Friday, August 12, 2011

Viva Volte!

I have not done much riding this week, as my neck has been bothering me.  I started physical therapy this week.  They've got me in traction for 10 minutes every session.  For those unfamiliar with traction, your head gets put into a sort of vise thing and then stretched up.  Sort of like the Medieval torture device called "The Rack".... 

Actually, it feels pretty good while it's on.  The stretching relieves the pressure in my neck from the herniated disc, which also relieves the pain.  Unfortunately, it also stretches the muscles in my neck, which then get sore later in the day.  I was also given "homework" exercises to do to help strengthen my neck.  Well, I have an exercise to do.  It's a deceptively simple one, too:  while lying on your back, press your head into the floor as hard as you can without moving your chin up or down.  Hold for ten seconds.  Repeat ten times.   Seems easy, but it's kicking my ass!  Most people spend a majority of their day hunched over at a computer, driving, or sitting in a chair.  This position causes the muscles in the back of the neck and shoulders to become stretched and weak.  My "homework" exercises strengthen those muscles back up.  Judging from the burn I'm feeling in the back of my neck right now, I had some pretty weak muscles!

Since my neck is bothering me, I'm taking it easy, focusing on quality and not quantity.  To that end, I've broken out the volte.  Why volte?  Well, it's a really small circle (typically 6 meters, but who's measuring?).  In order to execute a really small circle, the horse needs to be forward, on the aids and balanced.   Every time I begin to feel that Spider is getting strung out, I turn into a volte immediately.  He is a trained horse (In spite of my various physical issues and general inconsistency.  He is ready for 3rd level, but his rider is holding him back.), and as a trained horse he knows how to volte.  So, when I ask for the movement, he rebalances himself automatically so that he can comply with my request.  Good boy!  And especially good for me, as I don't have the physical strength to rebalance him myself at this point.  Of course, what makes it especially, especially good is that Spider's ability to balance himself in the voltes without me needing to organize him is actually an important milestone for a riding horse: self-carriage. 

And so we are volte-ing away here.  We aren't working on any of the "tricks", aside from a bit of shoulder in and haunches in to loosen up.  I am confident the tricks will be there when we need them, though, because I have layed, and am always maintaining, a solid foundation in my horse's training. 

I've also found a working student, who has really been invaluable for cooling Spider out.  She's a little short, but I still think she's working out nicely:

My daughter and a very fine Schoolmaster.


  1. What a beautiful picture of your daughter and Spider! The biggest beauty of it is her helmet! Well done, Mom! Should be widely circulated!!

    I was in therapy for my neck for quite a while. I did the neck press thing using a rubber ball (soccer ball size) against the wall. Front press, side presses and back press. Never tried it on the floor, but I will.

    I have a traction device here at home that I got from the chiropractor. There's a weight--water bag so you can adjust it--that hangs on one end and a pulley rig with a strap thingie for my head. Does a treat to stretch the neck. Maybe your PT people might approve one?

    There are many options listed here at Amazon:

    Mine is the over the door one. The other option is a posture pump, but those are pretty pricey. I spent time in one of those at my PT too.

    Voltes are great. I'm glad Spider shines at them. It makes your work a lot easier. It's clear he's a sweetie anyhow from that pciture.

  2. awww.... cute pic. She's going to be a great rider when she's older.

  3. What a great photo!

    I love the looks on both of their faces. His is so kind - and hers adorably concentrating :)

    Glad you and Spider are having good rides. Best wishes for the physical therapy. I hope you get some relief :)

  4. Awww that picture is adorable. I'm glad Spider is doing so well. :)

    I hope these exercises help and that you start to feel better.


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