Ice, ice baby – or not?

I was recently lamenting to a non-horsey friend about trying to find a pair of ice boots I liked that wouldn’t break the bank. They inquired more about what we used them for and how – and then proceeded to turn my world upside down. I’ve been a loyal ice-er for years of my horses (and self) – not after every ride, but certainly after a XC school, on any soreness, at a HT or a tough jump lesson. It’s good horsemanship, right?

Until she told me I might still be stuck in the 90s and… totally wrong? Apparently the most recent research is showing ice may not be the most beneficial thing for recovery. Think I’m crazy? Me too.

©Megan Allen

Because I’m good at writing about shoes, horses and spending money, but not great at science, I just straight up brought some quotes in to do the talking.

“The rationale behind recovery ice packs, baths and cold tubs goes something like this: the cold stimulates your sympathetic nerve fibers, which react by signaling blood vessels in the area to constrict and send blood back to your core to protect your vital organs. This rush of blood away from the extremities reduces blood flow to the areas you’re icing and slows the metabolic processes in these regions, including the inflammatory response, and thus reduces any swelling that might otherwise happen. The pressure of the water may also provide some compression against your muscles and blood vessels, which could also slow swelling and inflammation. Finally, icing relieves pain by numbing sore areas, at least temporarily… There’s no question that icing can reduce pain, at least temporarily, he told me, but it comes at a cost. “Anything that reduces your immune response will also delay muscle healing,” Mirkin says. “The message is that the cytokines of inflammation are blocked by icing — that’s been shown in several studies.”
Instead of promoting the process of healing and recovery, icing might actually impair it, he says.”

“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post

In other words – sure, ice will numb things, but for how long and at what cost to performance?

“Gary Reinl, a personal trainer and prominent icing skeptic who over the years has worked with professional athletic teams, elite military squads and coaches and trainers around the world, says the problem is that icing merely slows blood flow to the area, it doesn’t halt it indefinitely. Once the icing stops and the blood flow returns to normal, whatever process you were trying to hinder will proceed again. The swelling will continue and the inflammation will start. The only thing you did was delay things, he says.”

“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post

Well. Huh. So I decided not to take this at face value and to use my university journal access to dig myself. And… sure enough, that’s what I found.

“There was marginal evidence that ice plus exercise is most effective, after ankle sprain and postsurgery. There was little evidence to suggest that the addition of ice to compression had any significant effect, but this was restricted to treatment of hospital inpatients. Few studies assessed the effectiveness of ice on closed soft-tissue injury, and there was no evidence of an optimal mode or duration of treatment.” – The use of ice in the treatment of acute soft-tissue injury: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, American Journal of Sports Medicine

“The authors reported ice to be no more effective than rehabilitation only with regard to pain, swelling, and range of motion. Ice and compression seemed to be significantly more effective than ice alone in terms of decreasing pain. Additionally, ice, compression, and a placebo injection reduced pain more than a placebo injection alone. Lastly, in 8 studies, there seemed to be little difference in the effectiveness of ice and compression compared with compression alone. Only 2 of the 8 groups reported significant differences in favor of ice and compression.” – Does Cryotherapy Improve Outcomes With Soft Tissue Injury?, Journal of Athletic Training

“Cold packs were applied to exercised muscle for 15 minutes at 0, 3, 24, 48, and 72 hours after exercise. The exercise significantly elevated circulating creatine kinase-MB isoform (CK-MB) and myoglobin levels. Unexpectedly, greater elevations in circulating CK-MB and myoglobin above the control level were noted in the cooling trial during 48-72 hours of the post-exercise recovery period. Subjective fatigue feeling was greater at 72 hours after topical cooling compared with controls. Removal of the cold pack also led to a protracted rebound in muscle hemoglobin concentration compared with controls. Measures of interleukin (IL)-8, IL-10, IL-1β, and muscle strength during recovery were not influenced by cooling. A peak shift in IL-12p70 was noted during recovery with topical cooling. These data suggest that topical cooling, a commonly used clinical intervention, seems to not improve but rather delay recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.”Topical cooling (icing) delays recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

“Significant training effects were three times more frequent in the control than in the cold group, including increases in artery diameters in the control but not in the cold group. It is concluded that training-induced molecular and humoral adjustments, including muscle hyperthermia, are physiological, transient and essential for training effects (myofiber regeneration, muscle hypertrophy and improved blood supply). Cooling generally attenuates these temperature-dependent processes and, in particular, hyperthermia-induced HSP formation.” – Post-exercise leg and forearm flexor muscle cooling in humans attenuates endurance and resistance training effects on muscle performance and on circulatory adaptation, European Journal of Applied Physiology

Similarly, a 2015 study reported on two experiments looking at how cold water immersion influenced how muscles responded to a strength training program, and found that cold treatment reduced gains in muscle mass and strength and blunted the activation of key proteins in the skeletal muscle. The studies “challenge the notion that cold water immersion improves recovery after exercise,” the authors wrote.

“Athletes love icing sore muscles, but that cold therapy might make things worse” – Washington Post

So – definitely a conclusion saying more research is needed, but also not an insignificant amount of research saying that cold might be doing less good than we thought, or even hurting recovery?

Needless to say, this has my little brain spinning. Do I keep using ice? Stop using ice? Only compression? I haven’t come to a complete conclusion yet. Not to mention, a lot of these are talking about muscle recovery – a moot point in horses who have no muscle below the knee.

For now, I’m going to continue to ice after XC schooling and at horse trials, but maybe lay off after any general rides, even if they’re harder jump schools.

Thoughts?

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Event Camp 2019, Day One: Amateur Brain is Real

As soon as event camp was over this year, budget season started at work and free time became a concept of a past life, meaning actually doing more than talking to work friends about it until their eyes glazed over was not happening. But, it’s a Thursday afternoon, things are… creepy quiet around here and I’m taking full advantage.

Just like last year, camp was my favorite week of the year. Ponies and horse friends all for a week straight? Best summer camp ever.

An entirely unrelated photo of my mini donkey Sancho wearing a sombrero

Day 1 started with a dressage lesson with Sharon White and one other BN rider. I knew I wanted to work on transitions and our canter, because… well the struggle has been real this year. She had us warm up on our own to get a feel for the horses and then jumped right in, having me focus on keeping my hands in line to the bit and pushing Doc up and into the bridle. I took notes after my lesson and… have no idea where they ended up, of course.

We focused on getting him equally supple to both sides – using my inside rein forward and out instead of back while holding the outside rein and shoulder, getting him to bend around my leg. As we kept riding, she really focused in on the expectation that he should not take all my leg to keep going and he should respond to a “whisper” vs needing to shout. All things we’ve obviously heard (many times) before… but how easy is it to forget that I’m not his engine and don’t need to be “pedaling the bike” every step. By the end of the lesson, he was going as well as he ever has with me and it felt amazing.

The afternoon brought a stadium lesson with Tim Bourke. I loved riding with Tim last year, although apparently as he informed me this year, I “scared the shit out of him” when I casually revealed I’d broken my back and been on my horse for a week mid-lesson. Oops? I assured him I had no surprises to drop on him this year and off to work we went.

We started with a grid of trot poles – five if I remember correctly. Trotted through, then started building them up into jumps, eventually becoming a full grid of one strides. We had an outside line set for 6 we did in 5, 6 and 7 strides, focusing in on adjustability and eventually added a full course – grid to a single oxer, down the outside line in 7, back up the grid the other way, single vertical, rollback, outside line in 5 coming down – needless to say, the only way I remember that is because I texted it to someone that afternoon. I was also nearly dead when I finished, but talk about worth it when you hear Tim Bourke tell you that it was “nearly perfect” and the best stadium round he’s ever seen you ride. Um, air punch celebration much?

Also unrelated, but pretty

It definitely wasn’t perfect – I botched a distance coming into the grid spectacularly for instance, but when I said as much he brushed it off with a great lesson – things won’t always go right (in fact, never), so what makes it perfect was how you react to it and keep riding. Which, for one of the first times, I was able to on a stadium course.

And that’s a “nearly perfect” way to end Day 1.

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Underwater XC and the HT that wasn’t

Indiana is underwater – seriously, it feels like it has rained damn near every day for the last… month? Two months? Seventeen years? I don’t even know at this point, except I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doc grow gills and people kayaking to work.

This meant that our HT last weekend became a CT because the ground was way too wet to safely run XC. We were able to run a derby course on Saturday before the worst of the rain, so the weekend wasn’t without any xc jumps, but not quite what we were expecting.

Saturday’s derby course saw some of the same problems we had last month – namely, ducking out to the right. If you remember, we’ve had a left drift FOR-EV-ER so this “fun” trick is.. new. It was still a much better course than we had last month (in which the summary is I rode backwards to everything, my horse refused to help me and we hated each other by the end of the day). This time, I overbent him in a bending line that wasn’t as uh, bendy, as I walked it and then he opted to not go up the bank because my right leg was hanging uselessly, my crop was in my left hand and Doc will always take the option with less energy required.

Needless to say, I could have done without the XC jump penalties, but it’s always a learning process and this is what schooling shows are all about. Plus, it meant I had a great idea of what/how to ride the next day.

I’m not giving the next day’s HT it’s own post because honestly, I have 0 media and it ended up running as a CT.

Our dressage test honestly felt like one of our better ones, right up until the end (USEA BN B) – I was finishing my walk work and going back to trot LITERALLY AT C IN FRONT OF THE JUDGE when my left thigh got this awful cramp out of nowhere and I nearly came out of my skin and off my horse. Dressage, the sport of elegance. I managed to grit my teeth and ride through the last trot and centerline, but my left leg was essentially useless. Still, I figured, everything went pretty well until those last 3 movements.

Well, once again our dressage is our downfall. I’d like to say I wasn’t disappointed to see a 42 when I picked up my test… but I was. Our dressage feels so much better than it did last season, yet we can’t seem to put down a decent score in the sandbox. The highlight was our highest marks on the canter work we’ve ever had (7.5) which reflects the breakthrough I’ve had in the canter in the last month. (Also the reason I’m shopping for a dressage saddle HAH do you hear that sobbing it’s my bank account)

Yes, I am aware this is flagged backwards – it was set for the next day already

I had a few hours to kill before jumping so I watched some of the Training rides go before heading back out. Where, in the warm up, Doc decided that the crossrail and vertical were fine, but the oxer was way too much work and much easier to go around. Trainer C wasn’t at this show with me, I was working with K (who worked with us at the HT last fall) and she buckled me down. Swapped my crop for her longer jockey bat and told me to hold that rein and make him go over. No ifs, ands or buts. Sure enough, those two things had him cruising over the oxer and off to the ring we went.

Our dressage may have felt great, but not scored great, but our jumping round felt great, scored great and (apparently) looked great. Double clear and I can confidently say it was one of the best (if not the best) rounds I’ve ever ridden. It was a crazy course with two (tight) rollbacks, a two stride and the same bending line as the day before. Add to that a horse who was definitely making me ride for every jump and let’s just say the smile on my face at the end was pretty damn big.

So, maybe not a perfect weekend, but good enough that come Monday this week I sent in our entries to run our first recognized BN in July!

Oops?

And promptly went on a shopping spree, because duh.

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What is daylight?

Oh look, another blog post where I talk about all the riding I’m not doing. UGH. New job is fantastic/amazing/wonderful, but to say I got tossed into the deep end and told, “SWIM” would be an understatement. No easy going orientation week here, more like 10 hour days from Day 1 and a huge project to complete. My brain and body are in a minor state of shock going from casual everyday life to wake up at 5:30am, home at 6pm, bed by 9:30pm.

That to say, riding has not happened. Barn has not happened. Anything other than work, shower, food, sleep has not happened. My bedroom light bulb is out – haven’t replaced it. Wore two different earrings to work yesterday. Ate cereal for dinner on Wednesday. Ply the dog with peanut butter. This is now my life.

Add to that 6-8″ of snow expected tomorrow and highs all weekend in the low teens and I’m pretty much just done with all of it. I’m off Monday (YES SLEEP) but it’s supposed to be like, 10 degrees, no exaggeration.

Wake me up when January ends? Until then, I’ll be over here in sweaters, not seeing daylight and up to my ears in Excel PivotTables.

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Back home again in Indiana

Finally home again and not dying (thanks bronchitis, you were SUPER FUN) – so far, 2019 has consisted of taking down the pony Christmas tree, watching football and half-unpacking my suitcase. And complaining I should have stayed in Florida where it was warm and not raining. I did come home to a secret santa gift (hi Emma!) so update to come soon on that.

Unrelated photo of First Mate Finn over Christmas

I’ve been musing over goals for 2019, finally ready to have a normal, consistent year. I now have a horse I’ve been riding for a year and a half, a great supportive trainer, a new job (!!) to support said pony activities, an apartment I love and (knock on wood) no broken bones or lingering injuries. Can we just say, it’s about freaking time?!

In the interest of keeping it real around here, this about sums up 2018

2018 was uh, not, my year. To say the least. It had a few high points (event camp, new apartment, first BN) but it was definitely a low year. But I figure that means ’19 can only go up.

This feels like a good omen for the year

Keeping up here is definitely on the 2019 goals list, so stay tuned for things to come!

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Bootcamp starts here

It’s officially the off season for us, which means mac & cheese on the couch under a blanket dressage and equitation bootcamp. The dressage part should be self-explanatory. If not, uh go back about three posts and that should do it. The equitation part is a little more… interesting? Not necessarily the right word, but I’m too lazy to think about the one I want to use.

Let’s dive on in.

Background for anyone missing this piece: grew up showing western pleasure/breed show stuff. Took 4 years off for college (2010-2014). Rode casually in grad school flatting two hunters, but nothing serious and no lessons. Took a year off for fellowship. Started riding again seriously in July 2017, taking lessons, eventing, the whole nine yards. Came off and broke my back in March 2018. Back on and riding in June 2018.

K, now we’re here, October 2018. All my eq issues are definitely related to each other and Trainer C is really good at uh, fixing me, but I like recording things, thinking through things on paper and bouncing ideas off smart people (that’s you).

I really struggle to keep my leg underneath me – in fact, there’s hardly a photo out there where my leg is far enough forward. I am the opposite of chair seat.

I am told allllll the time – get your leg forward, think of pushing it forward, push from the ball of your foot, etc. I’m about 85% sure it’s mostly a hip thing – I know I have tight hips and the best I’ve come up with is my hips (?) aren’t letting my leg come forward and under me.

My leg is about six strides behind the rest of my body

The logical consequence to this would be I’d be leaning forward and balancing on the front of my pelvis. While I’m certainly not immune to leaning at jumps, I’m much more likely on the flat to get left behind the motion. I sit on my back pockets like I’m riding saddleseat.

Classic example raising my heel

Now let’s toss in the fact that I’m 5’1″, not exactly long in the leg, and not really built like an A circuit equitation star. More like… Dolly Parton. I need all the leg help I can get, but what do I do? Oh, I scrunch myself up as tight as possible. You know, making my leg even shorter. The worst of these habits is that I raise my heel to use my leg. But y tho.

This far back just at a halt

Add insult to literal injury, my lower back is now incredibly tight at the beginning of my rides. Stretching certainly helps, but I can’t help but think it has to be impacting how I ride. My saddle is fit to both of us, so that shouldn’t (isn’t) the main issue here. Posting two up, one down seems to help. Two point.. helps, but not with keeping my leg under me. It’s not like it just slips back when I start going – rather, I have to physically move it forward at a halt/walk to put it in place to begin with. No stirrups helps with leg, but hurts with scrunching, actually making that part worse.

So.

Exercises? Ideas? Thoughts? I’m dead determined to get this sorted out this winter so I’m just gonna crowdsource here.

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The Walk-Up Song

I’ve had this draft sitting here waiting to be finished for a while when I realized how perfectly it fit with the In Others Words hop, so I just kind of combined and threw them together and last minute cause why not?

It’s summer so the only sport on is baseball and while I can’t watch an entire baseball game without needing distractions, I absolutely love going to games at great minor league/college ballparks. I mean, I grew up with this one, spent many a college afternoon here, and a few grad school spring’s here. I love the food, the beer, the fireworks post-game, the company, the ability to sit and just relax (because there is no relaxing when I watch football come fall). But my favorite thing? Players’ walk-up music.

Not walk-up… but yeah, that’s one of my schools. #proud

Which, combined with the fact that I love riding to music, had me thinking – what if we got walk-up songs? Like entry circle in the SJ or waiting in the start box on XC? I’m 100% in support of this, just saying, okay?

I have a wide variety of music interests… like, I listen to a lot of different genres. And while I’m no music-hipster (I like Top 40 pop and Taylor Swift waaayyyy too much for that), I do have a talent for putting together a great playlist. I do mine seasonally, with additions for anything special. Mostly, I ride to whatever season’s playlist I feel like, but for this, I finally put songs together for a riding playlist just for Doc and me.

Explanations for 75 songs might take a while (too long) so I just pulled a few.

  • Nice For What (Drake): my current favorite trot set song – the perfect beat and in general I love doing conditioning work to rap
  • The Champion (Carrie Underwood): One of those ‘get out there, blood, sweat and tears’ songs. Perfect for pushing through no-stirrup work when I want to die.
  • There She Go (Fetty Wap): Okay, bear with me… this is one of my favorite dressage school songs. It’s like, make that shit fancy.
  • We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (T Swift): Reserved for when Doc is being a princess and I can’t deal any longer. Sometimes involves yelling-singing.
  • Magic (B.o.b.): Dressage. For sure. Trots across the diagonals right here. Makes me feel like I’m riding Valegro.
  • Good Feeling (Flo Rida): Warm up music here. The title says it all.
  • Taking Care of Business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive): Trot sets/conditioning work. Getting business done. To a fun beat. Singing included with package.
  • GDFR (Flo Rida): When I need a pump up. The last bit of two point and my legs hate me? Get psyched up before a big jumping lesson? This one.
  • Red Hop Lollipop (mash-up Red Hot Chilipeppers, Lil Wayne & Kanye): One of my favorite mash ups – totally a beat I would go out to XC with
  • Drake & Diane (mash-up Drake & John Mellencamp): Another top favorite and one I love dressaging to. All those DQs appalled at dressage to Drake and I’m like, “yeah, and?”

So, then what would be our walk-up music? I seriously can’t decide…

(PS if you have tiny human ears around, my playlists aren’t exactly… child friendly)

It could totally be Jump Around  – would there be a better pre-SJ round song?

But I also feel like there’s not much that says “eventing” like Tubthumping

Oops I Did It Again (Pulled to the Base)?

Nah, more like some Country Grammar because… Nelly. That could get us out of the start box.

Because there’s also a side for me that thinks if it’s going to be pump up, walk-up song, it should definitely be Drake or another solid rap song.

Then there’s the side of me who love nothing more than Auburn football season and totally needs it to be All the Above (yup, can still sing every word)

At the end of the day though, as much as I totally want it to be We Didn’t Start the Fire (life goal: memorize all the words), I don’t think there are a better first 20 seconds we could start to than the classic… Yo I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want

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Broken backs and beers

Still here, chugging along with broken back recovery 2018. It’s about as fun as it seems.

X-ray as of 5/15

The good news is the fracture has stabilized, meaning no more brace and all things holding steady, I should be cleared to ride and assume my regular life at my next appointment in June.

Halle-freaking-lujah, cause I’m officially going stir crazy. I moved into my new place last weekend, officially cutting my barn commute from an hour to 20 minutes (do you hear angels singing those are angels singing).

I think I’m officially changing “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” to “pick shitty distances and break your back idiot.” Catchy, right?

I leave you with “trying to drink a beer and pose with a JRT/Corgi” because it accurately sums up my life right now.

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This makes me a real eventer now right?

Well, all those pros/cons of falling off missed a major con.

Um, like breaking your back.

Yeah, after walking around with an extremely sore back for 10 days, I finally figured I’d go to the doctor, who promptly ordered rads (and wondered why I didn’t do so a week ago…), only to discover I have compression fractures of L1 and T12.

I would show you my x-rays, but I honestly have no idea what I’m looking at. I made one of our vets look at them for me, because #mammals right? but really I’m just waiting to see ortho tomorrow AM.

Needless to say… I am not back on the horse. I can’t even tie my own shoes. Apparently these can take 3 months to heal 100% which would… exponentially suck. I’m basically hoping and praying this doesn’t screw with event camp.

The plus side is people think you’re really tough when they find out you’ve been walking around with a broken back for 10 days. (They also might think you’re a moron, but…)

And because when it rains, it pours, yesterday Fin the Dog woke up weirdly out of it and acting bizarre, so he came to work to be checked out (benefits of working for veterinarians) and ended up in our ICU on fluids all day. All blood work and rads came back totally fine and by 4pm he was back to normal, so all’s well that ends well, but really dude? You just had to be a drama queen about it.

You wouldn’t be so pathetic if you didn’t try to keep chewing out your IV…

Moral of the story: learn to find your distances.

Also, this totally makes me a real eventer now, right?

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It’s on the internet, guys!

I have a bizarre love of shopping some of the random Chinese online stores – like Chinese Amazon, but not? Every once in a while I find real gems at super cheap prices which makes it all worth it. The other reason it’s all worth it are the hilarious things I come across.

I searched ‘horse’ this  afternoon in a fit of boredom and the results were glorious.

Oh look, it’s Lucy in retirement…

How about a new front entry piece for someone?

This is a dog apparently?

Kind of want to buy these just to torment my Jack Russell

This feels like the appropriate way to store post-barn wine bottles

The translation in this is just… a lot.

100% would buy these if they came in adult sizes

I have so many questions and I don’t think I want any of them answered

Actually need this to get me to work every day. Guys, it’s only like $1000!

???????????????????

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