Monday, November 29, 2010

The only change.

Hello Friends and Supporters,

It seems silly, but it is true. The only constant in my life at this point, is in fact change. You'd think you'd get used to the roller coaster, but just as quickly as I'm up, I'm back down, and around, and through loop-de-loops!

I suppose the biggest news at this moment is that Dylan is for sale. I think this probably comes as a surprise to many, but it has been "in the works" for awhile due to my financial situation. I haven't spoken much about it, because it is solely a personal burden, and because I had the incredible goal of getting to, and competing at WEG taking precedence!

When I bought Dylan, I had originally hoped he would be the extremely rare horse that could be both a competition partner, and a partner at a therapeutic riding program. It was my way of attempting to give back to the program (Little Bit) that had given me so much. Dylan just did not turn out to be that horse, though! He did turn out to be an incredibly talented, fun teacher, so I dug deep to make ends meet for the past two and a half years.

I am actually very excited to see what adventures Dylan will have in the years ahead with his new person, as strange as that may sound.

As far as my competitive future, it is my sincere goal to continue training and riding in preparation for London in 2012. The greatest challenge ahead will be forging and developing the relationships that will eventually result in the funding and finding a horse to lease. These things just take time. I feel confident in some ways in knowing there are a lot of wonderful horses and amazing horse owners out in the world, and a lot of great para athletes...we all just need to find one another!

I would like to thank my incredible sponsors, Antares, FarmVet, Little Bit, Kerrits, and Olsons, for their continuing support.

I would like to again thank everyone at Trilogy, and all those who came out to my WEG fundraiser - I am still humbled by the generosity of our PacNW dressage community!

A special thanks to Roxanne Christenson for...well, everything. :-)

And lastly, I'd like to acknowledge Jenny Nell, who has given time, money, blood, sweat, tears, AND a truck, to see me transform from a somewhat terrified disabled person sitting on a horse who couldn't get a classification, to an equestrian athlete.

It ain't the end folks...IT'S JUST THE BEGINNING!!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

WEG wrap-up!

Well, it’s been about a month, and I figured it was about time to put some words on paper (virtual paper at least) about my experience at WEG.

It was an amazing, humbling, exhausting, incredible, eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime experience. During the day-to-day, I really did not have the time or ability to process the enormity of what was happening around me, as I was pretty focused on the job I was there to do. There were certainly a few moments where it all sunk in, though!!

In terms of the riding piece, I am generally pleased. As a competitor, it seems I sometimes get caught up in the mistakes and places I could have done better. Honestly, I do think that Dylan and I put in really solid tests for where we both are in our skill development. We obviously have not competed at this level before, and I am learning about riding and asking for collection at the same time that Dylan is learning how to do it!

Dylan’s trot-work was the best it’s ever been. The trade-off for pushing the envelope a bit and getting that great trot-work, however, was tension in the walk and a few problems with the contact in the canter. It simply a factor of his comfort level in the training, and my skill as a rider – if I had a few more years under my belt I could have perhaps given him the confidence he needed. It’s always a risk to ask your horse for just a little more in a show situation, but at the same time, progress is made through risk. Perhaps I would have scored exactly the same if I had gone and ridden a conservative, “safe” test, but I certainly would have been left wondering “what if”.

Mostly, I am very proud of Dylan. Our horses are such amazing creatures for putting up with every ridiculous thing we throw at them. Dylan traveled well, settled into all his different housing situations well, and just rolled with all the punches. Particularly at the horse park, I was impressed with his ability to look around at the dozens of golf carts, jumbotrons, four-in-hand carts, banners, flags, tents, and the non-stop chaos, and I swear he sighed, rolled his eyes, as if to say “oh silly humans!”. I think Dylan’s highlight of the show was grazing on the cross country course. (He seemed enamored with the cross country course in general…he was definitely staring dreamily every time we passed it…was it all that green grass, or is he fantasizing about a career change?!)

In terms of my highlights…

Participating in opening ceremonies, with the reining team hijacking our golf cart (made me feel way less silly about needing to ride in the cart AND about wearing the cowboy hat),

Meeting the best athletes from around the world, as well as having random encounters with US Team members in the hotel restaurant. I definitely had stars in my eyes, but occasionally would remember I was wearing the same outfit as they were!!

Watching the dressage freestyles, and getting to see Totilas and Edward Gal in person. There is just no tension in that horse whatsoever, it’s remarkable. I must admit, in terms of personal preference, I LOVED Fuego’s freestyle. I have re-watched it on youtube at least 10 times.

Watching my teammates tests. We have an amazing group of riders, and I was so honored to be a part of this group. I am so excited about the future of US Para. In the same vein, it was also incredible to watch the world champion para riders – to see how effortless, how beautiful their rides are. It certainly gave me vision of where I need to be, and I imagine that is true for all the US riders.

Early mornings at KER. Kentucky Equine Research hosted us for our training camp prior to the games. Jenny and I would typically head over to the facility pretty early in the morning, just as the sun was coming up. I will never forget the mist on the pastures, the moon waxing as the sun came up, and pulling into the driveway to see Dylan.

So what’s next?

I earned my initial qualification for 2012 Paralympics by earning a 60% at WEG (only one aspect of qualifying and eventually being selected). However, after seeing the quality of horses and riders competing at this level, I know I have a lot of work to do.

I am also graduating from school in 5 months, and will have to either start my own practice or find a practice to join once I am licensed as an acupuncturist.

I have a lot to think about, and a lot to keep me busy in the next few weeks. I will do my best to keep everyone posted!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

One under the belt!

Hi All,

Today was QUITE busy! The jog was scheduled for 8:30am, but as host nation, we would jog last. The arenas were open for riding prior to the jog, so we planned to ride beforehand to get Dylan loosened up and in a good working frame of mind. That meant we had a pretty early morning indeed. I had a good ride, just worked him over his back and evenly into both reins, and really tried to settle his tempo.

It has been quite chilly here the past two days, and the jog strip is located above the cross country, in a big, open, exposed field. Needless to say, it got cold. I did my best to stay warm, today I used moxa hot packs to try and stave off the muscle spasms.

All the US horses passed the jog, and everyone certainly felt a lot better after it was over.

We had a chance to take a lunch at the athletes cafeteria, where they are serving really good hot food. I have missed a few meals on this trip, so I feel a bit like I am "catching up". The cute ariat jeans I had to stuff myself into for opening ceremonies now don't stay I know I can probably indulge in a few extra snacks!

After lunch, I got myself into my whites for the warm up test. This was a chance for the riders competing as individuals to show their team test in front of 3 judges, but the scores don't really count for anything. The purpose is really to allow the individuals the same amount of time in the competition ring as the team riders.

Dylan was a little behind my leg in the warm up. He looked Ok from the ground, but he just didn't have the "quickness" to my aids I wanted. He was quiet and obedient, so in hindsight, I probably didn't push quite as hard to get the activity I needed. They have it arranged so that you have 4 minutes of final warm-up in a ring across the street from the competition ring. When we moved over, Dylan came to life a bit, but as he was not quite in front of my aids, he was spooking a bit. So, time to direct the energy!!

Once I had things put together, it was time to go into the competition ring. It is a very nice ring, and for a large ring, it feels very close. Unfortunately the liveliness we had just generated in the warm-up faded a bit, and I just didn't quite have Dylan on my aids. That being said, he was quiet, calm, listened, and we put in an Ok test. I made some mistakes, and there were some decent moments.

The score reflected the mistakes, and I felt it was fair.

Tomorrow, our team riders take the stage. I have a "day off" of sorts. I will train during the lunch break, when Jenny can take a break from commentating. Our plan is to make it like a show situation for Dylan, warm up and ride through the test, ensuring we have what we need in the ring.

I will compete "for real" on Wednesday afternoon!

Not sure when I will get to posting until then, ride strong, and go USA!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Opening Ceremonies

Hi Everyone!

Things are ticking along here in KY. Dylan is well. I think the stress of travel and being in a new place finally caught up with him, and he was a bit worn out on Friday, so he got a well-earned day off on Saturday, and Laura Scherr, our team equine physio worked with him today. He is in good spirits, and after his adjustment, went for his typical gallop in the pasture (yikes!!). I am working with FarmVet on some additional "helpers" to make him as comfortable as possible - a "Back on Track" blanket, and possibly a digestive aid since he is eating more grain than he would at home, which can contribute to problems with acid.

Opening ceremonies were last night. We dressed up in our Kentucky Cowgirl outfits...jeans, blazers and hats! It was a long day, lots of waiting, assembling, but so amazing when it all happening. I rode in on a golf cart, some of the para team walked with the rest of the US contingent. Since we had empty seats, the reining team hopped on board and made a great show of things. Entering the arena was unlike anything else I've ever done! The stands was filled, the crowd was cheering, tv was unreal. We looped the arena, then made our way up into the stands to watch the rest.

Tomorrow things start to get down to business! The vet will take a look-see at the horses, we'll ride, and our days will just get busier from here on out.

I just keep repeating it...but I am so honored and humbled to be here. I look forward to competing on behalf of my country and showing Dylan at his best!!!

Drop a line anytime!!

Ride strong!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Love KY!

Quick update!

Arrived after a furious 3 day drive (16 hours, 17 hours, 12 hours). Dylan is in great shape, happy as can be.

The KER facility is absolutely stunning. They are hosting us for training, and have a brand new barn and arenas built. It's simply beautiful. Dylan was the first horse to "christen" the new barn!

We had "team processing" today, aka getting all the assorted outfits and "gear" we need to represent the US. Again, amazing. I got cowboy boots AND a hat. Yes, I will get pictures.

Dylan is going well, having a LOT of fun riding him right now.

Ok...gotta scoot for now! Back to the barn for a quick meeting and evening chores!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The day before...

Well, the trailer is packed, Dylan is bathed, I have a million lists with just about everything crossed off....that must mean we are just about ready to hit the road.

Dylan did manage to need last minute shoe-repair (he stepped on himself tripping over the lip of the stall door, and popped the end of the nails pulled, but the shoe is bent...argh). The life of a fancy dressage horse, you have to laugh a little bit, right?

This morning John Meriwether, Schleese rep and saddle-fitter came and checked out my saddle for a last minute "tune-up". I was extremely grateful, we have been battling a bit with me ending up crooked, and the saddle slipping, and it at times felt like a chicken & the egg type thing...did the saddle slip, and then I ended up sitting crooked, or did the saddle slip because I was sitting crooked? We came up with a great solution, and I felt totally straight and secure in the saddle. It's amazing how small changes really free the horse up, and get the rider in the right spot.

We had a VERY fun night at Olson's last week, I was SO excited to see so many friends, and meet so many new people interested in para. I just keep feeling so humbled about the entire experience.

I imagine once I am in KY, with my teammates, at the opening ceremonies, I will get a little more swept up in the excitement, but for now I feel a little like I have a very important job to do, to ride strong and represent our nation well, and before that, take very good care of my amazing horse Dylan as we travel across the country!!

We head out at about 3am tonight towards Montana.

On that note...I should probably finish packing my suitcase, and get some sleep!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

WEG, really!

A little birdie told me it had been far too long since I had updated here is my brief attempt to get back in the habit!

It has been a whirlwind summer. Toronto was fabulous. Selection Trials, not my best show, but a lot learned. Now...I am headed to Kentucky in a week. I feel like I need to pinch myself!

Dylan is doing well, he has been in full training with Jenny and Roxanne since returning from Selection Trials. He has grown up a lot in a short time, very mellow and easy-going.

Fundraisder tonight at Olson's, I am excited, and more than a bit humbled to have the support of the Pac NW community. On that note, I am now also sponsored by Kerrits, I am so excited about this - I really like everything that they strive for as a company, not to mention their great products.

On another note, FarmVet has been fantastic in providing a ton of great products, and recommending products that might be useful for when I am in KY.

On another another note, my Antares helmet is fantastic, and I am so excited to meet the team at the trade fair at WEG.

Jenny and I hit the road next Thursday, will be a 4 day drive to Kentucky. We have an amazing hostess letting us stay in her home until the move over to the athletes hotel. Dylan will be at Kentucky Equine Research, who is sponsoring the Para Dressage Team.

I feel like there is so much time before I get to compete, but I also know I will have plenty to keep me busy!

Busy, busy, busy!!

Will do my best to keep everyone updated on the exciting events!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Watch out Toronto!

I leave tomorrow morning ( be fair, I think I am actually getting up in the middle of the night in order to make a 6am international flight!).

I will do my best to post updates on my Facebook page.

See you in a week!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pulling together the threads...

Hello Friends,

I often find myself wishing I had more time...but I guess today I had the realization that yes, indeed, time is a relative concept.  Things progress in exactly the way they are meant to.

I leave for Toronto in about a week and a half.  I am trying to get all the details tucked away, particularly with the knowledge that we'll get back and have a pretty quick 17 days before Dylan hits the road for Chicago and Selection Trials.

It is a bit strange to plan for a competition on a borrowed horse.  I am not all that nervous about the riding part, more about wanting to show Peter's horse well, represent the US and my sponsors well, and perhaps try to stay out of the fray.  I will have to be reclassified, which I am not super-excited about...more because I just don't really enjoy being shown the nature and extent of my disability - there's no dancing around it, it is a stressful and tiring process.

Meanwhile, Dylan is peaking at exactly the right time.  He has been working very hard since January, and is really solid in his 3rd level work, and is schooling 4th level work with Jenny.  I can't believe how far my stubborn 1st level horse has come!!  

I am working with a very patient PT who is going to help me get on a good strength maintenance program, and she is trying to talk me into maybe looking at some mobility aids.

If things go well in Chicago, I hope to organize a silent auction & dinner as a fundraiser - let me know if you interested in helping organize, or in attending!!

Take care everyone!  Ride strong! 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

10 years/5 months

Hello Friends,

I've had a lot to keep me busy, and a lot to ruminate over the past few weeks.

I am very excited to report that 10 US Riders will be competing at the CPEDI in Toronto, and from what I understand from the show organizers, there will be 8 nations and close to 40 riders competing.  It should be a stellar competition.  

I have an incredible opportunity in Toronto - I will be competing on none other than Olympian Peter Gray's Grand Prix horse, Collo 5.  From all reports, Collo is a wonderful, kind, and stunning animal (who also happens to be 18 hands!!).  I feel SO blessed to have this opportunity.  I am so thankful to Peter for being so generous with his horse, to team coach Missy Ransehousen, and to my coach Jenny Nell for getting this organized.

Needless to say, I am pretty dang excited about this show for so many reasons!!

On the home front, Dylan has been firing on all cylinders as well.  We are ready to take him out for his first shows of the season, but not exactly sure when that will be, as the early shows were cancelled this year up here.  I'm not too worried about getting him into the show ring as getting a chance to run the new tests in a 40m ring.  We are going to re-work his freestyle as well, as his gaits have changed significantly since last year.

In slightly less horse-related news, I saw a new neurologist this week.  I realized before my appointment that it has now been 10 years since my disability onset.  What a strange anniversary.  In the earlier years, doctors told me that there was a chance of the symptoms just resolving as mysteriously as they showed up.  When I first started seeing the neurologists, they were very aggressive in looking for a diagnosis.  Now, I seem to be at a very different stage.  There isn't much talk of improvement or spontaneous recovery, but talk of rehab, and maintenance, ADLs, quality of life.  I had a good appointment with the new doctor, but after nearly two and half years of "doctor break", and not having gone through a rigorous physical exam, it was a bit disheartening to see how much function I had in fact lost.  I did commit to rehab & PT, for real this time.  If nothing else, it might help my riding!!

5 months until you have your tickets?!?  Want to help plan a fundraiser?  Do you have ideas on how to get the word out about Para Equestrian? There is much to be done, and it takes a COMMUNITY!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Drinks for a Cause!

Hey gang -

As usual, big things in the works, but can't divulge too much until the details are shored up.

Looks like it will be a GREAT show in Toronto!

In order to make it MAGNIFICENT...I will need to do a little extra fundraising ( usual).  I received a generous grant from Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center & the Margo Memorial Fund...but don't want to blow it all on this one competition when I also have a very important competition at Selection Trials in June & potentially the travel to Kentucky to consider.

I'm thinking of putting together a low-key dinner/drinks type fundraiser....$20 towards the cause, but otherwise just a chance for folks to get together & hang out.

Let me know if you'd be into that kind of thing!!  Or if you have other fundraising ideas...bake sale anyone?!

Hopefully I will be able to post soon with more details on the fundraiser & the CPEDI3* in Canada.

Drop a line anytime!  Email or Facebook, or leave a comment here.

Thanks friends!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fastest Update Ever!

1. New Sponsor...ANTARES.  I will be sporting a beautiful Antares helmet in competition.  Please take a moment and check 'em out.  Helmets are all the rage, and Antares makes absolutely stunning helmets.  Better than a top hat.

2. Toronto.  Looks like it's a go.  Funding is not quite shored up, but my USEF paperwork is underway, and I have a horse tenatively lined are moving in the right direction!  I'm excited - I am so ready to get out and SHOW!

3. Conrad.  I have been invited to ride with the man.  Conrad Schumacher.  EEP!  He does not invite a lot of amateur, let alone para riders to clinic with him.  I'm a bit concerned as Dylan is just now in a good steady place, and I hate to rock the boat with 3 days of again, I will need to find funding.  It's an amazing opportunity, and would be great exposure for Para we'll see.  I may look into borrowing a horse for the clinic (how does Dylan keep getting out of things?!)

4. Thats all for now!  

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring is in the Air!!

Hi Friends,

So, I have been less than faithful in keeping this blog updated the past few weeks.

It's been a bit kind of a rough go the past couple of weeks.  I have unfortunately had some health problems that have not exactly resolved.  I'm not sure if they are related to the mysterious undiagnosed disability, or just too much stress, but one thing is for sure, it's getting old.  I have been living off of rice and bananas, and man, a steak has never sounded so good.

Meanwhile, Dylan has continued to have his downs and ups.  He seems to be pulling his head out of his rear-end, thanks in large part to the hard work of my trainer Jenny Nell, and barn trainer and friend Roxanne Christenson.  To the best of our figuring, getting him into this next phase of collected work caused his unique form of non-violent protest. that he seems slightly more convinced that he can actually do it, his trot has truly developed into an FEI frame, and his canter continues to be lovely.

With my health issues, we decided not to go to Del Mar.  It was kind of a bummer, but probably was the best choice in order to give Dylan some time to get back on track.  It sounds like it was a great show, and wish I could have gone to cheer on my friends & teammates!

I found out however that I will need to have my classification reviewed prior to WEG, as all athletes with neuromuscular conditions must be reviewed before major competitions.  The good news here is that my diagnosis should not have to be reviewed at this time, only my bench test numbers (the physical exam of strength & coordination).

So, I am planning on competing at a CPEDI in Toronto, Canada in May.  We will not take Dylan, as that is obviously a very long road trip in advance of US Team Selection Trials in June.

My plan is to find a horse to borrow to compete on.  

If you know anyone with a petite PSG horse (needs to have a passport), that might be available for loan, let me know. 

In the meantime, Dylan and I are hoping to get out to some schooling shows, and basically just keep on keepin' on!!  

Thanks for all your continued support!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Time Flies...

Holy Cow, has it already been a month?!

In my defense - there were final exams, the holidays, and I also took an "internet holiday" for a couple weeks.

So...the quick & dirty.  Dylan is going through a "phase".  We've explored, expounded, hypothesized on the reasons why, but to some extent, a horse is a horse.  Basically he has just become a bit of a stubborn bugger.  Every question we ask, he comes back with "why?  do i have to?".  After a couple of weeks of us just repeating our "questions" and waiting for him to answer with "oh, ok, I can do that", we seem to be making progress.  It has been a less than exciting couple of weeks, however, in terms of riding.  Pyschological riding, I guess.

I do love our new barn, and the new folks and their super-cute horses.

We have a CDI/CPDEI scheduled in March, as well as Conrad Schumacher, so we'll just keep ticking along for now, with a half an eye towards those events.  Trying to keep the pressure low, even as I am super-excited for all the years events!!

I will post more soon :) Happy riding!