So this time, it really has been a long gap between updates. I had to take a step back from here. I went through a complete and total down spiral through the remainder of the winter and start of the spring. It wasn’t even anything really to do with Cowboy. I had a lot of personal factors hit me all at once that I needed to sort out and work on to get myself back to a spot where I could feel better and get my head back into all aspects of life. Now, I’m back and feeling stronger than before and although it was a really rough patch I am thankful that it happened.
I’ve never been shy about admitting that I have a slew of health issues. I’ve been struggling for years to get my diabetes under proper control. Something that is really not an easy task when 1. you have shit benefits and pay for most of your medications out of pocket 8 months of the year 2. when you work weird shifts such as midnights with swing shifts between and 3. when you have mental health issues as well. Coming into the New Year, I had to start seeing a new Endocrinologist and for as much as I dreaded the appointment and was a total mess going into it, it was actually a really positive experience. We are finding out that it’s possible I may not actually be Type 2. Based on my early age of onset and history of other weird medical problems that should have been explored at like the age of 8, they’re thinking it’s more likely that I’m actually Type 1.5. It’s a weird thing that acts like a mix of Type 1 and Type 2 and would explain how and why my blood sugar can sometimes do really wonky things that make NO sense based on my carb counting and correction factors. I’ll know more about my status with that closer to my next appointment and I’m actually interested to see what the tests show. Because my one job still can’t manage to get it’s shit together and hold down staff, I was working insane hours. There were multiple pay periods where my “part time” job had me scheduled for over 80 hours, ON TOP of my full time position. That caused weight gain, not even so much from poor eating habits, but more likely from lack of sleep causing stress, which in turn raised cortisol levels and led to weight gain. I gained roughly 20lbs throughout the winter. That caused a massive melt down for me. It trickled over to my riding – I felt huge and tight in my saddle and it made me feel like I could not ride effectively. It spurred on my eating disorder brain. It stirred up a bunch of my self harm demons as well. With the help of a couple close friends I have since been able to create some goals and get myself back on track. I’ve really changed my mind set around in regards to my diabetes, food and weight goals. I’m staying off the scale as much as possible, choosing only CERTAIN scales to use. I’ve had measurements taken that will be updated roughly monthly. I’m going back to the gym, this time with someone who is helping keep me motivated and positive. I’m changing eating habits again. I’m more or less following macro counts. I’ve been seeing positive trends in my blood sugars. I’m feeling more positive with an even stronger support network now. And the mindset changes are starting to diffuse themselves into all other aspects of my life.
Throughout the winter, Cowboy and I made a lot of steady progress. I was blessed to not have a full on “Winter Cowboy” all season. He was actually REALLY good. I mean we still had to lunge before every ride and we dealt with spooky business at the back end and what not. But in all reality he really impressed me. With the jumper series in my sights we did spend a good deal of time working on over fences work. We still did lots of flat work (considering I don’t like jump schooling outside of a lesson). Overall he’s moving great, he’s looking good and together our jumping is getting far better. I’m feeling confident over fences and not getting as nervous as I used to. I’ve also really realized I’ve totally changed how I deal with his behaviour again. Where things like the “what if” of him bolting would get under my skin. Now, I’ve figured out to just deal with it with much more of a “well… here we go” type mentality. I’ve gotten better at riding through and “ignoring” his spooks. My reaction time to some of his antics has gotten better. I also started to get him going decently in a snaffle bit again. I found that he goes okay in a french link hanging cheek snaffle. He’s by no means perfect and still goes better in some sort of curb bit, but its something else for us to continue working with. Overall there are just so many positives! I don’t feel like I’m doing them all justice right now.
While we were working towards the jumper series, we caught wind that Montasola was going to be hosting another OXC race. So based on my interests and such, it made sense that the two of us would be riding in it. This time around it was a really interesting experience. We found out just a month before race day, so we switched gears for a bit and worked two lessons a week on obstacles and race components. We were going REALLY well. Cowboy picked back up on the obstacles as if he had never stopped doing them. We were starting to be able to build up some speed and such. I really was happy with him. We decided to do the Green Horse division and to give it our best shot. Going into race day I was actually feeling pretty confident, all things told. I knew there was going to be a couple things he might look at and such but I wasn’t feeling all that bothered. Until the course that was supposed to be identical to the Novice class, changed. There were things that myself, along with other competitors did not feel should have been in a Green Horse class…. examples included 3ft tall stuff brown bears…. large stuffed monkeys hiding under the bridges… a side pass around a curve (that most of the pro horses could barely do!). That admittedly got my anxiety up, but with the help of my WONDERFUL Team Cowboy members (a HUGE shout out to Brooke, Angie, Lauren and Chris!) I was able to get a grip of it and actually kept myself amazingly calm before going into the ring. Once in the ring… things fell apart a bit. Cowboy was scared of the sod on the jump (which i expected), the stupid bear and going up to our first obstacle – a simple pedestal that he SHOULD of been fine with, he was overwhelmed and tried to exit stage left with a lovely bolt to the front of the ring. I got him back under control and marched him right back to the pedestal. I didn’t manage to get him to stand on it but I at least got him back up to it. He was surprisingly good with the gate, and a bunch of the other obstacles. I couldn’t get him over the one ground pole right by the stuffed bear and couldn’t get him over the second of our required bridges due to the dumb monkey troll. But. I didn’t hit the dirt and we managed to navigate our course. I was definitely crestfallen with finishing last in the class and it took a good kick in the pants from Chris and Brooke to find the wins out of it. However, although it may have looked like a cluster fuck, there were lots of wins that surfaced from that day. I was calm and relaxed while sitting on him waiting for my turn. I didn’t throw in the towel when he bolted. I tuned out my anxiety over the crowd. I got him back under control. 2 years ago, he was going after other horses while we were waiting to go into the ring. This time he walked around a bit and grazed. My mental health was 1000x better than it had been in the past prior to going into the show ring. Another HUGE thing about that day, was that I was actually rehabbing from a wrist injury which left me out of the saddle for almost a full week prior to the race. Even day of, I was riding with my elbow and wrist both taped AND braced in order to make it through. The fact is, I would have had more than enough reason to scratch but I still got on and competed anyways. Those are all the things that were the actual wins from that day. It may not have gone as planned but there were still positives to take home.
The following weekend, we had our first jumper show of the season. After some discussion, Brooke and I determined that it would best if we stuck to the 15 inch division. Now, in lessons, I had gotten up to jumping 2ft., but we hadn’t done so consistently, and considering that we hadn’t even really jumped a full course until 2 days prior to the show, it just wasn’t fair for either of us to go into the ring and bumble through the 2ft course. My biggest goal for the day was to just go in and have quiet rounds. I remained remarkably calm outside of the ring and in my warm up time, especially considering that Angie, who normally comes along as my “groom” and moral support person, couldn’t make it that day. While waiting for our turn, I even jumped the large cross country log while warming up – I had NEVER done that before. Getting into the ring, for our classes we had clean rounds, we did pull a rail in our gambler’s choice after I decided to try to pull a tight turn to a line but he tried his best for me. We were both tired as jumping a total of 4 courses plus a jump off was A LOT for us. The day for us though, was a HUGE success. Cowboy and I really exceeded my expectations for the day. We ended up placing 3rd in table C, 1st in Table A and 3rd in Gamblers Choice…. and here is the surprising part… we even managed to get Reserve Champion for the entire division! It was so neat to have actually earned that! There was lots of positive feedback from people watching, the most common being that Cowboy looks really happy while out there and I should probably switch to being a jumper! I’m still not sure I’m sold on that idea!
Right now, Cowboy feels a bit sticky and is having Equibow done on Saturday. I figure after two big weekends and kind of getting drilled a bit harder than I would have liked in order to be ready for both events, he deserves the body work. I have a feeling he’s a bit muscle sore as any of us would be with a sudden increase in physical activity. From here on we’ll continue working towards each jumper show and do the best we can. I have faith in my little painted horse and myself. We have grown and continue to grow so much and it leaves me excited to see what the rest of the show season will bring. I’m enjoying the fact that I’m starting to be able to get into a showing environment with him and keep my nerves in check and that I’m actually beginning to have fun doing it. I wish I could have felt this way about it as a kid and teen.
Otherwise, I’m still working towards all my own health and wellness goals. I’m hoping there are some other changes that will come about to help keep me on a good pathway. I’ve got the momentum up, now I just have to keep it up. And I know that I can!