I seem to be slowly recovering from my latest MS exacerbation.  I’m still walking though some days are better than others as far as my mobility is concerned.  I do know that I am a lot better than I would be if I had not gotten to ride Mia this week.  My exhaustion is slowly abating but doing anything gets me tired quickly.

I did not get to ride at all the week of the big freeze, either the mornings were COLD (the worst one at 6° F on a day with a high of 25° F) or raining.  At least we did not get any snow! 

When I got to the barn on Wednesday Debbie asked me if I wanted to ride Mick or Mia.  Since I wanted Debbie to tell me if I was succeeding at all in getting Mia to do a shoulder-in I grabbed the chance to get a lesson on her.  It was above freezing and I completely forgot about putting the exercise sheets on Mia so she was not completely happy going into the lesson. 

My exacerbation is most definitely affecting my riding.  Mia is getting irritated with me each time I mount and it takes her a few more steps than usual for her to feel back in balance.  I haven’t been able to do much riding on contact, Mia bears with it for about 10 strides before she shows her displeasure (some minor head slinging.)  Even though my hand tremor is better it is obviously too much for Mia’s comfort.  At least Mia still seems to enjoy her new bit (the JP full cheek with a copper ball), and somehow she has been able to tell me that while my contact is not up to her standards she REALLY likes the bit.  Every once in a while I feel or see her rolling the copper ball with her tongue.  I do not have enough energy to post the trot for more than a stride or two and every time I try to post Mia quickly tells me that I am too unsteady.  So all I’ve done is walk with a few brief sitting trots thrown in.  This exacerbation is also affecting my ability to trim Mia’s hooves, most of the past two weeks either I’ve been too tired or too unsteady on my feet.

One thing I’ve noticed with this bit is that when Mia rolls the copper ball with her tongue her whole body relaxes.  Her suppleness has increased all over her body.  This made it a lot easier on me when I showed Debbie my shoulder-in, even though I am not as coordinated as usual I was able to get a few steps of a shoulder-in each way.  And Debbie said I was getting a shoulder-in, it wasn‘t my imagination!  This makes me happy especially since I’ve had to stay out of Mia’s mouth whenever I try this exercise, even a light indirect rein in front of the withers irritates her.  When I backed Mia up Debbie was pleased, she backed up with a light mouth and more or less straight, MUCH better than the last time Debbie saw me back up on her.

When it got to the point in the lesson that Mia needed to trot some it was interesting, as long as I stayed sitting Mia gave me a nice gentle sitting trot with a nice relaxed and “swinging” back.  The minute I started posting Mia immediately went down to a walk.  The next time I tried posting I made good and sure that my reins were sagging enough so I was not accidentally giving halt aids with my hands and Mia slammed on the brakes again.  As long as I was sitting the trot Mia was willing to stay in the trot, but whenever I tried to post I was obviously irritating her immediately.

The great thing was though I was much more tired after my lesson my walking was MUCH better, I could walk faster, I did not have to LEAN on my canes and my balance had also improved.

Friday it was colder and there was some wind.  I finally felt good enough to trim Mia’s hooves (for the first time in over two weeks) though I had to lean on the wall and rest a few times.  It was cold enough so I remembered to put the exercise sheets on Mia which pleased her greatly.  I was really tired by the time we got out to the ring and  Mia objected a little more strongly to my clumsy mounting.  Maybe it was the wind getting Mia wired up, she just was not as cooperative as she had been on Wednesday.  Even so Mia let me keep contact several times for around 10 strides, and when I backed her she finally gave me two full strides of backing up on a straight line, a first!  I asked her for a shoulder-in a few times in each direction, each time for just a few strides before I asked her to go straight again.  Otherwise we just walked around, did turns on the hind-quarters and on the fore-hand, while I concentrated on staying centered in the saddle and not irritating this wonderful mare.

Again I walked better after riding, but between trimming Mia’s hooves and riding I got very tired yesterday, too tired to write my blog or do anything else.

And it is supposed to get cold again next week, down to 19° F on Wednesday, way to cold to get a lesson or ride.  At least this cold won’t be a Polar vortex and it will be over 10° F warmer than the coldest point of last week.  It looks like next Friday will be too cold to ride also.  Maybe I will get to ride tomorrow, Debbie said that if I could not ride at Shannon‘s I could come out and ride Mia.  I NEED to ride to keep my mobility through this exacerbation and I just wish the weather would cooperate more!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran    


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Comment by Jackie Cochran on January 26, 2014 at 6:17pm

Yes, we also suffer from the Polar vortexes.  This has been a brutal winter.

I got to ride just once this week and it does not look like I will get to ride next week either.  I'm not too bad off, this weekend I was able to walk (well, creep) on ice and snow.

I miss my riding!   

Comment by AllisonM on January 24, 2014 at 3:49pm

Finally! I have found someone else with MS who finds riding essential to her well-being. I also walk better after riding, and enjoy the endorphins for many hours. For me, it's left sided weakness in both leg and arm. I haven't been able to do rising trot for almost a year - and my left arm bounces up and down at the trot.  If i try to control it, my whole upper body stiffens, and that is just counter-productive.  I now have a strap between the D-rings on the front of the saddle and I hold onto that and ride with my right hand only.  I find the deep seat of my dressage saddle gives me good support for any balance issues. I also had a mounting block built for me that is high enough (36") so I don't have to use stirrups to get on - just grab mane and swing my leg over. My blessed mare, Maisie, is a saint. She is learning along with me how to ride with my changing abilities. I love how Mia gives you feedback about your riding - Maisie does the same, and she can be quite opinionated! For the most part, she takes good care of me and I don't know how I would manage without her.  I also have a fantastic coach who is able to bring some sort of accomplishment out of Maisie and me each and every time, and have fun doing it. 

Unfortunately, here in Ontario, we have had two Polar Vortexes, punctuated by rain/snow/ice storms. Either it's too frigging cold to ride, or the footing leaves me petrified to take a step out of doors. I am managing one or two rides a week.  Even Maisie gets grumpy with less turnout than she is used to. As you said, I NEED to ride to keep my mobility, and just as important, my sanity and a positive outlook. Honestly, even with the MS, I feel so lucky to have Maisie, and to ride.  Makes everything bearable.

Have a great ride!

Allison Morgan, and Maisie, Kingston, Ontario 

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