Monday, May 28, 2012

Five months of hell.

In transition...
I’d like to attribute my lack of posting in this blog by directing the reader to the title: “the unfortunate horse and rider.” The past five months have been hell for Deli and I. This blog's tagline is more appropriate than ever before!

The start of the bad times was that the barn we had been at for nearly two years quite suddenly became an unsafe and toxic place to be (for both the horse and I) in late December, forcing me to move Deli suddenly into what may have not been the best situation even if it was a step up from the bad situation we were leaving. The new barn was a very temporary fix, as the turnout situation was not what I expected, making Deli incredibly sore in the hind end and back.

I moved her again around a month later, after spending many hours each day looking for a new barn. While the turnout was better at the new place, and the barn owner one of those rare gems of true kindness you find in the equestrian community, the barn help was not competent and the turnouts were infected with scratches. Deli was fine until her hind legs were cut up mysteriously in turnout – the only reasonable explanation (which fits for the location of the cuts) is that she was injured by her pasture-mate. Shortly after she got medication-resistant scratches, and then very bad cellulitis in her right-hind (which is the same leg as her old groin injury). A week after moving to this new barn I was on the hunt for someplace else to move Deli to, again. We continued to be unsettled and unhappy. And for those who don't know, moving a horse is a large stress for them. For Deli, it's even more stressful than it is for the typical horse. She had been dropping weight steadily since we made our first move, as she tends to do when constantly under low-level stress. And I had to travel out to the barn daily for over a month to give Deli her antibiotics and keep her inflamed and painful leg bandaged.

Sadly, the area where I live has no barns within what I like to think is reasonable driving distance. These two barns were nearly a two hour commute for me round trip, and with law school and a part time job, my days were torturous, and my back pain (made worse by so much driving) kept me awake at night. Given all the driving – since I needed to be out at the barn as often as possible – I literally had no time for honest exercise unless I wanted to fail my law classes or fail at my job. No brainer.

Hiking at the New Barn.
Finally, at the end of April I struck on some luck at last, finding a barn 15-20 minutes closer to where I lived with good turnout despite only having stall board, trail access, and a good arena with footing that didn’t make me cringe every time I mounted my mare.

Now, I’ve never had very good luck with barns. I know I will never be truly happy with boarding, and the ultimate goal I have as an equestrian is to have my horse(s) on my own property and under my own management and control all the time. However, this place finally feels like a place I can stay awhile to combat what is, in a sense, horse boarding PTSD. My horse’s health has been threatened by bad management and care at barns that came at high recommendation EIGHT times in the six years I have owned her. Several of these times I would consider outright abuse.

One of the trails at New Barn.
On top of the horse-drama I seem to attract like sugar to ants, my own injuries continue to confound me. As has the weight I’ve gained in large part because of those injuries (and the opiates I was taking to deal with the pain) sustained from being hit by a car. This summer I’m actively trying to lose that weight through exercise and watching my calories. Luckily, I’ve always eaten quite healthily, so I don’t need to change WHAT I’m eating. HOW I’m eating has needed to change though, as I tend to forget to eat when stressed (which is a common state these days) and then have a huge meal when I’m starving. That’s not healthy! Changing my eating patterns to grazing rather than gorging has helped already. But I still have quite a bit of poundage to lose and fitness to regain before I’m “me” again. I weight more than I ever have in my life. The combination of massive stress + sleeplessness + pain (and taking drugs) + not enough time are a deadly combination I hope to avoid like the plague. 

It’s going to be a difficult road to lose this weight and gain fitness because my sleep is still often interrupted by pain. I can’t push myself like I used to when exercising because it causes the old injuries to flare up and cripple me. After the doctors told me I would always hurt and never be as fit as I used to be, I became depressed. Luckily I tend not to trust doctors, so I soldier on despite the depression.

Deli, after a trail ride.
Deli helps. It hurts less when I hike with her in-hand. And it’s good for her too, because she has muscle issues (in her lower back and hindquarters), a minor bruised tendon (from the same source as those scrapes), and a knotty painful neck as complications of the past couple months of hell. I’m riding her lightly – focusing on long and low to stretch and renew her flexibility. Luckily a recent equine massage seems to have set her on the road to recovery. I hope she will begin to gain back lost weight. She is enjoying the large turnouts and the new trails we have access too. My short-term plans are to put her on free-choice hay (in a Nibblenet) when she is in her stall to give her weight and mental health that extra boost.

I really hate this weakness in my body and the lack of time in my daily routine to exercise 1- 2 hours a day like I used to. Moving to a closer barn will help somewhat, as my commute to the horse is only an hour round trip instead of nearly two hours, but I miss the days where my horse was only a mile away from where I lived and I’d often walk or bike to the barn as drive.

Right now we are in recovery-mode. Plans for the future are on standby while we heal and regroup from the tough times.