Dealing with Tough Days and Their Accompanying Stress
Some days simply suck. There’s no way around it. You get bad news, things don’t go your way, you just have a generally bad day.
One particular day a few weeks ago would definitely qualify. I took my current competition horse, Spotty, to an equine veterinary specialist for an evaluation because something wasn’t quite right. He didn’t show any signs of lameness, but he just didn’t quite feel like himself. It turns out that he has an issue with ligaments in his hind legs. This could be due to his conformation (how he’s built) or, in the worst case, a genetic disorder whose most similar human disorder is … EDS. Are you kidding me?!
You read that right. It’s possible that by complete and utter chance, my horse might have a similar type of genetic disorder as I do. I mean, the odds of that have to be astronomical. There’s no way to know for sure, as the only test is to biopsy the nuchal ligament, and this invasive procedure doesn’t guarantee a diagnosis because they still don’t understand all the genetic markers or tissue setup. Sound familiar?
And even if it’s not that particular disorder, his symptoms are very similar to mine: compensatory body soreness and difficulty building up physical strength. I mean, my mind really might melt from the inability to wrap my brain around it. Thank goodness it appears Spotty has relatively mild symptoms, as I do.
I suspect that like many people who have EDS, milder cases in horses often go undiagnosed, so I think it’s difficult to know just how much of a problem it will cause him in the future, if at all. The vets agree that regardless of the basis of his issue, the management is the same: He needs light exercise to keep his body moving without putting undue pressure on him, and consistent bodywork and chiropractic to help manage any compensatory soreness.
I suspect that I have an advantage over other horse owners who have a horse with this type of issue, whatever it is, because I’m dealing with managing the same symptoms in my own body. Hopefully, that will give me a leg up in his care.
Unsurprisingly, the news about Spots hit me hard. It was totally unexpected. The emotional stress has caused physical ripple effects. I could feel the tightness and pain through my shoulder — the usual first place for me due to a bad, old injury on top of being a normal stress-holding area — all up and down my back and neck. The pain even spread into my hips, which frequently get torqued out of place when my back and shoulder muscles get particularly angry. Emotional stressors can definitely start me on a downward physical spiral, so keeping situations like Spotty’s under control is a big part of pain management.
Since emotional stress and physical soreness are so deeply intertwined for me, I know I must be very careful as I work through this to make sure that I don’t backslide in how well I’m doing physically. I’ve learned that jumping on my physical symptoms is as critical as managing stress; dealing with them in tandem is the only way to be successful. If I only focus on one, I’ll lose the battle because they feed off each other.
That’s going to be my challenge and goal in the next few weeks. I’m glad that I have a usual system in place to help — massages, Pilates, and riding!
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