I finally got my RS-tor last week, and I did not waste any time putting it on my saddle. The name of this wonderful piece of gear is pronounced “arrestor.”
Due to the effects of my Multiple Sclerosis I have lost the confidence I used to have decades ago about my ability to stay in the saddle. Faulty balance, weak and quickly tiring muscles, lack of coordination, my slower reaction times and my rather vivid imagination all work together to completely undermine my confidence in my ability to stay on the horse if ANYTHING out of the ordinary happens. I am an experienced rider (over 40 years) so I know how easy it is for even a physically capable rider to fall off their horse, and in the past I had fallen off many times. I can’t forget the feeling that I had when the horse suddenly disappeared from under my seat, going limp, and then the big bang as I hit the ground. When I was younger I could bounce right back up, but now I am older and frailer and I am afraid I will break. I suspect that even if I did not have MS I would still have problems with my fear of falling, what the MS does is change a “what if I fall” thought pattern into an “I am certain I am going to fall” mind set if anything goes wrong.
In the past six years of lessons with Debbie my seat and security have gotten a lot better but not good enough to overcome all of my neurological problems from the MS. During this time there have been three times when I barely was able to stay on the horse (two bolts, and one double barreled kick on an 18.2 hand ½ draft horse.) In order to deal with my fear of falling I took great comfort that Debbie’s ring is footed with deep sand and that Shannon’s ring is grass therefore if I fell it would not hurt as much when I hit the ground. The problem with that is that I became a captive of the riding ring, never really daring to go out where the ground might not be so forgiving. And even in the ring I have to deal with fear every time my horse acts up or, when I ride with others when their horse acts up. My overactive imagination wakes up and delivers up several horrible scenarios of how this time I will fall off. And the horses KNOW I am not fully confident in the saddle when something happens. Luckily for me the horses seem to understand that there are times in which I am truly helpless and they make allowances until I get myself back together, allowances like making sure their shies are not too abrupt or quick moving. To be brutally honest about my ability to stay in the saddle I am completely dependent on my horse’s good will, if the horse truly wanted me off the horse would not have to work very hard at it.
When I first read about the RS-tor a few weeks ago I became excited, and my first thought was “now I can get out on the trail!” The last three times I got out of the ring I felt so insecure because my seat is so weak, but now somebody invented something that could help me! Hope entered my life, the hope of getting out of the ring, getting out on the trail, seeing something else besides the arena fence.
On Wednesday I got my lesson on Mick and I got to try it out. The main thing I liked about the RS-tor is that when I held it there was enough length to the hand strap so that I could keep my normal contact with the horse’s mouth and there was plenty of room for my hands to move with the horse‘s mouth. This is much superior to trying to hold onto a grab strap which completely immobilizes the hand. With the Medium/Long RS-tor the hand strap/strong elastic extend 14 inches from the center ring. The main limitations I found was that it limited my reach forward to the same 14”, around a third of the way up the horse’s neck. I could get several more inches of reach if I lengthen the straps that go around the stirrup bars. When I wanted to hold my hands any higher or more forward I had to drop the RS-tor temporarily. If I were jumping I would lengthen the RS-tor as far as I could, but I still would have to be prepared to let my reins slip through my fingers if the horse needed more head room.
On Friday Mia and I got out on the trail, with me holding the RS-tor in my hand, with the RS-tor strap against the palm of my hand, gripping the end of the strap right under the rubber stop firmly between my thumb and first finger, making sure to relax the rest of my hand and fingers. My son kindly walked in front so Mia would have something to follow. I mounted outside the ring, and as we went down to the gate for the trail Mia perked up, this was something different! It was amazing how much difference holding the RS-tor made in my confidence level. Though Mia had grazed the way down to the trail every day, since I was riding her everything looked different to her and she was a little bit more antsy than usual. We had to go down a grass alley (with a tree in the middle) between two pens with cattle in them. Mia was not too sure about the cattle, then we had to go around the tree and through the gate into territory that Mia had never walked. She calmly walked over the trunk of a small downed tree and she started looking around, head up, eyes bright, ears pricked and blowing lightly. I checked to make sure I was holding the RS-tor firmly in my hand, pushed my heels down and I told Mia to walk down the trail. In the paddock next to the trail several cows came up to the fence to watch us pass, Mia was not too sure about that at first but she quickly decided that they were just cows, nothing to worry about. Every few minutes or so I would stop Mia and point out something new, a house she had never seen before, a new pasture, a different view of the pond, and more cows. Usually Mia likes to take a loooong look at new things, but on Friday she was content with brief looks, then she wanted to continue down the trail, and a few times I had to make her stay stopped for a moment just to remind her that I was still in control. Mia WANTED to go on down the trail. The only time she was content to stay stopped was when she heard a horse neighing from a neighbor’s land, then her whole attention was riveted and I had to tell her to move on. On the trail Mia behaved quite well.
I noticed one very important thing--my fingers stayed relaxed. I rode mostly on light contact but every once in a while Mia would raise her head while still walking, loosening my contact to sagging reins, and then when she had seen enough she would reach out calmly to my hand and reestablish contact all on her own. I did not have to use my legs to “drive her into the bit”. I think this is the main reason Mia went so well, with my relaxed fingers she had no fear of my hand or the bit, and since I felt more secure I did not feel the need to reestablish contact before she was ready for it. Mia tends to get restive with strong, restrictive contact, and she always tells me of her displeasure by slinging her head around. The only time on the trail that she showed any displeasure with my hands was when I would not let her decide when to start walking again, and then she protested only for a moment. The rest of the time she was happy with my hands and my contact.
After fifteen minutes I decided to go to the ring. When we got to the gate it quickly became obvious that Mia assumed that our ride was over. Mia definitely did NOT want to go into the ring. She went around in a slow twirl, balked when I told her to go through the gate, and told me in no uncertain terms that we should head for the barn and not go into the ring. For a minute I was afraid that I would have to ask my son to lead her through the gate into the ring but Mia finally obeyed me and reluctantly went through the gate. I spent most of the rest of my ride just walking around the ring, nothing too exacting since I did not want her to think that she would be worked hard every time she goes into the ring (not that I ever work her hard physically but I am sort of demanding mentally.) We ended our ride pleasantly.
During my ride my seat still felt distressingly weak, and the saddle felt like it was super slippery between my legs. In spite of this I felt pretty secure and safe, and my mind did not throw up its old horror films. Every time Mia startled I felt the RS-tor secure in my left hand, and I relaxed and my seat sank down into the saddle. Even when Mia was throwing her mini temper tantrum at the ring gate I did not feel scared like I normally would have. I did not get ANY sore muscles from my ride, all the other times I was out of the ring I was gripping the saddle so hard with my lower thighs, knees, and upper calves that my gripping muscles were sore for days after my ride. The RS-tor gave me enough extra security that I was able to RELAX and enjoy my ride!
I got my mojo back! And now, instead of being terrified about going out on a trail ride I am wishing that Debbie had more trails I could ride on.
I am definitely planning on getting more RS-tors, I want to put one on each of my six saddles. It will take me a while to save up the money but after my wonderful mini trail ride I never want to ride without one again. All I wanted was to feel like I had a chance to stay in the saddle when the horse acted up, and now because of the RS-tor I feel like I have a good chance of staying in the saddle when that happens.
The web site for the RS-tor is
Have a great ride!