Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Winter STILL?! Or, How We're All Going Nuts

You guys. Tracy talked about the struggle bus, and I'm right there with her. I might be driving the damn thing.

Yesterday afternoon it snowed so much that the county declared a white out. On March 25. I hate the North. I HATE IT. Or the Midwest. Whatever this is. No one says y'all, people think I'm dumb because of my (not even that thick) accent, and the ground is either frozen or muddy all the time.

So we all went crazy yesterday: humans, dogs, horses, the lot of us. Something was scaring Lex to death while I was trying to tack her up, but I couldn't find the dragon and slay it for her because I think, honestly, that it was the snow. Then when I was lunging her, she was trying really hard to calm down but shit kept happening: five horses got loose and were running back and forth past the open door to the indoor, the dogs (I love dogs, but I hate these dogs) were flinging their bodies against the outside of the indoor while chasing the loose horses around, the two geldings in the paddock that wrap around the indoor were galloping around and kicking the wall. It was serious lunacy. I told the two girls on horses waiting for their lesson to start to get off (sometimes the pro hat just has to come back on). I hand-walked Lex in a circle and she calmed down. By the time A caught the horses, she was much more chill. We went back to lunging--I just started over as though nothing had happened-- and she was much better. I debated not riding at all, because by that time there were three other horses in the ring, but I didn't want to be That Person. I'd rather fall off than be That Person.

So, one foot in the stirrup it was. Lex walked around with a lot of tension and kept trying to break into the trot, but otherwise wasn't doing anything bad. I tried everything to calm her down: circles, change of bend, little leg yields, anything that would get her mind off all the scary demons and onto me. None of it worked. She didn't get worse, but she didn't get better. So finally I was like, screw it, let's stand still in the middle of the ring for a minute. About one minute into standing still, she let out this HUGE breath. Her ears flopped out to the side, she licked her lips, she looked for all the world like a school horse.

Dudes. Sometimes it's gliterally the simplest thing that fixes the problem.

We went back to the walk, and she was long and low, chewing on the bit, occasionally noting the other horses but not worrying about them. I was so proud of her. Then A came in to start the lesson and I let Lex stand with her in the middle. She LOVED to watch the other horses work on their diagonal-crossing and circles. She didn't move a foot, but she nodded at them when they went by. It looked encouraging. So freaking adorable.

Today I rode her again, just lightly, because I think we have a lesson tomorrow. She was really, really great. A little bit of trying to break into the trot while walking, but not much. Her trot today was a magic carpet ride. I didn't even ride her long, but she was stretching down into the bridle after just a few minutes. A few laps and circles and changes of direction and we called it good. She was happy and chill and that's all I wanted to see today.

She's going well, but I've been thinking lately about how she's changed in the three places I've had her. The first place I kept her, she was turned out 24/7 in a 40-acre field with a bunch of other horses. She was skinny, and she was really quiet. Until she went lame, anyway. But the quietness was, I think, tiredness. I couldn't manage her there the way I wanted to. So then we went to the next place, where she had a stall and overnight turnout. She looked like a million bucks (but because I put the work into it, not because that place was fabulous. Believe me, it was not fabulous. I've never ridden in such crummy footing in my whole life). She was turned out for 16 out of 24 hours, only coming in her stall to sleep and munch hay during the day. I fed her Seminole Wellness Compete Safe, my all-time favorite horse feed. The hay sucked, but eventually I just went and bought my own.

Now we're in Ohio. It's fucking freezing. The ground is shot. She gets, oh, six hours of turnout a day, maybe eight. So 1/3-1/2 of what she was getting in Florida. It's windy. The indoor is always noisy because no matter what time of day it is or what the weather is like, for some reason it always sounds like it's sleeting. Something must be falling on the roof or scraping along it. We ride inside, in a small ring, and Lex certainly prefers to be outside. She's on a grain I don't love. I do love the hay, though. The hay is beautiful. Anyway, she's just a much hotter and spookier horse than I had in Florida. She's not being bad, and I still wake up dying to go see her and ride every day. But I'm not sure she's at her happiest. We'll see what happens wherever we end up next.

I keep having to tell myself that we are making progress. No, we haven't moved much as far as the canter goes. No, we're not jumping. But she is a medium-difficult horse on her average days and a pretty tough one on her bad days. She's also the love of my life, so she's worth it. I'm also a walking anxiety attack these days. Maybe it's seasonal affective disorder, but I think a lot of it is the paralyzing uncertainty about what happens next. I don't have a job lined up. How am I going to afford to live and keep Lex happy?

The one thing I know is, I will do whatever it takes to hang onto her and give her the best lifestyle I possibly can. Because even on her pretty-tough days, she's my favorite horse in the world. No matter how bad I feel when I get to the barn, being with her and riding her calms me down. It's better than drugs. And this winter will end.


  1. Ugh sorry about the weather. I totally know what you mean about the anxiety attacks, as my life has beenin a limbo ofsome kind for the last 7 months.. ugh. still have low level anxiety but rituals help .

    1. I'm glad you've got some coping mechanisms. I'm always telling other people to prioritize self-care, make lists of the things they can do for themselves when they're hurting or anxious, seek affirmation, etc. And then when it's my turn, I basically stand in the middle of the room and scream "SELF CARE!!!!" as though that's going to solve my problem. But it's been a couple years since I've been hospitalized for anxiety so at least that's progress.

      Hugs, friend.

  2. The winter WILL end. It's been awful, but it will end SOON. I'm only one state over from you and we already have green grass popping up (when it's not getting covered by snow yet again!) and there are buds on the trees. Spring will make up for the misery of winter.

    I had the same problem with Lily when I moved north from FL: she went from living in a 14x14 stall w/attached run and paddock & 15 hrs of overnight turnout to spending 18 hrs at our first MD barn. She eventually became so nutty that I seriously considered selling her. Since no one in my area offered a setup like what we had in FL, we just went straight to field board. She has access to shelter and gets fed high quality hay and the grain of my choice twice a day. And I have a completely different horse. It doesn't hurt that cost of board is now half what I was paying for full board too.

    I'm sorry about your anxiety. :( worrying about finances and job hunting is a monumentally stressful thing, especially when you have a horse. I've been there too. Like winter, this too shall pass.

    1. *spending 18 hours locked up in a 11x12 stall. Gah commenting from phones! Sorry.

  3. I say ya'll! Even though I've never lived outside of Ohio........

    1. This is just one more reason why I love you!

  4. Solution? Return to FL!!! :)