Some Days Are Just So 2020

Some Days Are Just So 2020
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I saw a cartoon the other day that showed a husband and wife sitting on a sofa. The wife asked her husband how his day was.

He answered, “It was a total 2020.”

His wife replied, “Say no more.”

I had a “2020 day” last Sunday. No, I don’t mean when I broke my finger (although that undoubtedly fits into this category as well), but rather the day I fell off my horse Cherry a little over a week after surgery when we encountered a bear in the woods.

No, I’m not making this up. Yes, I rode my horse eight days after surgery. But we were only going for a walk, and Cherry is about as mellow a horse as you’ll ever encounter. In fact, in the year and a half I’ve owned her, I’d never fallen off of her until this adventure.

My mom was on her horse, Guinness, and we were walking through one of the fields used for turnout that happened to be empty at that time of day. The field itself isn’t wooded, but there are woods and underbrush that come right up to the fence line, and the farm is surrounded on three sides by woods, brush, and marsh. There were people across the marsh target shooting, and that’s likely why my day went south. It’s common for animals to scatter and wander when people do target practice because it sounds like hunting.

Cherry and I saw it at the same time, from probably 20 to 30 yards away. The fence was between us, the bear was in the woods, and Cherry decided she wanted to be anywhere but where she was. Horses are “fight-or-flight” animals. Their first choice is typically to flee danger, and only if they can’t will they stay and fight.

Cherry immediately tried to whirl around and run, but I wouldn’t let her because that’s dangerous in its own way. The bear was already lumbering off back into the woods away from us. It was just as scared of Cherry as she was of it, so we were in no actual danger. When I wouldn’t let her go, she melted down and started bucking. I sat out the first four or five, but without two hands to manage her, I knew it was likely a lost cause and chose to get off on my own terms.

As someone who played goalkeeper for travel soccer most of my life (before my EDS diagnosis at age 22, of course), I spent years training to fall. That comes in handy as an equestrian, as occasional falling is part of the sport. Because I launched off of my own accord, I knew I wasn’t at risk of landing on my head, so my only goal was to protect my hand. I managed to get myself around, so I landed squarely on my left hip and rear.

The ground was pretty soft from recent rain, so it didn’t really hurt at the moment. I hopped right up and grabbed Cherry’s reins and calmed her down. As the moments passed, though, I sure started to feel it. My back ached, my core muscles were killing me, and I could feel some serious bruises in the making. Thanks to my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, falling off tends to have a ripple effect, going throughout my body to cause serious muscle pain and tension. I also had a minor subluxation of my left hip, which thankfully popped back in a few hours later as I kept moving around.

Thank goodness I had an appointment with my amazing massage therapist, Kim, already scheduled for the following day. Falling off isn’t fun for anyone; falling off with EDS is even less so. The bruising, the muscle pain and stiffness, and the risk of more serious injury than the average person are all issues for me.

I feel like I’ve now encountered my fair share of fun for the time being. At least this adventure involves a much better story than breaking my finger.

Oh, you broke your hand? What happened? I was jogging next to my horse and a cotton rope touched my hand wrong.

Oh, you fell off? What happened? We were quietly riding along, and Cherry and I encountered a bear.

See? So much more interesting. I’ll take the positives where I can find them!

Karen and Cherry on a less adventurous day. (Courtesy of Karen Del Vecchio)

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Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.

An avid equestrian and educator, Karen has been a columnist at BioNews since 2019. She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in 2009 after a years-long search for a diagnosis that explained her symptoms. Karen enjoys working with her students, riding and caring for her two horses, Cherry and Spotty, and connecting with others in the rare disease community through her work with BioNews.
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An avid equestrian and educator, Karen has been a columnist at BioNews since 2019. She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in 2009 after a years-long search for a diagnosis that explained her symptoms. Karen enjoys working with her students, riding and caring for her two horses, Cherry and Spotty, and connecting with others in the rare disease community through her work with BioNews.
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