Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rider Confessions

Happy First Day of Summer!

Rider Confession #1:
I used to ride until I was dehydrated.   

This was when I was a teenager and in my early twenties.  I remember getting off the horse, both of us covered in sweat, and my abdomen seizing up.  I very nearly blacked out a couple times and often felt like I was going to be sick.  I was just lucky that my lesson horse never tied up, but I nearly did.  Have you ever experienced a "Charlie Horse" in a hamstring muscle?  How about both hamstrings at the same time?

Looking back, I wish that my instructor had moderated our workout by forcing more breaks.  She did hand me my water bottle during the lesson, but I probably should have been taking electrolytes, too.  In her defense, I would not cancel a lesson just because the sun was blazing into the 90's and our arena was uncovered.  Maybe she thought that I would learn my lesson and start regulating my own saddle time to accommodate health concerns.  This possibility just occurred to me now, so I guess that I failed the "hands-on" learning approach.  Now that I have Harley and ten more years under my belt, I am much more conscious of hydration and keeping both of us healthy in the summer months.  What was that saying about age and wisdom?  Or was it youth and folly?  Personally, I think it was the "Charlie Horses."

Rider Confession #2: 
Hans Christian Anderson's 
"The Princess and the Pea" 
is the story of my life.

Literally and figuratively, I am not a princess.  But when it comes to the whole pea part of the story, well...  

...Let's just say that I get blisters by merely looking at a new pair of shoes and if I wear anything other than leather gloves, the skin rubs off my fingers.  As a young rider, I suffered from perpetual raw patches on my inner calves, because I rode in paddock boots with jodphurs.  The stirrup leathers grabbed and twisted the skin off my calves every time that I rode.  Every time.  The pain of warm bath water hitting open skin is unforgettable, but just in case the sensation escaped my memory, I got to relive it a little bit with my new high boots earlier this spring (Discount-box boots vs. FedEx-box boots).

When I purchase clothes, comfort is my number one priority.  I am often discouraged to find irritating materials incorporated in riding clothing, like the elastic band around the ankle in riding pants.  It feels like my skin under the band is burning.  I tried riding Harley bareback in shorts one time.  Every surface of skin that was in contact with his hair grew large, red hives.  I had hives on top of hives.  It was scary and disheartening.  I was trying to be carefree on a hot summer day only to find myself rushing home to take Benadryl.  My mom would tell you that I spent the beginning of my riding career with my eyes half swollen shut and snot running from my nose.  When I was on stable duty, I used to wear a surgical mask when I cleaned stalls to avoid an allergy rush before my riding lesson.  My early dressage trainer and her husband knew that "this kid is for real" when I showed up to the barn with a fresh package of masks and antihistamines. 

As for the leather gloves, I used to wrap my fingers in baseball tape before I discovered the merits of purchasing more expensive riding gloves.  That also reflects the amount of contact that I used to have in my hands.  Learning to sit the trot was another ordeal altogether, complicated by never really riding in a saddle that fit my petite frame.  Even if the saddle has recessed stirrup bars, the buckle from the stirrup leathers hurt my inner thigh, which leads me to my next confession.

 Rider Confession #3: 
I do webbers.

Clean and comfy.  No extra holes to punch or leathers to trim.

I ride with leather webbers instead of stirrup leathers on my dressage saddle.  They are Bates brand, black leather with a nylon core that is not supposed to stretch.  I purchased nifty little sleeves to cover the metal "T" that sets the webber to a comfortable length.  Now I do not have to feel the bulk of the leathers, the pinch of the "T", or the immovable buckle under my thigh.  I also think that they look quite sharp.

Harley gets to be comfy, too, with his contoured girth.

It's the little things that count.
No more pinching leathers and even less between me and my horse.  Bliss.

Final Confession:
I have endured my share of pain for the sake of my passion, but, like all horse girls, the thought of not riding never crossed my mind. 


  1. I love, love, love my webbers! I'm also a half chap chick *laugh*. IMHO, bareback is not nearly as comfortable for the horse as people might think. My husband bought me a Cashel saddle (glorified bareback pad) and the horses love it - it's the perfect in betweenie when I go for those leisurely laps around the pasture.
    P.S. I blew a raspberry at the TV this morning when the weather woman happily announced, "It's finally summer!" (record breaking temps in May and June AND triple digit temps last week - Yuck! :oP

  2. We must be sisters, I cannot stand binding clothes, elastic, wool of any kind (yuck!) I can't even sweep the floor without gloves, I hear ya! As far as riding clothes, it is so hard to "be one" with the horse when you've got all these itchy scratchy things going on. I dread new "things" just because of the break-in period that I have to endure. But, like you, I did it then and I know I'll do it again for the sake of riding. :-)Not riding isn't an option.

  3. Great post.

    I can especially relate to the princess and the pea confession... I ride a tractor around most days. If even the tiniest shred of oak leaf or cedar gets between me and my seat, or god forbid in my clothes... funny thing though - I can tolerate most anything when there are still got two hours left on a trail ride.

    Off to check out those Webber things ;)

  4. Jen-
    I would love to have a really nice bareback pad and I agree about bareback not being as comfortable for the horse. I would also love to have pastures to lap. ;)
    -Yes, new things can be a pain. Everytime I switch to a new toothbrush, my mouth bleeds. That is just too riduculous to make up. What should we name our kingdom?
    I agree about the long trail ride. I think that compounds the problem, because then we do not realize we are injured until the damage is done. Hopefully all our sensitivities make us better riders!

  5. I'm getting webbers for my new saddle! Not having that lump under your thighs really does make a huge difference.

    BTW- I got a bareback pad for Christmas and I love it, best thing ever!

  6. Huge difference!
    Hooray for nice bareback pads!


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