Saturday, July 18, 2009


As much as I support the open philosophy of the blogosphere, it's become necessary for me to close my blog to the world at large and allow invited readers only. If you would like to join me on the other side, please send an email to

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Half Life

Recently I completed my 45th trip around the Sun. I have tried to postpone this inevitable event but, no matter how far I push out my lifespan, I must now regretfully acknowledge that I am...alas...middle-aged. On the outside, if you don't look too closely and I've followed my usual daily regimen of wrinkle cream, moisturizer with sunscreen, foundation, concealer and finishing powder, I could pass for 35 easy. On the inside, I feel very old.

I've made it through many crises in my life, and once again I find myself in the midst of one.

For my birthday I bought myself flowers for my desk and made myself an appointment with my therapist. As in psychologist. I need help. I feel like I am living half a life. I am a half-wife, half-daughter, half-sister and half-friend. I am a horse owner who can't ride. I feel like a burn victim; everything hurts me, emotionally. I can't enjoy anything because everything is connected to some horrible past event, some failure, some regret. I am tired of living this way and I know the only way to stop is to seek professional help. Again. Which also feels like a failure.

The only place I feel like I am at full speed is at work, but that is because I am running as fast as I can just to keep my head above water. I have only been there a month and I fear I am not much help to my co-workers as they are still training me to do my own job. In addition I have the added stress of managing a severely under-performing employee who has been skating for the past two years but because nobody has bothered to document his lack of skills or initiative, I now have to start from scratch to document why I want to replace him. This is the hardest job I've ever had but at least it is all new so I'm not wincing as those burned areas are touched.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Scratching the Surface

My sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to give me advice. I completely agree that riding is not the only pleasure I can get from my horse, I know this all too well considering I haven't been able to ride in over three months now. I found that not being able to groom her and simply be close to her was more difficult than not being able to ride.

For my readers who haven't been around since the beginning, some background would help to clarify things. Missy is boarded at a wonderful barn about 40 minutes south of my home, so I don't take care of her like I would if she was here. The staff at the barn feed her, clean her stall, put her in turnout and back into her stall, blanket her, and when she is ill or injured, administer care and medicine. When I can't make it down there to work with her, my trainer will get her out and put her on the longe line and occasionally rides her. She was born at this facility and has two full sisters and a niece there; in fact she probably hasn't been off the property more than a dozen times in her 10 year life.

I took my first lesson the first week of June 2006, and took ownership of Missy in January 2007. You can read the post where I explain the story of how I came to own a horse six months after I started riding here. I had been on a horse maybe a half dozen times in my life before starting lessons three years ago, so I know at this point I've barely scratched the surface.

So you see, unlike many of you, I don't have decades of experience and dozens of horses in my past. A few lesson horses and Missy is all I know and I barely know enough to be able to canter on her. I rely completely on the expertise of my trainer and my vet to tell me when it's OK to ride her, so it's very easy to have my expectations dashed and therefore, to be disappointed.

Most of the horses at the barn are retired, and the few lesson horses are always being ridden by paying customers, so there is rarely another horse that I can ride when Miss is out of commission.

I longed her briefly today at the walk and trot and she is still slightly off behind on both sides, so it will probably be another week before I can think about getting back on her. Leaving work early to get to physical therapy at least gives me the chance to get down to see her twice a week during the week, and of course I'm there on the weekends. It's a long journey, I know, but I started so late I get impatient.

I apologize for the quality of these pictures, I took them with my phone. I mentioned before that my new office is right next to an 800-acre pasture boarding facility. It's a joy to drive past hundreds of free-range horses grazing in beautiful meadows every morning and evening, geldings on one side of the street and mares on the other. Almost makes me want to go to work. Almost.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

And I Begin Again

Last Monday I started a new job at a large software company in a management role. To say it was an exhausting and overwhelming five days doesn't even begin to cover it. The week was capped off by a frantic weekend email thread to hash out a crisis I will have to deal with first thing tomorrow morning.

I did set up a schedule for myself and was able to stick with it all week:
Decide on outfit, iron, etc. the night before
Get up when alarm goes off -- no snooze
Arm exercises
Hair & makeup
Out the door within 1 hour (ish)
Stop to get coffee
Arrive at work before my manager

I've had these four pictures enlarged and framed for my desk. I'm sitting in a temporary space until next Wednesday when I move into my permanent space. I am looking forward to decorating my new home.

I also started with a new physical therapist this week. She works very differently than the first one, but I think she's doing exactly what I need right now. My main problem at this point is my subscapularis muscle, which originates from the underside of the shoulder blade and inserts at the front of the upper arm (humerus - the bone I broke). It is a very powerful muscle that rotates the arm inwards and is part of the rotator cuff group of muscles. My subscapularis muscle has checked out completely, so when I try to rotate my arm outward or inward, my entire shoulder blade moves. We also started working on strength this week. I bought a 3 pound barbell at the sporting goods store -- I can only do 10 or 12 reps of the exercises right now but it's a start.

Just when we thought Missy's leg and hoof problems were close to being over, she came up lame on her other hind (right). It's probably an abcess, which isn't really surprising considering the systemic infection that's been racing through her body for the past two months. So she is on stall rest for another week, maybe two, depends on what actually happens.

Sometimes I wonder if this was such a good idea after all. I love her to death, but her family has a terrible track record when it comes to lameness issues. In the two and a half years that I've been at this facility, both of her full sisters have been off for significant periods of time due to health issues. Her oldest sister Somerset is the property owner's mare, has the best care possible, yet can only be ridden every three or four months. Her middle sister Sera has both attitude and health issues, which is why they bred her two years ago. Since she had her filly she's only been ridden a half dozen times.

I look at this picture of me riding Miss and I can hardly believe that that is really me. Another weekend has gone by without me getting on any horse, let alone my own. Thinking about giving Miss back to the barn hurts my heart so much I just can't even imagine it. But I also don't want to continue on this path of disappointment, worry and downtime. I know this comes with horse ownership, it's just very hard. How do you other horse owners deal with this?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Round in Circles

My poor Missy's left hind leg is not a pretty sight. Still. On April 11th I posted that she came up lame while I was longeing her and she hasn't been right since. She did have an abcess that broke through, and she was lame from that for a while, then her heel became inflamed, possibly from being wrapped. It's hard to see in the second picture but finally most of the scabs have come off but the skin is still pink and raw. She isn't lame any more but is obviously suffering from whatever infection moved up into her leg. Last week the awful monstrosity you see here showed up on the back of her leg. At some point the flap of skin covering most of this sore will come off and it will be raw and open. It does dry up and she can work a little bit, but then as soon as you clean it and it gets wet it looks like this. The swelling goes down when she works but then it looks the same the next day, and the next. The vet put together a poultice containing steroids, penicillin and something else but it doesn't seem to be doing anything.

My trainer Willow was going to try to get in touch with the vet today to ask him if there is something we should or shouldn't be doing. We've left it unwrapped because that just seemed to bother her even more.

I am calling on the horse experts out there for some advice. I know nothing about horse ailments and I am at the mercy of my trainer, the property owner and the vet due to my own ignorance. Should I be working her or not? Should her leg be wrapped or not? Should we continue to put on the poultice or let it work its way out on its own? Is it normal for an abcess to turn into two other problems?

I feel like I am failing her. She seems to be losing weight even though she is getting extra feed. I wanted to put some tack on her this weekend and just have her walk around with it on but I don't want to aggravate her body or her mind. I've been spending a lot of time with her this week and I feel better about myself and our relationship. Just putting on my wonderfully worn-in paddock boots, grooming her, putting on her halter and boots and longeing her for a few minutes has meant a lot to me. I don't know when I will put on the helmet and the half-chaps and actually get in the might be this weekend but it won't be on Missy. And that breaks my heart more than a little.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Invisible Ocean

My favorite way to get to the farm is down a shady winding road that starts at my house at some 2,500 feet above sea level, snaking it's way down the backbone of the mountain ridge separating the ocean from the valley, heavily wooded on both sides. About two thirds of the way down the hill the university-owned land begins, alternating between forest and lovely open meadows with bike trails. I adore meadows, they are one of my favorite landscapes. After a series of hairpin turns further down the road, all of a sudden the road straightens out, the trees disappear and the vista you see pictured here appears. On a clear day you can almost see forever (or Japan), with the sky and the water clearly demarcated different shades of blue behind the emerald green fields speckled with purple lupus and orange California poppies. On a foggy or hazy day, the ocean completely disappears and it takes a real leap of faith to still believe that its really there.

On Thursday I accepted the offer put forward by the large software company that has been vetting me for the past month. In four separate visits to two different campuses I was interviewed 10 times by 7 different people, 3 times by my manager. This position has been open since last November when they let go the prior resident of my new desk, but having a consultant in the role has meant they could take their sweet time and interview many different candidates. In fact, they had hired another candidate recently who ended up getting very ill and would not be able to start for six months or longer, so they mutually agreed that she would decline. This re-opened the position and gave me the opportunity to let them know they should take another look at me. I worked very hard to get this job, it's the only job that I am aware of at my experience and salary level in my field of experience in the entire state, never mind my general geographical area. I should feel lucky indeed not only to land a job, especially one that maintains my prior salary plus gives me equity in the company (stock), and all the standard benefits you would expect. Add to that the cache of working for an-almost-household-name which is well-respected by employees and their peers and is not doing layoffs, and...well, what else could I really ask for. Did I mention an 800-acre pasture boarding horse facility is at the end of the block? I will post pictures of that in a separate post.

I should feel lucky, and I do. I am sure that if I did not get this job I would be completely apoplectic within a month. However, I am having a lot of difficulty getting excited about the opportunity. Ambivalent doesn't even cover it. The truth is I am overwhelmed. Not by the job itself, I've had this job a dozen times with a different wrapper, but by the sheer physical task of waking up early, choosing an outfit, doing hair and makeup, driving an hour on crowded freeways to get there then being in corporate world for 8+ hours. I realize that this is normal, what almost every working person in the world does, and in fact I did it myself for over 20 years. But, I haven't done it for more than 5 years and in that time I enjoyed increasing autonomy and flexibility, working from home about half the time. I feel like I am giving up a lot and I'm resentful that it wasn't on my timetable.

Also, I have never owned a horse and worked full-time before. I went to see my orthopedist last Friday and he sentenced me to six more weeks of physical therapy. He said by the end of that time I will have lost the ability to gain any more range of motion, whatever I've got by the time the scar tissue sets is all I'm going to get. I know six weeks is a long time, but I believe I need to prepare myself for the possibility that I will not get back to 100% use of my left arm. I will ride again, I have no doubt about that, but I need to be realistic.

I had hoped to negotiate being able to leave early a couple of days a week so I could get to the farm in time to ride, but now that I will have to arrive late twice a week because of physical therapy, that's not going to be possible. This is a critical time in our relationship, with both of us getting over injury and downtime, and I don't think I need to tell anyone that a thoroughbred mare in her prime is not a weekender kind of horse.

Right now the ocean has disappeared. I have to believe it's still there behind all the cloud cover and I will need some help to make that leap of faith. I do believe that it's time for some (more) professional help, in fact. I looked up my old therapist the other day and bookmarked his contact information.