Thursday, September 30, 2010

WEG Day 1: Starry Eyed!!

So that was pretty awesome! I basically spent my first day at WEG walking around feeling like I needed to pinch myself to wake up from this super awesome dream I was having. The people (so many horse people!!), the vendors, the pavilions and buildings, the courses, and of course... the horses. The cool thing (which apparently is pretty unique for this games compared to other big championships) is that the warmups are all pretty open: you can walk right up to the rail and watch. We spent most of our lunch break chilling ringside and watching the most beautiful show jumpers school just a few feet away.

The eventing dressage today was also, of course, really cool. I thought the standard in general was pretty high, and yet there were also no real show stoppers. The two Americans today (Boyd and Buck) had a bit of a tough time, I thought, Boyd because his horse got so wound up by the crowds, and Buck because he just seemed to make a few more mistakes in his ride than usual. The Germans were impressive, but my personal favorite part of the day was watching Mark Todd. Talk about a childhood dream coming true!!

We also walked the course today, which is HUGE. Just massive. And soo technical. I've never walked a CCI*** course or the regular Rolex CCI**** course, so I don't have much point of reference, but from people I've talked to it sounds like it looks harder than normal. Bobby Costello said he had been talking to some of the riders and they'd said it was the biggest course they'd seen in years. Coming from some of the stalwarts of our team, this is saying something! Either way I'm sooo excited for Saturday; some of the fences are so insane looking that I can't really envision a horse jumping them, so I'm excited to watch some of the best horses in the world pop around like it's just another day at the office (which you know some of them will!).

In double bad news, I'm not only finding but impossible to upload photos (thank you, snail-speed Red Roof Inn WiFi) but am also getting SICK. HOWEVER, neither hell nor high water (and certainly not a little cold!!) is going to keep me from enjoying myself this weekend. I'll try to post photos again later =) Bring on Day 2!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In Kentucky!!


I've made it to Kentucky!!

Traveling here was a totally surreal experience, as I seemed to meet WEG-bound people at every turn: in the security line, buying chips for the flight, and both my seat-mates on both flights were all headed to the games! It was easy to pick one another out, because everyone seemed to be radiating the same barely-contained excitement.

(WEG is everywhere!)

Then, when I got to Kentucky, It seems like there's WEG-related posters and signs everywhere you turn - the airport was literally wall-to-walled with posters of horses in every discipline imaginable. And then the 10 o'clock news had coverage of the day! Soo unreal!! Can't wait to get to the park tomorrow =)



(Amen.)

In Good News...


I'm WEG-Bound, Baby!!!



(Eventers doing ring familiarization... soon I'll be sitting in those seats!!! Photo courtesy of The Chronicle's Twitter)

My family has had tickets since opening day (wayyyy back in 2007 or whenever) and we could not be more excited. I'm flying out to meet up with my mom and dad today (my Brooklyn-dwelling, no-longer-very-horsey brother (though growing up he was wayyyy better than I was!) has decided that a four day horse show isn't his cup of tea... alas), and then tomorrow the fun begins. I've never been to Rolex or any really big event (I've never even been to a CCI***, I think), and haven't been to the KY Horse Park for like 6 years (since Pony Club nationals way back in the day), so it's going to be amazing to see the new KY horse park housing and testing the best horse and rider combinations on the planet!! I'm going to be taking tons of photos (new camera battery pending - yikes!!) and will try to keep the blog updated as much as possible.

So. Flippin. Excited.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's Official


Kiki is broken.

("Heartbreaker Kiki" was out in full force again today)

The ultrasound actually wasn't as bad as I thought, but it was bad enough: though there is no evidence of tearing, both the DDFT (deep digital flexor tendon) and Suspensory are enlarged well beyond normal specs. This is obviously good news compared to a full-on tear (which I have spent all weekend preparing myself for, after her disastrously successful high-suspensory block on Friday), and will mean an easier road both in terms of treatment (no stem cell, etc, as there is no hole to repair) and recovery time. The bad news? The rest period will still be at least 3 months, and more likely will be in the ±6 month range.

(Tranq face, with bummed-looking vets in the background)

I still have no idea how this happened, but must think that it had something to do with her injuring herself in the trailer somehow on the trip. Because, unfortunately, such long trips will be an at least occasional part of my life for the next few years still, I think a large part of the fall and winter (now that I'm horseless) will be spent researching how best I can avoid such an accident in the future. Shipping is going to be part of Kiki's life again... I've just to figure out how I can make it as safe as possible!

(Someone was being VERY disruptive, and so may or may not have required mild sedation - NAUGHTY GIRL!!)

All right; chin up time! Though I certainly have not appreciated my horse luck in 2010 so far, what's done is done. It's time to get both my ponies feeling as good as possible by the time 2011 rolls around!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Waiting Game Continues

(Heartbreaker)

Well, crap.

Not only is does Kiki's diagnostic odyssey continue (vet is coming back on Monday to do the ultrasounds she couldn't do yesterday because she did a block), but it seems like the range of possible issues has narrowed to a few, very grim, choices. I won't go into details now until the ultrasound confirms the vet's current hypothesis on Monday, as there's still a sliver of a chance that it's something much less serious, but it doesn't look good.

I'm in complete shock. I feel like I've tried so hard to do right by this horse, and by all my horses, and instead I've been left with "the year that could have been." I know that this is part of owning and loving such remarkably fragile creatures, but it doesn't make the knowledge that my horse is seriously injured and in pain any easier.

I'll write more on Monday when we have complete answers and a plan for how to move forward from here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Serious Upswing


Horses are so amazing, aren't they? I've been feeling really low about Kiki ever since the vet came out on Monday, and add that in with the craziness of coming back to school (which in my current mental state I've been bordering on finding more stressful than exciting, though I will say I think my classes are going to be awesome this quarter!) has made me not the happiest camper.

BUT, I got to do something very special yesterday that made everything, for a brief period of time, all better.

I got to RIDE!!!

(Isn't he the cutest???)

Not Kiki, of course, but my favorite school horse Stanley. It was my first time riding in over a month, and I felt oh so rusty, but it was indescribable how good it felt to be back in the saddle! I have a special love for Stanley because when he came back to Stanford my Freshman year he was very lame and broken and his future at the barn was unclear; I loved him from the first second I laid eyes on him (you would too; he's this 18hh giant with the biggest, most adorable jug head, big loppy ears, long lips that he loves to flap together when he's concentrating, and the sweetest eye ever), and so determined that I was going to do everything I could to get him to be able to stay. I took over his rehab program that summer, and we spent every day walking together, getting him a little stronger inch by inch. He's still pretty creaky, and certainly will never jump again, but he's been major injury-free from then on and has become a great low-level flat/dressage horse (and as he used to be Aaron Vale's Grand Prix/Derby horse, this is quite a display of his heart!!). I feel so proud that I was part of his story, which so far has had such a happy ending.

(The best view in the world)

He was a perfect gentleman yesterday, and even tolerated me trying to sit his massive trot (in my rustiness, I would call it more "flopping" than "sitting" ... but you've got to start somewhere, right?). It felt so good, for a second, to just lay aside all my worry and sadness about Kiki and focus on the joy that is being on top of a horse.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I got to go out to the Horse Park to watch some polo. I was supposed to play (!!!) but then a class changed so I had to leaver before my chukker. But still, it was so wonderful to be back with the ponies again, muddling my way through the mystery that is polo tack and enjoying being back in the super relaxed and happy atmosphere that is the Stanford Polo Club. It was the most spine tinglingly gorgeous afternoon at the Horse Park yesterday, too, which was the icing on the cake. I was pretty jealous of the people out cross country schooling, but just had to remind myself that my time will come.

(Oh hello, insanely gorgeous California weather - I've missed you!!)

(Possible storybook levels of beauty going on here)

In Ringo news, he had his ultrasound check up yesterday, and all is well!!! He's healing at a very normal, acceptable rate. There is still a lesion (because the original bad boy was sooo huge) but it's much smaller. He does have some swelling, though, so we (Pa, with my approval) have decided to keep the wrapping going a little longer, and to delay his turnout debut for another 6 weeks. He's happy in his stall and is doing 25 minutes of hand walking a day, which is keeping him quite relaxed and sane, so we've decided not to risk the turnout too soon and blow his progress. Very, very good news!! If only Kiki will have such a positive report on Friday. . .

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bad News Kiki-Bears



Well, as might be guessed from the title, the vet visit did not go as swimmingly as I'd hoped. Since I'd been away and hadn't seen Kiki go for myself, I was sincerely hoping that it was no big deal and that this visit would merely provide a clean sheet and a baseline with which we could head off into the fall with. I'd checked her over as soon as I'd gotten back and felt nothing of note (whereas obvious heat and swelling have always been present when she's been off in the past), so my hopes were guardedly high that all was going to go well.

After a full check over in the cross ties with no findings, the vet tech was kind of enough to jog her so that I could watch with the vet, and on the straight ground she looked pretty good. Then we put her on a circle on the hard ground, and after a bit of a shaky go (that looked more like her being tense and playful rather than being actually unsound) to the left, she was quite bad to the right. My heart absolutely sank. It was as bad as it had been at Stuart, though this time there was no swelling or heat anywhere to help us try to identify where she was hurting.

Flexions revealed something going on on the right hock. She's always been a bit more positive on that one, but was considerably more so yesterday. We did a block that was inconclusive, but then couldn't go any further because the vet didn't have her equipment to do any imaging, which has got to be the next step for identification as we've run out of what our eyes alone can tell us. So, she's coming back on Friday to do first a radiograph of that hock, and then if that's inconclusive an ultrasound of her hock going up, to check out the achilles tendon and its surroundings. She's thinking that it might be an OCD lesion (which the radiographs would show) or a strain/tear of the achilles. Both are not particularly good things!!

I'm very sad, mostly because I know that Kiki isn't feeling her best. She perks up around me, but I was spying on her out in her paddock (she's quiet enough out there and loves it so much that I decided not to take that away from her until we have to) after the vet left and she just seemed so listless and flat: the polar opposite of her usual bubbling, effervescent self. I feel so bad because I've been away from her these past weeks and she's been suffering.

It's so frustrating not only not to know what's wrong (and so be unable to start fixing it), but also to not know how it happened in the first place (and so be able to prevent it in the future). I think it all goes back to that day in March when she came in from the field with a swollen right hock. She's been sound and amazing since then, but whenever she has been off it's always been that right hind plaguing her in one way or another. It feels just like Ringo, where I honestly feel that I tried as hard as I could to do the best by my horse, but it seems like I actually kept riding her while a serious injury incubated, unbeknownst to me.

I'm really hoping that Friday at least brings some conclusive news, whatever the level of doom they might bring with them. I'm just so sick of this entire guessing game.

In good news, though, Ringo (back home in Massachusetts) is getting ready to head out to his first taste of turnout in almost three months! Of course, it will be in the medical turnout, which is basically the size of his stall, and it will only be for little (well-guarded and supervised) snippits at a time, but it will be OUTSIDE. He's up to 30 minutes of hand walking a day (thank you, Papa!!) and apparently is just doing great. He's fat and fuzzy, happy, and has been a model patient... besides driving my dad crazy trying to eat leaves off of every branch they pass by! He's also started the process of getting weaned off his wraps (which he's had on continuously since July), which is going well so far. I might, if all goes perfectly, get to sit on him for a 5 minute tack walk when I come home over Thanksgiving. I don't want to get my hopes up, as it's still a long way to go with many hurdles to pass successfully between then and now, but how exciting would that be?? Keep it up, Ringo!!

(I miss Ringo so much! It's great to know he's doing well)

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'M BACK!!!


(My first ever view of the Eiffel Tower, from the Pompidou Centre)

I'm still really in shock that the last three weeks of my life actually happened: 6 countries (including 4 I'd never been to before), 13 cities, 6 flights, 3 night trains, ferries, moped rides on steep unfenced mountain roads, hours and hours of walking and hiking, some of the most beautiful sights and amazing food I've ever had, uncounted long-held dreams come true, and-- in the end-- over 2000 photographs on 43 rolls of film. Unreal!!! I was solo for the entire trip, (my second time doing so, though I was away for longer and went to substantially riskier places this time) which I firmly believe is the only way to travel if possible. I was forced to think, to talk, to ask for help; and ended up, in many cases, meeting new friends or getting to have long conversations with people I'd never have had the guts to talk to with the more comfortable option of chatting with a friend availiable.

There were amazing highs and a pretty controlled amount of lows, which is all you can ask for in a trip of this length and scope. I spent most days simply basking in the wonder that I could be living in a universe that was willing to send so much love and wonder my way.

Here's the highlight reel of my favorite moments along the way:

GREECE
--stepping out of the metro station and seemingly into another world, a bustling chaos of a flagstoned market, with the Acropolis looming, fantasy-like, over it all
--evening on the Acropolis, which did the incredible feat of exceeding expectations (for they were very, very high)
--swimming in the Aegean on a Greek island

(Just your average Athenian view - crazy!!)


TURKEY
--the vivid red and white of the Turkish flag contrasted against the improbably azure sea, the most beautiful ocean I've ever seen


GREECE (Again)
--Hitching a ride up a guard-rail-less mountain road in Northern Greece on the back of a moped driven by a large Greek gentleman who spoke no English, dodging goats and throwing out pieces of bread to stave off the herd dogs along the way
--Hiking between the Meteora monasteries, and standing atop the fairy tale summits themselves
--Seeing centuries old Byzantine frescoes, in situ and in use: a shockingly moving and powerful experience
(I couldn't get any photos that showed how positively amazing these cliffs are - they defy nature and jut straight up out of the plain for thousands of feet, marked with mysterious signs seemingly of flowing water and streaked with unfathomable age, but otherwise absolutely sheer and pitiless. And then, perched atop like a minute crowns of brick and gold, centuries-old monasteries float protected among the mists.)

ROMANIA
--Surviving "Paddle faster, I hear banjos" moments trying to get from the airport to the train station
--Seeing soviet war eagles, beheaded and covered with ivy, but still resolutely recognizable, springing up every few yards along the train tracks
--Waiting in the moldering Bucharest train station with farmers carrying huge faggots of woods and sacks of potatoes
--Talking with a survivor of the Communist regime, and having everything I've read about that time suddenly, shockingly, become real and tragic.

(Some bustling Romanian countryside)

HUNGARY
--Taking a real Turkish bath, and having the main pool all to myself for the better part of an hour
--Surviving the incredibly fast-moving wooden escalators in the Budapest metro stations
--Visiting the Budapest zoo and having the place to myself
--(Ironically) eating one of the best vegetarian pizzas I've ever had: thin and crispy with good cheese, mushrooms, broccoli, cucumber, fresh tomatoes, and big hunks of brie. YES.

(Now doesn't that look delicious?? And yes, I ate all of this by myself in one sitting. It was fabulous.)

GERMANY
--Experiencing the food-lover's paradise that is the Victualienmarkt, where they sell oysters and caviar by the crateful, every kind of sausage and meat you could ever imagine (or not), mouth-wateringly lovely loaves of bread, as much cheese as I could ever hope for, and a mind-numbing array of tantalizing-looking greens and produce. I could have spent the entire trip in that market alone, I'm pretty sure, and still been highly satisfied.
--Walking through the Englischergarten at sunset with a double rainbow blossoming over the meadows
--Meeting new friends at the unrelatably gorgeous Neuschwanstein castle

(Heaven!!)

(Forget the castle, check out that countryside!! So unreal)

FRANCE
--Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, and then climbing it that night
--Wandering around the Versailles gardens, which I'm fairly certain I could have done forever
--Sitting in on an evening mass at Chartres, a spine-tinglingly lovely experience
--Eating TOFU BOURGIGNON!! Marry me.
--Getting to see the Bayeux Tapestry, the wonders of the Louvre, and so much more great art
--Being moved to tears by the WWII Cemetery in Bayeux, the first mass military cemetery I'd ever visited for which I soon found I was utterly unprepared
--Being constantly amused and mystified by the rudeness of Parisians
--Getting to see an opera in the Paris Opra house on opening night (!!)

(No wonder the French revolted - I'd get pretty mad too if I was living in squalor and knew that Marie Antoinette had this whole fantasy land to herself)

(Gilles!! My favorite painting by far at the Louvre)

(Bayeux Cemetery)

(The Opéra Bastille - I could've just sat right through into another one and another; I never wanted it to end)

For a full blow-by-blow, check out the new blog I'm launching over the next few days in preparation for my study abroad this coming year, which will hopefully chronicle all my travels and non-horsey activities. I'm going to be transcribing over my hand-written diary of the trip over the next few weeks, and will be including more photos than I'll have on this site. The address is http://allons-voir.blogspot.com.

But, as amazing as the trip was, I'm very very happy to be back. I've missed Kiki desperately, and am excited to get back in the saddle (I place I haven't been for four weeks now - an insane period of time!). When I got back on campus I headed immediately to the barn (before I even dropped my bags off) and spent a good long time just sitting with her. There's just something so wonderful about being in the warm, solid presence of a horse you know and love that nothing on my travels, no matter how extraordinary, could compete with. She looks great, if a little long-maned and scruffy from being in the worst phase of shedding out. Apparently, however, she's been a touch off for the person whose been riding her (and whose opinion I trust very much), so the vet is coming out tomorrow to give her a check before I start off on the Autumn season. It's not the ideal way to start things off, but hopefully it will be nothing major, and of course I'd rather find something now rather than push on blindly and have Kiki pay the price later.
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