Horses horseback riding with FMS? Is it possible?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by butterfly83, Mar 26, 2007.

  1. butterfly83

    butterfly83 New Member

    I'm 23 now, and I rode horses for about 8 or 9 years, while I was growing up. I had to stop when I was around 17, when the Fibromyalgia symptoms started, because I just wasn't strong enough to ride at the level I was at. At the time, looking back, it was just very depressing to me to find that I wasn't able to do what I had been doing, and for a long time, I had no diagnosis, no reason for my symptoms, I just knew that something was wrong and everything became a struggle.
    Now, I regret my decision to stop riding. At the time, I didn't see how I could ride and be dealing with the illness at the same time. Now that I'm a little older, I'm feeling like maybe it is possible for me to still have horses and riding in my life. I would just have to be creative about it.

    So my question to you guys is - do any of you own or ride horses, and have fibro too? How do you do it? What kind of problems arise for you, juggling both, and how do you deal with them? What type of situation have you found to be best for balancing horses and FMS? Is owning a horse that is quiet and will take care of you better, or do you ride lesson or leased horses?

    Thanks for any advice you could give me on this! I really want to try to get a plan, and work towards it.
  2. rockyjs

    rockyjs Member

    I had to stop English riding and my dressage lessons as my fibromyalgia got worse - I just didn't have enough strength in my thighs.

    But I can ride a gentle horse with a Western saddle - just walking which is okay with me. As long as I can smell a horse it's a mental boost :)

  3. kbak

    kbak Member

    YES! You most certainly can ride. Your not going to be able to do anything fancy, probably no cantering or galloping, but hey, having a leisurely walk, what could be better?

    I ride whenever I can. It's the one thing I can do with no pain. The rythum of the horse is like a massage to me. I think it's wonderful therapy.

    Good Luck!
  4. app5775

    app5775 New Member

    Hi Butterfly, as you can see my ID is app5775 the app is short for appaloosas. Yes I have two horses and one miniature horse. In answer to your question. Yes it is possible to juggle fibro/CIFIDS and horses. As with anything else we do, moderation and knowing yourself is the key. On one side of the coin if I didn't have horses I truly believe I'd fold up and come close to giving up. The horses keep me going physically and emotionally. The flip side of course is the labor and money issues that arise. That is my main issue, the money. I've not been able to work a part time job to save up enough for lessons and to prepare for a couple of shows that I so love doing, at least not yet this year. So I'm very much hoping I can land some extra cash with the antiques business we have to do so later in the year. Theres enough extra cash to keep them fed and cared but thats about it. As for riding, you have to just gauge yourself accordingly. I find that after riding for a few weeks my energy level definately increases as riding my horse and my bike are the two things I can do relatively well when I'm up to it. Definately get yourself a "been there done that" type of horse. You don't want anything you have to be worried about leaving you in the dust. All horses are unpredictable but the quiet ones are worth their weight in gold. If you decide to get back into it, find yourself a reputable riding stables, ask lots of questions about their establishment and take some lessons to see how you handle it again. Some lesson horses probably aren't very smooth riding but it will give you a chance to see what you're capable of. Do try it. It may be a great way to enjoy life again. Several others and I started a therapeutic riding center for kids and adults with disabilities 5 years ago. Sometimes it gets a bit much for me to keep with with the program as I'm the volunteer coordinator, There are some added stress issues that I really don't need so I'm enjoying it but letting everyone know my energy is very limited. It does all keep me going however, I hope this has helped some. Good luck with your riding!
  5. coolma

    coolma New Member

    My specialist who has treated me very successfully for 20 years, swears FM is largely caused by either degenerative disc disease, or accidental damage to the spinal cord and discs in either your back or neck. I tried for years to disprove her - she won in every way. This along with enoumous bouts of stress weaken the body to the point of collapse. Stress = nervous system, and every other system in the body is inter-related - thus, so many side-effects. Many concur FM is a disorder of the central nervous system. That's why the pain in all parts of the body. Your nervous system runs through the spine, all the way up to the brain. That's why your muscles are in pain - the nerve endings feel like they are on fire alot of time. They send out signals of danger to the brain and the muscles form spasms to protect the body, and the bad ones are trigger points. All your nerves from the tip of your toes to your fingertips radiate up to the spinal cord. Either accident, or constant pressure to the discs has weakened the discs, pinching or hitting the nerves in your back or neck either over time or by accidents. Horseback riding? Unless you forever go at a walk you are asking for more trouble big time. And any succeeding falls or strong bumps, or accidents are REALLY bad if you already have fibro. I slipped while washing some stairs a few years back and was in bed 3 weeks unable to move. Can you imagine what a trot or a canter, or a gallop could do to you?
    [This Message was Edited on 03/26/2007]
  6. sixtyslady

    sixtyslady Member

    I"ve had horses all my life,just want to say can only go on a walk now,but I purchased a gel saddle pad.and it makes all the difference in the world.
    we have to give up so much ,please keep riding
    my chiro,said it would help strenghten my back.
    good luck and HAPPY TRAILS.
  7. butterfly83

    butterfly83 New Member

    App - Thanks so much for your response. Just knowing that some other Fibro patients are able to own and ride horses gets me really excited at the possibility. I know I would be much more limited now (I used to do show jumping, so.. lol yeah i doubt that will happen again), but even a little pleasure riding would make me so happy. I really do believe that horses have theraputic properties. And I'm glad you mentioned the theraputic riding too, because I had thought about that, but then I wasn't exactly sure whether I'd be a candidate (i feel like i'm in some odd middle ground of having a years of training, but very limited abilities at this point), so I will definately look into that now that I know other Fibro people have gone that route. Just to get started, even, it might be a good idea. Especially since those horses are specially trained to not take advantage of riders.

    How much are you able to ride your Appalloosa's? Are you an English or Western rider?
  8. butterfly83

    butterfly83 New Member

    Sixtys - That's how I feel too! I've had to give up so much of my normal life already. If I can have just this one little part of it back, that's enough for me.
  9. Greenbean7

    Greenbean7 New Member

    I rode most of my life, always Western, not English. I worked on the race track with thoroughbreds for about 7 years and "ponied" the race horses in the morning and to the races in the afternoon.

    I had horses off and on until just a few years ago when we sold the two we had. My DH had owned Smoke for 25 years and didn't want to see him die. I'd had Angel for about 10. They were so attached to each other that we sold them together.

    The last time we tried to ride I couldn't get into the saddle. Just didn't have enough strength in my left leg to lift myself up to the saddle. It was sad, but I had to admit that I just couldn't do it anymore. My DH stopped riding then because he was really only doing it for me and it really hurt his back.

    We kept the horses as "pasture pets" for several years after we stopped riding and just going out to brush them or offer some carrots or apples always soothed me. I miss them, but Smoke was more than 30 years old when we sold them and it would have broken my heart to see him die or have to have him put down.

    Ride if you can and don't give up until you absolutely have to. If I had had a mounting block and Angel would have stood beside it I might have kept going a while longer, but it really wasn't safe for me anymore. It takes a lot longer to heal up after a fall than it used to!

  10. evol_or_revert

    evol_or_revert New Member

    Hey i also rode while growing up and owned a great horse I unfornatly had to sell him as my CFS got so bad I couldn't even walk down the paddock to feed him :(.

    I still feel sad everyday that im not out riding but i know one day i will again.

    I only have mild FMS so can't help with that part.

    To start off with could you find someone that needs help with there horse? This would give you a chance to be round horses and not put the pressure and work of all the care on to you?

    Lessons are a good idea also but they maybe to hard on your body.

    If you can do it owning a quiet horse would be fantasic. make sure it is one that doesn't need a huge amount of care. You may find that it could help your FMS.



  11. app5775

    app5775 New Member

    Yes there are many studies that are proving the physical and emotional therapeutic properties of horseback riding. The movement of the horse mimics the same as the walk of a human. That is why it is so beneficial for those in our and others therapeutic riding programs. Many of us see riders progress in many ways. Some, with MS, have even so much as claimed that they have left their wheelchairs because riding has helped their leg muscles in ways nothing else can. Therapeutic riding has helped everyone with everything from those recovering from auto accidents, arthritis, MS, mentally challenged, autism, just to name a few. We strive for very quiet horses for our program but one must always remember they are 1000# animals so we take any and every precaution to assure our riders of a safe ride. Butterfly, my suggestion to you is again find a reputable stables. Take some lessons. As for loping, jogging, etc. I do it all. Again I don't always feel great and even sometimes I have to turn down my lesson if I'm not up to it and I take it very slow at first but last year I did two shows. I show on the appaloosa circuit and can only afford to show a couple but it is the safest route to go because most of the horses are pretty finished and I don't have to worry a whole lot about green horses around me. As for bet.. falls are nothing anyone wants to contend with. I broke my shoulder a couple of years ago in a freak accident. I was alone riding at the time. Which I will never do again. So there you have it. Its something that has been and will always be in my blood and I'm passionate about my horses. My grandaughter and my horses keep me going. The best thing is she too has the bug and always wants to go see the "orsies". Just be sure to let your instructor know your health issues, your limitations and that you want a very quiet horse until you decide if you are ready for a more challenging ride. My horses are pretty quiet and I don't want anything more challenging. As for how I ride, I ride all western. I do pleasure, trail and equitation. I'll help you get back into in the riding world if you have any questions, go ahead and bump it up. I'll try to answer them.
  12. Tevye

    Tevye New Member

    I have had horses in my life for over 40 years. As I developed problems in the cervical spine and FM, I thought that part of my life was over. However, I have a five week old Arabian colt in the barn who is my inspiration to get out of the house and MOVE. I don't expect to ever ride again, but I feel confident that I will be able to fine harness him and drive instead. One huge setback I did experience was triggered by staying out in the barn all night when he was born. It was about 28 degrees and the after effects of exposing myself to the cold hit hard...I spent several days in bed with major pain. In the long run it was worth it. Every day I go out to the barn and get warm fuzzy hugs. Warm fuzzy hugs is the best part of owning a horse. Good luck.
  13. app5775

    app5775 New Member

    Congratulations on that new baby! Aren't they great!
  14. butterfly83

    butterfly83 New Member

    Tevye - Aww congrats on your new baby!! That would DEFINATELY get me out of bed in the morning. And it's good to remember there are LOTS of other aspects to horses besides just riding, and it's great therapy just to be in the barn and around horses.

    App - Wow, I'm amazed you're able to do that much, so that's very encouraging to me! To know maybe I won't be confined to a walk ;) At least on the good days. I think your recommendations for starting out are all really good ideas. I do trust one of my early trainers that I worked with for several years. She has some health problems herself that have limited her, so I think if I talked to her about my situation, she might be able to help me find the right horse, and work within my limits. Do you volunteer with the theraputic riding as well? Because I had been thinking of working towards that also. I thought it would be a nice way to be around horses, to still be able to use my knowledge of horses and riding, but focus on helping someone elses health problems at the same time.

    Thanks so much everyone for your advice and kind words! It's great to know that this is a real possibility to work towards. And of course, I have experience with the dangers of riding as well. Horses are unpredictable, and even the safest riders will have accidents. I do understand the dangers, but I understand the benefits as well. I remember my happy moments much more vividly then my bumps and bruises.
  15. shar6710

    shar6710 New Member

    I have CFS (with significant pain at times)and I still have two of my horses. I can't ride anymore and barely spend any time with them now but I can't bear to get rid of them. They are the reason for me to get out of bed and
    the few minutes I spend with them are very important to me psychologically.

    Horses are pretty hardy and IMHO are well suited to outdoor life and so caring for them doesn't have to be labor intensive. Mine have a run in shed and so are out on pasture 24/7. Since they aren't worked they don't get grain, only a small amount of beet pulp so that they can have a vitamin/mineral supplement and one takes thyroid meds. If I have to I can go out only once a day except in winter when they need hay twice a day.

    There have been times when my husband takes care of them or even friends or neighbors. In fact I once told a neighbor about 2 years ago that I was going to give myself one more year and if I wasn't better I would have to sell them. He advised me against it because then I would never get outside anymore and he was right. I consider them to be my exercise regimen even though there isn't much to it.

    Butterfly83, it doesn't sound as though you have facilities to keep a horse so I suppose you would either buy or lease. Or maybe you could find a therapeutic riding program for adults. That might be a good place to start, there would be no long term commitment and you could find out if you can tolerate riding at all. I keep thinking that I need an therapeutic instructor who would come out and tack up my horse, help me up and just lead me around. How great would that be?!

    Good luck and keep us posted.


  16. butterfly83

    butterfly83 New Member

    Joannia - Different horses require different amounts of care. Some are more pasture hardy, and are able to be left out most of the time. Of course, it's important to bring them in, groom and check for any injuries. If for some reason a rider couldn't do that for a few days, you could always call the barn you're boarding at, and have them do it, or ask another barn friend to do it. If they are boarded, they are fed and watched over by the stable. And at most stables I've looked at, you can increase the level of care that they get and have the stable look after certain other chores if you are not able to.

    Usually, if you are in a boarding situation, there are always plenty of people around the barn, and always someone willing to pitch in and help.

    And as some of the other ladies who own have said.. their horses are a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.
  17. app5775

    app5775 New Member

    Butterfly good to hear you'll try some ideas. As for volunteering for our therapeutic riding center, I do alot of behind the scenes such as calling, paperwork and training volunteers. I often have to remind my colleagues of my limitations. I try not to do too much sidewalking or leading. That can get to your arms and legs. For more information about this great endeavor of riding for those with many different physical and mental/emotional problems type in NARHA or the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. You can see if there are centers in your area for you to volunteer at or even join in. There are lots of things to do to help out that aren't too stressful. You'll have fun. Butterfly with your riding experience I think you can get regular lessons with a caring, understanding and qualified instructor. It takes me a least 2 monthes to get to the point of being able to ride a whole hour. Even then I still have to quit sometimes early or just ride slow...Just take it slow. As for how I do it, I don't know, its either the cowgirl in us, major determination or the mere prospect of what I'm doing is mentally very stimulating for me...I forget my problems for awhile. Do I get sore...YOU BET!! Am I still in pain, yes sometimes. A few years ago I sold two of my horses. That left me with one mare and my mini. I said thats it no more horses....right....well my trainer told me about a nice app gelding being sold reasonably thats pretty quiet for an old lady like me with all my ailments. I went to see him and thats all it took. He's the kind that doesn't have to be ridden everyday. As a matter of fact I have someone work with him for a few weeks before I even get on even tho he is quiet, that way its even safer. MY other horse is an older mare that I have had a long time. She too is the type if she's only ridden a few times a year she don't care. They get loved just the same. I do 90% of my chores. The only major help I get is with hay, straw and feed sacks. My son helps me empty the wheelbarrow. They get fed twice a day. I clean the stalls just about everyday but if I'm not up to it, it doesn't kill them to throw in some more straw or woodshavings and wait a day or two until I do feel better. They don't get brushed everyday especially in the winter but they get checked and gone over when I'm up to it. One stays blanketed to protect his coat for shows and my old mare don't care one way or the other, my mini is happy all the time. By the way minis are great for those giving up on the big horse idea. They are nice pets. My house cleaning...well thats a different subject...something has to give and thats the part I sometimes definately let go!! My husband and I certainly have issues as far as horses are concerned. But with my health problems and age creeping up, I'm not giving up yet. I do feel better than I did a couple of years ago but I've been battling this crap for about 20 years. As you know it waxes and wanes. Some days are much worse than others. You're right it gets me out of bed and the house. But enough of my rambling...when you love to do something like we do with our much as possible it helps you to take it on and get moving again. As I said horses have been part of whats kept me from me from throwing in the towel.
  18. Greenbean7

    Greenbean7 New Member

    Could you break your posts up into paragraphs? Short ones are the best! I really wanted to read your post, but couldn't keep track of where I was so I had to give it up.

  19. app5775

    app5775 New Member

    I'll try to next time, I know I'm not very good at paragraphing. I enjoy helping others with the same issues I have and their love of horses but I tend to ramble on.
  20. Tevye

    Tevye New Member

    Thank God for my understanding and supportive husband. He encouraged me not to leave the barn empty because he knows how much it helps me psychologically to interact with my animals. On the bad days he is always more than willing to take over. Without his help, I couldn't/wouldn't be able to keep my horses. By the way, Tevye is actually the name of my new means God is Good. It helps me to remember my blessings everytime I say good morning Tevye! My name is Debby.

[ advertisement ]