My Time in College Introduced Me to Horseback Riding

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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While in the mindset of slowing down and allowing myself time to recharge, I decided to take a short vacation. I rarely take time out because I always have so much going on. But I reached out to my two closest friends from college and asked if they wanted to get together for a long weekend. They both live within a few hours of where we went to school (I attended Dickinson College for undergrad), and I love going back up to Pennsylvania. I miss it there.

When I was in college, I hadn’t yet received a diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) or the anxiety that often accompanies it. I was constantly exhausted, always in pain, but had no idea that my issues had a root cause. I assumed that my symptoms were normal and thought that everyone felt that way. And because I didn’t have a diagnosis, I had no reason to think otherwise.

Despite my physical pain and emotional stress, I loved my time at Dickinson. I met many new people, and the experience opened me up to an entirely different way of life than the one I was used to. Carlisle, where the college is located, is a small town, and a far cry from the sprawling suburban maze in which I grew up. I first started to take horseback riding lessons during my college years.

I had played soccer growing up, but I had wanted to learn how to ride since I was young. I had too many injuries to play soccer competitively in college, so I finally had time to take up a new sport, and central Pennsylvania is a semi-rural area awash in horse farms. It was an opportunity to embark on a new journey. I had no idea that it would completely change the trajectory of my life.

Not only did my time in college help me to find a career in college admissions and counseling, it also introduced me to a sport that has sustained and strengthened me since my EDS diagnosis. Riding is one of the few sports that I can do, and it has helped me immensely from the perspective of physical and mental strength. It also brought me my amazing first horse, Artica.

Horses are attuned to human emotions, and those who spend significant amounts of time with these wise animals learn to be more attentive to their own feelings. Horse riding was one of the things that helped me to turn a negative mindset into a positive one. (I later learned that severe chronic pain often causes negativity). My positive attitude has become the backbone of how I manage my EDS. I don’t let EDS get me down, and I try to find the positive in every negative.


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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.


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