It was hot, then it got hotter

Another season has come to an end in the hunter jumper world. And I have absolutely no complaints about anything that happened this season. It was for sure another up and down kind of summer for me, but the consistency I saw in my rides in the shows I was able to go to is truly encouraging- and the way my rides when this weekend at Fall Harvest sums up, as this show always seems to, how much I’ve progressed.

Our warm-ups Friday went by with ease. We warmed up in the hunter ring first, and were probably done in about 20 minutes- everything went so smoothly! C and I were wondering how it was going to go, as the night before during my lesson Willard seemed to have taken the equivalent of 50 caffeine shots. It was a little bit crazy. But, I guess either the heat took some of that out of him Friday, or he actually just chilled out a bit- because he actually acknowledged the human on his back this time. After jumping around the hunter ring, we headed over to the Jumper ring.. Our first jumper school at Bird’s Hill (or anywhere.. usually there either isn’t a jumper schooling or I miss it..). It was pretty intimidating, even with Lauren and Megg there with me. Lauren is an old pro at jumper schools, and Megg was there for the first time on her new horse. My horse surprised me with how well he handled everything. I expected him to be good for the jumps, but wasn’t sure how he would handle the natural obstacles such as the ditch and the bank/table top jumps. The ditch took a couple tries to get him to gallop down and jump out with confidence, but not as long as I thought- and the bank, well, he just loved that! Loved it so much that when we did the table top ride (jump up, three strides, jump down), he decided that it was so much fun he need to buck his way across- hop down- and buck away. Hokay pony. That evening Megg and I went out for a lovely supper. One of my favourite parts of shows is getting to spend time with the amazing friends I’ve made through training with M&C.

Saturday came bright and early with Jumpers beginning first thing. Will and I were competing in the .85m divisions. We went into the ring with the mentality of “ride like it’s a lesson”, and had no major issues. Will loves jumpers. Saturday we placed 4th in our .85 Junior Ami division, with a rail and a time fault. Later that day we moved over to the hunter ring for our Child/Ami Non-Pro Hunter division. We put in some good rounds and ended up top 5 in both over fences and the under saddle. Quite respectable for the competition there, and the fact we’d just come from Jumper land! C was happy, I was happy, and that’s what mattered. It was a great feeling to get out of the heat that night, I can say that much!

Our Sunday jumper rounds were even better then the previous days. In our Open .85, Willard decided to have a good long look at jump 6- so long that he forgot to jump it the first time. This provided us with a great set up for our JA round right after, as it was over the same course. That round was perfect, except for a lazy rail early in the course. Click here to watch it. I decided to drop our Open Low Hunter that day, because it was so hot (+40 degrees, crazy humid, and zero wind), and I could feel my horse’s energy (and mine) starting to dwindle. I wanted to save something for the $500 Hunter Derby later on that day. It was so hot my sunglasses would fog up while I was wearing them. I would be able to cross competing in a sauna off my bucket list, if it had been on there in the first place.

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So, finally came time for the Derby to get started. As myself, a fellow McMullan teammate, and M&C were walking the course- I was informed that I had been misinformed earlier and the class was a sign up order of go (I thought it was posted order, in which case I was in 5th). Since I hadn’t signed up they had listed me as first to go, and were taking no excuses- if I wasn’t at ringside, with my horse (who was still in the barn, untacked) in 7 mintues then I would be disqualified. I am blessed with amazing teammates on my side. Megg and Lauren sprinted ahead of me to the barn and by the time I had also completed the ~1000m sprint (thank god I’ve been doing interval training this year) my horse was ready to go. I had time to just barely take a couple warm up jumps and get to the ring, where M&C instructed me to gallop into the gate (not usually hunter style) and gallop straight to the first jump, which was about 50m inside the gate. So, that’s what we did. The video unfortunately missed the first couple jumps- but the rest was caught- it’s definitely worth a watch!

No time for any second thoughts, we had one of the best rounds I’ve ever ridden. My horse left it all out there for me, and I could not have asked him for anything more. As we came over the last combination, a two stride, I couldn’t contain my smile- and it was so cool to have everyone at ring side burst into cheers. We achieved a score of 88/100 that round, a personal best! After the class of 10 finished- all very competitive rounds, we ended up 4th. Another personal best for us when it comes to special, classic, or derby classes. If there is a way to end a season, that was it!

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So what else have I been doing in this heat wave? Since getting home from the show on Sunday, I’ve been spending my mornings at football practices taping ankles, thumbs, and fingers, covering blisters, abrasions, lacerations, and assessing injuries. Oh, and learning. So much learning. I’m learning quickly to trust my instincts when it comes to this stuff, and more often then not they lead me in the right direction. Classes begin next week, and I’m pretty ready to get back into things. This year is going to be one giant challenge, but I’m excited to take it on. The other thing I’ve been doing a lot of this week is writing- obviously not on here, but a lot of it stemmed from topics I have covered here. One piece was for a scholarship entry, another an article for Horse Country on the EC Hunter Classic, and one more piece as a writing contest entry- all focused around how riding has impacted me in one way or another.

Other events happening next week, my first time covering (or being at really) a football game. In Brandon of all places. From what I’ve heard game days are pretty crazy, but if there is one thing I’m good at- it’s crazy. But, right now, I’m heading into a long weekend. I had the entire afternoon to myself yesterday- which I spent going for a ride with Lauren at the barn (I’m going to miss those this winter!), then with my old friend Netflix at my dad’s. Today I had the entire day to do exactly nothing, and I’m just about to head for another ride while my horse is still this close to me. He moves home tomorrow, where I’ll only be able to hack now and then when I’m out that way and time allows. Sad face. Saturday I do my one work shift for the weekend and then more freedom until Tuesday. I have no solid plans for those days- which is a new concept for my over scheduling brain- but I’m also looking forward to have some time to just chill out before the crazy train hits my life next week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

I’m not me

Okay, so last week was one thing. I described it as topsy turvy. This week was just hard to handle.

I’ll start off by reiterating that concussions suck. Also that I am the worst at taking time off. Like, officially the worst.

When I wrote last week it was pretty close to when I started noticing initial symptoms of a concussion. Loss of concentration, sleeping more than usual, fatigue, headaches, etc etc. I had been to a doctor, who gave me not much instruction or useful advice. He suggested I maybe take some time off and then re-assess. Standard procedure for a concussive event is to take at least 7 days off (no work, no school, no exercise, nothing. Off off.). I know this. So my brilliant self decided to sort of take the weekend off (I saw the doctor on Thursday night) and then try and do half-work days throughout the week, as well as classes and practical exams. I managed to keep myself away from the barn, though, so high five for me? No. No high fives. Throughout the week, I noticed many new symptoms. The most predominant being going from sleeping WAY more than usual to not sleeping at all. 18hrs down to 3hrs. Not okay. Mood swings. Oh my goodness mood swings. Losing my patience with everything much more quickly then regular me would. Feeling sad. Feeling anxious. Feeling great. Feeling awful- in a time frame of under an hour. My concentration and focus has yet to return.

Trying to work was the worst idea, as my job is all computer focused and requires a high-degree of concentration. I can’t read for more than 5 minutes without getting distracted, dizzy, or having to look away. Class is the other thing that was an awful idea this week. Tuesday was the worst, coming back after missing the previous lecture. I absorbed approximately nothing from Tuesday’s class. I sat there in a fog for the entire time, and skipped the lab because I just couldn’t handle being there any longer. Physically and emotionally. Thursday’s class was better. My focus still wasn’t good, but the class was a little more engaging and less reading focused. Thursday I was also required to do two practical exams (one make-up and one new), both which required me to understand, teach, and guide a “client” through two different types of workouts while being video-taped. Anyone want to wager a guess at how well those went? Understanding what I was teaching wasn’t there, and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to really remember what I was doing through the tests. So not expecting good things on those reviews. Friday I saw another doctor. A much better doctor this time. One who has a concussion specialization, not one who was working a walk-in. I knew she was good, because she gave me news I didn’t want to hear- even if I knew it was coming. At least another 7 days off of my life. Serves me right, I guess, didn’t reeeeaaaaally take the first 7 days off.

I know, guys, it’ll end up being 14 days. Why am I getting all weird about it? Who wouldn’t want a break?

If you’ve had a concussion, or know someone who has- you know how important it is to rest. You’ll also know how hard that can be sometimes. With other injuries there is usually a physical, visible disability that comes a long with it. It’s quite obvious why you are taking time off. To you, and to those around you. This is a very invisible and mysterious injury. You can’t see it. You can’t predict it’s healing process. You can’t push it.

The perspective of taking time off now, so you don’t have lingering symptoms for months down the line that interfere with your life further, makes a lot of sense. So what is it that makes it so hard?

Part of it, I think, is that this sort of injury tricks you into viewing yourself as fine, and thinking others will view you as fine too- and by taking time off when you’re “fine” people might think you’re just being lazy. This isn’t true, of course, but it’s really hard not to see it that way. Concussions come with messed up self-perceptions. Those who know me know that I would never just take time off unless it was well-deserved. I like to be busy. I take on as much as I can because I love to. When time off is necessary, I try every trick in the book to convince myself that I don’t need time off. I know, ridiculous. I know other athletes to this too. That attitude towards life is what makes what we do possible. Never stop. But when it comes to flipping that determination around to successful recovery.. sometimes we get a little mixed up.

I’m blessed with being surrounded by people that constantly remind me to slow down when I’m doing too much. Rather then support my irrational decisions to push myself harder when I need to be taking pressure off the gas they constantly put things into perspective for me, or attempt to anyway. Do I listen all the time? No. Should I? Probably, yes. Do I try to? Yes. Always. There is no way that I would be as far and as successful in my endeavours if I hadn’t listened to the advice and wisdom coming from these people at least most of the time. When I have thoughts like “people will think less of me if I don’t do this…” or “my life is falling apart because I can’t do all this at once..” (that one was an exaggeration.. I don’t ever think that… do I??)- I am only met with acceptance of who I am, and reassurance that I am doing just fine. Usually I am given exactly what I need for that moment. What more could you as for in friends and family? 

Another difficult side to this, that I’m noticing, is that I don’t feel like myself. Partially because I’m not able to do many of the things that make up who I am. My normal motivation for everything is feeling a little tired (that is probably a good thing- a little easier to take a break with this mentality) and my frustration levels are much higher then they normally are (probably not a good thing). Also because the symptoms of this concussion like to play around with my emotions, making it hard to handle things I would normally not even blink at. It’s comforting to know that these are just symptoms, and they will pass. However, it’s also scary to not have control over my own head- and not knowing what is coming next a lot of the time. This feeds into the challenge of being able to perceive how those around me are viewing me. It’s a little confidence shaking.

On the plus side, I have a fantastic excuse for pretty much any stupid thing I say– Nobody can argue “concussion” as reason for not knowing something or those everyday face-palm moments!

What are your concussion experiences (personal, or someone you know)? How did you handle them?

I am hoping that next time I write I’ll be a little more “me” and a little less “concussion”! Until then, wish me luck at not concentrating (hopefully the only time I’ll be asking for luck in this) and “staying zen”.

 

 

This Crazy Life

It has been a topsy turvy week.

I’m becoming very aware of the fact that I have some sort of guardian angel watching over me.

Where do I start? Monday was a pretty chill day- Willard had the day off and I used the extra time to go out to “Dad’s Country Resort” where there is a laundromat, kitchen, and a quiet deck overlooking the river for which I used to study for my Advanced Resistance Training midterm. It was a nice, peaceful evening. Much needed after a competition weekend. Tuesday I wrote said AdvRT midterm- and pretty sure I destroyed it. Wednesday was where things got little bit cray (sigh… I just used “cray” in a sentence).

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I’ve been looking forward to this particular Wednesday for a while. This Wednesday was the day I got to go to a cadaver lab. Yes, I am one of those weird kids who gets excited about cadavers. To be completely honest I was LOVING it. The human body is a fantastic thing- and being able to see how it is put together is even cooler. So that’s great, right? Whats so crazy about a nerd loving bodies in a lab? Well- lets get to the fun part. I’d been in the lab for about an hour-hour and a half, when I noticed that my vision was little on the spotty side. So I decided to go outside to get some air. Lucky for me I was on the opposite side of the room from the door. I got about half way where I paused, hoping to regain some blood pressure. The last thing I remember was putting my hands on a lab table for balance.

I pick the best places to pass out. In grade 2 it was in the middle of morning assembly half way through verse one of “God Save the Queen” (I still hold a grudge against the principle for continuing to sing while I lost consciousness). Last year, in NZ, it was with family in a small town where the local doctor is on speed dial (if it had happened just a couple days earlier I would have been alone in a hostel full of partying travellers…not ideal).  This week, it was in a room full of highly knowledgable athletic therapists, first responders, and AT students.. in the basement of a hospital. Props to whoever assigned this girl’s guardian angel. Not so thankful for the formaldehyde and other chemicals that cut my cadaver experience short. Also, the fact that I was about to go examine the glutes on one model, means I fainted thinking about a dead man’s ass. Class act. Realizing that there was a 50/50 chance I could have fainted face first into a cadaver is also not a happy recollection. New most embarrassing moment.

Where were we, still on Wednesday? This day was nuts. So. After regaining consciousness and spending the next hour coming out of shock. Cold sweats, nausea, dizziness, a massive head ache. The works. I decided to head off to work (don’t ask me why). Believe it or not, this day has a weirdly optimistic ending. My loving prof had her lab instructor drive me to the office, on strict instructions (I just completed prevention and care of injuries with her) that if I even start to have any concussion signs or symptoms that I was to get to a doctor asap. Said lab instructor is a graduated AT student, who is currently preparing to write her CATA certification exams. We chatted about this and that (main topic was concussions, suitably), discovering that we had heard about each other through a mutual friend (an AT who she worked under and who I am hoping to work under) and as she dropped me off in the exchange she gave me her card with her email and told me to email her if I was interested in a PAID internship with her in the fall working with a football team. Seriously. Whoever is looking out for me. Keep it up. Although, if I could make one humble request… maybe scope out some series of events that have less impact next time?

I’m pretty sure I was running off adrenaline for the rest of the work day on Wednesday. By the time Wednesday evening hit I was starting to feel it wear off. By the time Thursday morning hit, I was able to deduce how I felt. Thankfully I fell backwards. Discovered by awaking to a very sore tailbone and stiff back. From there it was definitely my head next as my neck was just a tad sore and there is a nice sore spot on the back of my skull. However, other than sore, I didn’t feel too bad. So I went to work (again, don’t ask me why). I started to notice a decline when, because of the great weather we’ve had here in MB, we decided to cancel majority of our games Thursday night. Which means my job becomes calling team reps to ensure they know of the changes. Easy task. Look up their number on the computer, dial, speak. Well, easy in theory. I dialled approximately 10 wrong numbers. Reading numbers off the computer screen is easy. Dialling numbers is easy. Putting those two tasks together and dialling numbers in order? Not easy when you are mildly concussed. Apparently.

The great thing about concussions is that the symptoms can come, go, and randomly appear even days after the event. Symptoms are as unique as the individual experiencing them. A lot of times just noticing that you are not yourself is a sign that you may have a concussion. I’m usually a fairly focused person. For me to not be able to concentrate long enough to dial 10 digits- that’s not me. I saw a doctor that night, who agreed that I had a very mild concussion, and suggested taking some time off could be beneficial.

Friday was my first ever sick day. I believe I slept 18 hours.

Saturday was a fun day. Really, no sarcasm! We spent most of the day helping Grandpa and Grandma move into their new condo in Carman. Well, I can’t say I helped that much. I took a lot of pictures, but when I tried to actually be productive and carry things, my brain reminded me with bouts of dizziness that I was taking time off. Sigh. Either way, it was great to spend time with the family. A nice way to say good-bye to the house in Sperling, where so many memories and experiences were shared, and hello to making new memories in a new place- with the same amazing people. My grandparents are those kind of people who have been all over the world, met all sorts of people, had all the experiences. As much as this is a change for them, for all of us, I could write a book on all the memories I have in that house (Uncle Jerry giving us kids a water balloon slingshot and setting us loose on Sperling with the result of  shattered living room picture window comes to mind as one of the great chapters)- the memories were built around the people, not just the structure that housed them. The character that surrounds my grandparents will fill whatever space they inhabit, just as much as it spills over to those who spend any amount of time with them.

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After a much needed nap on Saturday afternoon, and supper with G&G, I headed out to Homewood where me and some of my closest friends braved the chilly June (????) temperatures and built ourselves  teepee and a bonfire. You should not be able to see your breath in June. However, that didn’t stop us. Bundled up, in our hick level teepee, it turned into a great night.

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So, did you get the impression of a kind of up-down-all-around week? Certainly had a slower pace than my usual. I think this slower pace is around to stay for a few more days. I went to work at the gym this afternoon, headache and all, to see how being out and about affected this head of mine. So far it looks like I’ll be taking my second ever sick-day tomorrow. Today has been full of headaches-which is new. Not really wanting to push that back into full-time Katmah style scheduling just yet. Especially since I have a competition in 3 weeks. That I fully plan on still going to. Heal brain, heal.

Willard, poor Willard. He was scarcely mentioned in this post. Mostly because I couldn’t do much with him this week as I just did not feel up to it. On Friday I did stop in and spend some time with him. I didn’t ride, I didn’t even lunge. I just played with him in the ring while the rain came down outside. Something I’ve really come to do more of in my training program, just being silly with my horse. When I came home from NZ, I wasn’t able to jump right back into the saddle- I spent a lot of time in the round pen. Your horse is your teammate, your partner. He does things for you that he might not for another. Take some time to have fun with him. Be his friend as much as he is yours. The trust you can build by just fooling around is irreplaceable (here I go on trust again). I used to not think of ground work as A) fun or B) important. The past couple years has shown me it’s very much both of those things. After working with horses overseas who were never worked with outside of being ridden for 15 minutes and then put back in the their stalls- they weren’t happy. Unhappy horses = unhappy riders/grooms = not reaching full potential. Being able to be silly with my horse reminds me to not take myself too seriously. Being injured sucks. I hate having to take time off. It is my least favourite thing, and it can get me down real quick. But, it’s part of being an athlete, or even just being human. Why let it bring you down? Accept what you cannot change, and be silly every once in a while.

As much as I would love to fully commit to that accepting attitude, it’s easier said than done. Part of me is fully committed to taking the time I need to get better so I can go back without any risk. Another part of me is saying suck it up and go to work in the morning. Carry on. The educated part of me is reminding that voice that that is an awful idea and not to mess with a concussion. As much as I know the importance of taking it easy the next few days- I don’t want to. Please tell me I’m not the only one out there that has these conversations with myself? Life is forcing me to slow down, and it’s cramping my style.

On a more cheerful note, here is a video from last weekend of my other hunter round!

Click here for the video!

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Like I never left

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Not that I actually went that far. Bit dramatic- it was really only 6 months off this time.

Got on Willard for the first time tonight he was, dare I say, perfect! Compared to last spring when it was like riding a horse who forgot most of his training- tonight he floated around like this was his day job. I think he was equally as happy as I am to be back in work. When I got to the barn and put him in the cross ties I swear I saw a glint of excitement in his eyes. And then a look of disappointment as he peered out of his stall at me as I left the barn. “Are you leaving already, mom?”.
If this is any sort of foreshadowing for the next few months- I’ll take it!

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Just in time

I’ve broken my record for length between posts, I think. Which must mean my life is finally getting back on track (insanely busy)!

It’s been just over a month now since “the surgery”, and I’m finally almost back to normal. I’m done dressing changes, and although there is still some healing needing to be done- I’m pretty much able to forget about it and just let it happen. Which is good, because that means I can ride! Yesterday was my first real ride back since surgery, and I haven’t been that happy in a long time! Willard has been moved to McMullans for the week as we’re planning on going to Fall Harvest this weekend. Yes, a show right after a month off- an excellent plan, isn’t it? Any other year I might not have felt comfortable doing this, but this year I have complete faith in my horse and our ability that this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. And here is where I need to say a HUGE thank you to my friend and fellow rider Laura Clark, who rides at Bluebear and also hails from Carman. She has been coming and hacking Willard for me over the past month and after riding him tonight in the ring I was so happy to find he was moving beautifully and so willing to do lateral work. Like I never got off! I knew he would be in good  hands with her. So, Laura if you read this, thank you thank you thank you!  It’s great to know my horse is in relative condition even when I’ve been unable to ride for a while.

I rode for about an hour and a half yesterday, and an hour today- I just couldn’t bring myself to get off. Even though my body has gotten a little too used to the easy life. I’ve been slowly trying to add things to my schedule, like work outs and now riding, plus work- and soon school again. 2 months ago it was easy to do all of those things in one day and still have energy at the end of the day. Now, it’s a little more challenging. I’m still trying to find the energy I used to have. I’m sure it will come back, I’m not really giving it a choice. Hopefully over the next couple weeks, as my schedule starts to pick up again I will feel back to normal. School is only a couple weeks away!!! I can’t believe how excited I am! Before I started this post I had my nose stuck in one of my texts already. Wonder how long this will last? Haha

My class schedule is pretty full. Actually, it is completely full. I have 10 courses, my 5 for the fall are: Nutrition, Biomechanics, Data Analysis, Anatomy and Physiology, and Scientific Principles of Fitness and Conditioning. Following those, with my AP running all year, are: Intro Kinesiology, Research Methods, Prevention and Care of Injuries, and Psych in Sport and Life. It’s definitely going to be a challenging year, to say the least. To add onto my school schedule, I plan on riding and working as well. Although fall has some of my tougher courses, I think it will be the easier term, schedule wise as most days all my classes are in the afternoons- so I’ll have most mornings and evenings free to work and ride and study. The winter term things get a little crazier with courses spanning from late morning to evening classes plus a Saturday class- which means I’ll be in school 6 days a week. Unfortunately this was the only way I could schedule things so I got into all my classes and labs, so it will have to do! The past week or so has been a flurry of me organizing text books, gym memberships, locker rentals, and everything in between. Thankfully most of that is done now and I can focus on Fall Harvest, and then finish moving things to the city and settle in there. As much as I’ve been pretty stressed lately, it’s all for the right reasons and I’m very excited to face the challenges that come up this year in school. I proved to myself in Anatomy this spring that I can get decent grades if I work hard at it, so I hope I can continue proving that to myself in the future. That B was definitely not easy for me, but it was such an accomplishment when I got it! I still stop and wonder sometimes why I chose this path. What is someone who has always drifted towards arts and never did well in sciences doing in a Bachelor of Science degree in one of the most challenging specialities?! At the same time, I can’t see myself doing anything else. And the more I talk to other people in the profession, the more I fall in love with it.

That’s all I’ve got for now, I’m exhausted! Here are a couple pictures from my ride on Sunday- and I hope I write again soon! There will definitely be a Fall Harvest update!

MS River Rouge cruise!

Roomies!