For many people, part of participating in a sport is to improve their health. Being outdoors, getting exercise and sunshine – usually good things.
For me? Yeah, my hobby is trying to kill me.
OK, let me back up. So I have lupus. This meant that my body is going all Donner Party on itself and infighting worse than a bunch of sorority girls, attacking healthy tissue instead of little invaders like bacteria. Lots of things can happen, from joint and muscle pain and whole-body rashes to malfunctioning kidneys, chest pain, fatigue, and circulation issues. It’s a cornucopia of fun.
And what makes lupus worse? THE SUN. You know, like what we’re exposed to every time we go to the barn. No biggie, really. It also makes me incredibly heat intolerant. And where do I live? Texas. Basically, I’m an idiot to have a horse, or I have some kind of deep self-loathing that only Freud could explain.
There have been many lessons where I have to nope out after grinning and bearing my knee pain for as long as I could. Or where I’ve had to hold a finger up, lean over the side of my horse and take a quick little mid-jump-ride vomit. I’m loads of fun at the barn.
There was one particular time last year where my klassiness and lupus came together, forging an unbreakable bond and a great memory. It was a bit hot (because Texas), and I was attending a schooling horse trial. They were doing it almost derby-style where riders went from showjumping to cross-country with about ten minutes between. That day, they were running ahead (seriously, what?) and were rushing people to their cross-country round.
I smiled to myself knowing that no one but me, my trainer and God knew that I had an ice pack stuck to my boobs at that very moment.
Before my jump round, I had loaded my trainer Angela up with my water bottle and one of those snap-to-activate cold packs, which are magical by the way. As I sat there chugging, I snapped open the cold pack and was applying to my face and neck. And I heard the booming voice of the cross-country controller basically yelling ONE MINUTE. My trainer and I nearly yelled in unison, GOOD GOD, GIVE THIS ADULT A MINUTE.
I voiced concern that I was two seconds from overheating. I could feel my doctor saying, “Maybe you should stop…” Instead, I listened to Angela say, “Maybe you could put the ice pack in your shirt…?” I tried it, and my safety vest held it close to my skin. I wiggled and shimmied to see if it would stay put, and by god it did.
So after arriving in the start box, I told myself I could hang in there for four more minutes. OK, probably less because my horse thinks Beginner Novice is Prelim. And as we shot off on course, I smiled to myself knowing that no one but me, my trainer and God knew that I had an ice pack stuck to my boobs at that very moment. You know, so I wouldn’t pass out.
We finished that course, and we made it our beast. Upon finally halting Cabot 150 yards after the finish flags (Thoroughbred…), I hopped off and simultaneously unzipped my vest, untucked my shirt, and gave that ground a little extra blessing from my stomach.
And the ice pack landed on top of it.
All I could do was laugh at myself, my crazy judgment and the fact that my hobby is such a horrible, awful bad idea for me and my health. I’d totally stop… if it weren’t so freaking awesome. What it does for my health, it does the opposite for my mindset and will to be positive about life.
So I’ll take the pain. The heat intolerance and sun rashes, the indescribable whole-body tiredness that only my autoimmune sisters would understand…. And yes, the occasional wretch. I load up on sunscreen and hats, take a million precautions and then just grin and bear it. Because these ponies are so worth it.
Did I mention I’m also allergic to hay?