It’s February 6th and I’m just now, finally, starting to find my blog mojo again. That’s not to say that 2017 was a terrible year – in fact, I’m actually going to say that 2017 was one of my best years. To me, it’s the first year since 2013 that I’ve really been able to feel like I’m settled in my new normal, and truly ready to grow. Having spent 2014-2015 going from Kentucky, to Wisconsin, to Florida, and up to Vermont, I kinda ended up wondering where I was meant to be and what I was meant to do.
In 2016, I started making more of a home for myself. By that I mean, having decided back in 2015 that I wanted to stay in Vermont, I continued to do the things I needed to do to establish my life here. Besides the usual (new license, car registration, address changes, insurance – you know, adult things), I also updated my blog, started taking art classes at a local community college, and devoted more of my free time to growing my art business. After my blog crashed, I took it as a push to completely redesign my website, rebrand, and create the content you now see here. Riding-wise, my progress with Crumble has slowed down each winter since returning from FL, but overall we kept moving forward in a good way.
January – April
When 2017 began, I did something I hadn’t done in years. I went to the doctor.
First of all, I hate needles. I hate hospitals. And everything related to those two things makes me feel highly uncomfortable and stressed. But, I have been struggling with bad allergies (to the point where I literally couldn’t go for more than a day without allergy meds year-round, and would get sinus infections that gave me vertigo so badly that I couldn’t walk steadily) for several years with no health insurance, and now that I had insurance, I needed to try and figure this thing out.
I found a great doctor who did a ton of bloodwork (I’ll spare you the details of that whole episode – suffice it to say I survived somehow) and essentially looked at my entire lifestyle to help me find solutions. Long story short, I was low on Vitamin D – like nearly every other human in Vermont – and a few other things, but overall pretty healthy. She gave me a Vit D supplement to take as well as a natural allergy supplement, called D-Hist. I went from rotating between Claritin D, Flonase, and Sudafed almost daily, to just this supplement, and it has been the only thing that clears my sinuses sufficiently. I notice a HUGE difference when I run out!
The other big change she suggested was an elimination diet. THAT scared me. But she said that gluten and dairy are some of the biggest causes of inflammation for most people, and eliminating them could help my allergies too. I resisted for awhile, not knowing how to get started. Finally, I told myself that if I could find recipes for delicious dairy-free and gluten-free desserts so I could keep chocolate and other yumminess in my life, I would do it. Pinterest was my best friend! I slowly started to realize that this whole elimination diet thing might end up being easier than I anticipated. (Searching for vegan and paleo meals was an easy hack, and I just added meat to things if I wanted to) In March 2017 I slowly started changing over, making sure to use up whatever dairy/gluten I had in my pantry and then replacing it with alternative items.
If you have followed my blog since I was at Deer Haven, you may remember that I talked a little bit about the stress eating I did in 2013 while Rachel was sick. Growing up, I was never a “skinny” kid, but overall a healthy weight until high school or so, when I started gaining weight and continued to gain through 2007, when I went to Kentucky for school. Over the first two to three years in KY, I lost about 50 lbs, just from being more active than I’d ever been. Since 2013, I had gained about 40 lbs back, and even though I was more active in 2016-17, I believe that the stress from years previously had changed my body enough that I had a hard time losing weight again.
After I cut gluten and dairy out of my diet, I lost 30 lbs. I felt so much better – so much more like the old Emilie, that I didn’t want to go through the process of pinpointing which foods I was specifically allergic to. So here I am, almost a year of not eaten gluten or dairy, and I have no plans to change. I have “cheated” a little bit here and there, but I have to keep the cheat portions very small, because my body definitely doesn’t like those items any more (good incentive to stay on track!). Plus, I’m thankful that my Team Poulsen family has adapted many favorite recipes so I can enjoy them during our family dinners – having people like that in my life, willing to support something like this that makes me happy and feel good, has been a huge help and is just one of many things that reminds me of how lucky I am to be here!
April – July
Riding-wise, Crumbs and I got geared up again in the spring, after a winter of maybe ten rides (sob). He was a busy boy with lessons all winter, and I was busy with training rides, so it was a rare opportunity when both of our schedules lined up and we got to play together.
We spent our first month or two after Ruth’s return from Florida just trying to get back in shape and get both of us straighter. After months of being ridden by beginners, Crumble’s natural crookedness had amplified, and I struggled to get his body back in alignment. Especially important because we were getting the chance I had dreamed of for years:
We were headed to the National Dressage Pony Cup in July.
This was one of my biggest goals with Crumble, especially since Rachel’s passing and the establishment of the Rachel King Memorial Award. Not only that, but Kentucky was a second home to me for several years, and I was looking forward to seeing those familiar faces and places I loved so much.
The trip to Pony Cup was an experience I’ll never, ever forget. If everything else had gone horribly wrong in 2017, but Pony Cup had still been the same, I would’ve counted the entire year a success. I got to meet a few fellow bloggers and FB/Instagram friends (shoutout to Jenn and Connor, Katlyn (Katai), Shoshana (Izzy), and Emily and Goosebumps!) and hug some people I hadn’t seen in way, way too long. I can’t even begin to put everything I saw, felt, experienced, and did into words properly. But here’s a short breakdown:
Crumbs and I went from our first two recognized shows together at First Level in 2015, getting scores around 64% (not bad by any means), to having a year off from recognized shows in 2016, to heading to a huge show at a huge venue, eighteen hours from home, where we wanted to win as the highest scoring Haflinger. No big deal, right? We did one schooling show in June as prep for Pony Cup, and then off we went.
Earning Rachel’s award meant so much to me that I refused to look at any of the other Haflinger scores all weekend, and I told everyone I came in contact with to keep it a secret from me. I wanted to be surprised when we went to the awards ceremony, whether the outcome was in my favor or not. Ruth checked all the scores each day, knew exactly how each judge was scoring before I went into the ring, and had, of course, already figured out which Haflinger had scored the highest. But, being the good friend and awesome coach that she is, she didn’t tell me the final tally.
The Pony Cup awards are determined by adding degree of difficulty points to each score before averaging them. In the end, Crumble and I did exactly what we set out to do.
For me, this show meant a lot of things. One of the things that stood out was how important it is to have a good support system behind you. I have a friend that I met through Rachel/Deer Haven who has followed my career ever since that time, and who is the biggest reason behind why Crumble and I were able to get to Pony Cup in the first place. I am so, so grateful to her and all of the support and encouragement she has provided over the years.
Another important piece in any equestrian’s support system is having a good trainer. I have never been in a position to get such consistent, correct instruction before coming on board with Team Poulsen. Ruth provides not only lessons, guidance, and moral support, but I’ve also seen firsthand how she gives 110% to her clients every single day, (bascially, she’s Superwoman) and my trip to Pony Cup was no exception.
We were exhausted when we got back, but we had fun, and I still have to pinch myself when I think about the wonderful, generous, and encouraging people I have in my corner.
August – December
Crumble and I wrapped up the year by debuting at 4-1 for our farm’s fall schooling show, earning a 60.95%! Our Pony Cup awards rolled in, too, and we ended up Fifth in Third Level Open at the show, as well as winning the Haflinger breed award for the highest scoring Haflinger, and of course, the Rachel King Memorial Award. For the Pony Cup Year End Awards, we ended up 13th in the country in the Open division.
You know most of this – Avery started having some scary health issues – including an emergency vet trip – and I found out that he is dealing with Degenerative Myelopathy. I just received his DNA test results yesterday, and his test came back “At Risk/Affected”, which is the closest way possible to get a definitive diagnosis.
Add to that an unexpected car repair and a few other Life things that came my way, and I was ready to welcome 2018 and a fresh start.
Thankfully, Avery is doing pretty well right now, but this is something that will eventually cause total paralysis of his limbs. I’m happy that he is fit and as healthy as can be, because that will give him the best chance possible at delaying DM’s progression. For more info on what happened, check out the post I wrote not long ago.
So, what are we looking forward to in 2018? That’s a post for next time!