Another Issue

I was warned. When I first started my lessons, people said this could happen. I got some good advice and I ignored it. Hah, I said. It won’t be that bad.

My good friend Lauren Baker said to take ibuprofen and do some stretching before my lessons and then have beer afterward. I followed some of that. I like how she says “beer” without the “a” in front of it.

When I rode Caspian for the first time, I felt it a little. Riding the big Percheron is like riding on the roof of a school bus.  But it was tolerable and I functioned normally afterward. So my “Hah, It Won’t Be That Bad” approach seemed to work.

But now that Karin is teaching me to post, things have gotten serious. This has become more like an athletic event and I am sore and stiff in places that I don’t know the names of.

To me, the real mystery is the timing of the stiffness and soreness. I’m never sore right after riding. I take my lessons in the morning and then off to work I go, smelling like Karin’s horses, but walking normally. At least it seems normal to me.

And I’m never sore the day after a lesson. I don’t know why, but it always hits the day after the day after.  Then it sticks around for several days.

I do okay, mind you. I can still ride a bike, but sometimes mounting takes multiple attempts. My right leg doesn’t always cooperate enough to clear the seat and I find myself doing that one-legged backwards hop, dragging the poor bike with me as I attempt to reestablish my balance.  And as I limp around the workplace, moaning and groaning, I just hope it gets lost in all the moans and groans of whatever happens to be wrong with everybody else.

Right now what I need is some good advice on pre-riding stretching exercises.  This time, I promise to listen. The less ambitious of my usual advisors just tell me to “go on-line”.  I don’t want to go on-line. I get lost on-line, wandering to and fro across Cyberworld, so easily distracted. I fear that I will end up like the young lady in the car commercial who “really got aggressive” with her mountain biking parents regarding Facebook and having attained 614 friends/fellow inmates, declares: “This is living.”

I have a book (that’s ink and paper together) that suggests some exercises. I would like to share these with you next time. Meanwhile, I think it would be fun to hear how all of you deal with this issue.

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4 thoughts on “Another Issue

  1. These are not easy words I am going to say to you, Bob. The only answer is: More Riding.

    You must ride more often and grow glowingly proficient and all those sorenesses will go away. It is the only solution.

    Good luck!

  2. What Bif said, though there are some stretches you can do at home.

    Shoulder Opener: “Stand in a doorway. Place both your forearms on the door frame with your elbows at shoulder level and your wrists in line with your elbows. Lean forward gently. Hold for five seconds, rest, and repeat. Gradually build up to 60 seconds.”

    Thoracic Stretch (Good if you have a stiff back): “Lie down and place a rolled towel under the middle of your back. When comfortable, place your arms on the floor above your head. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time. This is a passive stretch, so just allow it to happen. Then move the towel up a little and repeat. You can move it up another two levels toward your shoulders. Stop the exercise if you feel any discomfort.”

    Lumbar Stretch: “Lie face-down on the floor and place your hands under your shoulders, facing forward. Lift your chest and shoulders up, leaving your pelvis on the floor…There is no need to straighten your arms.”

    Head Turns: Gently turn your head from side to side with your hand.

    Prayer Position: “…Gently take one arm up behind the back and then the other, and touch your palms in a prayer position.”

    Hip Opener: “…Sitting upright, straighten one leg out in front of you and place the other foot on the inside of the outstretched (upper) thigh. Gently push your knee down toward the floor without losing your neutral spine alignment (that nice arch in your back you should have when riding). Hold this position and then repeat with the other leg. Try to get your knee a little closer to the floor each time you do this exercise.”

    Spinal Twist: “Start on your back with your knees bent and cross one knee over the other. Then very gently allow the knees to fall to one side. If this is too difficult, start without crossing the legs…”

    Double Knee Flexion: “Lie on the floor and use your arms to gently pull both knees in toward your chest. Avoid rounding your back. Also try this exercise with one knee at a time, keeping the other leg straight.”

    Hamstring Stretch: “Lying on your back, bend one knee. Take hold of your (upper) thigh with your hands or with a belt if you can’t reach that far. Gradually straighten the bent leg toward the cieling. The base of your spine must stay on the floor…don’t pull too hard.”

    Leg Stretch: “…Lie near a wall and hook a belt around one foot. Straighten your leg and rest your arm on the ground. Allow your foot to fall gently against the wall.”

    Figure-Four Stretch: “…Lie on your back with your knees bent and rest one ankle on the opposite knee. Take hold of the thigh under this knee, so that it is 90 degrees to the body. Very gently draw your thigh toward your chest. Repeat with the other leg.”

    Sideways Lunge: “Stand with your feet a stride apart. Move your right buttock down over your right foot until it touches the heel. Place your hands on your weight-bearing leg for balance. Keep your body and your feet facing forward and your posture upright. Repeat with the other leg.”

    You may notice I included exercises meant to increase suppleness. Right now as an older beginner rider, you should concentrate on increasing your flexibility and “opening up” all those tense, tight muscles. You have an extra handicap as you are a man and not as naturally flexible as a woman. I would try to do these exercises every night or so until you are great at them, and ever afterwards (but perhaps less often) to help keep you in shape. Once you are flexible enough, you can concentrate on strengthening your muscles and toning up a bit. Once you are decent in the areas of both flexibility and strength, you may want to move on to exercises designed to help your posture, balance, and coordination- each of which are extremely important in riding.

    Good luck! I got these exercises from an awesome book I think you should look into buying or checking out from the library, called “Complete Horse Riding Manual” by William Micklem. I’d also like to point out that you’re not alone- the soreness usually never comes the day of, but the day after or the day after the day after.

    Also, you are doing GREAT if you are already on posting! But beware that posting isn’t usually something riders learn in a few lessons. It usually takes people at least a month or so (riding once a week), usually much more, to really PERFECT their posting. It is a mix of up and down and forward and back motion, of using the horse’s impulsion to move YOU forward and not working too hard, of knowing your diagonals, and of not looking like a weirdo when you do it. But don’t be afraid! Everyone gets it eventually. I’m sure that soon enough you will be cantering with the best of them!

    *Diagonals: A horse’s trot has two “beats”. This essentially means that the horse’s legs move in diagonal pairs. (Right front with left hind, and left front with right hind). When riding in an arena, you want to “Rise and fall with the leg on the wall” (a.k.a. the rail). You rise a beat, and sit a beat along with the leg on the wall. So when you look over to whichever leg is on that side, you will see it “rise” or go forward. So synchronize your movements with that. When you switch directions, you must switch diagonals. To switch diagonals, you sit two beats to end up on the other one. If you sit an even amount of beats you will end up on the opposite diagonal, an opposite amount will have you on the same diagonal.

    I hope I’m not scaring or confusing you. You’ll probably just worry about the movement for now and won’t have to worry about your diagonals just yet! I’m just trying to get you mentally prepared for what’s coming. :).

    • Thank you so much for this Danielle. And you didn’t scare or confuse me at all, Quite the opposite! I especially like the idea that posting takes a long time to learn. ‘Cause it ain’t coming quick to me, I can tell you that. Thanks again for the awesome comment.

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