old lady problems

I had a lovely, relaxing weekend of celebration (with beer donuts! anyone want a recipe?) and pony rides.  I honestly travel or have some kind of adventure on so many weekends (usually 3 per month) that a weekend at home with the creatures is a luxury.

Beer donuts almost too successful..

A post shared by Nicole Sharpe (@nicolegizelle) on

Anyway, after a long few days off to recover from camp Pony was back in work, and then promptly terrified me by looking lame on the lunge line.  SIGH.  He wasn’t, though, just stiff and sore still from our camping adventures.  Though I was obviously sad he was sore, it does fill me with a little bit of joy that despite it being a very tiring weekend, Murray was willing to give me his all for our stadium and XC rides.  So we took it easy Wednesday and Thursday with light, stretchy dressage rides, asking pony to remember how to stretch since he had clearly forgotten in all of that jumping excitement.

As we worked towards returning to our former dressage “glory” I decided to accept “good enough” stretch and warm-up work and just move on to some of our current exercises, like shallow counter-canter serpentines and crisp simple changes.  I suspect I am suffering from a kind of shifting baseline-like effect — I’m so used to the new “normal” that it seems that we have made no progress, despite having made LOTS of progress in the last year.  I’ve also been working hard on my own position lately, since I discovered how freakishly crookedly I ride.  [I wrote about that for Horse Junkies last week.]

dressaging01
Glorious for the dressage hating baby

Saturday I got on for what was supposed to be an easy, quiet dressage ride and Murray decided he had completely, utterly, totally, entirely forgotten the concept of bend.  I am sure that holding my body in a new way is freaking him out, but it will be better for us in the long run.  So I took a cue from many of the blogs I’ve read lately and just worked on shifting his shoulders around both on and off a circle, and finally worked towards the spiral in.  We only got to about a 13 meter circle in the middle before Murray’s bend would break down, but we did finally get true bend in there, and I managed to control his bulging shoulder on the spiral-out too.  A hard exercise for a pony generally disinclined to acquiesce to that request.  I try to include some canter work in every ride too, since I know it helps stretch hamstrings and limber the back by using the pelvis in a different motion, so we did some of that too.

Sunday I did something I have never done before — you all are going to laugh at me — I jumped in the rain.  Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever even ridden outside in rain like that.  We had an uncharacteristic California Spring shower (THANK YOU ALASKA FOR THE COLD FRONT!), and I was already tacked up and had set my jumps outside when it started sprinkling.  No worries, I thought, time for some George Morris style saddle breaking-in.  Well, then it got colder and rainier and the only way to stay warm was to keep moving so I did.  Fortunately, we came in before it started POURING freezing cold rain on us.

And that brings me to my old lady problems.  In getting Murray and myself fitter, I’ve been doing a lot more two-point.  And lots more two-point has actually really been helping my balance and position so yay.  However, lots more two-point also makes the outside of my calf hurt.  You know that tendon that runs down the outside of your shin bone?  I have no idea what it’s called, but it’s always stretched when I two-point because my heels get so deep.  And then after some trotting and cantering it starts to kinda… hurt in a stretched way.  As I’ve done more and more two-point in my rides, it’s hurt later and later in the ride (so it’s getting stronger, I think?) but I can’t really two-point around every day since I do a lot of dressage work so… any exercises to help that tendon/muscle/whatever strengthen and hurt less?

The other old lady problem I have is my left foot.  The big muscle under the arch/base of my foot starts to cramp after a while.  And then I have to kinda pinch my knee to relieve the pressure, or shove my foot into my stirrup so the stirrup bar puts pressure on that muscle.  I suspect it’s because I’m tensing my foot up somehow, but attempts at relaxing it are futile!  Any hints on that one, fellow old ladies?

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15 thoughts on “old lady problems

  1. Hmmm is that your IT band? I know it run from your knee to your butt, but I am not sure if it runs down your calf. If it is, a good stretch is to cross your legs man style (where your crossed leg’s ankle over your other knee) and stretch forward. Try it and see if you can get it to stretch the right place! Sorry, if it isn’t right lol.

    For the foot one, try pushing your foot down on a tennis ball and rolling it around when you’re at home. That always works for me :).

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  2. The foot cramp thing could be because of dehydration. I get foot cramps all the time, but if I actively try and drink more water, they aren’t as bad or frequent. Got this info from a personal trainer, so I’m guessing it’s legit.

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  3. Bananas as snacks! I used to get really awful foot cramps where it felt like my instep was totally knotted up. Something about the potassium in bananas helps with cramps and it totally helped work mine out.

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  4. That “outside shin muscle” is your anterior tibialis (thank you, years of undergrad athletic training classes!), I’d suggest icing it after your ride and trying to stretch it beforehand. I know, I know, it’s weird to think about stretching before a ride, but I’ve found that even a few minutes of calf stretches helps tremendously. Also, you can try freezing water in one of those paper Dixie cups, and then peel off half the cup when it’s frozen, hold onto the paper part and massage that muscle after a ride too! And ibuprofen is your friend 🙂 You definitely want to keep the anterior tibialis muscle happy, because the strength and flexibility of it is in direct proportion to your calf muscle, and if your calf muscle gets too strong or too big, it can put extra stress on it and eventually will pull away from the bone (ask me how I know…).

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      • For the calf muscle, I like standing on the edge of a stair (facing up the stairs) and dropping my heel off of the stair, which is similar to keeping your heel down in the stirrup iron. Or, you can push against a wall, one foot back and the other forward, and slowly bend the back knee: you should immediately feel the stretch back there, and you can increase the stretch by increasing the bend in your back knee. I’d hold both of these stretches for 20-30 seconds, repeat twice on each leg.

        The anterior tib is a little harder to get at, but I find that sitting on the floor, legs straight out in front of you, and then pointing your toe away from you and holding it 20-30 seconds. Then, bring your toes toward you as far as you can while still keeping your heel and leg on the ground: hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat twice on each leg.

        I wouldn’t recommend your muscle pulling away from the bone if you can help it: it’ll put you in a walking boot for 8 weeks. No bueno.

        Let me know if you need any other stretches! 🙂

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  5. I suffer from a hate for bananas too. I particularly dislike when someone brings some yummy looking baking to work and it turns out to be banana bread. All those brown mushy bananas hiding in some innocent looking baking. Ughhhh.
    As for the cramping, I’ve found water really helps prevent it, and the tennis ball trick is my friend when I forget the water!

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  6. aww boo for old lady problems… nice job riding through the rain tho!! isabel gets so indignant when we ride in the rain… but she’s a good girl so she still gets it done haha

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