I’m happily back in the saddle again. Now, Zelda and I are working on getting back into shape. It’s kind of a toss up which one of us is in worse shape. I tried to use an older girth on her today and discovered a solid three inch gap between the billets and the girth. I guess the good news is that my ankle dictates how much I can do on any day, which means that there’s no chance that I will overwork her.
I was cleared to ride on November 16th and I’ve been riding 2-3 times per week since. Well, riding in only the most basic sense. The first few times, I just walked. For thirty minutes at a time we marched around the indoor, bending, circling, leg yielding. Zelda is fine with the walking. She’s even finer if we walk on a loose rein. It’s okay because walking is a great way to get a horse back into shape and it minimizes the amount of stress on my ankle (there is nothing quite like riding that puts similar stress on a weak ankle. When you ride, your ankle acts as a shock absorber and the stability of the ankle is controlled by the ligaments.)
Zelda’s less fine when it starts to feel like work. I’m having flashbacks to when she first came into my life and would throw a tantrum if at the slightest opportunity. I haven’t been able to wear spurs as I can only fit my ankle brace into my hiking boots. Zelda has been taking advantage of that, so I started carrying a dressage whip. She hates being spanked. She shakes her head and neck. She kicks out. She bucks. You’d think I was asking for something a lot harder than a few steps of trot. Truthfully, my ankle isn’t crazy about trotting either. I can post, but only for short times and I feel badly sitting the trot as she needs to rebuild muscle. But despite her objections, I think she likes having a job.
This weekend I was able to ride in the outside arena, which perked her up. And today, I wore my paddock boots, which meant that I could wear my spurs. Suprise! It’s amazing how her manners return when she’s properly motivated. Of course, the flip side is that KT tape is not enough support for my ankle so I’m going to need to come up with a better solution that keeps her moving and me comfortable.
Now, don’t feel too sorry for Zelda. I had a pro rider her twice a week for the month before I got on her. I didn’t welcome the idea of getting on her after 10 weeks of R&R. I especially wanted her to be used to going in the indoor, as well. Not that she’s been difficult about it. Zelda had been great about being in a new environment. She was a bit spooked the other day when there was heavy rain and wind — the sound in was pretty intense — but she rallied. She’s a smart horse and her level-headedness is a real asset as we get our collective bodies back in some kind of shape.
So, what’s the toughest part of riding? Getting off. I am fortunate that the barn has a huge platform mounting block, which makes getting on easy. A few treats have convinced her to stand very still next to it. Dismounting is harder for two reasons. First, I need to put weight in my left stirrup in order to swing my right leg over her back (yes, I should learn out to dismount on the “off side” but it’s awkward.) And second, by the time I get off, my ankle is tired. It’s one of the reasons why I dismount onto the block rather than dropping to the ground. It’s a long way down and I don’t want my ankle to collapse. It’s a bit awkward to dismount onto the block and then walk down the steps, but Zelda’s very patient about my slow progress.
I’m very glad that I have a place where I can ride all winter as now I have a fighting chance for both of us to be ready for more in the spring.