Just keep Swimming!

Have you ever had those days where you wish your horse could talk?? I did about three days ago.? LoLu was totally having a gremlin day.? He kept staring at a spot on the wall in the arena and insisting it was going to eat him.? Twelve hundred pounds of highly strung and very fit equine can make for an interesting training session to say the least.??? This was of course the day before we were leaving for Dressage at Saratoga, our last prep for the selection trials. I dismounted, brushing off the ride, accepting that the cosmos was not in the right order, while simultaneously offering up a little prayer to the dressage gods that this was indeed a very fleeting trend and that my dancing partner would get his steps right and not end up stepping on my toes in Saratoga.Writing this blog has made me pause and look at things slightly differently; what seems totally ?normal? to me is probable abnormal to most.? If you open up the tack room in our barn, you see all the normal pieces you would expect in order to get ready for a show.? The standard tack trunk?the grooming/bath supplies, helmet, tack?saddles, bridles, girths, extra reins etc.? Then you look a little closer and you have extra wheels for the wheel chair, rubber bands and Velcro pieces for adaptive equipment and cues, and there is even on occasion an ?extra? limb lying around. Out of all the equipment in my trunk, my favorite things are my Velcro straps.? I rode for years with my leg swinging against the side of my horse because I lacked the muscle control and strength to be able to hold it steady.? I went to my first big ?Para? show, and I had a German rider offer up some advice.? She was an amputee and used breakaway Velcro straps around her limb to give it a bit of an anchor and offer her some stability.? After getting approval from the FEI (Federation Equestre International), I adapted this idea and used a similar breakaway-velcro strap to help hold my leg still.? My leg will occasionally break out of my straps while I am riding, but with the extra support of the Velcro my leg stays quiet most of the time.?? My Velcro is one of my functional pieces of equipment.? There is a certain sense of camaraderie in Para-dressage.? You can gather a lot of good ideas and information from your fellow riders.? It’s nice if you are a new rider to Para because it helps to speed up the process of finding the most beneficial adaptive equipment and cues in the most expedient manner, allowing for more time to work on riding effectively.Some of my ?non-required for riding, but still just as essential? pieces of equipment for my routine are my stuffed Finding Nemo, my ?lucky? plastic artichoke, and my Equestra Powerpak.? These are all little mementos that travel with me to every show. Though I feel that you really make your own luck and also feel that the old saying ?luck favors those who are prepared? has serious weight, I still like to have them.? ?My Equestra Powerpak was made for me by my sister when I first started showing.? She gave me a compact and told me that if I pushed the button that she had put on the top and then looked at myself in the mirror, I would become ?Equestra,? fabulous rider and fashionista!? It always made me giggle and helped with the nerves.? My lucky artichoke was given as a gag gift by one of the girls working in the barn and became a ?required? article in my hat bag, just because it is utterly ridiculous.? My Nemo was given to me by my very good friend Elizabeth. I was seriously stressing out as the trials got closer for the 2008 Paralympics.? Elizabeth told me to breathe and ?just keep swimming.?? As a send off, she gave me my stuffed Nemo, and he has gone with me to every show ever since.? Every time I look at my Nemo, he encourages me to remember that this is supposed to be a fun adventure.? Even when my riding life inadvertently gets stressful because of a big event, or because something unexpected happens, or because the stars are just misaligned for a particular ride, it helps to remember to ?Just keep Swimming!?? Actually, that can help with pretty much everything in life.? It’s not just the horses that are along with me for this ride, it’s the people in my life, too, even if they can only be there in the shape of an artichoke.


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