I Wish I Still Had Some Energy   

In the past two weeks, I rode three times.  The weather down here is still going up and down, from the low 20’s F to almost 70 F, the horses are still shedding out early, and the ground never seems to totally dry out.  This winter is challenging for both horse and rider.

I have been on Gilenya for almost 4 months, and my muscles are still suffering from greater exhaustion.  Because of this, I am going backwards in my physical activity instead of getting stronger and being able to exercise more.  Part of my problems has been the cold; it is affecting me much more negatively this winter.  My muscles do not feel “warmed up” when I’ve been moving for several minutes, and each movement feels like my muscles are refusing to extend and contract unless I really concentrate on getting them moving.  I have been living in my Back on Track human products, and I really wish I could afford more of them since they seem to be the only thing helping me right now with the increased pain and exhaustion.  The pain does not come from me not warming up my muscles before I ride, with all the walking, grooming, and hoof rasping I do with Mia my muscles are nicely warmed up by the time I climb up on her back.  But it also happens when I ride Cider though Shannon does all of the work for me and I am just walking around the stable yard before I mount. 

Right now, I seem to have only a 20-minute window for effective riding.  A good part of this is spent in getting the horse warmed up enough to do more challenging work than just toddling around the ring.  After 20 minutes of walking, short trots, and practicing my two-point position, the muscles in my thighs start burning, and thereafter any muscular exertion like leg and seat aids just increase the burning sensation.  I can force myself to ride around five more minutes, then I get too tired to be an effective rider and my body starts “screaming” that it needs to STOP NOW!

Before I started Gilenya, I had read all these accounts of people improving physically, getting stronger and able to do challenging physical activity for longer periods of time.  I am getting quite discouraged here, I had thought I would improve but I am physically going backwards big time.  The horses are less willing to go onto and stay on contact, I have to use a lot more leg just to keep them moving, and by the time the horse reacts as I want her to I am way too tired to take advantage of the horse’s improvement.

Needless to say, I am not making much progress with the horses right now. 

When I rode Cider two weeks ago, she seemed to have regained some memory.  The first time I asked her to back up by just advancing my waist into relaxed hands on contact, she started shifting her weight back and forth a little.  That pleased me since on the previous ride she had not reacted at all.  The second time I asked her to back up she actually took a step or two back, and then I had to use my leg and hand aids to back up further.  She did not imitate a pretzel too much, and she was reasonably cooperative when I asked her to do something.  I was able to get a few straight steps before my thighs started screaming about the effort of giving my seat aids.  Still I had a pretty nice ride since it was not too cold.  But when I first tried to dismount my body would not cooperate and I had to ask Shannon to press my left knee in toward the saddle flap before I could get down, my thighs were just too tired to do it on their own.

Riding Mia was much easier on me; at least I was able to dismount from her without help.  This was because Mia does not imitate a pretzel at all, while she was not perfectly straight she walked and trotted straight enough so her walk and trot were pleasant to ride.  This meant I did not have to use my thighs as much when I rode her, which meant that they were still strong enough for me to get off on my own.  However, Mia was stiff because of the cold and I had to use my lower legs a lot just to keep her moving beyond a crawl.  During my lesson with Debbie I was not terribly active; I mostly walked though I did manage a few short trots.  Debbie’s biggest criticism was that Mia was inverting at the trot when I did it on contact.  We talked about it, and she agreed with me that Mia likes the Wellep bit over all the other bits for contact, in that Mia just inverts when she does not want full contact instead of slinging her head around violently.  Part of Mia’s problem is probably that her hock joints may be hurting more in the cold weather, and the other part of Mia’s problem is that I am getting tired quicker and that my hands are not as good as they used to be.  Springtime should help Mia’s hurting joints at least.

Yesterday I rode Mia again.  Since I was not talking with Debbie Mia got my full attention, or rather I paid attention to my hands and Mia’s reactions to them.  She convinced me that my hands were not steady enough to use my fingers much, and when I moved my reins up to the base of my fingers Mia’s contact improved greatly.  This meant I had to concentrate a lot more on moving my whole arm to keep good contact and avoid moving my hands up and down, a bad fault of mine when me fingers don’t give me proper feedback about my contact with the horse’s mouth.  I even got a few steps of the posting trot where she was not inverted.  However, as usual nowadays, after 20 minutes of riding my thighs started burning.  I made it five more minutes, and I decided I would go after my goal of 30 minutes of riding.  Two minutes later my thighs were burning so much I gave up, my only comfort was the fact that, after resting a minute, I did not need any help getting down.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran 


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