Saturday, January 22, 2011

Visions of Ribbons in January

If I was suffering from any mid-winter motivation loss, Saturday fixed me! Oh, the table of beautiful Area II year end awards! My heart sank when I saw the stunning embroidered champion fleece dress coolers - I cursed my time penalties once again! Oh, to have come home with one of those coolers! The picture below includes two of the beginner novice trophies - not too shabby, eh?!?! Although, I guess no-one told the sculpture about what makes a good lower leg!

Did you know that to be eligible for the Area II year end awards, you have to sign up?! It takes just 8 hours of volunteer time and $20 - and the awards are entirely self-funded. So, the more people who sign up - the better the awards are! If you're planning on competing in 2011 - sign up!! You can see pictures of and read about the 2010 winners here.

So... what did Katchi win?? One ginormous beautiful yellow ribbon for his 3rd place year end finish! Below is a picture of it along with the glass bowl that holds some of Katchi's other ribbons.

Ribbons and coolers aside, Area II put together an excellent educational day. I attended 5 sessions: Adult Riders Forum, Riders PT, Concussions and Head Trauma, Conformation, and Professional Horseman's Council with Phyllis Dawson - also talks by meeting sponsor's Cavalor and Ecogold. I was a little surprised at the demographics at the meeting - I was a first timer, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect - but I was definitely surprised. About 60 people attended - including about 4 men and 4 junior riders (and parents). A small handful of professionals attended. And the rest of the seats were filled with adult amateur women. I guess I was most surprised that I didn't know or recognize more people - which was one of the key topics in the Adult Forum - the prevalence of one-day horse trials in Area II makes it really hard to get to know each other! So I'm happy to say that I came home knowing a few more names and faces that I hope I will recognize in helmets!

All of the sessions were excellent and Patricia from Ecogold had out the video camera, so I expect they will post videos soon on their blog. The Rider PT session was not your typical fitness discussion - it focused on how injuries effect our bodies and how little changes in us can cause big changes in our horses. I'm going to save my comments on this session for later, because I'm trying to arrange a little remedial training for myself! The conformation session was also outstanding, again because it wasn't the same ol' - an eventer should be able to breathe, and have good solid bones, and a nicely set neck... Dr. Rebecca Splan took us through countless images of good and bad horses for all kinds of uses. Horses that many of us cringed over turned out to be stunning performers - at something! Her approach gave a unique perspective to understanding how a combination of conformation factors come together to let horses perform a tremendously broad spectrum of jobs.

Before I lose you with a 100 page blog post... I want to relay a few things from the concussions and head trauma session. Dr. Gerard Gioia's presentation stressed the importance of realizing that concussions can occur from a blow to the head AND any rapid movement of the head which causes the brain to move inside the skull. He spoke about return to play practices in other sports and indicated that the discussions the eventing world is having now are the same discussions going on in sports across the nation and world. He steered us to vast resources available from the CDC -

With the new eventing helmet rule, potential reconsideration of the one-fall you're out rule, and the lawsuit in California against the trainer of a rider who died on a 2-star XC course after she continued jumping after being eliminated (the trainer is accused of allowing the rider to compete on a horse that was not properly ready for competition)... I've been thinking a lot about how I advise and protect my own students. Dr. Gioia provided us with guidance from the CDC on how to identify potential concussions, and on my drive home from the meeting I thought through things I do regularly with my students if they fall and before we start again to see how they correlate to Dr. Gioia's cautions. Sometimes it's interesting how we do things instinctively without even realizing all the reasons we do them. So, I came up with 4 things that I usually do anyhow, but that, if considered from the right perspective, might help me identify a concussion in a student:

1) Instruct the rider to walk her horse around the arena or to the end of the field and back, before remounting.

2) Ask the rider to describe what happened just before and after their fall.

3) Ask the rider to explain their course, line, or what they are going to differently on the next attempt.

4) Let the rider sit down for a minute to allow the adrenaline to dissipate (if they have a concussion, as the adrenaline dissipates, they may feel overcome by fatigue).

These 4 tasks are simple instructions that could easily be given to a rider without alarming them that you are looking for warning signs of a concussion (confused about assignment, answers questions slowly, can't recall events prior to or after fall, moves clumsily, headache, nausea, fatigue, concentration problems, and others listed on the CDC site). Dr. Gioia indicated that passionate athletes will often say "oh, I'm fine, I'm fine!" - but they may not look right - and it's important that trainers, coaches and parents be aware of the symptoms that just aren't right. And for those of us who ride by ourselves so often, it wouldn't hurt to try to test yourself out for a minute before you get back on - tell your horse what happened (if you think he can confirm whether you got it right - you might have a brain injury!) and don't be afraid to bench yourself for two minutes!

One final note on the meeting - I'm hoping I earned Katchi and myself a little EN Karma for the 2011 year end awards - Cavalor feeds was there as a meeting sponsor. When they asked me if I'd heard of Cavalor, I said "Yes! Because you sponsor Eventing Nation!" and I was promptly handed a goodie bag with the cutest little mini grain bag ever - complete with the stitched thread at the top! The mini feed bag is as small as a ribbon - or my big ribbon is as big as a sack of grain! I was really impressed with the look of the grain - if they'd put it in a glass bowl, I might have thought it was trail mix! I'm excited to see what Katchi thinks of this Belgian trail mix!

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