away from the scary human and weird big horse.  :-)

The third obstacle was just jump poles with one end (staggered as to which end, so they kind of formed an X if you looked at them from straight on near ground level) put up onto a barrel.  She's not scared of them at all, but not the most graceful, either--she just lets her legs bang into them.  Sheesh.

I took her into the arena, showed her the sprinkler (not on) and hoses while I was still on foot (no other "obstacles" in there this time), then led her to the wall to use it as a mounting block (arena is set into the side of a hill, so has retaining walls on both the uphill and downhill side--uphill side is handy for mounting).  Now, in retrospect, maybe I should've set us up for success by mounting near the "exit" of the arena, but I didn't realize she was THIS "gate" sour (no physical gate to this arena, just the area where we usually exit).

I put my left foot in the stirrup, and transferred my weight.  She started to move, so I just kept my weight over the saddle without swinging my right leg over.  She kept dancing around, and I kept trying to stop her with just one rein.  Eventually, I realized the saddle was slipping, so I had to drop out of the left stirrup before I was in a real pickle.  So I had to un-buckle the girth and re-buckle it again, then try again to get back on.  This time, I swung a leg over faster so she didn't have as much time to prance and dance, but she still walked off while I was mounting.  NAUGHTY girl.  So our first order of events for tonight's ride would be standing still.  I finally got her to stop, and she'd start moving again right away.  So it took a while, but eventually she stood still for like 30 seconds, so I grabbed a drink from the water bottle in my pommel pack, which caused my whip (which I'd put in the "cupholder") to drop to the ground.  Eh.  I wasn't going to get back off, so I'd have to come fetch it later and ride without it for now.  So anyway, I let her start wandering around.  She gravitated toward the "gate," so I steered her away (with some effort and much side-winding!).  We wandered around a bit, me trying to "show" her that the gate area wasn't so great, and wasn't this spot over here a nice spot to stand still?

Finally, when I figured she was thoroughly bored out of her skull, we left through the "gate" and headed for the trail.  I'd only been on this trail once before, during a lesson with Celena, and hadn't had the BEST experience.  At one point, the trail went alongside a pasture, which housed a stallion, who wanted to show off for the pretty lady (aka Arya), so he pranced and danced in the pasture, and Arya got all prancy and dancy on the trail, and I didn't love it but Celena talked me through it.  So we marched up the long hill, then along the flatter trail just fine.  As we got closer and closer to the pasture, I kept telling myself to breathe, but could tell I was tense.  I'd physically force myself to relax, then instantly be tense again.  Ugh.  So of course she got all antsy by the time we got near the pasture.  The horses in it today completely ignored us, but Arya's head, neck, and ears (and body) were on high alert anyway.  So I figured it was a good spot to turn around, and did so.  She actually wanted to keep going forward (rare for her--maybe she thought home was that way?  it's not!), so I made her stand still for a few seconds, then we set off in the direction I wanted to go (back the way we came).  She got antsier and antsier, though we were leaving the other horses behind (and headed toward plenty more).  She kept trying (and succeeded a couple times) to break into a trot.  She kept trying to turn around and continue heading OUT on our ride.  When I'd try stopping her with just one rein, she'd say "oh, you wanna pull one rein, eh?  fine--I'll just turn my butt all the way around and head back the way I wanted to go anyway" or swish her butt off the side of the trail (which had a steep dropoff).  If I held the reins too tightly, she tossed her head.  If I let them go looser, she'd start trotting.  She was just generally being a total butt.  Our last few solo rides, which were on completely familiar terrain, granted, her worst behavior has been going slow and occasionally spooking.  And calling for Emma...  So yeah, I hadn't had to deal with that sort of behavior in a while.

I dismounted, made her run a couple tight circles around me in each direction, then told her if she wanted to trot, we'd BOTH trot, but only as fast as I could jog.  :-)  I had to remind her a couple times where my "bubble" is, but after that she respected my space pretty well, alternating walking and trotting right along behind me.  I sped up a bit on a nice smooth downhill section, then we got to a steep rocky section, so we both needed to slow down.  But I didn't make it too easy on her--we periodically stopped and even backed up, while pointed downhill.  I snapped this photo of our audience during one of the backing sections:

When we came to the REALLY steep downhill section near her pen, I made her stop every step or two, but didn't make her back up.  But just because we ended up back at her pen, didn't mean we were done.  I had to go fetch that whip from the arena, right?  So we did another circuit through the obstacles, then wandered around the arena looking for my whip (purple blends surprising well with beige dirt) and helping a fellow rider look for her keys (luckily she found them--in her boot where she'd put them for safekeeping!).  All the while, Arya contritely followed me with a loose lead, maintaining slack but also maintaining my bubble.  Good girl!  I think I gained some respect!  But I was hot and tired and didn't want to test that theory, so we went back up to the barn, she got untacked and hosed off, then released into her pen to have a good roll.  I fed her, cleaned up her poop, chatted a while with one of the other clinic attendees (the lady who'd temporarily lost her keys), and eventually headed home.

Tomorrow and Sunday are going to be hot and TIRING, but hopefully very good for me, Arya, and our partnership.  I'll post on that eventually, but it might take me a while.  :-)

Here's a parting shot of Arya munching down her dinner.  Actually, Thursday's dinner, but whatever.