A Bit of Horse Sense: Sometimes It’s the Little Things

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Back in November when I fell off my horse Spotty, I badly sprained my left medial collateral ligament and my right ankle. I could barely walk. Limping was entertaining because I didn’t have a “good” leg to limp on. Crutches wouldn’t have helped — with no good leg, there wasn’t much I could do.

Much to my frustration, these injuries were taking a long time to heal and continued to cause me a fair deal of discomfort. But when I started Pilates, I immediately noticed an improvement. I realized that my body worked as one unit instead of individual muscles, tendons, and ligaments. As I became more aware of my body, I noticed that the strain on my injuries began to lessen.

Shortly afterward, I realized that something was wrong with Spotty. He was ultimately diagnosed with a career-ending injury. I’ve since limited my riding with him to some light flatwork and taken to riding generous friends’ horses for lessons and fun.

I’ve tried to take advantage of this opportunity to let my body heal as much as possible from the fall. My ankle has significant damage from previous injuries and has caused me problems for as long as I can remember. My knee injury was new, and I was keen to prevent it from becoming a chronic problem. Spotty’s rehab work, which was quiet and laid-back, allowed both of us to get exercise and stretch without involving significant physical effort.

Over the past couple of months, while I’ve been horse shopping, I’ve had the opportunity to ride a variety of horses. I’ve done full workouts that have taxed my knee and ankle, and I’ve been surprised to find that they feel relatively decent. For many years I’ve worn a rigid ankle brace (called an ankle stabilizing orthosis) to allow me to jump or do anything athletic. I’d forgotten about that in the past few weeks. I’ve been riding and jumping without it, yet I’ve had minimal discomfort. And this weekend, after the most intense riding session I’ve had in a while, I realized that my knee didn’t hurt at all! I was thrilled to say the least.

While the time it takes my body to heal is incredibly frustrating to me, I’ve also found that not pushing it too hard (which, I’ll admit, I tend to do) reaps significant benefits in the long run. Pilates has also provided me with increased strength and stability, and I’m sure it has aided my recovery. I finished up riding Saturday and I felt great, and as a bonus, my new horse Cherry was totally awesome. Sometimes it’s the little things.


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