My MS mindspace.

This blog was originally titled, We All Enter At A, which is a paradressage euphemism for “we all put our pants on one leg at a time,” because all riders, disabled or able-bodied, start a dressage test by entering the ring at “A.” I stunted this blog by constricting it only to horses and my conversion from able-bodied hunter/jumpers to paradressage. The title MS Mindspace is literally both the space for my brain, where my MS resides, and also where my mind and identity dwell, harboring my ever-changing id, ego, and superego.

I adventure to emulate a New York Times blog I love. I admire its scope and rhetorical nature. The motif is food, but it wittingly promotes literature, music, people, and movements the author, Sam Sifton, finds worthy. Its appearance in my inbox is always cause for celebration.

Over the weekend, I spectated at a dressage show at Morven Park. It was a glorious day for a horse show. Spring is unveiling – hymnal birds, impending blossoms, life-reviving sunshine. Nimbus, my mobility scooter, and I rattled along the gravel drives and parking lots, anything but subtle. Presumptuously, I parked myself with the indoor ring steward and watched from the ingate. The rides were delightful; precise and stoic upper-level tests and lower-level tests which were clumsy, yet jubilant, in comparison. Eagerly, I envision myself bumbling through Intro A next month, my jaw already sore from the grin.


Morven Park has attempted to make the grounds handicap friendly. I was elated to see a ramp mounting block for paraequestrians. However, a four-inch step to the ramp for the indoor arena’s viewing area is not accessible for wheels. The number of times accessibility efforts fall short is astounding, not that I condemn anyone for it, it just doesn’t occur to most able-bodied people. I sent an inquiry via Morven’s website and hope to get an apologetic and action-promising response. I encourage you to do the same if you ever observe a similar oversight.

It’s almost garden planting time! I am vaguely aware of necessities like watering and weeding, but only just. Last year’s yield from our raised, micro garden (so named for its dwarf crops, not its acreage) was less than plentiful, nourishing mostly the wildlife. I have hopes for this year’s plot, equipped with my in-laws’ rototiller, high fences, and an automatic water. Is that basil I smell?

A coconut cream pie, fajitas on the grill, and an Easter egg hunt are on the docket for this weekend, I’ll let you know how those go. Hopefully by next week, the kids will be ear infection free and the rain will have stayed away. Humor as promised: Does February like March? No, but April may.

Exciting things are afoot!

Support team: check. Horse: check. Trainer: check. Plan: check. Funds: in progress.

I have made a lot of progress on my para-dressage journey in the last six months. My relationship with Brooke Waldron and Sprout Therapeutic Riding and Education Center is a foundational element of the triumph’s in the last months. Brooke was able to find Cody, a 14 year-old Oldenburg gelding who is the perfect eqine partner for me at this stage of this amazing journey. We found Lisa Hellmer to be my coach. She brings the technical aspects of the sport to the forefront and guides Cody and I as we develop as athletes. Before the end of the year, Cody and I will debut in the show ring.

In order for us to reach these goals, I need your help. I need to raise $13,075.40 for the remainder of the year to cover the cost of Cody, training, and competing.

I am doing a kickoff fundraiser called “144 envelopes.” It is a way for people to show their support in high and low dollar amounts. Imagine 144 envelopes, each with a number from 1 to 144 written on them. People choose an envelope with the dollar amount they would like to contribute. When all of the envelopes have been “filled” it totals $10,440. This is my kickoff fundraiser and will almost completely fund this journey in 2018. Thank you so much for your support whether or not you can make a donation. If you would prefer to donate using something other than Paypal, let me know via email, text, phone, or Facebook Messenger.

Old dog, two whips

The weather for my ride on Saturday was dreary, cold, late winter rain. Yuck! Duke, Maggie, and I were grateful for the lovely lit indoor ring. We worked on walk-trot transitions on a 20m circle. Are anyone’s transitions ever perfect enough they don’t need work? Well, ours aren’t even close to perfect. Without a leg aid to speak of, I am honing the use and timing of my seat and whip for transitions. Duke is in turn learning, but sees very little urgency in trotting and with my weak aids, who can blame him.

For the first time in my life, I rode with two dressage whips. What a sight! As a former hunter/eq rider, I’m used to my short little bat that never got in the way of anything. In dressage, keeping the whip across the thigh is one more thing to think about; two is almost a full-time job. Once I got used to the fistful of stuff in each hand (is this possible with double reins?!), it was amazingly useful. After about 15 minutes, Duke was piecing together that bilateral whip could equate to bilateral squeeze. Progress.

After the transition work, we did some spiral circles working on using my seat bones to ask for lateral movement. Both Duke and I put about 75% effort into this. But we did manage a recognizable 1/4 turn on the haunches.

I slipped on ice and badly sprained my right ankle when I was in college. For the last two to three years that I rode hunters, I had to tape it to keep it from rolling in the stirrup. I’ve been taping my right ankle for the past six weeks, but for Saturday, I taped both. My MS causes my leg to stiffen, jut in front of me, turning the knee and below down and in which is pretty much exactly where you don’t want your leg when you’re riding. Because the toes point in and down and because my ankles are so weak right now, they just break and roll in. The taping seems to help. It usually seems too tight as I do it, but never bothers me when I ride.

The spring schedule for lessons is out, I’m hoping to start riding twice a week. I know I’m on the schedule for Tuesday; so only eight days until I’m back in the saddle.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! This is my journey of returning to the wonderful world of horses. I’ve taken about five years of hiatus from a lifetime of equestrian sport. This hiatus was due to the progression of multiple sclerosis. I found a therapeutic riding program and one of the riders in the program convinced me that this was something I had to do. I had convinced myself that if I couldn’t ride like I used to, I didn’t want to do it at all. Even though this decision meant alienating myself from the animals and culture I loved. I started riding with the Sprout Therapeutic Riding and Education Center four weeks ago and I can’t believe I denied myself this sport and these incredible animals for so long. This is my story.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton