Wednesday, July 18, 2012

And This is Why I Hate Going to Doctors

A few weeks ago I had some scary days when my brain seemed to stop working as well as it usually does. I couldn't remember simple things like my phone number, and I just couldn't seem to think clearly or quickly. During the worst of it, I was too confused to even think about going to a doctor. Once I started feeling better, I went to my GP to get a referral to a neurologist. I didn't actually get to see my doctor, but the nurse practitioner I saw seemed competent and compassionate. She gave me a "prescription" to get an MRI done as well as a referral to a neurologist.

Due to weirdness with my insurance company, I ended up going to the ER to get the MRI done instead of a medical imaging center. The MRI was normal, thank goodness, but it left me wondering what the hell was wrong with me.

It took a while to get an appointment with the neurologist, and when I finally did, he didn't seem to take me seriously. I very much got the feeling that he thought that I was some sort of pretentious hypochondriac. He made fun of me for using a "big" word like "diurnal" when describing my sleep disorder. I asked my friends and none of them thought that "diurnal" was an unusual word to use. And considering that Foxfire generally has to force me to make a doctor appointment, and I get stressed even thinking about going to hospitals, I really don't think I'm a hypochondriac. Anyway, he at least gave me a prescription to get an EEG. He said that if the EEG was normal that he would just tell me over the phone so that I didn't have to come back to the office (and waste his time).

Knowing how much hospitals stress me out, Foxfire kindly took off work to drive me to get the EEG on Friday. And it was a good thing he did. As one part of the EEG test, they flash this EXTREMELY bright light at your face in varying frequencies, and even though my eyes were closed, it still felt like someone was stabbing my brain through my eyes every time the light flashed. They would run the strobe light for about 30 seconds then wait 15 seconds and run it for another 30.

A typical EEG pattern

After the fifth or sixth time they did this, everything just went sort of blue and purple swirly and the light didn't hurt my head as much. Instead of feeling like someone was stabbing my brain through my eyes, it felt like someone was reaching inside my brain and sort of squishing their fingers into it. At the end of the session, which lasted about an hour total, I was exhausted, in severe pain and not thinking clearly. Thank goodness, Foxfire was there to drive me home.

The strobe light seemed to have also triggered the most persistent and severe migraines that I have had in a very, very long time. In the week following the EEG, I took more migraine medicine that I had taken in the previous year. On the Thursday after the EEG, I had the worst headache of all. It literally knocked me off my feet. Foxfire had to help me from the couch to the bed because the pain was so bad it was hard for me to walk.

On the Tuesday following the EEG, when I called the neurologist's office to get the results, they wouldn't tell me the results over the phone, saying that the doctor wanted me to come in and get the results, leading me to believe that something odd had shown up on the EEG. Of course, they couldn't get me in to see the doctor that week. I had to wait till the next week for an appointment. Needless to say I was extremely stressed that week.

Well, I finally went to the office and got the results yesterday, and guess what? The doctor said that the EEG was perfectly normal. When I asked why he simply hadn't had the nurse tell me that over the phone so that I didn't end up worrying for a week, he said that he'd simply forgotten that he'd said he would do that. He didn't even apologize for the stress he caused me.

When I asked about everything changing color during the strobe light portion of the EEG, he said some people experienced that. When I said that the strobe light hurt like hell and left me basically incapacitated, he insisted that no one had ever complained about the strobe light being any more than mildly annoying. When I told him about the severe migraines during the week following the EEG, he just repeated that no one else had ever complained about the strobe light causing pain or headaches and politely, but relentlessly, ushered me out of his office.

And this is why I hate going to doctors. They either don't listen to you, don't believe you or don't care about you.

I know that there are decent doctors out there. I actually like my GP. I'm willing to drive 45 minutes to go see him rather than someone closer. And my therapist, who isn't a medical doctor, but who serves a similar purpose, is absolutely wonderful. But the majority of doctors, at least the doctors that I go to, end up being a complete waste of my time and money.

What's the point of going to a doctor if they are absolutely no help whatsoever.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Introducing Shadowfax to Chainmaille and Armour

A couple of days ago, as part of training our Andalusian gelding, Shadowfax, for jousting, my husband and I introduced Shadowfax to chainmaille and leg armour. I say introduced rather than desensitized, because, for the most part, Shadowfax barely even noticed the loud clanging stuff.

We started by haltering Shadowfax and bringing him out to the horse trailer where we usually groom and tack him up before riding. A very familiar, relatively relaxed place for him to be, where he was used to us messing with him. I gave him a treat to show him that treats were in the offing, then Foxfire pulled out his chainmaille skirt (brayette) and one of his pieces of leg armour (cuisses). Standing about five feet away from Shadowfax, he started rattling them lightly together.

Shadowfax... looked at me, waiting for another treat. Foxfire gradually worked up to really banging away with the maille and armour. Shadowfax may have twitched an ear in his direction. So Foxfire stopped banging his armour together, laid part of his brayette over his cuisse, put a treat on top of the two pieces of armour and brought them up to where Shadowfax could sniff at them.

Shadowfax obligingly sniffed at the armour until he found the treat, then he snarfled the treat and looked around for more. Foxfire rattled the maille and armor a little, then put another treat on them. This time Shadowfax knew to look for the treat and went straight for it, ignoring the armour.

So Foxfire started shaking the maille and armour a little right next to Shadowfax. Shadowfax ignored it and looked around for more treats. Foxfire started banging the armour together. Shadowfax didn't care. Foxfire, still banging away at the armour, went right up to Shadowfax's right shoulder. Shadowfax didn't care. Foxfire moved towards Shadowfax's right hip, still making as much noise as he could. Shadowfax didn't care. Foxfire went behind Shadowfax. Shadowfax didn't care. Foxfire moved around to Shadowfax's left side. Shadowfax... cared.

He didn't do anything awful, he just turned his head to see what was making all the noise, and took a couple of steps sideways away from the noise. I called Shadowfax's name and told him to "stand", which is a command he is very familiar with. Shadowfax looked at me and "stood". When he was looking at me and standing still, even though Foxfire was still banging away with the armour, I gave him a treat.

After that, it just didn't matter what Foxfire did, Shadowfax was going to ignore whatever noise was going on and was going to keep his eyes open for incoming treats. Foxfire put his cuisses and his brayette on and went bouncing around Shadowfax like a mad man, making as much noise as it was humanly possible to make in a brayette and cuisses. Shadowfax didn't care.

Leaving his brayette and cuisses on, Foxfire proceeded to groom Shadowfax, pick out his feet, saddle and bridle him. Shadowfax didn't seem to notice that anything was different. Foxfire brought out the lunge line and lunged Shadowfax briefly. If anything, Shadowfax behaved slightly better than usual while being lunged. So Foxfire, still in his brayette and cuisses, mounted up.

When he first started riding, Shadowfax did turn his ears back to listen to the new noises coming from his rider. He didn't pin them or appear upset in any way, just curious.

Foxfire on Shadowfax who has his ears turned back to listen to the noise of the brayette and cuisses(photo by Zhi Zhu)

After a few minutes, his ears came forward, and it was business as usual. Shadowfax truly didn't seem to be bothered by the noise at all.

Foxfire on Shadowfax (photo by Zhi Zhu)

Since we had already introduced Shadowfax to the lance, the tiltyard, and the quintain (Shadowfax tried to eat the sandbag)...

Foxfire on Shadowfax in one of his first runs against the quintain(photo by Zhi Zhu)

About the only two things left to expose Shadowfax to, in terms of jousting, are for Foxfire to ride in full armour and to give and take hits from an opponent in the tiltyard. Hopefully, we will be going over to DASH's arena soon, and Foxfire and SH can cross lances with each other and see how Shadowfax reacts to full on jousting.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ziggy Makes a Mud Puddle

My husband's horse, Ziggy, loves playing with the water. On the rare occasion when the hole in the ground we laughingly call a tank has water in it, he will trot into the water and gleefully splash around. With the Texas drought and all, we haven't had even nice sized puddle for him to play in for quite some time. So, apparently, he decided to make his own.

Shadowfax: Dude, I'm trying to drink here. Ziggy: Splashing is fun!

Shadowfax: You know I don't like getting my pretty prancing Portuguese pony feet muddy. I'm outta here. Ziggy: Splashing is so much fun!!!

Ziggy: Look! I'm making mud!!!

And Ziggy just kept splashing and splashing and splashing...

Throwing more and more water out of the trough...

And making a bigger and bigger mud puddle...

He got really good at making a BIG splash...

He figured out to dunk his nose deep...

And really pull the water out with his mouth...

He kept playing with the water...

Until he made a mud puddle big enough for all four of his feet.

Now we know why we keep having to refill that trough so often.

Do your horses like to play with water?

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm a little hoarse

Isn't that the punchline to some joke? I'm not a ..., I'm a little hoarse. Well, it doesn't feel very funny right now. I've been sick with some sort of really nasty cold for over a week now. For four days, I couldn't talk at all, and even now... I'm a little hoarse. Actually, I'm a lot hoarse. Although I am feeling better and can talk somewhat, my throat still hurts a lot, and if I talk normally, it sets off a painful coughing fit.

It's driving me a little crazy. I'm really tired of being sick. Does anyone have any good home remedies for a painful sore throat, coughing and hoarseness? I could use some help.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


This is going to be a rant. Fair warning.

Tina Walsh, a highly respected dressage instructor is in town teaching lessons this week in DASH's arena. She lives in Mexico and only comes to teach in Texas occasionally. My husband and a number of my friends are taking lessons this afternoon. I was supposed to go and watch and take pictures. However...

When I went to get in my van to drive over there (Hubby had ridden over with SH when he came to pick up our horses using his truck and trailer), Hubby's car was parked directly behind mine in the driveway blocking me in. I can't move his car because, for one thing, I don't have a set of keys to it, and for another thing, he insisted on buying a car with a standard transmission despite the fact that I can't drive a standard transmission, so even if I had the keys, I still wouldn't be able to move his car. ARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!

I was looking forward to seeing Tina again even I couldn't take a lesson because of a recent knee injury. I was looking forward to watching Hubby take a lesson using my horse, Shadowfax, and a couple of our friends taking lessons on hubby's horse, Ziggy. I was looking forward to getting out of the house and socializing with my friends, which I really don't get to do very often. And I CAN'T get out of the damn house because hubby just had to have a standard transmission car and didn't realize that he had parked it in way that blocks me in.

This is not a good day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Preparing for Lysts 2012 -- Jousting Practice January 22

On Sunday, January 22, SH hosted the third jousting practice aimed at preparing for "Lysts on the Lake 2012". My husband Foxfire attended and brought both of our horses. My husband's horse Ziggy is getting old, so Foxfire has started training my horse Shadowfax to joust. Shadowfax did well at the first jousting practice two weeks ago, but then he came up dead lame with abscesses in both front hooves. A small easy to treat abscess in his front right, but a nasty deep abscess in his front left.

We had the farrier out to check on the abscesses and we'd been soaking his hooves with epsom salts, treating the abscesses with ichthammol and keeping his feet clean and wrapped as best we could. He rapidly improved, but was no where near ready to be ridden by the time of the second practice for Lysts down in Katy, Texas, so Foxfire helped SH train DA's horse Moose instead. By the day of the third practice, Shadowfax looked sound walking around in the pasture, so we decided to take him to DASH's and see if he was sound in the arena. We brought Ziggy along in case Shadow wasn't quite ready to be ridden yet.

Sure enough when we trotted Shadowfax around in hand, you could tell he was still a little off, not much, but enough that you wouldn't want him to do any work. So poor Shadowfax got to stay in the arena's paddock throughout the practice. He was not happy about this.

He certainly didn't seem lame the way he was acting up!

He really wanted to be out "playing" with all the other horses.

Hey Buddy! Think you can break a fellow out of here?

Since Foxfire ended up working with Ziggy, he mainly worked on rating Ziggy during the canter and getting him to stop cleanly at the end of the list.

Foxfire on Ziggy, SH on Lucky, and Gideon on Saga practicing riding their horses up and down the list in various pieces of armor and chain, with and without lances.

Gideon's horse Saga, although an experienced jumping horse, is still very inexperienced when it comes to jousting. Gideon seemed to mainly work on desensitizing Saga to the sounds that the armor and chain maille make when worn by the person in the saddle. He also managed to get a little practice in against the quintain.

Gideon on Saga makes a pass against the quintain.

After working with his horse, Lucky, for a while, SH switched to his other horse Tinkerbell. SH rode Tinkerbell for the Joust a'Plaisance portion of Lysts 2011, but according to SH, she can still be a little spooky about the noises armor and maille make. However, she seemed pretty blase' about all the noises associated with jousting on that particular day. During practice, SH, among other things, rode her against the quintain a few times. The following two pictures demonstrate why it is very important to keep going once you hit the shield portion of the quintain.

SH on Tinkerbell strikes the quintain...

...and the quintain tries to strike SH back.

NJ, who is still a very new jouster, seemed to spend most of the practice learning how to carry and control a lance on horseback. It's harder than it looks. Lances may vary a bit, but the ones we use are 11' long and weigh about 6 pounds, so carrying one really changes your center of balance. NJ doesn't have a horse of his own, so Gideon was nice enough to loan him Red, a very experienced jousting horse, to practice with.

Practicing carrying a lance while on horseback.

There were a number of people out to watch the others practice and to act as ground crew. Having ground crew is vitally important to jousting. It simply couldn't be done without the support of those on the ground.

The people on the horses depend on the people on the ground for all sorts of help.

And of course, SH's dog Archie supervised everyone to make sure they were doing it right.

From my gimpy perspective (I am currently trying to heal from a broken kneecap and some soft tissue damage in my leg), it seemed like a successful practice. Everything didn't go perfectly, but progress was made and everyone seemed satisfied.

You can see more pictures from the practice on my "A Jouster's Wife" Photobucket account in the album "Lysts Practice Jan 23 2012" (I know I got the date wrong, but I'm not going to change it now.)

Could a Jousting Accident Have Been the Reason That Henry VIII Became Such A Tyrant?

In a joust that may have changed history, on January 24, 1536, 44 year old King Henry VIII was unhorsed by his opponent during a jousting tournament at Greenwich Palace. It is believed that his armored horse actually fell on the downed monarch as well. But whatever the details of the accident may be, all accounts of the event agree that the king was knocked unconscious for two hours.

This was actually his second notable jousting accident. In 1524, he failed to lower his visor before entering the list and was struck by his opponent's lance just above his right eye. After this incident, he began to suffer from constant migraines.

This second jousting accident in 1536 may have had even more serious repercussions. Not only did it exacerbate existing leg injuries, it may have also caused permanent brain damage. Even by today's medical standards, being knocked unconscious for more than five minutes is serious cause for concern. According to records, Henry VIII was unconscious for two hours and was unable to speak for a while even after he regained consciousness. Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley, chief curator of Britain's Historic Royal Palaces, believes that damage to the frontal lobe of his brain as a result of this trauma "provides the explanation for his personality change from sporty, promising, generous young prince, to cruel, paranoid and vicious tyrant."

Jousting is a dangerous sport. Even modern jousters, whether performers, re-enactors or competitive jousters, know that they are risking injury and possible death every time they participate in this historic activity. So, why do they do it? You'd have to ask a jouster.

As the wife of a jouster, I do worry about him every time he takes the field. I know that he has practiced to the best of his ability; that his armor is as safe as it can be made; that his horse is well trained and will not create any more danger than is usual in any equestrian activity. I know that everyone involved is aware of the danger and will do their best to compete cleanly and honourably. No one wants to get hurt, and I like to believe that -- no matter the trash talk -- no one really wants to hurt anyone else.

But I still know that jousting is a dangerous sport. That's part of the excitement -- the risk of injury. However, injuries themselves are not exciting, at least not for those involved. So although I enjoy watching jousting tournaments and watching my husband compete, there is always a part of me that is a little scared, not just for my husband, but for all of my friends and even those I don't know very well who risk themselves in order to demonstrate their skills in this extremely difficult sport.

Federico Serna gets hit by the lance during Lysts on the Lake 2011(Photo AzulOx)

So to all the jousters out there, have fun, compete to the best of your abilities, and "don't be a dick". But also remember... you are carrying the hearts of your loved ones with you onto the list field, try not to damage them.

Informative Links

Books that mention the jousting accident

1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII by Suzannah Lipscomb
The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII by Retha M. Warnicke


Monday, January 23, 2012

Preparing for Lysts on the Lake 2012

Well, it's getting to be that time again. Time to start preparing for "Lysts on the Lake 2012". This year Lysts will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 4,5 & 6, 2012. There are rumors that there will be a Chivalric Martial Arts International (CMAI) Syposium the week before "Lysts on the Lake" where experienced competitors can hone their skills, and those with little to no experience can learn the basics and compete against each other in a mini-tournament.

Since I am wife to one of the jousters who will be competing and am good friends with many of the other jousters, ground crew and participants, I can't help but become involved with it all. Not that I mind. I love the all the excitement and spectacle of contemporary competitive jousting. I feel honored to play my own small part in the largest competitive jousting tournament in the modern world.

Preparation has actually been going on for some time now. Planning for and participating in an annual event of this sort usually begins as soon as one finishes recovering from last year's event. Jousting, like many sports is not an on again, off again sport. You pretty much have to practice it year round. However, our group of friends began jousting practices specifically aimed at preparing for competing in Lysts 2012 a little over two weeks ago.

Unfortunately, two days before that first jousting practice, I tripped and fell while trying to move around some welded wire fence panels and broke my knee. Just a hairline fracture, but it's still causing me problems. I also did an unknown amount of damage to the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) in my leg. So, although I attended that first practice at DASH's arena on January 8, I really wasn't paying much attention to what anyone was doing, and I did not get any pictures.

I did notice that my horse, Shadowfax, despite having not been seriously ridden in over a year, did pretty well. Hubby's horse, Ziggy, is 25 years old and although he is still very healthy in most ways, he's just getting a little too old for all the rigors of a competitive jousting tournament, so hubby has decided to see if he can train Shadowfax to joust. After this first practice, things seem promising.

Fortunately, JJ and her husband were at this joust practice. They took pictures and JJ wrote up a nice account of the practice on her blog, Wyvern Oaks: "A Fabulous Weekend of Riding" The first part of the post talks about a jumping lesson, but the latter part of the post discusses the jousting practice.

SG on Saga makes a pass at the quintain.(Thanks to JJ for the picture)

The next weekend, Jan 15, some other friends held a jousting practice to prepare for Lysts in Katy, Texas. I didn't make it to that one in any way shape or form. However, my hubby Foxfire drove down with SH in order to participate. Because Shadowfax had developed abscesses in both front feet, hubby decided not to take him, and instead helped SH train DA's horse Moose. You can see pictures of that practice in Fred Facker's Zenfolio album "Jousting Practice".

My next post will deal with the jousting practice on January 22 at DASH's arena.