Sitting Up Straight Takes a Lot of Effort
Ever since I started using the Equicube for one to four minutes a week, I have been tired. The rest of the time, I try to replicate the spinal alignment I get from using the Equicube, both on horseback and just walking around on my own two feet. I have to retrain my body how to stand, sit on horseback, move with the horse, and how to walk on my own feet while keeping my spine straighter and my face vertical. I get some muscle aches too, in my arms, lower back, buttocks, the front of my thighs, and the tendons of my lower legs and feet spasm more frequently. I had not idea that carrying 4.2 lbs. for a few minutes would affect me so much!
Moreover, it feels WEIRD not to be slouching both in and out of the saddle. If I do not remember to keep my face vertical, I feel like I will fall backwards. To keep erect I have to rhythmically push out my gut at the level of my solar plexus while keeping my fingers soft. I feel like I am leading all my movements with my gut. The horses rapidly learn to perceive me pushing my waist forward as a light “driving” aid, and if I do not keep my fingers relaxed the horses obediently slow down or halt. This can occur even if my reins are sagging slightly. To test this I tried backing up with slightly sagging reins, and after I advanced my waist and kept my fingers sort of tight Bingo started to back up.
I should have learned belly dancing, I bet if I had I would not be getting as tired right now!
During my lesson on Thursday, after warming Bingo up some, I asked Debbie to hand me the Equicube. It took me a while as he moved off to get my reins right, short enough for light contact but long enough so he could back off the bit some if my hands got too rough for him (this is particularly important with the super thin mouthpiece of the Pee Wee bit.) When I started Bingo was willing to move forward into contact, but after half a minute, as my arms became tired and I could not keep the Equicube in its proper place above his withers, he did not complain but he did lift his head a little bit so there was more slack in the rein. The first time, after some big turns, I made it ¾ of the way around the ring before my arm muscles started hurting too much, then I gave the Equicube back to Debbie. After resting my arms for ten minutes I tried using the Equicube again, and this time I only made it half way around the ring.
The rest of the time during my lesson I trotted and/or practiced my two-point position, trying to keep my gut and spine engaged like they were when I used the Equicube. When our ride ended I was TIRED, and I stayed tired the rest of the day.
On Friday I rode Mia with the Equicube some, after apologizing to Mia for putting 4.2 more pounds on her back. First I warmed Mia and myself up, and when I felt ready I asked my husband to hand me the Equicube. I did not try to establish contact with Mia as I have full faith that when Mia feels safe enough she will establish contact of her own free will. I still had trouble keeping the Equicube stable over her withers and I had trouble keeping the top of the Equicube level, so I did not blame Mia at all for not wanting contact with my hands! After I gave the Equicube back to my husband we did out usual three speeds of the walk, backing up, turns on the hindquarters and forehand, and some light trotting. At least Mia did not get upset with me the two times I used the Equicube during our ride, something I had been worried about since this 31-year-old mare is so OPINIONATED about her riders.
It will probably take me months to get strong enough to use the Equicube for more than a minute or two each ride. While it is irritating that it will take me so long to get the full effect of using the Equicube, my back muscles, gut muscles, arm muscles, buttock muscles and the muscles on the front of my thighs are getting enough of a workout that they are sore the next day. I originally bought the Equicube in the hopes that using it would strengthen my back, now I see that it is going to strengthen a lot more of my body than I originally thought it would. First I have to conquer carrying it at the walk, then I will work on carrying it when I do two-point at the walk. When I learn to do that correctly I will start using it at the trot. Maybe I will get strong enough to do this by the end of this year. I think using the Equicube will help a great deal in helping me regain the physical strength I lost from my last two MS exacerbations.
Have a great ride!