… Bad dressage boots …
Silly title. Silly story. A moment of tragic(?) nonsense that shows that sometimes it just doesn’t matter how well you take care of your equipment things can, and do, go wrong.
Don’t worry. It’s not about Bear. He’s in ship shape shape.
No, it’s about a sad state of affairs relating to me and my custom-made dressage boots.
Okay, I bought them almost 10 years ago and for about seven of those years (up until fairly recently, in fact) they sat in a boot bag at the back of a dusty closet. Why? Because a sprained ankle all those years ago made it impossible for me to put the darn things on and once out of the habit of wearing them I just couldn’t be bothered.
Read on …
And then I moved to this dressage barn and, come spring, everyone was casting away their winter footwear in favour of dressage boots. Boots designed to give the leg a steadier more effective contact with the horse’s side. Plus, their stylin’. So, I decided, “Me too! I’m going to start wearing my dressage boots again. It’s time.”
So, I fished them out of the closet and took them to the barn. I located my boot hooks (because the only way to get these darlings on is to insert boot hooks to boot loops on the inside of said boots … and pull!!!) and went to work.
And, wouldn’t you know it? The darn things were so stiff from lack of use I couldn’t get my foot anywhere near the bottom of the boot. Not only that, they were really, really tight.
I talked this over with the other riders who commiserated on this state of affairs and offered some helpful advice:
“Take them in and get them stretched and, while you’re at it, get the shoe repair guy to put a zipper in each boot so it isn’t such a struggle to put them on.”
Hmmm … zippers. A novel thought. I’d noticed that many of my fellow riders, including my coach, had done just that and that they’d all gone to the same zipper putter inner at a shoe repair shop not far from my home. Eureka! That’s what I would do.
So, I packed my boots back into their bag and took them to the shoe repair guy. I explained to him what I needed.
In his thick middle European accent he said, “No problem with the stretching, but not the zipper. These are very good quality boots. Well made. Custom, yes?” I nodded. “You should try first the stretching and oil them to soften the leather … and get inserts to keep them from collapsing. If this does not work, then we try the zippers. But first,” he repeated with a knowing look, “stretch the leather. Yes?”
“Yes, I guess so,” I responded, unsure but willing to lean on his expertise.
So, I left the boots and hoped for the best.
A week later I picked them up and took them home to shine and polish according to the shoe repair guy’s explicit instructions, focusing especially on the ankle area to soften the leather.
Excited about trying them out, I took them to the barn the next day and, after dousing the insides liberally with baby powder I inserted hooks into loops and attempted to pull the right one onto my leg. It was a struggle at first, but eventually I got it, and the left one, on. I rode. Awkward doesn’t describe it. I hadn’t ridden in them in years. Still, I thought, the more I wear them the easier it would get.
Fast forward through the month of June (away) and most of July. I rode in my half chaps mostly, due to the heat, but on a cooler summer’s day, Tuesday of last week, in fact, I struggled into the boots for a lesson. Things went swimmingly.
“Do you see a difference when I ride in these boots?” I asked Herr Coach.
“Absolutely!” he responded.
So, I reasoned, I must wear my boots.
Removing the boots was a struggle. Bootjacks are an absolute necessity when extricating oneself from the vice grip of a close-fitted tall boot, and I had to wriggle myself free of both boots with a great deal of care.
The next day my hips were really achy. I asked the barn manager, “Do you think my hips are sore because of the different leg position my dressage boots put me in when I’m riding?”
“It’s possible,” she said. “The leg does hang differently in those tall, stiff boots.”
Hmmm … the only way to get used to the new leg position was to keep wearing the boots.
So, on Thursday last week four of us went out on a lovely hack in the fields. I wore my dressage boots to continue breaking them in.
When we returned to the barn and after I’d untacked Bear and made him comfortable, I went to my locker to fetch my bootjack so I could remove my boots. Once again I had liberally sprayed baby powder into my boots before putting them on, so I anticipated they’d slide off with ease.
Right boot ~ with the heel of my boot wedged in the curve of the bootjack I started pulling my leg free. My foot began its slow migration up the boot … and then it got stuck.
“You stuck?” A concerned fellow rider enquired as I clung to the doorway between efforts, a contorted look on my face.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” I said with more confidence than I felt.
“If you need a hand, let me know.”
“Thanks … I’ll do that. Appreciate it.”
Then I tried another tac, wiggling my foot up and back and up and back. Finally, it came free.
One down, one to go.
Setting my left heel in the bootjack and resting my right foot (now sporting a paddock boot) on the base of the jack for leverage, I grabbed once again onto the doorway and began the ordeal.
Once again my foot slipped from the bottom of the boot and got wedged at the ankle.
Hmmm … that hurt. Try again.
Okay … breathe and heave. No movement.
Again … breathe and heave. And this time I noticed how the torque in my body was putting uncomfortable pressure on my hips and in my right groin area. “Oh,” I muttered aloud, “this is why my legs and hips have been aching the last couple of days. From the effort to get these boots off.”
A light bulb moment, to be sure, but useless to me at the time as the only way to get the boot off was to continue what I was doing.
I rested for a moment. Regrouped. Surely just one or two more tugs of my foot would extricate it.
One … two … heave …
Like the crack of a whip I felt a sting across my lower back.
“Uh … oh! That’s not good.” I exclaimed aloud as I grabbed the back of my waist and winced. “Now I need help,” I said to the concerned rider as she once again walked by.
Seeing my distress she escorted me as I hobbled across the aisle and into the tack room. I lowered myself gently into the well-worn blue leather two-seater couch, and breathed.
“Now,” instructed the concerned rider, “give us your foot and we’ll pull this thing off for you.”
Yes, it took two people to pull the b(**&y thing off.
After the ordeal I attempted to stand up … straight. Impossible. So, after taking care of my equipment (including cleaning those evil dressage boots) and seeing to Bear’s needs, I went directly to the chiropractor for some attention and then home for an Epsom salts bath.
The next day I felt a bit wobbly, but got on Bear anyway just to see if a walkabout would help massage out the kinks. Not a chance. It was actually a pretty foolish thing to do. If my darling boy had spooked I would have been toast.
For three days I could barely walk. I spent the weekend sitting on a heating pad and taking anti-inflammatories. By Sunday evening I was in so much discomfort I finally booked an appointment with my massage therapist who, fortunately, had some time available on Monday. After spending quality ground time with Bear, albeit hunched over like the fellow of Notre Dame legend, I went for my massage.
Afterward I felt freer in the hips, but still wobbly, and the ache in the depths of my lower back was still keen.
“No riding!!” the massage therapist warned.
“No problem!” I answered, resigned and sad.
So, my coaching scheduled for Tuesday was turned into a training session for Bear with Herr Coach. I watched from a chair in the corner of the arena with admiration and envy.
I wanted to ride.
… Bear …
Wednesday rolled around and Herr Coach rode Bear again. I had my camera with me and took a few photos, including this one. I marvelled at how much my boy had changed and developed since January. His uphill movement giving him a bearing of lightness I’d been longing to see for years. And he looked so beautiful.
“I hope to ride by Friday,” I told Herr Coach optimistically before he left for vacation, “but if I can’t he’ll get the time off and be ready for you to pop on him again next week.”
Herr Coach thought that a good idea. There would no point in riding with sore hips and undermining what had been achieved in the two training sessions. Bear would simply get confused.
I went to the chiropractor again. He worked his magic and I felt a little bit better again.
“No riding!!” he warned.
“Of course not,” I sighed, disappointed but resolved to doing what must be done to heal.
And then this morning, after several days of being stalwart and philosophical about it all I finally had my little feeling-sorry-for-myself meltdown. And it wasn’t that I really felt that sorry for myself, it’s just that I was soooo frustrated that my life had been derailed by a pair of stupid dressage boots. Had the shoe repair guy put the zippers in when I asked him to this would never have happened. As well, in the middle of all of this discomfort, and in my darkest moments, I was haunted by the idea that the pain might never go away and I’d never get to ride my beautiful horse again!!! (Wah!)
Still, it was only a short, dark period of self-indulgence, and then I let it go.
This afternoon I went to the barn and spent a few hours with Bear, reviewing exercises from the FEEL program and playing with him in the arena. It was a lovely time and I soon felt much better. I even began to look at this unexpected hiatus and “hip adjustment” as another opportunity for growth. Maybe, by some miracle, it would mean my hips would be looser and more cooperative in the saddle once I climbed back in.
As for the bad boots … the bad, bad, bad dressage boots … I took them to the shoe repair guy and, as I stood there clutching my aching back, demanded he put the zippers in notwithstanding his admiration for the original workmanship. Custom-made, last-you-a-life-time dressage boots or not, they’re garbage to me without this important mechanical adjustment.
I pick them up August 2. I sincerely hope I’ll be riding by then.
Nurture what you love …
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014