I Discover a New Muscle in My Back

This was a good week, I got to ride all three horses!

It was so warm on Sunday Shannon did not even put the butt blanket or neck cover on Cider. The ring was a little squishy because of the snow and rain last week, so all I could do was walk. Cider gave me an indication that she wanted to trot (is it time yet?) but I could not indulge her. She dialed back her ambitions while we worked on turns in place, bigger turns, and keeping contact. I was so glad to be riding her again, it had been three or four weeks since I had seen her.

Wednesday I got my lesson with Debbie on Bingo. It was colder, so Bingo got all bundled up to his approval. When we got to the ring we started our usual search for the Equicube, luckily Debbie quickly found it sitting on a fence post near the gate. The first time I carried the Equicube I just walked, concentrating on keeping the Equicube off of Bingo's withers and keeping contact with his mouth. After about a minute my arm muscles started burning and I wanted to stop, but Debbie told me to go on for a little while longer, to increase the demand on my arm muscles so they get stronger. After about a minute (while Bingo dropped contact since I was so unsteady) I finally gave Debbie the Equicube with great relief to my arm muscles!

After ten minutes of resting my arms Bingo took exception to one of my requests and started backing up on his own. I sent him FORWARD, and then I asked Debbie for the Equicube again. This time I got ambitious, and I did a posting trot while carrying it, and I concentrated on opening and closing my elbows as I posted. This was the first time I posted the trot while carrying the Equicube, and Debbie REALLY liked how I straightened my back while posting! Bingo even reached out for contact, which was kind of him since I know my hands were not completely stable. I find keeping good contact while carrying the Equicube to be challenging, my forearms are carrying 4 lbs., and I find it hard to keep my hands up in the air. It also weighs down my hands as they move back and forth in contact, and I have to work so that the horse does not have an additional four pounds of weight on contact. You see, the horses I ride and I have a deal, they carry the weight of their head and neck themselves, while I carry the weight of my arms myself, neither of us “lean” on the other and we are both happy with the results.

It was only during my ride home that I “discovered” my new muscle, it hurt! Around two inches of a muscle above the top of my left shoulder blade off to the right of my spine started aching deeply. This muscle bothered me for over two days, during which I developed great sympathy for the aches that the horses get around their backs. This pain affected how I walked and how I moved, and it hurt all the time. I had NEVER felt this particular muscle before in my life! I have frequently “rediscovered” muscles in my thighs and my lower back after I had not ridden for a while, but for the first time in over 40 years of riding I discovered a new muscle. The Equicube is definitely affecting my back, and carrying it will make my back muscles stronger. Debbie told me that her other students had gotten pains in their backs, abdomens, and upper thighs, so I am not the only person getting stronger by carrying the Equicube. It does help strengthen core muscles. Hopefully in the months ahead carrying the Equicube will get my upper back strong enough so Debbie will stop yelling at me about my back during my lessons!

On Friday I got to groom and ride Mia. The blacksmith was working on a horse in the neighboring wash stall and Mia was not happy about it. I finally had to stand by her head on that side before she would consent to stand still while my husband brushed her. She was so glad when we led her to the ring away from the blacksmith! I carried the Equicube again, just at a walk, and Mia consented to reach out for contact while I carried it. Mia is my “proving” horse, all the times that I think I might be riding better I can ALWAYS count on Mia to tell me the truth about my riding. If Mia does not protest my actions I can rest easy that I am doing things properly.

I want to make a suggestion to my readers who board or ride at other people's stables. This is turning out to be a HARD winter, even in the South. The barns are having to feed more grain and more hay, the barn workers have to deal with blankets on all the horses, the horses spend more time in their stalls and they need more bedding, and the barn owners and stable managers are having to spend a lot more money on feed and labor (of course if you keep your horse/s at home you already know this!) I have personally started to give Debbie a hundred dollars every once in a while because nobody else rides Mia, and Debbie is keeping her in excellent flesh. I bet that your barn owner/manager will accept extra money gratefully because this winter is SO EXPENSIVE for horse keeping and lessons frequently need to be canceled! Further North it is much worse than down here in the sunny South, I hate to think about all the extra money I would have to spend to keep horses going in the land of cold and snows. Good stables are worthy of extra financial support when times get hard, and this winter is very, very hard on the pocketbooks of the people who keep horses. Who knows, if enough people give extra money during these hard times maybe barn owners/managers won't have to immediately raise boarding fees and lesson prices to make up for the lost of income and the extra expenses of this hard winter.

The weather forecasters are predicting more Arctic weather for the USA during February. I am dreading this because it will cut into my riding. A few days ago the weather forecasters were saying it would be 25° F on Wednesday morning and I knew I could get my lesson. But now the forecasters are predicting 20° F and I won't be able to ride. From what the forecasters are saying we may have a lot of extra cold weather throughout February, which means that stables can lose lesson income, the main source of profit for a lot of stables.

This is proving to be a HARD winter, help your stables survive financially!

Weather permitting, have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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Comment by B. G. Hearns on February 9, 2018 at 4:15pm

Hope your muscle recovers quickly. It's always interesting to do something to change one's posture and then discover muscles that were underworked, but are now thoroughly worked out.

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