A Week of Walking

I am still recovering from my trip up North, the weather has become muggier, I am trying to save my limited energy to go to my grandson's birthday party tomorrow, and, then, it turned out that all three horses were not quite right when moving. With Cider it has happened during the last few months (possible arthritis? Shannon will get her a supplement.) Mia had been trimmed the day before and she bore weight with her right fore leg less than her left foreleg, though she did not limp or nod, and she improved on the grass and in the deep sand of the riding ring. Bingo had popped a new wind puff on his left hind leg, and was not moving as well as usual.

So I decided that walking was the best thing I could do for my rides this week. One of my advantages as a handicapped rider is that I just do not care that much if I do not get out of the walk, therefore my riding teachers can trust me not to make their horses do things that make them hurt badly. Since I did not feel any flinching when a foot was put down and the horses were not “nodding”, I was content that I was not pushing the horses beyond what they felt capable of doing that day.

I also wanted to try my new “neck gaiter”, made of “technical fabric” (from the Columbia Sportswear Co., made of “Omni Freeze Zero” fabric.) This fabric is supposed to use the person's sweat to lower the temperature of the fabric, it also has UPF 50 sunscreen to protect against the ultra-violet sun rays. I can just wear it around my neck, I can stretch it so it covers my scalp, and I can also bring it up over my face. I am hoping that it will help keep me cooler in the heat when I am more active in the saddle. I also got one each for Shannon and Debbie in hopes that they will be cooler during the summer when I take lessons. Since I was riding early in the morning and just walking I did not get much of a sweat up to see if the fabric really got cooler, but I noticed that instead of running completely out of energy by the time 20 minutes were up I was able to ride my whole thirty minutes. Shannon loved hers, she sprayed it with fly repellent and she was not bothered by the gnats at all.

On Cider and Bingo the ladies found it useful when I did the turns on the forehand and the turns on the hindquarters, because then they could SEE which leg the horse was favoring. Since the horses were not working that hard, it was harder for the ladies to tell for sure which leg felt the worst to the horses from just seeing them walk around. Each horse did these turns in place much better in one direction than the other direction.

Otherwise I just worked on myself, doing several “rider's push-ups” each ride, stretches, I concentrated on keeping my lower legs stable and on keeping my shoulders back while keeping my right shoulder joint relaxed. I also rode in two-point a lot, anything to work my body while the horses could laze around the ring at a walk. When I was just riding them I did ask them for a more vigorous walk, the horses did not want to stride out fully so I stayed content if they moved out a little bit more vigorously. When I rode on contact I concentrated on keeping my right shoulder joint loose, aiming to get the tension out of both shoulder joints so that my arms could swing like a pendulum as I followed the horses' mouths. I was using my “old style” Wellep bit, the one that they can adjust their head to the most comfortable place, and the horses rewarded me with fewer “zings” and they reached out to my contact with relaxed mouths and jaws.

When Debbie groomed Bingo she pointed out that his new wind-puff on his left hind leg was bigger than it was last week. She took great care when she put on his BOT exercise boots, trying to give some support without causing even more problems. Bingo was loath to move, both before and after Debbie put on his exercise boots. Instead of trying to tow Debbie to the riding ring he peacefully plodded behind her. I used my BOT exercise sheet on him, figuring that he would appreciate it loosening up his loin and croup muscles before we had to take it off because of the heat.

I had to use a lot of leg on Bingo to get him to move out at all. Again I felt no flinching and he was not visibly limping, he just did not feel up to moving out at all. So I carried the Equicube for a few minutes, which Debbie really likes because it improves my back more than anything else we have tried. I did several “rider's push-ups” while Debbie kept an eagle eye on my lower legs, and I did my stretching exercises while Debbie kept track of my lower leg position. Debbie is really emphasizing my lower leg stability now, which the horses appreciate!

My new neck gaiter seems to have helped my some even though I did not sweat that much. Not as much sweat was running down into my eyes though I think that a terry cloth sweat band might help to keep all the sweat from running down into my eyes. I did not get as exhausted as I usually do in the first really humid week of the summer.

When Debbie took Bingo's hind exercise boots off, his new wind-puff was smaller, and he was willing to walk a little faster than a snail. While he was obviously glad that our ride was over he did not give me any “dirty looks” or seem to feel like he had been abused, something he is VERY willing to do if he thinks he has been treated unfairly.

I hope that the horses feel better next week!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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