I Finally Rode for Thirty Minutes Again       

Last Sunday I rode Cider, barely made it to 25 minutes, and I got even more discouraged about the present state of my body.  Cider did great, when she started twisting herself up she readily obeyed my aids and straightened out, she kept contact fine, and she started backing up from me just advancing my waist.  By the time I hit my endurance limit at 20 minutes, my back and thighs were hurting so much I got horribly depressed, and decided to hit the web to try to find something, anything I could take from the alternative medical schools that might help me.

I found the herb Ashwagandha (the name means the smell of a horse), an herb from the Indian Ayurvedic medical tradition.  I had read about the herb decades ago when I originally researched herbs to help with my MS, but it was expensive and not readily available back then and I decided to not use it unless I had completely run out of other options.  Now this herb is readily available so my husband got me a bottle and I tried it (no, the herb in the bottle does not smell like a horse, I checked!) 

I took my first pill on Wednesday.  Thursday morning I woke up, got out of bed, and then noticed that my neck did not hurt!  My neck has been bothering me for over thirty years, ever since a drunk driver plowed head on into my car.  The pain from my neck became a lot worse when I started the Gilenya, so bad that I was wearing my neck brace constantly instead of occasionally.  So on Thursday I tested it, the main triggers for my neck pain have been riding around in a car and playing games on the computer, so I rode around in the car for several hours and played a good bit of Solitaire, Free Cell and Mahjong on the computer that night.  A major storm also came through Thursday, another thing that tends to increase my neck pain.  On Friday, I woke up again to no neck pain.  That made me very happy; maybe this herb will help me counteract the painful and exhausting side effects of Gilenya.

I was not able to get a lesson on Wednesday from Debbie since the ring was so wet and sloppy.  I was looking forward to having a lesson on Friday but Debbie called to say that the barn was short-handed so she did not have enough time to give me a lesson.  Of course she did not mind me coming out to take care of Mia and ride around in the ring.  Mia seemed to have strained something during the storm; she was kicking out worse than usual with her left hind leg when my husband cleaned out her hooves.  Debbie noticed, took over the hoof cleaning and really got after Mia for kicking.  It did not make any difference, when I got to Mia’s left hind she made it clear that holding up her left hind was just too painful to bear though she had no problem with putting weight on that leg.  I checked with my husband, he said he saw no problems when he cleaned the hind hooves, so I decided it was just not worth it to rasp the toes down on her hind hooves.  After all, her hooves barely grow at all in the cold weather so it was not going to hurt her to miss a week of rasping.  She was walking sound and I did not notice any irregular hoof beats when she walked on the concrete, so the pain seemed to be limited to holding her hoof up high enough for cleaning and rasping.

When I rode her I concentrated on gradually asking her to extend her walk a little bit beyond her ideal speed at a walk, shuffling around the ring.  She responded to my aids and I did not notice any flinching so I asked for a few short trots and she trotted off with some urging on my part, again without any flinching or limping.  Debbie kept checking on us while I rode, I think she was worried that Mia would be mean to me, but the only thing that Mia did that was out of the usual was that she shook herself all over once.  Mia backed up readily, and she even gave me a halfway decent turn on the forehand at the walk, the only thing that was not as good as usual was the turn on the hindquarters.  Since I could not work Mia hard I worked myself hard, I did plenty of two-point at the walk and trot, I used my seat more than usual to direct her, and I kept myself going past the time my muscles started to get tired.  I wanted to see if the new herb would help me ride, after all, so I did everything that had triggered my back and thigh pain during the last four months.  My pain level was A LOT lower, and I decided to see if I could get past my previous 20-minute limit of riding effectively.  Twenty minutes came, the pain was minor and I was not exhausted.  Twenty-five minutes came and while I was a little bit more tired, the pain in my muscles did not get any worse.  I made it the full thirty minutes of my ride, something I had not been able to do for months!

Mia also took contact at the walk a lot better than she has during the last four months.  She inverted at the trot but she was more willing to reach out for the bit when I used my legs and gave with my hands.  Since Mia is always so willing to curse me out thoroughly when my hands do not work correctly this was very encouraging for me. 

I do not know if this herb will continue to help me, but at this point I will take any encouraging signs and run with them.

Just think, I finally got to ride thirty minutes again.  If this keeps up I can become an effective rider again instead of a lump on the horse’s back.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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Comment by Darla McKean on March 4, 2016 at 5:55pm

I have the biggest smile on my face and warmth in my heart :)

Comment by Jackie Cochran on March 4, 2016 at 5:50pm

Thank you Darla.

Today I rode for 30 minutes again, the fourth time in a row!

Comment by Darla McKean on March 4, 2016 at 5:47pm

This is wonderful news! I can only imagine how happy you are :)

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