Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aahh, Spring

Spring is here, and with it comes mud (thanks to much-needed rain) and lots of shedding as winter coats slick out on their way to being summer coats.

We have hair, lots of hair, coming off both Bar and Lena in gobs. Some of it ended up on the groomer (me), but a lot of it ended up in the barn alley in piles of radically different colors and textures. Lena's hair is thicker and the white hair seems to be shedding out faster. Calabar has a soft, downy undercoat and it gets in my mouth as it fluffs off in clouds under the shedding blade.

This first pass was just the beginning.

Big wad of horse hair
And my horses love the mud. They are quite creative in their self-decoration, both of them.

Happy muddy brown horse

Gorgeous muddy spotty horse
Calabar even managed to ice his backside, which means there were some gymnastics.

Butt mud
Good to know my horse was self-adjusting his long spine.

Look at that muddy butt
I'm glad we are getting rain, really glad. Even if it means my horses are either muddy or blanketed. Blanketed if I want to ride or muddy if I don't mind taking time to groom for awhile before getting on.

Ah, spring. It's lovely.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Working with Faulty Confirmation

Not Calabar's or Lena's, no. They have quite nice confirmation, actually. We are talking about my confirmation, which is not as perfect as it perhaps could be. This is becoming more and more apparent as I continue to beef up my exercise program and find new places that ache along the way.

Who cares if I'm balanced? Oh, right. He does.
Like most of us, I am not symmetrical. There are some left over injuries and skeletal imperfections that make me short and tight on the right side, sore and scrunched on the left side. No worries, though--it is what it is and I am able to be as active as I have time and energy for. When I'm in the saddle, the horses are very good at informing me that I've started to twist to compensate. Standing on my own two feet, however, it has proven to be more of a challenge to uncurl my body from that muscle memory-induced corkscrew. Standing, walking, and now adding a little jogging? Well, that has led to some aches and pains that only get worse if I stop moving.

Really, it's just a knee that is aggravating me the most but it turns out the knee bone is actually connected to the hip bone. Or rather, hip stability plays a big part in my way of going and I need more stability in my life to support the legs that meander down to the ground below those hips.

So I've been working on that, doing special exercises designed to increase hip stability--all added onto my existing core work that helps keep me upright and saves my back from itself. Not to mention a lot of foam rolling and stretching. In case you don't have one, a foam roller is a great tool for loosening up tight muscles of all kinds.

But back to having my own two feet on the ground and a brief conversation with the chiropractor (and friend) who hands down all these good exercises. A conversation in which it was revealed to me that my knees like to rotate in. What? My posture is excellent--I get compliments on it all the time. Shoulders are back, chest open, head and neck perched above shoulders in excellent alignment. But the knees? The knees do roll inwards towards each other making me, yes, knock-kneed. I think the good doctor used a more medically-approved term, but knees pointing at each other are by any other name, well, knocking.


Could this be why I end up with bruises on the inside of these traitorous knees when I ride? Compounded by my twisted hips, however, I usually only end up with a bruise on the inside of one knee--the left. So my body is showing me where things are amiss, and I just need to pay attention.

It is hard, by the way, to retrain a 47-year old body to use muscles and structures the way they are strongest, the way they were designed to be used. Rotating those knees out activates my glute muscles in ways that feel right if not necessarily comfortable at this exact moment in time. And, here's the kicker, when I get the knees in the right place, my right foot rotates up onto the outside, pronating out to do some sort of odd compensation thing, while my left hip goes to it's default up-and-to-the-right location. There is a lot of concentration required to make my body stop the march to its comfort zone.

So I practice. I practice while I brush my teeth in the morning. I practice when I stand at the sink doing dishes. I really practice when I'm lifting weights--might as well try to retrain more than one set of muscles at a time, right?

And, yes, I try to practice in the saddle, too. It goes better some days than other days, but at least in the saddle, there is instant feedback I can't ignore. "You're doing it again," says the ear flicking back towards me.

Going back to the body I was born with, or even going back to the way it was before I did some of the damage, is not realistic. So working with what I've got and--just like life--figuring ways to make it better is the only option.

One solid, balanced step at a time.