I am 41 yrs old, just about 42. I am a mother of two teenage sons. I grew up on the back of a horse, never really taken a break from riding except when I was pregnant with my second son and experienced a high risk pregnancy.
As a child I showed Morgans and Welsh Ponies. I worked cattle on the ranch, I was in Pony Club. At 16 I followed my brothers down the rodeo road and continued barrel racing for the next 20 years. For the past couple of years I have been competing very seriously in Team Penning and Ranch Sorting, almost every weekend throughout the year. Nothing slowed me down...until now.
I kept riding through various injuries over the years. Yup I ignored doctors, except the pregnancy thing. Broken bones...no problem. Torn out knee..kept going. But about 4 years ago I began to experience wicked muscle spasms in my legs. Take your breath away spasms. I ignored them. I didn't go to the doctor. I was fit, healthy, in shape. I didn't need a doctor, just work through it. Bit of pain never hurt anybody.
A year later it hit my hands. Spasms and cramps. Complete weakness in both hands. I broke down and went to emergency. Diagnosed as a repetitive strain injury. Wear splints. Ok I could do that. Kept riding. Didn't get any better. Didn't go back to a doctor.
Two years ago, tingling, numbness, weakness in both legs, both hands, across my face. Off to emergency. Nope wasn't having a stroke. Panic attacks, anxiety. Massive weight loss. Too weak to stand up or walk. Cost me my career. Kept riding, it was the only thing that kept me sane. Doctor decided it was due to stress, it was all in my head. Drugged me up with anti depressants, anxiety meds, you name it I was on it. Got a bit stronger. Put some weight back on. But still had no feeling at all in my legs and hands when I rode horses. Non stop tingling. Gave up on the docors as they had no answers for me except possible nerve damage from stress.
Last year I began to compete in the penning, despite having no feeling in my legs. I wasn't going to let it stop me. My family were the only people who knew what was going on. I just accepted the issues with my body as "it is what it is". My parents didn't. I have new doctors now, thanks to their fighting for me.
A few months ago I began to lose my balance for no reason, I would stumble and fall. I was losing my stirrups all the time. I couldn't keep my heels down. And the feeling came back to my legs. But it wasn't a good feeling, it was absolutely excrutiating muscle spasms and tremors. I limp some of the time. Other times I shuffle along like I am drunk. Sometimes I slur my words. The fatigue will hit so hard that I can't think or function. Just saddling up a horse to ride can wipe me out. I can't find the strength to get on. Sometimes after I ride, I lay on the ground beside the horse as tremors wrack my body. I have been lifted off my horse at a huge penning, because I couldn't lift my leg over to get off on my own. The pain from the spasms leaves me gasping for my breath, tears pouring down my face.
What is wrong with me? I have an auto immune disease, my body is attacking my own healthy cells. It has been happening for years. Most of the time I chose to ignore the sypmtoms. Because of not having a regular doctor that I went to, the doctors missed what was happening. Further preliminary diagnosis, MS. Waiting on an MRI to confirm.
Only good thing in all of this is that I am being encouraged to ride by the doctors. As therapy. I am continuing to compete for as long as I can. Friends help, one stands on the the sidelines and yells "feet" when I begin to lose my stirrups. My team mates all know and cover for me in a run if my legs fail. I own and ride some amazing horses that also cover for me. But there are days that I can't ride and I have to accept that. There may be a day when I can't compete, I have to accept that also.
Point of this is when your body says I hurt, listen to it. When your doctor says you can't ride, listen. Being able to ride is a gift, sometimes you have to take a break so that you can continue to enjoy that gift for a lifetime. Yes what is happening to me has nothing to do with injury and it is something that I have to live with now for the rest of my life. But I could have known years ago.