Friday, May 25, 2012


For myself, one of the harder parts of my partnership with my horse is our differing goals.    I often envy pairs ice skaters, where both parties are firmly agreed on a common ending.   With my horse, the struggle for me is to encourage him to work happily for me, always improving his work, while recognizing that all he really wants to do is eat and roll in the dirt!

The best way for me to keep my mounts' work at least not annoying is for me to be unobtrusive in my riding style.     Although I hold him firmly to leg means go now,  much of the rest can be suggested and then rewarded.    There is no way to hold a carrot on a stick in front of him, but if responding to my whispered requests is not too hard, he generally is happy to go along with the program.

I must always be sensitive to his feelings though.    If he feels the work is too hard, boring, repetitive etc. then it is up to me to recognize his concern and respond.    Perhaps the same work but out in a field or on the trail and not a ring.    Perhaps company around, even drill team riding.     Perhaps work needs to be abandoned on occasion in favor of a simple gallop up a long slope for a workout.     Horses do not ever seek perfection the way I do, and I must always be aware of their complex emotions and desires to achieve my own goals.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


In 2011, a planetarium ran an ad in a NY newspaper offering to take people to another planet.    Over 18,000 people submitted applications.   These were then given to a panel of psychologists to evaluate.   These scientists concluded that most applicants wanted to go to a new world to make a new start in life.   They may have felt that they did not do a good job the first time around and that in a new world, they could start fresh with a blank slate, a do over so to speak.

This is classic discouragement and a new page or planet is not needed so much as rewriting the page you have been given.    It is so hard after an accident or injury has dealt you a crushing blow, but the last thing you should do is become comfortable with your limitations.   Looking around and not always in front of you may allow you to see that a different reality is possible.   Look up at the stars, or if blocked in one direction, try another where you may find the going easier.  Not all people are born "lucky" or optimistic, but everyone can learn from pain and loss and mistakes.  

You may not in the end reach your ultimate goal, but you will have the satisfaction of having given the battle your all.   And who knows, while looking around to get unstuck, you might find an even more appealing goal to aim for now that you have reinvented your life.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Self Care

In horse sports we all get focused on our animals.   All they really just want is to eat, socialize and roll in the dirt, but we ask then to work for us on a regular basis.    So it makes sense that we care for them physically as well as emotionally.    No horse "shrinks" here, but time to decompress, do something they seem to enjoy, a vacation basically.     What about riders?    Does anyone ever address the stress and even possibly burn-out that can happen to a competative athlete?

Recently, I was unlucky and in Florida's warm humid spring I contracted pneumonia.   As a physician, I recognized and started treatment immediatly with powerful antibiotics which knocked out the fever and wracking cough quickly.   It was then VERY tempting to go right on with all my activities as though I was fine.  But my education tells me otherwise.    Those powerful drugs work but at a drain on my system.   If I keep taking energy and health out of the system and not restoring it I will only get into worse trouble down the road.    I HATE taking time off to be sick, and heal.   So many years of my life have been spent in such endeavors, but bodies take real prisoners and can find tough ways to make you slow down in the end.

When sick or injured, allow time to heal.    Be considerate of the insult your body has had and make sure to eat well and rest physically and spiritually to get back to being your best you.   This advice also holds true for stress of all types, such as travel, love, divorce, job loss or change and many others.   Treat yourself at least as well as your mount and you may be amazed at the changes.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Power In Motion

Lately training has focused on asking Erik to reach further under his body with his hind legs with each stride he takes.   Simple physics states that this long lever arm (the hind leg)  placed further under the body will be able to lift that body more easily with the same force applied.    From a rider standpoint this has several important points.   Each leg produces more lift and forward impulsion, so that less aid is needed on my part for the desired result.   Often I need to back off my aid so that I don't drive the horse through my half halt and alter his balance more then he can handle.   It also means that any slight straightness issue becomes a glaring problem if the hind legs push off with differing ammounts of strength due to their position under the body.   It becomes quickly obvious from the saddle how much power is lost when the horse is not aligned properly in his body.    It has become a new increased focus for me to actually moniter all four limbs and not just front versus back.   More mental work rather than physical, which is good for me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


If I had to explain in a few words how my winter in Florida so far has helped my riding, it is all about the consistancy.   And that is not just referring to being able to ride most every day in sunshine, but sticking with a dressage focus and not getting off track.    Whether your interest is polo, jumping or dressage, you can immerse yourself in watching good riding and listening to good instruction virtually every day.   This being an Olympic year the big shows with many big name riders happen almost every weekend.   And generally all this education is free or low cost and nearby.

There is also a conctant focus of training which is easier for me to maintain in this atmosphere.  Each day I can build on what happened the day before, pushing thru resistance or hesitancy in a firm but gentle way.   I have been cultivating the attitude of You will do this for me when dealing with my horse.   So often in the recent past even, my phrase was would you please do this or at least try it.   I think the happy medium I search for involves requesting in an insisting manner, if that makes sense.   I do not wish to be a dictator but a firm leader - directing and always encouraging for more.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cross Training

Thanks to people who responded to my last posting.   You have all given me much to think on and new ideas to process.   Perhaps the differences between disabled from birth and born able bodied play a bigger role than I realize.

Cross training is important for humans and animals alike.   We try to change our horses and perhaps dogs routines to avoid boredom and challenge new muscles and balance skills, and I would suggest must challenge those same principles in ourselves.    Some riders find yoga to help them with both concentration and balance as well as limberness and strength.    I have not had much success with yoga (and that may have been instructor driven) but have found all I was looking for in Pilates.   Because of my rather obvious physical challenges I did not try a group class, but did some research first.   I was able to find an ocupational therapist with pilates training locally.    I started with private classes (eek - expensive) until she became used to my strong and weak points and how to modify exercises for me.   Then I was able to switch to a semi=private and work along with someone else.   This cut the cost and has kept me more task oriented in many ways.

In the past I worked one on one with a professional body builder as a personal trainer.  He was able to instill a love of perfect practice over much practice to weightlifting which really has carryover to dressage training.   He insisted on the so called principle of muscle confusion which had you quickly alternate muscles used and the way in which they were challenged.   This, while not perhaps the best way to grow BIG muscles, certainly hepled me gain strength throughout the muscles range of motion.   Sadly as my hands have continued to deteriorate those exercises have all had to be modified and many watered down.   I do remain in Peter's debt for the habits he instilled, such as doing all your work at such a pace as to make you slightly breathless.   That way grooming and tacking adds to aerobic workout!   Think of the possibilities........

Friday, February 3, 2012

For Sake of Appearance

Today I struggled once again with the issue of trying my best to look like everyone else and ride just like all the other capable riders in our barn.   In particular, the issue which came up was using a piece of equipment which as a para rider I am allowed to use versus struggling away to figure it out and perhaps not achieve such an easy or neat result.   I find it hard to explain my dilema, but In a nutshell, I do not like being labeled as "different", or as though I had special advantages.   I work very hard to minimize my own disabilities when seen in public and that goes for riding as well.   To me the best complement is when someone notices my mount and I riding really well together not realizing until later when I am unmounted that I am in fact disabled.    If I felt that my horse's well being was in any way compromised, I would use any legal device without hesitation.    That has not been the case for me so far.    I do wonder how my fellow para riders feel about this issue.