Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Extreme Makeover: Hair Edition

One of the things that I was most upset about when I learned I was going to have chemo, was the fact that I was going to lose my hair. I even mentioned it to my oncologist who nonchalantly said "it'll grow back." I knew that was true but at the same time she made it seem a little insignificant. In the midst of having my life turned upside down it did not feel insignificant...however I understand in the grand scheme of things it was. Hair after chemo was one of the only things I did a google search on, trying to see how long it would take for my hair to grown back.  Here are a few photos of my hair journey.

 This first photo was pre-cancer by a couple of months

 A little over a month post chemo

First meeting with Emi - 3 months post chemo

About 6 months post chemo

A year and a half post chemo

Two and a half years post chemo

3 years post chemo

When I finished chemo and my hair started growing back I didn't have any interest in having it cut. I got it trimmed and shaped up a couple of times but otherwise felt very protective of my new hair. This past spring I finally felt ready, and actually eager, to cut it. I really wanted to do it in June but I also wanted to be able to cut enough to donate and I was really close but not quite ready. I waited a few more months and today I was able to have 8 inches cut off. It's fun to make a change.

Four Years

It's nearly impossible to believe that four years have gone by since I wrote the post How Do You Eat an Elephant. I had a fantastic lesson on Emi last night and as I was finishing up with her I was talking with April and reminiscing about the fact that almost exactly 4 years prior I was crying with my friends regarding my diagnosis. Here I am 4 years later, happy and healthy, riding my dream pony and feeling so incredibly grateful.

Emi is a gift from God and a daily reminder that dreams do come true. 
There really aren't words to adequately describe the journey. When I look back on it, it feels like such a distant memory and yet I know that it seemed so big when I was going through it. The answer to how you eat an elephant is "one bite at a time." That is so true not only in health issues or horse training, but all areas of life. When you are going through a difficult time it can be so all consuming and you don't feel like you can find the light. As time goes on you keep taking bites, even when you aren't sure you can go on. As you trudge through you begin to see a glimmer and finally you are able to break out to the other side. Not only do you find the light but you discover that you've been stretched and you have grown.

On the other side, one month post chemo with my nephew
Cancer really changed my perspective on life. All of the sudden my life wasn't stretching out before me, but it actually had the possibility of ending all too quickly. That's such a sobering experience and it changes you. It re-defines so many things and re-prioritizes too.  I want to love people well and when my time on earth is done I don't want to have any regrets. Hug your loved ones and make the best of each and every precious day.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Future Benefit

I've been busy and un-inspired recently....not a good combo for great blog content. It's hard to make a good green baby into a riveting read. Things are coming along quickly but at the same time they are slow. We continue to work on the same things and she gets a little more broke with each ride, but it's nothing earth shattering.

In preparation for our schooling show on Saturday we did haul out for a lesson on Sunday. I've hauled her out a few times recently but always with other horses. She traveled like a seasoned horse, even by herself. She did come off the trailer wide eyed but settled in really quickly. I took her for two laps around the arena before tying her to the trailer and getting her tacked up. Once I was finished we headed back to the arena where I mounted up and started walking her around. She was pretty slow as she was gawking.

KB remarked that she hadn't seen her so pokey since we first started with her. I agreed and told her that she was "worse" (slower) than she has been at home. After I walk break I asked to trot again and was more insistent with the stick and she finally got moving. I suspect that our go and steering will be a bit iffy at the show...but that's okay. I'd much prefer slow to explosive. As KB said, I'm taking her to this show for the future benefit, the second, third, fourth, eighth show; it's really not about this show at all. I completely agreed with her and I'm glad that's the way she sees it too. So we are off to get more miles on Saturday and I'm looking forward to have the first test down, with many more to go.

She's turning in to an awesome little horse!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Memory and a Lesson Update

This morning my Facebook memories showed me a photo of yearling Emi after a bath. After I hosed her off tonight I couldn't resist getting a similar photo to compare. I think she has matured beautifully. 

We had a great lesson tonight after a couple of weeks off. KB commented that Emi seems to be understanding her job pretty well and I agree. She's getting much easier to get forward and she's beginning to understand that we are going to work when I shorten up my reins. 

She counterbends left when tracking right so we worked on that. Up until this point I've somewhat ignored it since she doesn't understand the same corrections you would use on a trained horse. KB had us work on a diamond figure and it made a huge difference. We actually got a little bit of connection from the exercise which was really fun. 

From there we moved on to the canter. KB is ready to see Emi commit a little more quickly to the canter so she got a little bit more tapping with the whip. She improved a lot over our lesson and was almost starting to volunteer the canter. I was thrilled how good she was. 

Believe it or not, I also sent in her first horse show entry in today. Realistically she's not ready but we've got to start somewhere. I had my eye on a show in mid-October but it turned out to be the same weekend as a work trip. Then this dressage schooling show popped up and I thought why not?! Ready or we come!

Two hot and sweaty girls after a great lesson

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hang On

Since I got a new bridle for Emi I now have a bridle for Roz. I got his bit on it a few days ago and decided to take him for a spin tonight. I put his hoof boots, bridled him up, grabbed my helmet and off we went. I took him through the barn, past the house and down the driveway before going back up through the barn and out into his pasture. One lap around and I let him take me where he wanted to go. He headed straight back through the barn and out towards the driveway. There we ran in to our neighbors who asked what his name is and told me he was beautiful. I introduced them and told him he was my old horse. They were shocked to hear that was 24. As we talked they mentioned a trail they had behind there house and that I was welcome to ride Roz on it. We headed up the hill to their house and through the wooded trail.  The trail took a pretty steep uphill turn shortly after we got on it and Roz took off trotting. I was clinging to his back like a monkey, one hand in his mane and one on the reins. We crested the hill and we dropped back to a walk. The trail was short but it was fun to have somewhere new to explore with him and really nice of them to offer it to me. Our trail adventure done, we meandered back down to our barn for dinner. Roz seemed thrilled for the outing and I love getting to hang out with him.

Yes, we cruz around the neighborhood looking like dorks. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Flexible Fit - A Review

When I put out the call for bridle ideas I got many responses. A few people told me to check out Flexible Fit. I headed over to their website to take a look. I found what I was looking for in the Flexi-Fit Mix and Match Monocrown Bridle. I took Emi's measurements and emailed them to be sure what I wanted. I received a quick response suggesting I order a horse sized nose and crown piece and cob sized cheek pieces.

Since I already had a browband by Dark Jewel Designs I skipped ordering that and I also skipped ordering reins since I already had a pair that I liked. The grand total (with shipping) was $125.78. Factor in the exchange rate and my total was $98.14. I received the order quickly and the leather was fairly supple straight out of the box. The fit is good, although the noseband is on the small side. I thought we'd have plenty of room by ordering the horse size. Apparently Emi has a big nose!

So far the bridle is breaking in nicely. The leather isn't amazing but it's decent for the price and it should hold up well for my purposes. I think Emi is adorable in it and I'm thankful for the suggestions to look at Flexible Fit.

Looking like an official dressage pony

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Adventures Galore

Emi and I got to go on another trail riding adventure on Saturday. We hauled down to Elijah Bristow State Park which is  just a few minutes from where Emi was born. We met up with her breeder and a friend of her breeders. We also had 3 of our barn mates along. I had a few concerns heading in to the adventure as I wasn't sure how Emi would do with a group of 6 horses. To add to that her BFF pasture mate, Ruby, was coming and her mother, Chloe. I thought it might be a little much for her, but...I have this opinion that worst case scenario I can always walk.

Emi came off the trailer quietly and after I got her tacked up I mounted up. Melissa, one of the barn mates that I trail ride with most, commented that I got on Emi right away. I really hadn't given it a second thought but once she mentioned it I realized that the other times we've taken her away from home I've always led her a ways before we got on. She's getting more broke and I'm getting more confident! It's such a nice feeling.

We fell in line behind Ruby and off we went. Although Emi was a little tense she was listening and being good. I warned the group that she might kick under the right (or wrong) circumstances but we didn't have any issues with that this time around. We rode about 4 miles, crossed two wooden bridges, saw a couple groups of deer and went through a water crossing.

Last summer we got Emi in the water everywhere we went and this summer she has been quite good about getting in. She actually really likes it and loves to splash...which led to her trying to roll. We had crossed the creek and I let her go back in for a drink. She started pawing and someone told me that she looked like she was doing to go down. I started kicking her but she wasn't moving. Suddenly her legs were buckling and we were going down! I popped off and she jumped up as soon as the water hit her belly. Talk about funny! My feet and lower legs got wet along with one side of the saddle but it wasn't too bad. It was a great reason to take my tack home to clean it.

When we arrived back at the parking lot we got a photo of Emi and Chloe together. They touched noses and Chloe squealed, threatening to turn her butt towards we kept our distance for a photo.  Cindy and I have discussed meeting up for a ride with her girls since I purchased Emi so it was really fun to see that plan be realized. 3 years went by fast!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Other Things

Before camping I lunged Emi over trot poles and she was wonderful about them. 

We also gave pony rides, which she was fabulous for despite the blustery day that we had. Olivia's mom walked alongside, carrying her little sister. Emi was giving them the hairy eyeball so I stopped her and let her turn her head around to say "hi" to everyone. As soon as she had scoped things out we continued with our ride. Picture those two in the show ring in a few years after they have both had more training. Too cute!

Picking out a saddle pad 

Monday, August 1, 2016


Emi and I had our best ride yet, this evening. Now, that's not too hard to say when you are only on ride 21...but still. Really I should back up and tell you about ride 20, because it was awesome too.

Ride 20 was on Saturday and was a ride of firsts. It was our first ride where I didn't lunge her prior to hopping on. We rode in the arena for about 30 minutes, focusing on getting her forward. She was more forward than she had been on our Thursday lesson so I was happy about that. I rode her over poles for the first time and she was good about those. I then opened the arena gate from her back (a first), took her on a short trail ride (she led 1/2 of it), then walked her back to the barn passing through a deep ditch on our way (also a first). She hesitated at the ditch but didn't take much encouragement from me to go through.

Ride 21 was tonight. I again got on with out lunging first. I decided since she tends towards being lazy there really isn't a point to lunging her first since it only seems to "waste" her energy before I get on. I do walk her around the ring a couple of times doing a little bit of ground work to make sure her head is in the game. So far so good on that front. Tonight we were also in the arena alone for the first 15 minutes or so. I hadn't yet ridden her with out supervision so that was fun and I felt like it helped us both be a bit more focused. Emi got a bit distracted when the other horse entered the ring but settled back in to work easily. She was going forward really well and I was experimenting with getting her too forward. I could hear JW in my head saying to take a risk.

After a fair amount of trotting, circles, directions changes etc. I asked for the canter. We successfully cantered both directions with out assistance. This is another first for us! In our last lesson I was able to get a few canter strides to the right with out help but had no success to the left. It's amazing how balanced Emi feels and also how quickly she is learning. Her understanding from week to week is progressing rapidly and it makes things so fun. As soon as we cantered to the left I stopped her and hopped off with lots of praise for a job well done. I am absolutely thrilled with her! She's better than I could have asked for or imagined and I'm so thankful for her.

Where are my cookies???