January 19, 2011

Gritted Teeth

It's always been a problem.  Solo locks the left side of his jaw and just. won't. let. go.  Meanwhile I descend into frustration and the whole left side of my body takes on the approximate suppleness of an I-beam.


So, not the best ride tonight. I'm not sure why. I've been working hard with the chiro and feel much MUCH better in my own vertebral sections. Solo is muscle-y and had been going along nicely.

Could it be the cut on his jaw is irritated despite the super-fabulous horsey band-aid I made to protect it from bit rubbing?

Exhibit A at left.

Could it be he's still a bit stiff from the 3 hour ride in the woods on Sunday picking our way through ankle-grabbing, bent over pine yearlings that exasperated the both of us? I gave him Monday and Tuesday off to rest...

It could be both. It could be neither. It could be something else entirely among the 1,208 variables I can think of off the top of my head. I don't suppose it matters too much -- although perhaps just knowing could abate my own knotted jaw muscles. The jaw thing is something that's always been an issue: he clenches, I clench back, then we both just hang there and growl at each other. So when it rears its (ugly ugly) head, I get mad that I have not yet defeated this persistent monster.

I need to let go, take a deep breath, keep the frustration locked in its closet, and use the lateral work to soften him back up. Of course, remembering to do that AT THE TIME is the challenge I continue to fail. Grrr.

Focus on the positive: after every crap ride comes a good ride. I will be eagerly awaiting its appearance tomorrow. I need someone standing next to the arena just chanting, "Supple the horse, supple the horse, supple the horse..." Maybe then I will get it through my thick, thick skull.


  1. I have learned something about relaxing in my own mouth / face. If I realize I'm clenching, or gritting, or not breathing, I walk for a second and blow a raspberry. I hope you know what I mean,tung out of the mouth, face gives in, deep breath, tung flutters and spit goes flying. Somehow I figured out that your whole face has to relax, and you breathing has to become regulated in order to preform a good raspberry. And it only takes a second.

    Good luck to both of you on this. I'm currently fighting a horse that gives in fake-ly, and forgetting to give back myself.

  2. I've no idea if this is something you do, but my left arm used to really have a mind of its own. It wanted to straighten out and lock up in order to force McKinna to give, rather than asking properly and politely, and it made her jaw REALLY lock up, mostly to the left. She leaned into the inside leg and wouldn't soften or bend her body along the arc of the circle.

    As long as I remember to keep my elbow softly bent and my left arm smooth and following like my right, I can get nice work! When things start to go south and we're tracking left, it's the first thing I check.

    Good luck with it. I feel the frustration...old problems that disappear for a little while and then come back are really, really irritating.

  3. While I can not offer any helpful ideas on how to fix the problem, I have to give props to Solo for being able to give you such great dirty looks. I have a feeling that the horsey band-aid may have played some role in the stiffness.....

  4. Some horses do this as a habit, but in some cases it can be a dental issue. Most equine dentists do little work on the incisors - you can't use a speculum for that. Take a look at his incisors - some horses develop hooks or unevenness on their last incisors that limits the ability of the jaw to move lateral - across itself. Also take the horse's bottom jaw in your hand, hold the face with the other hand, and gently move the lower jaw laterally back and forth against the upper jaw. You may find that the range of motion is limited in one direction - that can be due to something in the molars preventing lateral motion as well.

    This sort of thing can affect the TMJs, leading to soreness in the neck and body and one-sided issues.

    Also, as others suggest, check what you are doing with your own body. Braces in the horse often correspond to braces in your own body - are you clenching your jaw or bracing some part of your body on that side?

    Good luck!

  5. Thanks, y'all, for the great thoughts! There is DEFINITELY tension in my own body. I also need a second person standing on the side of the arena screaming "Relax and breathe, you nitwit!"

    Kate -- we have an awesome dentist, so Solo's teeth are good. He is due for a visit from his chiro though, which I am sure will help!

    molly -- you have identified one of Solo's great strengths: the insulted look.

    mm and Lexie -- thanks for the ideas for extra exercises to relax, I will definitely be adding those to the file. Chiro gave me one too yesterday, but it involves breathing, which I forget to do anyway! I am now going to sit here and giggle at the mental image of you spitting on yourself, Lexie. ;-P

  6. Ha! Love the bandaid. Vetwrap is good for so many things--practically equine duct tape.

    As for the stiffness, good luck! Whenever Izzy has problems like that, I know it's my own bloody fault but she is A) much younger and B) not quite as opinionated as Solo.

  7. The band aid was a stroke of genius and as always eventer79 had the right color for these types of emergencies. The emergencies where we both want to go back out.

    Only to have pine trees try to rip the legs right from under the horses.

    I'm voting for a better night tonight.

  8. Well, I think the obvious explanation is staring you right in the face -- Xanax for you and Horsie Xanax for Solo. Or, if you're on a budget, you could both just toss back a pint or ten before playing in the sand-box.

    I'm going to market some iTunes specifically for riders. Yours can be someone with a German accent yelling, "Relax! Breathe, you schweine!" Mine will be the same German screaming, "Bend your elbows! Get your leg back! Sit UP! Let go of your verdammt inside hand!"

  9. I just discovered I could record "notes" to myself on my iPod. Guess who is going to be riding to her own reminders? :)

    Stretch up! Breathe. Relax. Turn out your right ankle. Keep turning it out! etc etc

  10. Ooo, good idea on the reminders, tlh!