Please be paient reading my hypothesis, I'm afraid it is a little long.

As most of you know by now I have MS with extensive neurological damage, both in my brain and my spinal cord. I have MRI pictures to prove it.

Over the past two years I have been reading a lot of equestrian posts on-line. I have been puzzled how the tenor of equestrian discussion has deteriorated from the already rather nasty and bitchy level that prevailed when I started riding seriously 40 years ago.

I have also been puzzled at some of the physical problems that dressage riders report, especially sudden, persistent and unexplained vertigo and sciatica, both of which involve neuronal tissues.

Then recently I was reading on another blog how a dressage rider was not able to ride for months. When she finally got to ride again, fearing having to retrain her horse, she got the best ride ever from her horse. Another dressage rider reported the same thing happening to her after a six week forced break from riding, a perfect ride.

Suddenly I had this idea. Could all three things be related?

I know that before I learned I had MS I was rather like a lot of these posters mentally, especially with my reactions to discussions of cherished beliefs. I also used to have the same dramatic improvements happen after breaks from riding, when I resumed riding the problems I had with my horse would unexplainably temporarily disappear.

Am I picking up a "picture" of neurological damage?

My tentative hypothesis is that extended periods of the sitting trot MAY be causing micro-damage of the spinal cord &/or brain, and that doing extended periods of sitting trot EVERY DAY prevents the healing of this damage. I am also starting to believe that much of the modern "non-classical" dressage is partly a desperate attempt by the riders' bodies to prevent further damage to the nervous system by altering the way the horses move.

Could the long breaks from riding that those two dressage riders had allowed the micro-damage to their nervous systems to heal, resulting in those perfect rides?

I have asked three horsewomen about this, one dressage, one hunt seat, and one western. None of them dismissed this idea. We all want to what other riders think about this.

Please, be polite in your disagreements.

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You wanna good laugh, I stand in place and show them what a hip sashay is all about and tell them they gotta dance like this.....LOL

bahahah! All of a sudden equitation class turns into Zumba, am I right?!

not even......

Hand out houla hoops and really give everyone a good laugh. It'll sooth the pain of their sore muscles after the lesson.

Very good Marlene.....:-))


I don't think it can help to sit to the trot all the time. After all, if you look at the history of riding, most people chose to ride pacers till the late 18th century when the rising trot became the norm, at which point trotters became more popular. 

I'd suggest practising most of your moves at a rising trot and just doing a sitting trot when you're preparing for a competition so that when you go into the ring, your horse doesn't think you're behaving strangely.

You may find that, in the long run, you're better off with a mule than a horse, since most have smoother gaits than horses.

Yes it is bad for some people and also some horses if it is done incorrectly with a badly designed saddle.  I rode in a Passier jumping saddle for over 20 years and my legs would go numb.  I thought it was me but it was my saddle. Through a long progression/investigation (Mary Wanless and Eckart Meyners)of the subject I settled and bought a Balance Zenith dressage saddle.  Finally nirvana for me and my horse.

Also many riders donot sit the trot correctly because they are taught badly.  I mostly see riders bouncing along in rhythm with the trot.  The correct way and easiest way is to move your hips so that you "trot" in rhythm with the horse's hips. You use your thigh muscles to provide downward pull to keep you in the saddle. So you pull yourself into the saddle.  There is no pushing.

Many horses are ridden badly in badly designed saddles so they never learn to have a relaxed back. This transmits the force up to the rider. I have had horses torque my back because of this.

Nutrition of the rider is paramount.  This is a whole other topic to get into.  People think that eating a balanced diet will provide all the nutrition they need for healing of micro/macro damage.  The Canadian Cancer Society, The Heart and Stroke Society, the CNIB, The Alzheimers, etc.  all recommend you take vitamins to prevent/delay/heal disease!

In my own case after 40 years of riding, I have to give it up.  My doctor told me in March that I need both my hips replaced due to arthritis but I have arthrtis in other joints as well. My dressage horse is for sale much to my regret.  I am sure that my early years of training horses has an effect on this as well.  I have one thoracic vertebra that needs chiro to keep it in place plus another vertebra causing a compressed nerve to my right leg that makes my leg go numb.  Probably riding related.  But it has been a  good life!

I am so sorry you will have to give up riding, Queenrider.

I can relate to that, Queenrider. I had to give up a few years ago and miss riding so much. I was not a dressage rider, preferring the derring-do stuff like team chasing and hunter trials etc I also did cross country rides of between 10 and 25 miles - with jumps, of course! However, I always found a sitting trot very easy to manage. When I was taught to ride MANY years ago by an old British cavalry officer we had to shout out which hind leg was under us and we learned to feel the movement of the horse which made it very much easier to follow as a rider. I always did a few minutes without stirrups at the end of a hack and sometimes I sat to the trot and other times I did a rising trot without stirrups - it is very easy once you can feel and move with the horse. Absolutely no gripping which just pushes you out of the saddle. When I taught children of friends to ride (not professionally) I always taught them without stirrups first. It really helps them as it helped me when I was an 8 year old girl! 

Since Zoe kindly resurrected this discussion I will give an update on my riding.  I have been keeping up with the new research on concussions and brain injuries, and from what I've read I've decided to severely limit the amount of sitting trot I do.

Mia--she has the best sitting trot of the horses I ride.  I can go up to 10 strides without feeling horribly jarred, but I tend to keep it to 5 strides, and I do this once every month to two months.

Mick--very hard, jarring sitting trot.  He has back problems so I do press the issue.  I can take two strides, and I have to move my hips a lot.  I try this around once every three months.

Cider--In my EZ-Fit saddle my seat of over the part of her back that moves the most.  I tend to do 2-3 strides every other time I ride her.  In the GP saddle her trot was a lot smoother since I was sitting on a more stable part of her back, then I tended to indulge in around 5 strides each time I rode her.

I am badly handicapped with damage to my nervous system (MS).  I try to avoid jostling my brain! 


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