Tag Archives: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Look Behind You

I have a picture on my desk at work of when I first started riding Strider. It was taken at a schooling show literally about a month after I started riding him. I remember I knew it was nuts to take him to one so soon since I could barely even get on him I was in such bad shape from RA and he hadn’t been ridden for a long time. The riding he had before that hadn’t sat well with him (that is a good part of the story of how he came to be given to me- yes I said given…though at this point in the story I was leasing him) and before that he had been on the track. Basically it was silly to do, but I wanted to try. He is the shaggiest I think he has ever gotten, his feet were a mess; the best description I can give of him then is of a rather refined looking mule with ears that didn’t want it enough. Brown horses that haven’t had fabulous grooming and care just don’t look good- and I am referring to the true brown horses that everyone calls dark bay with bleach spots. There is so much wrong in the picture: girth cover because the only girth I had was ancient and had no elastic, Strider isn’t tracking up, mismatched neoprene splint boots I borrowed, my position is atrocious, and I was considerably heavier than I am now. But I love that picture. Strider still wasn’t convinced about me yet, but I was thrilled and it shows. The joy in being able to ride again, even if it was terrible, was obvious.

That picture is also a reminder of how far we have come. I don’t have many pictures of Strider and me, but I know how he looks when he walks up to me in the pasture. I know he trusts me now and even usually will leave his food and his “hole” (that’s what we call his shed ha-ha) when he hears me call him. He is sleek and shiny now; his feet are in great shape (for a TB type horse- no cracks and good wall. His angles are much better and his front feet are up a shoe size.); he is incredibly muscled; his personality is really showing and I think every time I see him I am in awe that I  get to ride him.

So what’s my point aside from that I like looking at a terrible picture and I adore my horse? Well, I think sometimes on the middle of struggling and pushing so hard to move forward and prevail over hard things sometimes we forget to remember from where we came. Whether in dressage, hunter jumpers, or fighting RA sometimes it helps to remember how far you really have come. It may seem at times like we only move backwards, especially when treating RA, I know, because I remember what it was like to be on a treatment that worked. But sometimes we have to remember what it was like to before we were diagnosed, or when we were diagnosed in order to see that, though it may feel like I have no options, at least I have a great rheumatologist on my side now. Or in dressage, sometimes we get hard on ourselves (ha! Sometimes? Maybe always?) and our horses because we can’t seem to perfect a certain movement, reach a goal, or we let our minds get the better of us, but where were we and our horses 6 months, a year, or 2 years ago?  If we look back maybe we can find the hope and faith to keep moving forward; it isn’t a new thought at all, but I know I needed the reminder. Just don’t get stuck looking behind you- you never know when you might run into a wall or a tree or a manure pit or something- trust me on that one.

Until next time- RAWR!!!!!!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Finally! (and some drama)

I did it! Part of the reason for my long silence, though not all of it, was that I kept trying to take Strider in a dressage show. The first one I had to scratch due to a death in the family, the second one I entered and the whole show was canceled because of the EHV-1 outbreak. I was starting to sense a trend. I decided to risk it and try entering a third show though. It was last weekend and there was no apocalypse, a lot of drama though.

First, Strider’s saddle fit became a really big issue. It had been a small issue and had seemed correctable with shims and pads- and then more pads, and more pads. We were at four pads and my calling him, “princess and the pea horse” was a little too apropos for comfort. He was starting to get back sore as well. I was not ok with that and it did nothing good for our suppleness or transitions to say the least. He is already conformationally challenged so I didn’t want any other issues. I also go into the horse version of panicked parent mode when I know my horse is uncomfortable.

As soon as I could I started saddle shopping. Thankfully one of the mobile tack stores has a large used selection and was going to be close by; I was able to try six saddles in one weekend! Even better one of them actually seemed to be a great fit for Strider. The only downside was that it was a bit of a gamble because my trainer couldn’t check it for me. Based on my own knowledge and how my horse felt in it I decided to go with it (trainer is still out of the country- I will let you know if that was a good gamble when she gets back!). Worst case it has improved his royal highness’ back, doesn’t require four pads, and is, in my opinion, and based on some quick digging on the internet, a better value than what I had before. Now I can just hope my old saddle sells quickly so I can replenish my somewhat drained savings.

The new saddle came just in time. In fact, I got it exactly a week before the show. Less than ideal timing, but at least I got it before the show, since my old saddle was definitely not helping us out. I was worried I would be riding my dressage tests in my jumping saddle. But thankfully that didn’t end up happening.

 More surprises were in order though as the Thursday before the show I had to leave work early and go see my doctor because I was having intense stomach pain. There were no clear answers, as usual, but we treated the pain and set an appointment for a ct scan. Not eating in preparation for the ct scan calmed things down a little and though I didn’t get the results of the scan before the show I was able to make it through thanks to the wonders of modern medicine.

 I will spare you the rest of the drama involving warm up arena melt downs (Strider: “ZOMGWTFBBQ there are more than three horses in the arena), boot disasters (one fit and not the other- no kidding), and missing tractor parts.

 I will be honest: my first ride was terrible and it was all my fault. Poor Strider tolerated my show nerves fabulously though and between his generally being good and a somewhat nice judge we managed to eke out a 64% on t-3. It got better as the test went on, but I am pretty sure a drunken sailor on a unicycle could have done a better center line and halt, salute.

 Somewhat miraculously (it’s me we’re talking about here- historically I haven’t shown very well. Even when I have scored well I am usually an absolute basketcase), I gathered my wits, drank some sports drink and actually breathed a little before my next test. I admit I was worried since it was First level, but I figured I may as well relax and enjoy rather than freak out if the results would be the same. My old trainer used to hate it when I would say, “I have to stop caring,” because she didn’t understand what I meant. I am realizing that in order to show well I have to be able to let go of the outcome. I ride far better when I don’t care. It’s not bad in my case, because then I actually ride. Not caring for me doesn’t mean I stop trying; it enables me to try. We went in and though I rode conservatively, we ended up with a 67%. I really couldn’t have been more pleased.

 The next day we had a different judge and the scores, on average, were lower. We managed a 68% on T-3 (and it felt amazing!!) and a 61% on First 1. Both rides felt incredibly steady though and I was absolutely thrilled.

Vanya has not been sitting around all this time either. He has been doing western. I jokingly say that he “has a 4-Her.” I think in theory the 4-Her has him but if you ask him I am sure it is the other way around. He has done well at remembering what little western he knew and improving on it and has even become vaguely decent as a showmanship horse. He still needs work but western is good for him in his old age. I am sure he will be excited when fair is over and we can start focusing more on getting him and his 4-Her ready for barrels and poles though. He also is going to get his own little kid after fair and I cannot wait for him to get some lead line action.

 My RA has been pretty bad which is really why I haven’t been posting much. I am determined to push through it to the extent that I can, but often I have the energy to work, ride, etc. and then posting falls by the wayside. I will do my best to update more frequently whenever I can. I am trying acupuncture to help with some of the side issues that have been nagging at me so we’ll see if that helps. Even my knitting has been slower than usual. Oh well….always have to keep pushing on!! RAWR!!!!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Guilty as Charged- Ambiguous

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”   -Winnie the Pooh

Please read this blog post from the Owl City blog entitled, “You are Braver than You Believe.” I have read it at least four times; I keep coming back to it because each time it catches me in a number of ways. Some are too hard for me to put into words, and some are probably nonsense, but after a rough few weeks…make that months….years….oh heck, I think if we are honest most of us don’t really have easy lifetimes at least in certain respects, it hits home every single time I read it.

First: the Winnie the Pooh quote. Don’t we all want a friend like that? A friend who is so close to us in spirit and in thought that they can see the words we need and speak them and even when they are apart, they are with us in our thoughts, memories, etc. by virtue of being such a part of us. I don’t want this to be a spiritual debate but I feel that if you have faith then of course this should be very much how faith is as well. Recently, upon realizing that a person I had very much counted as a friend really wasn’t one anymore, made me really think on friendship and how it should be. Shouldn’t our friends respect and honor us? Support us but be willing to tell us when we aren’t behaving as we should? No friend will ever be perfect; I know that, but I think at least sometimes we all need someone who sees us better than we can see ourselves to give us a reality check and someone who can cheer us on without condemnation when we are losing perspective. I hope I am that friend to my friends…

The rest of the post is where I become rather convicted. I know that there are so many things in my life right now I am struggling to change, to fix, to improve. I get impatient with my situation; I get tired of fighting battles that, when I am honest about it, I know will not end or if they will, it won’t be soon. I get tired of pain and struggle. And before I know it, I am wishing things were different. It is so easy to lose sight of the opportunities I do have, and the blessings and the reasons for hope. One thought acts like a spark in the middle of a field of dry grass- it is rapidly out of control. And yet it is a waste of energy I am ridiculously short on in the first place and often such thoughts pull me into not wanting to try- to just give up. I know- not a pretty picture.

So what does it come down to? I don’t have a perfect solution unfortunately; I wish I did. But I keep coming back to this blog post- how preposterous is it for me to wish for things to be the way I want rather than the way they are? Who am I to think I have a right to these things I don’t have? What should I focus on? What should I do? What do I actually have the power to control? Why would I have been better off if things were different? How can I presume that?

I won’t say it is easy- I will readily admit that if someone told me that there was a moment in life that tipped the scales as it were and made me get RA, or that I could prevent the accident that changed my sister’s life forever, or any number of other moments, and gave me the chance to go back and make everything different, I probably would jump at the chance. Even though I know it wouldn’t really make me content. But I guess all that is to say that peace, hope, and contentment- they all come when I embrace the life I have instead of fighting it. I just wish I could remember that more often.

So….today here are some things that are blessings for me- to remind me why things shouldn’t be different. In no particular order:

-My husband: and not just because I am married to him and think I need to put him on the list. There are too many reasons to list.

-My true Friend: because there are so few people who get so much about me and don’t think I’m bonkers (or if she thinks I’m bonkers she still seems to like me anyway lol)

-My Family: I include really all my family in this (it is a rather funky and odd family believe me…) as they have either supported me in the past or are supporting me and cheering me on now.

-My Horses: I can’t believe I have TWO still and they are both the best ever. Vanya was my companion growing up and Strider…well…hard to put into word but I will just say he is amazing.

-My Cat and Dog: because when I am not able to do much at all they can still make me smile and feel a tiny bit better.

-Knitting and spinning: few other activities can hold my attention as well, make me patient, and somehow produce something anyone else would want to use! And there is something therapeutic about fiber that can make even the worst pain or stress fade…

-Faith: I am blessed to have a Savior who cares about me, forgives my failures, and shows me by example how it’s done.

-Good Doctors: I have some amazing doctors working to reduce pain, prevent damage, etc. They also take the time to listen to me and make sure we are working towards the same goals.

 I know this was a bit of a deviation from the usual more news type of post, but it had been swimming in my head for a while and finally I decided I should just post it already. Well, until next time…..RAWR!!!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grooming and RA

This weekend I got to do one of my favorite things- I groomed at a horse show. I absolutely love being involved in horse shows and helping people, being around the horses and seeing them perform, all without the mental stress of my actually being in the show. I still love showing, but grooming gives me a different kind of joy and thrill; one that I don’t want to give up. But I am paying for my weekend in the currency of pain today; I always do, but it is so incredibly worth it!

I also usually end up answering questions from people who don’t know me as well- things like: “Are you ok? You are walking funny,” or “What do you mean you have arthritis? You are too young for that.” In short, not only do I get reminded that I have RA but other people often can tell too and they ask questions. That can be a good thing but I know I fall short in answering people sometimes. I often minimize my symptoms or disease because I don’t want people to think I can’t do things or that I need help. I also see the attitudes of others who do know me towards my disease. Some horse people I am around want to treat me differently and help me out, tell me what I should and shouldn’t do, what might help, in short they go into what I think of as the bubble mode. Some people want to keep me from experiencing my disease by trying to cure me and prevent me from doing things. Others minimize the disease saying I can do anything, I don’t look sick, it is all in my head, if I would just change my attitude, be more positive, etc. everything would be fine. I think of this attitude as the minimization mode; these people want to prevent me from experiencing the disease by trying to make it disappear. I honestly find both sets of attitudes frustrating even though I know they both come from people who just don’t know what to do with chronic disease and want to help. And really I will admit I don’t know what to do with the reality of disease any better than they do, but I feel that by being matter of fact about the reality of it I am at least not fooling myself. It isn’t negative attitude, it is simply truth. But what I don’t know how to do is help others see that, help others to be matter of fact about it, and help others to allow me to feel things out. I don’t want to hide that I have a disease, and let’s face it, I couldn’t if I wanted to- my bag with a dozen or so prescriptions in it (I leave a couple at home ha-ha) and my morning stiffness would be a dead giveaway to anyone with ears and eyes. So, I guess all of that is to say- I hope all the horsey people bear with me on this- I will me patient too, and hopefully someday I can explain things so we can all understand. Until then though, if you know someone with a chronic disease or disability, my best thought on how to react to it is this: the person isn’t the disease so you can talk to them about it openly- really. And when it is uncomfortable because the person admits they have pain or embarrassing difficulties it is ok to just admit you don’t know what to say or do. Honesty is always good. I am sure there are thousands of opinions on this, but….my .02.

One thing I did find very inspiring this weekend though was watching a para-equestrian compete! She was a grade II and an absolutely beautiful rider. Talk about humbling and inspiring to see her lifted onto her horse and then go out there and ride movements I can only dream of with my horse! She really is amazing and it was a privilege to get to see her ride.

Next Saturday I have another schooling show. Strider has had a lot of time off lately (for him… for some horses it wouldn’t be considered much time off but he normally gets no more than two consecutive days off…) but I am hoping it will be good for him. It will be our last schooling show before we submit scores for CSDA year end awards and before Strider and I get a bunch of lessons with an amazing trainer. I can hardly wait for the lessons as I am dreaming of someday doing 1st level with Strider and really doing well at it. This year we have done all training level and I am not sure who is more desperate to move on- Strider or me! But neither of us is ready, so we keep working at it….someday….and before that someday hits I have to find reins that I can consistently hold. That has been my struggle this whole year; right now I have electrical tape blobs on my reins but that probably won’t be allowed at any USEF recognized shows without a dispensation so I need to figure something else out. Not to mention that the blobs are NOT at all unobtrusive. So….things to work on over the winter.

Matt gets home from training tomorrow. I can’t wait! Not sure how long he will be home but I will enjoy it while I can. Hopefully that will give me more time to blog again even! So, until next time- RAWR!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m a Faker…

Strider and I made our dressage debut for this show season on the 6th of March. It was wonderful and sad at the same time. First, the sadness.

I really couldn’t hold my reins. They kept slipping out of my hands as I couldn’t grip them and my normal method of wedging them in between my fingers didn’t work either. So that really made the whole day difficult and since it was caused by pain and stiffness from RA was pretty frustrating to me. I did my best to work with what I had and move on though and I will be trying a few solutions both on the RA front and the tack front in the coming weeks hopefully.

 The wonderful part was that we got our best dressage score ever! I feel a little silly because it was in Training level test 1, but we got a 69.565%! Since recently we have had to switch bits and still haven’t settled on one and have been struggling with Strider really accepting the bit, as well as our transitions I admit I really wasn’t expecting much so I was extremely happy with that score. I wasn’t riding my best either so really it was pretty amazing. In Training 3 we got 61% but really it was my fault as we had a break in gait and I just generally got super tense when I realized we could actually do well. I really was very happy with the show and can’t wait to see how we do in our next one.

My next show is this Saturday, and I will be riding the same two tests so it should be interesting to see how we do. My RA symptoms have just been getting worse over the last few weeks, so unless my RA doc works miracles this Thursday when I see him, that part of the picture will be harder probably but I am still excited anyway. Strider is pretty awesome and really takes care of me pretty well. If I just relax and ride my best I even with other issues we have great potential. So, the order of the week for this week is pain management and keeping up the momentum we have from the last show and building on what we had. The main goal is to improve our downward canter transitions and keep my head and shoulders up and those are things I know I can do.

 So, though I hardly feel strong or brave or powerful and like I am a beast at the moment…I will pick myself up and let out a mighty RAWR!!!  Because sometimes we have to fake it 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sock Phobia

I know I am a terrible blogger, but I hope you will forgive me. Today I come to you humbly and with an admission that does not come easily to me. I was afraid of socks.

 Before you have me committed, allow me to explain. I was afraid of knitting socks to be more specific. I can knit, purl, knit two together, etc. so my mother (who, rest assured is not the type to tell me I can do things when I can’t) assured me I could knit a sock, or even a whole pair of socks.  Finally, the beautiful fingering weight sock yarns lured me into the pit of temptation that is sock knitting. I cast my stitches on to all four size 3 needles and took the plunge.

 And actually, the first sock turned out just fine! (I will post a picture once I get my phone playing nice again) I am well into the second sock in the pair and everything has gone rather well. I admit the kitchener stitch on the first one was not flawless, but I will get better I am sure.  But, what, you may ask; does knitting a sock have to do with horses or RA?

 Knitting, specifically knitting this pair of socks, has allowed me to think about nothing, a skill that I previously had been unable to master. As I knit I can simply “zone out” as I knit and purl for the rib and knit the instep, and pay just enough attention to know when I need to decrease or knit the heel flap etc. When my hands are stiff and sore, somehow I can still knit, even with ridiculously tiny yarn (though up next is another hat in this pattern: http://wendysknitch.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/sweet-eleanor-available-now/  which I made recently and had a lot of fun with and I can use bigger yarn. Gave the first one to Aubrey. Not sure who will get the next one…..maybe Lara or Julie.). I get a feeling of achievement and satisfaction when I am done and am actually starting to notice that on the whole  my dexterity in my hands is a tiny bit better after knitting consistently again (I hadn’t knitted in ages and just started again in the last couple months) and the popping in my finger joints has decreased ever so slightly. So, it helps the RA symptoms a tiny bit and when it doesn’t pain control by focusing on something else is not to be under rated.

 But what about riding? Interestingly, I realized through knitting that I had a huge problem in my riding. I was frustrated a lot. I would have great lessons and then have mixed results during the week mostly because if anything at all went wrong I would think I was an awful, miserable excuse for a rider and that Strider deserved better. How could I get on my horse and ruin him? Didn’t he deserve better after everything the poor horse has been through? And yet this would make our rides worse since Stride would sense my anger and frustration and a vicious circle would begin. But in knitting, I have no such struggle. Even when I have to undo 7 rows of stitches because I misread a pattern, I only get slightly annoyed, mostly because I wish I could be making forward progress but ultimately I want the finished product to come out right so I don’t mind too much. So what is different from knitting to riding aside from the obvious? Why was I ok with going back and fixing a mistake in knitting, but in riding would brook no fault?

 

Ultimately I still don’t know the answer to that question, but in asking it I came up with tools to help me stop the vicious circle in my rides (thank you for the advice COTH forum members). I also am ending up with a really nice pair of socks that will hopefully help keep my feet warmer. So really, I win whether I answer my question or not. More later; until next time, RAWR!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m Back Again….Again.

I know….I’m a really bad blogger. I have my excuses, but really they can be summed up in three words: Life and Rheumatoid arthritis. Bad excuses I know, but they are real enough to me.

As far as life goes I have just been really busy. I have given up for good on amateur status- it was just too hard to try to maintain- and started teaching riding lessons again.  Just beginners as I know I am not a world-class trainer, and I know some would probably argue I am not even good enough to teach beginners, but, I suggest that the laws of supply and demand will work. If I am an awful teacher and don’t do a good job people will not want to pay me to teach. Right now that is not that case. Therefore I will do it and appreciate that it makes affording my horses easier. I also am riding another person’s horse for her, for a total of four horses to try to keep in shape (yikes!) on top of my forty plus hour office job. I am really wishing the office job had fewer hours for a number of reasons, scheduling being only a small one.

As far as rheumatoid….well…I don’t want to be depressing and am trying to stay positive. Here are the facts. I had to up my methotrexate does, add an anti inflammatory and I’m still struggling. My rheumatologist keeps threatening prednisone again and I dread that. Honestly taking a vicodin at night along with all the other things seems to help a lot but I don’t know if that is advisable long term. We are already playing with fire given that my liver enzymes have not been consistent and we are increasing the methotrexate. I am doing everything to keep every hair I have on my head. I braid it at the barn, carefully detangle and avoid messing with it as much as possible and it still comes out alarmingly quickly. I am taking my folic acid like I should plus a multi vitamin when I remember(my personal favorites are the vita-lea ocean wonders…yummy chewables and I notice that I have a bit more energy when I take them. Placebo effect maybe but I’ll take placebo effect over no effect!). I have really struggled with sleep though. I hardly ever sleep through a whole night and that is getting pretty exhausting. Probably about time I called the rheumatologist but I dread it. I know he can help but I don’t want to hear that my last resort is prednisone. If I hide my head in the dirt the problems will go away right? Ha ha.

On a brighter note, I have resumed the ever so domestic hobby of knitting. I actually finished two projects, a felted coffee mug sleeve and a key hole scarf. I am presently working on a scarf for Matt that will be felted after I finish knitting it, which will take me eons since it needs to be wider and longer than I want the finished product since the felting will shrink it a bit. I am enjoying it though and I am about a third of the way done I think. After that I hope to embark on mittens for the first time. After several years of knitting on and off I have never made mittens and I think it is high time I did! I have discovered I have quite the yarn addiction though. I can’t resist a soft pretty colored yarn! Sometimes it is harder than others to knit because of pain or stiffness in my fingers but if I can force myself to do it I find it can help. It certainly distracts me.

That is all for now. unfortunately I have not been making the time to run. I keep hoping that soon I will get in a settled enough schedule to get back into it but it hasn’t happened yet. Sigh. One of theses days. Until then I ride tons and love my horses and my family! They are awesome! Until next time…RAWR!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized