Finally Some Progress

The same old, the same old, how many times can I write an interesting blog when nothing changes? That is why I have been absent, nothing much new happened.

MJ got a bad case of thrush under his full pad for his navicular disease, so now he is just in regular shoes still according to the alignment of his lower legs that the X-ray showed. Now he is getting his front feet cleaned most days and a good bit of anti-thrush medicine applied. He has not been lame under me, yeah, and I am left wondering if having his lower legs made to look properly “straight” had caused such imbalances in his front feet as to CAUSE his navicular problems or at least made them worse.

A few weeks ago I ran into mention of the Q30 collar that helps prevent the brain from sloshing around in the skull and slamming into the skull. The Q30 site— wrote about the little hits the brain makes against the skull from strong motions. When I read that my immediate thought was “could this be the answer to my problems with the sitting trot?”

I learned to sit the trot over 50 years ago. I am quite good at keeping my seat bones in the saddle and not going bam, bam, BAM on the horse's back. However the past few years I have been avoiding the sitting trot because I was worried about the jolts ending up shaking my brain around in my skull and causing damage, more damage than I already have from my MS and previous concussions. To spare my brain I have been limiting my sitting trot or relatively smooth horses to two strides and on MJ, with his jackhammer on concrete slow trot, to one stride. As a Forward Seat rider the sitting trot is not that important and I have no objection to posting every stride, even so it is pleasant to be able to sink into the saddle and sit the slow trot on a horse with a relaxed back.

MJ is at a point where if I can get his back to relax at the slow trot it would make a whole lot of things easier. When his back is harder than concrete he cannot use his back as effectively as when it is relaxed to carry me and perform under me. I don't blame MJ for this, he is 28 years old, he was used as a lesson horse 8 hours a day for years teaching people how to ride, and of course MJ is going to protect his back. As a more advanced rider it is my job to get him to realize that it is SAFE to relax his back when I ride him at a slow sitting trot. To do so I must sit the trot some, but all the months I've ridden MJ my brain starts “screaming” no, No, NO!!!!! whenever I try. At most I can do two steps.

Until Wednesday this week.

I bought the Q30 collar, after measuring my neck 6 times. When it came late in the afternoon I ripped open the package and tried it on. It was too small, both ends could not reach the little sizing doodad and I felt like I was being strangled. I called the Q30 people in desperation but it was so late in the day I did not get an answer immediately.

The next morning I tried it again, and the collar fit perfectly. The Q30 people called me back and I got to talk to someone who knew something, and she said from my description of how the collar fit that morning I should be good to go. I never realized that my neck could get an inch bigger around during the day, but it did.

Wednesday morning I put my Q30 collar on right before I mounted. I was curious if it would help my vertigo from leaning back, so I leaned back as far as I could in the saddle and for the first time in decades I did not get dizzy! Since one of the ways to sit a very jolting trot is to lean way back in the saddle this was good, I did not plan to lean back but at least it is now a valid alternative way of dealing with MJ's harsh sitting trot.

We warmed up at a walk as some of Debbie's students for her next lesson came into the ring to warm up. Then I asked MJ for a slow trot and he gave me his signature jackhammer on concrete slow trot. I had no problems sitting it (as in I did not end up banging on his back) and I sat his trot around ¼ of the way around the ring before I asked him to walk. THIS WAS THE FURTHEST I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SIT THE TROT IN MANY YEARS. At no point did my brain tell me NO! Then Debbie asked me to do it in the other direction and again I had no problems. I think I did four sessions of the sitting trot.

Every session started off as the jackhammer on concrete. Occasionally he would soften his back for a stride and then it was back to the jackhammer. Debbie got after me for my sitting trot, not surprising since I had not done it for so many years, my hands did not yield enough (she said it sort of looked like I was using the reins to stay in the saddle, and I hung my head in shame), that I was slouching and rounding my back and looking down. MJ had not overtly objected to my contact but Debbie could see that I was limiting MJ's freedom of movement, this is why I need a riding teacher to check me out!

The only part of my body that started “yelling” at me was my back, and this might be because I tried to lean all the way back at the beginning, it was happened before. Other than that his trot on Wednesday was not impossible for me to sit even though it was jarring and his back felt like a bar of concrete.

The Q30 collar worked for me! I am able to sit the trot for more than 2 strides again! I will be able to work on relaxing MJ's back and coaxing him to be a better horse for riding. PROGRESS!

And now that I can progress with my riding again, real life has interfered. Shannon had to have gall bladder surgery over a week ago and she is still in the hospital so I won't be able to ride on Sunday until she gets better. Then Debbie called me on Thursday to give me the news that she came down with Covid-19 again, so I won't be able to get a lesson for at least another week. Luckily I have been wearing a mask at the stable—until the heat just gets too much for me. I move my mask down off my face when I am in the saddle, and when I go back into the barn I put it back up if there are several people in the barn. I am the only one at my stable that wears a mask now. I think that Debbie is now glad that I have been stubborn about wearing a mask because without one I would have been at much greater risk of catching her case of Covid.

So far I seem to be fine. I hope I get to ride again in two weeks, at least I have my next lesson scheduled for then.

I had NO physical problems from doing the sitting trot. My brain seems fine, my neck is fine, my butt is fine, even my gripping muscles never hurt. After using my BOT back brace my back is fine too.

I recommend the Q30 collar for riding, it seems well worth the money I spent on it. Along with my Trauma-Void MIPS helmet my head will be better protected than ever while riding. Along with the Q30 collar I was wearing my helmet and my ice vest and it did not interfere with either of them. After the first few minutes I just forgot I had the collar on, it did not distract me at all. Yes, it is sort of expensive ($200.00 USD) but I have found nothing else that stops the brain from sloshing around inside the skull. The only time I notice it is if I look down too much, good, it reminds me to keep my head UP.

And right now it seems cheap since I CAN DO A SITTING TROT AGAIN without causing further harm to my brain.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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