Trials and Tribulations of the Adult Beginner - Page 6 - The Horse Forum
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post #51 of 270 Old 10-17-2016, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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My Athletic Background

For me athletic interests and fitness have always gone hand in hand. The activity is both a method and a motivation for general health. I have a very, very hard time convincing myself to go to the gym or watch my diet on the basis of appearance alone, and Iíve been fortunate in that carrying a few extra pounds around has never seriously impacted my day-to-day. If Iím going to put all the work into maintaining fitness I want to do something with it - because for me it really wonít happen on its own. I will never be Ďnaturally thiní or Ďnaturally fití. Itís a lot of constant work and small sacrifices if I want to keep myself healthy. Nothing besides the joy of an activity I love and am passionate about has been enough to motivate me for that.

Iíve found - and lost - that motivation many times over my life.

As a youth it was gymnastics. I was never very good, but I loved it. Beam and vault were my best events, and I would attend two or three days a week right after school before finding someone to drop me off back home.

That died in sixth grade with an ugly episode of not-well-handled cellulitis of the leg. Without going into too many details I didnít end up going to the hospital for it until it became a full-blown medical emergency (I was running a 105 fever and delirious), spent two weeks inpatient during which I almost lost the limb, and then was never taken for any follow-up care after I was released. It would be two years before I could walk again without a limp, and another few after that before my leg stopped periodically giving out on me and sending me sprawling. With proper medical care I should have been fully healed up in a matter of months - but thatís not how things were to be.

Trapped in the house with a walker I became depressed, reclusive, and gained a tremendous amount of weight. In the very long run this would actually end up benefiting me (I learned how to program computers at this time, which would drive my later career) but those were some incredibly dark years.

If youíre wondering where I first developed an interest in horses - it was actually right around this time. I even went so far as to try to join the schoolís pony club, but bullying and lack of opportunity to actually get anywhere near a horse killed my interest in it. Attending a club in which I could only talk about riding and hear other people tell stories about their recent events as it turns out wasnít much fun at all.

The next time I would do anything athletic would be in college. There I discovered SCA rapier (specifically heavy rapier) - which in very simple terms is mostly semi-competitive sword dueling.


Note: I am not in that video - I do not have any good videos of any of my events and all of this was over ten years ago.

I had found a social group I loved and my interest in rapier led to a renewed interest in fitness in general. To be honest, my group probably took it all far too seriously - three two-hour sessions a week of practice, two weekly cross-training sessions lifting at the gym (with an ex-military guy as a group trainer), and then an unofficial private training session with just the experienced folks at someoneís house. This was the height of my athletic focus and the only period in my life where I genuinely managed a 6-day-a-week gym schedule. For about two years I genuinely considered myself an athlete.

I also dabbled in martial arts at this time - doing a year of Tae Kwon Do and a year of Tai Chi Chuan. I took a few lessons in modern combat knife-fighting. I learned archery. I took a few sport shooting classes. I learned to swing dance and swim in open water. None of this was in any way intended to be practical - but I thrived on the camaraderie and the culture.

This ended with more a whimper than a bang. In my senior year of undergrad a combination of group politics and simple lack of time led me to the decision to step away from rapier and instead focus 100% of my energy towards my studies. The rest of my time until finishing my graduate degree I stepped foot inside a gym perhaps twice. I gained weight - but I had other things I was worrying about.

After graduating I moved states and tried to pick rapier back up again, but I was never able to find a group I felt comfortable with. Mind you, I donít exactly consider myself a wilting violet when it comes to taking physical risks - but when several members of the local group were practicing without gorgets (neck protectors) because they found them uncomfortable I noped out in a single session. That was a fatal accident waiting to happen and I didnít want to be responsible for killing someone.

I should have reported them. I didnít.

The next few years were spent in a search to find something that motivated me. I tried Hapkido but other than my first formal lessons in falling properly I didnít get much out of it. I moved to American Kenpo, which I loved and went through some belts in but which work scheduling made attending there and keeping up with my increasingly intense career near impossible.

As a few years passed my weight officially crept up solidly into the obese category and I finally decided I needed to reverse course and just do something for the sake of my health. During this period I tried ballroom dancing, weight lifting with a personal trainer, spin classes, aerobics and yoga. Most of my hours though were spent on an elliptical or in half-hearted attempts to learn to hate running less. I woke up in the mornings to go out and jog (I hate both jogging and mornings). I dieted aggressively to the point where it was bordering on unhealthy - counting every calorie in a spreadsheet and working to hit macro targets daily. In the end I lost 65 lbs and almost ten dress sizes in a little under ten months.

This joyless fitness could only last so long. Work stress began to heat up and as I spent later and later nights at the office I could only convince myself to go so often. I would be up by 6:30 am, out the door by 7, in the office by 7:45 am, leave the office around 7:00-7:30 pm, then be back home by 9 pm having picked dinner up on the way back.

I tried skipping dinner and going to the gym - it was a very bad idea.

I ended up getting into rock climbing the way most people do - you befriend someone who climbs who needs a climbing partner and they manage to talk you into it. A friend of mine - a med student with the same crazy schedule I had - had tried it a few times and loved it. This wouldnít be the only time she talked me into things, but it would be the most successful.

Now itís worth noting that I am almost humorously afraid of heights. This is far more common than youíd think among rock climbers and even though Iíve now been climbing for about nine years it still hasnít really abated - though two fairly major falls during this time certainly havenít helped.

Working through this has been difficult and not always successful. I could write a long post on all the methods and techniques Iíve employed. But in the end most days I end up being able to climb without too many issues, and on those I canít bring myself to get more than halfway up the wall I just focus on routes that are at the absolute edge of my skill - so that getting even that far is a serious accomplishment.

Iíve been talked into trying a few other things during the years - notably one (hilarious) attempt at cross-country skiing, several somewhat more successful hiking trips, and to be honest Iím probably forgetting a few here. Iím one of those people whoís usually up for trying new things. Depending on how dedicated Iíve been at any given time I may or may not have been going to the gym somewhat regularly to cross-train with both targeted weightlifting and whatever sort of cardio I hate least at the moment.

Eventually the insanity of my career caught up with me. Travel made me an unreliable partner, and even trying to squeeze out one night a week and a weekend afternoon reliably became tough. This was sort of the Ďpaying duesí stage of my career. I even tried to find a way to mix climbing and networking by seeing if I could talk any of my peers out to the wall but I never pulled it off. Likewise, I was never talked into golf - though in retrospect I regret that.

Once again I sacrificed the short term for the long and decided to focus fully on my career. I ended up gaining weight (no surprise) and to be honest pretty seriously compromised my health in general - usually by not having time to have minor issues looked at until they became serious ones. This was a distressing cultural norm for the place I was in and all my time was spent either working or trying to deal with the fact I was working. I gave up all pretense of trying to be healthy.

Fortunately I ended up getting poached (targeted recruiting). They offered me significantly more money, saner working conditions, and a whole slew of high-value perks. I got to work 100% remote+travel. I moved into that rarified air where recruiters tend to call me rather than the other way around. I finally had free time again. While this new job would hardly be called Ďlow stressí it was still nice compared to what I was used to.

I moved again, this time purely because I liked the area better and had friends locally. During all this I had gotten almost back to my high weight from college and honestly in far worse actual health due to the various medical concerns. I started to rectify that and was able to get back to climbing again - though the weight was dropping much more slowly this time than it had during my dedicated weight-loss days.

Then I had my one and only serious climbing injury - a freak accident from hardly 10 feet up. I was bouldering (climbing low heights without any rope) and jumped down after completing a route. My toe caught in a divot in my catch mat and I ended up with my rear end landing on my heel while it was trapped point-down and my other leg had sprawled forward. I hyperextended the ankle, did significant soft tissue damage to my toes, and fractured the big-toe metatarsal in my foot. Climbing shoes are a wonderful thing because that could have been much worse. As it was everything stayed more or less compressed into place. Healing from the injury took about 4 months without being able to climb at all and another 2 months of being gentle and regaining strength.

Almost as soon as I got back my climbing partner pulled a tendon in her arm which would prove to be a persistent injury despite very regular medical care and PT, followed by two other similarly frustrating strain-injuries. She had sat through my serious injury and now I endeavored to prevail through hers. She wasnít off the wall nearly as long as I was but it was a lot spottier - sheíd recover only to re-injure after a few climbs. This type of injury is miserably frustrating and I endeavored to be flexible while she endeavored to push herself to climb whenever she could.

Now, we both share the same sort of drive and tendency to push ourselves, and in some ways I think she may be more competitive and determined than I am. But as the months went on it was becoming clear that she needed more than a few weeks off at a time. To her credit she seemed to realize that too. Meanwhile my other partner was starting to have trouble with scheduling and then eventually moved. On one hand I didn't want to abandon my friend and try to find another person to climb with entirely (if I could even manage it) but on the other the literal year and a half of not being able to reliably get on the wall was weighing on me in just about every sense of the term.

I decided I needed a new focus.

Somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to seriously try ballet. In my opinion this is probably the craziest fitness idea I ever followed through on. Here I am, overweight at 31, standing in a leotard in an Ďadult balletí class filled mostly with sevette 18-22 year olds. There are a lot of different types of Ďadult balletí ranging from gentle and technical to brutal and fast - this was the later. We were doing various little jumps to releve and saute exercies within the first week. Now, I had done enough prep work (... about two months worth) that I at least could in fact stand in a good releve in the various ballet positions, follow the instructions being given, and fake my way through visible turnout - but most classes still left me barely able to walk down the studio stairs at the end without my legs threatening to give out. I was getting stronger fast - but not fast enough to keep up.

Also around this time I had a client who required frequent travel and the classes were a serious challenge for me to get to after work due to scheduling. Maybe I could have kept up if I hadnít missed so many classes, and maybe some day I will even return. I know we were doing all those jumps because that instructor seriously intended to help let any student dedicated enough eventually get to pointe - which means strengthening the ankles, calves and feet to the point that it would be safe. She started early because she was treating us like serious students who shouldnít be stopped from achieving that most common ballet dream just because we started after age fourteen - which I loved. She frankly was a great instructor - but my own inadequacies in comparison to the rest of the class caught up to me. I was the weakest link.

My ballet adventure ended after about three months. At the absolute least I have gained a new love of and appreciation for the art. I now look forward to getting shipped to London for work trips, where the Royal Ballet performs. The process has enriched my life even if I never go back to another class.

That was my most recent attempt to find a passion - ending in July. Iíve gained a couple pounds since then, as the cycle tends to go. But only a couple - because it really hadnít been that long.

The rest of this story is continued in my introductory post to the forum.

A few other notes of possible general interest:

  • While I usually count myself firmly on the academic/scientific side Iíve also done meditation practices in a variety of forms on and off since middle school. So Iím fairly familiar with a lot of the mindset and techniques involved in a couple of different style. I actually kind of intend to avoid talking about this as I donít want to get into what can quickly turn into a spiritual discussion (or worse, debate) on an unrelated board - but as it relates to horses the whole Ďcenteredí or Ďempathyí approach to things isnít at all an absurd idea to me.

  • Iíve been vegetarian since I was 14 - lacto ovo but strict. When given an option I will opt to avoid any materials that involve killing an animal (so no leather, but wool is fine). I have had to break this rule many times where I couldnít reasonably avoid it - but when given the choice I go for synthetic even if it means replacing things more often.

  • As mentioned previously, I have an issue with some type of inflammatory arthritis - suspected (but not confirmed) to be rheumatoid arthritis. We can confirm the swelling but itís not quite typical (specifically itís asymmetrical and the pattern of joints affected is a little weird for how RA most commonly starts). This started about three years ago and has been progressing very slowly (thankfully). At its worst itís caused full joint immobility and exhaustion to the point of having a hard time getting out of bed - but usually itís either dormant or a few annoying achy joints, a bit of fatigue, and stiffness in the morning. There is some very minor permanent damage to my joints that can only be seen when comparing x-rays but at this point itís functionally ignorable when not flared up. Paradoxically, exercising on a sore joint tends to make them clear up faster. This makes zero intuitive sense to me, but itís reliable. So I will push myself through joint pain and flare-ups to some extent and this isnít me being irresponsible. I am encouraged not to let myself get sedentary or limit my range of motion due to soreness as that can apparently have worse long term effects. I am cleared by my doctor for all sports/activities I can tolerate the pain of, even when actively flaring up.

Thank you to anyone who bothered to read this whole text block.
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post #52 of 270 Old 10-17-2016, 11:42 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
you ask about better approach to herd entry and catching.

I like to get my horse to come to me. sometimes he will come AND the others come, but that's ok, too. there are a lot of descriptions on threads about "cant catch my horse" that talk about how to get a horse to come to you.

but in general, if you are getting ready to put the halter over Dragon's head, you can start by throwing the rope over her neck, to sort of hold her (she will think she is caught). then, if needed you can turn and cut off the approach of any others who want to get too close. It is better to stop them when you first see them even thinking about approaching. a lead horse will see the intention in a subordinant to encroach on the food or water he is controlling. the leader will see the tiniest shift in the body of the other horse and a pin of their ear, or taisl swich, or tightend jaw, is all it takes to let the other horse know they have been caught red handed.

to do that you have to have horses who believe you have authority, so one or two times you may need to have a whip to make a commotion or a short smack to let them know you DO have authority. after that, a dirty look or a hiss, or a little kick of dirt at them is all it takes IF you catch them right when they are considering testing your authority, not when theyve already had 5 free steps to approach you.

buy, again, I would want to be with you, to actually SHOW you what I mean for at least one or two times.
The descriptive theory at least makes sense. The practice will likely require... well practice.

As far as teaching the horses I have authority - I'm probably still being gentler than I should be. I'm not exactly inclined to get nervous or back away (so I think that's probably good), but hitting an animal is still a little counterintuitive, even if it's the right answer. While I'm willing to do it admittedly I was wanting to offer LOTS of warnings/opportunities before I resorted to it - and that's probably letting them get away with too much in the process. If it comes up again (especially with the same two horses I already warned about this) I will both start warning sooner and be a bit sterner.

Originally Posted by Horsef View Post
Your description of the herd "incident" gave me palpitations. I suppose your instructor knows what she is doing and I gather she was around to help if anything got too dangerous.

I would practice putting the halter on in a low pressure environment so that you reduce the time you are exposed to other horses in the herd. I should take this advice myself, I still manage to put it on backwards after four years of riding :) Best of luck.
Jill moved around during all this. I lost track of her during my initial walk into the herd but by the time I was actually putting the harness on she was sitting on the fence near where this was all going on - though seeming quite intentionally to not have her sort of sphere of influence directly over the situation (not sure how to describe this, but I think people will understand what I mean) and instead just to trying to give me instructions and let me handle it.

You're 100% right about needing to be better with the halter (and it didn't help I picked one that was fairly snug on Dragon). In theory I was shown this during my first lesson but admittedly it didn't register as being the most critical thing we went over so I wasn't paying as rapt attention as I wish I had.
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post #53 of 270 Old 10-18-2016, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Rob55 View Post
Look into eventing. Try to find an eventing barn and trainer. Also you may enjoy fox hunting, competitive mountain trail and endurance. Folks who tell you you must choose between English and Western are more about their issues than yours. There are folks and horses comfortable in both genres. They don't usually try to convert others who do not understand. I know some who have western trail, dressage, and jumping saddles for the same horse. You can trail ride in any tack. If you do anything other than dressage; make sure you are athletic enough to get on that tall horse in the field. Something tells me you are. Forward, green and mean are three different things. A confident novice with balance can ride a forward horse. All forward horses do not have bad brakes. All forward horses are not insensitive to riders balance. Do ride more than one horse before you comitt to one. Also you might enjoy watching extreme mule riding on you tube. I'm 61 and I just started riding after a 40 year break. I'd always rather ride a horse that needs reining in than one that needs a kick. Have fun.
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I'll be honest, right now I love the idea of eventing - the way the different disciplines show off different facets of skill and training is really amazing to me on so many levels. Dressage is really kind of magical to me and Cross country in particluar has a lot of romantic appeal for the same reasons fox hunting does. I love the freedom of movement involved and just find it stunningly beautiful. Of course, that sort of jumping is also the one thing that genuinely makes me a little nervous to contemplate right now - just because of the potential consequences of some of the falls for both horse and rider. Here we find the self-preservation instinct I think some people may feel I'm lacking - I'd love to do it, but foundation, foundations, safety, and foundations.

The barn I'm at right now mostly does hunter/jumper but also will train all three areas of eventing at the lower levels - though they do the schooling for it at another facility with an actual cross country course. That other facility I know also has their own trainers there as well, but requires you have your own horse. As far as I've seen most of the eventing places around here require that.

I have absolutely nothing against western actually. I felt I had to pick where to start based on the beginner classes offered as it seems that everyone is offering one or the other but not both. In the longer term I'd love to try as many differnet styles as I can safely manage. I find some of the various 'rodeo' sports a bit cruel for my taste - but others look quite interesting and anything trail/pleasure looks kind of lovely. Really though my current view is a little like with picking up different martial arts - in the end almost certainly beneficial to get diversity, but trying to start out it's better to get a foundation in one rather than trying to pick two up at the same time and confuse yourself. That might be an entirely wrong-headed way to look at it based on comparisons that don't exist - but it was sort of my initial instinct in the matter. I'd be happy to hear opposing views however.

I haven't tried mounting from the ground quite yet but am fairly sure that the athletics of it won't be a problem. Mostly I am just worried about annoying the horse until I get the technique right to do it lightly and without wrenching the sturrup around as I go up. I really like the term 'forward' horse because I think it caputres the feeling - just a lot of energy and joy in the movement which is sort of infectous. I'm comforted to know that this can exist without the stopping issues. I'll be honest, I'll deal with the stopping issues for the joy of having this much energy to move forward, and I'm even glad to be learning to deal with it now... but stopping sometime would be nice.

And yes, I want to try out a lot of horses. I know I will get some diversity just in lessons because of the way that things work at this stable - but I actually would like to have an opportunity to ride more variety. Most of the rideable full sized horses in this herd are OTTBs or Throughbred crosses of some sort - just because that's what Jill loves. I'd like to get a chance to try something that's not that at some point before I seriously look into leasing/owning a horse so I can understand what other types of horses are like. I'm getting one very particluar view of the world right now and am aware of it.

I did not know competitive mountain trail was a thing - I am very curious about this and will be looking into it more. Extreme Mule Riding looks strangely awesome - though I lack the rock foundations around here that seem to make it the most exciting.

Thank you so much for commenting. Your insight is appreciated.
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post #54 of 270 Old 10-18-2016, 01:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Cammey View Post
There is some very minor permanent damage to my joints that can only be seen when comparing x-rays but at this point itís functionally ignorable when not flared up. Paradoxically, exercising on a sore joint tends to make them clear up faster. This makes zero intuitive sense to me, but itís reliable. So I will push myself through joint pain and flare-ups to some extent and this isnít me being irresponsible. I am encouraged not to let myself get sedentary or limit my range of motion due to soreness as that can apparently have worse long term effects. I am cleared by my doctor for all sports/activities I can tolerate the pain of, even when actively flaring up.
Very interesting to hear about all your athletic pursuits. I've always been an athlete too, but was only briefly serious about several sports other than riding and running, which I've done regularly for 26 years (started running on my 13th birthday). I'll participate in basketball, volleyball, swimming, skiing, tennis, cycling, kayaking, roller blading, pretty much any sport. But in order to become proficient you have to put in the time, the effort, the learning and have the passion, which I've only ever had for riding and running.

With arthritic horses too, we're always told it is better for them to keep moving and not be sedentary. A vet around here tells people with older horses to keep them turned out because they stiffen up more and have more pain when kept in stalls.
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post #55 of 270 Old 10-19-2016, 01:04 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by gottatrot View Post
Very interesting to hear about all your athletic pursuits. I've always been an athlete too, but was only briefly serious about several sports other than riding and running, which I've done regularly for 26 years (started running on my 13th birthday). I'll participate in basketball, volleyball, swimming, skiing, tennis, cycling, kayaking, roller blading, pretty much any sport. But in order to become proficient you have to put in the time, the effort, the learning and have the passion, which I've only ever had for riding and running.

With arthritic horses too, we're always told it is better for them to keep moving and not be sedentary. A vet around here tells people with older horses to keep them turned out because they stiffen up more and have more pain when kept in stalls.
I've always had a lot of respect (... and maybe a touch of envy) for people who can really manage running as an activity. I've tried many, many times to do it but I've just never been able to get to a point where it's not just a raw exertion of willpower to keep going. I do agree about needing passion - honestly I often have difficulty maintaining even two really dedicated at the same time - simply because when I find free time I instantly want to spend it all working on whatever is the most interesting thing - which I then become better/more invested in, and the process reinforces until I'm functionally back down to one. That said I feel sometimes we under appreciate the bits of time that get spent in just trying out and doing occasional/one-off activities. It takes probably a year of work to become much good at most sports/physical events (some much longer) even if you start from a pretty fit baseline - but sometimes only an hour or so to really enjoy them (or maybe even learn something from the). What is really more important? I tend to believe enjoyment/learning - even in sports where I have put in the work.

In the context of arthritic horses it both makes sense to me that it's not good to let them not get any exercise and yet I still feel an awful lot of sympathy by extension.

It's tricky to describe how freaking weird it feels in practice to work against a flare. Have you ever had a mild/moderate sports injury like a pulled/strained muscle? Ok, that's about analogous to a moderately bad flare up pain-wise (... having gotten to deal with both).

So imagine if someone told you that exercising on that would make it feel better the next day. It hurts like you'd expect the day you exercise (though joints, unlike strained muscles, seem to 'cap out' pain-wise and motion hurts but I can often put some pressure on them without making it worse than just the movement itself - it's weird and isn't always intuitive). The joint hurts like you'd expect during the exercise and even gets a little worse as the exercise goes on - but by the next day it feels significantly better and evidence reliably shows that exercising on it tends to make the flares go down faster than not exercising does (though some caution is required depending on a lot of factors).

No matter how well I intellectually know that what I'm doing will actually help there's still a strong instinctual feeling of "anything that hurts like this just cannot be a good idea" which takes some getting used to in order to ignore. It really does have the same 'don't move it' instinct as an injury does.

So I don't know if osteoarthritis behaves anything like inflammatory arthritis, or how those human arthritis forms line up to horse arthritis - though I'd be quite curious. Is it that in horses it makes it better (as it does for my inflammatory arthritis) or is it just that letting things atrophy will be a general downhill spiral? Any way we slice it I have a lot of sympathy for the horse in that position.
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post #56 of 270 Old 10-20-2016, 02:02 PM Thread Starter
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Gym Time (First time back...)
In a perfect world I would be able to work on getting fit for horse riding via more horse riding. Unfortunately, right now I can only get an (not even entirely reliable) weekly lesson, and when I move up to two theyíll both be right after each other. Weíre also still focused enough on basic technique and form that weíre not yet really pushing me physically. As much as possible Iíd like to try to stay out ahead of that curve, so that I can be focusing on what I need to do rather than on not having the strength, flexibility or stamina to do it.

So I decided this week I would try to actually make it back into the gym again. My joints were just recovering from the weekendís flare-up, but I still wasnít feeling great. So I made the deal with myself that I often do to get myself to the gym: at least 5 minutes of cardio and attempt 3 exercises and then if I want I can go. This usually gets me in the door, which proves to be the hard part.

Today was still short, but I at least beat those low expectations:
  • 15 minutes light/moderate cardio via elliptical
  • Hip Abductor Machine (75lbs x 15 reps x 3 sets, 90lbs x 15 reps x 1 set, 100lbs x 15 reps x 1 set) - First time ever trying this. Usually hip abductors are a stabilizer muscle so I don't bother exercising them standalone (it can actually cause imbalances if over-worked). But they were sore enough after posting trot I thought it might be worth it to do at least a little bit. I was trying to start light on the machine but to my surprise I probably started a little too light.
  • Back Extension Machine (75 lbs x 15 reps x 2 sets, 80 lbs x 15 reps x 1 set) - This is the one exercise I reliably do every time, because it has stopped my back from getting thrown out somewhat regularly (as it used to). This was also the hardest thing I did today.
  • Leg Press (125lbs x 8 reps x 1 set - then aborted) - I knew this one would be risky but I really wanted to target my glutes. However, as I feared, my knees disliked this even at this rather low weight (compared to oh, standing up from a chair at 180 lbs). I stopped before I hurt myself.
  • Ab Machine (50 lbs x 15 reps x 3 sets) - I used this because itís gentler than actual sit ups while still getting the full range of motion. Sit ups reliably hurt my back. Plank is great but it's static. More exotic things that donít involve laying on my back (ab wheel, hanging ab exercises) were too hard for first-time-back. This was my compromise.
  • Hyperextensions (15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps - bodyweight only) - Note: This exercise is controversial for good reason. I am personally a fan - but it is very easy (and alluringly fun) to do it wrong and risk hurting yourself in one of several different ways.

All told it was about a 30 minute session and I didnít max out anything - not a terrible way to get back. I followed it up with a more comprehensive and serious stretching routine than Iíve done in a while, targeting the calves, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, back, shoulders, and neck.

Iím also starting to just lightly play around with my diet again and toying with healthy eating. Iím not committing to anything yet, but I am reintroducing Quest Bars (my favorite protein bar) to my diet and just generally trying to make sure I at least theoretically have the building blocks to create any muscle that decides to show up. As a vegetarian, I actually watch protein, iron, calcium and b-vitamins to make sure I hit at least my RDA when Iím going to be exercising. Iím not trying to do anything crazy here - just not wind up deficient.

I havenít decided if I want to lose weight. I originally thought this would be an important factor and I was honestly very self-conscious about the fact I might be hurting the horse by riding as an untrained 180lb Ďsack of sandí as Iíve seen it mentioned in some placesÖ and I do feel a little guilty that my awkward attempts to post trot may be annoying the heck out of Dragon. But for now with both the horse Iím riding and the other horses that appear to be in my immediate future Iím pretty sure the untrained part is important but the extra 20-35 lbs Iím carrying isnít making a huge difference. This may change if I either end up on smaller horses or as I start looking at things like jumping - but for now I'm back to weight being more about vanity than about health or activity... so we'll see if I can dredge up any motivation to actually count calories.
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post #57 of 270 Old 10-22-2016, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
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Prep Week

Despite quite a rough start to the week I feel moderately accomplished.

The time in the airport and flying left me with a good deal of time to read, which I put to use on the books that had been recommended - finishing up an initial read through of The Centered Rider by Sally Swift and making significant headway into Riding and Schooling Horses by Harry Chamberlin. Iíll likely go into more detail with my thoughts on these in another post.

I spent a fair bit of time trying to research herd dynamics and catching in a herd environment. This actually turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated and I didnít run across as much as I had hoped I would. There was a lot of advice/material on how to catch a difficult-to-catch horse in a small group or pasture environment, but ironically that is not really my challenge at the moment.

I ended up back at the Think Like a Horse channel again. As Iíve mentioned before: As a person, Iím not fond of this guy. Most of the times he opens his mouth about humans I feel the world is slightly worse for it. But I do find some of his commentary on horses quite interesting and have found him to be one of the few people who takes the time to actually document and comment on the details of horse behavior.

In addition to my research activities I also did a bit more pragmatic planning. I managed to find a promising looking stable around here that does Ďquarter leasesí on horses - just twice weekly 2-hour slots for a relatively inexpensive fee. Theyíre also open late enough that I could realistically make it there after work for these slots. This looks excellent for my desire to find some time to be Ďjust working on my skillsí and supplement lessons once I get to the point of being able to ride independently. Though they also warn on their website that youíre expected to be able to go out into group pastures and catch/tack/release your own horseÖ so on the plus side at least Iím already working on that.

On one final note, my ĎRuby Redí riding helmet finally arrived. Itís more a crimson color - which was unexpected, but I love. Picture of it on an actual bright red object for comparison:

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Last edited by tinyliny; 10-22-2016 at 03:07 PM.
Cammey is offline  
post #58 of 270 Old 10-23-2016, 02:27 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2016
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Lesson Three: A Rising Trot Lesson

Todayís lesson was considerably more sedate than the prior two.

The pasture near the gate was incredibly muddy from the rain that has been falling all week, and the horses were mid-breakfast, so Jill looked down at my boots, realized they were short, and said she'd go grab Dragon. Then I groomed her and was given a lesson in how to pick out hooves and what can happen if you donít (thrush). I did most, but not all, of the tacking up and then we started the lesson off with a bit of a walking sans stirrups and then a little western jog.

Dragon was considerably more sedate today than in prior lessons. She had been sleepy enough during grooming that her head was actually awkwardly low when buckling straps on her bridle, and for the first time during riding I found myself more telling her to speed up and not slow down rather than the other way around - at least for the first two thirds of the lesson. She went to the walk easily and without complaints, and only a couple times did I have to stop her from running off with me.

I finally think I am Ďgettingí western jog. I understand the cue for getting her head down and have figured out how to do it without leaning forward (which I had been doing). It really does feel like a different gait from the perspective of riding it. Thereís a lot less up-and-down motion compared to her typical English-style trot (which can get quite bouncy) - not entirely flat, but kind of close, to the point where it almost feels like the saddle is rocking a bit rather than bouncing. She also seemed a lot happier to get into it today, rather than trying to constantly rush forward and intentionally slip into a more energetic gait as she usually does.

The majority of the lesson was, as expected, spent on rising trot. Iíd say I got the motion maybe 70% of the time.

Steering was dramatically, dramatically improved from last time - just right out the gate. I also figured out (though did not manage to consistently implement) how to use my leg to keep her on the rail at the same time as I am posting without compromising my body position. While I wasnít able to perfectly keep her on the rail, the pair of us at least no longer looked like drunk drivers and I could now weave her around the gates while posting. I noticed Iím steering a bit more with the reins in general instead of steering from my seat, though I tried a couple things to do some light seat-steering and it kind of seemed to work.

We started to work on worrying about which diagonal I was posting on and on switching diagonals when I changed directions on turns (Ďstartedí being the operative word on that last one). Looking forward to check which diagonal I am on seems to really unbalance me right now and I have a tendency to stay down too long on the switching move. We did some practicing of just 'switching' randomly without worrying about which one was 'correct' just so I could try to get the concept down... I think practicing this one may have annoyed Dragon a bit.

My hands were an awful lot easier to keep steady while posting (though theyíre apparently now a bit too far back and the reins still a bit too loose). It was suggested I actually lean forward a bit more than I was doing in general - which confused me a little, but I tried to implement (though it made posting feel much more precarious). My ankles kept drifting upwards a bit when I got into faster trots and wasnít paying attention - though I am completely capable of keeping them in perfect position if I focus on them.

So Iíve got an awful lot of work to do on this, but it's coming along.

At the very end we did a little riding over two cavaletti poles placed several strides apart. I was expecting this to be no different from riding around the ring, but actually Dragon shifted her timing slightly and I ended up behind her movement, then trying to catch up, then actually a little off-balance for the first time in the lesson (having been trying to lean forward a bit more per discussion). I actually ended up balancing lightly off her neck with one hand at the end of one of the runs. Iím still not quite sure what happened there, but Iíd like to try it a few more times to figure it out.

Dragon still doesnít like stopping. Even in her relaxed-to-the-point-of-sleepy mood today I ended up having to fight with her a little about haltingÖ though we did manage one perfectly timed halt (though brief) between the two cavaletti polesÖ then of course she went to walk off too soon. (must I hold rein pressure all the time to keep her still? I genuinely use more pressure here than for anything else I ever do).

Overall, it was a nice quiet little lesson. I really wish I was able to practice all of this a lot more.

Next weekend unfortunately Jill is unavailable for lessons - and that was supposed to be the two-lesson weekend. I am seriously considering taking her up on the early-morning lesson slot on Saturday as well. I seriously may need to take up the practice of napping.
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Cammey is offline  
post #59 of 270 Old 10-24-2016, 01:43 AM
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Desert side of Pacific Northwest
Posts: 208
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I have only gotten through your first riding lesson (back on page 1), but want to let you know what a great writer you are and how interesting you are making this adventure. I started reading your journal in part just to find out about Member Journals before I perhaps start my own, but am hooked now, as this business of how people are taught to ride is very interesting to me and you make it easy to visualize. Thank you for sharing! --LP
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LlamaPacker is offline  
post #60 of 270 Old 10-24-2016, 02:04 PM
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: NE Pa
Posts: 6,598
• Horses: 6
Originally Posted by Cammey View Post
I am seriously considering taking her up on the early-morning lesson slot on Saturday as well. I seriously may need to take up the practice of napping.
Now we know you are hooked, if you are willing to get out of bed early on a weekend!

Totally worth it, IMO.

There is no joy equal to that found on the back of a horse.
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