Confessing to my sins

Literally. Just a list. I’ll say more later but I need to like… write this down to face up to my sins.

  • Used CWD Figure 8 Bridle
  • Invictus half pad (okay, ordered pre-pandemic though!)
  • Dy’on reins
  • Athleta sports bra
  • Albion dressage girth
  • Majyk Equipe space (ice) boots
  • Ego7 show shirt
  • Custom browband
  • Two custom bonnets
  • Grey Horse Candle Co. candles
  • Jo Malone candle
  • Nespresso pods
  • Lou & Grey sweatpants
  • M-61 Power Peels
  • $200 worth of lumber from Home Depot
  • 8 qts of paint from Sherwin Williams
  • 3 qts of paint from Benjamin Moore
  • Stop molding from Menards
  • A jigsaw
  • A new carpenter’s square
  • Drawer pulls
  • Cabinet knobs
  • Bathroom faucets
  • Towel hooks
  • A MINDD bra
  • Bathroom light fixture + bulbs
  • Towel ring + toilet paper holder
  • A fly sheet

I… think that’s everything? This is what happens when you lock me inside my house without my pony OKAY.

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Thoughts from the ED (from home)

I just finished this post and went back to proofread and realized it reads like a latter from war, which is depressing, but also they don’t get to go bra-less in war, so we’re WAY better off (besides all the obvious reasons). I thought about not posting it, but it’s my blog and these are my experiences and writing them down has been therapeutic…

Still here, still healthy, still alive (and thankful for all). Still working 7 days a week, with no real set hours (true story: this week someone asked me my work hours and all I could say was…. all of them?) except maybe when I’m asleep which ranges from 10pm to 2am. Great fun. I’m in a weird in-between area where I’m working from home, but also very much on the frontlines of this thing from a logistical and strategic point of view. I’m constantly on the phone with my physicians who are there, I’m coordinating clinical initiatives… It’s a strange place to be.

Breaking up my walls of text with random photos. Iggy, from my BO, on Monday.

My barn followed suit after my self-quarantine last week and shut down to everyone except essential staff. I did go out on Sunday morning (uh, I think it was Sunday?) and grab some tack that needed cleaning. To clean with all my abundant spare time I guess? Yeah, I don’t know either, but having a saddle sitting on my kitchen chair and a bridle on the table makes me HAPPY OKAY.

As much as this all just royally sucks, professionally it’s been a huge opportunity for me (and yes, I have a lot of guilt around that I’m dealing with). My skills are put to use every single day, I haven’t been this challenged in years and I love it – it’s the kind of work and thinking I thrive on. I keep the guilt at bay knowing it’s not as though I caused this and my output is directly affecting patient care and our physicians positively. (Doing some cool things around resource utilization planning, staffing quarantines and clinical predictive models to identify patients at high-risk of complications early.) The whole team is working equally as hard and we’re all planning our vacations come the end of this… mine is going to include a super long massage, just saying.

A local Girl Scout delivered cookies to my porch. AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, that kid.

My days are bookended with my scavenging my kitchen for something easy, edible and containing some nutritional value, showering and collapsing into bed. The weather has finally started to perk up some, so the windows are open and the fresh air has been a welcome addition to my day.

Finn the JRT likes to see what’s happening at work

Not much pony-related to relay – Iggy is living his grand old life, playing with his buddies in turnout (got a video of that yesterday), begging my BO for cookies and generally thinking he’s retired. That’s going to come as a rude awakening…

I ordered an Invictus half pad over a month ago and while Invictus was AMAZING to work with, DHL somehow… misplaced it for a month and then suddenly this showed up.

Spring season is all but canceled. Hopefully we’ll still get to have event camp in June and show this fall, but I’m not holding my breath or making plans for much right now. There’s a very real possibility we see a resurgence/second wave (feels wrong to talk about while we’re still in the first, right?) this fall and even if the public measures taken aren’t as extreme, work will be right back here all over again.

Not much more to report – Finn the JRT now thinks he eats dinner at 3:30pm because his sense of time is completely miswired, I have no idea what day of the week it is at any given moment, and I rotate through three pairs of the Best Sweatpants Ever. My fun for the weekend was mowing my lawn and my new hobby is letting the dog in and out 968234 times a day.

He did enjoy surveying his newly-mowed kingdom

Stay healthy, stay sane, wash your hands and hug your horse if you still can. More from the frontlines later…

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Auburn Eventing Online Auction

Many of y’all know I’m an Auburn alumna (and if you didn’t, I’m genuinely amazed because I’m about as obnoxious as they come). I didn’t ride while I was there, either NCAA or recreationally, and I definitely wasn’t eventing at the time, but it’s been really fun to see the Auburn Eventing team be so successful. (A team that didn’t exist when I was there!)

They currently have an online auction going until Friday, March 13th at 6PM CST. If you’re in the mid-atlantic/southeast, you don’t want to miss it – it’s chock full of lessons, schooling days, LRK3DE tickets, and gift cards for all kinds of things (bags of feed, farriers, coaching). Some things (like a schooling pass to Morven Park) don’t even have a single bid on them yet.

Unfortunately none of the lessons are close enough to me to take advantage of, but if you’re local enough, it’s a great chance to get a great deal and support a great time while you’re at it.

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Behind the name

While I’m hinted at the origin story behind the blog’s name before, I realized I never actually put it somewhere for people to understand. So, in a fit of boredom (omg -6 degrees is TOO COLD PEOPLE) I finally wrote something up. It’s under About, but can also be found here should you find yourself curious.

My lead rope was frozen into this piece of sculptural art this morning…

With that, here’s to hoping for a warmer weekend so I can actually like, ride my horse? He’s had his feet done, seen the vet (just routine), has a new saddle, made friends in turnout (would love to know why his friend Freddie thinks licking his muddy legs is fun?) and now it’s time to kick spring off. IEA is going to be here before we know it!

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Longest 10 Days

We’re 10 days into 2020 and it’s been… a year. Already. Could we just chill and have a drink here for a second and not jump headfirst off a cliff? Apparently not.

First things first, I came back from vacation to a box from Genny for Secret Santa! She knocked it out of the park too. The Charlie Mackey book I’ve wanted, a snuggly navy hat, an adorable keychain charm and the best smelling hand lotion (that mayyyy be already partially gone) – it’s like she knew everything that would make me happy and sent all of them.

But then the new year came and with it, brought a gross disgusting virus that laid me flat out for four days and had me hacking my lungs up. Lovely. Luckily, I recovered from that in time to go pick up the cabinets for the kitchen island I’m building – had a whole plan how I was going to prime and sand this weekend, lay out the island next week… Well.

In unloading said cabinets (yes, ALONE I KNOW IT WAS DUMB OKAY), I managed to get two of the three done. And then promptly dropped the third and caught my right middle finger between it and a metal pole. After cursing a lot, I went inside and watched it gradually grow larger and turn fun colors all night. But, I mean… it’s a finger, right? I was out of tape at home so I figured I’d just ask a nurse at work the next day to tape it.

Not so straightforward seeing as one of the docs I work with looked at it and went, “Uhhh you’re not taping that, you’re going to a hand specialist like.. tomorrow.”

Oh.

Sure enough, I can’t do ANYTHING STRAIGHTFORWARD.

Normal people break their foot – maybe an easy to fix bone, a toe, etc. I break my foot (circa 2016), I break a weird ass bone and end up in a boot for 5 months.

Normal people break a finger, they buddy tape, go about life. I break a finger, I end up in a massive splint contraption for 10 days before finding out if I need surgery to fix the fact that my finger is now crooked. Awesome.

Mix in we’re also working on a scar on my chin and that appointment happened Wednesday afternoon so I have a bruised face.

I am well on my way to being in pieces by February.

But at least my health insurance deductible might be hit by then?

(HAHA I haven’t even mentioned the bunny I found and how I fostered a damn RABBIT with a Jack Russell in the house…)

GO HOME 2020 YOU ARE A MEAN DRUNK

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Ice, ice baby – or not?

I was recently lamenting to a non-horsey friend about trying to find a pair of ice boots I liked that wouldn’t break the bank. They inquired more about what we used them for and how – and then proceeded to turn my world upside down. I’ve been a loyal ice-er for years of my horses (and self) – not after every ride, but certainly after a XC school, on any soreness, at a HT or a tough jump lesson. It’s good horsemanship, right?

Until she told me I might still be stuck in the 90s and… totally wrong? Apparently the most recent research is showing ice may not be the most beneficial thing for recovery. Think I’m crazy? Me too.

©Megan Allen

Because I’m good at writing about shoes, horses and spending money, but not great at science, I just straight up brought some quotes in to do the talking.

“The rationale behind recovery ice packs, baths and cold tubs goes something like this: the cold stimulates your sympathetic nerve fibers, which react by signaling blood vessels in the area to constrict and send blood back to your core to protect your vital organs. This rush of blood away from the extremities reduces blood flow to the areas you’re icing and slows the metabolic processes in these regions, including the inflammatory response, and thus reduces any swelling that might otherwise happen. The pressure of the water may also provide some compression against your muscles and blood vessels, which could also slow swelling and inflammation. Finally, icing relieves pain by numbing sore areas, at least temporarily… There’s no question that icing can reduce pain, at least temporarily, he told me, but it comes at a cost. “Anything that reduces your immune response will also delay muscle healing,” Mirkin says. “The message is that the cytokines of inflammation are blocked by icing — that’s been shown in several studies.”
Instead of promoting the process of healing and recovery, icing might actually impair it, he says.”

“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post

In other words – sure, ice will numb things, but for how long and at what cost to performance?

“Gary Reinl, a personal trainer and prominent icing skeptic who over the years has worked with professional athletic teams, elite military squads and coaches and trainers around the world, says the problem is that icing merely slows blood flow to the area, it doesn’t halt it indefinitely. Once the icing stops and the blood flow returns to normal, whatever process you were trying to hinder will proceed again. The swelling will continue and the inflammation will start. The only thing you did was delay things, he says.”

“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post

Well. Huh. So I decided not to take this at face value and to use my university journal access to dig myself. And… sure enough, that’s what I found.

“There was marginal evidence that ice plus exercise is most effective, after ankle sprain and postsurgery. There was little evidence to suggest that the addition of ice to compression had any significant effect, but this was restricted to treatment of hospital inpatients. Few studies assessed the effectiveness of ice on closed soft-tissue injury, and there was no evidence of an optimal mode or duration of treatment.” – The use of ice in the treatment of acute soft-tissue injury: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, American Journal of Sports Medicine

“The authors reported ice to be no more effective than rehabilitation only with regard to pain, swelling, and range of motion. Ice and compression seemed to be significantly more effective than ice alone in terms of decreasing pain. Additionally, ice, compression, and a placebo injection reduced pain more than a placebo injection alone. Lastly, in 8 studies, there seemed to be little difference in the effectiveness of ice and compression compared with compression alone. Only 2 of the 8 groups reported significant differences in favor of ice and compression.” – Does Cryotherapy Improve Outcomes With Soft Tissue Injury?, Journal of Athletic Training

“Cold packs were applied to exercised muscle for 15 minutes at 0, 3, 24, 48, and 72 hours after exercise. The exercise significantly elevated circulating creatine kinase-MB isoform (CK-MB) and myoglobin levels. Unexpectedly, greater elevations in circulating CK-MB and myoglobin above the control level were noted in the cooling trial during 48-72 hours of the post-exercise recovery period. Subjective fatigue feeling was greater at 72 hours after topical cooling compared with controls. Removal of the cold pack also led to a protracted rebound in muscle hemoglobin concentration compared with controls. Measures of interleukin (IL)-8, IL-10, IL-1β, and muscle strength during recovery were not influenced by cooling. A peak shift in IL-12p70 was noted during recovery with topical cooling. These data suggest that topical cooling, a commonly used clinical intervention, seems to not improve but rather delay recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.”Topical cooling (icing) delays recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

“Significant training effects were three times more frequent in the control than in the cold group, including increases in artery diameters in the control but not in the cold group. It is concluded that training-induced molecular and humoral adjustments, including muscle hyperthermia, are physiological, transient and essential for training effects (myofiber regeneration, muscle hypertrophy and improved blood supply). Cooling generally attenuates these temperature-dependent processes and, in particular, hyperthermia-induced HSP formation.” – Post-exercise leg and forearm flexor muscle cooling in humans attenuates endurance and resistance training effects on muscle performance and on circulatory adaptation, European Journal of Applied Physiology

Similarly, a 2015 study reported on two experiments looking at how cold water immersion influenced how muscles responded to a strength training program, and found that cold treatment reduced gains in muscle mass and strength and blunted the activation of key proteins in the skeletal muscle. The studies “challenge the notion that cold water immersion improves recovery after exercise,” the authors wrote.

“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post

So – definitely a conclusion saying more research is needed, but also not an insignificant amount of research saying that cold might be doing less good than we thought, or even hurting recovery?

Needless to say, this has my little brain spinning. Do I keep using ice? Stop using ice? Only compression? I haven’t come to a complete conclusion yet. Not to mention, a lot of these are talking about muscle recovery – a moot point in horses who have no muscle below the knee.

For now, I’m going to continue to ice after XC schooling and at horse trials, but maybe lay off after any general rides, even if they’re harder jump schools.

Thoughts?

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Event Camp 2019, Day One: Amateur Brain is Real

As soon as event camp was over this year, budget season started at work and free time became a concept of a past life, meaning actually doing more than talking to work friends about it until their eyes glazed over was not happening. But, it’s a Thursday afternoon, things are… creepy quiet around here and I’m taking full advantage.

Just like last year, camp was my favorite week of the year. Ponies and horse friends all for a week straight? Best summer camp ever.

An entirely unrelated photo of my mini donkey Sancho wearing a sombrero

Day 1 started with a dressage lesson with Sharon White and one other BN rider. I knew I wanted to work on transitions and our canter, because… well the struggle has been real this year. She had us warm up on our own to get a feel for the horses and then jumped right in, having me focus on keeping my hands in line to the bit and pushing Doc up and into the bridle. I took notes after my lesson and… have no idea where they ended up, of course.

We focused on getting him equally supple to both sides – using my inside rein forward and out instead of back while holding the outside rein and shoulder, getting him to bend around my leg. As we kept riding, she really focused in on the expectation that he should not take all my leg to keep going and he should respond to a “whisper” vs needing to shout. All things we’ve obviously heard (many times) before… but how easy is it to forget that I’m not his engine and don’t need to be “pedaling the bike” every step. By the end of the lesson, he was going as well as he ever has with me and it felt amazing.

The afternoon brought a stadium lesson with Tim Bourke. I loved riding with Tim last year, although apparently as he informed me this year, I “scared the shit out of him” when I casually revealed I’d broken my back and been on my horse for a week mid-lesson. Oops? I assured him I had no surprises to drop on him this year and off to work we went.

We started with a grid of trot poles – five if I remember correctly. Trotted through, then started building them up into jumps, eventually becoming a full grid of one strides. We had an outside line set for 6 we did in 5, 6 and 7 strides, focusing in on adjustability and eventually added a full course – grid to a single oxer, down the outside line in 7, back up the grid the other way, single vertical, rollback, outside line in 5 coming down – needless to say, the only way I remember that is because I texted it to someone that afternoon. I was also nearly dead when I finished, but talk about worth it when you hear Tim Bourke tell you that it was “nearly perfect” and the best stadium round he’s ever seen you ride. Um, air punch celebration much?

Also unrelated, but pretty

It definitely wasn’t perfect – I botched a distance coming into the grid spectacularly for instance, but when I said as much he brushed it off with a great lesson – things won’t always go right (in fact, never), so what makes it perfect was how you react to it and keep riding. Which, for one of the first times, I was able to on a stadium course.

And that’s a “nearly perfect” way to end Day 1.

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Underwater XC and the HT that wasn’t

Indiana is underwater – seriously, it feels like it has rained damn near every day for the last… month? Two months? Seventeen years? I don’t even know at this point, except I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doc grow gills and people kayaking to work.

This meant that our HT last weekend became a CT because the ground was way too wet to safely run XC. We were able to run a derby course on Saturday before the worst of the rain, so the weekend wasn’t without any xc jumps, but not quite what we were expecting.

Saturday’s derby course saw some of the same problems we had last month – namely, ducking out to the right. If you remember, we’ve had a left drift FOR-EV-ER so this “fun” trick is.. new. It was still a much better course than we had last month (in which the summary is I rode backwards to everything, my horse refused to help me and we hated each other by the end of the day). This time, I overbent him in a bending line that wasn’t as uh, bendy, as I walked it and then he opted to not go up the bank because my right leg was hanging uselessly, my crop was in my left hand and Doc will always take the option with less energy required.

Needless to say, I could have done without the XC jump penalties, but it’s always a learning process and this is what schooling shows are all about. Plus, it meant I had a great idea of what/how to ride the next day.

I’m not giving the next day’s HT it’s own post because honestly, I have 0 media and it ended up running as a CT.

Our dressage test honestly felt like one of our better ones, right up until the end (USEA BN B) – I was finishing my walk work and going back to trot LITERALLY AT C IN FRONT OF THE JUDGE when my left thigh got this awful cramp out of nowhere and I nearly came out of my skin and off my horse. Dressage, the sport of elegance. I managed to grit my teeth and ride through the last trot and centerline, but my left leg was essentially useless. Still, I figured, everything went pretty well until those last 3 movements.

Well, once again our dressage is our downfall. I’d like to say I wasn’t disappointed to see a 42 when I picked up my test… but I was. Our dressage feels so much better than it did last season, yet we can’t seem to put down a decent score in the sandbox. The highlight was our highest marks on the canter work we’ve ever had (7.5) which reflects the breakthrough I’ve had in the canter in the last month. (Also the reason I’m shopping for a dressage saddle HAH do you hear that sobbing it’s my bank account)

Yes, I am aware this is flagged backwards – it was set for the next day already

I had a few hours to kill before jumping so I watched some of the Training rides go before heading back out. Where, in the warm up, Doc decided that the crossrail and vertical were fine, but the oxer was way too much work and much easier to go around. Trainer C wasn’t at this show with me, I was working with K (who worked with us at the HT last fall) and she buckled me down. Swapped my crop for her longer jockey bat and told me to hold that rein and make him go over. No ifs, ands or buts. Sure enough, those two things had him cruising over the oxer and off to the ring we went.

Our dressage may have felt great, but not scored great, but our jumping round felt great, scored great and (apparently) looked great. Double clear and I can confidently say it was one of the best (if not the best) rounds I’ve ever ridden. It was a crazy course with two (tight) rollbacks, a two stride and the same bending line as the day before. Add to that a horse who was definitely making me ride for every jump and let’s just say the smile on my face at the end was pretty damn big.

So, maybe not a perfect weekend, but good enough that come Monday this week I sent in our entries to run our first recognized BN in July!

Oops?

And promptly went on a shopping spree, because duh.

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What is daylight?

Oh look, another blog post where I talk about all the riding I’m not doing. UGH. New job is fantastic/amazing/wonderful, but to say I got tossed into the deep end and told, “SWIM” would be an understatement. No easy going orientation week here, more like 10 hour days from Day 1 and a huge project to complete. My brain and body are in a minor state of shock going from casual everyday life to wake up at 5:30am, home at 6pm, bed by 9:30pm.

That to say, riding has not happened. Barn has not happened. Anything other than work, shower, food, sleep has not happened. My bedroom light bulb is out – haven’t replaced it. Wore two different earrings to work yesterday. Ate cereal for dinner on Wednesday. Ply the dog with peanut butter. This is now my life.

Add to that 6-8″ of snow expected tomorrow and highs all weekend in the low teens and I’m pretty much just done with all of it. I’m off Monday (YES SLEEP) but it’s supposed to be like, 10 degrees, no exaggeration.

Wake me up when January ends? Until then, I’ll be over here in sweaters, not seeing daylight and up to my ears in Excel PivotTables.

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Back home again in Indiana

Finally home again and not dying (thanks bronchitis, you were SUPER FUN) – so far, 2019 has consisted of taking down the pony Christmas tree, watching football and half-unpacking my suitcase. And complaining I should have stayed in Florida where it was warm and not raining. I did come home to a secret santa gift (hi Emma!) so update to come soon on that.

Unrelated photo of First Mate Finn over Christmas

I’ve been musing over goals for 2019, finally ready to have a normal, consistent year. I now have a horse I’ve been riding for a year and a half, a great supportive trainer, a new job (!!) to support said pony activities, an apartment I love and (knock on wood) no broken bones or lingering injuries. Can we just say, it’s about freaking time?!

In the interest of keeping it real around here, this about sums up 2018

2018 was uh, not, my year. To say the least. It had a few high points (event camp, new apartment, first BN) but it was definitely a low year. But I figure that means ’19 can only go up.

This feels like a good omen for the year

Keeping up here is definitely on the 2019 goals list, so stay tuned for things to come!

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