Sunday, April 21, 2013

Confidence, Cantering and Continence

This is the last make-up post I need to do in order to be caught up in the A to Z challenge.

Confidence comes in so many different forms. One of the biggest issues I'm dealing with is a confidence in my body. Coming back from a twenty year hiatus, after a damaged disc and having had a child, my poor body has more issues than a twenty year old Ford.

Cantering is my Waterloo right now. I trust now that Ashke is not going to try and shed me, so I am concentrating on improving my riding, trying to reawaken the deeply locked ability hidden in my bones. I know it's still there, it just needs an opportunity to find it's way back into my bones and muscles. Riding was so much easier at 31 than it is at 50+ on so many levels.

First, there is my back. I have had pain in my lower back since I was 13. Queenie, my Appaloosa-Arabian mare, slipped and fell with me. I had another fall at the age of 16, when my four year old gelding, Ace, slipped chasing a mustang stallion, who had jumped out of his corral. We were galloping around a corner in a heavy rain on soaked ground. Most of the soil in the west is heavy clay, which is super slick when it's wet. He slipped and sprawled on the ground. I went off over his head, face first into the mud. There was so much mud it packed between my glasses and my eyes. I felt my neck and back wrench in the accident. On top of that, looking back over my riding experiences, I can't begin to count the number of times I've come off a horse, or a steer, or the trampoline or my skiis. We were active, fearless and sometimes foolish kids. The pain has been chronic and although I've sought treatment from doctor's in the past, they never seemed to take it seriously. It wasn't until I slipped the disc at the L-5, and experienced the most excruciating pain I have ever felt (it made childbirth pain look like a hangnail), that I started taking it seriously. That was six years ago and now I am routinely pain free, except when I canter.

The movement of cantering, like that of walking, moves your hips and back in a figure eight, first one hip moving forward and then the other. I wasn't aware of how stiff I was holding myself until I watched Linda Parelli (I have horse TV) walking her TB horse around an arena. I was reminded of how much movement my body should be making when I am riding and how much I really have not been moving while riding. I have begun relaxing my lower back and allowing my hips to move with Ashke as we walk. I didn't realize how stiff and uncomfortable I was feeling on his back until I consciously made an effort to relax. I can feel the muscles growing stronger and the pain starting to lessen (in fact I bent over today and picked something up off the floor and was able to straighten without bracing on my knees or using a piece of furniture to help me straighten. And it was mostly painfree.) I am beginning to have confidence in the healing power of my body to rehab this area of my body. However, I recognize I am going to have to work through my fear of the pain and push my body in order to get better. I am also concentrating on seeing myself as whole and strong, rather than broken.

Second there is my other "issue". It's the one I don't talk about because it makes me feel ashamed and disgusting. I have stress incontinence, or SI. This is a very common problem for women who have had children. Unfortunately for me, my problem predates being pregnant, although being pregnant has made things considerably worse. My mother and her mother both had SI. My mother underwent surgery and has never been happier. It is something I am considering, however the thought of having to use a cathedar for a couple of months in order to pee isn't a selling point.

For me, any kind of bounce or fall or abrupt movement can cause leakage. This includes cantering. Or abrupt sideways movement of the horse. Or an abrupt or uncontrolled stop. And sometimes controlled stops or cantering, or mounting. Basically, it can happen at any time. I spend a lot of my time worried that someone will be able to tell. Will be able to smell me. (Even though there are much more pungent smells at a horse barn.) I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. (So what do I do? I come on my blog and tell everyone, because that's going to make me feel more comfortable.) That is something I need to get over. There are things I can do to eliminate the majority of my fear and to decrease my potential embarrassment. I started doing those things this week and have felt a lot more confident while riding. Why am I sharing this? Because a lot of women come to this sport as older adults who have had a lifelong dream of owning a horse. Many of them have had children. Let me tell you this becomes a much less controlled issued once you've borne a child. They can benefit from knowing other women are in the same boat.

So, going forward, I am going to be cantering with greater focus. I am going to let my hips roll and move with the horse. And I have the resources necessary so I don't have to worry about the SI.

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