Equo’s south-west brand ambassador Ali Dane offers an interesting insight into spending money on your horses:
Have you ever totted up how much money you spend per month on your horse? I have. It’s a truly terrifying exercise, but when you don’t have endless funds, it’s a necessary evil.
When I was working full time in an office job, I spent my lunch hour working on various horsey spreadsheets. Some were planning competitions and training, others planned weekly exercise regimes, complete with colour coding. The financial ones grouped all my expenses into different categories, for example:
- Feed, haylage and bedding
- Competition and affiliation fees
- Tack and other equipment
- Consumables (grooming products etc.)
- Horse wellbeing (physio, chiro etc.)
The first time I did this, my colleague had to coax me back to consciousness after I saw my “Total Spend” figure – the thing that hit me first was how much I spent on ‘Horse Wellbeing’.
Only the very best equine bodyworkers are allowed to touch my horses, and they come at a price. My mindset is typical of a dressage rider: passionately pursuing perfection, yet obsessively imperfect.
If there is the smallest niggle with any of my horses, there’ll be a full blown “CSI: Oxfordshire” style drama to find out what the matter could be, what caused it and how we might stop it from happening again. Detective work usually leads us to believe that the main causes are horses practicing martial arts on one another in the field, poorly fitting tack, or just the strain of being a superstar eventer/dressage diva/ultimate allrounder.
But a few years ago, all my horses showed most of their tension on the left rein and while they could perform well, they lacked true suppleness throughout their bodies. We investigated, but our forensic efforts didn’t uncover anything major. We were left scratching our heads.
And then, like a lightening bolt from a dramatic, stormy sky, the realisation hit: the problem was ME. I was crooked. (Cue close-up shot of me throwing myself to my knees in the middle of the arena, fists raised to the sky, shouting “Nooooooooooooooo!” Not that I’m a drama queen.)
A bottle of wine and a whole range of complicated cognitive processes ensued:
Denial (“I can walk in a straight line, even after a bottle of wine. I can’t be crooked.”).
Helplessness (“I’m beyond repair. NO ONE CAN HELP ME. I’M THE EQUESTRIAN VERSION OF THE ELEPHANT MAN. I SHOULD NEVER GET ON A HORSE AGAIN.”)
Bargaining (“If I get myself looked at, they might be able to make me ride like Charlotte Dujardin.”).
The morning after, determination kicked in. I WOULD get myself seen to, and I WOULD work as hard as possible to correct my physical misalignments (the mental ones would have to wait…). As fate would have it, I happened to ride a horse for a very well qualified, very experienced (human) physiotherapist and I asked her about treating my crookedness.
Thankfully, she said she could help. That lady is called Denise Thomas. She’s a miracle worker, and as an equestrian herself, she understands the strain that riding puts your body under. And she doesn’t judge me for being a tad dramatic.
Skip forward four years and I still try and go as often as my schedule allows. However, I’ll be there like a shot if I notice some of the tell-tale signs of my lop-sidedness creeping back into my riding. As all my problems stem from trauma to my hips (dislocation and stress fracture) and my lower back (hairline fractures), I often feel that I cannot, as hard as I try, sit equally on both seat bones. Also, if I look in the mirror, standing square on, and I can see that my right shoulder is dropped, I know I’ve got to see Denise.
Us riders are a tough old breed and are used to soldiering on through pain and stiffness, but how beneficial is this to our horses? Our beautiful, athletic charges, who want for nothing. Except for a rider as flexible, supple and straight as them… Why are we so quick to ensure that our horse has everything he needs, yet are loathe to spend money on ourselves? Is it that we think our wellbeing doesn’t matter? Or maybe it’s a subconscious unwillingness to accept that WE might be causing an issue in our precious horse?
I asked Denise to share some of her thoughts on this topic:
“How many of you are actually aware that asymmetry in the horse will often match that of the rider? It is difficult to say who put whom out initially, but fair to say that you will eventually have a knock on effect on each other, especially if you only ride one horse.
“If your horse is dropping a shoulder, think, are you perhaps dropping yours and is it habit or are you stuck like that? Are you dropping a seat bone causing your horse to rotate through his spine, or is he stuck in a dysfunctional pattern causing you to drop yours?
“As a rider and a therapist, I wholly believe that spending money on your horse and not backing it up with fixing yourself is frankly, a half measure, as you will cause unnecessary strain to yourself and your horse.
“The point is all of us at some point will ache and struggle, and popping pills is only masking the symptoms and not addressing the underlying cause. So go on, start looking after your own body and enjoy the vast improvements in your riding!”
Whatever the reason for not getting yourself seen to, get over it. Save up, if you have to. If you genuinely care about progressing with your horse, forgo that takeaway, or (heaven forbid) that bottle of wine. Swallow your pride and your fear of a stranger seeing you in your undies (but please do wear appropriate ones!), book an appointment and above all, be honest with them about what you’re feeling.
If you’ve enjoyed this read then don’t miss Ali’s other brand ambassador blogs.
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