Thursday, May 29, 2008

Life will return to normal... life will return to normal... life will...

Update from my small corner of hell... which I realize IS still in the cooler suburbs thereof...
- Still haven't finished @#$% work project
- Mare still hasn't foaled

I'm scheduled to finish the project tomorrow. If the foal is born tomorrow night I've threatened to name it "Fucking Project Finally Done". Appropriate on oh so many levels.

The mare has wax. Her milk tastes sweet/rich. The test strips say "any minute now" (the good news) and have said the same thing for 3-4 days (the bad news).

It's not without its comforts. Here's a pic of my friend and me (I'm in the foreground) set up for a long night watching the mares.

These chairs ROCK (pun intended). They are very comfortable for extended periods of time. Guess how I know that?
We actually only hung out in the barn like this over the long weekend -- I do have a foalcam set up so I can watch from my room. It's been pointed at my mare but my friend's mare jumped ahead of mine in line and had her foal on Tuesday evening at a respectable and thoughtful 5:00 p.m. He is absolutely adorable, don't you think?

The baby lust deepens. Yet as I write this my mare is standing in the position she has made famous in the last couple of weeks. Why always the same spot? It must be a zen kind of thing. Exactly 2/3 of the way across her 12x24 stall, back to wall, head down in contemplation or evil glee at the torment.
Wait, now she is lying down. She wants me to drop what I'm doing and go check on her. The foalcam reception is not great and once already I've thought I saw her standing with a really awful medicine hat foal or a big goat, when in fact it was... oh, I don't know, glare or something. With that history, chances of me seeing a wee foot emerging from her and identifying it as such are pretty much non-existant. I am resisting heading out there, but may not be able to resist much longer.
Sleep is highly over-rated.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jane, stop this crazy thing

Wow I'm dating myself with THAT title/quote. Can you place it?

I'm hanging in there. The work crisis will be over on Friday, god willing. That's when I've promised to have the Horrible Large Thing finished. There are interim milestones all week, two of which are over (an internal meeting to review the Horrible Thing in process, and a presentation to the UK team). Presentation tomorrow to Latin America (no, not all of it) and then finalizing the Thing and getting it in the rear view mirror. Life ought to improve dramatically at that point.

Here's an indication of how distracted I am... I *just* realized yesterday that this is a three-day weekend coming up! I'm SOOOO excited. It'll be an excellent end to the hell.

It sure would be nice if I had a new baby horse to play with for some or all of the long weekend, but I have no idea if the mare will deign to cooperate. She had a few nights of wild pre-labor activity and now, nothing.

I've managed to snatch a few moments to enjoy the horses, in addition to providing the catering and maid service they've come to expect. Haven't ridden in, like, forever -- but these are not normal circumstances. I'll go back on plan when the work situation improves. It'd be very nice if foal watch was over by then too, but the work stuff is what's really killing me.

Hope y'all are doing well, seeing some spring/summer weather and having some horsy fun!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm lucky, really I am (most weeks)

It's time to write about how lucky I am, because I need a reminder.

Now of course we'd all like to be independently wealthy without the need to work for a living at all. You know, those lottery dreams. I am not THAT lucky. And job-wise I had kind of a rocky road for a while, after having worked 18 (that's EIGHTEEN) years for the same marketing company and getting into a golden-handcuff kind of a rut. That job moved me and my belongings AND horse from Massachusetts to Utah when they opened a small office there. I could've easily worked there till retirement. Then 9/11 occurred and cuts had to be made, among them the small Utah office.

I was in love with the West and didn't want to go "back home". So I took a job in Washington with the VLSC (very large software company). To their credit they too moved me, belongings and horse from Utah. But it was a bad fit, at least the job I landed in. After 14 months we parted ways.

I started freelancing with the company I had spent 18 years with, and I got involved with a project that ironically had the VLSC as a client. It was right up my alley -- loads of technical database marketing detail, the type that causes most people's eyes to roll back in their head. After a year (during which I acquired unhandled PMU horses and had no insurance), the VLSC moved this project from my old agency to a new one. The folks at the new agency faced all of the technical detail with more than the average amount of eye-rolling.

Suddenly I was desirable. I could do for new agency what I'd been doing for the old, making sense of the data morass. Thus I was able to get some "considerations" -- I did NOT have to move to San Francisco where new agency is headquartered. I did not, in fact, have to work in an office at all. I could work from home on the farm and have full benefits. I leapt.

And there I remain. I have no commute, which becomes more and more wonderful with each passing dollar per gallon. I have no work wardrobe (scary, really). I enjoy what I do and I'm valued for it.

And then there are weeks like this one. Sometimes there is more to be done than is humanly possible. My remoteness makes communication among peers difficult, especially so when I'm floundering under unattainable demands. I have some major gaps in understanding and information critical to what needs to be done NOW. So I have to remember that there are valleys to match the peaks, and I will surely get out from under this stress. And it's really just irony, not a vendetta against me, that landed this particular peak right in the midst of foalwatch.

No I haven't ridden or worked with any of my @#$% horses this week. I feel guilty and cranky and exhausted. I'm not sleeping well, even between the ringings of the alarm that tell me it's time to glance at the fat mare on the foalcam again. I don't need any more obstacles than I already have, because I am not good at overcoming obstacles.

But I AM lucky... aren't I? I guess I'm opening myself up to hear about those of you who drive four hours a day (uphill both ways) and STILL come home and ride 6-8 horses (and work out... and volunteer... and... blah). But I deserve it I suppose! Come on, shame me, LOL. Maybe that'll work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ginny, Day 3 -- catch-up blog!

I'm intending to ride Ginny this evening and I haven't written about our last ride yet. So before I get back into my Big Project for Work, I shall do so. Nice to see my priorities are straight.

Sunday went as so many Sundays do -- errands to run and things to do around the farm. And no great interest in cracking the whip and flying through the to-do list because, after all, it's SUNDAY. So it was probably 4-5 pm before we were back at the barn and ready to take a nap, er, NO! I mean RIDE!

I talked my friend into riding her young stallion (the Cute Spotted Stallion) first, because I use that time to do stretching exercises and let the Advil kick in. My friend incidentally had an awesome ride and trotted her boy for the first time (Ride 6 I think it was...). He is doing extremely well!

Ginny had been turned out all day on Saturday but still started her groundwork with a big squeal and toss of her long dramatic mane... so I let her run and buck for a little while. She's never been anything but cooperative and quiet (almost to a fault) under saddle but I don't see any reason to demand it of a wiggly young horse when a good run is all it takes.

A brief interruption for a picture of the Pony Princess.
No she did not win that ribbon. It was sent to me and her by a COTH friend. It will suffice until we have one of our own to display. Yes her bridle is pink, and yes there are little bitty jools adorning the bit ring. Hey, if you are nearly 50 and have a fat hony you call a princess, there are going to be props to go with it. I even have a little pink riding crop, but I can't find it. I think Ginny hid it.

Anyway, after the ya-ya was out of her system, I did a bit of groundwork and then mounted. She didn't stand as well as usual for mounting (remember she is being HELD so she shouldn't move at all, oh well) but I was able to lean over her and get my leg over when the opportunity arose.

Ouch. Very VERY stiff for this ride, and my knees were aching as soon as I got on. Only thing I can think of besides just random chance is that I was doing more upper body exercises during my pre-ride warm-up. I did that for a reason and it really did pan out, I'm happy to say! I'll just have to warm up LONGER so none of those pesky old body parts feel shunnnnned.

OK, so the big success. See, I've been having some directing issues with Ginny. My legs, especially at the beginning of a ride, are not really in a position to communicate with her. And she was trained with no real rein contact so I can't take up my usual rein length to direct her. So our path around the arena has been looking like a lot of overlapping pretzels. Between rides I remembered a good visualization from Centered Riding. Please be advised that this is not verbatim but my recollection of the exercise, and it's going to sound silly too. I have found it helpful in the past to pretend my boobs are headlights and I'm responsible for lighting the path I want the horse to take. As with the best/most effective of Sally Swift's imagery, just having that picture in my mind is all it took! Even with the wandering Ginny! No overt twisting or remembering to put this shoulder back and this one forward -- just light the path ahead of you. My friend saw the dramatic difference. We did serpentines and circles with, if not the "greatest of ease" at least a large measure of success and purpose.

I trotted her a little too, and I do mean a little (30 feet?). I am trying to get a post rhythm because I want to be kind and get off her back. However, at a trot she seems like a yacht on a quiet ocean... only the gentlest of rolling. I can NOT pick up posting without feeling like I'm the one doing the work. So next time I'll just try to sit lightly.

Next two mini-goals: a half hour or more in the saddle, and a walk around the property (yes, OUTDOORS!). Today it is pouring rain and chilly, so it will probably be the half hour ride. Let's see, it's 10:30 am... if I start stretching NOW... :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reflections on Week 1 -- and Ditto, Day 3

I'm back! Was anyone making any bets on me coming back? I hope your money was on my side!

So the first week of my new program has ended. I rode Ginny twice, worked Ditto twice. (I have now ridden Ginny again, which I shall chronicle forthwith, but to be fair "week one" started Sunday, 5/4 and thus ended yesterday, 5/10.) Not an overwheming amount of stuff accomplished, but name me another week in the last several years in which I've done even that much. Stumped, aren't you?

Here are my observations one week into this: Having a plan doesn't make it easy, nor does having a blog. EasiER, maybe. Waiting till everything is perfect will most assuredly result in no riding or training at all. And the nicest realization of all is that the best way to build or stretch riding muscles is... wait for it... TO RIDE. I don't feel great getting onto Ginny (tonight in fact I felt very stiff and sore) but I feel better afterwards and between rides. And that in turn makes it easier to get on again.

So the goal for week 2: at least 3 rides on Ginny, and at least 3 groundwork sessions with Ditto or his mother Imp.

Here are a couple of pictures of li'l Ditto that I took this afternoon.

I worked him yesterday (groundwork) in the arena. He was quite resistant to longeing with his oh-so-endearing trait of pulling back to leave the circle. I am still tired and perhaps shouldn't have attempted the session but I did, and I ended up prevailing. He worked in both directions on the circle with almost no hesitation before I called it a day.

I might go back to the round pen next time just because it seemed (last time) to cut off the resistance before it started. He's a smart pony. If backing and pulling and being a little shit are not likely to get him any results, he's not going to make the effort. And for now, to drill GOOD behavior, that might be the best thing.

Oooh, for the groundwork yesterday I fitted him up with my old Steuben Siegfried saddle. What an adorable picture THAT made... :)

Isn't he cute?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Excuses? I have a pile of 'em today!

That's the thing, I *always* have excuses, legitimate ones. I just saw a line I had to steal (giving credit to "heidi the hick") -- The desire to reach the goal has to be stronger than all the excuses.

I like that. May I please have it tattooed across my forehead, or dangled on a string in front of me like a carrot?

I am soooooo tired (wah wah wah). I am watching a maiden mare on a foalcam from my chairside/bedside, and setting my alarm so I roll over and take a look at it. Do you know what that does for the quality of rest? I'm sure all of you who have had foals know. And at least once a night she does something that requires me to get out of bed and trudge down to the barn to see what's going on. So far, nothing has been going on except the cramps and restlessness that indicate I have somewhere between 0-30 more days to wait. Argh.

In the midst of this we did have a birth, albeit an unexpected one. Here is the new daughter of Ima Llama. We had been told that Ima might be pregnant but if so she would be due in November. Guess what, it's not November!! Spent the day yesterday googling madly for baby llama (cria) facts and features. Ended up getting them into stalls after work yesterday with my friends' help, quite a feat because they are not halter broke or even particularly tame yet. We, um, thought we had time.

Anyway, yesterday escaped me with no riding or horse work. I have to work tomorrow night (Friday) so tonight ought to be a riding night. Did I mention how tired I am? Yes, I did. Oh and the farrier is coming out at 4 pm today. (I need a personal assistant, LOL.) I definitely need this mare to foal so I can get some more SLEEP. I'm dozing in my chair right now. I won't even mention work stress but suffice it to say that yes, there is plenty o' work stress. And oddly enough they don't think of unexpected newborn llamas or expected foals as valid excuses for not meeting deadlines. I shudder to think of what they'd say if I told them sorry, I want to ride more. But this is the lot we accepted when some dumb over-achiever said "I have an idea, let's work five days and have two off!" Why didn't someone tell him then what a dumb idea THAT was?

Besides the cria pic I wanted to share, I also wanted to mention that I have been in a good deal less pain than usual. Could it be that I stretched across Ginny's wideness more than once in the same week? Could that have been repetition enough to start a stretching/flexing TREND. Oh. my. god. I really was expecting more agony initially. And who knows I may still get it, but this is heartening.

Maybe I'll ride Ginny bareback tonight! That's always fun. And the fewer "clothes" she is wearing the narrower she is. Yeah, that sounds good! Memo to self, let the Pony Princess and SSG out for some R&R this afternoon!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ditto, Day 2

It's hard to know who should chronicle Ditto's second day of training, but since Cathy has blogs coming out of her ears, I'll take a stab at it. She of course can write whatever she wishes about the experience, though no one will think to look for it under Very Large Colt.

Ditto also had not been turned out for a couple of days, though he was out in the pasture with his buddies until very recently. We got him saddled up without much ado -- a couple of spooks that were largely unrelated to ANYTHING we could see, but minimal reaction to the actual tacking up.

Then he ran and ran. He is a speedy little dude. I can see him whipping through poles or around barrels, or even motoring through a cross-country course. (Yes, he does like to free-jump... he gets that from his mother.) Of course those are the things I know -- I'm not as familiar with what a hunter or jumper pony might look like as an unstarted baby!

Cathy collected him and did groundwork. He did some things very well: all of the exercises like sitting above him, leaning on him from the mounting block, pulling on the stirrups, etc. He did some things not so well -- he was a puke about longeing to the right! I have had all sorts of problems with his longeing (until the Day 1 exercise in the round pen) and have tentatively conquered them. But Cathy is going to have her own cues and fixes for his stubborn ponyness, so I just watched and smiled knowingly. Remember I've gone through this not only with him, but with his mother as well. He is SO like his mother.

He ended on a good note and is now munching away in his stall thinking about the return to working for a living. I think he'll be a good little pony. But we shall see very soon!

The Pony Princess, Day 2

Believe it or not I was stuck on how to number things -- Day 1 was easy but then I crapped out the next day so is today Day 2 or Day 3? Really not worth spending much time on. I've decided to number each ride sequentially so Day 2 for Ginny is her 2nd ride since the beginning of this master plan of mine.

Phew, glad to get that out of the way.

So I refired my determination and did ride Ginny today. I am expecting a mare to foal and must admit I've gotten lax about turnout for the other horses in the barn. I guess I'm thinking if Miss About-to-Deliver doesn't go out, ain't nobody going out. Or actually, I am overtired and not thinking at all. As a result, there was a bit more "spirit" to Ginny today than usual. I started out doing groundwork with her in the arena but she was making funny little "I'm going to explode" squeals as she trotted around me. So I free-longed her, if that's the proper word for "I took off her halter and let 'er rip". She did a lot of galloping and bucking, and a leg-snapping trot. She also fell boom after a particularly enthusiastic spin-and-buck. She might have been a teeny bit stiff after that but nothing serious.

I took her out to the round pen which has deep footing, wanting to capitalize on her energy and build some muscle. That tired her out pretty quickly! She remained a bit squirrelly though. Squirrelly for Ginny really does mean "showing a normal level of alertness". Still and all, if you're not used to it...

She walked out much more enthusiastically today under saddle. My first reaction was nervousness since, well, she doesn't generally walk out nicely! I was temporarily worried that it meant she was TOO aware of things going on which might lead to... I don't know what. And I don't want to know.

But she was just fine. I didn't trot but did stay on her longer. I have to bring an actual watch or other timing device out with me so I can be more precise about durations. It was definitely longer though!

Oopsie! :(

I really hate to say this but my plans ran aground on Day 2! But maybe this blog will make me figure out how to deal with this so it doesn't have to be written about again.

My best friend and I live (in a "bunkhouse"/rooms in a barn situation) and board our horses at the same farm. We can either motivate each other or, more frequently, DEmotivate each other. I was planning to ride Ginny again last night and do groundwork with either Ditto or his mother Imp. I did neither, because my friend is sore from a trail ride on Saturday, and came home and said "I'm not riding today". And that's all it took. I could've said, ok, well, I'm going to go ride Ginny, I'll catch up with you later. But I didn't. I said "well do you think you are seriously going to ride tomorrow night?" meaning Tuesday. And she said yes. So we shall see.

Here's the deal -- we don't even ride together. She is putting the first rides on her young stallion (who is NOT, incidentally, the VLC -- different friend, different horse!), and he hasn't been ridden with other horses yet. But at least if we are in the riding/training frame of mind, we do it, even if it's not at the same time. And so far I've been assisting with her and her colt, which makes me feel I can ask for assistance with my wide mare, even if it's just to hold her while I get on. God help me when she is riding the stallion or one of her other horses without assistance, if I still would prefer to have some help. I'm a bit embarrassed and feel ridiculous needing help with a totally quiet (read: half asleep) fat mare but if it can be a trade-off of "I help you/you help me" I don't feel so bad. That's the type of rhythm we get into on the days when we do work with the horses. Without that, last night, I was more than willing to abandon my plans.

We'll see how tonight goes. My friend and I do everything together (no, we are not a couple) so it's going to be a challenge to say "OK, but today I *am* going to ride". It didn't work on Day 2.

Monday, May 5, 2008

My VCG -- very cute gelding (Day 1)

Surely you don't think I stopped after riding Ginny yesterday? No, I am all fired up with ambition and determination.

Sooooo... let's meet Ditto.

Ditto is an unusual case with even more unusual breeding. You'll hear about his dam soon enough -- she is my mare Imp, a draft cross of unknown origin. She is pinto but I don't think it comes from Paint breeding -- she seems more likely to be a cross between a Percheron or Cheval Canadien and a pinto Saddlebred or Spotted Saddle Horse or some such thing.

Probably not breeding quality, definitely not breeding pedigree. And even if I threw all that to the wind, she sure as HECK wasn't a breeding candidate at 13 months of age, which was when she did indeed get pregnant with Ditto. I board on a farm that has a herd of mustangs, including stallions, one of which broke down fences and had his way with my poor little Imp (Oh do I jest here... I am quite confident Imp was more than asking for it, even at that age! She's a bit, um, lusty.) Anyway that stallion wasn't with Imp when the broken fence indiscretion was discovered, and we wrongly assumed he had left the yearlings alone. Yes there were FOUR yearlings together, so it could've been much worse. But there was also a full-grown mare in the same general area, and she was in heat, and the stallion was on her when we found him... and thus conclusions were drawn. Incorrect conclusions, as it turned out. Hence Ditto is half Sulphur Springs mustang, half... Imp.

That was late July of 2004. On April 1, 2005 Imp entered Pilchuck clinic with purpura hemorraghica, a frequently-fatal complication of strangles. She pulled through and began to return to health, though she lost all of the skin on her head, chest, underbelly and legs, and will be permanently scarred. On May 1, with her back home again, I had her preg checked, based on a hunch. She had lost weight in the clinic and as I fed her back up, it all went to her belly. And she started to develop an udder. I think if I had continued as-is, she would have lost the baby. My vet started to cry when she palpated and found the foal inside -- how much could this mare, er, FILLY take? But once I knew she was pregnant her nutritional rehabilitation went into full swing. She had the best of the best and tons of it. Her udder receded, she grew fat and sleek. And just after midnight on June 27th, she delivered... Ditto. He was healthy and perfect. And so much like his mother, it's a bit eerie.

Ditto will be three on June 27, 2008. He is very cute and amazingly well-put-together considering all the care and thought and planning that didn't go into his breeding. Like his mother, he is smart and strong and stubborn, but with a heart of gold.

He got some training last fall at a Jon Ensign clinic -- groundwork, desensitization, saddling. Then he had the winter off. I resumed his ground training yesterday and WOW! OK, I was in the round pen, whereas at the clinic and other times at home I was in an arena. He may have clued into what I was asking a bit better in the roundpen. But it seemed like he had done some thinking about his past training and it all came together. He was excellent! Responsive without being a nincompoop, steady without being a freight train. I did longeing/driving exercises, backing and one rein stop. A very good boy.

My goal for him is to have him under saddle this summer. I am lucky enough to have a very capable small person willing to work with him! I will continue his groundwork and refresh his memory on some baby life skills (bathing, trailering etc.)

Yeah, yesterday was a good day! Today in addition to riding Ginny I will do groundwork with Ditto's mother Imp. A story unto herself! Since I've already told her bizarre medical history here in her son's blog, I can go ahead with all of Imp's other interesting tales...

Let me start with the Pony Princess (Day 1)

First on my list is the Pony Princess. Stats: real name "Potter's Girl", barn name "Ginny", five years old this month. She was a PMU foal, 3/4 Paint, 1/4 Percheron. Her dam was an unregistered breeding stock Paint mare, apparently as wide as she was tall. Her sire was a 1/4 Paint, 1/4 Percheron black-and-white stallion named "Hairy Potter".

Ginny got the Percheron hair and bone, but her dam's height and width. Well I guess she was guaranteed width from both parents. I think she has finally passed the "pony" mark heightwise but not by much.

She is an attention whore, pouter and show-off. So much personality stuffed into that fat little body! I adore her. She is lazy by nature which is at war with the show-off trait. Sadly, her width exacerbates the pain I have in my legs. Oh I don't believe I mentioned the other challenge I face in my riding -- I am just shy of 5'7" with about a 26" inseam! So on Ginny I look like a kid on a Thelwell pony -- legs stuck out from the horse's side. Since she is lazy it would be oh-so-helpful if my legs were even ON her sides. Additionally, the stretch she forces me into makes my lower back stiff, so I'm sure I am giving her mixed signals -- I tell her to go forward, she does, and presumably FEELS all the pain and tension in me that is telling her "stop". And she sure is willing to stop. Her idea of fun would be for us to stand somewhere that people could come up and pet and praise her.

Ginny had 30 days of training in the summer of 2006, as a 3-year-old. The trainer, who was small, young and talented, had her doing WTC. Since then I have ridden her only a few times, mostly at a walk.

Yesterday was Day 1 of the Summer of 2008 plan. I rode Ginny for about 10-15 minutes. I could definitely feel the positive effects of my exercises! I was able to follow her movement with my seat much more easily, which gave her a reward (comfort) for walking forward. Sure, she did stop frequently, but I was able to keep her moving more of the time. We even did a little bit of a jog! She got lots of praise and some hand-grazing.

I don't hurt today any more than usual so I plan to ride her again today. I'm sure I'll be able to increase the time in the saddle, if not today, then soon. My goals for her are to be walking and trotting reliably (no unplanned stops) by the end of May. I have signed her up for a trail-riding clinic with Jon Ensign that is June 13-15. Right now that would be impossible -- I think I'd have to be able to spend more than 15 minutes on the horse, what do you think? I am hoping it will be possible after a valiant effort in May.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Getting started

Let me start by saying I've been inspired by the FHOTD blog and, more recently, the training blog for the Very Large Colt. I would like to chronicle my Summer of 2008 (and beyond perhaps), as I work to conquer time, gravity and junk food and get back into horseback riding.

Here's my story in a nutshell. I've always been horse crazy. I was born to non-horsy, even horse fearing, parents -- and as such I had minimal exposure to them as a child. I started taking lessons midway through my teen years and rode sporadically until, at the age of 28, I acquired Jesse. Jesse was a 16hh Quarter Horse that I had ridden at a farm in Vermont at which I vacationed. He was lazy but with a sneaky buck, and we grew to know each other's quirks and preferences over many years together.

I ended up in Washington State in 2003. I had a new job and was far from family (Massachusetts) and friends (Massachusetts and Utah). My dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in January '03. I hated my new job and felt like a fish out of water. I was adrift.

In that year I acquired three more horses, and the following year (2004) I added four more. Sold three in 04-05 and got three more in '05. I fancied myself as being "in the horse business" and dabbling in training, but really I think I was -- and perhaps still am -- in a second childhood of sorts.

Anyway, I've kind of stabilized, though I do have a few nice mares and I'm doing a wee bit of breeding. I don't expect I will continue to do so for too long. Most of the horses I acquired were part of the PMU industry, so they were either babies or unhandled/minimally handled adult mares. It made sense, for a while, for riding to take a back seat to ground training and handling. Also, in order to afford this mid-life crisis I have all of the horses in a self-care boarding situation, so I also needed to work my proverbial butt off (if only that were true) just to keep them fed and cared for.

I'm tired of all that. I want to RIDE. But the obstacles have loomed large: age, tiredness, weight issues, laziness, inertia and a new one... PAIN. Unfortunately all of the barn chores have left me musclebound, stiff and inflexible. I have something called iliotibial band syndrome which basically means there are these well-meaning ligaments that do their best to stabilize my large and clumsy body as it lurches through the day. And these ligaments now resemble steel ropes down the outside of my thighs and they limit what I can do. Shovel shit? Easy. Sit on a horse without spasming and shrieking? Not quite so do-able.

I have a set of exercises for all of my "problem areas". It's almost summer, even in the rain belt of Western Washington. I have NICE horses, and enough of them to suit any whim I might have on a given day. There are far fewer chores in the summer. So there you have it... I'm determined to get my fat ass in the saddle and make real progress. I hope that the pain lessens as I stretch into riding positions again. And I want to write about my successes and hurdles, if only to keep myself going.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!