When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with Sereopositive Revamptoid Arthritis, also known as just arthritis. It's the worst diagnosis you can get in all rheumatic diseases according to the doctor because this is something you can not "grow" from and it does not always come with a good adult age like other joint pain and rheumatic diseases.
Arthritis: Arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, is a rheumatic autoimmune disease that causes an inflammatory condition in joints. About 1% of the population is affected, most women. Pain, stiffness and swollen joints are among the common symptoms, but also internal organs such as lungs, heart and kidneys can be attacked. Arthritis may occur acute, but in most cases the disease develops gradually. As a rule, joint inflammation begins in wrist, hand rattled, finger joint or forefoot.
Off course this diagnose is something that is in my everyday as it comes to being around horses. Before I was 17 I didn't have a care in the world in what horses I was riding. If I fell off, I just brushed off and got back up again, either you broke something or you didn't (I just have to say I've never broken a bone in my body when it comes to horses *knock on wood*) or you sprained something, that's just what happened. Either way, you got back up again. If the horse bolted with you, did some small bucks and so on, you dealt with it on horseback. If you fell off, you used some swear words and got back up. That was me when I was younger.
When it came to leading horses out or in from paddocks, it didn't matter wich one, as long as you came back in with the horse. You were either pulled a few metres after a hot headed horse or had some dancing yearlings behind you. But you always managed to put them in place.
Now, it's different.
After I got diagnosed I've become a little bit more careful and many may see me as a wimp. But when you are 17 and get a message that you have to be careful, because if you break a bone, you might never ride again. It really does something to you.
I remember when I was at the trotting park with my friend right before I got the diagnose. A girl was going out with a horse that was a real fresh, hot and awake. I remember thinking "wow, that seems like a fun ride" but now I think "no chance in he** would I ride out on that one".
I took a little break from horses, I went with some friends in between and kept my contact with riding and horses, but I felt more and more afraid to fall off and break something. It was always on the back of my mind that "if you fall off and break something, you might never ride again". I felt my body starting to be different, I didn't have the strength anymore to hold back if one bolted and my body was constantly aching. Imagine a toothache times 10 in your whole body. Especially the little joints as fingers, wrists and elbows.
Then I got my dog Lexie (had 9 wonderful years with her before she got sick and had to put her down), through her I met my auntie K. Long story short, through auntie K I met a wonderful horse named Spretten. A big, black and sensible coldbloods horse. I first rode him while my auntie K walked the dogs at the same time and we really had chemistry. He was the first horse (after Garptor, my first love that I rode in my younger days) I felt safe on when it came to being scared to fall off and break something. After riding Spretten a few times I also got to know his "brother" Rigel. The plan was to half lease Spretten and my bestie to half lease Rigel. But unfortunately Spretten was kicked in pasture that summer and broke his foot and he got put down because the injurie was not to be fixed. The only horse I found that was a match for me and my arthritis. I was devastated.
Spretten had the same owners as Rigel and we decided that I was going to half lease Rigel instead. My bestie got to half lease another horse at the same barn and the horses went really well together.
I had my stunts with Rigel. He was a bit back-scared and I had my falls and bolts with him, but somehow I never got scared and we sort of grew together and we had a great chemistry. It was so sad when he moved away with his owner after 5-6 years of half leasing him. That horse will always have a special place in my heart and I'm happy I get to visit him from time to time. He really brought me back in to the horse world again after being diagnosed with arthritis.
After Rigel I was back on joing friends at their barns for a while, but I had a period of my life at this point where I was in awful lot of pain and sick most of the time. In between that I got to spend a little time with my beloved Garptor (my first heart horse) again before he went to the forever pasture in horse Heaven.
Then I met Birk the Fjord horse. He was at my friends barn and I got to borrow him and joined my friend and her horse on trail rides. Finally another horse that was arthritis-friendly if I can say it like that. He was very forward and very stubborn, but he never scared me and I never had a bad feeling of loosing control.
He made me miss having a regular horse to go to. Unfortunantely the busses to that barn didn't go that often at it was not easy to get there without a car. So I didn't get to ride him on a regular basis.
I started to take a couple of rounds with myself. Because I don't drive a car, I can't have a horse that is to awake. I needed a horse where I felt completely 100% safe on, I just felt the search for a horse was hopeless. When a horse came a long, I felt so stupid to not be able to say "hey, I can help you out" because I knew that I couldn't.
THEN Bliss came a long. The great Norwegian Dole mare with the biggest heart. The horse that 2,5 years ago became the best medication that I could ever get.
This is a horse I feel safe on, yes she has her days when she see a ghost and can be a little "difficult" but I'm never scared of her doing something that can cause me more injury than I can take. And she is so understanding. If she becomes a little to difficult to hold back, I can jump off and lead her for a bit and then I can get back up again. Bliss is the horse that forgives me for it and she doesn't continue in the same path as she did before I got off her, we both begin from scratch everytime. She is not the horse that goes in to a pattern of contiuing on the bad stuff, we work it out and start fresh, everytime. She reads me, she knows when my joints are in to much pain. Then she is an angel on our hacks, she is a little to nice so I have to push her forward a few times. She also knows when I'm having a good day and she can be fresh as any other horse. We have a balance and we understand each other.
Bliss is the nicest horse at the barn, we all know it. She has gone with kids on her back and therapy riding. But she has her sides that not everyone sees, because it's different when you have an experienced rider on your back. "Every" horse can be a therapy horse and can be lead around with special needs kids or grown ups on their back. Because if the horse has ground manners, it can behave when they get lead. That's just how horses are. But they are horses and they see ghosts from time to time.
People at my barn can laugh a little of me when I tell them I've fallen off her 3 times. Becuase, she is the worlds sweetest therapy horse. But what they don't really think of is that, yes she is, but then she does have someone that walks right beside her and lead her. And sometimes and extra pair of hands that holds to special need rider in place if needed. But people refuse to see that, they only see a "bad rider" sometimes.
Either way, I don't care. Bliss is my dream horse. She knows that on my bad days I have to dismount and lead her for a bit when we are out and she can be a little to much for my joints to handle. Bu she is not the horse that repeats the behaviour and thin "oh, this makes her go off, I do this the next time", she forgives me. And she has ground manners.
She is the sweetest horse to lead, you can have loose reins or lead rope on her, and on trail rides we usually only have long reins when I ride. She is very well behaved but she has her opinions and she is aloud to have them from time to time. Again, she is a horse. I can step off when we are out and I can jump on again when I feel better. If this is what people call being a wimp, then I'm okay with it. I need to feel safe and I need to feel my joy with horses. I'm the one that is 95% of the time in pain. The pain can be sending signals as stress to the horse and that is not good. So I'm lucky that I have a partner that I can dismount and then lead and get back on again. Leaving the bad vibes and start on the new good ones.
Lately I've also felt that there are some horses that I can't lead from the paddocks. Especially the cold days. The horses that I know a little better I have no trouble leading in from a paddock to the barn, but the horses I don't know that well I rather not lead. One case was me helping out to take in a horse from day pasture. He got a little stressed and he was constantly leaping forward and I had to hold on tight. As he was pulling the rope so hard I felt my wrists screaming in pain. I had to ask for someone to take over and it might seem like I got scared. But the truth was that I was a little scared of loosing the horse, because one more leap of his and he would be loose. But I was not scared of the horse, I was scared my pain would be worse and to be the one who lost it.
One other time I was taking a horse with me on lead. I walked and had the horse in lead rope. When we turned the corner of the barn, she was like "nope, I'm not going that way" and made some moves that nearly got me a hoof in the face. I managed to get her on the ground again and go a little more forward before I turned and got her back to the barn. I was not going to be the one who called the owner saying "oh hey, I lost your horse, we have a search party going on". I would rather text and say "sorry, didn't go as planned, sorry your horse didn't get walked today".
So if I get asked to ride any other horse at the barn, I say no. I have Bliss and this is the horse that I will be riding untilt he owners won't let me anymore. I want to spend more of my life with horses and with that meaning that I won't take unessesry risks, then let it be it. I don't have a need to show off that I can ride a horse that bucks 80% of the time. I don't have the need to show that I can control a horse that bolts. I've done it in my younger days, I had fun. But I have fun now as well. I enjoy my time with Bliss. I enjoy our hacks and dressage lessons. I enjoy the days my body only lets me take Bliss and Teline out in the arena and let them run loose for a while. I love spending time with Bliss. Because right now that is what my body allows me, and I have to be thankful for it. If I take risks, I might be in a life with no horses, and what life is that for someone who has been around them for nearly 26 years?
So call me a bad rider, wimp. I don't have the need to show how "good" I am. I have my days with bad equitation, but you know what, that's life of a rider. I love all the time spent with Bliss and Teline. I had my days from I was 5 to I was 17 with difficult horses. Right now, I'm right where I need to be, with Bliss, the nicest horse at the barn.
And the thought of getting to know a new horse now, is not in my mind. I attend to be around horses for many years still.
So never judge a book by the little you see on a cover. You don't always know the full story behind a sometimes bad equitation. And all Equestrians need to learn that by now.
I'm sorry this post were so long, but I hope you see the point. And English is not my frist written or spoken language, so if there is any typos or badly formulated language, that's why.