Too painful to ride anymore. Now what?

After 25 years of my life revolving around horses, I am horseless. My body has insisted I stop.

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2015. Fighting this for likely 15 years by then. By 2018, I was so sick and no meds were helping that I had to have my colon removed I have chosen to keep my ostomy at least for now. I resumed riding and working on a large ranch after this surgery and was doing pretty well. Managing the effects of UC on my joints and legs. Then, I had my son and we ended up in an emergency c-section. They cut across my colectomy scar, so now I have a crosshair of scars across my lower ab. I’ve developed a lot of scar tissue and the muscles are just so weak. I’ve tried working them out and it just leaves me unable to move. Doctor says another surgery. The muscular pain has multiplied immensely. I could no longer do my job safely, manage the lifting, or climbing in and out of the truck. They say its fibromyalgia now. I dont really know. The meds dont work. Riding became so painful to even sit in my saddle. Following the motion was like being torn apart. And the fear of pain or falling was crippling. If I fell, I dont think I’d be able to get up. I feared not being able to care for my animals so I said goodbye to my horses.

It seems so dumb, but so much of my identity revolved around horses. Now I’m lost.

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Don’t feel dumb…how you are feeling is totally justified and understandable. While not dealing with the same health issues you are I had to give up horses after I was diagnosed with Basilar Invagination. Giving up the horses has been harder mentally than living with my condition. I wish I had some words of wisdom but I just don’t…I have become more involved with dogs and that has helped fill some of the void but they still aren’t horses…

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I’m so sorry you’re going through all that. I wish I had something wise to say but I don’t. I do hope you find some relief from the pain and can find some way to have horses back in your life, even if it’s volunteering at a rescue.

Many jingles for you to feel better.

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It is hardly surprising that you feel at odds with yourself and uncertain what path to take: you had more than your fair share of bad things happen. However, horses can still be in your life in other ways. Volunteering. Judging. Breeding. Driving. Teaching. Photography or Fine Art. Saddler. Proud Parent to a Child. All things where your experience would be a solid foundation on which to build. Be kind to yourself and take time to grieve for things lost but also look to future adventures.

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I think any of us would feel like you do. Hopefully your pain subsides. And until then…you do have to find another way to get your horse fix. You will find a way and please post back on what you figure out ok? We are here for you!

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Have you sought out other medical opinions? You shouldn’t have to live with such debilitating pain.

I hope you find a solution and get back into riding when you’re more comfortable again.

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What about seeking out a pain management specialist or physical therapy?

I fight with the same thing you do. I am in my mid 50s, have been riding since the age of 3, and have been an owner for well over 40 years. Most of my close relationships have come from horses, and my life revolves around the care of mine.

But, I also have a chronic condition that could require open heart surgery at any moment, and if I survived, my riding activities would most likely be done.

As humans, I believe on of our greatest abilities is to adapt and change. I hope to be able to do so gracefully when the time comes.

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You have 25 years of accumulated horse knowledge to share. As your body allows, you should share that with others by volunteering to help out with a Pony Club, looking for a young rider to encourage and support, volunteering at a horse show to do something within your physical boundaries, doing a bit of grooming at a local equine rescue barn, or being a ring announcer at small local horse shows. There are ways to be around horses and horse people even though you are at a place for the moment where you cannot ride or keep your own horses.

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I’d focus on pain management first. Pain can make it pretty much impossible to function. I’ve had to learn to live with pain that most would find intolerable for my whole life. Depending on the state you’re in, there might be a legal herb. That’s what has helped me the most. Swimming might be a form of exercise to look into and is isometric.

I’ve also had to stop riding due to pain, and it does suck but I still have my minis. Not sure where you live, but maybe get a couple minis and hire someone to do all the heavy work?

Or like others have said, teaching or judging.

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I completely understand how you are feeling. I had a spinal cord injury two years ago and I didn’t know if I would walk again let alone ride. I also defined myself by my passion for horses and honestly for the first three months, I was careful to emotionally not contemplate a “Never again” scenario. Just thinking about horses and that loss in my life would send me reeling. I figured though that if I could hold a lead rope then I would figure something out. So, I just focused on what was right in front of me and dealt with that. I did finally get back on my horse, there are changes, but I am riding again.

I agree with the other posters who have suggested getting a handle on the pain management first. Physiotherapy to redevelop strength and massage therapy to work the muscles and help the scar tissue may also be options.

You got some excellent suggestions so set yourself a goal and see where it takes you. Don’t give up on what you love in whatever capacity. Hang out with your horsey friends and take it one step at a time. You have a lot of to offer and you never know all this might lead to something new to love!!!

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I’m so sorry. I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to rehome the horses after almost a year of exhausting OT, where I had no time to interact with them at home, DH started feeding them for me and then my body just let go completely. I came home after 2 months in hospitals and rehab with a wheelchair and walker and couldn’t even get out to see them, I had to send the visiting nurse out to take pictures so i could be sure they were not starved or had gotten elf feet. She’s active in the local horse world and helped me out with rehoming them and the dog. It hurt but it was the right thing to do and I’ll always be grateful to her.
I had little overt pain but a new heart condition and some organ damage, serious weakness, shortness of breath etc, and still do have weakness, some good days, some not so good. I have some cognitive impairment, I don’t trust myself driving to new places, I get by but it’s different. My DH had always tolerated the horses but really preferred fishing. My DD had no interest in them either and by that time was a college graduate and out of the house. We talked about it and decided it was his turn, so bought a camping lot on a local lake two years ago. Of course now the lot needs work that I can do, slowly, and he grumbles about not getting to go fishing often enough…

There are some excellent ideas here, firstly to address your pain with some good meds,and get some PT that can teach you how to manage a fall and lessen your fear of pain. I also went to a counselor after about 6 months at home to talk about my experience in the hospital and how I felt being so helpless,how I missed the horses and my old life, it was worth it. Then think about the multitude of support positions in the equestrian world.Think about your son who sounds as if he is young and what you can do as his parent. Kids take a lot of work! A good friend of mine when she retired got into 4H and did a lot of work with the local kids.She took up driving and still enjoys it.
It’s not over, it’s just going to be different and it can be enjoyable and fulfilling in its own way. Best of luck to you!

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