A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of executing an emergency dismount. In the process, I managed to catch my left side on the pommel of the saddle and though I landed on my feet, my ribs felt like I had fallen sideways onto a rock. It hurt to stand, it hurt to inhale, it hurt to exist. Several days and a few boxes of Epsom salt later, I felt healed enough to ride again. What happened at that point surprised me. Though I wasn’t afraid of falling off, as this wasn’t my first rodeo, I did feel a lack of security from the injury that made me feel weaker in my core. As a result, it made me feel less secure in the saddle and slightly more cautious when riding the trot and canter. It was an odd feeling, but I had felt it before: The last time I tried jumping something too high. What was this feeling? I will call it “Reverse Feel” because instead of developing feel, where your body just takes over and does something right in the saddle as a result of years of training and strengthening, this was the opposite. It was my body telling my brain to turn back ON. It was saying, “No, don’t do this, you aren’t capable!” Because my core muscles were injured, I was less stable in the saddle and my brain was recognizing the uh-oh moment just like it does when it has an a-ha moment. It was a horrible feeling: To lack the muscle power to recall the muscle memory. However, it also opened my eyes to the fact that when our brain says no, it might be an overreaction to feeling that the body is not able. This means that I cannot do everything I could when I was running 10 miles and eventing horses every day and it might create anxiety or stress in my riding that I don’t even recognize. This also means that I need to keep this in mind as I age as a rider, as one day I will not be as strong as I am today. Similarly, I have to be sensitive to how this affects riders that I teach – what physical strength have they lost? For what reason? How does that translate to their mental strength in the saddle?
Who knew that banging up my ribs could teach me so much?!?