We had a beautiful winter weekend this past weekend here in Virginia: temperatures in the fifties, with sunshine and light winds. Perfect for being around horses, for riding, for mucking. And Buckshot was very good on our Saturday and Sunday rides. I, however, was not. It was, literally, a very painful weekend for me. Two different, and unrelated maladies caused my problems.
First, I am having a bout of tennis elbow, or perhaps it is called tendinitis, where the tendons/ muscles in my right elbow are strained. I have no idea what caused it. A week ago, at the barn, when I was pushing and dumping wheelbarrows filled high with poop, the elbow hurt quite a bit. I had no idea what it was, so I just assumed I’d shake it off eventually. So I kept mucking and emptying and hurting. That weekend the weather was rainy and misty so there wasn’t any riding, so I didn’t lift any of my regular gear. All week, I babied my arm, found ways for the left arm to do tasks so my right arm could rest, used ibuprofen, researched it on the Internet and decided that it was an injury of unknown origin that would just take time to recuperate and that I would help recuperate by reducing the amount I used the right arm, icing it and using ibuprofen. And during the week, it got better. Good.
Also, I’d had this little thing on the bottom of my foot for about a month now. It was the darndest thing – it felt like I had a pebble just under the skin of my left foot, on the ball of the foot. After a few weeks, a callous developed at the site and after my trusty Internet diagnosis, I realized I had a fairly common affliction called a metatarsalgia, which is from some foot bones changing position in the feet, common with runners, also probably due to aging. I bought some callous cushions with a hole in the middle and started using them, and during the week, my left foot felt pretty good, no bad pain from it.
This past Saturday both of these injuries/ conditions flared up bigtime. First, on Saturday, I went to the tack room to get my 32 pound Western saddle down from the saddle rack, and I moved my right arm in just such a way to wrench it good- huge pain in that elbow! I instantly started using just my left arm and got everything ready, got Buckshot, and got him tacked up. Luckily, I was able to swing the saddle over his back in my normal fashion without much pain. But when we were riding- ow, ow, ow. My right arm hurt like the dickens to raise or move. And my left foot – ball of foot area- started hurting as well. After a few minutes, I knew I was riding hurt. I just adjusted as much as possible and kept going.
Then, as luck would have it, during our riding lesson, the instructor and my sister, who rides a school horse in the Saturday lesson, decided they would try to fix one of my riding skills – the fact that during posting, my lower legs are not perfectly still against Buckshot’s sides. I know this is the case, and have worked on it for years, but I think that I actually push up a bit from my feet when I post and this causes my leg to move a little. Sometimes I have been very self-conscious of it, and have taken to scrutinizing every rider around me to see if their legs move when trotting! To my surprise, I found that most everyone’s legs do in fact move! So I told myself not to worry about it and just continue doing what I am doing.
But on Saturday, fixing Jan’s legs became the issue! And the instructor had me try different things than normal – stand straight up while trotting, then slowly lower my butt to the saddle and do a sitting trot keeping my leg in the same position. Well, it is hard to do in the best of times and on Saturday, I was hurting. I finally said something to the others and didn’t worry about it, I knew that I was having an off day and wasn’t able to work on fixing anything. They let me off the hook. And overall, Buckshot was great, but it wasn’t a good day for me.
Saturday night I nursed my injuries and changed some things. On Sunday, I had added extra cushioning to my boot and extra cushions right on the foot. When I put my boot on, I felt like I had propped up the ball of my foot by an inch. It felt weird, but I thought, at least I have really added some serious cushioning now. I also resolved to find ways to use my left arm rather than my right arm.
The arm felt pretty good on Sunday. But while riding, my left foot absolutely killed me. There were times I couldn’t pay much attention to Buckshot for the pain in my foot. Taking it out of the stirrup did not help because it hurt equally bad in the stirrup or out. Only when I dismounted and had my foot fully on the ground did the pain subside a bit. So, sadly, it was a beautiful day for riding, and Buckshot was in a good mood, and the footing of the arenas was great, but I was in such pain.
Overall, it was great weather, and a great horse, but crappy riding because of my arm and my foot.
Today, Monday, my foot hasn’t hurt at all. I went to a special store called The Walking Company and bought some good specific orthotic footbeds as well as a new pair of Dansko shoes with an orthotic footbed to help my foot/feet. These should help a lot. I also think, in retrospect, that I may have overcushioned my foot yesterday, and that may have made the pain worse. So, with my new orthotics, I hope next weekend’s rides will be much better. Have you had to deal with ball-of-foot issues, and as a rider, what helped you (since stirrups are designed to fit exactly at the ball of our feet!)?