Monday, June 18, 2012

You think there will always be time enough

Last night, with absolutely no warning, my long-time friend and dressage trainer Wolfgang May collapsed and died from undiagnosed pancreatic cancer. His wife, Suzanne, is in complete shock, as are all of us who knew and admired him. He was a force of nature. How can he be gone?

I first met Wolf and Sue in 1995, when they became regular clinicians at my barn in Nebraska. They visited every eight weeks for a weekend of lessons, including a Saturday-night theory session. I was a total newbie to dressage at the time--how lucky was I to stumble into a situation where I got to work with a classically-trained German bereiter right from the start? And to be able to keep working with him every eight weeks for ten years?

Wolfgang was equally pro-horse and pro-rider. He wanted everyone to succeed and gave his full attention and effort to every student who was willing to try. He was kind with small children, with newbie riders afraid to canter, with crazy horses. He always had sugar cubes in his pockets. He'd hop on any horse and accomplish amazing things in a matter of minutes. And boy, did you know it when Wolf gave your horse a tune-up. Suddenly there was a "turbo" button where none existed before. The feeling was bliss.

He taught all his students to be highly competent at lungeing--a skill that is sadly neglected by many trainers. He worked many horses in hand, almost always accomplishing half steps in the very first session. Horses just trusted him--and respected him.

When you first started working with him, his lessons seemed kind of crazy. It was all transitions, transitions, transitions. "Walk, shoulder in, walk, haunches in, walk, now trot, across the diagonal, x leg yield, when you reach the wall canter, now trot at A, now halt! Reinback! Trot!" It was very difficult, but so exhilarating when the horse started to sit down, to listen. He's always say, upper level tests are nothing but transitions, and it's in the transitions you find out if your horse is through.

Other sayings: "From nothing comes nothing!" "You've got to get to the point where you can drive!" "If you don't like what you're getting, change what you're doing!" So much wisdom. I still hear it in my head when I ride, to this day.

He was my one true riding master. I know I will never again be lucky enough to work with anyone as talented. He was too young to go. I thought I still had time to visit, to hang out, maybe even to ride with him again. I kept in touch, but I could have done better. I am very sad.

Good bye, Wolfgang. Thank you so much.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hyper-mobile SI joint

For about six months now, I've had pain in my right hip and lower back. Nothing major most of the time--just a dull ache and occasional sharper jab of pain. It hasn't kept me from doing anything; in fact, it feels best when I'm riding or working out. Sitting for long periods makes it flare, and the worst pain comes in the early morning if I go to roll over. Then I get some fairly severe pain that makes me groan and not want to move. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night, too, just aching and aching. But because it hasn't really kept me from enjoying life, I've mostly ignored it. I finally decided to see a doctor about it when it occurred to me that it hasn't gotten any better in six months. I didn't want it to get worse! And, I wondered if after all these years of riding, maybe I was developing some arthritis in my hip joint.

My doctor was unsure about the exact cause, so she sent me to see a physical therapist. After an hour of poking, prodding, twisting, turning, lifting, pulling, etc., she said I have a hyper-mobile sacroiliac joint on the right side. The ligaments that should limit the range of motion in that joint have gotten stretched out, so the joint can now wobble too much. She said it's likely a combination of years of riding, years of office work, and multiple falls from horses over two decades.

She gave me an SI belt to start wearing immediately to help stabilize the joint. It's just a non-stretchy wide belt I wear tight, a few inches below the points of my hips. She said to wear it as much as I can, even sleeping if I could stand it. I wore it all day yesterday, and wow! what a difference! With it on and the joint stabilized, I have almost no pain or ache. I wore it working out last night (elliptical and machines) and didn't have a single twinge, and no pain following the workout like I usually get. I also wore it to bed and had no pain at all. I'll try riding in it tomorrow. The PT also gave me an exercise to do to start strengthening the supporting muscles and ligaments in the area.

The PT said everything around the joint is in complete lockdown in an attempt to stabilize it. The SI joint on the left is also partially locked to compensate. A chiropractor and a massage therapist both discovered all those locked muscles and worked on them in the past six months, but the PT said while that wasn't wrong per se, it wasn't addressing the cause of the problem. It's so nice to get it figured out!

I thought I'd post this information because I know so many equestrians with varying degrees of back pain, and I have known others who, like me, say that their back feels best when they're on a horse. That can be a symptom of this condition. One other note--if the problem is indeed a hyper-mobile SI joint, a chiropractic adjustment of the joint may feel good, but it will loosen the joint more. (Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I don't even play one on TV.)

I had a fun lesson on Huey Wednesday. Camilla is competing him at an event next weekend, and she's been out of town, so I've been doing what I can to keep him jumping fit without actually jumping. Trainer Leslie had me working lots of collected canter as well as counter canter. He did really well!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sam, content

My German shorthair, Sam, is very vocal when he's in discomfort. If he has an itch he can't quite reach, he moans and groans and whines like he's having his toenails pulled out. He also gets very vocal sometimes when you rub or scritch him just the right way. Make sure you have the volume turned up when watching the following.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Trail riding in Mauritius

My mother and I went trail riding at Le Morne in southwest Mauritius one early morning. In spite of it being mid-fall in that country, it was still very hot and humid. Even at 8 in the morning, we melted a little bit. The stable wasn't fancy, but it was quite nice, and the horses, all OTTB's, were obviously well care for. The facility even had helmets and half-chaps for us tourists. My mom looks quite dapper in her outfit.

We rode along the beach at the base of Le Morne. The water in the bay was perfectly still. My gelding, Augie, was workmanlike and obedient. He was happy to get up and go when I asked for a trot. My mom's horse was a perfect trail horse, just marching along and ignoring everything else. It's so nice to see a horse rental facility with such well-trained, happy, healthy animals.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Huey's one-day event

First up: dressage. A little resistance in canter (let's go jump some fences, mom!) and walk but overall very nice.

Next: stadium. A clear round at about 75 mph. Camilla is a very brave woman.

Finally: cross country. Some trouble at the ditch (not shown) but Huey sailed over everything else. Again, he does not dilly-dally.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

First stop: Dubai

Well, haven't I just been the world's worst blogger lately? Not sure what's wrong with me. I even have lots of stuff to post! My mother took me on a trip to Mauritius in late March to visit my brother and his family (including my two adorable nieces and a brand-new baby nephew!). We were there for about ten days (it takes about two days to get there). On the way over we stopped over to sleep in Dubai, and we had a few hours in the evening to venture out and about.

The tallest building and dancing fountains turned out to be just a few blocks away. The plaza where the fountains were was teeming with people from all over the world. Dubai is practically paved with money. It's also the cleanest city I've ever been to. We felt very safe as we walked around. The dancing fountains put the Bellagio's to shame. The video doesn't do them justice. The jets of water shoot incredibly high into the air. We watched the fountains during several songs, all in Arabic, and then . . .

MJ is big everywhere.

Tomorrow I'm off to Corvallis to watch Camilla and Baby Huey compete in eventing. It's sort of a mini-event, with all three disciplines in one day. They start off in dressage at 8:30 a.m., so no sleeping in for me. I should have video to post very soon!