Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Central Western NSW, Australia
I feel for you.
I too am a plus size rider, 22 years old, albeit only a pleasure rider, and I have my share of health issues, both mental and physical. Arthritis can be a real problem. I'm lucky enough that I don't have it badly, but I do have a lot of troubles with my right ankle due to spraining it every few weeks/months over a 2 year period. It's developed a spur and a lot of scar tissue, and it does affect my riding to an extent. I find that wearing tight socks or a light ankle brace helps as it puts pressure on to ease the pain, keeps it warm, and provides extra support. I don't know if that will help in your case though.
I don't think that you'll have to give up horses any time soon, if ever. You may find competing difficult, but horses will always be there as a pleasure outlet. If you can't ride, you can drive. If you can't do that, you can just have horses for the joy that they bring.
My horse has done wonders for me mentally, because even when I'm in a bad mood, he'll forgive me for getting angry with him. I can be the meanest person in the world, and he'll still love me (even if it is just for the carrots).
You should start doing some exercises to keep your ankles moving. Move them around in circles, especially before riding. You will probably find that it is worse in the cold weather, but if you wear thick socks to help keep them warm, it shouldn't be too bad. You can also get any number of arthritis pain relief things these days. A big one I find that helps with just about any pain, and works wonders for my grandfathers' arthritic shoulder, is Salonpas pain relief patches. It helps my ankle on the really bad days, it's helped my back (I have arthrosis of my lower spine and bulging discs), and my hands (ganglion cysts and RSI).
Don't let yourself think that this is the end. You only need to look at what some of the paralympic riders suffer with to realize that if you are determined, arthritis won't stand in your way.