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Need adaptation ideas...

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  • Need adaptation ideas...

    Long story short - I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

    My hands are getting worse and worse, chronic pain, chronic swelling, neuropathy, etc.

    I also have a Brain Injury, which caused left-sided weakness...and I can't feel much of my left arm, other than a triangle under the arm pit.

    Left arm used to do all sorts of weird things - flying around b/c no proprioception...then I resorted to sort of hugging it to my torso, to try to get control over it!

    As my hands get worse and as the ride progresses/hand strength gives out, I'm finding I curl my hands inward, then pull them toward stomach, then curl my upper body over them.

    I didn't realize how bad, until I saw a recent video...

    My instructor wants me to practice being correct (straight line elbow/wrist/fingers to bit) I can do, if she reminds constantly, but still do the hug arm to chest and still end up curling over.....I think trying to find new muscles to do the work of the fatigued ones - ?? -

    Of course NONE of this helps my riding!!

    So - need ideas for rein adaptations...pretty please!

  • #2
    Calling Cadriver, Please

    Do you have a physical therapist who can help you with some exercises to build the neuropathways again? I have to stay in P.T. and do the exercises in a mirror to check position. Do you have anyone that you can ask to mention a cue word, to remind you when you go out of vertical in normal life? It takes awareness to break a habit and the muscles have to be retrained.

    We had a thread recently on rein adaptions. Cadriver is very knowledgeable and resourceful. I hope she sees this post. There were tack sites given, too.
    Intermediate Riding Skills


    • #3
      Oh I be here off and on:-) On another thread we talked about the use of Loops on reins, rein stops, rubber reins.

      If you are mainly haveing on issue with the one side you might want to think about useing a rein loop just on that side, www.freedomrider.com sells them, also various harness raceing sites.. then you wouldn't have issue's with your hand and you might be able to concentrate more on your arm and shoulder and getting that correct.

      Building strength, riding will do that:-) Possibly lunge line lessons where you just work on your seat and body position and don't have to worry about the reins, and you can build the strength in the core body on that side.

      At home sit on the edge of your bed and try and hold your upper body in riding position. You can even attach reins to a chair or door so you can work on building up your arm strength.

      Just a few ideas FWIW
      Diane Kastama
      The sun is out today so hopefully I can drive after work. Just had 3 days of rain.
      Last edited by cadriver; Mar. 4, 2010, 11:38 AM. Reason: adding link


      • #4
        Thank you, Diane!

        I hope you get that drive in tonight! We have sun today for the first time in weeks...
        Intermediate Riding Skills


        • Original Poster

          Thanks! I hope you got your drive - it is FINALLY gorgeous here, too.

          The hands - loss of feeling, loss of strength -
          What works:
          Rubber lined reins
          carrying a whip in each hand (whip must have a button on top) - seems to remind my fingers where they are

          What still needs fixed:
          reins keep getting longer
          hands run out of endurance and begin to curl hands inward

          ...so - would the loops help with this?
          I adjust my reins a lot (even when they aren't "getting away"!)
          Is it hard to adjust the loops to a place that works - maybe for trot and canter?
          PT - to work on nerves and strength/stamina (this seems to be getting WORSE, not better)

          I wonder if working with that rein rig mentioned in the other thread would help with strength?? could practice posture, correct hands/arms...
          maybe add weight...??

          Crazy left arm...practice...mirrors...??


          • Original Poster


            We figured out on the lunge that, if I concentrate on engaging a muscle in my left side, it REALLY helps with my position/positive tension.

            It runs from the back of my hip to the front of my rib cage..sort of?!
            When I remember to engage, this grounds my left seat bone, stretches up my torso, and fixes a twist to the right. (AMAZING!)

            Need a tape:
            Engage your side
            Are your wrists straight?
            shorten your reins
            Engage your side
            Engage your side
            Are your wrists straight?
            Engage your side (ad naseum!!)

            As for my daily life...my PT has me working a lot on my posture - chin back, shoulders back/down

            What kind of exercises would I expect to help with proprioception/nerve therapy??


            • #7
              The rein thingy (rein board) would really help it is cool cause you can see what is going on. One cheap way to practice is to take 2 can2 of soup or beans something. Both cans must be same weight, put in a plastic bag, tie a knot in the bag then buckle your reins around the knot on the bag.

              Now get 2 chairs, place the chairs faceing each other. Now put the cans of soup in the bags behind one chair and run the reins over the top of the back of the chair and you sit in the other chair now you might need to put weight in the other chair (depends on the chair) and take up on your reins until the cans of soup are about a foot or so off the ground. Now you can play with lengtheing and shortening your reins, makeing turns etc, and the cans of soup should be even when you are going straight.

              So the loops, best if you adjust those for your trot canter work, and then you won't have the loops for walk. One thing the loops stop is the creeping of reins:-) I also like reins with rein stops but it depends on your specific need.. You can mark your reins with electrical tape as to your best spot for the loops if you want to remove them etc.

              And yes, I got my drive in yesterday evening, nice and sunny about 58 degrees horses a bit spooky since they had been cooped up for a couple of days, today looks good also for after work, tonight rain comes again. I hate it when it comes on the weekends.....

              Diane Kastama


              • #8
                I have RA as well though not as advanced and complicated. I struggle as well with my reins and arms though too. I have found a few things that have helped me and have been thinking of ideas I wish were out there.

                1. Bigger rein stops. I use the rein stops to wedge the reins in teh right spot in between my fingers so that I am really not gripping per se. It works great as long as you have good rein stops (bigger is better) and wear gloves. Basically you let the fingers catch the stop. Really no gripping involved if you get it in there just right.

                2. Fat but flexible reins. I really wish there were big fat memory foam reins. Seriously. It would make my life so much easier. that way they would be soft but not so skinny that I would have to close my fingers so much. I find rubber reins stiff which is harder for me to work with so I actually prefer my cotton web reins even though they are smaller....

                3. I wear my winter riding gloves for any weather under about 50 degrees now. I have determined that my staying warmis incredibly important. Cold is my enenemy; it makes everything worse.

                Those are my thoughts so far...I have a lot of trouble with my elbows and wrists too. My wrists are super weak. I find that if I wear arm warmers (called baby legs- originally designed as leg warmers for babies ) they give me warmth and a little support which helps. I may need to go to wrist braces eventually but am trying to strengthen the muscles on my own...but it stinks when the joint keeps popping in and out.

                Not sure if any of that helps....I'll be hoping and jingling for you
                My blog:



                • #9
                  If you want bigger rein stops, find a leather person and have them sew bigger ones on... (thicker or wider) The ones on driving reins are bigger then riding. Just get flat reins you like and then figure out the distance apart you want on the stops and take them in to be modified.....

                  leather rein stops work better then synthetic...

                  Diane Kastama


                  • #10
                    I have a different problem, but same type of hand issues. It's kind of like carpel tunnel but in the lower thumb joints.

                    What has helped me is to go to a wider rein - in driving most use a 3/4 or so rein... for me the 1 in rein means I don't have to close the hand as much to get a grip. However, the reins are much heavier so I had to get used to that (more of a problem driving than riding)

                    As Diane said, the stops help you to adjust less (haven't tried the loops yet).

                    I also found if I supported the wrist while driving I could avoid the after pain and drive longer. When I started supporting I had let the problem get to extremely painful hands that would go a bit numb after a short time driving - shorter if I got the least bit tense.

                    At the Drs suggestion I started with a Thumb spica splint - serious hard brace from wrist to thumb knuckle holding the thumb still and preventing the wrist from bending much at all. I thought it would be an issue driving with it, but it isn't - at least on one hand. I'm not sure I like using both at the same time. It helps me keep that hand/wrist from tensing/locking up.

                    Worth a thought


                    • #11
                      Would the reins with elastic inserts help ? http://www.rein-aid.com/catalog/prod...products_id=29
                      ... _. ._ .._. .._


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks for all the ideas!!
                        I have a lot to think about and try!

                        I'm definitely going to do the rein board and see if that can practice strengthening the RIGHT muscles i.e. sit up, drop shoulder blades/open chest, arms relaxed, wrists straight and manipulate the weights from there. Might even rig up a stand, so I can sit in my saddle.


                        For the arm warmers - has anyone tried the Back on Track wrist wraps?? Think that would give enough support (and the added bonus of the infrared heat would be great, if it works!)

                        winter gloves - has anyone found winter gloves that DO NOT pinch the joints when you bend your fingers???
                        I'd LOVE the warmth, but cannot tolerate the slightest pressure over/around the knuckles any more.

                        Reins - anyone try those new(er) rubber reins?
                        They are ALL rubber, but thin, like a regular rein. They have a pebble-like surface and are very flexible, like a leather rein.
                        I use rubber-lined b/c rubber wrapped are too wide and make my fingers hurt.

                        A wider WEB might be a good idea to try, though!
                        Maybe I'll try to get some new reins made - wide with chunky stops.

                        Think I'll also try the loops - even if I only use them for bad days, they might be the answer to STOP the hand fatigue, then the chain-reaction of bad postures that follow.

                        A splint I can understand the benefits of not allowing INcorrect postures BUT what about the restricted motion??
                        Will I LOSE muscle/tendon or wouldn't it matter for an hour a day?

                        My PT says I need a referral to the "Hand Girl"...guess I'd better get to work on that!


                        • #13
                          I am probably going to have my DH make modify a pair of reins for me to have larger stops as he is my "leather repair guy." If they turn out and work I will let you know.

                          I have tried regular rubber reins and the thickness is a little better the the lack of flexibility is hard for me to work with. So is the lack of stops on the pairs I have.

                          My arm warmers are just cotton. I use these:


                          I find they add a bit of warmth and give me enough added support to help while not putting so much pressure on that I am uncomfortable as sometimes especially my elbows get really tender.

                          I found the ovation extremer gloves were a little looser through the fingers and held the right shape a little more than some so put less pressure on the fingers, but didn't keep me as warm as some.

                          I know at my show last weekend I really struggled with holding my reins so I am going to try to do something to do better. Not sure what yet, but I need to figure something out so my poor horse and I aren't struggling so much because of my issue.
                          My blog: