Friday, August 31, 2012

No bandage??? Fingers crossed

I have been struggling with the bandage/not to bandage dilemma. In the past, each time that I left the bandage off the graft site became bruised, even when Suki was wearing the padded sheet. For the past three nights, Suki has been bandage free, but wearing the padded fly sheet. So far, so good. I am not even seeing any mild bruising this time, which means the skin is finally getting a little tougher, or Suki has not done one of her really aggressive rolls since she has been bandage-free! One of the advantages of not bandaging is that I am now able to moisturize the entire back, where before I had to leave a medium size rectangular area to enable the elasticon to stick. So part of the not rolling as much could even be due to less itchiness. I feel better about trying the surcingle soon. now. I had been delaying it because of the bruising on the graft. Now that the weather is getting cooler and the graft seems quite stable (knock on wood!)I may be able to execute my plan! The trailer is also now by Suki, so we will also be able to work on the loading issues as well. It would be wonderful to be able to do exhibitions with Suki performing a musical freestyle in hand....and I have the perfect song for her!

Nikki continues to do well in her new environment and I am thrilled to have so much more riding time! She does sometimes call to her friends when I lead her from the barn to the arena, but it is not hysterical, and she sets right to work without any additional talking. I am pleased with how well she settles into her work and appears to be happy doing it.

It's funny, how now I always hear Nikki's voice first because she is closer to the front door of the barn and much LOUDER! It's very cute. Suki always speaks in a low nicker, except when she feels that she is being ignored. Yesterday when I had finished grooming Suki, I walked her forward to turn her around. As we passed Nikki's stall she pulled me toward it and a few nickers were exchanged between the I wished I knew what was being said!

As I continue to work on the book, memories that I thought had been lost (because they were not in my journal) continue to surface and I believe they will have quite an impact on the tone and emotion for some sections.

Tonight when I returned to put Suki's fly sheet on in preparation for turnout she was quite impatient, as always! I had groomed her earlier today when I rode Nikki, so it was a quick visit. She seemed to think that it was time to go out IMMEDIATELY! when you are a diva, your needs are more important than anything else! She is so funny! I love how she was giving me the evil eye while I was feeding treats to Nikki!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Settling in

Sunday morning I went about my usual routine and got up early for my morning ride. The weather was cool and comfortable....the perfect start for a Sunday morning. Even the dairy cows seemed to marching a bit more briskly out to their pasture!

Nikki was a little cranky in her stall as she tried to eyeball her bucket of grain sitting outside her stall! I scooped a handful to her as i set out the tack and supplies in preparation for our ride. All was forgiven as I snapped the crossties to her halter while she tried fishing for treats. Crisp, clean white polos against Nikki's shiny bay coat gave her the appearance of the lovely dressage horse that she is growing into. Our ride on this last morning at VMF went smoothly, and I sighed as I cooled her down. Moving her is the right thing to do so that I can ride more and just generally spend more time with her, but I will miss being at VMF. Everyone is very friendly and the care is excellent.

Following my ride I cleaned tack and prepared for Nikki's departure, crossing my fingers that she would load onto the trailer easily. I witheld much of the rest of her breakfast, with the plan to use it to lure her up the ramp, rationalizing that she would be more likely to want it if she was just a bit hungry! Apparently the loading gods were listening, because Nikki walked onto the trailer like a star. The drive between the two barns takes about 20 minutes, and Nikki stepped off the trailer as easily as she walked on.

Settling quietly into her stall with a mound of hay, I felt comfortable leaving her for a few hours. Suki looked over from her stall with some interest, and called to me for treats and a scratch. I wonder if she remembers Nikki? They were turned out together for almost a year 2010-2011.

Later that afternoon I went back to the barn to give Suki her spa treatment. When I took her out of her stall we walked over to say hello to Nikki. Neither horse squealed (which surprised me), but Suki kept a watchful eye on Nikki while I groomed her! Because Suki has established a relationship with Banker, we decided to not upset that dynamic. Nikki would be going out with Chester. We had tried Chester with Suki, but she basically terrorized him. No physical harm, but she made evil faces and loud noises toward him!

Once the other horses were out Nikki and Chester were turned out in a paddock near the barn to see how they got along. Suki's field is adjacent to it, and the girls touched noses over the fence. Suki proceeded to passage in circles in front of Nikki, then Nikki passaged around the paddock. Chester made it clear that he was the boss, without doing anything more than moving Nikki around to where he wanted her to graze. Suki bored of the passage game, relaxing with Banker. Nikki and Chester also established a peaceful grazing stance which made me relax a bit.

Monday, Aug 27, 2012

In order to take care of both girls, Nikki was to be ridden before the horses were fed. I decided to do a 10 minute lunge first, so that she could see her new arena. When we got out to the ring Nikki called to her new love, Chester, whom she had met a mere 24 hours earlier! Other than that the lunge and ride were uneventful. I was so proud of her!

Timing worked well, and I groomed Suki while she was finishing her dinner. The Aquafor ointment (petroleum jelly based) seems to consistently keep the skin well moisturized. On sunny days I have to remember to use sunscreen on the areas not covered by the fly sheet.

Tuesday's ride was equally as good. A nice breeze and the shaded ring made for pleasant temperatures, although every time we transitioned to the walk we were attacked by bugs! Part of Suki's pasture is visible from the riding arena, so when she and Banker were turned out, Suki came right over to the fenceline to watch! She didn't stay there for long, and I had taken care of her first, so she was happily out for the evening. Once Nikki was taken care of and also out for the night and went to the other side of Suki's get to offer more treats and a visit. As I perched on top of the fence she walked over and rested her head on my leg, without asking for treats (well, not at first anyway!). I love my girls!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Changes and a minor meltdown

This weekend I will be moving Nikki to the barn where Suki lives. I love boarding at VMF, but with my schedule and Suki's needs, I have not been able to ride as much as I want or need to. I hope to go back for a few months in the winter so that M will ride Nikki and show her a bit. M said that she would ride Nikki once a week after we move, and I hope that it works out. This morning as I drove to VMF to ride I was filled with a bit of anxiety. The ride is truly breathtaking, as only farmland surrounded by mountains can be. My anxiety comes from moving Nikki from where she is comfortable to a new situation that will require quite a bit more from me. This is good and bad. The school year starts on Tuesday and Isaiah enters first grade in a new school. The Montessori school where he attended preschool and kindergarten, ends next week will require adjustment of schedules for all of us. I am confident that it will all work out (at least that is what I keep telling myself).

I am attempting to also start a new blog, and while I have several entries available, I have yet to put it all together (the Farm to Table blog). Sometimes I am a bit unrealistic about just how much can be accomplished in one day, but sleep is highly over rated...right???)

I drove a bit more slowly to VMF this morning, taking in the sights that I enjoy so much. As I passed the former Pink Star Farm, site of the fire, I saw the weanlings in the paddocks outside their stalls. Later today someone told me they are YEARLINGS!!!!, but then again I am used to my big girls! I smiled at the cows as I passed the dairy farms, wishing I could just stop and watch them graze for awhile. They look so peaceful after milking, relaxing in the fields. Some days I long to join them, to clear my mind. The sunflowers stood proud at the edge of the cornfield, and tomorrow I will take a picture of them as they raise their heads to the rising sun! Waving to the gentleman walking his Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and the woman with her Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix (this dog has the coat color of a shepherd with the build of a Golden...beautiful!)I smiled again. Another lovely morning as the Oley Valley comes to life.

Nikki was in a happy mood, despite the horses being fed around her. I did give her a couple of handfuld to keep her happy though! She was light off my leg and soft in the bridle, as we worked through shortenings and lengthenings within the gaits, and lateral work. I knew when she started to get tired because she became a little heavy in my hand. After a few walk/trot transitions in rapid sequence, she lightened up a bit and we finished nicely. Dare I take her to the George Williams clinic at the end of October?? After my ride I gathered together equipment that I would not need for tomorrow's ride and packed them into my trailer dressing room. The plan is to move Nikki after our ride tomorrow morning, giving her some time to settle in. I will probably lunge her in the afternoon, just to have her take a look at the ring.

On my way home the quilt shop parking lot was filled with vehicles! I imagined women sitting in a circle working on a quilt together. In reality, each person was probably working on her own project, but my vision comes from the colonial period and today's Amish quilt circles. It seems that it would be so much fun, to have that comradarie while working on a projcet together.

Suki was in a bit of a mood until I took her out to lunge. Today I set up a few trot poles for her, which she seemed to enjoy. Again, there was a slight stiffness the first couple of times around at the trot, but quickly she was loose and swinging in her back. It's funny, today she seemed to want to "talk" while linging, and I could see her nostrils move, and hear a slight nicker occasionally. Some horses in the adjacent field had wandered close to the fence, so I am wondering if she was talking to them. That too, subsided, and she settled into her work. On the way back to the barn the dump truck was spooky, even though she did not pay any attention to it on the way out. She started to piaffe, and although I love that, in that situation it is misbehaving, so I growled to get her attention. At which time she lowered her head and casually walked past it.... hmmmm it's all a game to Miss Suki the diva! Can you only imagine how intolerable she would be as a human! : )

Tonight in my garage I found a bin with dirty polo wraps in it. Two purple polos that I thought had been lost in the fire, and a set of dirty black polos. As I moved them to the "to be washed" basket, I noticed chestnut and white hairs on the black polos. I took a deep breath, as my heart caught in my throat. The last time those polos were used would have been before the fire, worn by Suki. I sat on the floor and stared at them. So much has changed since then. Much has been lost, but something else has been gained. Suki has changed my life and everyone around her. We have made friends and met wonderful people and animals. So as I held those wraps close to my heart, and cried for the past, I was able to see the future. Self discovery is an amazing thing. Can we ever imagine that a tragic event in our lives can make us realize our true direction and purpose? Certainly not at the time.

Tomorrow my girls will be togetehr again. I do believe that it will make my life a bit easier and I can give Nikki the attention from me that she needs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another Anniversary

Suki became part of my life the day I put in the video of her at 3 months of age by her mother's side during her Keuring. I must have that VHS tape converted so that I can share it. Her beauty and talent were evident from the moment she began to move and I immediately contacted the farm owner in British Columbia to request a current video. That was April 2003. Once again, when the new video arrived I was hooked, so after much soul-searching (and advice my veterinarian) I arranged for a pre-purchase exam without ever meeting Amiritta in person. She passed with flying colors and the purchase was arranged. Instead of negotiating price (she was worth the asking price, without a doubt)the seller said that they would start her under saddle and she would come to me in August.

On August 15, 2003, Suki began her weeklong journey from western Canada. The first leg of her journey was also her first time on a trailer which also consisted of a ferry ride. Kitty dropped her off at the shipper (International Horse Transport) in preparation for her trip across Canada in a box stall on fabulous tractor trailer. The shippers stopped every evening and the horses were unloaded. I spoke to the shippers for the final time at their Ontario headquarters which was the last stop on Auhust 21st. Suki had traveled well, and I was informed that she was in perfect condition. The horses would leave that night to avoid the heat of the day with an ETA of 11 AM in Unionville, PA.

When I arrived at the barn at 10:30 on August 22, Suki had already arrived and I believe I could have won an Olympic Gold Medal with my sprint to the upper barn. When I called her name she nickered back. It was love at first sight for both of us. So Happy Anniversary for the day of your arrival in the US Suki! I know that I have shared that story in the past, but I thought on this day, a re-cap was in order!

1 1/2 hours after arrival, Suki's legs were a little wobbly from her long journey on the luxury liner, but she was relaxed enough to graze:

I watched M jump Nikki today, and they looked amazing! Nikki is very willing over fences, and M rides her beautifully. The training that she has done with her is evident. Even during the flat work warm up, Nikki's floaty trot looks magical. I am so pleased with her progress. M has agreed to come over and ride her once a week, for which I am grateful. I love the way she rides her and am thrilled with how much they have accomplished. Hopefully we will be able to go back to VMF for the winter months. M can take Nikki to some shows during that time, and even though I will most likely be riding less than I will while she is with Suki, the alternative could be no riding for 2 months. At this stage of Nikki's training it would be best for work to continue. The jumping is good for her physically and mentally.We don't have any fancy jumps at Suki's barn, so I suspect I will be asking the husband to build some walls and flower/brush boxes!

I am, of course, really looking forward to being able to increase my riding time and spending more time with Nikki. Right now I am not spending enough time just BEING with her which I have been trying to make up for on the weekends and the few times I get out during the week in recent months.

The other day when Michael and Isaiah were out they saw a young girl with a prosthetic leg. Isaiah was about to jump up and point but Michael quietly explained to him the possible reasons for the prosthetic limb, and how it is not polite to stare and point. As he relayed this story to me I asked "Did you mention Molly the pony with the prosthetic leg?". He did not, and I think it would have made the message more clear, while continuing to emphasize that it doesn't matter how we look on the outside.....message to me: get that children's book about Suki finished, and find an illustrator! It is such an important message for children to understand! The beauty of animals, is that they do not realize that they look different in any way, so they just go about their lives being themselves without feeling self concsious, unaware of the stares. They are fortunate! Suki's diva personality is a prime example of this! She feels beautiful and elegant which his obvious in her attitude and behavior.

Tonight while I exfoliated the graft site Suki began to rock back and forth, turning to "groom" me in return, as her lips nibbled on my leg. Each time that I stopped to take a look, Suki turned to me and nudged me, nearly knocking me off the stool! No words necessary!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just When you Thought it was Safe to go Back in the Water

Since the barn fire, I am often struck by how sensitive I have become. Not about everything. Sirens freak me out less than they used to, but I must confess that if I hear them in the middle of the night, I hold my breath and pray for that phone call not to come. I believe that the fire has made me even more fiercely protective of my son, but I do my best not to smother him, and my husband helps to keep that in check.

But every now and then something ssets me back as I am hit with a situation that brings the memory too close to home.....

Today on my way to Suki's barn I was overwhelmed by the smell of smoke, like timber burning. My car windows were open, and the odor was so strong that it made me cough. That sensation immediately brought to mind some of what Suki must have experienced as her stall filled with smoke. Fear and panic must have been so overwhelming for the horses in the barn. I was able to keep driving, while the horses were trapped...very scary. Turns out it was just someone burning some branches.....

Arriving at the barn a few minutes later I was able to relax a bit. As I looked across the pasture I saw the blue heron standing near the stream. Struck by its beauty I took in the sight, marveling at its beauty. My visual pleasure was cut short, however by the sound of Suki calling to me from the barn. She heard my car, and clearly it was taking me WAY TOO LONG to go into the barn to greet her and hand over some treats!

The sun was out, but temperatures and humidity low and the arena covered with shade. I figured a 10 minute lunge was in order. Nothing fancy, but I put Suki in a bridle and polos, and off we went. The dump trunk is now parked in a different spot, so of course, that was cause for alarm! Piaffe, followed by passage and we were able to negotiate past the truck!

No evidence of stiffness in Suki's legs, for which I was grateful. The doxy is finished, and Suki was a star about taking them....surprisingly!! I did notice that her back was a little tight for the first few trot circles, but she is 12, and is not in regular work. Within minutes Suki's back was swinging, and we worked through some simple transitions. I am in awe of her beauty!

I am thinking of starting yoga. My ballet exercises are wonderful, but maybe I could use a bit of relaxation? Isaiah starts first grade next week, so there will be homework, extracurricular activities, school volunteering, my career, riding, writing.... alot to balance, but all fun! Thank goodness for my wonderful husband!

Baby Nikki moving by Suki this weekend. I am really looking forward to focusing on my dressage.

Another photo from our visit with Julie!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Busy Weekend and Meeting a New Friend!

This weekend started off with a busy Saturday, as usual! Saturday morning was one of those near perfect riding days; temperatures in the low 60's with low humidity. I love my early weekend mornings because they are peaceful and I can spend time fussing over Nikki. If I don't get an early enough start on Saturdays, however, my morning can be rushed because I have to get home to take Isaiah to his riding lesson. But my timing worked out and I happily drove through the Oley Valley, past the cornfields and the dairy cows, with few other people out and about. After quite a long week at work, I tingled with excitement about my ride on my baby dressage horse! The barn was dark when I arrived, because many of the horses were away at a show. Nikki rumbled her low nicker in response to my greeting, then pressed her head against my chest when I opened her stall door. I took in her special horse fragerance, whispering to her as she snuggled against me.

With an offering of a couple of handfuls of grain, (they started to feed as I gathered my equipment) Nikki seemed satisfied to step out of her stall and prepare to work. After an arabesque with both hind legs (just like Suki and Jenny before her)we were ready to go! Nikki was light and responsive, so I worked on the shortening and lengthening exercises. She seemed satisfied and relaxed at the end of our ride, stretching down during our cool down. I even had time for 15 minutes of hand grazing before I left. I love leaning against her strong shoulder, silently wondering "have you grown since last week????"

Just before I left VMF, I decided to put the top down on my car....the weather was perfect for it. This required a bit of re-organization, given the huge amount of stuff that can be found in my car! And yes, I cranked the radio and cruised through the Oley Valley!

Back at home, I whisked Isaiah out the door for his lesson. We kept the top down on the car, and as we cruised up and down the hills Isaiah raised his hands over his head as if he were riding on a roller coaster. Riding Prissy again in his lesson, Isaiah had moments where he seemed to get the posting rhythm. Home again, but with a stop by Suki. Isaiah set off to look for toads and butterflies, so with a bit of cool air and cloud cover I decided to lunge Suki quickly. Nothing fancy, just transitions and stretching, but as usual she seemed to enjoy it.

Sunday morning weather was beyond perfect! I awoke before my 5:50 alarm, and went for a short run. Out the door by 7 for my ride, with temperatures in the 50's!!! I actually wore a sweatshirt to the barn, imagining an early fall day. The valley was green, and sleepily starting the day. At the edge of one of the cornfields a line of tall sunflowers was in full bloom. Sunflowers always make me smile!

Once again I was first to arrive at the barn and Nikki was ready to come out for her ride. The cool morning had Nikki bright and alert. Light off the leg and soft in the bridle. The lateral work came easy, and transitions were so light I wanted to shout from the rooftops! With a bit more time this morning I was able to do a nice stretchy trot cool down, with Nikki softly blowing contentedly. I wanted the moment to last forever. Plenty of time to clean tack and socialize. I will miss my friends at VMF.

This afternoon I had arranged a meeting with one of Suki's FB fans, whom I had also corresponded with through email and messages. Julie was going to be in the area from Florida, and we had arranged a time to get together at Thistledew Farm to meet. Julie lost her horse in January, having been with him for 25+ years. The ache of that loss was evident in her eyes, as she fondly recalled stories about their relationship. We have unshakable bonds with our equine partners, even after they have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. But those memories bring smiles in addition to tears as we laugh at their antics and cry because of our loss. We give every part of ourselves to them, holding them dearly in our hearts after they have passed. The ache of their absence may decrease over time, but we are quick to tear when we hit a particularly fond memory. Julie's wounds are still fresh, but she knows that some day she will love another horse alongside her memory of Tee. It reminded me of losing Jenny, wondering if I would ever recover. Memories of Jenny make me smile, but thinking about that last day of her life, my heart aches with the loss.

Sharing a bag of Gummy Bears with Suki, Julie was able to see her heart and soul, no doubt bringing back the sting of her loss. Suki had been out over night, but because the day was cool and overcast, she was put back outside after coming in for morning grain. Here fatigue was evident, as we watched her doze in the crossties! After awhile, we put Suki and Banker back out, since the day was cool and pleasant. The two walked away to the top of the field, but several minutes later while we stood by the gate talking horses, Suki first floated in her trot then casually cantered to the gate in search of treats. Banker followed a bit later, and Julie, Jennifer and I observed their antics. It is so funny to watch those two interact..... Suki has never been that fond of another horse. It warms my heart to watch them together, and I am thankful that my special girl survived.
I am often asked about what "good" has come from this tragedy. Today was an example of that. Meeting wonderful, kind people who we would not have met otherwise. It is important to count the blessings in your life, even when "bad" things happen. I have not always been good at this. But as crazy as it sounds, my horse has taught me that.....

Julie and Suki

Suki has a gift, and once again, I was able to see how her courage in recovery, touched the heart of another admirer and fellow horseman, and I made a new friend. So many thanks Julie, for taking time out of your trip to meet us! And thank you Jen, for joining us! Non-horse/animal people don't always understand, so meeting others who have that same passion, is always so much fun. I hope that we will have an opportunity to get together again. Maybe a bunch of us can meet in Wellington this winter in Florida to be spectators at one of the big shows! Wouldn't that be fun! Safe travels back to Florida tonight Julie!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book sample (unedited)

I had really hoped to lunge Suki tonight but the sky was threatening rain, so I elected not to. Needless to say the sun came out when I got home! Chance of boomers until 9 though....

Since I have not yet attached a piece of lycra to the foam on the mesh sheet, Suki's bandage came off during one of her rolls, no doubt. It's just too rough. However, when Suki does get wet, this sheet doesn't hold water, so it works better when there is a chance of rain. Because let's face it, horses do not always take cover when it rains! But the graft looks fine and this weekend I will try bandage free again. I think that the foam will protect it sufficiently. Once we head back into blanket season and she is wearing clothing all the time I think that Suki can go without bandage completely. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

While I was using the exfoliating mitt on the graft, Suki once again rocked back and forth and leaned into me. That will be the other bonus of going bandage-less...I will be able to thoroughly moisturize her entire back!! I am not able to moisturize where the bandage will touch because of course it will not stick!! And we have enough issues with adhesion.

I was rewarded this evening with a view of the blue heron that hangs out in Suki's field. What a beautiful sight! If I my camera had been handy I would have taken a picture.

Getting ready to mount: March 2006.

Book sample:

I drove past the remains of the barn to the driveway near the indoor arena. Unsuccessfully I tried to will myself not to look at the charred ruins as I drove past the barn entrance. I cast my eyes toward the site of the barn where Suki had once lived, and began to shake uncontrollably. "Michael was right", I thought. "It is too soon." The fire had taken place just three days earlier, and I was not ready to face it. Having just returned from visiting Suki, my mind raced with fear and anxiety. Those who know me, understand that these emotions are new to me.

Physically, Suki had already begun to improve, making her doctors cautiously optimistic. They were impressed by her progress and attitude, but continued to warn me about potential complications and setbacks. My emotional wounds, however, were still wide open, and admittedly, I was a bit of a mess! Just being in such close proximity to where my beloved girl endured so much pain and fear was overwhelming. My heart literally ached for that which I had been unable to protect her from. Yes, Suki was alive, but we had a long road ahead of us, and facing the barn ruins meant that I also must accept that Suki may not survive. But I never even accepted that possibility, never accepting death as an option. Was I in shock? Probably. Protective mechanisms were in place.

I pulled into the driveway and parked near the indoor, wondering if I could even get out of my car. Bobbi emerged from the doorway and I opened my door, beginning to sob. When my feet touched the ground and I tried to stand my knees buckled, unable to hold up my body. Someone grabbed me and held me while I cried. To this day, I have no idea who that person was.

Even as I paste these thoughts into my blog I can feel the raw emotion from those early days. Suki's courage carried me. How is it possible that a horse can teach you so much about fear, courage and survival? Clearly we are soul mates.....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Behind in my blog posts!

So, Friday evening severe storms were expected, thus my decision to keep Suki in. Do I really need to mention that we didn't even receive a drop of rain??? But JW had put her out for a bit and had planned to bring her in. Ultimately he decided to leave her out, since it looked like the storms were dissipating...

Saturday was an abbreviated spa treatment, as I had the child in tow. But Isaiah had a great lesson where he seemed like he was beginning to get the rhythm for posting. Prissy is a mustang, and does 1st level dressage! Isn't she adorable?

After that we went to see the new dinosaur exhibit at the Reading Public Museum. Michael was away fishing all day, so Isaiah and I spent the day playing! Unfortunately I didn't get to ride, but we had a great day!

Saturday night saw reasonably heavy rain, that was not anticipated.....Suki did not melt.

Sunday morning temperatures were in the 60's with low humidity. I couldn't wait to get to the barn to ride! The rain showers over night made everything "POP" green and lush on this lovely, cool morning. The bright blue sky was the perfect backdrop for the mountains and the wild flowers as the new day awakened in the Oley Valley. The Mennonite family that I see every Sunday morning as they travel to church in their horse drawn buggy, waved as I slowly steared around them. The Valley was alive with people running, cycling and walking with their dogs. Can you tell how much I love this area??

I will certainly miss this drive after I move Nikki to Suki's barn, but it is the right decision. It is necessary for me to focus on my dressage and with my full plate (career, child starting first grade, husband, Suki, etc)I need to have the girls together. There have been many days when I finished with Suki that I would have been able to ride, but because Nikki is 15 minutes away from Suki's barn it would eat up too much time. Nikki is being ridden, but I want to ride her! I will still be driving through that area and over my favorite covered bridge as I frequent Leid's (tack and supplies) and Oley Valley Feed (bird seed and horse supplies)so it's all good. I hope that I can have Nikki at VMF in Dec, Jan Feb, but that depends on how full they are.

After watching some of the Olympic dressage (congratulations Charlotte Dujardin, for your individual gold!) I have been thinking quite a bit about self carriage. Nikki does fairly well with self carriage but sometimes toward the end of our session she can get a bit heavy in the hand. I believe this has to do with her strength. She is probably also a bit tired by that point. But if I do a rapid succession of walk trot transitions she lightens a bit. She understands and tries very hard....but she is only 5, so I don't want to over do!

Because Suki had been out in the rain over night I stopped by her barn to see if her sheet needed to be set out to dry. It was already dry, so maybe she and Banker were in the bank barn at least part of the time?? the bandage was in tact, and all was good!

Later that afternoon I went back to give Suki her spa treatment. The sky was overcast and temperatures reasonable, so I decided to lunge her to evaluate her mobility. At first there seemed to be a bit of stiffness, but Suki quickly worked out of it and moved smoothly. The stiffness and hind leg stocking was not a surprise since she had been in all day. While I have not observed acute and profound lameness recently I am not 100% convinced that we have found the cause of lameness....but fingers crossed! After a spa treatment and sunscreen application, Suki was out for the night. She and Banker casually walked out across the pasture....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


So Monday evening I was interviewed by someone from Sidelines Equestrian Magazine. They are planning to run a story about Suki in an upcoming issue. While I am a little disappointed that Suki was not among the winners of the Super Model contest, I am thrilled that Sidelines is interested in our story. When I entered the contest, the 50-word required essay caught the attention of an editor at the magazine. They will be speaking to Suki's veterinarians and to Kelly who took care of Suki at her rehab farm.
One of the questions that I was asked was "what was the hardest part of this incident?" For me, thinking about that night my biggest concern was how frightened Suki must have been, and the pain of being burned. It truly hurts my heart. But I think of how brave she was, unable to see because her eyes were burned and swollen completely shut, that she followed the sound and smell of her friend Whisby, who guide her to safety. Even now, 3 years later, it brings tears to my eyes. I look at Suki now and she is happy and healthy, but that night must have been so terrifying for her. I know that it was for me!

All of this always helps with the book. As I re-visit the emotion from the night of the fire and the weeks, months and years that followed I pull additional memories and insights from that night.

I was also asked what was the best part , or "good things" that have come out of the tragedy. I have met, either physically or virtually, so many wonderful people since the fire. The fact that Suki has been able to inspire so many people fills my heart with joy. Suki has a beautiful soul and hopefully can continue to show people that when you are at your lowest and darkest moment, lift your head and forge on. It may not be easy and there may be many obstacles, but in the end, you can overcome and find happiness. That was the turning point in Suki's recovery. Within 24 hours she lifted her head and we never looked back.

Again I am faced with the fact that the dream may not turn out the way you envisioned it, but if you push on, you will be able to see the positive. This has been a struggle for me that few people realize. I have always put on the "brave face", willing myself to believe it. But now, I DO believe it, and I do feel the good that has emerged. I would be lying if I did not admit that I sometimes have the "if only" thoughts. Some days I am envious of the horses that were not injured, and wish that I was able to ride both girls every day. My two girls have different purposes, and both of their jobs are important. These are the lessons that I hope to convey in the children's book, and to my son.

Okay, so off of my soap box! The newly adapted sheet seems to be working well, after one night out! Once I replace the foam with neoprene, I believe we will be bandage free! YAY!

It was a little warm tonight and the horses were just being fed so I decided against a lunging session. Hopefully tomorrow. In just a few weeks the girls will be together and I will have more riding time on Nikki, and quality time with both girls!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weekend routine

Saturday, August4, 2012.

When I walked out the door this morning to ride I was immediately hit with the humidity. The temperature was only 73, but WOW was it humid! Once again a crazy week at work gave me minimal riding time which I hope will change when I move Nikki by Suki for a few months. I need to be able to focus, and admittedly it has been a bit of a struggle. I have become more of a weekend rider and that is not who I am as a rider! Plus I need to spend more physical time with Nikki, even if I just groom her. Without an indoor, there will be days like that. But I am willing to deal with it because ultimately I will ride more. But I love being at VMF because the care is great and the people are friendly. I love having Meghan work with her over fences because it helps Nikki physically and mentally, and Meghan really enjoys riding her. It's nice to have that social aspect again. But if I can focus from now until winter it will get me to where I need (and want) to be with Nikki's progress.

Great ride Saturday AM. I have been inspired by Olympic dressage. Even with the heat, Nikki was super cooperative and I was able to throw in a few steps of baby half pass again.... Thankfully we had no mounting issues! Oh, and I popped over the little cross rail for fun. I think I caught Nikki by surprise, but she was happy to oblige. On my way home I of course, passed the quilt supply shop, which had a parking lot filled with cars. The building that houses the shop is probably close to 200 years old, but now outfitted with air conditioning. I love old stone homes. Berks County is filled with them and I marvel at the construction and the history. What fun it would be to sit in there and quilt! That made me think of the local Amish families who don't even have fans, and how hot it must be as they sit and quilt. But maybe the good company and conversation makes up for some of that!

Isaiah had his riding lesson, so there was a bit of rushing about which is typical for Saturday. I was so impressed when he walked up to Blackie and mounted from the ground like a pro! He had quite a good lesson, and he seemed very pleased at the end. Without prompting he rinsed the bit and put the bridle away. Six year-old boys are so unpredictable!!

With the heat and humidity I decided not to lunge Suki, so the regular spa treatment was in order. Of course while I was sponging her off, Suki snuck a drink from the bucket and proceeded to spit it at me! The other horses were already out so she was a bit rammy while I was trying to get everything done. It became an abbreviated spa treatment! Suki, who was so anxious to get out, immediately walked into the opening to the bank barn in her pasture, followed by Banker. They proceeded to stand inside and head-to-toe scratch one another!

Sunday, August 5, 2012
Another early morning ride, and today was even MORE humid than yesterday! Who thought that was possible! Nikki and I were sticky with sweat before we even started our ride! In spite of the sluggish start Nikki was light and responsive again, though we kept the ride short! It was too buggy to even hand graze at that point!

Stormy here tonight so Suki, much to her dismay, will have to stay in for the night. I am not noticing any lameness right now, so hopefully the doxy is helping. Suki seems her happy self (except when turnout is denied!) so I think all is good. The bandage on the graft was a bit rumpled so I replaced it. While massaging moisturizer into her skin Suki began to rock back and forth and quiver her lip. Whenevr I stopped she would turn around to nip at me! I think I massage the graft for 10 minutes! maybe some day she will bandage free and be able to go out in her pasture and roll without a sheet on! That will probably be a most exciting day!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Passage anyone?

I longed to speak to my father tonight. He passed away in 1998, but is the reason I ride horses. Daddy drove me to ballet, gymnastics and riding always there for the triumphs and the falls. I just want to hear his voice again.... So I walked outside and looked into the sky. The clouds were shaped as a horse and rider, and I thanked my father silently for that first ride, the one from which there was no return. The ride that forever made me a horseman.

Once again, life gets so busy that the days just fly by, and I find that I am not enjoying the moments again! I feel like summer is winding down and attainable goals have fallen aside. The Olympics have taken over my life, as always, so I am staying up much later than usual, obsessed with checking results during the day, and cheering for a variety of sports. Dressage started today and only Jan Eberling and Rafalca rode. Day two will see the rest of the US team. I am hoping to watch the replay later.

Suki continues to take her doxy like a champ, but the minute she stops (because I feel like she will!)I have the contact information for the pharmacy to make the paste. Tuesday night we had a few downpours, and judging by the wet foam in Suki's fly sheet she did not go in the run in! But contrary to my concern she did not melt! Storms were not predicted so I was okay with it.

Storms were a possibility so I made the decision for Suki to stay in last night. Do I need to say that we did not have ONE DROP OF RAIN! ugggh. 1400 lbs of cranky chestnut mare!

One of the other boarders had a visitor yesterday, and it was the first time she saw Suki up close. XX remarked about her size, nut just height, but bone. It's funny, people are always in awe of her gaskins! She walked right up to Suki, rubbed her face and kissed her on the nose. Suki has that effect on people. Before the fire, she was admired more from afar. People always were hesitant to approach Suki because because of her diva attitude. Her natural talent, evident from one trot around the field amazed those who witnessed the display. Under saddle she grew in physical size and attitude commanding attention. She made me look good as I moved with her lovely gaits. Since the fire visitors seem slightly less hesitant, and although Suki is still a diva and will turn up her nose, she has softened. She seems to understand that she is somewhat of a celebrity, but one that is approachable. I still see the fire in her eyes, but it is now accompanied by a warmth. That warmth was always there for me, but not for everyone. But the greatest transformation is reserved for those who are suffering from illness, or for her fellow burn survivors. As crazy as it sounds she just seems to understand. I have watched her lower her head to receive an affectionate pat for those who can't reach. Suki is special, no doubt about it!

XX, the visitor, and I discussed mounting her, ("how did you get on her?!!!)and as always I am proud to say that I was able to mount her from the ground. The majority of the time I used a mounting block, but it is always important to maintain the ability to mount from the ground....because you just never know when you might have to do that!

When I walked Suki out of her stall today I observed only moderate stiffness, which is impressive given that she was in for most of the night. In spite of the humidity she was only warm but not really sweaty. A bit of cloud cover came over so I decided to do a short lunge. Two trips around at the trot and the stiffness was gone. The canter was loose and comfortable. Back to the trot, and then, I did it.....I shortened the lunge and moved closer, asking for a shorter stride, very lightly tapping her hocks with the whip....and yes, I dared to ask for a passage, without long lines, without side reins....and yes, my beautiful girl sat down a bit more and floated into passage. With tears streaming down my face I praised her. Suki stopped and turned toward me. As I looked into her eyes I could see the pride. I walked toward her and Suki lowered her neck in acceptance of my hug. We walked out of the arena, and I leaned against her as she grazed. Suki was born to be a star.....