The moments in between

A week ago I turned 22. Another year older, another year wiser.. that’s how it goes, right?

If I had to take one thing from the past year to represent who I’m becoming, it couldn’t be one accomplishment or experience. It would have to be the moments in between. One of the things I’ve come to realise in the past while is how true happiness isn’t in big achievements or stand out moments we all look forward to. Happiness is a culmination of thousands of moments that we don’t even note half the time. To add to that, you can’t rely on joy to occur where you think it should. It sneaks up on you in ways you least expect it to. Impossible to trace, and sometimes disguised as something else.

Amongst the ups and downs of this year, I’ve faced fears, been thrown (sometimes literally) into things I never saw coming, experienced emotions I’ve never been privy to, accomplished more then I would’ve ever thought I could, made decisions I never thought I could, and evolved into the next version of myself.

More then ever I’ve seen the effectiveness of trusting that everything will work out as it should, and things happen for usually a specific reason. Every negative comes with a positive if you’re staying true to you, and sometimes you have to adjust your expectations to allow the right thing to happen.

With all those moments in between, I’ve been led to some stand out experiences. Through a series of unfortunate events I was led to a variety of first hand learning experiences towards my profession, as well as being introduced to a person who has more then changed my world. I’ve noticed a gradual shift in my self-confidence and leadership abilities, which helped me in taken on new challenges with school, internships, and setting new goals for the next stage of my life. While I still function as an introverted personality, I’ve learned how to use that to my advantage and continue to step out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. I know my own limits can step back and breathe before I burn out from pushing those limits. I learned that sometimes staying involved in something when it’s becoming more stressful then enjoyable, just because you’re afraid of losing the passion for that thing all together can only lead to more frustration and pain.. compassion for yourself and the ability to give yourself a deserved break should never be neglected. Life gives you lemonade if you stop sucking on the lemons.

I’ve reached a new understanding of myself, and feel more then ready to begin a new age. I was blessed to bring in 22 surrounded by loved ones.. lets see what this year brings!

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Immersion

If last weeks theme was feeling overwhelmed, this weeks theme is “I think I got this?”

Note the slight lack of certainty.

There is something about being surrounded by the student AT family who are all equally stressed about pretty much all the same things constantly that has brought back my cool, calmness.

So much about what we do as athletic therapy students (and graduates) is about jumping right in and just taking it as it comes. Really. You can’t fight against the current here. When you find yourself on field with no certified to answer your questions in person, and you have one athlete with a dislocated shoulder calmly (surprisingly) laying on the ground saying he can’t move his arm, two others waiting less patiently to be taped, 25 other players grouped around the first kid gawking, a currently injured athlete standing on the field yelling “you’re a wimp, you’re not actually hurt!” at players who come off the field injured (usually significantly) in between flirting with the water girls, coaches yelling things like “you are not brothers today.. you’re enemies! Let’s see what you can do!”, and kids getting absolutely smoked, getting up, coming off the field, and matter-of-factly stating “what happened? I can’t remember..?”…. all within an hour… you have to acknowledge this as a normal wednesday, go with the flow, and deal with it. Don’t worry about the numb hands, you can tape just fine with them. Palpating an acute injury doubles as icing when it’s 10deg and windy on a Manitoba fall evening. Jump in there… awkward injured teenagers are waiting.

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So far this week has been all about immersing myself back into a routine. I’ve found myself in many positions (partly volunteered) of leadership already, between being head therapist with football, c0-president of KSA, and just generally being a final year student. People ask more of you, people expect more of you, and you expect more of you. The first week of this new realisation terrified me, but so far the second week has reminded me that I’m ready to tackle all this (and hopefully fare better then my football players).

As classes got rolling this week, I thanked summer me for pushing myself to almost crazy squeezing all the extra reading, clinic time, and field work that I did manage to. It’s already made 4 super intimidating courses seem a little less mental. The switch back to super-human scheduler has begun. I’ve noticed that (so far) I don’t find myself feeling like prep reading for class is as dreaded. I actually just do it without thinking. And I usually actually find it quite interesting. Which in turn also helps to make these courses seem more manageable. Studying is so much easier when it doesn’t feel like work! Now I just have to figure out a way to get my brain to shut off for bed time. It wants to just keep on rolling 24hrs a day! Luckily, I never really find myself low on energy (again, so far). I still manage to find time to have car naps, a habit a started this summer too. And, as my boss at the gym pointed out one day after coming in stressed as I could be (during week 1)… “you still have time to work out, so things must not be too bad). I’m making a conscious effort this year to take time each day for me, even if that’s just a car nap. This is in an attempt to keep myself from the colossal melt down that usually happens around January.

This past weekend we welcomed home the newest addition to the hobby farm… Lucy (already sometimes “Lucifer”)! She will the the new project, now the Felix is almost all grown up. Of course he isn’t going anywhere fast, and Lucy has a few years yet before we’re riding her as she’s only just 4mos old now. What we’ve learned so far is that she loves people, but not in the mornings.

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The rest of this week brings another football game (on my birthday of course), plans to spend time with friends and family over the weekend bringing in the 22nd year, and hopefully a continued progression of immersing myself into a comfortable stress/study/function level for this semester.

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Beginning the End

After my last first day in the undergrad… it’s safe to say my brain is mush already.  

To end off my summer, I really made a point of relaxing and just doing the things I wanted to. This gave me a total of 5 days of summer. The last few days of my summer job were spent doing next to nothing due to sketchy weather. Then J and I took off for a few days out to the country, and then to my cousin’s hobby ranch (if you can call thousands of acres of farm and pasture land a hobby farm) up in Horod, MB with Mom and Gord, and the rest of the Rance crew for some off the grid relaxation and family time. The scenery in the area of the province is like a slightly less condensed and tropical north NZ.. so pretty perfect. Over this time my immune system also relaxed and I got a cold, of course. The only way to bring in the school year! 
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The first two days of school have already completely exhausted my mental capacity. Between KSA promotions and organisation, a tough roster of classes, football 24/7, and catching up with familiar faces… it’s been a non-stop week so far. The last two days I’ve had to take an hour or so to just turn off my phone and stop the bombardment of texts, emails, and to-do lists. This, I think, is going to be a regular strategy.. at least until my head clicks back into super student mode (hopefully soon.). 

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Some of the Kin/Watsa execs a O-week!

Usually I’m much more enthusiastic about the first couple weeks of school. Whether it’s the fact that I’m very ready for this to be the last go-around, or like all the other final year AT students am feeling the burden of field and clinic hours crushing my soul.. there isn’t as much crisp new school supplies excitement floating around right now. I have become the jaded AT student, who begrudgingly dedicates majority of any free time to practical hours and somehow manages to study and work paying jobs in between commitments. It’s a interesting place to be, and I’m glad I have a few other students in the same situation as me to battle through this semester with. One thing I did miss was ranting about AT student sorrows and stresses to fellow AT students. 

I’m also looking forward to getting back into the routine. Once I settle back into the grind, I usually find a decent balance in my schedule. Or at least accept it. Acceptance is the key to not mentally imploding. 

If I could tell first year me what I would be handling in my 4th year.. First year me might have permanently stayed in NZ. However.. looking back at all my hard work and stress, the pattern would suggest that I can handle this one last crazy semester.. and once I get through it, I just have another semester left until I’m degreed. The CATA certification stress doesn’t start until after that. So we’re not even going to start talking about that for a few months yet. 

Stay tuned for more brain fried rants as the semester continues! 

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Taking in Summer

You would think that selling my horse and taking a hiatus from competition would free up hours of free time in my life.. and if you did think that, I’d have to ask you.. do you know me at all?

After making the decision of selling Will, and finding the suitable buyer…I spent about a week hibernating. Or at least that’s what it felt like. I kept up my regular work routine, but spent the rest of the time napping, eating comfort food or being grumpy. I refer to this week as my ‘emotional hangover’. I can’t lie, it was and still is quite an adjustment not going out to the barn every afternoon in between shifts, and not spending my weekends planned around training or show schedules.  It has, however, been quite a happy adjustment as the financial and time commitments that came with riding full-time have diminished significantly.

After the week of feeling hungover, I spent the weekend with my guy going from one social gathering to the next. Supper at my parents to the west on Friday, a birthday party at J’s friends to the east Saturday, a retirement party in the city on Sunday. Getting out and about, being surrounded by good people for three days straight really helped snap me out of whatever I was doing the week prior.

Following that was another busy week full of work and beginning to prepare for the school year to begin once again. I’ve been able to fill the time once spent at the barn with getting my focus back onto getting myself into the gym to work out, eating right for me, and getting more involved in a couple of clinics. Claude at MORFit has been utilizing me whenever he has clients and I’m on shift.. which is great. It still amazes me that one year ago I was terrified of working with a client, and now he’s given me a client to work with from day one onwards.. which just seems like everyday stuff now to me. I assessed this client on his first appointment, and have worked with him twice weekly for the last month or so. It’s been pretty neat to see him progress in his rehab and be elated with his results; results that he’s achieved with me working on him mostly independently!

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Last week I began work in another clinic, one which I’m very excited to be working in. I’ll be there twice a week as well until classes begin, as well as continuing the work at MORFit with Claude, and then I’ll have to put clinic time on hold to accommodate football season. I was also kept busy with KSA business as well, as we prepare for our big member push during the first couple weeks of school. It will be interesting to see if the four of us can rebuild this student association, and get it back on track to being the huge network of students it once was.

I’ve been really trying to take as many chances as I get over the last while, and in the next couple weeks, to just do whatever I think might be fun with what remains of summer. It’s been close to 10 years that I’ve always had something horse related to do on weekends, so as much as I’m already missing it- it has been very nice to just do other things on weekends off. This weekend I did end up doing something horsey by setting up J with a polo lesson and going as a spectator. My good friend and teammate Megg joined to watch, and we had a great day. J seems to be a natural to the riding world. Only having ridden a few times in his life, this lesson was his first official ride. He made it look easy and had a tonne of fun. I may be getting him addicted to counter my withdrawal..

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As much as I can hobbling around on my persistently bruised foot, I’ve been getting myself back into a work-out routine and cleaning up my diet. With classes fast approaching, and my schedule turning into a crazy monster.. I’m going to need a clear head and lots of energy. Right now is the perfect time to start taking advantage of all my friends and family with fresh food growing in their yards and get myself back into my healthy routine. With a little extra time (relative) I’ve taken the chance to start cooking more. A couple meals with J this week consisted of garden potatoes, onions, paired with bacon and eggs (both local), french toast (gluten free and locally baked) with fresh raspberries and blueberries. I made some fantastic fresh corn with sauteed zucchini, onions, carrots, and beet greens the other night. And tonight at work I made myself a arugula salad with tomato, sweet red pepper, fresh basil, nuts, and carrots topped with chicken and poppyseed dressing.

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Football practices began today.. which will combine with work (2 jobs still), running my own class, and CMU basketball teams. I’m the head therapist with Murdock Football this year, as well as the only AT working with CMU basketball (both men’s and women’s). It’s gonna be a bit of a crazy year. I’m registered in 4 classes and one lab, and just heard that I got chosen to be the lab demo for Taping and Splinting this fall as well. Those plus running KSA, and potentially also working with the Older Adults class again.. I’ll be flying. I am really looking forward to it all though. I’ve found my niche within AT, and every experience I get drives me further towards the career I want to have. This being my last year of my bachelor, I want to make the most of it. And how do I make the most of things? I do every possible thing I can. Duh.

My week days are quickly filling up, but the next two weekends I’ve saved to spend time with family and friends, relaxing and enjoying summer… and raiding people’s gardens!

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When you know, you know.

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Photo credit: Steve Carmichael, solosnapshots.com

You know that feeling you get when you are doing something right, but you still feel like you’re swimming against the current? That defines how I felt for majority of the weekend at Heart of the Continent.

Of course, there were many moments of positivity. Like when M stated that “that was the best round I’ve seen you ride in years” after one of my .85m courses, or when he followed up a .9m round with “you’re riding better then I’ve seen in a long time”. While it could lead one to question what he thought I was doing over the last few years, I’m choosing to focus on the here and now and be quite happy with how I did this weekend as a rider.

In an attempt to counter the negativity and confidence issues I’ve had this season, I set myself a goal of finding at least one positive from  each ride over this five day show. The only day I didn’t find one right away was Sunday, but I’ll get to that one later. Here are the positives from each day at Heart:

WednesdayI got a effortless ride through a two stride during warm-ups, and I’m wearing my new boots (finally).

Combinations have been a long standing issue for us, so getting a nice ride through one on warm-up day was a great boost!

ThursdayCompliments from both my coaches on how I rode and feeling effective and solid in the tack.

Our rounds weren’t perfect, but I was riding like I should be. My legs felt solid, and I was making good decisions around the courses.

Friday our .85m round was easy and clear, Will jumped great for me and I was riding like I should be! We pinned 4th. 
- both our warm-ups felt amazing, even when M set a huge oxer in prep for our .9m. Warm-ups usually only frustrate me but today they were only encouraging! 
- our .9m was one of our best rounds at this height! I had a great ride through the first half of the course (flawless two-stride ) and finished with a few minor rider errors- but my horse worked for me.

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SaturdayI still have cat-like reflexes in the air.

Yeah, it was a rough day. We competed in two .9m classes, a height we’ve been building confidence slowly in. Today was not the day for that. I found myself having to chase my usually eager horse to each jump, and when it came down to it.. he really wasn’t interested in his job. While he obliged over single jumps, he didn’t really agree to combinations.

A brilliant shot by Steve Carmichael right before a trouble spot...

A brilliant shot by Steve Carmichael right before a trouble spot…

And here's the trouble spot.. Thanks Dad, for this one.

And here’s the trouble spot.. Thanks Dad, for this one.

He dumped me in both courses at the same spot. I’ve never had to fight with him this much through a course, and both my coaches agreed that I was doing everything I could as a rider.. he was just not with me. The second fall I landed on my feet, and managed to bruise a couple bones in my foot. Unfortunately in the same leg I broke 6 months ago. After driving myself to the hospital to get x-rays (and almost passing out from pain, oops), and bossing around some x-ray techs who not only tried to x-ray the wrong foot, but also the wrong set of bones, I still decided to get back on for the rest of Sunday’s classes, two .85m courses.

Like I mentioned before, Sunday is the day I haven’t come up with a positive for yet. Why? Well, it was a bit of a emotional roller coaster. It took a lot from me to even go back into the ring on Sunday, after having such a disheartening performance from my usually eager partner. However, I was keen to not end a show on a negative note.. so off we went.

If I was to pick a positive from Sunday, it would be something like this: The relationship that has formed between my horse and I over the past 8 years has given us great communication skills, and for these I am grateful

Horses can’t speak, but they can definitely let us know what they’re thinking. Galloping to the first fence in our first course on Sunday, my horse told me he was finished. In a matter of strides, he made it crystal clear that his time in the jumper ring was done. He didn’t misbehave. He kept me safe. He was honest. But our interests had changed.

Riders are big talkers when it comes to how they perceive their relationship with their horses. When it comes down to it, to be serious about the sport- you have to acknowledge when it’s time to let a partnership end. Riders who plan on progressing all accept this as true… however it doesn’t make the progression any less heart breaking.  To quantify what I’ve learned from my partnership with Will isn’t possible. However, I’ve never experienced a clearer message from my long-term teammate. After he slowed to a stop before the first fence, I felt a shift in our relationship. I got him over it on try number two, and got him over the second fence.. but once again he slowed to a stop before the third fence on course. As we walked out of the ring on a loose rein, he dropped his head  and sighed while I struggled to keep it together.

The list of emotions I experienced in that moment went something like this: frustration, relief, confusion, sadness, and clarity. I was frustrated for obvious reasons. I felt a little let down by my horse, and more then anything wanted to just have one good round to end the weekend. I was relieved because I was tired of pressing him to fences when he wasn’t wanting to participate in the game. I was confused because I no longer felt like I was riding the horse I’d known for years. I was sad because I knew that our partnership in the show ring was ending… I felt clarity because there was no longer any hesitation behind my next steps within the sport.

As I walked out of the out gate, under the tower and looked at M (he always stands right at the gate watching his riders), his only comment was “he isn’t in there with you, is he”. I could only shake my head and get out- “I think we’re done for the day”. We scratched the rest of our day, and walked back to the barn. About the only emotion I wasn’t feeling was anger.  After all, how could I be mad at such blatant honesty.

It’s easy to get discouraged after a wrap up like that. However, to look at all this horse has given to me (through true blood, sweat, and tears) is a reminder of how much he’s helped me grow as a rider. I’ve known for a long time that he can only take me so far in the sport, and while seeing him reach his limit was a tad heart breaking.. I’m glad he did it in his usual honest manner. It would be more heart breaking to see him reach those limits in a more unfortunate way (i.e., injury). Not every horse makes it so clear that they are ready for the next chapter before they have physically broken down. As it stands, Will is still a healthy, safe, honest, sound and able horse, and he will excel at being that for a number of years yet. As he has been for sale for quite a while, now seems like the perfect time to find him a new home that will give him a chance to do what he is ready to do now.. a little less competition and a little more just having fun as a riding horse. I’m so looking forward (in the most bittersweet way) to finding him that perfect home.

I, too, am ready for a little less competition and the stress that comes along with that training regime. I am slowly switching back into school mode for another year, and have been toying with the idea of taking a break from the sport (competitively) for a while, and this appears to be the perfect opportunity. Riding as a sport isn’t often one that you can put away or take many days off from, especially when you train to compete. Horses can’t just sit around for days at a time. They need constant attention. I know I’m not the only one out there who has experienced the strain and burn out that comes from balancing work, school, and sport.. so with the prospective of being done competition for a while I feel so much less stress already (mentally, physically, and financially).

My already tough season definitely ended on a tougher note. It’s not easy seeing a long-term partnership come to it’s end (although a logical one). As a close teammate once said, there comes a point where you have to choose between a horse and the sport. I’ve always known Will wouldn’t be a forever horse, but we do have a fair amount of history so it will not be an emotionless day when he goes to a new home. It’s also weird to think about me being ready to take a break from the sport I’ve held onto for so many years, but I truly feel that it is the right choice for where I’m at. After the year I’ve had within the sport, and out, I need to figure out where my goals sit. Sometimes the only way to do that is to take a step back and let time do it’s thing. So, I’m in no rush to find another horse. Instead I want to take the next year or so to finish my degree, certify as an AT, ride other people’s horses when I can and want to, do a bit of travel, and settle into a steady job so I can afford to get serious about training again if that what is still important to me.

There will always be horses to ride, so I’m not worried about not getting my saddle fix. I can’t imagine my life without this crazy sport, but I do think this year has taught me many valuable lessons and taken a lot out of me. My riding has progressed immensely, but my drive and passion for the sport has been clouded by negativity: residual fear from injuries, shaken confidence, and stress from the outside world. I have a feeling that that drive and passion will return quite quickly once I take this step back and switch my focus back to the other passion I have within the athletic therapy world.

My blog has always been about “learning one day at a time”, and that is pretty much exactly what I’m sticking to. This is just another step along the journey, and with it will come more lessons. Some tough, some cheerful, and some frustrating. That’s life, and life would be nothing if it wasn’t an adventure.

 

 

 

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A confidence parallel

You may have noticed a theme of confidence in this summer’s posts (although few). Be it from recovering from my riding accident 6months ago and dealing the residual fear of getting back in the saddle, to transitioning into the jumpers from my oh so comfortable hunters- I am seemingly constantly confronted with the trials of where my confidence levels are on any given day.

My last post focused on how much I was beginning to regain confidence at Beach Party in the jumpers, after a good 3 days of making decent decisions and having decent rounds as a result. After that show I took some time off to do other things. I worked Folk Fest as part of the first aid team (which was awesome), dealt with an old back injury that acted up which took me away from riding for another week,  interviewed with a therapist I will be doing some clinical with, covered the Morris Stampede (professional rodeo) with a professor as a member of the sports medicine team (also awesome), applied for a related scholarship, covered some football, celebrated 6months with the guy, got my back back on track, did some clinical work at MORfit… my first two assessments in I don’t know how long, and finally got back into the saddle for a few rides and lesson before Heart of the Continent which starts this week. My lesson was quite good, although I did struggle with my head a bit during. Thankfully, even though my brain was nervous- I was able to put that aside and tune into autopilot. This made our lesson go quite smoothly, and M&C were quite happy.

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This has been one of the first summers my career/school and riding have really collided. I’ve been trying to find a balance, but in all reality for the majority of the earlier summer riding took precedence. The closer it gets to fall, the more AT focused things I’m beginning to do.. but I’m glad I’ve had the opportunities in AT I’ve had the past few weeks as they kind of reset my mindset towards where I’m at with riding.

Through doing all those other things outside of riding the past few weeks, the more athletic therapy sided things, made me see the other side of confidence in my life. It seems that my career and my sport have switched sides on me. In the past, athletic therapy related ordeals have taken some serious guts for me to accomplish due to a lack of experience and confidence in the area while riding has been something that comes easily for me with success following my experience and confidence levels in the ring. This summer every event I’ve covered as an AT or responder has been refreshingly fun, easy, and not like work at all. At Folk Fest I found myself labelled as the chief wound dresser, after impressing a few people early on with my roller gauze abilities. Morris Stampede brought me using soft tissue release techniques that I’ve never actually had the chance to use in real life since learning them.. but I still rocked it out.

I’ve clicked into a groove in the field, and excel at every chance I get in the clinic. The two clinical assessments I did for Claude were the first in 6-8months, but I found myself running on autopilot and picking up on things I’d read about or seen talked about at the CATA conference. I didn’t stumble through my questions, or forget what came next in the movement assessment.. I just did my thing and did it pretty well.

How nice it is to be able to do something so autonomously with confidence. All this took me the past year and a bit of working my butt off in class and clinical, and taking myself out of my comfort zone every chance I got. When I started this program I was somewhat shy, quiet, and although eager to learn- completely terrified. I see myself now turning into a calm, confident, knowledgable young professional. I guess that’s where I should be at as I enter my final year of the program before challenging the national exam.

When you stack that feeling of confidence within my budding career up to my long time riding career and my current feeling of not much confidence at all… it clearly shows the effects of a transition year. I most definitely underestimated the switch to the jumper ring as being simpler then it is. While I was plagued by a few unfortunate injuries early in the season, between having to ride very differently around a longer more aggressive course and being on a horse who has just as much experience doing this as I do… I have my work cut out for me. Beach Party proved to me that I am on the right track. But, just like the steps I had to take as a student AT to build my confidence and as a result boost my abilities- I have to do the same and put in the time in the jumper ring.

My goals for Heart of the Continent this week are to remain focused on staying calm, sitting up, keeping my leg on, having fun, and doing what I know how to do.. which is ride. Because while I may be a newbie to the jumper ring, I have been doing this crazy sport for over half my life- the skills are in there somewhere.

In a more general “state of my life” update, I am being run kind of crazy between work, riding, KSA organization, trying to get my current apartment subletting, dealing with subsequent no shows to the scheduled apartment viewings, working with my CMU Basketball teams, prepping for my football team to start up again, and the school year to begin. On top of Heart this week I’m moving in the middle of it, and working evenings. I’m also currently working on a proposal for a directed study on the biomechanics of a rider and how strength training can improve that (I know, I know.. I’ve been on this forever). In the midst of this I’ve had to chase the show boots I ordered in June across the country as I still haven’t received them…. long and frustrating story short.. they got on a plane today for express overnight to Winnipeg and should be here before I start competing Thursday. Here’s hoping I get to wear my boots for the last couple shows of the year!

Writing this all down I’m not surprised I had to take a “sick/mental health” day this morning to both recoup and get packing done for my move later this week.

The remainder of the time leading up to Heart… which is like 16 hrs at this point.. is going to be spent putting my game face on and not stressing about every other thing going on in my life. The move will happen with the help of my man, friends, and parents. My apartment will get sub-letted asap. KSA will be organized in time for fall. I will organized all the paperwork and training schedules for all three teams I’m working (after Heart). I will survive, and August holds some much needed weekends off and chill time before the last year of my BSc. I can do this!

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Rectus Oculosis- How not to think

Okay, so, if you read my last post- you may have noticed that the transition to the jumper ring hasn’t been the smoothest so far.. due to both fluky trips/falls and a decline in confidence for Team Kathlyn and Will. Coming off of Summer Smiles it would be safe to say my confidence was at a low point. With two weeks to prepare for Beach Party, I had a lot of work to do. And work I did. The first thing was to get my body back to a functional point. A couple days of rest, and a date with my AT (and some suction cups) got me back in the saddle and riding like I wasn’t in severe pain anymore. My goals for my horse and I in the weeks leading up to the next show were to work on our transitions, and to get Will moving a bit more on his back end.. He was starting to get too heavy on my hands for my liking. Transition work day after day worked to correct that. Sometimes you have to go back to the basics, even with experienced, trained horses!

In our first lesson after Summer Smiles, C was pleased to see that I was back to a normal riding style.. she noted that seeing me ride at Summer Smiles (with bruised ribs and a stiff entire body) was frightening. I have to admit too that in this lesson, even though we were doing nothing out of the ordinary (albeit jumping some large-ish jumps), I was pretty nervous. I’ve been dealing with somewhat random anxiety when it comes to riding ever since breaking my leg, but this was more then that. This was a fear that I wasn’t confident in my abilities anymore. And as any rider will tell you, confidence in this sport is the be all and end all of success. Thankfully I have coaches that are impeccable at picking up on things that their riders don’t always say out loud. The training I did leading up to Beach party was all about building both my horse’s and my own confidence back up.

Going into Beach it’s safe to say I was pretty stressed. Between finishing spring term the week of (including writing an exam almost immediately after doing schooling rounds Thursday), coming off two challenging shows, dealing with the stress build up of my insane schedule(s), and just having paid all my bills for the month (aka seeing all my money vanish)- my head was in constant chaos. Besides the chaos, I was pretty stuck in a negative thinking pattern. I was sure that I was going to mess up every single thing all weekend, fall off, and do something stupid like break another leg. I was experiencing a severe case of what a prof refers to as “rectus oculosis”.. or.. a crappy outlook. I knew that this was a horrible way to enter a competition, and was really trying to snap myself out of it. All the thanks to my two ever supportive teammates Megg and Lauren who listened to me vent, and constantly reassured me that I wasn’t the worst rider ever. During warm-ups I was actually feeling pretty calm, until I added in the two stride which triggered frustration. I got over it pretty quick and went to write a Intro Business exam (that I studied for 30mins for…yikes).

The next morning started out with my stress levels running high, as my alarm didn’t go off and I was late.. rushing to get on in time for my first class. When I finally got on and warmed up, I realized that I had misread the schedule and actually had another 15 rounds before I went… Cue more self-frustration. But.. when I finally got in the ring..this happened:

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My horse and I were back in sync, and I felt like a rider again. I could breathe after day one at Beach!

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Day two got even better:

20140710-210757-76077585.jpg The rides I had this day felt amazing. While we didn’t pin in anything, I felt like the rider I’ve trained to be. My leg was solid, my seat was efficient, and I was making better decisions on course. Best of all, I wasn’t terrified. My confidence was coming back. FINALLY. My mental outlook greatly improved.

Day three was a fun day, we entered just the .85m and the .85m relay with fellow rider Courtney and her horse Vinnie. This was the first time I’ve ever done a relay, and it was a blast! Definitely one of our best courses all weekend- purely because we were just  having fun and not thinking about what we might do wrong! Courtney and I ended up 4th.

20140710-210757-76077321.jpg What a relief to come out of a show feeling like I was grasping the idea of how to ride a jumper course.

This past weekend was a prime example of how much of a mental game this sport is. I know I’m not the first rider in the world to doubt themselves. Every single one of us does it, and we all are very good at telling ourselves that we don’t know what we’re doing. Especially when we’re riding up to a combination and not able to see a distance. Why our brain tells us to take our leg off, fall forward, and stop riding is an unfortunate mystery… but that’s exactly what happens. All those things you can do impeccably at home become the farthest thing from functional in an actual performance when you over-think, lose confidence, and see only the negatives.

It’s very difficult to approach any sport or performance and not let those little negative thoughts slip through your mind. I was one “tears hidden by sunglasses mental breakdown” away from scratching the entire show and giving up. What stopped me? For one I wouldn’t have been any happier not showing that weekend. Sitting around at home being miserable is worse then being in the saddle and mildly terrified. Secondly, I have an AMAZING support team behind me. Every show I am SO thankful for my coaches, my teammates, my mother (who has sat through my legendary freak outs more times then I can count) and supports me regardless.

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Because of all those factors I keep pushing myself to meet whatever challenge came up. This show presented no physical challenges to overcome. The only thing standing in my way was myself, and for me that is more frustrating then any amount of physical pain. I overcame my crappy outlook, and I’m very glad I pushed through it. My thought process after something challenging happens is something I know I need to work on more for future competitions- because I know I’m going to have plenty of challenges to face in the future, but getting through this weekend and reviving my shaken confidence was a huge step in the journey.

Some other fun points in the weekend were entering the bribe your horse competition (Will will do ANYTHING for carrots), entering a team in the Beach Vball tournament (and winning it!!), and watching my teammates kick butt in their divisions. I’m so glad I didn’t quit this weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Up, down, and in between: A competition debrief

The first two competitions of the season have come and gone, and left me realizing that I am out of shape– and have a lot to learn. We’ve made our debut in the jumper ring, and said our farewells to the hunters. We’ve dealt with rain and heat, and been tested by new challenges. I’ve found new muscles, and realized the stark differences between the riding styles required in the different rings. Here’s a run down of the highs and lows over the last two weekends!
My most rewarding day was definitely my first day at Ride of Rides, during Red River Exhibition. This was in the sand ring, and the first day brought gorgeous weather and fun courses. I competed in the .85m (2’9″ft) and the .90m (3ft) jumpers. That day may have been a classic case of beginners luck- I came away with 2nd and 3rd in the .85m open and Junior Amateur classes, and another 2nd and 3rd in the .90m classes. Everything seemed to go without a hitch, although I was feeling quite out of shape after round 1 (and 2, 3, 4). Compared to what I’ve been used to (8 jump hunter courses), a 11 jump course that requires a very active riding style, plus a immediate jump off course (additional 7 jumps for speed) felt like a marathon (in all reality it was more like a 500m sprint x 8). The second day of competition brought literally all the rain, making for a sloppy ring. Our first round of the day in the .85 brought a decent course until about jump 9.. where Willard caught the back rail of a wide-ish and stumbled upon landing, causing me to slide off the side into the quicksand below..landing on my back for some nice whiplash effects. The next 15 minutes were spent with the medics, who quickly realized that I wasn’t going to agree to stop competing for the day. I promptly signed the refusal of treatment form and hopped on to go back into my next .85m.. this time I ran a double clear for 3rd place. Warming up for my .90m that day, Mr. Will did exactly the same thing and stumbled me into the biggest puddle in the warm up ring after a oxer. Sigh. This time I landed face first (mid tuck and roll), and fully exfoliated my entire body (without the spa experience). In my own true style, I managed to bruise my ribs and make my rotator cuff very unhappy. Thankfully the medics already knew my name. This stunt caused M to grumble “enough playing in the sand for you today” and scratch me from my .90m.. which I was thankful for. I was also quite thankful that day three of the competition was cancelled due to torrential rain.
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Half recovered and not at all refreshed, we headed into the next competition 4 days later. Warm-ups felt great, minus my complaining ribs and surrounding muscles. This time we competed in just .90m jumpers, and then did the Child/Adult/Non-pro Hunters (3ft) so I could compete in the Hunter Derby. This meant Saturday had 5 courses between rings (2 jumper, 3 hunter). Our jumper rounds were a little sketchy. The combination of me not being horribly effective as a rider, both myself and Will’s confidence still being shaken from the previous weekend, and the courses being much more challenging then we’d experienced before brought some new lessons. The jumper courses on Saturday featured a lovely combination going away from the gate to a long one stride (for Will anyway)– vertical to a wide oxer, and then 4-5 strides to a scary skinny plank jump that featured a pair of wide smiling cartoon lips on it. It was rare to see any horse and rider combo get through this combination with complete grace over the weekend. Our first course was half decent until getting around to this combination. Will got into the one stride okay, but didn’t make the distance to the out oxer with much confidence (mostly my fault) and had to chip and leap to get out- unseating me in the process. I recovered on landing, but not well enough to set him up for the teeth that came up pretty darn quick, resulting in him taking the left side run out. No blame on him for this, my riding instilled absolutely no confidence for him to draw off! We came back to it no problem and completed the course. The second course started out the same way, and this time Will took a great distance into the one stride, but stopped at the out jump.. he really wasn’t giving me any breaks this weekend. Coming back for attempt two,  we added into the one stride and got through the rest of the course okay.
Our hunter rounds that day started out equally as sketchy. This is where the stark differences in riding style became very obvious to me. Both of us forgot how to ride a hunter course, and with this lines being built pretty long (again) we were presented wth a challenge. Our first course came with adding to each line. Which was okay, as I really wasn’t trying to compete in this division- I was just required to enter it if I wanted to do the derby. Our handy course in the division was built for us, though. Set to all our strengths, the course involved no set lines, and was full of roll back turns and bending lines. Yay! This was definitely one of the best hunter courses I’ve ridden in my entire career thus far. We both clicked back into the hunter rhythm. I was able to loop the reins, sit into a half-seat and let Will do his thing over the course. We placed 2nd in this course! This definitely made up for our somewhat frustrating jumpers earlier in the day, and reminded me that I can actually ride worth something. The derby started up at the end of the day, and our course was great- except for our unlucky rail at jump #2. For those who are unfamiliar with derby scoring, a rail automatically lowers your score to 40/100. So although we had an excellent round, we were out of luck for placing.. I ended the day with a 56/100 after bonus points for handiness and high point option jumps being added. Through all his grumbling about me doing hunters this weekend, M even gave me a “tough luck, kid” after that round. M’s statement from last year: “you have to be lucky to be good, and good to be lucky” was ringing in my ears after day one at Summer Smiles.
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Day two left us with just two jumper courses. Much to my chagrin there was a two stride and a one stride in the day’s courses (some part of my brain was hoping they would omit any challenging combinations from the courses…). We started out with each of us giving each other mixed signals through the first course. Jumps 1-7 went okay, with some unnecessary lazy rails on Will’s part. 8A-B brought a one stride, which Will promptly halted right before, for no apparent reason other then lack of confidence. He came back to it and did it fine with an add (again, felt pretty long). Around to the two stride we got through with an add again, and then looping back to the final line (oxer on the outside rail 7strides to the lovely teeth jump…which was conveniently placed right beside a group of endurance horses tied to trailers). Through sloppy riding on my part, and an uninterested horse, we ran out the left again. Course 1, incomplete. Warming up for round two, in an attempt to wake myself and my horse up (after grumbling a motivational, “c’mon girl get riding!”), M set the warm-up fences a good few inches above course height. So, with me muttering “holy shit, M” under my breath in the strides leading up to the warm-up fence- we kicked ourselves into gear and Will clumsily knocked it over first and then over jumped it the second time (goal accomplished, M). The next class brought a lovely round- actually- with a confident add in the one stride (no point fighting for it at this point!) and a beautiful two stride. Around to that dreaded final line again we went, this time getting in okay but Will was having non of the teeth endurance horse combo, and my legs were apparently non-existent. So we stopped, and I flew off the side. Classy finale, team, classy finale. I, however, have chosen to omit that jump from the course- and as a result am quite pleased with how we finished off.
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So, as you can probably tell, competition two was a little more challenging then competition one. But competition one was a little more painful and wet then competition two. They both had their ups and downs. The biggest lesson I learned is that it is absolutely impossible to be an effective rider with stiff, bruised ribs on one side. It 100% affects one’s ability to be fluid and therefore confident in the tack. C picked up on that from a field distance away, and commented that I wasn’t riding as well as I could be, and queried as to whether my leg was okay or if I was sore from the previous weekend still. The leg is fine, even though we’ve had some issues with proprioception over the last few weeks– taping is helping with that. The soreness definitely was a factor, and I’m sure I will be going through rider bootcamp in the next two weeks in prep for the next show (Beach Party!). Leading up to both these past competitions, I wasn’t able to be in the tack as much as I wished- which lead to the resultant fatigued horse and rider. We learned how much we still have to learn, but also how much we’ve progressed. M&C are continuously challenging us which is exactly what we asked for this year, and I am loving it- even if it comes with small frustrations along the way!

 

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Having it all- but is there time for the cake too? The amateur diaries.

About 58 hours of my week are spent working at a combination of different sources of income, and volunteer positions (MORfit, Real-Estate photography, Teaching Assistant, Tutoring, Rider Mechanics, and Football (and other miscellaneous medical coverage)).

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10-15 hours are spent riding one to two horses- 4-5 nights a week. At least 2 of these hours spent in focused work with M&C. Add another few hours/week chatting with Megg or Lauren as the sunsets at the barn. 5 hours on top of that (at least) are spent throughout the week doing other training (running, weights, balance and stability, pre-hab and rehab). So, in total I spend approx. 20hrs a week in training of some sort.

6 hours are spent in class. A few extra hours here and there spent on KSA business. Countless hours stuck in traffic, or driving to and fro.

The remaining time is dedicated to cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning (haha just kidding), falling asleep on my boyfriend’s shoulder, extra reading, stressing about not having time to do clinical hours, and whatever else I do that I forgot to put in here.. sleeping maybe?

I’ve found myself caught between a rock and a hard place lately in that I am doing it all, but am constantly feeling like I’m neglecting at least one part of my life. Usually it’s my sport that gets set aside. Or my sleep and sanity. In all reality, I’m doing a half decent job of making everything work in somewhat coordination. I haven’t had any major meltdowns caused by scheduling.. yet, and I’m keeping everything moving to my personal standards.

This past weekend at the CATA conference while listening to many intelligent and dynamic AT’s/Researcher’s discuss hugely interesting topics- I realised that I really do want to be part of that league one day. Many of the presentations inspired thoughts about how I could take those ideas and apply them to my own ideas around Rider Mechanics and related topics. (PS– Check out this article by a client of mine!!!)

A prof who was also attending made a comment about how it would be cool to get some student’s working on projects that could be presented at next years conference in Halifax spurring at least an hour of day dreaming on the research I want to do in the rider biomechanics and fitness areas. Day dreams that really wouldn’t be occurring if I wasn’t still working so hard as an athlete in the sport.

I often feel like I am living a double life. As an AT, I work to enhance an athlete’s performance- or return them to pursuing their athletic goals. Much of my time is spent assessing, rehabbing, researching, studying, observing, and tweaking someone else’s body in order to best help them prevent, recover, or enhance. As an athlete myself, I also rely on many a health care professional to help me do all of what I help others do too. I train myself, and I have a team consisting of an athletic therapist, a chiropractor (who is also a certified AT), a sport psych consultant, and numerous other resources (profs, fellow students, coworkers) who help me be the best I can be as an athlete. Both lives are full time jobs.

An amateur is someone who “engages in a pursuit on an unpaid basis”. In order to do what I do as an athlete, I am working many an hour to try and make ends meet. Luckily enough, I’ve found income sources that also work with my career goals. Unfortunately, this means that it’s not always easy to take time off of one thing to focus on another. For instance, the next two weeks I’m having to sacrifice training time in order to pick up extra tutoring clients to pay the bills– this with a competition in a couple weeks may not be the most logical choice. However, if I’m going to afford to train and compete? This is my only choice. The pay off being that I make a few extra coins while practicing skills that will come in handy for my upcoming final year in this degree, and future vocation.

The flip side to this occurs too. When many other AT students are picking up extra internship hours or covering events on weekends- all which count towards our final certification- or working at other jobs..I am often living my athlete life and competing or training. Spending the money I work so hard during the week to make.

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Would I change any of this? Most definitely not. I have jobs that I love, and I’m progressing in my sport.

At this point in my riding I’ve taken to a “quality vs quantity” approach. When I do train, I train like I mean it. I put quality rides into my horse- focusing on good habits for both of us, and reinforcing the years of training I’ve already put into us both. I know that even if I only make it out to train a few times a week that my horse and I will still be ready to work hard with M&C, because I’ve strategised our training and done everything I can to keep us in peak condition. I know that when I go to a competition- I will be ready.

I read a reposted article this week describing how aspiring riders must ride as much as they humanly can, and can’t put too much effort into other things if they ever want to be good at riding. It hit a bit of a nerve. I agree that a huge amount of time and dedication must be present for one to become good at their chosen thing- but, I also think it is quite unfair to say those who don’t throw all their focus into one thing aren’t dedicated or destined to be great.

During my time at LC Horse Farms in NZ, the head rider made a comment to me that has stuck with me all this time. After noting a few of my bad habits in the saddle- he concluded that I was “too Manitoban to ever make it in the sport of riding”. He justified that by saying I wasn’t focused enough to ever break bad habits, and any rider with bad habits could never be any good. This was coming from a rider who, based on my education of biomechanics and experience in the sport, had quite a few of his own bad habits. This same rider had also confessed to me that he “wished that he had done a greater variety of sports as a young athlete, instead of just riding” because he agreed that having a well-rounded approach was the way to go.

Coming from a training and coaching perspective, I would never recommend to a young athlete to do only one sport all the time. What makes a good athlete is a well-rounded movement base. This is not to say those who did specialise early aren’t going to be good either. However, I know from experience and current research that building many different neural patterns early on in life will enhance performance once one does specialise. This is true even for such a specific sport like riding. Motor coordination, balance, body awareness, stability, and reactivity all come into play just as much in this sport as they do in others- however, they are rarely focused on as much as they should be with young or new riders (or with older experienced riders…).

I’m an amateur rider not because I don’t want to achieve the highest levels in the sport- but because I don’t necessarily want the lifestyle of a professional rider (I’ve had tastes of it, and it’s just not for me), and I have a career outside (but combining) with the sport. Does this mean I’m not a dedicated athlete? No. Any amateur athlete in any sport is worthy of huge credit for worth ethic and dedication. Not only are they striving to better their performance day in and day out, they are working hard in a variety of other areas as well (whether to pay for their sport, because of other interests, or all of the above). They are well-rounded, persevering individuals who generally won’t take no for an answer when it comes to their goals.

Yes, we complain about it. Yes, we have days where getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing in the world. Our bodies hurt, our brains are fried. We don’t always get the results we want as quick as we want, and we can’t always afford new equipment or all the competitions. As a student, athlete, and full-time (ish) worker- I know I can speak for many others in the same boat as me- it is a brutal lifestyle sometimes. It’s so easy to question why we do this to ourselves.

So… why do we? 

The moment when you click into a skill you’ve been working on for what seems like forever.

The moment your coach says “that was perfect!” over and over again in one training session.

Those ideas that bring your career into your sport in a way you never imagined. The inspiration that follows.

The feeling of setting a goal and seeing it get accomplished, step by step.

The realisation that you are living the dreams people once told you were unrealistic. 

All the burn out, debt, stress, and time becomes 100% worth it. The good days outnumber the bad, and looking back- there is always a good story to tell.

Next time you see your local amateur, in anything, give them a hug. They likely need one.

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Triaging my own schedule.. Am I doing it right?

The past few weeks in a nutshell:

Answer student questions in first responder class, work with kids at horse connection, work the desk at MORfit, go to evening classes, ride, triage football kids, answer football parent’s questions on why their kid is concussed or how they broke their wrist (among other things), answer football coach’s questions as to which kids I actually told not to practice (2/6 actually sitting out…), ride, answer anatomy student’s questions, apply ice to football kids, ride, work the desk at MORfit, read religious papers for my online humanity, design workouts while in business class, teach those workouts to my class, schedule meetings for KSA, chat with enthusiastic faculty members on their ideas for KSA, try to track down a key for my KSA office (with no luck…), write panicked reading reports on readings I half did, try to remember to write things down in my schedule, more football, more desk work, chart, chart, chart, research injuries I’ve never seen before but am dealing with, apply ice, prescribe rest, attempt to get tensor bandages back from athletes, refer, explain to parents why I’m referring..again. Ride. Jump. Run. Get myself back into a lifting routine. Sleep? Eat?

I ran into a fellow AT student the other day, when I was ignoring the pressing need to finish a paper- and instead shopping. As I asked how her spring was going, I found myself looking into a mirror.. “I’m.. it’s.. overwhelming..”. Between football, work, spring courses, and our own personal athletics… Things get interesting for most AT students in the summer. I’m forever fighting back the guilt over not being able to fit in extra clinical shifts to bump my hours so far this summer- but honestly the thought of adding one more thing to my already overdone schedule is impossible.

As the main Trainer with Murdock this year, I’m on my own at practices (the ones that don’t interfere with evening classes..). What this means is that I’m learning how much I know, how much I don’t, and how much I am limited in practice. My team is amazing for making me feel absolutely loved and an integral part of the team. The coaches have told me more than once that they would fold without me and Nikki there. Any request I have is met, the best example was when I asked the coaches to ask one of the kids to carry my table out to practices for me.. the response was the coach walking into the dressing room and yelling “Hey guys- if this table isn’t brought out to the field today by one of you, the entire team is running quadruple what we usually run.. Got it? Good.” and then calmly walking back to me and stating “Someone will get it done for you!” before heading to the field. That’s a moment to warm any AT’s heart.

I’ve really noticed the difference in my abilities now compared to last fall. It was pretty common for me to spend every drive home after practices or games in full sob mode as a result of being horribly overwhelmed. And that was during a season of next to no injuries… This year, I have yet to be phased.. and on average I have a line up of players waiting to see me. The most eventful things I’ve dealt with so far has been a growth plate fracture to the radius, a couple solid concussions, a broken pinky, and numerous bumps and bruises.

As much as I’m loving every second of this- I’m also seeing how the clinical side of AT suites me much better. On field my job is to treat to the best of my ability, and make the decision on whether the kid is going back into play or not. If not, referring onto further medical attention or telling them to rest and apply ice. In clinic I get to figure out what’s causing the problem, and what’s the best way to fix it.. and then actually help fix it. Much more satisfying. Field is exciting, and challenging- but it doesn’t vary much. This is why I’m doing my best to read up on the injuries I see on the field, so when I get those kids in a clinic someday- I have a good idea of how to best help them rehab.

So that’s football. What about my athletics?

Well those have been going pretty awesome. I’m still running 5ks with no problems, and getting closer to my regular speed. The last couple weeks I’ve started back into lifting- as my back has begun acting up again, and the best remedy for that has proven to be barbell dead-lifts and squats.Also, I like to practice what I preach.

IMG_6362Riding has been spectacular. The last couple lessons I’ve had have been flawless, and so much progression has been obvious to me and M&C. After our last lesson I received a “you did not too bad today…. and by not too back I mean really good!” from M. If you know M, you know that means something. Our first competition is coming up in 3 weeks, where I will be competing in the jumper ring. Height divisions have yet to be decided. Will has been jumping phenomenal, and I’m excited to see what this season holds for us. 

As overwhelmed as I am a lot of the time.. its very neat to see the little pieces of my life clicking into place gradually. The business I’ve began working on has showed continuous progression in a short amount of time, and all my years of patience and hard work in my sport is showing some exciting results. Both these things combined are bringing exciting opportunities to me, and catching the attention of some local supporters (more on this soon).

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This week brings much of the same, with football most evenings, work, midterms (to write, and to mark…), papers to write, social events to attend, and training to do on myself and on my horse. This weekend brings the National CATA (Athletic Therapists Assoc.) conference, which I am very excited to be attending- even though it disrupts my usual Saturday routine of replenishing my sleep bank.  Spring courses are almost half done- and I am perpetually behind (curse you online courses!). With the weather improving I will be starting my other summer job soon, hopefully after my teaching assistant work is nearing end- and show season will soon be in full swing for me.

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