Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get Bent

Before I get started, does anybody know how to combine my Networked Blogs with the Google Followers? It's driving me a little crazy....

Back to Horseville...A few posts ago I was writing about holes. Finding holes in my training or my riding and being able to fix them in order to correct a myriad of mistakes.

What happens if the holes turn into a a giant black swamp thing that swallows you and your horse whole and threatens everything you've ever learned and believed in?

I don't know either. Because I truly believe you can fix just about anything if you can find where the problem starts and deconstruct the mechanics that put it in place.

What do you do if your problem comes back to a core issue that can't be fixed? Like a sluggish back leg that links back to a stifle area, or a stiff poll that is caused by damaged vertebrae.

How about when it's the rider with the permanent issue?

I discussed briefly finding out I was crooked. There were some good tips on straightening up, but the truth is they were a little depressing, because my "hole" is not only permanent, it's progressive. Once I found out what was going on I confirmed the situation with my doctor and then went to fretting about it.

Once I got over the fretting I began to think things through. My physical changes haven't taken away my experience or knowledge. I still have plenty to work with. I still have the feel I've spent so many years developing. It was my feel that made me realize I was in my horse's way and start to track down the issue.

So what do I do about it?

I approach the problem as I would any horse challenge, break it down to the basics and build back up.

I remember that horses are among the kindest and most forgiving animals out there. If I can clearly communicate my needs, a good horse will try to accommodate me.

Horses are much better at accepting new approaches in their relationships with the people who ride them than the riders are.

I have two primary problems. My seat bones no longer distribute my weight evenly in the saddle and my right shoulder is curled forward and down.

These are the issues I have to accept.

The first thing I have done is to begin an exercise program to slow down my crookedness. Walking and yoga seem to be the best for my particular issues. I walk up and down an extremely steep bluff by my house. It has really helped my strength and balance.

The yoga hasn't begun yet. But I think it will help with my straightness.

The next thing I've done is work on ways to clearly communicate with my horses in spite of the problems I'm creating for them.

I have started back at the walk and worked my way though their gaits, turning, stopping and circling while really reaching for the feel of my horse and how she is responding to me.

I have found if I sit lighter in my seat so I'm not communicating as much with my seat bones and use a clear and exaggerated, leg on, leg off cue I'm getting much closer to solving some of my problems. I also am creating pre-cues for both me and my horses that get us ready for my next weight change, or the change in my hip alignment when I pull my shoulder out of the way.

This is a highly personal approach. It can't be taught, it has to be figured out through careful thought and experimentation. I think anyone can do it though.

It takes an honest evaluation of yourself, an understanding how your "holes" are affecting your horse and working out an alternative.

My last thought is this. My horses can jolly well suck it up and figure out what I need, in spite of me.I feed them, vet them, care for their feet and emotional well being. If I need the Primadonna to take a fence turn with me floating out to the right, as long as I've set her up to be able to complete the task at hand, she'd better do it. Dang it.

The young woman in the video is a Para-Olympic competitor. If that kind of riding can't shut me up and put me to work, nothing can.

If I feel myself fading into a big fat pity party, I can remember a few things. I want to ride no matter what. Teaching myself and my horses to get along in the world in spite of ourselves is nothing more than a training challenge. And you know how I love those holes.

So lets give ourselves a break. If we can'tbe perfectly straight, if we can't get the feel we think we should have, then find a new way. It might turn out to be a better one.


paint_horse_milo said...

Im in a similar boat as you are right now...I have crookedness in my body that has been discovered and I have seen how it is effecting my horse. For me, at least what I know of right now, is that one hip is lower than the other - it is hard for me to sit evenly with my body wanting to sit heavier on the right side. It has been (and is) a hard road to figure out how to change this, and I must admit many rides I feel frustrated and upset with my horse for not just "getting over it". But then I always reflect later on where my frsutrations truly lie: with myself. Im frustrated because I know of an issue but I cant seem to just magically make it disappear, no matter how much I think about it and work to improve it. Some days are just harder then others. And I have to remember as well that my horse has imperfections as well, and that is why our riding is always changing. It just is hard sometimes to see that after a less then perfect ride. But I hear ya, and I know where you are at. I hope we can both find the right path for ourselves (and horses) and try and find a way to work through the crookedness.

cdncowgirl said...

This is SO relatable for me! I've been 'crooked' for years. At first it was obvious with the difficulty I had getting a good lead departure. I figured it couldn't be a fault in every darn horse I rode ;)

Anonymous said...

Yoga will help. I am an overweight rider ( there are way bigger tho) and recently started a pole dancing fitness. A lot of the warm up is yoga and it improved my balance and posture the first day.

Good luck. I think anything can accommodate if given the chance and re taught properly. I can picture my mare eye rolling and getting annoyed at something I ask, til she figures it out and gets exasperated as f to say " why didn't you say so in the 1st place?"

redhorse said...

Oh wow, I think we need to start a mind meld thread on this. I also relate to this on many levels.

I really agree with you that horses can be the most forgiving animals if you can communicate your needs. I really need to remember that when I'm riding and facing the big hole.

The second point you made that I really really need to remember is that carrying my butt around is my horse's only job. Dang it, he can do it, I do everything else.

I had a couple of accidents (not horse related) about three years ago. I had two broken bones, some torn muscles and damaged nerves, and they discovered I also had scoliosis and arthritis. After my bones mended I found I was crooked, my shoulder was frozen and I was afraid to ride my horse. I still haven't figured out how to work through all my holes, I just know I can't ride the way I used to.

redhorse said...

I forgot the third thing, I absolutely want to keep riding no matter what.

I knew a horsai woman who died of melanoma, it went into her liver. She only lived about six months after she found the cancer. She had been one of the top amateur owner H/J riders in the country. During the last few weeks of her life I rode with her, she borrowed a friend's little 14 hand horse, and just walked around and sometimes sat on the horse in the middle of the arena. She was so kind and helpful, and we were so far beneath her in skills. I rode with her about a week before she died. Whenever I pity myself too much, I think of her.

Heidi the Hick said...


I'm crooked. Imagine how hard it was for me to figure out that my had a little spinal issue... Luckily his can be treated with a few chiropractic treatments. I'm a little too far gone, sadly.

But these horses teach people who don't know how to ride at all so they have to be a little desensitized to crooked awkward riders.


I hope.

Heidi the Hick said...

To echo what cdncowgirl said - I've always had trouble with lead departures!

Now I know for sure it wasnt Champ's fault because it's happening all over again with Phoenix. I think it's my shoulders... I tend to slouch forward. And that throws everything out.

It's just another reason to get back in the saddle. (and if I was in such bad shape that all I could do was sit on my horse and not go anywhere .... Done that. Better than no horse time at all)

mugwump said...

Heidi - Right!

An Image of Grace said...

You are preaching to the choir! I have fought my body in the saddle for years and this year I finally was able to do something about it. I found a therapist in my area that offered Integrative Neurosomatic Therapy.
Turns out I've been crooked my entire life. With some targeted exercises and some shims to get me back to level I am starting to see some real results.
I expect a lot from my horse, I finally had to start to expect the same from myself. So I am right there with you on the exercises and the yoga. It's the least I can do for a mare who has been more than just patient with me.

Anonymous said...

I am definitely in the choir LOL. I give my horse a lot of credit for learning with me and all my faults, my only saving grace is that I am pretty much the only person she has instructional interactions with. So if I ever have to rehome her she is going to go through a lengthy retraining for someone without my faults! I will say that when a young professional rider got on her last summer, she flowed into some really beautiful extended trots and it was an eye-opener to me. I owe it to have more accomplished and better form riders take her for a spin now and then. Mugs, it is hard to accept our infirmities as a permanent situation, and we do owe it to ourselves to try and find ways to slow down the progression. It is good for the body, good for the soul, and good for the horse :-)
I wholeheartedly recommend yoga and trigger point neuromuscular massage therapy.

Taterz said...

I like the way you balance working on yourself and expecting your horse to worth through it with you. I think that's what can make a great rider, finding a new solution, keeping an open mind, never giving up. I'd like an update on how you're feeling once you've been doing yoga for a little while. And maybe some details about what kind of yoga you find is the most effective.

Di said...

Great post, thank you!! Love the way you put it. I'm forever worrying about how I'm affecting my horse and I can completely relate to what you've said. I also agree about your point that carrying me around is his only job! I just have to remember it!

Atina said...

There is a book by Sally Swift called Centered Riding that I found to be helpful. I am still crooked, thank you scoliosis! I'm finding way to work around my consent "shoulder in".

honeyfish said...

This is a little off topic Mugs, but gosh am I glad you're back to writing again. Thank you.

LazyShamrock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LazyShamrock said...

Ah, crookedness. I know thee well. I'm just back from the PT office, with my shoulder taped into place so that the exercises I do will keep it in place and not rotated forward.

Mugs, it is so good to have you back and with LOTS to say!

kel said...

1 1/2 to 2 years ago I lost 125 lbs. I lost the weight so that I could become a better rider. I have ridden all my life but the added weight was obviously a huge negative. I never gave any thought to how being half my former self would affect my posture, straightness or crookedness. I am struggling with a slump... which is weird because you would have thought that I would have slumped worse when I was top heavy. I tend to ride more forward now too. Working on it every ride. But I agree mugs... I will do my best to be a good rider, but my horses are going to have to deal with some of my little idiosyncrasies.

equestrian57 said...

Thanks for this post! I too want to keep riding, no matter what. And I too ride crooked. At least I am aware of it, and do what I can to correct it. Some days, if we just go forward, and straight, I call it a good day and that's enough!

crazyhorsegurrl said...

To all the riders out there who have scoliosis, it is so nice to be reminded that I'm not alone. Crookedness is just a part of life. I'm not as crooked as I used to be. The spinal fusion has helped a lot, but that still makes riding a challenge. I'm just not willing to give it up. I take good care of my horse, and I expect her to take good care of me whenever I get up on her back. Lucky for me, she does a wonderful job. Though I still strive to better myself as a rider, for her sake and mine.

On another note, yoga really does help with balance, posture, and flexibility. I would recommend it to anyone!

Bif said...

"My horses can jolly well suck it up and figure out what I need, in spite of me.I feed them, vet them, care for their feet and emotional well being."

I know a former Olympian who rides crooked, and has for a long time. She gets the horse chiro-ed. She needs a new saddle every few years because of how much she twists. She says it is easier to have the chiro fix them and replace saddles than for her to try to straighten out.

The horses are competitive, so it really is just a matter of them learning "You do this maneuver regardless of how I am sitting". As you found, you just end up changing which aids are the most influential.

Anonymous said...

yoga is good one other option is the alexander technique if you have anyone in your area.

my bad said...

Another member of the choir here. I have a fused right ankle. No shock ubsorbtion going on there. I find it works best if I drop my right stirup a notch lower then the left. Then I can use my seat correctly. It ain't real pretty, but I'll never stop riding either. The rest of it they just deal with. Ive owned them both since they were yearlings they will be with me until the end, so they'll never know any better. Poor things.

Golden the Pony Girl said...

You are right about the horse. Given the chance your horse will adapt to the new you. We all have 'holes' in our physical, mental, and emotional selves. Our horses manage to get the job done anyways :)

I was surprised by how much help yoga was for my injury. I broke my tail bone and caused damage to my pelvis that caused fusion on the left side ( I could not move my hip to the left at all!) I have been doing yoga for a few years now and I have all my range of motion back!
Good luck and namaste.

joycemocha said...

Oh yeah, I know this tune. What's scary is when the horse has matching weaknesses. Then you wonder...was it there originally or was it me? In my case, I think it was in the horse as well. So we both work on it. I have one hip lower than the other (left hip) and using seat cues can be a challenge. Have to think about it.

You're right about yoga and straightness. Also add Pilates and light weights into the mix...does wonders. BTDT.

Whywudyabreedit said...

It is pretty awesome having you back. I am glad that you made it through the "Mugly" phase and back out again! I have my last final tomorrow at 8am and then back in the saddle until the big rains come!

mugwump said...

Whywudya- Good luck on those finals!

Anonymous said...

Hi All

Another voice for the choir - I am crooked from scoliosis and I have shallow hip joints, especially on the right, so my legs tend to not be very strong. My left one is much stronger than the right though. So my horse gets little cues on the right - initally backed up by a tap with the whip until he gets the idea, and I suppose, stronger ones from the left. I carry a crop for a while and then later switch to spurs to show....even riding western, I ride with little blunt english spurs though ....that's all I need.

My horses have gotten the doesn't sit quite centered and little messages from her right leg need to be noticed.

You can do it Mugs !!!!!

Slippin said...

Oh how I hate crookedness, but I am full of them! I have scholiosis as well, but its not the normal crooked spine, its the hunch back and shoulders that curl in. I ride cutters. Good thing because they ride with the "Cutters Slump" so I don't have to worry about sitting straight like I was in western horse might win that, but I would loose it for him! I tend to lean forward and that has gotten me in trouble because when I got nervous and pull on my horse harder than I should have, he raises his head quickly and has smacked me in the face a few times...Totally not his fault, MINE...And I would get so mad at myself for doing that, then it would be a viscious cycle of downward spiral lesson. And usually end up in tears. But I conquored it and did well, my horse figured out what I wanted and we started clicking. Then....he got hurt. SO now we just trail ride and I have taught him to bow and so he has become a "pet" LOL
I recently watch a video of a guy showing in the Cutting World Finals. Awesome horses, they can MOVE and crawl on the ground, but the rider was the one I was watching. He sat nice and loose on the horse, but man when the horse went to turn that guy was leaning all over the place. Seems to me that if he sat more in the middle, the horse could move better undernieth him, but obveously the horse has figured out his style and learned to get it done in style. It was pretty off the wall watching them show.

Cheese said...

Humans and horses are great at adapting. I have a juvinile form of macular degeneration. Started when I wqas 17 and I am oast the legally blind point. I tend to like the speed events. The local gnkhanas have an event called ring spear. Siz ring are hung with magnets and the rider uses a plnger to spear them. My horse puts me right under the rings. A friend took notice I actually close my eyes and look away when doing ring spear. The rings hurt a bit if you hit them with your head. Still manage to average 5 rings a run. We also do jumpers. Now I realize to the height limit we can safely jump. I can not help my horse find a distance. So some of our efferts end up not looking to pretty. However the horse will jump anything. Yes she is a saint. So we have both learned to adapt to my eye problem.

Witty Horse of the Day said...

I'm fixing my crookedness by memorizing (during a lesson) which muscles I feel being stretched when I'm sitting correctly. I keep myself honest that way.
It's helping me be less crooked in real life.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Been working on my crookedness, too...if I am going to lose a stirrup (which is rarely anymore), it's my right one. I also have a harder time cuing the right lead, dropping my right hip. I didn't notice so much with my mare who has compensated for me, but when I got my green gelding, I couldn't figure out why he didn't walk straight until I realized I was not putting pressure evenly on my seat bones.

BTW, a fun thing to do is that Dr. Scholls insert machine they just started can see where you are putting pressure on your feet. Funny that I put more pressure on my left foot, and my right has more heel pressure and a lot less toe/ball pressure - which explains why I lose that stirrup when I do! It's helped me correct how I am balanced in the saddle.


Anonymous said...

I reckon the "close contact" idea can be overrated. For the majority of recreational riders who don't ride that often the sort of signals we give all the time must be all over the place. We want the horse to listen when we are focused on some training thing or other, then just hanging around and trail riding we want them to tune out and and ignore so many of the moves we make (e.g., turn around and yak to a friend with our hand on their bum, but respond to a super light neck rein que).

Particularly for an older trained horse who knows his job I would think a nice solid western tree and a few thick saddle blankets would quieten down the noise the poor things have to put up with most of the time. I found this was so with my old reiners. If I just concentrated on riding right and let them get on with their job and trusted them to do the manoeuvres we all had much more fun and did better.

They are bright animals and compensate for us in so many ways so much of the time we are not aware of it.

We all better get used to compensating for our frailties as we are all getting older we better just try to do it gracefully. Getting older means loosing ability eventually, can't fight it, and it is way better than the alternative of not getting older.

mugwump said...

Witty - I used to go by which side of my jeans my fat roll was on.

Horses and Turbos - I love the Dr. Scholls idea!

Becky said...

Here's an answer.

I don't think you can combine them... One is a google widget, one is for non-google members. You can delete one of the widgets, but that's not a good idea.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Let us know what you find out! :) It was very eye-opening for me.


quietann said...

Yes, horses learn to compensate, but it really helps to know what they are compensating for!

In my case -- a bad accident in 2008 left me with a plate holding my left clavicle together. My left shoulder curls forward slightly, and I am about 2 inches shorter from neck to point of shoulder on that side than on the right, and the whole area is inflexible because of the metal. No matter what I do, my left shoulder just Does.Not.Go.Back. It *can't*! I am much closer to symmetric now than I was after the accident, when my whole left side was shortened because of the broken ribs etc. from that accident. I worked with a good chiropractor for a while, but there were a lot of adjustments he just could not do because of the metal plate.

That is, I am closer to my baseline symmetry, which was not very symmetric to start with. I wore a brace as a baby -- a metal plate with shoes bolted to it to force my leg joints to open and straighten, and have been told that I should have had orthopedic surgery on my left hip before I started walking, which was about 46 years ago :)

I ride anyway. My horse has adapted, but she's good that way (she adapts quickly to other riders, too.) We do low level dressage and a lot of trail riding, and I try not to over-think how to accommodate my limitations; I just do it.

BTW, agree on the suggestions about centered riding. Sally Swift had severe scoliosis and developed these techniques to help herself ride, and it turned out they were very useful for other riders, too.

liberitarianqh said...

Years ago my trainer would chastise me for being off center and riding to the left. It wasn't until years later that I found out my right leg is longer than my left. I try to compensate and level my hips by dropping down on my left stirrup. I found that shortening my stirrups helps but I still struggle in circles. My horses are rounder and more supple to the left than right. They want to drift out in right circles - it's hard to see but I feel it. They bulge out as if I was using an inside leg at the girth and the shoulder drifts. I wish I'd found out about my crooked body before I was in my late 30's. Old habits are hard to break.

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

I haven't been following regularly, so feel free to ignore me if I'm off base. Your comments on physical limitations caught my attention -- have you tried Feldenkrais? As an endurance rider struggling with the carnage of old injuries, I find it helps my brain rememeber how my body can move. There's a Bruce Holmes CD out there (vingage 70's! LOL) that I picked up for $40 or so and it helps a ton.

Whywudyabreedit said...

Tamara, I have been curious about Feldenkrais for a long time. Is the CD sound only or does it also show what is happening? $40 seems reasonable if the CD is useful.

shadowlake2005 said...

This is fascinating for me, as unless I indulge in regular and expensive chiropractic work, my left leg is an inch shorter than my right. I knew it had to affect my horses but since I've only trail-ridden for the last ten years, I'd thought it was a negligable issue. I knew my horses always went a tiny bit crooked, but it is really, really hard for me to get my left seat-bone low enough for contact, and I'd thought it wasn't worth the trouble. This past spring I called a communicator to see if I thought he could help me with my horse. I had no particular issues for him, except to try to establish whether my boy is generally happy with his life and (trail riding) job. Before I could ask any questions, or tell him anything about my horse, even his name, the communicator said, "I can tell you one thing for sure. You sit only on your right, and he wants you to sit evenly. You REALLY need to try to get centered." I was gobsmacked. Probably needless to say I did engage the communicator to 'talk' with my horse, resulting among other things in me riding all season stirrupless in order to straighten myself as much as possible.

mugwump said...

Tamara - I am soooo going to try this!

uietann- I am already an avid Sally Swift fan, but I think it's time for a reread...

quietann said...

One other thing: get some good "eyes on the ground" to check you out while you ride.

Yesterday, I had a great lesson with Rachel Markels Webber (dressage trainer in my area (northern MA) who is really, really good on position issues.)

She noted that for all my limitations, I'm very centered and balanced. Nice to hear.

My horse and I sometimes struggle with keeping proper contact with the outside rein and good bend while tracking left. RMW noted the problem right away -- I tend to turn my head slightly to the left, but my torso stays pointed forward or even slightly turned to the right, which causes the right rein to get some slack. And gee, when I turn my torso left and right off the horse, guess what? My left side has a limited range of motion compared to the right, and does not turn at all unless I consciously make it. This is definitely a left-over from my accident. My horse, meanwhile, tends to do the same thing because she *also* has a left side issue (had LH suspensory surgery in March 2010.) So off to work we go...

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Whywud, the Bruce Holmes Feldenkrais CD is audio only, but he explains things very well. I've only gotten lost a time or two in all 50+ lessons. :)

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