Thursday, November 26, 2015

Practicing Thankfulness

I've decided recently to try to focus on the positives in my life and remember how blessed I am in every day life.

  • I am thankful to have a family that supports me in all my endeavors (no matter how misguided). Between helping me out with the horses, being a shoulder to cry on, and being there for me during the joys of life, I am incredibly lucky to have a family that loves and supports me throughout my entire life. I wouldn't be able to ride, wouldn't be able to attend vet school, and wouldn't be able to life as comfortably as I do if it weren't for them.
  • New and old friends. They've been my life line and kept me sane throughout vet school, undergrad, and high school. They're present for the highs and the lows, the difficult decisions, and provide the best decision sounding boards for when I struggle (and I struggle a lot!).
  • Trainers new and old and their bottomless patience. I'm not an easy student, but I am so blessed to have had as many trainers who believed in me and my horses; without them, I would not have made it as far in the saddle as I have.
  • Two lil guinea pigs. They've been my cuddle buddies and made studying tolerable, if not a little stinky.
  • My wonderful boyfriend. Not only is he a horse show boyfriend, he's been a shoulder to cry on, and just an incredible supporter throughout this tumultuous journey.
And finally...
  • Horses new and old. I am so lucky to be riding my current lesson horse, Lexie, who has reminded me to sit deep and tall, and keep my heels down. I am so grateful to have my old man, healthy and happy in retirement, who taught me more lessons than I can count as we moved up the ranks. I am so fortunate and so lucky to have both of my fat-bottomed horses in my life.
Not sure my sister would appreciate her face broadcasted to the world, but I'm thankful for her too!
Just a small sampling of the ladies who make vet school fun!

"Breaks are important for treats!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

-K & C

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Final Horse Show of the Season: Recap and Resolutions

This past weekend marked my last horse show of 2015. I've come a long, long way since I started showing again last fall. I've moved back into the Jumper ring, and moved up 2 classes: from the 0.60s (2' Schooling Hunters) to the 0.80s, and finished out my last show at the highest I've shown in the last 3 years.

Friday afternoon, I came out after my disaster of a final (academics- not my thing anymore) for a lesson. I had originally planned on skipping the year-end barn show, and heading home early, but somehow H talked me into hacking Lexie, and coming back in a few hours to show Lexie in the Jumper ring. When I was hacking Lexie, there was a lot of focus on using my seat to lengthen and shorten her stride and keeping my weight in my heels in preparation for that evening.

We showed in the 2'6" jumpers, and 2'9" jumpers against one other rider, and WON both rounds by a healthy 5-10 second lead! It's not much, but it was definitely a high moment to end my showing season on. Not only had I moved up, switched rings, and ridden a difficult horse, the 2'6 ride was the best ride Lexie and I have had as a team.

I made an attempt to show Saturday, but developed a migraine with aura right before my first course; I jumped one fence and asked to be excused. I ended up scratching my other 3 courses. I can't beat myself up too much; I had finished 3 finals, barely slept, and shown the night before; I think my body was just screaming, "I'm done! Let me sleep!".

I need to figure out a new plan of attack for riding + showing, and my mini-mester coming up in the winter. I forgot this semester academics come first, and my grades unfortunately reflect it. I need to refocus so I can hit the ground running in January.

Goals for the upcoming show season:

  • First in a 2'9/0.85m Jumper class against actual competition (more than 1 horse)
  • Overcome my show nerves
  • Quit. WHINING.
  • Lighten up and have fun. I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect and win every time- it's not a realistic goal at this point in my life. I need to be grateful to be riding and competing at all throughout vet school.
- K & C

Monday, November 16, 2015

Off Topic Talk: Mental Health and the Veterinary Profession

Recently, my vet school posted an article announcing the employment of a new psychologist available to counsel veterinary students free of charge. For those who are unfamiliar with the statistics, substance abuse, depression, and suicide are rampant problems within the veterinary medicine community. 1 in 6 veterinarians have considered suicide. This is a high pressure profession where we are tasked with not only treating a variety of species, but also pleasing their owners; it is sometimes a tight rope to walk between saving a patient and maintaining a happy client. You would think counseling would be an obvious first line of defense, but instead students were told to "suck it up", "keep the faith", and one alumni put it quite bluntly:  "Yet another example of babying these students and shielding them from the real world. If they can't handle vet school find another profession. We don't want you. I sure wouldn't ever hire you.". The stigma around mental illnesses, and even more so, the stigma of seeking help, has to end. We have lost too many veterinary students and veterinarians to suicide in the last year. Mental illness is no more a choice than developing arthritis or cancer; it is a chronic, insidious disease, that, without help, can sneak up and overtake you.

The pressure cooker environment begins in pre-veterinary programs in undergraduate schools: GPAs of over 3.6 and 1000s of veterinary volunteer hours are considered "competitive" in a profession where 1 out of 1000 applicants are admitted into 1 of 23 schools in the United States. From there, these incredibly bright individuals, who may have never seen a C in their lives, are placed into the classroom up to 40 hours a week, and are expected to study 2-3 hours for every hour spent in class, in addition to maintaining a semblance of a functioning personal life. Friends outside school seem to carry on with their lives: getting engaged, married, buying homes, earning promotions, while we sit in the classroom so that we can chase our dream. Many students, including myself, find ourselves questioning whether we made the right choice, whether we are meant to be here, and if there is any meaning in what we are trying to accomplish. And at times,the light at the end of the tunnel is incredibly dim. The average vet students graduates 6 figures in debt; starting (and future) salaries are generally 1/3 of our peers who graduate from human medical school with similar training.

I, myself, never expected to get this far; I am 1 in 6, but thankfully, with a strong support network, horses, counseling, and medication, I am now the closest to being "mentally sound" as I have ever been. I say this because I am a survivor, and I am stronger for it; I have found my passion and my professional calling and that drives me through the rough, dark days. Students need to be educated about their options now, and learn to develop coping tools before their first euthanasia, their first mistake in practice, before they decide pills or alcohol are their only relief.

The work of a veterinarian is difficult, taxing, and at times, thankless. We are there at the highest points of your animal's life, and we are there to usher them into their next life; we care for all their ailments and aches in between. In order to provide optimal care for your animals, we need to provide care for ourselves. I am so incredibly proud my school has made a step in the right direction- by normalizing seeking out counseling in times of mental distress. What chance does our profession stand if we are not supportive of each other?

- K&C

Monday, November 9, 2015

In Which I Bring Dishonor to My Barn

I am the penultimate nervous adult amateur and a whiny pissbaby.

My trainer signed me up to the year-end AHJA Hunter/Jumper show; I was either going to show possible baby horse (peace out, kid) in poles, or favorite lesson horse, Lexie, in the 0.6m jumpers.

I lessoned on Lexie Thursday at the 0.60m level, and it was wonderful! Controlled canter (this is going to be ironic later), nailed every distance, and relatively chill ride, despite horses schooling around me, and the hustle and bustle of pre-show schooling.

Friday, I hacked her around the property just to continue to let her see the hustle and bustle, and again, she was a little lazy and a total trooper, so naturally, like the bird brained, vain person I am, I texted my trainer like an asshole, and asked if I could move up a level since showing the 0.60s is embarrassing (my words), and shoot for 2'9 in the spring.

She ok'd it, and instead of bumping me up once, decided to put me in the 0.70m jumpers (2'3", okay, chill), AND SURPRISE, bump me up again 0.80m jumpers (2'7"- a little nerve-wracking, but fine, I love a challenge and used to school 3'6" on Candy). So we got to school; Lexie is lazy, and I give her a couple lousy distances, making her refuse the warmup jumps. I get a crop and spurs; I have never, up until this point, jumped her in spurs or with a crop, but that's fine, cool, no stops. Warm-up goes well after I convince her, "Yes, you will go over, because I promise I will hold you to the base, and not give you a terrible distance."

We go into the ring for 0.70s. Plan is to ride like an eq course for power, go all out for speed. After the first jump, I realize- I cannot rate her speed. At all. We have no brakes and all I can do is steer, point, and keep my leg on because Lord knows, I have zero say in distances. And as I'm doing this, hands are inching higher, her head is inching higher. I am on a semi-runaway, pissed off mare, and all I can do is hold on, steer, and pray that Lexie will continue to be a MACHINE. It was a mildly terrifying, very fun round. And we get 3rd out of 9.

Trainer tells me I "need to keep my hands below my boobs this time, but [I'm] clear to do the 0.80s." Woah- hold on what? "You said you wanted to go bigger, and you're going bigger. Also give me the crop- she doesn't need it." I meant NEXT SPRING, BUT OK.

So I am shaking in my boots, man the fuck up, and go in for our next "bat out of hell" jumper ride. I stupidly continue to think I might have some say in our speed, but keep my hands low this time. Mare is a little happier, but still bookin' it around the course. And then the incident. We came off a jump for an immediate rollback, I turned too tight, overshot the jump, and I feel one stirrup come loose, one leg start to swing over, and I say "No way, Jose.", right myself in the saddle, pull Lexie to a halt, and ask to be excused. Trainer yells at me "You do not get to be excused. Finish the course!". So I shorten my reins, pull on my big girl panties, and bang out the 2 prettiest rollbacks of my life. Obviously, we did not place.

So, not only was I a whiny pissbaby about jumping too small, I was also a whiny pissbaby about jumping too high and almost falling off because I forgot how to ride. I really need to just man up and ride. For me, riding is 75% mental; I get inside my head and freak myself out. My muscle memory and abilities are there, I just believe I'm incompetent.

So to my trainer: I am so sorry I am a pissbaby. To Lexie: I am so sorry I rode like a monkey, but I'm glad you had fun. Thanks for not dumping me. To myself: you got what you asked for, stop being ungrateful. To my readers: I'm sorry for the lack of pictures; I wish you could have seen my face and Lexie's face.

Here's to starting to shed my nervous adult amateur cocoon, and hoping I blossom this winter, into a badass adult amateur butterfly who can keep her weight in her heels and keep her hands low.

- K & C

FYI- I will be on hiatus from now until Dec. 9th-ish for Final Exam Month!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

Since this seems to be the general trend of my blog, please join K in her Pity Party Corner.

Trend: K gets excited about something going well, something happens, and K is horseless.

Well, here we are again, unfortunately. I was hoping to announce I had purchased a new horse, but he failed his pre-purchase with flying colors (3 out of 4 legs flexed unsound) after being sound the entire week-long trial period.

So I have to pick myself up by my bootstraps and carry on!

Hopefully, I will have good news eventually. :)

- K & C