Q&A Questions and Answers:
I like your web site and figured I would let you know. This is my quarter horse Shishi and then my Arabian/Tennessee Walker mix mommy and baby. I also have a Saddlebred and Tennessee Walker and Arabian mix gelding. I love all my horses, but for some reason have a fear for them. Can you help me with this, as they aren't mean. It's me and I don't know why. thanks for your help....
Oh yea, I'm from West Virginia.
[I asked for some clarification about her fear and got this response:]
Thanks so much for answering back. Mostly the fear is being on them and falling off. In my younger years I was a good rider, but now when the horses start bouncing around like they're gonna throw me off I get scared, and also sometimes on the ground, like when I'm brushing them. I really don't think any of my horses would hurt me, meaning to. Just... well, okay, straight up - I have seizures and I'm scared I'll have one while I'm riding and spook the horse or be seriously hurt or have the horse be seriously hurt.
Thanks for leveling with me about the reason for your fear. Anyone would be nervous in your situation, and with good reason. As I've said before, horses are dangerous. Seizures can also be dangerous. Put the two together and you almost have a formula for disaster.
Does that mean that you shouldn't ride or enjoy your horses? No way! It just means you need to use some extra safeguards.
Before I get to my suggestions, please allow me to talk a bit about your reluctance to bring up your seizures.
Most folks aren't embarrassed to tell others if they have a toothache - or to seek help for the problem. Why on earth should there be any embarrassment over any other physical illness inside the skull? Yes, I know that there are some ignorant jerks around who get a kick out of tormenting others who have health problems, or a different accent, or another skin color - or even an old cowboy with a last name that's pronounced like the name of a sour fruit. Those dolts are not worth worrying about. They're certainly not worth ruining your life over.
Now that everything is out in the open, let's see what we can do about the problem.
First, you'll want to do everything possible to prevent having a seizure when you're around the livestock. Talk with your doctor about the situation. If he prescribes a medication, take it, and be very careful to follow his directions. You are trying to restore a very delicate chemical balance in the brain... not something to be careless about. Worried about taking a "mind-altering" drug? Don't be. No reputable doctor will prescribe something that he knows will hurt you. If the doctor gave you something for an abscessed tooth, would you refuse to take it just because it involves having a chemical in your head? I don't think so.
Next, get a good pair of unbreakable, polarizing sunglasses - preferably the wrap-around kind. Seizures, as I'm sure you know, can be triggered by flashing lights - even by flashing words on a web page. When you are riding, the flicker of sunlight through the trees may be enough to start an attack. The sunglasses should reduce that danger.
I haven't seen any data on this, but I can't help wondering if a lot of bouncing may have the same effect as flashing lights. Just in case, why not play it safe and only ride the smooth gaits?
Now, what can you do to stay safe even if you do have an attack?
First - and I recommend this for all riders, young and old, healthy or not - always ride with a buddy.
God's Word says:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
-- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
[Off the subject, did you notice that the Bible gave the correct treatment for hypothermia more than 3,000 years ago? Or did you spot the reason that a lasso has three strands?]
Back on track: if your riding partner is aware that you are subject to seizures, he or she may be able to get you out of harm's way before a problem develops. (Tell your friend to also pay attention to your horse, since animals often seem to sense a coming seizure before it hits.)
I generally prefer a cowboy hat, but you should probably trade it for a good riding helmet. A fall from a trotting horse may be less likely to cause damage if you have good head protection. Even if you are on the ground, wearing a helmet may help to protect your head if you happen to black out and fall under the horse. (As I write this, the local news is telling about a kid who was hit by a semi while he was riding his bike. The truck's wheels ran over him, but he's back riding his bike - because he was wearing a helmet.)
Which leads to another (possibly expensive) item: "bomb-proofing" your horses. If you aren't up to this yourself, find a good professional trainer to "bomb-proof" your horses. This means training them to instantly come to a dead stop if you throw your arms around the horse's neck or begin to fall off. "bomb-proofing" also involves teaching the horse to stand stock-still whenever anything is around the horse's feet: a person, animal, even rope or wire. A "bomb-proofed" horse will stand in one spot all day if someone is lying on the ground underneath him. (If you don't know of such a trainer, contact your local police or sheriff's department and ask who in the area is qualified to train police horses.)
Finally, you may be able to reduce the risk of falling from the saddle by using an Australian Stock Saddle. (see the photo and description at the bottom of Q & A #24.)
Some of these things may be a bit out of your budget range, but I'd be surprised if you didn't have some church, civic, or other group that's looking for folks like you that they can help. To quote the Good Book once more, many times we have not because we ask not.
We've spent a lot of time on what can go wrong. Now for the GOOD news: Physical activity appears to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Use the tips I've just given you - and get out and enjoy those animals. Instead of getting hurt, you'll be improving your health!
Happy (and Safe) Riding!
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