One tiny step for everyone else, one giant leap for me

I’m going back to work tomorrow. Having not done that for a few months it now feels like a massive deal. But as of this morning’s doctor’s appointment I have a piece of paper saying I’m fit to work if I avoid overexertion and heavy lifting for a bit. I’m hoping to start back mornings only but it’s not really been formalised yet.

I still don’t have a diagnosis but the important part is not feeling like crap all the time!

So it looks like a return to being a useful member of society is on the cards. And hopefully a return to regularly exercising a little woolly horse beastie. And lessons and dressage and all that jazz. (Actually I don’t think Drifter likes jazz, being mistrustful of syncopation, so perhaps we’ll skip the jazz for now.)

And yes, I do know that my horse doesn’t like syncopation. Fact. Some of the things owners know about their horses are seriously weird. But it kind of makes sense that horses like regular rhythms such as those sounds produced by relaxed horse movements and are less comfortable with irregularities and unexpected rhythms that sound more like lameness or stressed movements.

Also in weird horse news I finally found a face brush that he doesn’t dislike. Having tried a variety of different horse face brushes, and every other brush in my grooming kit, I finally started thinking out of the box and bought a very cheap, very nasty, very scratchy plastic human nail brush and he loves it. For the first time since I’ve had him I can actually brush clean the long hair on his woolly forehead without him resisting. Horses!

3 steps forward, half a step back

Yes I know I was meant to post about schooling in walk next. I’ve started the draft but this one’s jumped the queue.

I have a cold.

A month or so ago I was terrified that if I caught a cold would become really serious as I was so unwell anyway. But here we are now and although it’s crappy and I need to be careful with myself I’d recovered so much before I caught the cold that it’s not much worse than usual for a cold so far.

It’s frustrating to have my recovery set back by this viral irritation but I feel quite positive somehow.  I think I was fearful that any cold or virus would set me right back to where I was a few months ago, so it’s a real relief to find I’m still fairly functional and while bed is the best place for me I’m still capable of, for example, going upstairs without feeling like I need to sit down half way up. That’s a triumph.

To summarise: I feel pretty awful and I feel really rather good about it. :D No one ever said being human was simple!

What if I can’t…

I’m feeling a lot better now but there was a point a few weeks ago where I was thinking, ‘What if this is my permanent level of health? What do I do about my horse?’ Now I’m seeing significant improvements in my health l think the reflections below are hopefully not likely to be relevant to me but I thought I’d share them anyway.

With the clarity that comes from being mostly alone with one’s own thoughts for long hours, I knew I wasn’t ready to give up my horse. I am lucky that he’s on full livery and this year, weather permitting, they have some turnout every day so if I can’t get there I know he’ll be ok.

But what about riding? What if I can never expect to trot or canter regularly? Surely it would be unreasonable to keep him? But I want to keep him… Could I keep a horse that I only rode in walk?

Well why not? Since getting to know Lee Pearson a bit I’m a lot more aware of para-riders. It occurred to me that in a world with walk-only dressage tests there might be plenty of precedent for horse owners who were confined to walk.

Assuming I was careful with myself I could still lunge him in trot and canter, and I know on his reduced work regime he’s trotting and cantering more in the fields when he’s out. If he didn’t seem happy with that pattern of exercise l might have to consider finding someone to make a regular arrangement with for them to ride him – l couldn’t afford to pay for him to be ridden regularly long term.

l decided I could give him a good life still even if it wasn’t exactly what I’d chose in an ideal world. And I felt this sensible and respectful horse would look after me and keep me sane and safe.

But what would we do together in walk?

l googled for schooling exercises that can be done in walk and didn’t find much of any use. I think there must be loads that could be done in a walk-only work-out. To quote Lee Pearson, “Walk is a working gait; it’s not a coffee break!” So my next post will be about my ideas for schooling in walk, because I bet someone else will find it useful sometime. I can’t be the only one wondering what they can do to put variety into an all walk schooling session.

Stuff I managed to do

I’m still sick, and I don’t have the energy for proper posts. So here are eleven pictures. Or “ill.” because I am both ill and illustrating.

Ill. 1 & 2. (Actually not something I managed to do – something I managed to pay someone to do ;) )D got clipped. Although he’s not in regular structured exercise at the moment he was getting too sweaty to dry on the occasions I had someone ride him, and on the last warm days he was sweating even stood in his stable. So I had him clipped. I turned up during the process to say hello, and snapped these, but was too tired to stay and take a picture of the finished article. He actually managed to jump the clipping queue massively because a) he’s amazingly well behaved during clipping and b) I don’t mind less experienced members of staff having a go at clipping him. Everyone has to practice to get good and it’s not like we’re going out anywhere anytime soon, so if it’s not a perfect job that’s not a problem.

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Ill. 3-7: Things discovered on walks.

Ordinarily if I go for a walk I intend to be out for a little while and take a camera, perhaps finding some birds to photograph. At present if I go for a walk it lasts only a few minutes and I get exhausted super so I had to look harder to find things worth photographing only a minute or so outside the house.

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Ill. 8-11: Stuff I crocheted. The teal shawl  (pictured stretched out and also folded) was started well before I got ill. Ironically I made it for the autumn mornings in the office … which I have totally missed this year. Doh! The wrist-warmers similarly were intended for morning use in the office but are more versatile. The keyring was for Mr S, although it came out bigger than I’d hoped and not as cute. Other crochet projects have been on the go also. Some have been abandoned as a bad job, others are in progress and yet others are destined for Christmas presents, so I can’t post them here in case their recipients see them ahead of time. If I had the energy I’d post the patterns they were based on … but as it is, if you’re curious about a pattern please ask in a comment and I’ll find it for you. (But do bear in mind I never actually follow a pattern without amending something about it. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not!)

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On convalescence

This is not good writing. It set out with good intentions but then I got tired. Also because I can’t sustain energy it’s been written in instalments at times when I had different things to say. Read it or don’t read it, but please don’t judge.

I rather hope that what I’m doing now can more correctly be called convalescing than anything else, although that’s based on my feelings rather than any medical opinion (medical opinion being mostly unsure as to what’s going on with me).

I apologise for being less than present in terms of commenting and responding to comments. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your well wishes, because I really do, and it doesn’t mean I’m not reading your posts, because I am. But everything is exhausting and that certainly includes navigating the quirks of a mobile interface and strong-arming a touch-screen into publishing the words I want, not the ones it thinks I might mean. (This post is bought to you by Mr S’s tablet (which is bigger than mine) and his lovely solid keyboard and case combining the two into a pseudo-laptop.)

Asides aside, to return to my point…

Society doesn’t seem to get convalescing these days. Classic novels are full of rest cures by the sea, nourishing broths and jellies and tisanes. But these days? One is expected to be either all out sick or back in the thick of things. Or possibly both.

I suppose to a certain extent there’s a socio-economic factor here; a Jane Austen heroine has no pressure to go back to work after all, and the grooms were already exercising her horses, so no pressure there either.

I suppose the niggling disquiet that’s prompting this post contains the following features

  • I have no time scale for when I will be well enough to return to my usual energetic and tiring life
  • Until someone can tell me what’s wrong I harbour the fear that someone somewhere thinks I’m a) faking it b) imagining it
  • None of my limbs are dropping off, I am not passing out and not infected or puking, so by my usual yardsticks I am not physically ill … but there is something physically wrong preventing me from being well. So there’s a hole in my logic, which always upsets me
  • Because I don’t have a diagnosis I don’t know what I should be doing. Should I try to go for a walk or is that detrimental? So I’m learning by doing and it feels like any exercise no matter how gentle is detrimental to my well being. But then I feel like I’m not trying to get well.

But on a more positive note I’m so grateful for my tablet and smartphone. Having a tiny lightweight portal to the outside world is invaluable. I have the whole of the internet at my fingertips without even having to sit up. I can draw on it without needing to locate drawing materials. I can read without having to hold up a book and keep the page open. I can while away the hours with casual gaming, such as aquarium simulators that make no demands on me, and I’ve begun to keep a health diary in it so that next time a doctor asks how long I’ve been having symptom X I’ll have some reference points.

I cannot imagine convalescing without television and portable internet access. Honestly it’s no wonder our predecessors went to the sea for a rest cure – they must have been so sick of the confines of their homes, without the view onto the outside world that our screens offer. But were I an upper class literary heroine I’d ask for blankets and a supportive chair to be taken out to the front of the house where I could watch my horses be trotted up in hand for my entertainment by my grooms. Perhaps the next day I’d have the head boy ride them in front of me to show me their paces. But you know what? I’ll settle for watching another dressage video on YouTube.

This is boring now

I am so bored of not being well enough to ride.

I think D is pretty bored of it too. On the plus side it’s progress that I feel well enough to wish I could ride, but there’s still a long path before I can get back on and bring him back to work.

I’m really lucky we’re still on summer turnout (i.e. out 17 hrs every day) so he’s not cooped up inside. I can’t afford to pay for him to be ridden as much as I’d like, but when my nominated staff member rides him it sounds like he feels fit and eager, fully recovered from his own health issues.

He’s also spent a lot of sessions on the lunge. He’s doing very nicely in the pessoa now and canters without drama or tantrums. He’s also been lunged without the pessoa over poles, both raised and flat, to give him something different to do.

When I’ve managed to get to see him he’s been unusually affectionate. When he sees me every day he doesn’t feel the need to groom me, but if it’s been a while I get a back massage if I scratch his withers. It’s nice to know he notices when I’m not around. I hope that soon I’ll feel well enough to start driving again so I can hang out with him more often, even if I can’t do much with him.