Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Hips Do Lie



So it seems that the concussion I had at pony club Festival few weeks ago temporarily removed the filter that keeps me from saying whatever pops into my head. In the ER, when a young man in scrubs introduced himself as "Dr. So-and-so," I said, "Staff or resident?" "Uh, resident," he said. "Oh, NO!" I said. "I'm at an ER in JULY!!"

July is when hospitals get new residents, fresh from medical school. Dr. Howser was not amused, and it may have been why he stitched up the inside of my mouth without anesthesia.

At one point they carefully rolled me off the backboard they'd transported me on, and started pressing on my back to see if anything hurt. When they got to my lower back I yelled, "Ouch!" and then said, "Oh, don't worry about that, that's from the damn dressage."

That morning I'd had a 90-minute semiprivate dressage lesson with Susanne Winslade, an instructor and pony club National Examiner from New Hampshire. It rained hard during most of the lesson, which puzzled me a lot when I was in the hospital. "Why am I wet?" I asked my mother. "You were riding in the rain, and didn't have other clothes to change into." "When was I riding in the rain?" I'd ask. "This morning," she said. A few minutes would go by, and I'd pluck at my shirt and say, "Why am I wet?" until finally someone covered me with a blanket to shut me up. Concussed people are lots of fun.

The worst part about riding is that when the horse does something incorrectly it's usually the rider's fault. The best part about riding is that when the horse does something incorrectly it's usually the rider's fault. Because you, the rider, can fix it. But it sucks to have to do it.

I'd ridden in front of Susanne Winslade for maybe five minutes when she stopped me and told me I was doing it all wrong. "I'm going to make a simple change that is going to be very hard for you," she said. She had me put my thumb onto the crest of my hipbone, and my index finger on top of my hip joint. She showed me how my thumb was about an inch in front of my finger. "Now, I want you to move the top of your hip back so that your finger and thumb are directly over each other." I did. "Now, I want you to sit like that," she said. "Forever."

It was the weirdest feeling in the world. I can't even tell you how weird. Thirty years of riding and I'd never ridden with my hips correctly before. My whole stomach scrunched up and my abs started shrieking. I felt like a hunchback. "You need to sit like this all the time," Susanne said. "In the car, in your office, everywhere, until it becomes a new muscle memory."

Oh, my. After just one lesson I thought I was going to die. My hips were cursing me. I was cursing them. Just think about changing your entire posture--sure, it was only an inch, but it changed muscles from my shoulders to my heels.  Four weeks post-concussion, one week back in the saddle, I can tell you that this new position is still the most foreign thing in the world, and also it's painful all the time. My husband sees me grimace and immediately thinks 1) that I suffered permanent brain damage when I fell off, and am secretly seeing double and just not telling him, or 2) that he has done something wrong. There have been a lot of, "Kim, are you okay?" questions at our house.

No, I am not okay. I hurt. Even my usual Pilates routine is agony with the new hip thing. Riding in the car sucks. Sitting at my desk sucks.

Riding the horse, on the other hand, is awesome. Sarah loves the new hip thing. She reveres the new hip thing. She's suddenly so much more free under saddle, and she's happy. Yesterday I tried the new hip thing over very tiny fences, and I suddenly understand what my instructors have been trying to make me do for the past several years. This.

That wasn't even all I learned from Susanne Winslade, in one lesson, in the pouring rain. I'll write about the other Big Reveal soon. Warning: it hurts just as much as the first one.