Oboe in the mist

Oboe in the mist

I used to play oboe in high school. I was never super good, but I enjoyed playing. Our band director was an oboist and her expectations for me were a lot more than what I was going to ever do. Band class was fun but my first love was writing. Practice at home for 30-60 hours every day? Not happening. 

I always wanted to go back to playing oboe, and a few years ago I found one for sale at a steal of a price at $450. It was a reconditioned Selmer student model. You know, the that in order to play a low B you have to use your knees to cover the hole in the bell. 

Selmer 1492B Student Oboe

No, seriously. You had to use your knees. Releasing the low note made a “mwha” tone around the note because you could never be precise with it. 

Any way, I soon found myself thoroughly frustrated with it. I couldn’t stand it. If you don’t want to play something, you aren’t going to. I put it away, carried it with me through many moves, and finally decided to try it again. Oof. Yeah, no, that was not happening. Mwha!

What I wanted was an oboe that was not going to break the bank. Oboes are amazingly expensive. You can pay as much as you want for one. If you don’t know enough, you can easily spend money on something that won’t meet your expectations. 

Lots of research and YouTube videos about choosing an oboe later, I found a retailer called Kessler and Sons that had a full conservatory oboe for an astounding price.  (In other words, it had the keys that closed that low B instead of using your knees.) While there were not many reviews available for the oboe, I called the shop and spoke to one of the owners, who was a double reed player. I was very impressed with the care and consideration they gave the oboes that have their brand on it. 

So, this past July when I was in Las Vegas helping my sister, my parents and I stopped by Kessler and Sons. And I bought an oboe. 

And I love playing. 

Kessler Oboe, image from their web site
Everything OK post-Florence

Everything OK post-Florence

Everything has been fine, post-Florence. The hurricane itself took a more southerly path and pretty much avoided my area entirely. Horses were fine in the barn. We got some rain and big gusts, but no damage to my property or at the barn. We were lucky.

The worst part was the rain that followed the hurricane’s passing. My area had closed to 9 inches of rain in 24 hours. The creek near my house flooded into the back of my subdivision but did not reach my house. One of the guys up the street went out canoeing on the creek and took the footage below.

SystemUpdates by Zzte on Axon 7

SystemUpdates by Zzte on Axon 7

My secondary phone line (used for work) is on a ZTE Axon 7 running Android 7.1.1. A little while ago, I found an app that was running called SystemUpdates by Zzte. The app can not be uninstalled nor easily disabled. (You can use Settings > Apps > Show system apps > System Updates > disable, but this has other repercussions like no longer being able to perform system updates.)

The reviews of this app on the Android Play Store imply that SystemUpdates is malware. A quick Google search on the app seems to confirm it. Until you dig a bit deeper and find out that apparently SystemUpdates by Zzte is an official ZTE application, confirmed by a ZTE community rep on the Axon 7 forums. However, after reading an article on Digital Trends about Chinese spyware installed on devices, I have my doubts. (ZTE is on the list of devices manufacturers, but Huawei is not.)

Like the other people on the Google Play store who found this app and had no idea what it was doing on my device, I opted to do a hard reset and restore the factory default settings on the phone. Other people had claimed that this got rid of the application. It does not. App is still present on the phone. Now, this makes sense if the SystemUpdates app is indeed an official ZTE application required to perform system updates.

So now I’m stuck with a reset phone and can no longer access my work email on any of my devices. Tech support and I are going to have some fine quality time on Monday at work.

Meanwhile, given the questions I have about the ZTE phone and the possibility of the manufacturer installing applications I don’t want to have on the device, I’m looking at other options.

I’m investigating unlocking the bootloader on the ZTE Axon 7 and installing Lineage OS 15.1 (Android 8.1 ROM). This does not look like a method for the faint of heart. My phone is a USA unlocked model on build b35. The steps required for installing a different ROM on a phone varies depending upon the build number and version of Android that is installed. Honestly, it gets confusing. I’ve watched several hours of YouTube videos watching how people have tried various ROMs which gave me an idea of the overall process. I’ve read a lot of posts on the XDA, ZTE Axon forums, and reddit.

The method I’m going to try is this one: [GUIDE][TREBLE] Axon 7 Custom OREO ROM installation for newbies – 2018.08.05 by Oki. It seems to be a safe, all-in-one solution. (Well, as much as any of this process is safe when there is a good chance I’ll brick the phone.)

I will post updates on this process as I do it. This is the first time I’ve flashed a ROM on an Android phone. I used to flash the ROM on the Nokia N900 to various versions of developer ROMs, but that was easy because the phone was completely unlocked and was meant to be a developer’s device. And it was a great phone.

Bookmarking the pages I’ve been using: 

Canter departs

Canter departs

Thirteen years ago, my horse somersaulted and landed on me when we were cantering during a riding lesson. I don’t remember what happened exactly. We were cantering down the long side at the end of the lesson and she felt magnificent: strong impulsion, light in my hands, and then something. The world spun and I slammed into the dirt face down between her legs. She kicked once with her back legs and hit my helmet on the temple. She looked around at me like “What are you doing there?” My right leg was underneath her body below the girth and still in the stirrup on the other side.

Isis’ canter had huge impulsion: every push-off with her back legs in a canter stride felt like someone shoving me. My core muscles would burn after riding that stride one time around the ring. It wasn’t a rocking chair, more like a rocket chair. All of her gaits were like that: splendid to look at but challenging to sit.

Except when she started tripping. She would fall to her knees sometimes, or other times it was like she couldn’t recover her movement and her legs wouldn’t cooperate. We would be trotting, and I’d feel her back leg give out like she had missed a step or her foot had landed in a hole. Dip, step, and keep moving.

After that accident, every ride on Isis was slightly terrifying. The once-desired feeling of cantering now posed a block, like a shut door locked by a traumatic event. She would trip multiple times during a ride. Isis shifted her weight when I mounted, planting her feet to stabilize herself. We walked, her gait felt steady, until it wasn’t. The ground suddenly got closer as she fell to her knees then pulled herself back up and started walking again. Even footfalls most of the way around the ring, except in the back corner where one step on her back left missed a beat. My hips dipped to the right with her misstep and recovery. We resumed walking. Every ride had episodes like this. 

My friends told me I shouldn’t ride her.  What if that horse has a metabolic disorder and has to be ridden or exercised in order to keep her medical issues under control? My hands shook after every ride. I was anxious before I would get on and anxious afterwards.

Isis died in 2011 but this part of our riding still lingers with me. I still tighten my core and my legs far more than I should. My hands still get sweaty when I think about cantering. 

There is no physical reason for me to be nervous about cantering Kasane. Kasane does not trip. She’s steady in her gaits and strong in her movement. No neurological issues. She’s light and willing to try things (and avoid doing what I ask, but that’s a training issue we’re working on). 

I ask her to canter and I lean forward like I’m off to the races. I should be sitting back and visualizing lifting into the canter with the lightest of aids. When I do that, Kasane does a canter depart and canters with a silky smooth stride. She’s wonderful and relaxed and reaching — when I am relaxed. 

Except most of the time I’m not. My legs are tight, my butt is tense, and she can feel all of that through the saddle. Her gait gets tighter and more like a pogo-stick with bounce instead of reach. 

And when I do relax, her gait is so easy to sit. It is a joy and a wonder to have the opportunity to even work on her canter after a year of not knowing if we would be able to continue riding after rehab last year. 

We’ve made huge progress, the Bay Wonder Mare Jr and I. We’re a team. She’s schooling First Level at home with shoulder-in, leg yields, and haunches in (still working on this). She is doing trot extensions with impulsion that make me laugh with delight. 

One last canter depart to fully let Isis and the anxiety of “what-ifs” go so my girl and I can enjoy her rocking-horse (and not rocket-horse) gait. 

Panic at the Disco

Panic at the Disco

One of my friends on Facebook posted asking for people to make recommendations for summer listening. One of the responses was for Panic! At the Disco’s Pray. The video is awesome.

Kasane post-rehab

Kasane post-rehab

Kasane’s slow rehabilitation from her suspensory ligament injury made last year feel longer than almost any other year. Doing the rehab itself wasn’t hard. It just took dedicated time every week. No excuses (well, except for weather — can’t do much walking or riding in the rain without a covered arena).

The hardest part was trying to remain positive when the odds were not in my favor. My vet had warned me that 60-65% of horses with Kasane’s injury do not return to the level of work they were at prior to the injury. I did everything I could to help her. We did shockwave treatments on the ligament, osphos injection to help bone regrowth, regular massages, and her regular rehab walks, and later rides.

But I was worried and trying not to worry. I tried so hard to remain positive that things would be okay. That I would be happy to have her in my life even if all we were able to do were periodic trail rides and not do any more dressage. She’s an amazing, fun mare and I am delighted to have time with her.

I just wanted her to be okay. She was so bored in her confined, small quarters. She eventually graduated from a stall to a narrow 20 foot run in one of the paddocks with a stall. She quickly figured out how to walk through the fence to get to the limited grass on the other side of the paddock. She rubbed off a foot long section of her lovely mane from putting her head through the fence to reach grass.

She was a trooper. She’s amazing and lovely and weathered all of this with so much more grace than I did.

I felt like I was letting her down because I couldn’t make it right for her. We had to have the perseverance to make it through a year or more of rehab. Nothing would come back fast, but with determination, we could see what we could do.

We were able to start riding again in May of last year. And that was wonderful. Just to be able to ride for 10-15 minutes at the walk. Eventually, that progressed to adding in some trot, and a few months later, a little canter. I was doing the rehab as required but it took the joy out of riding. I was riding because I had to in order to help her but that worry of would it be enough sucked the joy out of it.
Kasane's nose
Investing all of this time in Kasane has resulted in some positive changes. She carries herself on her haunches more, instead of pulling herself along on her front end. Her SI joint area no longer hurts so she can use herself.

Back in October, when my vet suggested adding in more canter work, I realized I had hit the end of what I knew how to do. Kasane and I started back into dressage lessons to have more of a focused plan on helping her with my riding. I’m a reasonable rider and I’ve dealt with rehab cases before (tendon sprains and laminitis), but nothing like this.

And those lessons brought everything together. Kasane had been swapping out behind at the canter, so we had homework to help her lateral movement by learning how to do leg yields as they are done in a First Level dressage test. Instead of just moving off of my leg, Kasane and I had to keep her straight or slightly bent while asking her to move over. That movement meant she would reach underneath herself with her legs when moving over.

When we were first working on leg yields, I carried a dressage whip to be able to tap her by my leg. She was indignant that I had the whip and became elevated in her movement. She rocked back and started using herself in a way I had never felt before. She felt up — but not like she was going to bolt. It’s like feeling coiled energy gathered and managed. My instructor said she had never seen Kasane move like that — and that she looked like a completely different species.

And then it hit me. We were working at a higher level in our lessons than we had been prior to the injury. All of this work meant that my little mare who used to move like a nice hunter was now moving like a dressage horse.

We had made it into the 30-35% from the rehab work. Instead of being just a trail horse, I now have a performance horse who feels better everywhere so she can use herself.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve realized that there is so much joy in just having her with me. I’ve started laughing again when I ride instead of grimacing.

We’ve even been cleared to go back to showing, with an understanding that we have to work up to things. Kasane will probably always be slightly lame on the lunge line (so no lunging). No small circles, so we would have to be very careful of the First Degree dressage tests with the 15-meter canter circles. We might never get to take that test in a show, but that’s okay.

The 15+ months of hard work has paid off. We’ve addressed a lot of issues that she had and she is much more comfortable in herself.

My girl and I are back. We’re a team again. I want to go to the barn and ride now –it’s not something that I *have* to do because the vet said. It’s something that I want to do because it is fun (again) and she is amazing.

I feel like she has a future now. Before, I felt like I was waiting on a pronouncement of doom. When doing a rehab like this, you have to take things one day at a time. You have to try and not focus on what might or might not happen, because you just don’t know. It took realizing that she was performing at a higher level now than before the injury for me to realize where we were in those recovery percentages.

And then it was like the weight of the world was lifted and I could find joy again in riding.

Kasane knew that I had been upset. She wasn’t always happy to see me because I wasn’t happy in riding. I was doing what had to be done. Our relationship suffered.

Now that my attitude has changed and I’m seeing the joy again, she’s nickering at me when I come to the fence. She walks over to me again (instead of looking up, and insisting that I come get her in the field).

We’re going to learn as much as we can. It might be a smattering of things from different levels. That’s okay. We are going to have grand adventures again.

Returning to writing and riding

Returning to writing and riding

I finally feel like I have enough energy to start writing and riding for fun again. Kasane’s rehab took the majority of my energy last year. On top of that, things at my old position became…less than optimal. While I enjoyed everyone I worked with, the last reorganization ended up in my position changing from what I loved to something intensely frustrating. I did what I could from within the position to work with it, but there are times when you can’t correct the context then you have to remove yourself from it. So I did.

I started a new job in November writing about OpenStack at Red Hat. It has been such an eye-opener finally being in a business culture that fits my own outlook. (Yay for Open Culture!) I’m working on a team of talented, intensely geeky writers (my people!). The technology is fun, if somewhat daunting to learn. Drinking from the firehose metaphor is very appropriate.

After being in my position three weeks, I was asked if I like to travel. Yup, sure do. They sent me to a team meeting in Israel! I still have to write up that trip. It was amazing. Best of all, I got to meet our team members that I’ll be working with face to face instead of just on the usual video conferences.

It’s been a topsy-turvy year, but ultimately it ended up fantastic because of Kasane’s recovery and return to work and my new job.

I’ve been feeling pretty blessed this year after so many months of worry and stress, both equine and professional.

Long, slow summer of the Mares

Long, slow summer of the Mares

It’s been a long, slow summer. For the past few weeks, I’ve felt like I was holding my breath waiting for Kasane to reinjure herself. She hasn’t. But she might try, like the times she put her back feet through the stall wall and almost needed stitches. (She demolished that wall when she rolled in the stall and got cast.)

I’ve had three mares to work with: Kasane’s rehab cycle (3-5 rides per week on a regimented time frame), Breezy (my new two-year-old filly), and Sahra (Mom’s 16-year-old broodmare). Kasane is always my first priority, with Breezy next and then Sahra.

Breezy in stall
Breezy looking over the stall door

I started Sahra under saddle in December. We’ve had some very good rides but it’s hard to be consistent with the time she needs right now. The good thing is that she lets me ride her and remembers things between sessions. Her retention is excellent — as is her pushing back to see if you really want her to do something. She’s at a place in her training where she could be sent to a professional trainer and be finished anyway Mom wants. Sahra is doing solid walk and trot, mostly in a bitless bridle, but she understands the bit well enough. She’s good with me mounting from the ground or a block. We’ve done a few trail rides. She tolerates a lot (unless you push her too much, and then she pushes back, but a quick discussion and you work through it). She likes being worked.

Breezy and Sahra
Sahra and her granddaughter, Breezy

Mom is going to take Sahra to her farm soon. I’m hoping that she’ll be able to continue Sahra’s training in the spring. Sahra would be such a pretty driving horse, too.

Lack of posts and injury worries

Lack of posts and injury worries

Let’s say that you have a pool of energy to draw from to complete all of your daily tasks. Having a certain level of stress or worry is like having a small leak in that bucket so some things — like writing more blog posts — don’t happen as often.

Kasane’s treatment for her proximal suspensory injury has been worrying me a lot. It is all a waiting game. Maybe she will heal and return to a normal level of work, or she may not. The injury may never heal properly. Either way, we’ll still be able to do stuff (just what “stuff” is, depends).

This injury happened right when we were at the cusp of going to our first show. We were making great progress and then thing started not quite feeling right when we rode. Even some of the people at the barn didn’t see Kasane being off the way I did.

I lost so much riding time and momentum on Isis because of her medical issues. Kasane wasn’t supposed to go through those same kinds of things. Isis had laminitis concurrent with a sprained tendon two years in a row — we effectively lost almost three years because of those injuries. And then the colic surgery, EPM, and all of the repercussions of her metabolic syndrome issues. I didn’t breed Isis because I didn’t want to put a foal through what she had gone through.

I am trying to keep a positive attitude. I’m doing everything I can to help her, within reason. Yay for medical insurance that helps reimburse about 50% of the costs of covered procedures. We have a 40% chance of returning to the level of work we were at prior to the injury. Hopefully, we’ll increase those odds by doing everything that we can to help support Kasane during her healing and after.

Some days the weight and worry of what might or might not happen to her feels overwhelming. It’s hard to stay positive when you want so badly for everything to just be okay with her.

Proximal Suspensory Injury for Kasane

Proximal Suspensory Injury for Kasane

For the past few months, I couldn’t bring myself to post here about Kasane. Her injury on her front right leg is serious and more complicated than we originally thought. It wasn’t just her front right fetlock that had arthritis, there were other things going on that had been highlighted in the bone scan done in early December.

Because the joint injection did not completely resolve Kasane’s lameness, the vets did additional investigation. The next step after the bone scan was either to do an MRI (ouch! expensive!) or to use that money towards treatment. I chose the latter.

The diagnosis for her front right leg turned out to be an injury to the proximal suspensory ligament where it attaches to the canon bone. Recovery time is 8-12 months, with the first month or two in stall rest followed by small paddock turnout. She has to be ridden or walked for 15-20 minutes 3-5 times per week.

The prognosis for horses with this type of injury is not good: 60-65% of horses with similar injuries do not return to the level of work they were in prior to the injury.

This all happened back in late December and early January. Initially, I was stunned. It felt like every time the vet came out, there was no improvement in Kasane’s condition. I hate it for her. She is so good with everything. So patient and trusting and I’m putting her through all of these tests and she does it. We were getting ready for a horse show just before this injury happened. We were riding so well — the most advanced stuff I’d ever ridden. It was amazing. It felt like we were on the brink of being able to do anything. And then this. And no idea if I’d get my girl back in full form or if we would be resigned to trail rides at the walk.

Worrying over what might or might not happen wasn’t going to help her. I couldn’t do anything except on focus on what I could to improve her chances so hopefully she will be one of the 35-40%.

I wanted to do something to help address the whole body issues, like her sacroiliac (SI) joint in her back. (The chiropractor was unable to complete an adjustment on Kasane’s back because she was in so much pain.) We added a few more treatments to the mix to try and help her. One of the ladies at my barn is an equine bodywork specialist. She uses massage and acupressure to help treat horses. I’d seen the good results she had with another boarder’s horse, so I was willing to give her a try. Kasane has weekly bodywork sessions. She’s also on a Devil’s Claw and Yucca supplement to help with pain management.

The vet suggested using shockwave treatment and Osphos (helps repair bone damage) to help her healing. We did the shockwave treatment first, with three treatments three weeks apart. Her lameness improved from a 1.5 (on a scale of 0-5, with 5 being the worst) to a .5-1. Minor improvement, but I’ll take it! These treatments finished up mid-March.

Next, Kasane had the Osphos injection in early April. Osphos has some potential side effects, like colic, so I wasn’t excited about putting her through it. I stayed with her for two hours to keep an eye on her. My good trooper thankfully didn’t have any side effects from it.

Our next checkup with the vet is May 10th. I am really hoping that the improvement continues. Of course, other things have happened that might impact that, but more on that in another post.

Meet VCL Breeahva

Meet VCL Breeahva

The weekend of March 20th, Mom and I went up to see her stallion, Cedars Mojave, in Culpepper, Virginia, and then drove up to see one of his fillies, VCL Breeahva (aka Breezy). Breezy was a hoot. She’s a late baby, so even though by the Arabian Registry standards she is counted as a two year old, she won’t be two until June.

The first time I saw her, she was in the barn watching the people come in and out of the barn. I wasn’t seriously looking for a second horse, certainly not when Kasane’s vet bills are an unknown quantity for the foreseeable future. 

She has the sweetest expression. She’s so trusting and easy going. What finally did it was seeing how she moves and shows off — and also how curious she is. Here is a video of her playing in the field (the other horse is her dam’s sister). About 75% of the way through the video, she comes up to my phone to investigate. She was never worried or scared.

So yeah. I couldn’t resist her cuteness. She arrived at my barn today, a brave little girl stepping off of the trailer after her first trailer ride.

And now she is settling in with Autumn as her buddy out in the field. I’m happy as I can be. She’s a smart, sweet girl who is going to have grand adventures with me.

Kasane 1, Stall Wall 0

Kasane 1, Stall Wall 0

Just as I walked into the barn today, Kasane managed to get cast against the stall wall. Seriously cast—as in, she couldn’t push herself away from the wall to get up. She was on her left side against the stall wall partition with her front legs tucked underneath her. She kicked out with her back legs—and took out most of the boards in the stall wall.

She managed to cut up her back legs, thankfully most of them were only surface cuts. The worst one was the three inch cut cut high on the inside of her back right leg. It looked like it might need stitches.

The other two long cuts were on either side of her back left on both sides of the cannon bone. These were not major, just fur scraped off in six inch stripes.

The vet came out for an emergency vet call. No stitches needed on the deep cut and no residual splinters from the wall either. The cuts has to be washed several times per day with Vetricyn. The deeper wound has to be treated with triple antibiotic ointment. She’ll be on antibiotics for five days.

I’m glad it turned out to be nothing serious. But darn. If it isn’t one thing, it’s something else.

Cat Battles

Cat Battles

It’s funny how much you miss cats purring in the morning until you don’t have both of them in the room with you.

Brie Brie, my Maine Coon cross kitty, was downstairs staring out the sliding glass doors when the neighbor’s cat walked up and sat about a foot from the door. Brie Brie didn’t know what to do. She would hunker down and watch the cat and then walk over to me for reassurance, then walk back to the cat and hunker down again. This process repeated until the cat finally walked away.

I thought everything was okay until Phaedra came downstairs. BrieBrie took out her frustration of not being able to get to that other cat by attacking Phaedra. She chased her upstairs and around the bedrooms. I finally got them separated, calmed down, and tried letting them be together again. Phaedra stayed under the bed and growled at BrieBrie all night.

The safest thing was to do separate them, give them some time apart, and then re-introduce them as if they were new kitties. Unlike dogs, cats don’t work things out. Their relationship just degrades. I wasn’t going to take that chance for the long-term happiness of the household.

It took several months of having them separate and then periodically able to see each other through a child gate. If they came up to each other and didn’t hiss or spit, then they got pettings and treats.

After child-gate therapy, they were allowed to be together during play time and then they were separated again. They are now to a point where I can have them out together at night. I have a pretty decoration to put on the sliding doors so if the neighbor’s cat comes up again, the kitties wont’ be able to see out.

I woke up with my kitties on the bed sleeping with me. What a beautiful thing. I’m not going to take that for granted any more.

Help Grainne have life-saving treatment

Help Grainne have life-saving treatment

My friend Saigh has had a miserable 18 months, including the death of her beloved dog. And now another one of her furr-babies is sick. Her husband has a broken leg and wont’ be able to return to work for months. If you have time, will you consider donating or sharing?

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Joint injection worked for Kasane

Joint injection worked for Kasane

When Kasane was at the vet hospital earlier this month, the diagnostic tests indicated that she had issues in her front right fetlock, sacroiliac (SI) joint in her back, front left foot, and one of her hocks. The vet said to wait two weeks and then check her for soundness. That check was today and I am so happy to report that she looks much better. There is still a slight head bob with her front right, but it’s so much better than it was.

My vet was very optimistic about the video and wants me to start riding Kasane again with a two-week rehabilitation plan. Yay! We’re going to start with 15 minutes of walk. Every third day, we’ll add another 5 minutes, up to 30 minutes of walking. At 30 minutes of walking, we’ll add in 5 minutes of trotting.

I’m going to keep an eye on Kasane and will take a video periodically to check her progress.