7/11/08

On Great Horses Saddled With Lop-Sided Riders

I did it again. After a lovely half hour ride last Sunday afternoon - with an equally super half hour on Saturday - Indy was standing quietly while I thought about what to do in the last couple of minutes before I went back in, when he got stung on the belly by something and bounced once - mostly out of sheer surprise - I and went sliding off to the left, as usual, bruising my ribs, as usual. Heck, Indy didn't even go anywhere. He was just a few feet away, nibbling grass while he waited to see what I wanted to do next. He looked pretty puzzled, and I don't blame him.

This is a problem that has dogged me from the first day I ever rode down to this. I'm lop-sided. Of course, most people - and horses - are to a certain degree. With people, the right side is usually a bit larger than the left. So it is with me - except it's more than a "bit." It's not the first thing that strikes people about me, certainly - well, unless they glance at my feet and notice that my right pants leg just touches the top on my foot, while the left is sprawled all over my foot to the point of dragging the ground at the heel. Yeah, more than a bit. Even though I'm left handed, my entire right side has always been much larger and stronger than my left. If I wore anything with straps, I was constantly fighting the left one to keep it up on my shoulder.

I just took all this for granted - like, what was I gonna do anyway? - until I started riding, and began noticing the problems my conformation was causing. By the time I realized that, in order to make my stirrups feel even, I was not only sitting off to the left, I was also carrying my right leg ahead of the left one. Beautiful!

To make matters even worse, my right ankle is stiff from a sports injury in high school. It won't flex as much as my left, so that pushes me even more toward the left. I've been riding for over 30 years now, and I can't remember even one spill that wasn't sideways and to the left. No wonder my ribs are fed up to the point of having even a relatively easy fall making them scream bloody murder for days. My body has always insisted - much to my disgust - on carrying 99% of my weight on my hips and thighs, so my ribs have no padding - skin over bone.

Maybe if I'd been working under an instructor instead of basically teaching myself to ride, I could have overcome this - somehow - before it became so ingrained, but then again, I've had years of dressage lessons since those early days they haven't helped one iota. In fact, I don't remember anyone else ever even noticing.

Anyway... it seemed to me even the last few years with DJ that the thing was somehow getting worse. In fact, I was now getting the saddle off the the left - not much, you understand, but enough that I was constantly "hitching" it back to the center of DJ's back. He didn't seem to care, but it was extremely frustrating to me, not to mention making it even easier for me to lose my balance to the left and not be able to recover.

Indy's saddle was a touch off to the left Sunday, but I can't "hitch" it over on him like I did on DJ. Firstly, Indy hates that, and besides, with the Tacky stuff pad liner I use under his saddle, once you have the cinch properly tightened, that sucker ain't gonna hitch over anyway. You get it right the first time, or you get off, loosen the cinch and straighten it - Indy doesn't mind this at all. And, that's exactly what I should have done, but I didn't. Next time...

All this post mortem soul searching can't alter the fact that I'm here at the computer instead of out riding right now, but, I have thought of some things to do that possibly can prevent - or at least tip the odds - this from happening again.

Number one thing is to get some protection for my ribs. I tried a regular "body protector" earlier, and not only did I feel like a was wearing the top half of a space suit, it was catching on my cantle. That darn thing would make me fall. Scratch that. What I have come up with is high impact foam. I was able to get some rectangular pieces which I can make into a rib protector which will be quite comfortable I think, and be quite adequate for the type of riding I do. I have no plans to be taking 5'6" jumps at full gallop.

Also, I'm going to put just a little extra padding on my left stirrup. My stirrups have removable hook/loop pads on them already, and I think I can add just a little more under the left one. It doesn't need much - nothing like a hole or even half a hole on the leathers. That's why I've never been able to adjust my stirrups. Never found anything that wasn't over kill. It's funny how something so small - 1/4 inch, probably even less - can make such a huge difference. Anyone who's ever ridden knows that it sure does though.

What's especially frustrating to me this moment is that Indy was doing so super. Saturday he didn't even think about giving me any static when it came time to come back in the paddock. He just strolled in, stopped where I told him and stood perfectly still while I dismounted. I even closed the gate myself with him standing beside me. He never seemed to consider making a break for the field. He just stood there.

He is also becoming lighter and more responsive to the bridle every ride. He just gets better and better. So, now I don't know how long it will be before the next ride. My ribs are sure not ready yet, and even when they are, there's always the weather. I know Indy won't forget, but I want to RIDE!!!!!!!!!!

Oops, sorry about that... Guess I'd better close for now. My ribs hurt.

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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra