Thursday, December 27, 2012

On 'Being Broken'

It's bad enough when the pain level reaches the point where every move makes you wince.

It has been a long time since I have lived in this level of pain. Eventually, the mind accepts pain as part of one's existence, and the body begins to compensate. I have gotten rather comfortable in a tilted walk...
That, however, isn't the worst part.

Sometimes, people look at me walking, and I can see them trying not to wince in sympathy...
The hardest question for me to answer is "Are you OK?"
Well, no, I'm not OK.  My life is not in danger, and I am not having a medical emergency.  On the other hand, I am not functioning within established parameters.  A couple of Tylenol will not do anything to help me.
I have some classic moves these days.  When I get out of a chair, I have the "pregnant lady push".  You know, the maneuver where the hips and belly precede the rest of the body, sometimes with a supportive hand on the back...  Typically, this is followed by the "old-lady-needs-a-walker waddle" where I shuffle along, gaining 6 to 8 inches each step, bent over through the hips and waist, sometimes leaning on walls, tables, or counters as I go.  When I finally return to some semblance of upright, I find my right side somewhat collapsed, my left side over-stretched to compensate.
You can see the pity, pain, and sorrow in other peoples' eyes...

I was feeling particularly lithe one day as I was tacking up to ride.  I thought I was on the mend!  One of my fellow boarders looked at me and said, "You're still walking funny..."
Another shining example of adjusting to the imbalance and pain.

How ironic that I end the most exhilarating season I've had in years and progress to this condition of limited functionality?

I see a specialist in the morning.

I do not accept that this condition is permanent.
My goals for 2013 have not changed.
My approach might just need a little adjustment.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I was getting back into the swing of grooming, tacking, riding... I really used to take for granted my ability to pick my horse's feet. These days, I pray I can get it clean before a spasm hits and destroys my carefully calculated "hoof picking position".
Cold weather moved in.
Then, ice and snow came!
With the cold weather, I slowly became more disabled again...

Today, my husband put my socks on for me. Thank you, honey!
I hobbled from my car to the house after completing my barn chores.

It would appear I am out of the saddle. Again.
Back to Tiger Balm Therapy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

well, folks...

We have walk, posting trot, and canter!

...but, I still can't quite put my socks on...

I was celebrating as I worked with a new coach!  There are lots of reasons to celebrate.  One of them being that I can throw a leg over my horse without it killing me!  Another of them being that I have eyes on the ground.  To make it even better, the owner of said eyes is classically trained!  She doesn't even hold it against my horse that he is an Arabian.  She has an open mind, too.  I am a fan of creative problem-solvers, and it sounds like she is right up there with the best of them!

She watched my pony go around in circles in the half-lit arena.  Funny...  She never once addressed my position in isolation...

Lesson #1: ALWAYS carry a dressage whip.
OK.  I can do that.

She told me I was holding him up.  This was NEWS to me!  I was thinking, "Gosh, isn't my pony so light in the bridle?"  Yeah.  Apparently, that lightness is just relative.  He's so light compared to the shoulder-dislocating monster that I started with years ago...  You know.  The one I couldn't ride in a snaffle if I wanted to survive stop.
So, we rode a few more circles, and I practiced dropping him on his face.  He started getting the idea.  Impulsion improved!  Hooray!
The only comment she ever made about my position: Once we had more impulsion, my leg came back to the girth where it belonged.  That before, my leg was a little back due the constant drive I needed to provide.

Then, we established a connection where his front end actually lightened.  I felt the difference.  It was not the same back-raising feeling I had become accustomed to, but I think I can recreate it!

We rode some circles with ONLY the inside rein and inside leg.  And leg yielded.
Then, we rode some circles with ONLY outside rein and leg.  And leg yielded.

I learned that I almost-sort-of-nag in the leg yield.  Instead, I began to understand how to use timing to my advantage.  Our leg-yield improved!

Then, she got on!
And told me that he was very wiggly when it came to riding into a connection.  I have to say, the picture was not classical!  But, slowly, I saw my horse transforming!  First, she rode him into a frame that looked more like something I would see on a High School Lipizzaner!!  He would drop behind the bit, she would sent him into the connection, then he would wiggle up above the bit...  It was a very interesting dance as he wandered and wiggled all over the map, while she just continued to ride him into the connection.  Then, suddenly, he looked like a dressage horse!  With a lower frame.  Less Lipizzaner.

OK, so I discovered that my dressage horse doesn't actually take a connection (he cheats), he doesn't turn properly (he cheats), and he hangs on the right rein (which might actually be me not providing enough resistance!).  But the biggest news of all?

I don't know how to stop my horse.

I have to train my horse to stop in a completely, totally, ridiculously different way.  Totally counter-intuitive.  What does she say?
Squeeze with your knees.

All right.  I'm starting over.  I officially no longer know how to ride my horse!  ;)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

on-going process

Also known as: it is about the journey, not the destination

I haven’t been in the saddle for a couple weeks. I’ve been in pain. I did ride bareback last week!

At the walk.

For 15 minutes.

Then I was done.

So, my physical therapist says my sacroiliac joints are out of whack. The left one moves too much, and the right one doesn’t move enough. The solution to this? Strengthen my core. *sigh*

I’ve been strengthening my core since 2003.

So, let the healing process begin. It will be slow. Painfully slow. Because my day job requires me to sit.

At a desk.

All day.

I’m still measuring progress by whether or not I can put my own socks on. Once I can put my own socks on, progress will be measured by whether or not I need to medicate on a given day. In the meantime, I’m left to train in my mind.

I’ve been training with Jean Froissard. He has been expounding on the differences between the French and German schools while demonstrating how they are both classical horsemanship. He also breaks down, very simply, the purpose of each aid for a given movement. That doesn’t mean the horse is going to do what you asked if you use the aids just so… Which is why he also explains the building blocks to teaching your horse how to respond properly to each of this aids! Yes, Yes. I’m reading his book. I am still mentally processing his explanation of the “5 rein aids.” He describes the outside rein acting as a “neck rein” which flipped a switch in my brain and resulted in one of those ‘AHA!’ moments. Having Western riding experience, it made perfect and completed the picture of how to encourage the horse to “fill the outside rein” with his neck.

I’m also training with Jane Savoie! She makes great information available through her website and weekly e-mailings. One can only apply so many new tid-bits at a time, so it’s nice to have the weekly letter with some new idea or even just a reminder of what you should already know. Jane is a big fan of testing to make sure the horse is holding up his end of the responsibility.

I rode again this week. Bareback. I knew it wouldn’t be a long ride, and my horse is so fluffy and warm…

Anyway, since I knew I would be limited to mostly walking and a tiny amount of trot, I tried to focus on testing our basics. Is he truly on the bit? I apply the connecting aids, and then I feel the lift and give, so I slacken my inside rein. He stayed bent and on the bit! For something like 7 or 8 strides!! On top of that, I felt as he started to give it up (before he totally lost it), so I could apply the aids again. I’m sure he was confused by that slack inside rein, but I always forget to test that super-basic tenant. Lucky for me, the old man is usually happy to play along with whatever craziness I throw at him. He’s not thrilled with the walk-only work. His favorite gait is canter. So, he is not-so-patiently waiting for us to get back to more interesting work…

Monday, December 3, 2012


What is wisping, you ask?
It is an old school grooming technique. When I say 'old school', I mean really old.

So, you take some old hay and twist it up a bit until you have a lump slightly bigger than your hand.
How to make a wisp

Then, you wet it in a bucket of water and proceed to beat the meaty parts of your horse with it.
mine might be little big

So, I proceeded to beat my horse about his meaty parts. He didn't run away...
In fact, I think he liked it!

And bonus! He is also a little cleaner!!


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