Sunday, June 30, 2013

Towards Healing

I've always been honest here, so I might as well say it. I can't do this anymore. I can't keep up with this situation, mentally, emotionally, or financially.

We still have no idea what caused the whole thing. I can point to some potentially aggravating factors, but no first cause, no reason for the situation, despite myself, my vet, my trainer, my farrier, and other experienced hose people pouring over it from all different angles.

Watching Cuna go through this process has been gut wrenching on a level I'm not sure I knew existed. The days before I hauled him to the vet, I tried not to think about whether or not he would even come home with me. I didn't really believe that he would.

His recovery has been slow. The vet said to expect it. He had a long ways to come back. I watched Cuna lose his topline, watched him turn back into a normal horse, watched him start to walk again. The process is the same every time I try it. He's better until he's not. He moves well until he's tired.  Then he gimps. Then he hurts.

I lunged him for a few minutes last week. He looked good, mostly. That nagging doubt keeps flitting in the back of my mind though. I saw how bad he was before. I can't emotionally put both of us through this whole thing again right now. I don't feel sure that he's better and I don't feel right putting him back to work without knowing that.

I can't keep putting my heart and soul into this situation and wonder if I'm hurting Cuna. My horse. The horse who's done absolutely everything I could ever dream of and more.

Next week, we're trying something new. He's going to go live in a pasture with some nice, mostly retired buddies. I'm going to take a step back and just let him relax. No lunging. No jogging. No riding. No pressure. Just being. Resting. Healing.

I'm not giving up. I'll still see him almost every day. He's still my Cuna Matata and I love him. I'll still work at the barn to stay engaged and I'm sure I'll be bumming rides off all my friends once I feel like getting back in the saddle again.

Maybe a break is the best thing for us. I can get my head on straight and he can come back to full strength, whatever that is going to mean for us going forward.

Monday, June 24, 2013

All the Things You Never Wanted to Know

Thanks to Sarah, Speedy G, Niamh, Erica, and Dragon for the Liebster nomination. That would be a pretty intense list of question to answer, so I've abridged the award format and decided to stick with 11 random facts and then cherry pick my favorite 11 questions.

Eleven Random facts about me:
the pinkest pig
1) When I was very little, my favorite animal was pigs. One very traumatic day, I got a book about pigs from the library and discovered that not all pigs were pink. End interest.

2) I firmly believe that if BBQ was the first kind of food that man invented, we wouldn't have progressed any farther in the culinary department. That would have been sad, because I do love pizza.

this looks amazing
3) If it were possible for me to sit around and eat dark chocolate covered toffee and never leave the house again, that would be ok.

4) I would also do that with dark chocolate covered pomegranates.

5) I love the smell of movie theater popcorn, but I hate actually eating it. Hot air popper with copious amounts of butter and salt is the only way.

6) I rarely smell movie theater popcorn because I really don't ever go to movies.

7) Aside from intensely fattening foods, I really like books. There is actually more space at my house devoted to book storage than tack storage, and you know how much I like tack.

8) My favorite genres are Victorian gothic and almost anything Russian. Austen, Dostoyevsky, Bronte(s), Tolstoy, Hardy, and Solzhenitsyn are accorded minor deities in my library.

9) I got married very young and don't regret it for a second. That said, I always advise my friends to wait. It isn't for everyone.

10) I'm really good at sleeping, but I almost never sleep in.

11) I've only run 4 times this year.

Answering questions:
1) Where is one place you wouldn't want to visit?
Jail. Specifically prison. I have this weird phobia that every time I interact with the law, I'm headed to prison. Irrational, annoying, unlikely.

2) Do you prefer "fancy" breeches, or just plain jane?
I prefer tan knee patch beeches with enough substance to make my ass look less horrible. Not sure how fancy that is. 

3) You've just won the lottery. Would you quit your job?
Hm. How much did I win? For multi millions, yes, absolutely. For a thousand bucks, no.

4) What's your biggest fear as a rider? *I feel like I don't trust people who say "nothing".
 Thanks to the Cunafish, I don't have a specific fear that just eats at me. I absolutely refuse to ride horses that rear or bolt uncontrollably, if that counts.

Possibly the most badass thing ever done
5) Who's your favorite rider and why?
Andrew Nicholson. It used to be William Fox Pitt, but this picture/XC ride made me reconsider.

They're both amazing, but... yeah.

6) What is one thing about your horse you wish you could change?
He'd be sound and maybe a bit younger. If I had to pick just one, it'd be sound. 

practically a rockstar
7) If you could ride any well known horse who would it be and why?
Cuna. <3 He's famous on the internet, you know.

8) Quick, you're trapped on a desert island, what three things do you bring?
Hubby, Cuna, Kindle. Also my dogs. Maybe I'd finally talk Cuna into bareback riding, since I apparently had to leave the saddle at home.

9) Ebay, Craigslist, or Tack shop?
Facebook, then ebay. I do love tack shops too. I have no luck on craigslist in my part of the world. 

10) If you had an unlimited budget, what type of car or truck would you buy?
If I had an unlimited budget, I would buy one of each. A honda element for every day crap transporting purposes (and hosing out the interior) and a giant Ford F450 dually superduty something with heated seats to haul whatever trailer I was in the mood for. 

Polished and professional
11) You're running late for your start time for your dressage test.  What do you most likely forget?
Coat, collar, braids. I'd already know my test.

I honestly think that everyone else has already done this... If I'm on your blog and notice that you haven't, I will tag you. Deal? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Filling Up Time and Space

I'm still here, Cuna is still healing. It's a long, slow, long, did I mention long? process.

I have this massive reserve of nervous energy that I'd normally spend on riding, obsessing over Cuna, and buying him stuff. Given that I can't do the first, the second is making me crazy and the third got too expensive, I'm now driving my husband completely crazy. Maybe my friends too? They're just too polite to say so.

Anyways. I have been doing reorganization projects all around the house. The only interesting one is this: the horse corner.

In my garage, I keep a saddle rack, bridle bag, and some boxes of stuff. It's sort of been creeping and sprawling it's way across the garage the past year, so I decided some containment work was in order. First I went through all the stuff that was out there to determine what needed to be done. I've been pretty good about purging things I don't need, so there wasn't a lot to send to consignment.

Helpful beagle not included
Here's my best shot at a before picture:

I'd already pulled like 5 messy cardboad boxes out to go through and moved a giant stack of saddle pads on top of my trunk.

After tallying up what needed to be taken care of, I marched off to Walmart and purchased 4 large rubbermaid containers.

So many saddle pads
The largest one was for saddle pads. They are all washed and clean, but now they can stay that way until I get around to needing them again.

Note adorable snowflake polos

Next I organized my polos. All freshly laundered, all neatly rolled, all in a clear rubbermaid that allows me to keep tabs on them.

Cuna has quite an extensive polo collection. What can I say?

There is definitely room for more!
Then the boot box. It was a little less exciting than I thought it would be. My large collection of boots is both pared down and not expanding, due to Cuna's only wearing fleece or tfoam boots and those being quite expensive.

All the pretties

Slightly more exciting then a box full of boots is this: the BIT BOX. Oh, I do love bits. 

As long as I had them all out, I went ahead and inventoried them on (of course) a google document. Now in addition to having them organized and together, I have a simple way to keep track of what's there so I don't buy duplicates. You wouldn't think that's a big deal, but I had several bits I'd forgotten about already. Very fun. 

Finally, I made the "misc grooming" box. In it are quilts and wraps, a tail bag, braiding supplies, and spare bathing stuff like showsheen and shampoo. 

Winter blankets are getting sent out to be cleaned, but shipping boots, coolers, and sheets have taken up residence in my beloved and giant Stanley trunk. The blankets will join them shortly.

Much tidier
I put an old saddle pad down on the saddle rack to keep the undersides of the saddles nice, then stacked them up in covers. Noted: two of these saddles are moving on shortly. I only own two right now. Here's a more or less finished shot of the work.

Bye bye beautiful
The last step was to take all my strap goods inside from a thorough cleaning and then pack them away in the bridle bag.

I zipped it up and stepped back. All my awesome stuff is now dust free, organized, and safe from spiders.When I do get back to using it, everything will be clean and in order.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Hardest Part

Two summers ago, I missed the whole show season after my mare and I had a wreck on XC at our first clinic. It sucked and I spent more time on painkillers than I have in the rest of my life combined. I was antsy and full of nervous energy and bored stiff, but it was so much easier than this is.

I was the one hurting.

I had an end date.

I had a happy, healthy horse.

I had a goal.

Seems so long ago
Now? I can't even express in words how much it has sucked to watch Cuna going through this process. To see him in pain and know I can't help. To curtail everything he likes without being able to explain why. To watch my vivacious goofball reduced to gimping around his dry lot.

The bravest horse
There isn't an end in sight. There isn't a good explanation for what's going on. I understand bits of pieces of it, but the big picture doesn't make sense. I lay awake at night and obsess over it, but I can't change it and I can't fix it. I can't say I've fixed it and I don't know when he'll be back and at what capacity.

It's an emotional roller coaster, for sure.

Goodbye sexy dressage body
I talked to our vet again yesterday to see if he had any ideas to help us along this process. Cuna's diet got a few more changes. His layoff is even longer. I made an intensive chart tracking his progress, feed changes, management practices, and interaction with professionals.

I count little victories. My heart just melts when he whinnies at me for his breakfast in the morning. I have to laugh at his rigid adherence to his routine--he meets me at the gate when his 20 minutes of turnout are up and just about picks his front feet up for the hoof dressing.

I want to actively make things better for him. The hardest thing is just to watch him be uncomfortable and not be able to change anything for him.

Monday, June 10, 2013

At the Track

I've spent my entire horsey career hanging around the show world. Dressage, jumpers, eventers, the occasional arab or breed event. RedHeadLins works on the racetrack near me, and I thought it was high time I figure out that one strange bit of the horse world in which people appear to be able to make a living.

Quarter horse race
I came with a couple of friends the first night. We watched the horses in the paddock, then tried a couple of different positions to watch the races. The stands, the rail by the gate, the rail by the finish. All were fun. I've never spent time watching live racing before, and I was surprised by the intensity of the atmosphere, especially as the horses came galloping down to the finish. 

I don't bet money because I have the worst luck in the world, but some people seem to enjoy that sort of thing too. I figure if I'm going to blow $5, I'd just rather end up with a margarita. It's a known quantity.

One of the racehorses
Then RedHeadLins offered to show us around the backside. Omg. Yay! Off we went. We got to meet her string of horses in their stalls and watch them watch the races.

They were remarkably composed about the whole thing. For some reason, I thought they'd be more amped up, but they just munched on dinner and visited with us.

View from the backside
We also got to watch a race from the back side. It was pretty hilarious to hear the commentary the jockeys have going when they think no one can hear them. We tried our best to be non awkward and stay out of the way, but I loved being around the horses and seeing what it was like. It was also incredibly strange to not be working in the barn, but I'm sure I wouldn't have been any help.

We watched a horse get ready and went up to watch her race. It was pretty exciting, but she didn't end up winning.

After that, I managed to convince the cool track people that I could come out and watch the horses work in the morning later that week.Again, it was a really cool experience. I got to go in the stalls and help brush them to get ready. After watching some gleaming specimens go by on their way to work, I was determined that not a single spot of dust would be left on the horse I was with. After all, I'm a show groom. I can do this.

But he was clean!
I stood back to admire my work and my guide said, "You have to be faster. We need to keep them moving."


I picked up the pace, though I'm still nowhere near fast enough to blend in with the legit race people.

I also got out of the stalls and watched from the rail. There were quite a mix of people working. Some horses got ponied all the way to the track, while others walked on a loose rein. Gallop girls, exercise riders, jockeys, pony riders, and trainers were all around.

Headed out to work

Particularly impressive was the commentary that the experienced riders gave when they came back to the barn. They were so in tune with the horses that they would mention problem physical areas that they thought the horse might need help with.

After the horses worked, they were given a drink and put on the hot walker by experienced handlers. I was warned that some impressive antics happen there on occasion, so I steered clear. That day, the horses were more interested in making the walker stop and wait for them.

All in all, it was a super cool experience. I'm hoping to spend some more time there this summer and get to know the world a little bit. I have no desire to gallop baby racehorses, but I love the shedrow of gleaming horses and the power and speed of the track.

Can't wait to go back.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Be Positive

Things are going. Cuna was doing really, really well. He was to the point that I was thinking he'd come off the bute early and we might be in the saddle by this weekend.

Then he wasn't.

A little stiff, a little off. Then more stiff and definitely off. Still a thousand times better than pre-vet appointment, but not good. We made some diet/management changes. Today he is back to bilaterally uncomfortable, but not in pain and not noticeably more lame on one leg or the other.


It's actually an improvement over yesterday, which was not good. It's all an improvement over last week, which was horrific. I know it's horses and things happen and setbacks are to be expected, but when you're an abject overachiever who obsesses over details, it's hard to stomach.

I'm trying to be positive. He is better than he was. He's interested in life, expressive when grooming, and enjoying his turnout time. He can walk. He's bright and perky and calls to me in the morning. He's back to pretending to be a grumpy bastard all the time, which is hilarious.

In the interest of remaining positive, I got Cuna a new bridle (of course). I loved every detail, which usually means it will look shockingly bad on him. It came yesterday and Ellie took a couple of pictures on her phone of him wearing it today.

I wasn't sure at first, since it's pretty busy, but I think I kind of love it. It's a Mark Todd anatomical bridle with fancy stitching, a padded monocrown, fancy ass crank, removeable flash, and buckles everywhere.

Oh, and super flexible rubber reins with fancy raised fronts.

Given Cuna's cute markings, slightly dishy face, big brown eyes, and poofy forelock, he usually can't do busy.

This time, I think it works. It might be his look. I think I've finally found the compromise between the big padded things I love, and the refined look that suits his handsome face.

Plus obsessing over bridle fit (and how much I want to spend time conditioning and fiddling with the leather) is keeping me from obsessing over soundness.

He does look better. He is getting better. He will come back.

Those jumps aren't going to jump themselves.

Monday, June 3, 2013


It's hard to be humble when my horse is just so much cuter than all the other horses on the planet. Seriously.

He's doing great--he's more comfortable and happy and himself every day. The barn owners are no longer having fits about how horrible he looks. Instead, they comment on how fast he's come around and how funny he is.

Given that I feel like I can finally breathe again and that Ellie is still in town, we decided to go ahead with an impromptu photo shoot. We're not back to riding yet, so we had to explore what we could do with minimal prep and a cool new location.

Exploring his pasture

Doing turnout all by his onesies

Glamour shot

Hanging out


So cute we can't stand it

This is right before he pushed me off the fence

Liberty shots

I absolutely love how they came out. I really feel like Ellie captured the mood of our situation right now--I'm just grateful for every single day. The fact that Cuna is weight bearing on both front feet, that he walks around with his nose out like a camel, and that his glowing color is back, are all little victories that I relish.

He doesn't even look like the same horse we took to the vet anymore. I almost have my grumpy old man horse back.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Update Update!!!

I generally don't blog on the weekends a lot, just because I'm busy horsing around, but OMG, HOUSTON WE HAVE PROGRESS!!!

Yesterday, Cuna looked horrible. He was still in pain and he didn't eat because he felt bad. Of course I'd opted for feed through bute, because he's such a great eater in general. I stressed about it for about an hour, then called the closest person I knew who could give IV shots.

One dose of bute later, he started perking up. He cleaned up his hay and even nickered to the barn owner for more food. Phew. I started feeling better.

Enter today. I showed up at the barn to feed grain and he whinnied to me!!! So cute. He walked around his dry lot looking almost sound. His ears were pricked and he was finally interested in what was going on around him again.

I took advantage of the morning cool and quiet and let Cuna out in the pasture just behind his drylot. I knew his feet might get a little wet from dew, but I thought his dry lot was enough to let him dry out again. I also pulled his hind wraps off since he's finally actually moving. 

At first, he wasn't sure what to do. He stood by me. I walked to the fence.

He ambled around, head down as he sniffed and got the lay of the land.

Feels so good
I was a little concerned that he's go all "Classic Cuna" on me and stand by the gate while refusing to graze. After all, he wasn't leaving the dirt.

Not to worry! He dropped right down and rolled, the first time I've seen that behavior in weeks.

The shiny man!
Next he wandered around the pasture, checking things out while nibbling here and there. I snapped pictures madly. I can't even express how happy I am to see him moving and alert and acting like his old self again.

He reached the far end of the (quite large) pasture, then turned and softly cantered back. He wasn't racing or anxious or even very lame. He was just enjoying himself and his surroundings.

I think we can safely say the old man horse is on the mend.
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