Long-time lurker here. What’s below is a bit of a vent - I’m posting because I’m dealing with some health and life changes that are disappointing at best and frightening at worst. Forgive me, it’s a little long -
About ten years ago, early in college, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I immediately went on a biologic, and things improved for a time - with the caveat that I was now immunocompromised. I finished college and decided to try dressage after graduating. I’d spent time in a local H/J circuit and then IHSA, and wanted a change. I was lucky enough to find an amazing trainer who clicks with me and I with her, who understands how much I care about learning and growing as a horseperson. I was able to find a good job after college, took a ton of lessons on lots of different horses, and finished my Bronze medal a few years ago. I’d been schooling 4th/PSG for a few years now and never felt happier or more confident in my riding. Despite my health, the absurd costs of my meds, and a few doctors (who are no longer my doctors) that made stupid decisions etc., my circumstances were a dream and a privilege. I’d hoped to work towards my Silver over the next few years.
COVID hit, and I’ve managed to avoid it with a combination of remote work and isolation, some serious PPE upgrades, plus the vaccines and current boosters (I’m planning on getting Novavax in a few weeks, hopefully pre-winter-surge). Through it all the barn was my reprieve and my safe haven, my break from isolation, my space to focus on my silly little dream of being an upper-level rider despite the world imploding around me. In retrospect I don’t know how I never got sick. I think I dodged several bullets there - very few boarders, riding after work when I was usually the only person there etc.
The most recent fall surge in my area was so bad, and so scary (new, seemingly more infectious variants; our town’s COVID wastewater levels were at least 3x the national average), that my trainer and I decided that the barn was no longer safe for me at that time. The barn is now more highly-trafficked this fall, all the other boarders are unmasked, they and my trainer (who has several jobs) have contact with tons of people every day…It’s just not safe for an immunocompromised person right now, and my heart is broken.
On top of this, my chronic illness is no longer responding to the biologic I started ten years ago - not an uncommon thing for folks with UC / Crohn’s. I’m losing weight and muscle tone, and I’m scared. I know I need a treatment change, I know my doctors agree, and this is likely what will happen over the next few months - appointments, tests, infusions, etc. Some encounters can be online, but not all, and facing any in-person interaction in the healthcare system, while COVID surges and masking is non-existent, is so frightening and risky. This is on top of the side effects of a new (for me) drug, the possibility that it may not work, dealing with the cost, etc.
I’m very lucky to have a therapist who is helping me find ways to cope, and a UC-specific support group that I’m going to start going to this week - but none of them are horse people. And I miss riding so, so much. I know our COVID levels will likely go down in spring / summer, and it will hopefully be safer for me to go ride again - though never truly safe. But until then, part of me - the part of me that identified as a horseperson, I guess - feels…dead. The ongoing pandemic and my health issues make things so, SO unpredictable and make my life so narrow. I’m trying to stay connected online with friends, with non-horsey-hobbies that make me happy. And I’m trying to stay engaged in my horsey education via USDF’s online courses and certificates, which has helped. I know I need the external validation lol, and there is SO much I don’t know, so I’m almost glad for the opportunity to hunker down and be a little academic. But still - I’m just afraid for my dwindling future with horses, afraid of losing my identity as a horseperson.
If you got this far, thank you for reading. I’ve lurked on these forums for years and always loved seeing the community, and I’m glad I finally took the plunge and joined. I hope I can join the Maclay livestream thread this weekend. <3