What About Me?
I was holding Spicy and another horse for a friend for their respective chiropractor and acupuncture appointments. As Spicy stood there, lip drooping, I felt a little jealous of him. I don't begrudge him the attention, but I wondered why I didn't afford it to myself. Spicy and I are not competitive moguls, but everything from his nutrition and our training routine is carefully considered with the aid of professionals.
So I decided to do something radical - a trial run of treating myself as good as my horse. Equestrians are notoriously bad at taking care of themselves. Lately I've had a few too many limps out to the mounting block or scrapping a ride because my back hurt for my comfort. I asked myself: if I did half the shit I do for Spicy for myself, what would happen? Let's give it a shot. You know, for science.
|Working on my masters and waiting for Spicy's |
Auntie Kathy to stab him with needles.
The first thing I tackled was my own fitness and mobility, in the hopes of improving my biomechanics. I started up at a gym down the street that teaches at the house of The Artist Formerly Known as Crossfit. This ended up being a huge mindfuck for me, because my regular coach who I think has never been on a horse in his life has turned out to be one of the best riding instructors I've ever had. Keeping my core engaged and learning Olympic lifts helped my riding more than I predicted. Small corrections to my stance and form for seemingly unrelated moves like pull-ups and snatches translated directly into the saddle. The regular exercise didn't just help my riding but I suddenly had more energy and better concentration.
|Spicy working his core|
|Me working MY core...|
My next checklist item was to go back to the chiropractor. I've seen one on and off for years but if Spicy was seeing one, so was I. The chiropractor pointed out the same crookedness in my hips that came up in the gym and in the saddle. My hips were tilted in such a way that I put more weight in my right foot, which explains a lot of my difficulties getting Spicy more solidly in the outside aids going to the right. All my weight was encouraging him to empty the outside aids, so that's what he did. Turns out it wasn't his teeth/saddle/Mercury being in the wrong house after all...
The last endeavor was the most foreign to me: acupuncture. Luckily the practitioner I found was super patient with me and very positive. He didn't even laugh in my face when I told him I was there because my horse gets acupuncture so I deserve it too. When people are skeptical he said he uses that as an example - horses in the Kentucky Derby get acupuncture, and if it didn't work they would not waste their time and money on it. Horses don't have a placebo affect.
All I can say is... holy shit. If I had known that dozens of needles were all that stood between me and almost chronic back pain (like, seriously, my lower back has hurt pretty consistently since I was fifteen) I WOULD HAVE GONE YEARS AGO. After the very first session I noticed a difference in the way I sat and carried myself. My back no longer woke up up on my 'worst' nights. I didn't have spasms while I picked feet.
In addition to the pain relief, I learned a lot about my body, what muscles I struggle using properly, and how that affects my skeletal structure. I genuinely feel better than I have ever felt.
My riding life isn't just about Spicy; I want to be in the saddle until I'm a hundred. I don't want to be limited by my age. I want to gallop when I'm sixty and do an endurance ride where the age of my horse and me add up to over 100. Horses are a long haul love. I don't just want but need my body to be able to take me there.
I challenge you, dear reader, to take one thing you do for you horse and do it for yourself. For science. Even if it's small, like warming up before you swing a leg over or giving yourself a rest day if you don't feel great. You might be surprised what happens...