After several sweaty rides it cooled down this week. We had to go through 3 inches of rain first, but for my last two rides it was cool with a pleasant breeze, cool enough that Mia protested standing in the breeze since she is now in her summer coat.
It was on Mia that I triggered my hip bursitis the first time. After a nice ride walking around with no problems I decided it might be a good idea for me to practice gripping with my calves (NOT my heels) so I would be more secure in the saddle when I finally get strong enough to canter again. I did this several times because I noticed that my lower legs were not feeling as stable as usual because my heels were creeping up. So I practiced sinking my weight down into my double-offset stirrups so my ankle was “cocked”, my heels stayed down, and the gripping area of my calf was below the widest part of Mia’s barrel BEFORE I gripped with my calves. By the time I had figured this all out my right hip was giving me fits, and it always hurt more when I gripped with my calves. I was sort of hobbling when I got out of the saddle and it took a little while before the pain subsided. Mia DID NOT want to stand around in the very cool breeze so I did not get to rest very much while I experimented with this. Normally Mia is perfectly happy to just stand and look around for however many minutes it takes my to recover my strength, but not this week. So I schooled her on staying still until I gave her the aids to move on, something I haven’t had to do in years.
Noticing a cool breeze this morning I brought Cider’s exercise sheet out to Shannon’s farm today. Riding Cider I tried practicing gripping with my calves but immediately ran into a problem, the EZ-Fit saddle had no saddle flap to grip and Cider quickly told me that gripping her side in that saddle was a no-no. So I decided to work further on getting her to go around the perimeter of the round riding pen keeping an even contact with both reins, experimenting with my seat bones. When Cider tried to dive to the inside I moved my inside seat bone a little bit more forward as that hind leg pushed that seat bone forward, reinforcing it by alternating my inside seat bone with my inside lower leg. If she decided to look outside the ring I used my outside seat bone the same way. The third time I tried this Cider relaxed, moved forward into soft contact with the bit on both sides of her mouth and gently started “chewing” with her mouth. GOOD GIRL!!!!!
I did all of this several more times, concentrating on letting my hands keep a soft even contact with her mouth. Well Cider turned out to be picky about how I used my seat bones. As the inside hind leg pushes off, the rider’s seat bone on that side moves forward and UP a little bit. If I moved my seat bone UP too far I weighted my outside seat bone and the movement fell apart. This meant that I could move my seat bone only a little bit further forward, maybe a half inch or less. If I dug my inside seat bone into the saddle at all the movement degraded and impulse was lost. If my lower leg was too strong Cider got restive. When I got everything right Cider would voluntarily move into a soft contact that was even on both sides of her mouth and as long as I kept my hands passively following her head motions she kept that wonderful contact going around the ring at the fence and she did not try to dive in toward Shannon.
And boy, did all that work with my seat bones trigger the bursitis in my right hip! This meant I had to be super careful to keep an even weight on both seat bones in spite of the pain.
When I rode Mick on Wednesday Debbie told me about Mick’s massage last week. Mick REALLY liked his massage, his masseuse is his new best friend! After she massaged his whole body there were only two places where she could not work the soreness out, around both of Mick’s hip bones (not the hip joints.) Everywhere else was fine including the sacro-iliac joint. I had brought out my Back on Track exercise sheet and on hearing that I insisted that we put it on Mick even though it was sort of warm that day. The massage lady suggested that we use a “jelly brush” around the hip bones before working him so I did that as well as Ttouch circles down his back and around his hip bones. I have a feeling that this will take a long time to fix, at least until I can save up enough money to get Debbie a Back on Track mesh sheet, but that will not be soon since this year has been full of thousands of dollars of unexpected expenses. Until then I will have to content myself with what Mick willingly gives me and being content with hints of obedience for everything else. For instance, with backing up, I told Mick that I would be content with a quarter of a hoof back so long he did it with both diagonals. He did it, he got a really good neck and mane scratch, and we went onto something else. His trot was decent, but it just was not in Mick to elevate his forehand. After around 20 minutes of riding Debbie wanted me to canter him but I was too tired, so tired that I was afraid that I would not be able to keep my balance right and thus aggravate his hip bone area even more as I lurched in the saddle.
I so wish I could help Mick more. At least I have helped him some though obviously it is not enough to solve his pain problems. Ever since his owner got a “dressage” lesson from a teen-aged teacher it has been obvious that Mick has lost most of the improvement that I had gotten from him by riding in my Forward Seat. Back to square one, calm, straight, relaxed and even movement FORWARD.
Have a great ride!