View Full Version : Riders with MS

Apr. 17, 2010, 07:15 PM
Can anyone share their thoughts with me about assisting beginner adult riders who are dealing with MS? I would like to hear from anyone who is dealing with this so I can better help a student who is a new rider with great courage and enthusiasm but limited use of her legs. I want to challenge her and keep her lessons interesting without pushing too hard, too fast.
I would be very interested to hear from instructors about lesson exercises that have helped riders dealing with MS, and from riders who can share their thoughts, concerns and success stories.

Apr. 17, 2010, 08:08 PM
I am not a beginner, but I do have MS coupled with some other nerve disorders. My trainer is FANTASTIC. She realizes I may wake up in the morning and barely be able to move, so I can cancel the day of the lesson without having to pay. She just schools one of her horses during that time. If I am not up to trucking my horse to my trainer's facility, I can ride her schoolie.

We have a few rules. Super Trainer used to always ask me if I was too tired, if she was working me too hard, or if I needed a break. It has been decided that I will tell her if I need a break. I walk around on the horse longer than ther average student to get feeling back in my legs so I don't collapse upon dismount. If I need to sit for a few minutes, my trainer takes the horse. We have developed a very open relationship. She might tell me my left leg is looking unsteady, so I'm tired even though I do not feel it, and I have to take a walk break. My trainer treats me with respect, not like a fragile baby bird that might break. I like that.

Make your student comfortable enough to tell you she needs a break.

We work on perfect position all the time. My arm or leg might not be perfect, but we work on it.

My trainer has me ride quarter lines and circles of different sizes. Even if your student is a beginner, you can use cones to make 10M, 15M, and 20M circles.

I work on what I call "gaits within gaits" We go from a working trot to a few steps of the absolute slowest trot I can get without breaking, then back to working trot. Same in canter.

I work on having downward and upward transitions without a change in the horses' frame.

I never get bored, even when we have to make my lessons "easy"

****Feel free to PM me if you have any questions. I am very open about riding with my disease and I am happy to do what it takes to help out someone who is willing to teach an NQR rider :yes:

Apr. 17, 2010, 09:30 PM
Thankyou, Invite. I sent you a pm.

Apr. 17, 2010, 09:34 PM
Find out what else (besides limited use of her legs) might be involved. For example, if equilibrium/balance/dizziness is an issue, circles might be out completely. Summer heat can be a real problem too.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Apr. 17, 2010, 09:36 PM
Beth can give you a HUGE amount if info!!! She is very creative at figuring out how to make things work.

Apr. 18, 2010, 03:38 AM
Wow, Invite's list was great! Additionally, MS presents itself differently in each person. For instance, heat affects a lot of people but I find it rejuvenating. The cold makes me stiffen up. Each MS patient is like a puzzle with different strengths and weaknesses. So talk with the student to find out what their MS situation is. It feels liberating to be treated like an individual and not a disease - sounds like you're on the right track already.

Apr. 18, 2010, 08:25 AM
Beth's list is awesome and she is a wonderful cheerleader ;)

I have MS and right now I am at a point where I am having some vertigo issues and other issues with my sight and balance so my play time has been on the ground. I don't mind at all though and I am finding it is my favorite place to be. Just the daily routine is fabulous therapy for me and it keeps me flexible and functional.

But this past week my husband took his first real ride, Katie is showing great interest in being a fabulous mount, and I sort of longed for a future where we will ride the trails together as a family so I am hopeful the exacerbation will resolve before fall...my favorite time for the trails! I think Katie is destined to be a Dressage and Driving mule too...boy do I have my work cut out for me, I better get well soon! lol!

When I was riding patience was key, that's why I look forward to working with ClassicSportHorses. She's an amazing instructor and I know I will blossom again under her guidance. :)

Apr. 18, 2010, 04:48 PM
If you want a creative mentor to talk things over, Beth is well educated in both horsemanship and devious creative ways to keep riding well. The horses love her. They flow happily for her.

She is very encouraging and practical, conjuring up inventive ways to get done what she wants. She and Cadriver are amazing. She keeps the joy in riding. :D

Apr. 18, 2010, 05:36 PM
Thanks Whicker! Your post gave me the warm fuzzies :)

I had a few more thoughts:
~I alway ride with a bucking strap

~I use either Thin Line or rubber reins, as my left hand is not 100% and I need the grip.

~I use Royal Rider Stirrups with the cheese grater pads. They have a wide footbed and help me keep my stirrups. There are many options out there like On-Tyte and MDC to name a couple. Rubber stirrup pads don't cut it for me anymore!

~When walking is all I am up to, I do pseudo jumping courses with poles. If I'm really feisty, I'll add in some roll back turns ;)

Changes in the weather, extreme cold, and extreme humidity affect my body horribly. Let your student know that you understand one awesome lesson does not mean your expectations have risen and you are going to expect awesome lessons all the time. If she suffers during weather changes, I am sure she will feel better knowing you understand a humid day might feel like dull knives sticking into her body.

I encourage you to be relaxed about your cancellation policy. If your student is worrying she might have to cancel due to an expected storm, she may end up missing a lesson on a gorgeous day because the stress has taken its toll on her body.

Just my $0.02 for the moment. I know I'll think of something else.

Apr. 18, 2010, 05:56 PM
I remember missing a few days' medication and having to call my instructor to say "Hey, I'm real sorry about tonight. I can ride, but I'm not sure I can stay on" . It is hard to balance the desire to with the not always able to.

Apr. 18, 2010, 09:34 PM
I have had a couple students with MS. I had to adjust MY expectations a little in the beginning, I had to realize that they were not going to necessarily follow my linear 'training pyramid' lesson plans... ;)

Once I realized that--and that those were MY expectations, not the rider's, things went very well.

The thing is, you can have an entirely different rider in front of you from day-to-day/week-to-week. One week balance might be troublesome, but the next, balance is good, and little leg strength. It's the one time as a teacher I truly go in with NO lesson plan. I ask where we are today, and go from there.

One thing I find very useful is to work the horse close in-hand, doing more advanced work like SI,HI, HP, and to get them quite tuned in to me as a warm up. Then, if the rider is experiencing a certain deficit that day, I can start to step closer to the horse, and because we've 'tuned in', I don't even have to put my hands on the reins or tap with the whip, but I can encourage the horse to step under more, or more evenly, or to lift their belly, or to flex at the poll, etc.

This was something quite unconscious at first. I wasn't *deliberately* doing this, but at some point I realized the horses will react to me as I begin to step closer. It's really useful. ;) Also, we can do the true in-hand work with rider up to help the rider even up, or get the correct feel for a lateral movement etc.

When the progress is not linear, don't be afraid to do what the rider CAN do, even if that doesn't make sense in a 'normal progress' way. I had one rider doing lovely counted walk, and progressing to baby piaffe steps when she really couldn't canter. Of course this has to be within the horse's strength/abillty, but think out of the box as far as what you 'have to be able to do' before trying something else.

Finding simple mechanical helps went a long way too. A four inch piece of velcro put to brass snaps clipped stirrups to dressage girth buckles to help with stability. Short bungee cords, with one hook bent around a hair scrunchy, the other closed slightly to go to the saddle dee, allowed the scrunchy to be over a hand to restrict range of motion, without affecting rein grip. A baling twine grazing rein was crucial on one horse :uhoh: And we did sometimes ride with sidereins on, to compensate for the rider not able to have steady contact.

To me, it's important to help the horse as much as possible to be through and supple. A horse who gives it's back is SO much easier to ride. Otherwise you are fighting your body and your horse.

Finally, TACK, TACK, TACK. The right saddle, the right reins, the right bit for the horse (or no bit) etc. You should not have to fight the tack when you're fighting your very own body!!!

I love teaching MS students. They keep me fresh and intuitive trying to come up with alternatives.

Lambie Boat
Apr. 19, 2010, 12:39 AM
read "The Spoon Theory" for a deeper understanding of what it's like to have MS, fibromyalgia and other issues

Apr. 19, 2010, 11:58 AM
Hi all, I have a good friend with MS, who used to ride and event etc. As her MS progressed, rideing on her own became a safety issue and she switched to driving. A need for speed and excitment as she was an eventor, driving came naturally:-) I have given her a few lessons etc even though we live half way across the country. (I'll be out there in May again) I have learned that breaks are a key, it might be that you groom and then take a break, tack up and take a break, then you get on and ride or drive. The most important thing is to never rush, this is difficult when you are on a lesson schedule etc and your time as an instructor is limited with the student. Therefore you need to make sure the student is there early enough to get the horse ready and have a break before their lessson, or someone else needs to get the horse ready. Its mostly a time management thing.

On another note had a great horsey weekend, with a Buggy Hop playday on Saturday and a pleasure trail drive on Sunday on a 2000 acre ranch in Santa Ynez valley. Green and gorgeous. The horses went great a bit strong comming back to the trailer (all down hill) we were in a very brisk trot with the carriage free rolling, horses wanted to catch up to the people in front legs were flying:-) a bit sore today in the shoulders.., getting ready for a show in May.

Apr. 20, 2010, 07:49 AM
Hi all, I have a good friend with MS, who used to ride and event etc. As her MS progressed, rideing on her own became a safety issue and she switched to driving.

This is my plan as well cadriver. I have decided that instead of hoping and wishing, I will do something I know I can do while waiting to see if I can return to riding. I am starting enjoy the thought of it too.

Yesterday we were spring cleaning around here and I was pulling the wagon with the tractor and I thought "Wow, maybe by this time next year I will be doing this with Katie!" I cannot tell you how much joy that brought me, but I know everyone here understands that feeling :cool:

Apr. 26, 2010, 02:05 PM
I want to thank you all of you for your wonderful posts on riding with MS. I was just diagnosed in January. I am an event rider and my trainer is very understanding of my extra needs and especially for frequent breaks. I am about to enter my first event since being diagnosed and am watching the weather regularly hoping for cooler weather. Wish me luck as I am quite anxiouse about this!

Apr. 26, 2010, 06:42 PM
We will be happy to cheer you on and be available for encouragement! What level are you considering? If you have any in Northern Va, let me know. I was a ULR awhile back, so I am easily trained to help!

Apr. 27, 2010, 01:55 PM
Thank you for the support. I am only doing BN as I have a relatively young and green horse. I am in Philadelphia but do frequent events in Virginia. Fortunately my husband is a good cheerleader, trailer driver and all round support staff!

Apr. 27, 2010, 05:45 PM
We'll all be cheering for you. I want all the details of your event!!! You are a real inspiration :)

Jackie Cochran
Apr. 28, 2010, 07:30 PM
I have MS and I am still riding. One thing that really helps me keep track of my legs is to use spurs, dummy spurs when I am not doing too well and either Waterford or smooth rowel spurs when I am doing well.
I get tired really easily, and I cannot ride for over 30 minutes usually. I have to take private lessons as I do not have the endurance to keep up with a class.
Usually I ride with a bit (JP Dr. Bristol) unless my hands get really shaky, then I switch to a bitless option--Dr. Cooks, Nurtural, Lite-rider, or my ancient jumping cavesson bridle.
I do not think I would still be walking if I did not ride horses. Please go on helping riders with MS, you are adding to quality of life and giving the best physical therapy available. The more I ride the better I walk and the easier it is for me to keep my balance on foot.

Apr. 29, 2010, 11:42 AM
Hi Jackie!

Thank you for the feed back. We do this forum to help all of us. Beth is a wonderful rider who enjoys passing on her tricks to keep going. She is a terrific mentor, too.

If you are going to be in Virginia, please let me know. I really enjoy meeting the cothers, and I make a helpful cheerleader. :)

Jackie Cochran
May. 3, 2010, 11:05 AM
This week I tried smooth rowel spurs. My lower legs are not longer going to get tired! Both mares I rode showed NO signs of irritation, and responded MUCH quicker than to my POW or Waterford spurs. I am so glad I tried these spurs, it is going to be a long hot summer down here in NC, and now I will have to use a LOT LESS ENERGY on horseback.
My hands are light. Now my legs will get lighter too! JOY!!!!

May. 9, 2010, 07:11 AM
Thank you for all the replies. This has been very helpful for me in trying to challenge an enthusiastic, self-motivated rider without doing harm.

May. 9, 2010, 03:59 PM
Can anyone share their thoughts with me about assisting beginner adult riders who are dealing with MS? I would like to hear from anyone who is dealing with this so I can better help a student who is a new rider with great courage and enthusiasm but limited use of her legs. I want to challenge her and keep her lessons interesting without pushing too hard, too fast.
I would be very interested to hear from instructors about lesson exercises that have helped riders dealing with MS, and from riders who can share their thoughts, concerns and success stories.


I am new to this site and don't know how to get around on it.
I am 67 , female, and been fighting MS for 27 years. No doubt I'm not in the shape I used to be, but....without riding, I wouldn't be walking. I don't ride enough anymore and will have to get back with it. The longer I ride, the better I walk. Cowboy boots only!
Good tip for any stumbling along...like me! They have turned up toes and when a leg and foot drag they sorta even out with the floor and keep you from stubbing and draging your toe. No rubber!
Too sticky and will put you on your head in a hurry.

Hope to hear from someone!
Jan Witte