Since I had my daughter, I’ve had back pain. Not terrible enough to stop me from working, but enough to make me cranky at the end of the day. I’ve worked a full day’s load with it just about every day since she was born, and it hasn’t gotten better.
(I’m going somewhere with this, you aren’t reading my angsty diary and this isn’t a complaint session, I promise).
I’ve iced it. I’ve used heating pads, Bengay, massage, stretching. I get temporary relief, but every day it comes back.
I work out, I’m active, and I like to think I take decent care of myself (aside from being a terrible, mean and ruthless overlord of me)
Over the last week, I’ve decided to get dedicated to doing yoga again. If you’re familiar with the practice of yoga, you know it’s focus is on body alignment, strength and lengthening of the body, and creating an awareness of breath and body together.
My back pain isn’t gone entirely, but I sure do feel better. I feel more aware of my posture, more inclined to move in good posture throughout the day, and some tight, angry muscles are starting to release.
Why does my back hurt? Probably nine months of carrying weight around with poor posture around the weakest part of my back, plus a quick return to work with that same weak and poor posture, bad shoes, not enough stretching and not enough attention to the deep postural muscles that allow my core to take over doing the job that my low back has been brunting.
Where am I going with this? Almost every horse I meet endures some degree of pain. People often say with surprise when their pain is pointed out, “but he gets massage/chiropractic/body work!” I’m sure those things bring relief, and help, but if you aren’t addressing the cause of the pain, it’s only temporary relief. What does a horse endure? Weak and poor posture, poorly fitting saddles, imbalanced riders, imbalanced teeth, imbalanced or irregular hoof care, lack of movement, imbalanced diet, you name it.
Imagine being incredibly weak, being nine months pregnant, wearing boots that don’t fit well, and having another kid on your back pulling your head around. I bet that’s what horses feel like often, and I can’t imagine most of us being very happy about that situation.
If your horse has a poor top line with a weak core, hanging belly, tight neck and shoulders, poorly fitting saddle, crooked rider (let’s face it, we’re all crooked), the massage is a drop in the bucket of pain management.
Address the root of the problem, develop a happy horse over time.
I think of dressage as “horse yoga.” Like yoga, you have strength with grace- stability and flexibility working together for the health and alignment of the horse.
So don’t skimp on the body work by any means. But don’t think it erases the snowball of pain your horse endures daily.