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.|