Becoming a para rider: Frozen muscles and blowing hoists

Sallyanne has been battling the elements this month. Despite it all, she's continued to ride and keep up-to-date with Flynn's physio appointments. 

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January was a bit of a slow month. The weather has been getting me down and don't even get me started on the mud.

I can’t go anywhere in my wheelchair without getting covered in the stuff. I’ve had to dig out my over-the-top waterproof trousers to keep me clean, but it’s not easy getting these on now!  

As I mentioned last time, I was chuffed to get my classification grade, and I've been researching the dressage tests that I'll have to ride. Trot is concerning me at the moment!

I'm still waiting for the hoist to be installed near the arena. As I've said before, this will make it so much easier for me and also open up the possibilities for my trainer, Beth Hobbs, to welcome other para riders to her yard.

The possibilities are endless and we're just at the beginning of the journey - it's very exciting.

Planning training sessions 

Unfortunately, my recent RDA session with Nick Rogers (South West para coach) was cancelled this month, but I'm hoping to reschedule soon.

I'm also trying arrange for some RDA instructors to come to Beth’s yard to see how me and Flynn are getting on. We're hoping to take Flynn up to the RDA to have some sessions in the indoor school.

Having an outdoor arena to ride in makes it difficult at times, especially as it’s been so cold and wet recently, so will keep my fingers crossed!

A budding relationship 

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The best thing that's been happening recently is the partnership that's growing between me and Flynn.

He definitely feels a lot more forward with me, accepting my aids and what I'm asking of him, even when I do get a little bit excited with the whip...!

I find holding the whips difficult at times and they still twist in my hands. As a result, I end up waving them about sometimes. Thankfully, Flynn has got used to seeing the whips and feeling them on his side.

We've been making really good progress with riding, but we've recently discovered that using the hoist in the car park to mount in strong wind isn't the best idea! The wind can easily blow me around, making it difficult to land safely on Flynn.

Sometimes I forget that we must risk assess the situation before deciding to ride. The rain also doesn’t help. 

It's been so cold lately that, due to my injury, I've been suffering with leg spasms because of very poor circulation from my waist down. I feel freezing to touch, and my legs and feet are like ice.

It's not good for my muscles to be so cold.  Roll on the warmer weather I think...

A visit from the physio

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Our equine physio, Julia Mottram, visited towards the end of January and asked to see Flynn on the lunge.

It was a good job that my trainer Beth was around. I haven’t ventured into the arena in my wheelchair and I'm not sure I would do well at lungeing, (but it’s something to think about having a go at perhaps?).

Beth said Flynn doesn’t really like being lunged and he was quite lazy. She had to get the schooling whip and chase after him! 

Julia wanted to see Flynn walk, trot and canter on both reins so she could watch his movements and assess him. 

Our physio sessions normally last about 60-90 minutes, meaning Flynn can be treated and we can discuss with Julia does how to improve his stiffness and maintain the work she does with him.

Julia says that regular physiotherapy, check-ups and treatment can improve Flynn's comfort, behaviour and performance and regular maintenance physio also improves his muscle balance and symmetry.

This is something that's proving to be really important because my balance is quite poor. I think Flynn looks to help me and this probably compromises his symmetry.

As part of the visit, Julia palpated Flynn's muscles across Flynn’s spine, looking for irregularities and signs of dysfunction.

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He seemed to be showing signs of being stiff on his left side, and all up through his neck. 

Julia worked through a combination of physiotherapy, massage and trigger-point release, paying particular attention to the myofascial release. 

Myofascial release uses sustained hands-on pressure for several minutes in one area.

Myo means muscles and fascia means the connective tissue of the bones, nerves, organs and muscles.

This treatment benefits Flynn by helping to reduce inflammation, and strengthen and elongate tissues, helping to increase his power, strength, endurance and metabolic efficiency.

I think Flynn is starting to enjoy his sessions with Julia. After a while, he often looks like he’s falling asleep. 

An update from my daughter, Stella 

My daughter's horse, Spot, has also started having sessions with Julia as well.

Beth was worried that Spot’s pelvis could be out of alignment, as she felt unbalanced under the saddle. Luckily, all was ok, but at 22, Spot is allowed to be a little stiff from time to time!

Stella absolutely adores Spot. Riding has really helped Stella come to terms with my accident and how life changing a spinal injury is.

Being around horses again has helped the both of us come to terms with me being in a wheelchair.  

Feeling reflective

I'm extremely appreciative of every single person who's helped me over the past 18 months. They have all contributed to making my home a more accessible place and keeping my mental health intact.

I've worked so hard at keeping it all together, but sometimes this has proved rather difficult.

The help from friends and sponsors to support my para riding has been fantastic. It's provided me with a lorry hoist, hat, air jackets, as well as para training coaching sessions, BD classifications, private consultations for spinal reviews and more.

Let’s just say when the chips are down you certainly know who your friends are! So much is happening lately that I'm here, there and everywhere. With the help from so many amazing friends, there's actually no stopping me. 

Bring it on!     


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