Healing and Recovering

img_20170304_133155861.jpgAs winter considers belching one more cold front before spring officially rolls in next week, the Kisers are healing up and almost ready to resume our normal lives. For the past four months, we’ve been tiptoeing around our usual activities as health issues interrupted our regularly scheduled broadcasts. The first issue occurred back in November with my car accident. What we initially thought to be extreme soreness showed up on an MRI to in fact be a bulged disc in my neck. So while it’s been a pain in the neck (pun fully intended there), it has been a relief to actually have a diagnosis so we could chart a plan of treatment. While I’ve been rehabbing my weak neck muscles to better support my poorly functioning disc, Brinn has had his own fun with nerve surgery. After carpal tunnel and ulnar nerve surgery, he’s joined me for my tri-weekly physical therapy sessions. We’re just such a sweet couple that we enjoy sharing everything, even our physical therapist.

Timing wise, we probably picked a fairly convenient winter to kick off. The weather has been mild, almost too mild. There’s not been a whole lot of water for paddling, nor much snow for sledding or skiing. At least we don’t feel like we’re missing a whole lot this year. It probably has been one of the better winters for riding, especially as the roads have stayed clear for trailering out to trail rides, but Reggie hasn’t seemed too upset to continue her tenure as a full-time pasture pet.

It’s looking like we may actually get a little bit of winter weather this weekend, and I suspect this will be old man winter’s last big hurrah for the 2016/17 winter season. This suits me just fine as I believe that we have almost turned the corner towards recovery. Brinn’s doctor has finally released him to slowly resume normal activity, within reason. I’m not sure that this doctor really understands that Brinn rarely participates in reasonable activities, but she did emphasize to him the risks that he takes if he pushes too hard too fast, and she did recommend that while paddling something tame in the funyak with Ian should be okay, she did advise that he avoids guiding any Ocoee trips for the next few weeks. I have another few weeks of therapy to look forward to, and then I get to undergo evaluation to see if I’m improving. Hopefully at that time, I’ll dazzle the socks off my therapist and doctors and they’ll all agree to release me back to a normal life.

img_20170303_175230584.jpgIn the meantime, we’ve found a few different ways to entertain ourselves over the last few months. Aside from feeding Reggie and her minions (can you believe that she still wants to eat everyday, even though I’m not riding??), we’ve been able to enjoy a few meals with our MSR family.


Ian has probably stayed busier than Brinn and I put together these last few months.He’s img_20170219_124932138.jpghalfway through his semester in gymnastics at the Little Gym, and still faithfully chasing his chickens around the yard everyday. Black Chicken still remains a very nice (not black) rooster and let’s Ian catch him without spurring him, but here lately even the hens have been letting Ian catch them. I’m not sure if they’ve just given up, or if they’re not as nervous as they used to be. Either way, everyone is laying and no one is flogging, so we’ve not had any fresh soup stock in a while.

img_20170301_185822185.jpgLast week, we decided to load up on Wednesday to go see some of our friends for the evening and check out MTSU to see what their weekly roll practice is all about. Holy moly! This place was awesome! I mean, yeah, it was cool to hang out with our friends and other boaters, but the slide! Their pool has a giant water slide that the lifeguards turned on for Ian. Then Brinn and Wes took turns standing at the bottom to catch Ian every time he came flying off the end. I think this does still count as developing kayaking skills because Brinn worked on river signals with Ian to img_20170301_185827557.jpgcommunicate, and Ian couldn’t start down the slide until he used his signals to verify that his catcher was in place. Parents take note, this may be the best pre-dinner activity on the planet for children. After leaving campus, we joined the group for a quick dinner at one of their local haunts. Ian brought his blanket inside, curled up on one bench of the booth beside our table, and promptly slept through the entire meal. Brinn and I had an entire meal with our grown-up friends to enjoy doing nothing but eating and gabbing. I’m pretty sure we’ll be attempting to repeat this scenario soon. Despite Ian’s obsessive fascination with the slide, we also had other entertainment in place at the pool, including watching Sarah climb inside Ian’s teenie tiny Fun1 kayak and squirt it around the pool (suggested weight range 30-80 pounds; Sarah’s weight? Probably around 110 pounds). Even Todd took a go at the kiddie kayak.

img_20170219_185256083.jpgIn another news, Ian also spent an entire week of sleeping on the floor. Blanket forts not being elaborate enough for the experienced outdoorsman, Ian kept half the living room tied up with a tent for a full week-long. Mogwai and Chaco were not thrilled with the sleeping arrangements of this indoor adventure, as Ian insisted that they join him in his tent every evening. Finally the nights grew cold enough again that we needed to resume using the wood stove, so the fabric sleeping shelter needed to safely return to the closet. Thankfully Ian has not asked to pull it back out again over the last two weeks.

Hopefully recovery time is right around the corner. The rains are coming more steadily now, filling the creeks a bit more these days, and some warmer days have turned loose the hair on Reggie and Badger. They’re both due for some pretty heavy-duty groomings and some major trotting sessions to help jiggle away their winter pounds. The Ocoee begins running again next week, and our hometown Muddy Rivers Festival takes place just one week after that. We’ve got a lot of springtime activities to look forward to!

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Ian’s Favorite Prayer

17092395_10155574191875656_1147787001_nPrayer can be a really hard concept to teach to adults, let alone children. Ian’s been asking some tough questions lately. Particularly at Christmas, when he asked why he couldn’t see God in the nativity scene set up in the lobby at his preschool. When I tried to explain that he could see God in the form of baby Jesus, I got the side eye. Obviously I didn’t do an adequate job attempting to explain the holy trinity to my four-year-old. But heck, the trinity is a tough idea for me to wrap my head around. Luckily we’ve asked Whitney, one of the pastors at our church, to give it a go explaining this idea to Ian. You know, since it’s kind of his job to teach this stuff.

Several weeks ago, one of Whitney’s Sunday sermons focused on prayer. I greatly enjoy listening to him speak, but I know it can be tough for a little boy to make it through an entire message. Little did I know that we’d have an opportunity to put this sermon into practice so quickly.

17101737_10155574182385656_470216831_nAfter church ended, we bundled up and took off to Standing Stone State Park do a little hiking through the snow. The snow swirled around us while the trees swayed in the wind as we set out to climb down the mountain through the safety zone. About halfway into our descent, I told Ian that he could let Mogwai go for a little while as Mogwai was ready to stretch his legs out a bit more than Ian can manage. For about a quarter of a mile, Mogwai stayed right with us, and would run up into the trees and back to us as dogs delight in doing. And then a squirrel ran across Mogwai’s path.

My dad has always said that the time to hunt with dogs for squirrels is when the leaves are off the trees. We got to see this in action first hand as Mog ran to the tree that the squirrel zipped up, then from tree to tree as the squirrel jumped across branches, right up the side of the mountain, and then over the ridge line braying as he went. Meanwhile, the wind continued to howl and drown out our voices as called for him. As we continue to hike, not wanting to stop and get cold, hoping that the our dumb dog would return to us, we saw more and17094085_10155574183725656_53807449_n more signs of the wild hogs that have invaded this area. Trees were coated in red clay as high as three-foot up, and roots exposed in the side of the hill. Pigs cause such destruction to the landscape. We made it to the creek at the bottom of the mountain, then decided to turn around and head back up the trail to see if Mogwai might retrace his steps and run into us.

17028802_10155574198345656_299149110_nIt was at this point that our little family started snapping at each other. Brinn stressed over Mogwai, and snapped at me for letting him go. Our legs were burning from the incline and our lungs gulped air from our lack of conditioning. We all guzzled water from the nalgene bottle we carried. Ian wanted to help find Mogwai and started yelling for him, which irritated Brinn who was trying to whistle and listen for Mog. Chaco became fed up with all of us and barked at us, or squirrels, or the wind for all we know. Then Ian moved into doom and gloom mode. He complained and carried on that something happened to his puppy dog. A hog got him. A hunter shot him. He’s lost forever in the woods. Eventually between Brinn’s snapping and Ian’s commiserating, I finally lost my patience.

In exasperation I finally spun around and let Ian have it. 17094116_10155574192665656_2019178520_n“Baby, complaining will do absolutely nothing to help your doggie right now. If you want to be productive, the only way you can help is to pray that Jesus will bring your puppy-dog back to you.  “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength” (Psalms 8:2). And in that instance, my four-year-old shamed us by doing the one thing that his parents should have shown him and led by example. Ian stopped in the middle of the trail and he prayed. “Dear Jesus. Please bring Mogwai back to me.”

Do you know that not five minutes later, that silly dog popped up out of the tree line and came running down the trail to us? After wrapping his disobedient dog up in a bear hug, Ian stopped to pray again. “Jesus, thank you for bringing Mogwai back to us.”

17124639_10155574193730656_1501889541_nNow when we ask Ian if he would like to say the blessing at meal times, he usually asks us if he can pray his favorite prayer. It has nothing to do with thanking God for his food, but everything to do with thanking him for bringing that goofy dog back to us a month ago. If you ask Ian if he wants to pray, he will gladly say yes, then launch into his favorite prayer: “Jesus, thank you for bringing Mogwai back to me.”

Today we’ll be teaching a new prayer. Mogwai’s safe return can remain his favorite prayer, but we have a friend with a special request for prayers for his sweet grand baby. Ian now believes with us in the power of prayer. The Apostle John wrote, “Now this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14–15). John also wrote, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

So, dear friends, I ask tonight that those among you who keep confidence in Him, that you join us in prayer for healing and health for baby Breaker, and help us all see as Ian has seen, the power of prayer. Our savior can hear the seemingly insignificant request of a little boy missing his dog. Now let’s talk to God about a family praying for the health of their child.


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“Badger, You Rotten Pony!”


badger2Communication issues about and between Badger and Ian abounded this last Sunday. The first instance occurred around mid-morning. Brinn was one-week post op on his arm, and still not feeling too well, so we made the lazy decision to skip church (for like the third Sunday in a row) and hang around the house all day. I’d settled into that perfect stride in a new book –you know, where you’ve made it past getting to know all the characters, and now you’re really into the story. In other words, I was in the perfect place to not really pay attention to Ian or what he was up to.

We’ve been having unseasonably warm weather this February, so Ian spent most of Sunday morning playing outside. While I kept up with the exploits of Nobusuke Tagomi in the Japanese Pacific States, Ian bustled through the kitchen to check our carrot stash. I recall vaguely hearing him say something about his pony being hungry, but I honestly paid less attention to Ian and more attention to Tagomi’s reaction to a new German chancellor. About 15 minutes later, however, Ian waltzed back into the house and announced the Badger loves carrots. At this point I actually looked up and took notice of Ian, who was holding an empty plastic sack that used to contain my beautiful rainbow-colored carrots from Trader Joe’s, at $2.99 a bag. That pony better have loved carrots after eating my yummy carrots! Just a few days before, I’d bought a large sack of ordinary orange carrots for Badger for $0.50 from Aldi. I guess this is what I get for not paying enough attention to Ian when he feels the need to treat his pony.

Later in the day, Ian came back inside to fetch his boots and helmet. He announced that he wanted to get Badger out of the fence to play. For the most part, Ian’s happy to take Badger for walks leading him around our yard. I was happy for an excuse to procrastinate on folding laundry, and asked Ian if he’d like to ride. He immediately said yes, and as soon as we pulled Badger out of his field, Ian hopped aboard. The first thing he announced he wanted to do was run up the hill. Now, our “hill” is just the small slope going down from the backyard to the basement. It’s the section of hill that the retaining wall doesn’t extend to. I led Badger over to the hill to start down it with plans of turning around at the bottom and trotting back up. At the top of the hill, I stopped the pony to adjust Ian’s position. We’ve been slowly working on incorporating better form and paying attention to his body placement for going up and down, and on the flat. As I turned around to remind Ian to sit back, Badger threw his head between his knees and pulled off an honest-to-God, legitimate buck! Ian flew through the air and landed beside Badgers feet.

Quick reflexes have never been my strong suit. Most of my swims on the river could’ve easily been prevented by some faster reactions. I react decently on the back of a horse (thank you Stormy for years of conditioning responses for muscle memory), but on the ground, I’m worthless. I’m that person who will watch her horse rip a barn door down while I stand there catching flies in my open mouth. When Badger put in his rodeo audition, I was ready to react, but I couldn’t decide which reaction to pursue first! My first instinct was to reach for Ian and snatch him up with big hugs, but Brinn doesn’t want me to always pick him up and coddle him after a spill. On the other hand, my horse brain told me to seek an attitude adjustment with the fur covered stand-in for Satan. As my mental gears slowly tried to determine the best course of action, Ian beat me to the punch.

Through the last four years of raising Ian, I keep looking for glimpses of myself in him. Mainly he is the spitting image of Brinn, both in physical appearance and attitude. This is a good thing, as I’m pretty fond of Brinn, and hope to see many of his better qualities emulated by his son, but a part of me wants to see the impression I’ve left on the world by procreating. Ian finally showed me that he inherited quite a bit of his momma’s attitude. Before I could retract my arms and stop myself from grabbing my baby from the clutches of certain death by grass stains, he sprang to his feet. “I’m sorry, Mama, I should have held on better.” Ian grabbed a chunk of pony’s mane while his dumbfounded momma stared, and he sprang back up onto Badger. But then his next statement nearly moved me to tears. While settling into the sweet spot behind Badger’s wither’s, Ian growled, “Badger, you rotten pony!” And I mean growled. His sweet four-year old soprano dropped to an octave I didn’t expect to hear for another ten years. Even Badger seemed to notice the difference in Ian’s attitude as we didn’t have another altercation during our many trips up and down the hill the rest of the evening.

I’ve said many, many times that I’m okay if Ian doesn’t turn out to be a horse crazy kid. preggers-and-reggieAnd really, I am okay with that. We’ve been so fortunate to have a kind, sweet boy who enjoys many of our other hobbies, especially paddling. But from the moment I knew I was pregnant, I dreamed of having a kid I could share my passion for horses with. Brinn and I weren’t particularly sold on the idea of taking maternity pix, but because a good friend of ours was available to do them for us, we did. And even then, at Ian’s first photo session, I had Reggie involved. By the time Ian could walk, we had him out helping me feed. Once he could sit unsupported, I needed to have him up on Reggie with me. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Badger’s rotten pony incident was not one of the best moments to date of my life as a parent.

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Let me tell ya ’bout the best friends…


img_20170128_102947685.jpgBrinn’s carpal tunnel and nerve damage to his elbow has worsened recently, so his surgeon has scheduled surgery for next Thursday. Two weeks out from surgery, Brinn started brining pork loins and preparing to smoke a feast so I called in the cavalry. As soon as I shared with our boating buddies that Brinn wanted to have a party before he goes under the knife, they immediately moved into action. You may think your friends are cool, but Brinn’s friends show up at the house with little notice bringing boats and whiskey.

After a five-hour drive, Terry arrived Friday morning to take Brinn out for a weekend of boating. The two sneaked in a quick afternoon Spring Creek run with Tom, where Brinn managed to forget his pfd and his helmet. It’s an awfully good thing we live so close to the put-in. Unfortunately not a one of the three managed to take a camera with them, so there’s no visual record of their scrapey run. Brinn left Ian at home in the care of Lee from the Mustard Seed Ranch. When I arrived home, I assumed I would relieve Lee of his burden and take Ian out with me to run errands, but Ian insisted that he would prefer to stay home with his brother. Man, and here I thought I had at least another couple of years to be the coolest person in Ian’s world. Rejection hurts. But in all seriousness, it makes my heart happy to see Ian have such love for his big brothers, and even more happy to see that love returned.

Once the weary paddlers returned from the water, Brinn went to prepping his bacon 16265841_1169919109723818_7494451037016177263_nwrapped duck jalapeno poppers (talk about the ultimate man food) while Terry went stir crazy. Brinn owes Terry big for his restless energy –it got all of his gear packed correctly for a Saturday trip. From there they decided they needed to make fire, because apparently the one already going in the wood stove was not enough. Out came the diesel can and a pile of unsplit logs in the back yard. Truth be told, it really was about time that we burned the Christmas tree.

img_20170127_201256033.jpgAs darkness descended, our guests of varying sizes arrived. We ended up with a houseful of five kids ranging in ages from two to I think eight or nine-years-old. This absolutely made Ian’s night. Jc brought Ian a hand-me-down battery-powered four-wheeler, which is exactly what Ian has been planning to save up for. I’m still not sure Ian has recovered from the shock of seeing the beautiful red four-wheeler arrive. Jc, you have no idea how happy you’ve made a little boy. Between the four wheeler, Ian’s tractor, and his gator, we had seats for almost every kid to cruse around the yard while parents migrated from the food in the kitchen to the chairs around the fire. While nothing can replace the sereneness of sitting around a campfire in the woods on the second night of a weekend camping trip, we came close to replicating this feel. We had good company, good food, good drinks, and conversation inevitably flowed about paddling, parenting, and even softball injuries to the knee.

While I have no desire to have more children, I can see why many parents try to persuade 16426103_1169919036390492_3060917692251805844_nme to have more so that my little one could have someone else to play with. Tom brought his son T-Rex, who is not nearly so little anymore, Jc and Crystal bought their sweet children, and Ben and JoAnna’s E has no idea that she’s only two and considerably smaller than Jc and Crystal’s bigger kids. E kept right up with the older kids all evening with no regard for the cold. I’m fairly certain that Ian fell sound asleep within minutes of the last child’s departure. Even better: he slept past 6:30 AM the next morning! Most of my close friends know from first person experience that I’m not a kid person. Mainly because I don’t know how to interact with kids or what to do with them (except with Ian –he has me extremely well-trained). But these kids are all awesome and did a great job entertaining themselves.

16387255_1169919153057147_6948614958651690557_nTerry, Ben, JoAnna, Jc, Crystal, and Tom probably have no idea how much gratitude I have for their willingness to leave home after dark and make the long drive to our little corner in Putnam county, but they all make Brinn smile, and that means the absolute world to me. This upcoming surgery has some risks that go along with it, and Brinn has understandably been worried and stressing over it.A night to chill by the fire with good friends is exactly what he needed, and these sweet people delivered in a way I will always appreciate.

Saturday morning brought with it a beautiful day, but very little water. The original plan img_20170128_103322202.jpgfor the guys to run lower Crooked Fork had to be scrapped, so instead they turned their focus to the Obed. In contrast with Friday’s debacle of forgotten gear and chasing water levels, Saturday actually managed to run rather smoothly. Ian and I dropped Brinn and Terry off at the Devil’s Breakfast Table by 10:30 AM and made our way to Nemo by driving up on the area in Catoosa. As shameful as it may be for a home-grown to admit, driving the area makes me so nervous. I don’t remember all the twisty gravel roads, and could end up in Oakdale just as easily as Wartburg. Fortunately we ran into some very kind TWRA agents who were more than happy to point us in the right direction. Having family in the area is a huge benefit when it comes to setting shuttle, and when Ian and I arrived at Nemo my dad was waiting for us. We left my truck at the bridge and my dad drove Ian and I to Grandma’s so we could spend the day with family without having to worry about trying to get back to Nemo to pick the guys up when they came off the water.

img_20170128_120213282.jpgAs soon as Ian and I rolled into Grandma’s house, he immediately asked her to make him some popcorn. Now my grandmimg_20170128_121530857.jpga is not exactly the cookie baking kind of grandma who gives out hugs and tells her grandchildren that they can do no wrong, but she is a great cheerleader for us to achieve great things and does make the absolute best popcorn in the world. I don’t believe that she has ever in her life bought microwave popcorn.Some of my fondest childhood memories involve that popcorn, and eating it still takes me back to those early years. After indulging Ian’s popcorn request, Grandma introduced Ian to a new part of her house this weekend: the attic. This new series of small rooms full of outgrown toys from my cousins over the years had Ian enthralled, so my dad and I slipped out for a quiet hike down to the creek.

img_20170128_141054820.jpgWhile Brinn didn’t get to paddle Crooked Fork, I at least goimg_20170128_135635527.jpgt to enjoy
its scenery and marvel at the beauty of the day. Despite the cold weather we’ve been having, the woods are absolutely bursting with life this time of year. The forest floor is a riot of color with bright red partridge berries contrasting with their glossy green leaves amidst the brown leaves left from autumn. Looking around the canopy provides a treat as well right now with mountain laurel bordering the trail and creek banks with dark green leaves for miles. With Ian’s arrival almost five years ago, it’s not too often that I get much time alone with either of my parents. And that is completely fine as they fully deserve to enjoy their time as grandparents, but I definitely enjoyed the opportunity to walk and chat with my dad for an hour.

img_20170128_103724966.jpgBrinn and Terry didn’t have nearly the excitement out on the water that they did back on the 2nd, but the quite tranquility and splendor of the river gorge seemed to leave quite an impression. It ended up not being quite a dry haired day as Brinn managed to go for a roll on one of the more awkward rapids with multiple diagonal current lines. Apparently Terry didn’t even laugh at him when it happened. Or take a picture of it. What kind of friend is that? While the majority of their run was made up of class IIs and small class IIIs, the two did manage to do quite a bit of scouting for future family outings. As they identified several promising campsites, we hope to be able to turn this run into an over-nighter with the raft and kids later this spring once all medical issues are behind us. Here’s a glimpse into their trip:

(But be warned. Apparently people with English degrees still forget to proofread before hitting upload.)

Brinn hopes to be able to sneak out Saturday morning for one final paddling trip before hisimg_20170128_100039152.jpg
life consists of bandages and rehab, but if the rain refuses to fall and he ends up pursuing dryer reaction this weekend, he’ll still be okay and my living room won’t be covered in wet river gear drying by the fire. Over the next six weeks of recovery, he’ll have warm memories of generous friends gathered around the fire sharing embarrassing stories. The next time we gather, I’ll be able to add some new humiliating stories of my recent adventures in physical therapy. Until then, we’ll keep on planning our future river trips together and reminiscing. Dear friends, we love you and I can’t thank you enough for bringing your amiable company to our small home. And of course there’s always that one jackass that shows up at every party…


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What’s in Your Tack Room

horse-showWe horse people easily perplex the rest of the world. We take the horses, a former source of transportation, and transport them around the country and pay other people to look at them and tell us which ones are the prettiest. We spend gobs of money to pretty our horses up, and kill ourselves with the amount of time we put into prepping our horses for the show pen. And at the end of it all, we may get to take home a $0.50 ribbon for our troubles. Despite the obvious neurosis we must suffer to partake in this crazy scheme, I can’t imagine a better way to have spent 3/4 of my life. I blew off senior prom and high school graduation for horse shows, and missed plenty of parties and trips in order to wake up at 3:0 A.M. to throw my pretty pony in the trailer and drive across the state. After showing for 20 years, I’ve discovered that there are quite a few products that show riders just can’t live without.

show-bowThe first, and most important of these products is the show bow. Take yourself back to the 1990’s. Vests and tuxedo shirts with rosette ties adorned the majority of women at every AQHA, APHA, ApHC, and 4-H show across the country.With this carefully constructed wardrobe, one couldn’t have a sloppy ponytail detracting from the shiny threads adorning these vests. What could a girl possibly do with her giant wod of hair? Enter the show bow! At one time the show bow was so readily available in any tack store and catalogue that riders could easily match their hair helmet to the color of her chaps. R.I.P. show bow.

Next our agenda brings us to a very particular piece of tack: the show saddle. Now, hunter saddlejumper has its roots in the hunt field. Riders still today dress in the same attire that fox hunters have worn for the chase for more than a century. Horses in the hunter ring should emulate those on a hunt –they should be quiet and easy to ride with nice ground covering gates and a careful, scopey jump. Not only do riders still dress traditionally for hunters, but they also use very similar tack. Western pleasure horses have their roots on cattle drives in the old west. Cows never run fast, so WP horses have no need to run fast either. And the saddle is so handy. Cowboys need a horn to tie a rope off on in case they have a need to tie something. Now I’ve not had an occasion to tie something to my horse in the show pen, but the need may arise, so I’m glad I still have the option available. And don’t forget the shiny silver trim. Like a fish, I’m attracted to all things shiny. Every shiny saddle satisfies the 12 year old girl still in me who loves all things that glitter.Who cares if the saddle has to live in a cushioned case and stay in a temperature controlled environment? A fancy schmancy saddle that can only be used a few dozen times a year is well worth the investment.

chicago-screwsWhile we’re discussing shiny tack, let’s discuss the beloved Chicago screw. It’s so much more efficient than an awkward buckle. Who wants a clunky buckle that’s stitched firmly into the leather of a headstall? Better to have a screw that can collect corrosion, requires a screwdriver for every time you want to change out your bit, and can work its way loose as your horse chews the bit. That’s really only a problem when the screw pops out while you’re riding, and even then it’s only a problem if your horse decides to spit out the bit.But hey, you’ll look really good right up until you’re riding a horse with no bit or reins.

Now let’s talk about grey hopaintrses. Have you ever showed one? It’s rough trying to keep up with a world of bays and chestnuts. Brown horses hide dust and scuffs so efficiently. It’s like they came camoflaged for the show ring. Grey horses, on the other hand, show every speck of dust that accumulates on their meticulously groomed hides. Oh, and they also have suicidal tendencies, so if you allow these crazy beasts any turn out at all, they will manage to scar their expensive selves up. And don’t forget the explosive diarreah that occurs on the trailer ride and again seconds before your sleazy-sleepwheregate call. It’s hard being grey horse girl living in a bay horse world. But two important products exist to help combat these pesky problems. Shapley’s touch-up paint formulated specifically for horses has hid many a boo-boo on Ghost and Bear over the years. It’s important that you buy both the grey and white paints so that you can combine for an exact match of your horse’s hair tone. Hopefully you can minimize the amount of touch-up paint needed ghostby keeping your delicate dust magnet covered from head to tail right up until the time they you begin competing. A Sleazy Sleepwear Hood is an essential item for keeping your grey clean as long as possible. And as a bonus, you can look really obnoxious in the schooling ring of bays and chestnuts while you hop around on your purple and blue steed.

The last go-to item you’ll find me carting to horse shows comes in the famous white show-sheenbottle: Absorbine Show-Sheen. This stuff can polish and shine a coarse haired donkey. On a regularly groomed show horse, it’ll turn their coat into greased lightning. Don’t believe me? Obviously you’re not one of the geniuses who shined your horse up diligently for halter and showmanship, then realized what a mistake you’d made once you tried to keep your saddle in place later in the day. There’s nothing quite like having your girth and pommel riding around on a slip and slide. There’s always the option of not using Show-Sheen, but I’m just not sure that it would feel like a show without the aroma of Aborbine products wafting from my stalls.

Five years have gone by since I last rode into a show ring. I’m sure a lot has changed in that time. I’ve heard rumors that dark oil tack and long manes are back. Can someone do a check for me to see if show bows have been resurrected yet?

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Your New Favorite Gear

As I sit here warm and dry, I’ve had time to contemplate some of the best gear available on the market, and I’ve formed some opinions about which brands and products boaters should be buying. It’s not like I’m actually able to use any of these items right now, but I’m happy to tell you why you should be buying and using these items. Let’s start with a review of the three best kayak brands on the market right now.tie-dye

  1. Jackson Kayak: were you ever an eight-year-old girl? If so, you need a Jackson Kayak.Lisa Frank.gif Why? The unicorn puke color pattern! I mean, come on. It’s practically Lisa Frank meets whitewater boats. This is seriously the best color to ever hit the kayak scene. Technically I think the color is actually called Tie-Dye, but that’s okay. We both know that it’s really the color of mythological regurgitation. Throw in a few butterfly stickers or a dolphin and every girl who grew up in the 90s will place an order today! It doesn’t matter if she actually plans to paddle or not. This boat is so  pretty that you can flip it upside down and use it as a coffee table to fill out your Lisa Frank Valentine day cards.
  2. Dagger Kayak: mamba-guyDagger makes the Mamba; ’nuff said. If you want to be a sexy beast, you need to paddle a mamba. It should suffice to say, Dagger builds the boat mopyrrahna-spongest guaranteed to make you boof a heavy load. Knock knock.
  3. Pyranha Kayaks: With each purchase of a Pyranha boat, buyers receive the coolest sponge known to man. This should be a very appealing add-on to any designated swimmer. Now they have something to sponge all the remaining water out of their boat after draining!

Now let’s move on to review of safety products.

  1. Astral Layla: This attractive personal flotation device includes the trademark lotus lotus flower.jpegblossom on the back. This was enough reason for me to buy one. Don’t you pick out your safety gear based on floral patterns? Really, just me? Okay, well here’s a second reason you should buy a Layla –boobs! The vest is cut out to make space for your boobs to fit comfortably, so no more paddling the wrong line because you couldn’t see straight with your boobs smashed up in your face. Score one for female anatomy.
  2. The Green Jacket: Another win for Astral. Pat Keller.jpegKeller paddles in the Green Jacket, so you should too. Pat Keller can run the Green blindfolded. I’ll bet it’s cuz he wears a Green Jacket. Next time I get bored, I may try on Brinn’s Green Jacket and a blind fold and see what happens.
  3. rescue-beltAstral Quick Release Rescue Belt: If you want to turn your Astral Layla or Sea Wolf into a rescue vest, you can add on the quick release belt, but there’s a much better reason to buy this belt. It’s a great accessory! What girl doesn’t love accesories? This gives us one more excuse to shop, and remember: you should always match your accessories to your shoes. How fantastic is it that my rescue belt matches my NRS neoprene booties so perfectly?
  4. NRS Pilot Knife: Now this one is a huge safety feature on the river. No boater shouldknife ever leave the put-in without a rescue knife. In the case that an emergency ever arises, paddlers should always be prepared. You never know when you might be out on the water and your toddler suddenly decides that he can no longer eat an apple with the skin still on the fruit. Don’t get caught unprepared and suffer a meltdown that only an enraged tiny human can enact.

And finally, let’s take a closer look at the apparel you should be wearing while out on the water.

  1. hydroskinNRS 1.5 hydroskins: Hydroskins essentially are neoprene wetsuits available in three different thicknesses: o.5 mm, 1 mm, and 1.5 mm.The 1.5 mm hydroskin is typically lined with fleece. Before the name was changed to hydroskin, the fleece lined neoprene was called fuzzy rubber. Isn’t that enough reason to make you want to buy it? Come on, say it with me: FUZZY RUBBER. Didn’t it make you giggle a little? If you wear it, every time someone asks what you’re wearing, you get to say “fuzzy rubber.” See, you giggled again. If any cool weather remains when I finally get to paddle again, I’ll be wearing fuzzy rubber on top and on bottom.
  2. Teva Guide Sandal: Every paddler should own at least ontevae pair of these sandals in their life. Why? Because spider rubber is awesome! It will seriously stick to every rock. The problem is that most of the time you can’t fit in your boat with sandals on, so you have to clip them in to the back of your boat. Then if you swim, you don’t usually have time to unclip your tevas and slide them on as your bouncing along over rocks and past undercuts. If you do manage to fit in your boat with your tevas on, there’s that small problem of how to keep them on your feet when you swim. The front straps like to slide off your foot and turn your sandals into worthless flippers around your ankles. But spider rubber is still really cool.
  3. grateful-headGrateful Heads: Sadly this dazzling fashion statement is no longer available for retail purchase. The Grateful Heads helmet company folded quite some time ago, but you’ll still find some of their helmets floating around paddling gearswaps. It’s really too bad that boaters can’t purchase these helmets new. What a way to make a statement on the water! Other boaters won’t be able to take their eyes of you if you rock out one of these bad boys. Mainly because their retinas will be burned into place once the sun reflects off your dazzling glitter finish. You may ask if helmets should belong with the safety gear review, but anything that turns you into such a sexy devil must be considered apparel.

Now, try not to blow up NRS or your local outfitter all at once. Be sure to give them some time to restock as I expect most of these items to start flying off the shelf. Probably best if you don’t mention my name as you submit an order for “unicorn puke” and “worthless foot flippers.”

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Different River, Different Man

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” –Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

While Brinn and I have been working on maintaining a positive outlook regarding the end of 15870806_10206208374448209_373196783_n2016, I’m not going to lie. Things have been rough. While we absolutely have so many wonderful blessings to focus on, sometimes it still gets a bit frustrating as we deal with all of the negatives thrown at us in a short time period. Brinn has taken the hardest brunt of these burdens as he’s been caring for me, coordinating my medical appointments and sorting out payment issues with insurance agents, driving me around, taking Ian to the doctor for a sinus infection, running his shop during deer season, and trying to finish the home improvement projects we started back in early November. Meanwhile, he’s developed nerve damage in his elbow, and has continued to put surgery off while dealing with my descent into disrepair.brinn

Through all of these minor catastrophes, Brinn has absolutely been my rock. He has stayed positive and encouraged Ian and I to take advantage of every good moment we’ve experienced. Despite his outward enthusiasm, he’s started to struggle to carry the concerns and responsibilities for all three of us on his shoulders. The last few weeks his smile hasn’t been quite as quick, and he’s been emptying the tube of liniment with more regularity. Brinn has needed an escape from his grown-up obligations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen Terry got in touch with us to ask about paddling through the New Year Holiday, our crazy group of friends immediately sprang to action and started checking local river levels and monitored the weather forecasts. The group finally settled on a New Year’s Eve run down Clear Creek on my favorite section of Tennessee white-water. Unfortunately my injuries and doctor orders prevented me from being able to join in, but it did provide an opportunity for Brinn to get out and have some fun. I think I actually forgot to mention anything about Terry coming into town to Brinn until Wednesday night or Thursday. When he found out that a friend/accomplished paddler would be in route to Tennessee on Friday, he quickly began shifting his paddling goals to enjoying bigger runs.

Brinn, Terry, and Wayne agreed on using Daddy’s Creek as their warm-up run for a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAweekend of paddling activity. We struggled a bit to get the guys out on the water, Saturday. I’m not sure “hot mess” even comes close to describing the state of Kiser family right now.  Despite a whole host of set backs on Saturday morning  including poor navigation (yep, that one’s on me), forgotten GoPro (gotta pin that one all on Brinn), late start (darn cell phone reception), we did indeed finally find the take-out and were able to drop off cars at bottom and then made our way back to the put-in so the guys could get in some H2O therapy. Last on and last off of the river for the day, I think they were able enjoy themselves as they had moderate flows of 1’6″.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADaddy’s is not a run I have ever aspired to work up to. The consequences seem too severe for my limited paddling abilities and my slow reaction time. Thus I cannot narrate the run to you first hand, but will try to piece together some description based on reports from the guys. The last time Brinn ran Daddy’s Creek he managed to flip going into Rocking Chair, roll up then snap an AT paddle, flip again, and find himself being washed into a boulder pile, and finally swim. Then he proceeded to lose a hand paddle on down. Saturday proved to be redemptive run for Brinn as the entire group managed to have a dry OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhair day. The run allows for a good warmup with straightforward class II and III rapids that eventually build into solid class IVs. Paddlers ease their way down through boulders the size of houses! Another point of interest along this run are the cabins scattered along the river banks with no obvious road access. The creek eventually takes boaters into the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area where they can choose to take out at the Devil’s Breakfast Table, or continue on down to the junction with the Obed River. My tired guys opted to take out at the DBT and drive home with no shoes since I managed to drive off with them after I dropped them off at the put-in.

With tired paddlers and an overly excited four year old, we didn’t exactly party hard to welcome in 2017. Our party favors consisted primarily of guide books, AWW reports, and YouTube videos of local creek runs. And it was fantastic. Boaters have a language all their own. I wouldn’t necessarily call it jargon (well, some of it is), so much as shared experience and appreciation for the water that finds a way into the words and body language of paddlers as they plan and reminisce. The online community we have with our boating friends across Middle Tennessee provides a wonderful outlet to share and enjoy discourse, but there’s just something different about hanging out in actual real life. The jokes are funnier, the jabs at each other a little more accurate, and the laughs are deeper. And through this exchange, I got to see Brinn’s smile shine more brightly again.

15822056_10155402309525656_1729388244_nUnfortunately the New Year dawned a bit dryer than the old year ended. Water levels dropped across the region and the rain hadn’t yet found us. After nursing some beat up joints, the guys seemed content to spend a day resting and recovering while closely monitoring the radar. Except Brinn and Terry seem to be cut from the samimg_20170101_145021846.jpge cloth, and neither does particularly well with resting. So after a morning of driving out to visually check water levels for runs that do not have an online gauge (and enlisting the help of cousins to send us images of a bony Crooked Fork), they changed their plans from “sitting at the house” (I should have known they would never actually commit to a day of no activity) to hiking on a reconnaissance trip to lineup a potential run of massive waterfalls for the next day. After complete dismissal from the park ranger, the guys changed their tactics to legal research and spent the remainder of the day educating themselves on federal and state waterway laws. They seem to have different ideas than the ranger for what constitutes a navigable waterway.

emilyOur next morning started a bit slowly, but our wonderful cousin (and currently favorite of Brinn), Emily deferred her pancake breakfast to run back to the waterfall down the road from her home to send more pictures of the water level for Brinn and Terry to evaluate. Now Emily must truly love us, because not much comes between this girl and a pancake. Except maybe a donut, but that’s a different story. After examining Emily’s photos, the decision to go for it was hastily agreed upon, and we threw boats and gear in the back of the truck in record time and hit the interstate for home.

I grew up in Wartburg, and still consider it home as most of my family still live there.15622664_1800669076849555_5264683582659295174_n Crooked Fork Creek flows right through my grandma’s backyard, and on down to Potter’s Falls, which is just a few miles away from some of our favorite people: Karen, Brent, and Emily. Karen and my mom are cousins, and Karen managed to marry someone who is just as cool and nice as she. So of course their apple didn’t fall far from some pretty awesome trees. The Ziegler family joined us at Potter’s to watch the guys come under the bridge and over the falls not once but twice. Then they invited us back to their house for one of my favorites, a hot chili dinner with grilled cheeses. How many boaters can boast a family who has dinner waiting less than 10 minutes away from the take-out?

trailFor years I used trail riding as a form of conditioning to keep my show horses fit. As my horses all lived at Grandma’s house, I frequently used the trail in her backyard as a warmup for most of my workouts for Reggie. This trail follows right along Crooked Fork Creek, and I’ve also hiked down the creek bed many hot summer days with my brother looking for holes to cool off in, so I’m fairly familiar with this section of Crooked Fork. But like Daddy’s Creek, this is another run that’s considerably over my head when there’s water on it, so I’ll have to default again to Brinn and Terry to provide descriptions of the rapids themselves.

After the creek leaves the horse trail, it makes a fairly sharp left turn and heads for OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALaymance falls. Unfortunately the falls were not runnable as a tree has lodged itself right in the best line to take over the drop, so the many boaters who were on the water Monday were forced to hike around. Below Laymance, the pace really picks up on this run and the rapids become tighter with bigger consequences. A few times Brinn felt his boat get pulled back towards grabby holes and had to actively paddle through most each feature to punch through and over.

img951595.jpgAfter a long trip for a just few short miles of whitewater involving repeated scouting sessions, the guys finally made it down to Potter’s Falls where we’d all been waiting. Once again, the tired boaters exited their boats to walk down and evaluate the lines they had to choose from. They developed a plan, and Terry led the way over the drop. And what a perfect line it was! Watching talented boaters run big water reminds me a lot of watching the top riders at big shows. My mom always likes to say that good riding is invisible riding, so you have to watch closely for subtle cues to see img951605.jpghow the good riders quietly guide their horses over demanding jump courses or through technical dressage moves. Good boaters do so much of their movement inside their cockpits with their legs and core, so it’s hard to spot it if you’re a spectator. Nonetheless, spectating has helped me see just how far I have to go as a boater if I ever hope to go beyond class III’s. So many different movements to coordinate! Boof stroke, ear dip, lean forward, lean back, high brace, low brace, scull stroke, draw stroke, rudder stroke, c to c roll, sweep roll, and then of course through it all, dodge the rocks or use the rocks? Lean in to the rock, but never upstream unless you’re pulling into an eddy. It’s highly doubtful that I’ll ever become a steep creeker like these two, but I certainly do admire the skill and athleticism they possess to carry them over flood stage falls.

img_1598.jpgWhile Terry achieved textbook perfection with his first descent over the drop, Brinn’s was a bit gnarlier. He managed to insult his already aggravated elbow up above the falls, and it decided to hold a grudge. Halfway over the falls, he completely lost feeling in his hand and dropped the paddle on that side. Rather than hold it with one hand and risk getting smacked in the face with it (or worse, break another paddle!), he decided to throw it. But not without a surprised little yelp sneaking out first.

So now the guys have managed to run the entire upper section of the creek and make a img_1580.jpgdescent over Potter’s. They’re exhausted and in pain, but apparently that’s not quite where they wanted to end their day, so they carried their boats back up the trail to the bridge and hopped in for another ride over the edge. This time, using some advice from Terry, Brinn was able to drastically improve his technique, and his elbow and hand even cooperated. Terry, however, didn’t have quite the same experience. He managed to smack the side of his head against the only rock at the bottom of the drop. But he didn’t even whine about it. I’d still be carrying on about that hit. But maybe that’s why I shouldn’t be running steep creeks?

img951594.jpgNo man can step on the same river twice, because it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. Perhaps boaters should be researching the sayings of Heraclitus, because he is exactly right. Each river and creek you run is a completely different run at different levels. The drops are taller with low water, and the holes are bigger with higher water. Floods rearrange the rocks and river bed and leave wood jammed along the way. The men change as well. Brinn is not the same person he was 15 years ago when he dropped over Potter’s last, nor the person he was 10 years ago when he ran Daddy’s Creek. He’s older and more beat up, but he’s also wiser with more discernment now. Despite the changing river and men, one variable remains unchanged –the river still draws a fantastic community of fellow paddlers to provide fellowship and friendship. I may be the person standing on the bank for most of this season, but I am still looking forward to enjoying a role in this great community. Thanks for the memories and the future adventures, fellow boaters!

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