Options for a Speedy Recovery After an Injury
by Emily Beasley
“I know how you ‘horse people’ are – you’ll ride with a broken face!” my doctor jokingly said during my most recent visit. I was in her office anxiously awaiting medical clearance so I could return to “full activity” (meaning horseback riding).
At the time I laughed along with her, but later as I was cautiously easing myself into the saddle her words really hit home. Only one week had passed since a fall injured my lower back during a training session with a green horse. What on earth was I thinking? I could barely bend over far enough to touch my toes, yet I was convinced I was ready to get back on the horse.
Luckily, a little common sense (or self-preservation) kicked in and I opted to dismount, thinking to myself that my doctor has many of us pegged. So, what can we “stubborn and hardheaded horsewomen” (my husband’s words, not my own) do to maintain our fitness and sanity when recovering from injuries that require long healing times?
Groundwork. I love to ride, which means I’m often guilty of choosing to ride my horses instead of work them on the lunge line. Lately I’ve spent more time lunging my horses to maintain their fitness and I’m amazed at how sore my arms and upper body are as a result! Even if he’s on his best behavior my arms get quite a workout with a 1500-pound animal on the other end of the rope. I’ve noticed that my arms are more toned and I feel much stronger after spending a few weeks focusing on groundwork. I’ve been working muscle groups that I often overlook.
In-Hand Training. Talk about an aerobic workout! I’ve spent the summer training several green horses and in-hand work has definitely impacted my fitness. Spending time hand walking, grazing, and focusing on in-hand exercises has required me to increase how much I’m using my own two legs instead of sitting on four. Jogging horses over trot poles and jumps brought attention to my own cardiovascular fitness and provided the opportunity to improve it with some aerobic training.
Yoga. As many of you know I am a huge advocate of yoga for riders. When recovering from an injury, gentle yoga poses provide tremendous benefits. Since I have a lower back injury I’ve opted for restorative, hip-opening poses like lizard and pigeon (both personal favorites!). I recommend riders everywhere take advantage of a local yoga class and speak with the instructor for personalized suggestions for poses that would have the most benefit.
After my doctor left the room, I overheard her discussing with a colleague when it would be safe for me to ride again. The two of them went back and forth a bit and both mentioned how determined most equestrians are to get back in the saddle. When she returned her response was, “You know better than I do what you’re capable of and I’m sure that you’ll ride when you want to regardless of what I say.”
Unfortunately, riding and working with horses will always have a certain level of danger regardless of how many safety precautions we take. For me, the reward is worth the risk. I’m still working on not rushing my body and taking the time to heal. I know that there are options that can speed my recovery, keep me fit, and allow me to develop a deeper connection with my horses. This makes the wait much more bearable.
Stay healthy, safe, and have a great ride!
Emily is the owner of ATF Wellness and the creator of Bootcamp4Breeches: Functional Fitness for Equestrians. She coordinates the Health & Physical Education teacher education program at Louisiana State University, is past president of the Louisiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, teaches Yoga classes, and researches how women of all ages can develop a positive physical self-concept. She spends her free time eventing with her OTTB, Titan, and TB/Cleveland Bay cross, Bean, in Baker, LA where she and her husband share a small farm with four dogs, three cats, and three horses. You can reach her via email at email@example.com; follow her on Twitter @DrBLovesPE; or like her Facebook page, Bootcamp4Breeches: Fitness Training and Wellness Consulting.