Newbie with physical limitations with riding questions - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 05-31-2010, 11:21 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2010
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Smile Newbie with physical limitations with riding questions

Hi All !

I am new to the Forum and fairly new to riding. I was just getting my seat a few years back when I had to have surgery on my feet and was un able to ride for 3 years. The surgery was to fuse my ankles as they had collapsed, as a resut I have little to no up and down ankle flextion. Riding again for my first time yesterday on my Mare who has also had a 3 year vacation, and would prefer to stay lazy, I was bouncing all over at a trot and lope. I was just looking for advice to help stop bouncing. Could it be because I cant really "keep my heels down ?"

I ride western in a Circle Y trail saddle if that matters, our horses are American Quarters, and paints.

Thanks for any advice !
Concealed45 is offline  
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post #2 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 09:26 AM Thread Starter
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No advice ?
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post #3 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 10:00 AM
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Sorry to hear of the ankle fusion.
I know if I am bouncing, I am most likely very tense in my upperbody.
I myself have had many physical issues an when I got back to riding I had to relearn how to feel the horse and use my body and seat correctly.
Could you be riding in a bit of a "defensive" position?
I aks only because i did this when I first started riding again. I feel i was trying to compensate or protect my self from injury.
I really just needed to work on a good upper body and seat. I have a neck fusion and had walked around for a few years in a protective fashion which later had an impact on the way I sat in the saddle and rode.

Can you get with a trainer to help you with this stuff? I think someone who can be on the ground and see exactly what is going on with your body and postion and your horse etc will help you overcome some of these things.

Keep us posted and just keep on plugging away at it all. It will start to get better.
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post #4 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 10:03 AM
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Hi there! You may just need to regain your muscles. I know people that ride with there toes pointed down and they don't bounce. Really, balance is supposed to be more in your seat than your feet. That's why people do a lot of stirrup-less work. All I can say is that you'll need to get your muscles used to it again. Sorry I can't be of more help.

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post #5 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 11:29 AM
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Concealed - you wondered why there was no immediate response. Well that could be because none of us have been faced with your problem.

The first thing you need is an open minded instructor, preferably one who is a physiotherapist.

But let us see if we can make any suggestions.
The rider has to absorb the upward thrust of the horse at the trot. Normally he has three shock absorbers to do that
The ball of the feet and the various toe joints.
The ankle joint ----- which you have't got
The knee joints
and The hip joints.
then, on some western saddles, a sprung seat.

However after your recuperation you may not have the full muscular capability that you might need to make full use of those joints.

You will also need the full cooperation of your horse.

Perhaps instead of trotting you can jog - ie do a very slow trot and by using your toe joints alone you might be able to cope or maybe you could do a lope instead - ie a very slow canter

But, Oh My, to be able to tell you what to do over the internet, that's a big question. You have an individual problem and what is more so does your horse because at first it might not understand why you are riding in the style you do. As you say - it has been off work for three years so maybe it isn't that keen to get back into work. Maybe to get you competent in the saddle again you will need a brain dead school horse - something mature, unflabbable, rythmic and reliable.

By my book, you are doing well to mount up.

Many of us ride with toes down and we carry the weight in the balls of our feet.
Some of us have very little flexibility in the calves or the hamstrings. We ourselves don't have the ideal flexibility to use the ankles as we might choose. But we get by.

Here in the UK we have some riding instructors who specialise in training handicapped riders to ride and amazingly those riders come to give a pretty good show in the dressage arena. But those instructors have special expertise.
What is more the horses are also very carefully selected for the roll. I have personally watched a rider with no feeling from the upper thighs downwards do a perfectly acceptable dressage test. But I cannot tell you how he did it. Before the demo he had to be lifted on the saddle and afterwards he had to be lifted off. What is more it would have been very rude of me to ask.

If you are keen to pursue your hobby, then you are going to have to become an expert in your own condition. If I were in your position I'd be looking for a physio who rode horses. Then maybe one day it will be for you to tell us about the solutions you discovered.
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post #6 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 10:14 PM
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Howdy Concealed, welcome to the forum. First off, I am sorry to hear about having to have your ankles fused but I am happy that you didn't give up on riding. One thing you might try is either dropping your stirrups or letting them out a hole. You should be keeping your weight on your butt and thighs instead of your feet and your ankles shouldn't need to move. Plus, after 3 years, it will take some time to build those muscles back up so that you can sit a trot and make it look good and feel good. Just keep riding and you will find a way to sit and ride that is comfortable and secure for you. Each one of us has to find our own balance point and everyone will ride a bit differently. I am one of those that tends to point my toes downward and I don't have any trouble sitting the trot. Just give yourself some time to really get back into shape before you get too hard on yourself.

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post #7 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 10:34 PM
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You could always ride a gaited horse. My Paso Fino is the smoothest ride in the world
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post #8 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 10:45 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2010
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Thanks for al the ideas, I will just be patient and give it more time. I may be stiffening up trying to protect myself. I will try to be mindful of that !
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post #9 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 10:46 AM
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I spoke with a horse physio this morning, She was concerned about your running the risk of bringing further damage to your ankles. Certainly she felt that you should not proceed without the full approval of the doctors who have treated you so far. She wondered how you are managing to walk - let alone ride.

Any damage to your toes could bring you with more problems - so if the horse treads on your foot, and breaks a bone or two - then you are in deep trouble.
And lay off the avocados and sea food because a touch of gouty arthritis will also bring painful problems for you.

There is a long thread on this forum entitled "Toes Up - why not down?" If you read it through you will better understand the function of the ankle in English riding. The foot/ankle/leg position is usually different in Western but the principles - to absorb the upward thrust of the horse's movement - are similar.

The muscles you need to be flexible - toes, ankles, calves, hamstrings are those worked on by a Pilates instructor but your ankle surgery may inhibit such exercises.

As a newbie, you are very welcome. But in this case I think the people to give you advice is a sports physio who rides horses and your doctor.
Only you and your physio can make the decisions.
Your first priority is to walk, then to be able to climb stairs.

Sitting to the trot and rising to the trot are not learner's exercises which is exactly why some trail riding centres never trot - they go from walk to slow hand canter. But you still need your ankles to flex even when cantering.

Let us know how you get on.

xxBarry Godden is offline  
post #10 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 11:43 AM
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That's awesome you are trying to ride. Maybe ride bareback for a while to gain your seat and some muscle back? My kids always learn to ride this way and don't get in a saddle until they are comfortable at least at a walk and trot. You can feel the horse much better this way and move with it. When you are comfortable without having to depend on stirrups, try in the saddle. Just start out at a walk and imagine your hips/ seat as jello and move with the horse. It's much easier to keep from bouncing if you know how your horse feels and moves without the saddle in between you. :) HTH! Good luck!
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