After removing his expensive ceramic-infused therapy blanket, I hobbled around Corazon’s backside to begin his daily hamstring massage. My own hamstrings barely operational following a long run the previous day, I stood through the throbbing sensations to work on my horse’s already pampered muscles. And, yes, the irony struck me. As absurd as this scenario seemed, it fell within the norm of numerous horse-human relationships I could think of right then. For reasons unexplained, we horse folks are more naturally inclined to care for our steeds than for ourselves.
My Warmblood mare stood placidly in her pen, rump muscles traced with kinesio tape, a product so exceptionally designed for athletes that I had not even tried it yet on myself. Remnants of a flax seed and electrolyte snack dried on her lips. Her Quarter Horse pal, meanwhile, nibbled from a haynet in a stupor of lavender essential oils.
A few years ago when I got involved with long-distance running, I figured I could abate the stresses it brought my body. No problem, I would take the same care I do with the horses. That was what I told myself, anyway. I bought a foam roller that sits in the corner of the room collecting dust. I got compression socks that I mostly forget to wear. I stocked up on a magnesium supplement, but then took it to the barn to feed Corazon because I thought he needed it. It’s not that I don’t see the value in these things for myself. It’s just that I struggle to keep a regular routine with them. And why is that? I pondered this while massaging Corazon’s hamstrings, a consistency of practice from which I never deflect.
I arrived at the simple and logical conclusion that, for folks like myself, one’s own self-care is just not as satisfying as pampering one’s horse. Consider foam rolling, for example. When I roll around on that firm log that is allegedly good for my muscles, I experience only the wincing agony of trigger points.
When I use a roller on Corazon, on the other hand, I get to watch his big sweet eyes relax and his rubbery lips slacken. I get to hear his happy sigh of relief when a knot lets go. I can stand back and admire this powerful beast that has just turned to putty in my hands.
I used to admonish myself for not taking the same good care of my own limbs and muscles and joints. But as of this sudden clarity, I have changed my thinking. I don’t need to take better care of myself (because, really, what fun is that?). What I do need is a handler to do it for me. Just like Corazon, I need someone playing my shadow who stretches my tweaked hip flexors, someone who rubs pleasant little circles down my back, tugs on my compression socks, and pats me for a job well done, even when that ‘job’ was lounging around my room. I’m grateful for this new realization and clarity. It turns out that we horse folks are not such an odd lot. Our behaviors could make a lot more sense if we all just had handlers.
Author, speaker, and trainer Jec
Aristotle Ballou teaches widely as a horse fitness specialist. A
frequent presenter at national expos, she helps riders of all
disciplines cross-train with dressage. Visit her website at www.JecBallou.com.