“Your up there now” said my husband, Kevin, yesterday. This was in response to my frustration after attempting to get up onto my horse and freaking failing. Yes I was up there but I could not do it on my own. Kevin had to give me a leg up- and that means push my body up onto the horse. That had never ever been an issue for me until yesterday. I felt old and weak. Tears stung my eyes. “Fat Axe, Weak Stick..” I said to myself.
Yesterday I decided to try to ride – I hadn’t done so for 8 months. A frozen shoulder and then winter were my deterrents. The shoulder is still frozen but it isn’t in the pain phase (frozen shoulders have phases it seems) and the ground was pretty dry and the outside temp balmy so I felt like I could handle my 1200 lb 15.3 hand horse ok. And I did once I was up there.
Have you ever taken for granted that you can do something physical – maybe like me you have done it hundreds of times before – and then you go to do it and you just can’t? You sit in surprise because you just can’t figure out why your body can’t do what your mind thinks it should be able to do. Well that was me. I could not get myself up on my horse as I had done so many times in the past. I put my leg in the stirrup- at this point I guess I should be happy I could lift it that high- and I grabbed a bit of mane with my left hand in the front of the saddle and I grabbed the back of the saddle with the right. I knew I had limited strength in my right arm and i think my shoulder is pretty useless too -but as I went to lift myself up onto the stirrup (and then the plan would have been to throw my right leg over the horse) I realized that there was no leverage, there was no strength- it wasn’t only the arms- it was the legs too. I was unable to get on my horse.
Mounting was never an issue- In the past I could mount a horse when it is walking (they aren’t supposed to walk when you mount but my horse sometimes finds that to be funny). Yesterday he wasn’t walking he was eating grass- another thing he should not do when saddled and bridled up- but I didn’t have the strength to hold the reins and hold his head up and get on the horse. So my hubby held him steady as I went to get on- I cannot even tell you the shock I felt when my body just hit a wall. It was like I was in the twilight zone. I looked around and up and down and shook my head- wondering if i was in an alter universe. I wasn’t dreaming because I felt every weak part of me straining to do the job of getting on the horse. It was super weird. I was very upset.
I have gained some weight over the winter. Not much – some probably was needed (though having been a chubby teen I have the mindset you can never be too thin) and there are about an extra 5 lbs. on me now I would like to shed..but I know the weight wasn’t the issue..I weighed a lot more when I began riding again at age 41. I could get on a horse then and I got on my horse 8 months ago….hmm but now that I think about it I used the mounting block bc my shoulder was beginning to freeze. Well—the time before I got up just fine. So what is the problem? I don’t know except I suppose it comes from the issues with the shoulder. I was told not to work out my arms while I was in PT trying to unfreeze it. The PT said it could cause an imbalance. I am pretty into exercise and we have our own gym right in our barn bc my husband trains clients. I didn’t like the idea of not working out my upper body at all so I used bands for a bit and now I am using weights again except my shoulder only moves a little bit- but there was a point in the pain stage of frozen shoulder where I could not use my arm much bc it went into spasm and that was soooo painful..like cussing like a sailor and almost falling to the floor painful. So there was a point I really was not doing much work on my upper body and I am surprised how weak I have gotten. But the old legs weren’t as strong either. I took it easy this winter more than I ever allowed myself before – early on I was depressed and later I was lazy..I could not get it together. So even if I worked out for an hour a day but was a sloth the rest of the day I wasn’t gaining much strength. I have been working out and have picked up the pace lately- I am logging my food intake on a cool app, I have my Fitbit back on and I am trying to get my strength back. But I didn’t realize until yesterday that I had lost the strength to mount a horse. —Umm this is not acceptable to me. It will be fixed.
I managed to curb my frustration enough to have a really good ride on my horse. After he was on mothballs for 8 months ( a term I heard a horse person – more horsey than I am- use once) he came out and behaved very well. I had that zen feeling on him – and all was good with the world except I wondered if I would be able to dismount correctly. I had no idea but I knew if I got down ok I was getting back on again and again. SO I asked my dear patient husband to go into the barn and bring out my mounting block. We put it in the middle of the round pen and I led Harley over and I dismounted from him with extreme… – what is the opposite of grace- ungrace- yes it was like that.
So for the next 20 minutes I practiced getting up on my horse. He got to nibble on grass and I used the block to get up on him, I lowered the stirrups to their lowest point and tried over and over. I tried mounting from the other side – that feels weird! We had trouble with saddle slippage bc Harley is shedding – I will shave his girth area this week. I practiced climbing up on the round pen fence- what I thought would be easy was so hard. I struggled but I was determined to win. I huffed and puffed but I won some. I was very frustrated and I couldn’t see the good side. I was feeling very sorry for myself. But then my husband looked at me and said- “you rode your horse, you got on. You had a good ride. The best way to train for your sport is to do your sport. Keep doing your sport. Its been 8 months…so now you just ride as much as you can and you will gain your strength.” I realized he was right. Why am I complaining. I got to ride my horse. I can walk to my barn and get on a horse. I can move- I can get stronger. Some people aren’t as lucky.
Today I worked out in the gym and worked on strengthening my weak areas and like my husband said as I do my sport I will get stronger. The shoulder might be a hindrance until it unfreezes or the surgeon does that for me but I am not there yet with the surgery so I will have to learn to adapt to the limitation and stop the bravado and just deal with it. Because it is not really about how I get up on that horse it is about the ride once I am up there. It is about the connection and the freedom only being on the back of your horse can bring. I am nothing but blessed.
Thanks for reading…