My husband has asked many times "then why are you doing this to yourself"? Because riding is my freedom. Riding is what keeps me going. If I ever really stop, I'll never get it back, I know that.
There was a time, when I was so sick that I was barely crawling. Really so ill that I could not sleep, didn’t want to get out of bed, but hurt so badly when I was in bed that it was misery, yet feeling so tired that getting up just seemed monumentally difficult. I had given up hope really. Shuffled from Dr. to Dr. that didn’t understand my rigid musculature and my inability to function normally. Eventually someone referred me to a Rheumatologist practicing out of a large metropolitan hospital. The medication that I had been given to deal with the pain and depression, was actually causing muscle rigidity, thus exacerbating the pain of my already miserable body. The specialist I went to was the first who sat down and listened, believed and understood the dynamic of feeling so sick, and trying to work a very physical job in order to maintain an income when it literally hurt to just roll over in bed, or move an arm, or a leg. Working sick just magnified everything further. This began a long list of trial and error with various combinations of medications, many of which I wasn’t able to tolerate. After about six months of this we seemed to hit on something that improved how I felt, without the side-effect of feeling drugged up at the same time. You notice I said improved, not everything peachy. I’ve had general body pain for so long that I honestly can no longer remember a day that I felt great. So why do I climb on a horse every few days, trot for ten or fifteen miles, sweat out my body fluids, and pump up the Advil & prescription pain meds? That is rather complex to explain. Riding my horse is as close to meditation as I can get. It puts me into a mental ZONE. A very good place somewhere beyond pain, outside of worry, just my horse, the wind in the trees, a goal, a pushing of my personal boundaries a little each day. It is probably much like the high a runner gets when the push a bit farther. This works well for me on a training/conditioning program. I hurt afterwards, but it is the tolerable trade off of doing something I love. A competition which pushes me outside those boundaries seriously kicks my butt. I remember one 30 mile in the rain/cold that I got through the ride just fine, but could hardly walk at ride meeting that evening. In fact, I could barely pull myself out of the chair. I was physically hammered. But for as long as I can…ride I will. Riding is my freedom, and though I know better, I wish I would never ever completely have to lay it down.
If you love the ride, don’t just roll over and give it up. Be proactive and do what is necessary to get you to the best place that you can be physically through diet, exercise, stretching, and bringing your self back in small doable increments of activity. The advice I would give is don’t over do it. It is easy to feel like you can’t when actually you just pushed too far, to soon. Hang on to those activities you love in whatever ways you can. Take the time to get yourself into a better place and start again. Sometimes that means you have to modify your goals to fit your situation. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that. If ten miles down a trail is all you can do, then in my book, the day you do it you showed ENDURANCE. A week from now maybe it will become fifteen, maybe not…but maybe!
If you are riding with a physical disability I encourage you to continue as long as you can if riding is what you love. Stretch your body religiously to keep your mobility, use light handweights to keep your arms toned, walk the dog (cat) or kids whenever you can. Just because you are dinged up, doesn't mean you are done.