Archive for September, 2010

September 19, 2010

Horses are always the answer.

Those of you who have been around me at all in the last few months (or read here several posts back) know that I’ve been trying to work through a Mysterious Back Injury.  The physical therapist doesn’t know how I’ve lived at all walking/standing/sitting/lying down like I have.  Essentially, I have super weak muscles that are supposed to be super strong and when everything isn’t going right, it results in pinching of a bunch of nerves in my lower back.  In short, OW!

As part of all of this, as you might imagine, horseback riding has been forbidden.  It makes sense, especially to non-horsey people, if I can’t even walk without pain, it probably isn’t all that safe to clamber on top of a 16 hh tall, 1200 lb animal, ride about using all those weak muscles and getting pinched nerves and then falling the said 16 hands and getting hurt even more.

The other thing about non-horsey people is that they don’t really get it.  Horsey people don’t want to be around horses, they need to be around horses.

Back at State, when I’d get cranky and stressed and ‘ill,’ my friends would tell me to go out to the barn.  At that point, I had my LA out at a co-op stables in Cary, Theyland Stables.  We kept up our Western Pleasure, adding Huntseat Pleasure to our repertoire, not to mention sharing the virtues of showmanship to all the other (very crowd-y) horses out at the barn.  And anyone who’s met LA knows that he’s the sweetest horse that ever lived.  Plus he’s pretty awesome under saddle.


LA out at Theyland in Raleigh. I still think of him as being my horse, even though I haven't seen him in three years.

LA did a lot for me.  He hardly ever got too stressed about anything.  He loved a good grooming.  And, maybe most important of all, he needed me…and he liked me better than anyone else.  He was the perfect college horse — he’s an easy keeper.  Plus, he helped me recover from jaw surgery and a knee injury.  Not to mention all of life’s other problems.  I miss him all the time and wish I could have kept him, even though I know he’s doing great — I get semi-regular updates from friends still in the area who see him at horse shows.  🙂

After LA moved away, I went to Scotland for about a half year — it was the longest time I’d ever gone without riding.  I came home, changed disciplines, and took hunter lessons for awhile and then helped work a horse, Mocha, for a friend who was too pregnant to ride.  Then I moved to Maine and rode 3 day eventers (another change in discipline).

Nowadays, I ride out at a hunter/jumper barn.  I ride thoroughbreds and warmbloods.  It’s a completely different world of riding, but it’s also completely the same.

When I called up my instructor, Ida, to explain that I wanted to try to ride, to see if my back would hold, she was great.  “I’ll give you a lesson time, just so I can be around in case you get into trouble.”  And I’m really glad she was there.

Riding itself felt great…just don’t ask me to use my lower body at all – I’d be completely useless up on my first horse, Lucky.  For the first time in my life I preferred 2-point to the posting trot.  And I did a LOT of walking.  Of course, I haven’t ridden in 3 months, and in that time, I haven’t really been doing much of any other physical activity, either, so I’m pretty well out of shape.  So we’ll not talk about my equitation except to say I wouldn’t be winning any ribbons today.

My first horse, Lucky, known by those that love him as "Lucky-Butt," at the 4-H Regional Horse show in 2002. Another sweetie who was good for me, but would be a whole lot better for me now than he was then.

Now, don’t get me wrong, riding hurt my back terribly.  Enough that I had to dismount after the shortest ride I think I’ve ever taken.  But, magically, walking doesn’t hurt anymore.  I got a full night’s sleep last night because lying down didn’t hurt anymore.  I’m certainly not up to normal-level again, but I’m on the right track.

For the first time in three months, I can actually believe that my back can get better.  And I will be a good rider again, back up to competition level.  And I can hike, and backpack, and dance again, too.

I should have known not to listen to my physical therapist and doctors on this particular subject.  Horses are always the answer.

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September 1, 2010

Mittens > gloves.

I tried to tackle a pair of gloves several years ago, I’m still not done with them.  These mittens have knit up really quickly, though, and seem like a “real” project — not the dreaded Rectangle Project.

needles:  size 7 (DPNs for knitting, circs for holding)

yarn:  Lamb’s Pride

weight:  worsted, single

color:  MC – Periwinkle, trim – Kiwi

pattern:  Susan Strawn, Piecework magazine, January/February 2010

The mitten patterns is based of of a sixteenth-century child’s mitten in the Museum of London collection and uses knitting techniques that were used at the time, including the German fingertip cast-on (also called the Emily Ocker cast-on), random k2tog decreases, and three-needle bind off.

finger and thumb!

I’ve really enjoyed knitting these up — they’ve gone pretty quickly, considering that I only work on them during seminars and while watching West Wing with some friends.

The finger and thumb sections are knit separately and, in an effort to keep everything the same length, I’ve been knitting everything in pairs — so far, I’ve got two finger parts and one thumb.  Next, comes a nifty joining, knitting down to make the hand part, and finishing up with a decorative cuff.

German fingertip aka Emily Ocker aka circular cast on

The cast-on for the thumb is pretty neat.  Essentially, you make a wee circle, pull up a loop through the circle and repeat, kind of like making a thread button (just in case you’ve ever done that).  It’s pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it, the only part where I had trouble was figuring out tension and how much yarn I really needed to use to make it all pull together correctly.

Taking this together with my recent spinning escapades, I’m beginning to appreciate why plied yarn is usually preferred to single.  As you can see in the picture above, there are some pretty clear differences in weight (and I’ve noticed the same type of thing in part of a scarf I’ve made with the same yarn), it’s just a bit less forgiving, even when commercially manufactured.

My last challenge with these mittens is to experiment with Continental knitting (I’ve always knitted using English) — I’ve just been having a hard time keeping appropriate tension, I’m either dropping the yarn or am all tangled and waayy too tight.

I’m quite excited to get these finished in time for winter (and for those of you who know my knitting habits, it’d be pretty incredible to even get a project DONE!).

How is your knitting coming along?  Ready for winter?

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