That’s right I don’t think I know a horse person out there who hasn’t felt the urge to go hard and get all the winters manure cleaned up as soon as the ground starts to thaw. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to manage manure clean up all winter. Unfortunately that's not the case for most of us including myself and if you're anything like me, you want it done as soon as the ground is thawed enough to work with.
Before you start spending day after day, hour after hour, raking, scooping, and running around with your wheelbarrow like a mad person, there are a few things I would like you to consider, that can make or break the riding season for both you and your horse.
Yes it’s great to do all this heavy lifting, but if you don’t spend a good portion of your day doing that sort of thing already, or if you don’t workout on a regular basis using a routine that strengthens your poop scooping muscles, then you’re going to open the door for a world of hurt. And yes I know you're a tough horse person and hurt doesn't matter. I know it’s got to get done, but let me illuminate what ignoring pain is going to do to your riding season.
That pain your feeling, or the pain you’re blocking out, as we horse people tend to be really good at, is your tissue fibers tearing. A small amount of tearing in the muscle fibers is good (a large amount leads to scar tissue or ‘knots’), it builds new muscles after you feed them some protein and give them some rest. What happens when we ignore the pain though is the muscles run out of ‘umff’ to give you tendons kick in. When tendon fibers start tearing you start having problems. Tendons don’t grow like muscles when they tear, they just go straight to ‘knots’.
Yes poop cleaning is, essentially a workout, and should be treated like one right down to the stretching. Muscles work in groups, the only way to open and close a joint is for on muscle to contract while the opposing muscle relaxes. Due to the repetitive nature of this workout we tend to overload some muscles by contracting them more than stretching them. To keep you body in balance it would help to do a little stretching after a poop workout.
Do you consciously engage your core and focus on using larger muscle groups to do the work, instead of relying on the smaller easier to wear out muscles and joints? If you're out there toodleling along, plunking away at it, using just your arms and possibly the odd hip, off in La La land, ignoring your screaming shoulders, then there’s a good chance you're doing some damage or you're about to. By engaging your core and learning how to use your soon to be stronger torso muscles, you’ll not only contribute to the longevity of your shoulders, arms, and wrists, you’ll be getting those much need riding muscles ready for action. Using your legs to do as much as possible too will help save your back as well. I like to use this opportunity to do squats and lunges.
Do you rest enough between workouts? Would you go to the gym and everyday and just work your upper body? No. That’s something to keep in mind when hitting it hard out here in the paddock this spring. I’m the worse when it comes down to not resting, this is why I was stuck on the couch, icing my shoulder for a whole day just this past week! If you feel like you’re getting sorer everyday and not stronger then it’s time to take a break. Repetitive strain injuries are not only caused by big ‘knot’ build up in the tissue but your fascia (white stuff that encases your tissues) thickens as well.
Repetitive strain injuries and wearing out joints aside, if you add up all your ‘knots’ and thickened fascia you're not going to be a very supple balanced rider or driver. Stiff, unbalanced riders and drivers can, and do affect the horses back, neck, shoulders and jaw and eventually hips, creating stiff unbalanced horses. This I often find leads to massage for the horse, which is fantastic, and really I love my job, horses need this, but so do you!!
Happy Horsing Around