Oh, Ouch!

All riders have their own specific aches and pains.? Mine are leg cramps, which I’ve battled for as long as I can remember. (And, yes, I eat lots of bananas.) If I’ve had a particularly busy day at the barn, I might get a leg cramp later when I curl my legs into a chair, or wake up in the middle of the night shrieking ? making no effort at all to keep from waking my husband.? Often I’ll get a cramp while mounting when I lift my right leg into the stirrup. I had a rough night last night and was reminded that this is the count up to my first show this year.? I did more sitting trot than usual and then went to the gym, where I did a Pilates class.? After spending a week at the Outer Banks, with lots of walking but no riding, I’ve been trying to play catch up with my exercise, and I paid for it with cramps so bad I couldn?t even walk them off.? It was a long night ? my Corgi later threw up under the bed (any Corgi owner will relate, because Corgis will eat anything) and finally my alarm went off two hours early, maybe a subconscious preparation for getting up before 4 a.m. on show day.? I kept trying to get back to sleep by running through the dressage test in my mjind.? Hope I can remember the canter portion, because I was usually asleep again before I got to the pirouettes. At shows, I used to get leg cramps during the free walk portion of my tests. I guess it was a buildup from the early hours, the temperature being too cold or too hot, the tension, the excitement.? And that particular horse had no go button at all and nearly always dropped a load at the start of the free walk.? The result was because I’d stopped kicking that I guess my legs responded by kicking all by themselves.? I’d drop my stirrups and do Lamaze pant/blows all the way across the diagonal, hoping against hope that the cramp would go away before I needed my stirrups back. My barn manager made a couple of great suggestions that helped hugely. ?She suggested a bran mash for my horse the night before a show, and sure enough that horse stopped lifting his tail during a test.? For myself, I was already taking ibuprophen ahead of time, and she suggested adding some sips of beer before I got on.? I don’t know if it was the extra fluid, or whether I just relaxed a bit more, but in the 20 years since then I haven’t had a leg cramp in an actual test.