I Triggered My Hip Bursitis

Last week, when I rode two horses using my regular Prussian Sided stirrups with the Super-Comfort stirrup pads, I triggered my hip bursitis. My hips used to bother me many years ago until I bought my Back on Track boxer shorts and started wearing them every day, and last week was the first time in YEARS that my hips hurt, specifically my left hip joint, especially when I gripped with my lower calf. When I rode Bingo with the regular stirrups I just got twinges, but when I rode Cider, who has well-sprung ribs, my hip started bothering me immediately. I tried to ease my hip by putting my weight on the base of my big toe but that did not help at all. My hip pain continued the next few days, so I put my double-offset Prussian sided stirrups back on my saddle.

This week, using the double-offset stirrups, I had no pain at all. It feels like, when I use my regular stirrups, when I grip with my lower calf and my toes turn in, that a chain of muscles and tendons on the outside of my leg comes under strain in the regular stirrups, all the way up over my hip joint where a tendon presses against my hip bursa, irritating it and causing pain. Since the double-offset stirrups elevate the outer part of my foot there is no strain on that chain of muscles and tendons when I grip with my lower calf when I ride in them.

Last week Debbie yelled at me to keep my heels down, this week my heels were fine all through my lesson. When I talked with Debbie she told me that last week my stirrups had looked uneven, but this week, with the double-offset stirrups my stirrup looked even again. I also felt much more secure in the saddle!

Bingo reacted to my increased security in the saddle favorably. One time when we were trotting around the ring Debbie wanted me to increase Bingo's impulse since my lower legs were not getting him to move out to her satisfaction. I started using my crop on my lower leg but I accidentally hit Bingo behind my lower leg, and he immediately accelerated and started using his hind legs to push off better than ever before. It felt like Bingo was starting to fly! All of a sudden I did not have to use leg, leg, leg to keep him moving out and he got out of his normal shuffle/jog into a true trot with suspension. Unfortunately for Bingo, the first time he accelerated suddenly I was not “with him” and he got a mild bump on his mouth, but I immediately moved my hands forward around ½”, relaxed my fingers, and Bingo ignored the bump on his mouth. It really helped that the Wellep bit immediately turns into an effective Mullen mouth when there is tension on both reins, which limits how much pain such a sudden jolt to the mouth can inflict upon the horse. I was really surprised that Bingo ignored the jolt on his mouth, usually he will take ANY excuse he can find to slow down at the trot! He also ignored a perfect excuse to invert his head and neck, another miracle. He cheerfully returned to reaching out for contact when I used my legs and kept good contact for the rest of the ride.

Other than a few reminders to get my shoulders back Debbie did not get after me about my position during my lesson this week. My lower legs did not go as far back as they did with the regular stirrups when I did the “rider's push-ups” though they still moved back some. Gripping with my lower calf is so different than gripping with my upper calf or my knees, for one it loosens my grip with my lower thighs and knees so much that they just have a light frictional grip on the saddle, and any knee grip I have seems to be toward the rear of my knee joint. Since my toes turn inwards at least I do not have to worry about giving the horse unplanned jabs with my spurs, and to give a leg aid I move my lower leg back a tiny bit so it comes against the widening part of the horse's barrel behind my lower legs instead of turning my toes out a little bit and pressing my lower leg against the horse's barrel. It took Bingo a few times to realize that I was still giving leg aids, but after a while he responded quite well.

On Friday I got to ride Mia, and I spent all my time in the saddle playing around with practicing my two-point while gripping with my lower calf, posting the trot while gripping with my lower calf, practicing my “rider's push-ups” and getting so tired that I had to rest frequently. I am finding it really exhausting to use new muscles when I ride, and when I finished my rides on both horses I was a lot more tired than I usually feel after a ride.

I apologize for spending so much time in my blogs discussing the little itty-bitty details about how I ride. I know it probably gets boring, but these little itty-bitty details MATTER as far as my security in the saddle is concerned. When I get my position right while the horse is moving the horse stays in front of my leg, when my position deteriorates the horses suck back and lose their impulse as my seat loosens in the saddle. When my position is right my center of gravity stays above the horse's center of gravity and I move WITH the horse instead of lagging behind and “telling” the horse it is all right to slow down and lose impulse. The horses are much more confident with my hands when I get it right, reaching out frankly to the bit instead of lying back just a little bit so that I do not feel the drive of the horse's hind leg into my hand. The horses pay more attention to my leg aids when my lower leg is stable, when my legs shifts around the horses feel free to ignore my leg aids unless I repeat them. All these little picky details improve my riding a lot, and the horses move much better under me!

Before my MS got so bad it did not matter so much that my position was bad, the horses still moved decently under me, with plenty of impulse, though they could have moved better. But when my MS crippled me, staying in a proper position became essential because when my position got loose the horses told me that I was IRRITATING them too, too much and they started treating me like a beginner, safe to ignore and not worthy of good movement. I feel so much more secure when I ride in a proper position, I feel much more bold when I ride in a proper position, and when my body moves in unison with the horse's motion I feel like I can fly.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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