I had a consultation with my chiro that I see every week for treatment. After the neurologist blew me off with zero answers I've been relying on her to help me deal with this situation without going straight to surgery. She's armed with x-rays (has her own machine) and my MRI. She's also been treating me for over a year and tracking the changes in my posture and symmetry. I get pictures taken every 3 months to evaluate progress and I always, inevitably, wear something very unflattering. I will not be sharing.
If I were a horse, my injuries would be called 'old, cold, and set'. I have bony changes in my neck, sad wonky discs, and the remnants of at least one traumatic event in my soft tissues (probably more, let's be honest, I've been riding a long time). I would not pass a vet check and sure as hell would look lame after a flex test. Range of motion in my neck is diminished and I would struggle with collected work. But, following the analogy, there's no reason to put this old campaigner out to pasture just yet. I need maintenance and a thoughtful training plan but I'm serviceably sound. I just have to make good life choices and listen if my body says that it's too much. I'll be looking to get a PT referral from my primary care to help me strengthen my neck and core. I need to be careful but this is more degenerative than acute. Which isn't good but hey, take what I can get?
Things look better than they did a year ago. What's left is the stuff that isn't going away. We're actually right on time for our goal of letting me try to ride again to see how my body does after a year of treatment without regularly beating it up. It's not going the way I expected but hey, horses never go the way we expect. As my chiro said, I'm no longer at an increased risk of paralysis so I might as well live my life. I know the risks.
Twice a week rides is my current goal, starting at 20 minutes in the saddle and working up from there if it goes well. No jumping. No sitting trot. Those are important and part of the agreement between me and my chiro. There will be lunging or someone else getting on him before each ride until he's settled into his program again and even then it might continue. That one is the agreement with my husband.
I rode for 20 minutes last night after my friend worked him for 15. 10 minutes walking, 10 minutes rising trot. I felt fine this morning outside of some rarely used muscles being tight. It's going to be hard to not over do it since it feels like coming home. It took about 2 minutes for me to go from 'oh my gosh I'm riding' to 'dude, this is my left leg, get off of it'. Theo is about as out of shape as me so he was being a bit peevish about having to go correctly. And having a second rider get on when he'd just finished having to do canter transitions with the first one! He started to curl and get behind the bridle while stomping his feet. Ah, yes, memories. Kick, kick, kick the pony and get him back out in front of my leg while giving him a nice long rein so he can stretch. He blew through his nose a couple times once he relaxed and I knew we were good again. And then my Fitbit alarm went off and I realized my time was up already. UGH!
My friend was watching and commented 'you ride him better than me'. What can I say, Theo is not your typical dressage pony and I've invested a lot of years into getting him unlocked.
So we have a plan. 6 days a week is the goal for Theo, 2 days a week is the goal for me. It's going to take a lot of help to get us back in action but help is coming. My friend has volunteered for the weekend shifts and Theo has a meet and greet on Thursday with a teen looking for a ride this summer. With three of us coordinating around his schedule, my gorgeous, wonderful asshole of a horse should be getting all the love and exercise he needs. And so long as he's getting what he needs, he can play school master for his mommy while she sees what her body is up for.