The month, I’m going to talk about a very sensitive subject.
According to the dictionary chafing is “the act of something restrictive or too tight making a part of the body sore by rubbing against it.” Other unpleasant words for this unpleasant experience include abrade, gall, scrape, scratch and (my new favorite word) excoriate. That word may be unfamiliar, but everybody who has handled or ridden horses knows about chafing.
Maybe you learned about it the day you took a chance on longeing the looney-tunes gelding without gloves.
Maybe you discovered it when your new stirrup leathers stripped your shins like a skinning knife.
Perhaps your unscheduled exfoliation was due to new boots, a miscreant seam on your breeches, or the stallion whipping the lead line out of your hands. Yeah, well, none of that is what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about chafing an area of the body where one should never, ever experience chafing.
Ladies, you know what I mean. Yes, there.
Right now you are either furrowing your brow in doubt or cringing in solidarity.
For you furrowers, let me assure you that this is indeed “a thing.”
Along with every fat cell in your body retiring to your midsection and never being able to find that thing you just had, chafing in one’s nether regions is another age-related delight. It seems that skin isn’t the only thing that loses elasticity and un-tightens over time. Now, apparently, we can look forward to parts once neatly tucked away becoming some degree of un-tucked. This subjects them to wonderful Pit-and-the-Pendulum type tortures when you take part in certain high-risk activities.
Like wearing pants.
This begs the question: What the actual ****? Exactly how bad is this going to get? Am I going to get out of bed one morning and find heretofore unseen parts trailing behind me like some sort of vestigial organ?
And just how do we avert this anatomical affront? Without mentioning the exact nature of the problem, I asked a few friends—both male and female—for advice on how, in general, to address chafing. Some of the answers were:
1. Put a Band-Aid over it.
I’m trying to form a mental picture of this.
It’s not so much the application that worries me, as it is the removal. (You may be jiggy with the whole waxing trend, but I’m not). And one does still need occasional bathroom access to the area. Band-Aids come in many varieties but as far as I know there is no zippered-fly version.
2. Add a thick piece of padding to your clothing but cut a hole out where the chafed area is so that it is protected, but not touched.
That at least solves the going to the bathroom dilemma. Maybe I could stuff a wither-relief pad in my pants?
3. Keep it uncovered and exposed to air as much as possible.
Again with the mental picture.
But I kind of wish I’d saved those full chaps I had in the 1990s. They seem ideal for this.
4. Deaden that sucker up! Apply anesthetic ointment to the area before riding.
Let me go on record as saying that I do not wish to deaden that sucker up. I wish to be fully aware if a part of my body I’m quite keen to keep starts disappearing like a pencil eraser during an algebra test.
5. Just tough it out. Eventually it’ll form a callus, and you won’t feel a thing there ever again.
OMG, just no.
After reviewing the advice and doing some experimenting, I’ve come up with two viable solutions:
1. Ride in two-point. All. The. Time. I guarantee you, if this chafing happens to you, you will be able to figure out how to ride your entire FEI-level dressage test in jumping position. Endurance riders: Good luck holding the two-point for 100 miles. This might be the time to look in to that childhood dream of becoming a jockey.
2. Take the opposite approach and Velcro your butt firmly to the saddle. If the jockey thing doesn’t pan out, and staying in two-point is wrecking your World Cup score, the alternative is to literally become one with the saddle. Chafing requires friction between two surfaces. Fuse those surfaces together, and no chafing. This can present a challenge for grand prix and hunter derby riders, but on the plus side, your horse finally won’t be able to jump you out of the tack.
Speaking of saddles, I did find some saddles more irritating than others (literally, in this case; not just figuratively, like on a normal day). A heavily padded saddle is particularly bad, as is a saddle with a higher pommel. Short stirrups are your new best friend. (The jockey thing is sounding less ridiculous now, isn’t it?)
You younger ladies who are reading this with those “Like, OMG? Is that really a thing?” expressions cannot appreciate what this particular chafing feels like, so I’ve developed a little experiment to help you understand.
Cover a staircase banister with 40-grit sandpaper. Slide down it a couple-three times. Then go soak in a nice alcohol bath (the kind of alcohol you use for sterilizing things, not the kind in the bottle in your tack trunk).
Or, skip the alcohol and just take part in the ordinary act of urination.
Either way, it’ll feel like a colony of fire ants has invaded your nether regions, and everybody up and down your street is going to hear you scream. If you have thoughtful neighbors, one of them might dial 911. That will give you five or six minutes to decide just how you’re going to explain things to the first responders.
In additional to the general embarrassment, you single ladies can be further assured that you are never, ever going to get a date with the hunky paramedic.
Once the chafing has occurred, there’s not much you can do but go home, remove all clothing, and lay motionless for two days. Do not let anything touch the affected area. Not clothing. Not bed linens. Not air. Not your husband. If he pouts, schedule him in for Day 3. It’ll kill your spontaneity more than tracking your ovulation back when you were trying to have kids. But at least you will be able to enjoy it instead of killing the mood by making faces like you’re giving birth to Rosemary’s baby.
My ire over this whole sit-uation compelled me to search the interweb for information. I discovered that this is so much a thing that there are actually medical procedures to remedy it. They’re listed as “cosmetic” procedures, but I beg to differ. “Hey, I’d like a smaller nose” is a cosmetic issue. “Hey, I’d like to keep my private parts from becoming public parts” is not.
I’m not ready to go that route just yet. But if the chafing conundrum proves to be a detriment to my enjoyment of riding…well, desperate times may call for desperate measures.
I’ve got skin in the game, after all. And I’d like to keep it.
After years of trying to fit in with corporate America, Jody Lynne Werner decided to pursue her true passion as a career rather than a hobby. So now she’s an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, cartoonist, web designer, writer and humorist. You can find her work on her Misfit Designs Cafepress site. Jody is one of the winners of the Chronicle’s first writing competition. Her work also appears in print editions of The Chronicle of the Horse. Read all of Jody’s humor columns for coth.com here.