Horses sense their riders’ pain and imbalance and develop similar imbalances and strain patterns. When you feel more alert, balanced and responsive, your horse will, too.
Ever notice when some people ride a horse it will walk sideways or shift its head to one side? How some horses willingly move and turn for one rider but not for another? You may think this is a reflection of the rider’s skill, but it could very well be due to the rider’s physical condition.
Betty and her trainer were both looking forward to her first competition. Try as she might, Betty could not maneuver her horse consistently well enough to compete. Her horse would not take the jumps well and the turns were stiff and painful.
Seemingly unrelated, Betty had been suffering from low back pain due to a fall about 2 years ago. After myofascial and cranio-sacral treatments, her back felt much better. Once her back improved, she was amazed at how much better her horse rode.
Horses are very sensitive to their rider’s pain and discomfort. Betty’s is a classic case of how a horse responds to low back pain. Her case is also classic for how a horse will move better when the rider feels better. Within 3 months of no back pain, Betty entered her first competition.
Ray was in his 50s and had been a rodeo rider as far back as he could remember. He loved steer roping and was so good at it that he had won a fair amount of money at various rodeos. The last year or so, however, he wasn’t winning. He blamed it on his horse. It just wouldn’t run and respond like it used to.
Ray sought help for his sore shoulder, and much to his delight he got a lot more. After a few sessions of myofascial release and cranio-sacral, it wasn’t the relief of the muscle spasms and shoulder pain that impressed him, it was the improvement in his horse! All of a sudden his horse began running and responding like it used to. Ray told me, “…that horse moves like a spring chicken…” Once the pain resolved in the rider, the horse felt much better. By the way, Ray began winning again.
A veterinarian recently shared with me that one of her clients has 5 horses, all with the same structural problems. This is no coincidence. The rider had a limp from an old injury and was transferring the imbalance to her horses.
TAKE CARE OF THE RIDER
The basics: Rest, hydration, diet and exercise.
1) Get adequate rest! When you are tired you become sloppy, uncoordinated, irritable, and more prone to injury. The average person needs between 6-8 hours of sleep each night. If you are relying on caffeine to function because you are not getting enough sleep, you are putting yourself at risk for injury and illness. If you never wake up refreshed, even after 8 hours of sleep, you may have an underactive thyroid, adrenal fatigue, toxins, poor diet, sleep apnea, chronic underlying infection, hypoxemia (not enough oxygen in the blood) or allergies.
To properly diagnose and treat these conditions, you will need the help of a physician who takes a wholistic approach. For a listing of physicians in your area, go to acam.org or a4m.org.
2) Drink enough water! Being dehydrated is as bad as being tired. People are much more prone to injury when they are tired and thirsty. Water is the body’s natural lubricant and makes everything work better, including your brain. During desert training in the army, we were told how wars were lost or won depending on the hydration of the soldiers!
Only water will hydrate you, not soft drinks or iced tea (unless herbal and non-caffeinated). Filtered water is best, but in a pinch, tap water is better than no water. A squeeze of lemon will add a little taste and will help detoxify the body while you sweat. To prevent cramps, esp. for anybody working hard physically (sports, doing physical labor or even working in the yard) add a tablespoon of magnesium citrate or Epsom salts to every gallon of water.
How do you know when you’ve drunk enough water? Your urine will turn clear. A WORD OF CAUTION: if you are drinking so much water that you are urinating a large volume every hour or less, you are drinking too much. Over hydrating your body is also a problem.
3) Eat a healthy diet! What you eat affects how you think and how you feel. If you eat junk (white flour products, sugar, anything with high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, or foods with dyes), you are compromising your health. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (NutraSweet®) or Sucralose (Splenda®) should always be avoided; they interfere with your normal energy metabolism and brain function. The best non-caloric sweeteners are stevia, xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol. The best caloric sweeteners are agave juice, honey, maple syrup and molasses.
Don’t forget vitamins. A good multivitamin, extra vitamin D (2000-5000 units a day), Vitamin C (1000 mg twice a day), and omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) will improve your stamina, alertness and ability to heal. Finding a good multivitamin can be a bit tricky, so ask an unbiased expert.
4) Exercise! Riding a horse is demanding and the better shape you are in the better off you will be. The best exercise to optimize your riding is weight training combined with stretching. Working with a trainer will get you into shape faster and better than anything else. There are various kinds of weight training programs to try but a good trainer will help you decide what is best for you. Another excellent exercise is jumping rope. Just 10 minutes jumping rope 3 times a week will put you into great shape cardiovascularly.
BEYOND THE BASICS
When our bodies sustain an injury or are hurting in any way, whether from a fall, accident or just everyday wear and tear, something more is needed to restore balance than just the basics. This is where myofascial release comes in. Myo-fascial release is gentle yet powerful. It unwinds the body and releases the tensions and strains that are the cause of your pain. It is so gentle that it can be used on infants (it can be very helpful in resolving colic and chronic ear infections) yet it is so powerful that it can be used on the traumatized overworked bodies of laborers and athletes.
Once you are feeling better and return to your regular routine, occasional treatments will maintain function and keep the pain away. You will be amazed at the difference maintaining your health makes. Many clients find that routine visits maximize their performance and increase their sense of well-being. An added value of maintenance treatments is that you are far less likely to get injured; if you do get injured, recovery is much faster.
It’s amazing how people will go to any lengths to take care of their horses, but when it comes to taking care of themselves, all of a sudden they don’t have enough time, or it’s too expensive or they think all they need is rest and a pain reliever. If you love your horse, you need to take care of yourself. Follow the basics and include myofascial release and cranio-sacral by a qualified practitioner.
Correct your own imbalances and alleviate any painful symptoms so you and your horse can be well on your way to greater health, comfort and optimal performance.
Dr. Ben has been caring for hurt and injured bodies for almost 30 years. His practice of Massage Therapy is located in Shrewsbury and Nottingham, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at 717.235.3485 or you can visit him on the web at www.CentersForHealing.com