I made a decision minutes after my lesson with Peggy. I was going to make an appointment with the Strength Lab. It came highly recommended by one of Sarah’s clients whose daughter had an Integrative Neurosomatic Therapy (INT) session done there. From her description it sounded like exactly what I was looking for. During Peggy’s clinic I grew increasingly frustrated with the imbalances in my body. My brain understood what Peggy was telling me to do, but my body would not listen. It felt like no matter how hard I tried I could not get the left side of my body to release tension. It was time for me to unpeel my onion layers and find the core of the problem.
Strength Lab sounded like the place to start.
When I arrived for my appointment there was a kettle ball fitness class taking place, I wondered if everyone in the class had been through the same evaluation that I was about to undergo. I was introduced to James and Vance who I followed back to the room that the evaluation would take place in. They immediately put me at ease as we started talking about my goals. I mapped past injuries on a chart while James asked where I was experiencing any pain, I let him know that I wasn’t in any pain, but I had some imbalance issues I was very aware of. If pain was the issue I would most likely just deal with it, but knowing that my imbalances were affecting my horse I needed to get down to the core issue and get beyond it. James told me that people utilize INT for two reasons; pain or performance issues, the two are of course related; both are a result of imbalance.
When we started the evaluation I stood on a box against a wall with graph lines. Sounds easy enough, except that they had me stand as what best can describe as “square”, my hips and feet lined up correctly. I didn’t take long for me to become aware that standing square is not something my body is accustom to. All too quickly I could feel new muscles in my legs. I was reminded that I could take a break at any time if I became uncomfortable. As Vance measured he would call out numbers to James who would then draw lines on a chart of my skeleton. They measured everything from my skull to my feet. At one point James asked me if I had ringing in my left ear. The question surprised me; I’ve had tinnitus for as long as I can remember. I have fallen asleep to the ringing in my head every night since I was maybe 2 years old. It is so normal to me that I forget about it. How did he know? James held up the chart of my skull showing me how all the lines he had drawn clearly pointed out the compression on the left side of my head. He then assured me that we could resolve it. No ringing in my ears? I’m not sure if can handle the silence.
The next sets of measurements were taken with me seated. They had already discovered that my left leg was 4 ml shorter than my right. With me seated they found that things had changed, when I sat my pelvis tilted to the left. From the tone of their conversation it sounded like we had hit the core of the onion. James pointed out that this could be very confusing to my horse, when I handle her on the ground I am one way, but as soon as I sit in the saddle I go the opposite way. The write up says “Hemi-pelvis (i.e. left larger than right by 5mm) creating a hip tilt high on the left when seated” James went on to tell me that this would most certainly cause me to collapse my left ribcage when riding or that I might have a tendency to lean to the left in the saddle. He said my horse must think that I am always getting ready to swing for a polo ball or something. Pretty amazing analysis considering that my left side was my source of frustration in the saddle for years.
The list of my compensation patterns which seemed to have started with having a left leg shorter than the right includes: head tilt right, torso rotation left, compression at the left hip, bi-lateral hip projection, rotated and sheered atlas, cranial distortions as a result of limb length inequality, high likelihood of thoracic outlet syndrome in right arm and shoulder. When we looked back at the chart of injuries I had plotted, all of them could be pointed back to these compensation patterns.
Now comes the good news, they have a treatment plan. It is actually very similar to what Sarah does when she rehabs horses. First step will be a lift for my left foot and a lift that I will use in the saddle and my office chair for my right seat bone. The lifts will bring me back to level. From there we will address the “musculature and facial tension that has come about as a result of years of compensation.” This sounds like when Sarah talks about taking off overdeveloped muscles in the horses and building muscle that will support the horse’s skeleton. James assured me that this wasn’t something I would have to throw money at. My time and effort would be needed to see the real payoff. Once I have my lifts, we will start a series of exercises to “release/lengthen the "tight" muscles and we will strengthen/shorten their "taught" antagonists.” James said that in the end neutral pelvis will just come naturally; it won’t be something that I will need to constantly think about. He also pointed out that “neutral” as in zero degrees is not what we are looking for. Right now my hip angle is at 14 degrees, it needs to be at 5 degrees. It sounded like my hamstrings and abs will be getting some attention in the very near future as they will play an integral part in correcting my hip angle.
I have my next appointment on Tuesday. The lifts which were surprisingly inexpensive should arrive today. I’ve already been riding with a shim in the saddle thanks to Sarah, some felt and black duct tape, but I plan to bring the saddle in on Tuesday to make sure we get the right fit. I do feel a difference with the lift under my right seat bone when riding, I can actually feel my abs when I ride now, and I have a 3 point seat again.
The program at Strength Lab fits right in to what I am already doing with my horse. It is a perfect match to Sarah, Peggy, Peter (my amazing farrier) and Dave whose saddles address many of these issues. I am constantly blown away by the team of people I have surrounded myself with; I believe them all to be pioneers in their field. I look forward to the day that I can put all the pieces together and the beautifully balanced picture that will result at the end. In the meantime I plan to take in and bask in every step of the journey and will remember along the way to enjoy the ride.