Horses are always the answer.

Those of you who have been around me at all in the last few months (or read here several posts back) know that I’ve been trying to work through a Mysterious Back Injury.  The physical therapist doesn’t know how I’ve lived at all walking/standing/sitting/lying down like I have.  Essentially, I have super weak muscles that are supposed to be super strong and when everything isn’t going right, it results in pinching of a bunch of nerves in my lower back.  In short, OW!

As part of all of this, as you might imagine, horseback riding has been forbidden.  It makes sense, especially to non-horsey people, if I can’t even walk without pain, it probably isn’t all that safe to clamber on top of a 16 hh tall, 1200 lb animal, ride about using all those weak muscles and getting pinched nerves and then falling the said 16 hands and getting hurt even more.

The other thing about non-horsey people is that they don’t really get it.  Horsey people don’t want to be around horses, they need to be around horses.

Back at State, when I’d get cranky and stressed and ‘ill,’ my friends would tell me to go out to the barn.  At that point, I had my LA out at a co-op stables in Cary, Theyland Stables.  We kept up our Western Pleasure, adding Huntseat Pleasure to our repertoire, not to mention sharing the virtues of showmanship to all the other (very crowd-y) horses out at the barn.  And anyone who’s met LA knows that he’s the sweetest horse that ever lived.  Plus he’s pretty awesome under saddle.

LA out at Theyland in Raleigh. I still think of him as being my horse, even though I haven't seen him in three years.

LA did a lot for me.  He hardly ever got too stressed about anything.  He loved a good grooming.  And, maybe most important of all, he needed me…and he liked me better than anyone else.  He was the perfect college horse — he’s an easy keeper.  Plus, he helped me recover from jaw surgery and a knee injury.  Not to mention all of life’s other problems.  I miss him all the time and wish I could have kept him, even though I know he’s doing great — I get semi-regular updates from friends still in the area who see him at horse shows.  🙂

After LA moved away, I went to Scotland for about a half year — it was the longest time I’d ever gone without riding.  I came home, changed disciplines, and took hunter lessons for awhile and then helped work a horse, Mocha, for a friend who was too pregnant to ride.  Then I moved to Maine and rode 3 day eventers (another change in discipline).

Nowadays, I ride out at a hunter/jumper barn.  I ride thoroughbreds and warmbloods.  It’s a completely different world of riding, but it’s also completely the same.

When I called up my instructor, Ida, to explain that I wanted to try to ride, to see if my back would hold, she was great.  “I’ll give you a lesson time, just so I can be around in case you get into trouble.”  And I’m really glad she was there.

Riding itself felt great…just don’t ask me to use my lower body at all – I’d be completely useless up on my first horse, Lucky.  For the first time in my life I preferred 2-point to the posting trot.  And I did a LOT of walking.  Of course, I haven’t ridden in 3 months, and in that time, I haven’t really been doing much of any other physical activity, either, so I’m pretty well out of shape.  So we’ll not talk about my equitation except to say I wouldn’t be winning any ribbons today.

My first horse, Lucky, known by those that love him as "Lucky-Butt," at the 4-H Regional Horse show in 2002. Another sweetie who was good for me, but would be a whole lot better for me now than he was then.

Now, don’t get me wrong, riding hurt my back terribly.  Enough that I had to dismount after the shortest ride I think I’ve ever taken.  But, magically, walking doesn’t hurt anymore.  I got a full night’s sleep last night because lying down didn’t hurt anymore.  I’m certainly not up to normal-level again, but I’m on the right track.

For the first time in three months, I can actually believe that my back can get better.  And I will be a good rider again, back up to competition level.  And I can hike, and backpack, and dance again, too.

I should have known not to listen to my physical therapist and doctors on this particular subject.  Horses are always the answer.


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