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Eventing with RA (rheumatoid arthritis)

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  • Eventing with RA (rheumatoid arthritis)

    I just got my blood work back and results "strongly indicate RA"... I'm being sent to a specialist, etc etc.

    The thing is, I'm so close to reaching my goals with riding. I don't have a really easy horse and I'm not the best rider but we're a good team. I've done a couple Starters successfully and with lots of obstacles along the way the past decade or so, it seemed like next season we could probably be ready to go BN.

    And thats all I want really. I just want to clock around BN competently and have fun. Maybe someday make a pilgrimage down to Southern Eighths and do the BN 3-Day, maybe someday make it to the AECs.

    Does anyone here have RA and ride? Any tips or life experiences you can share would be helpful. I've had problems with my knees for years and have 3 ruptured discs and one bulging in my back, thyroid disease, etc. I am used to toughing it out and making do with what I have to work with in regards to my own physical capabilities.

    Tell me this is something I can still do.
    2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

  • #2
    Kristie Nunnink has had RA for years. She has ridden around multiple Four-Star courses and is currently competing at Burghley.
    God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.



    • #3
      My daughter has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It's reasonably well-controlled with meds. She competes BN and rides in pony club without problem.


      • #4
        Get massage/chiro regularly. Go on whatever meds they tell you to.

        Get a really good mattress.

        Get good shoes.

        YMMV, but I like the back on track stuff.

        If you don't have to braid, don't (or pay someone else to do it).

        For me, it's not the riding, but the driving to the event that's killer.

        Moving helps--so try to move as much as possible. That is, RIDE!
        --Becky in TX
        Clinic Blogs and Rolex Blogs
        She who throws dirt is losing ground.


        • #5
          I am also a triathlete & marathoner, in addition to eventing. My training partner that I do much of my swimming/biking/running with is in her 40s and so far has done 2 Ironmans, 1 regular marathon and many half Ironman & Marathon races. She is still getting better/faster. All with RA. For her, most important is a Dr. who says "we'll figure out how to keep yo doing what you love to do".

          Best of luck!


          • #6
            I have psoriatic arthritis, which is not quite the same but relatively similar, and my personal experience is that once you've actually identified the problem and can get started on an appropriate treatment beyond 'throw NSAIDs at it!' then things actually improve in terms of pain levels and so on.

            The main things I try to do differently because of the arthritis are really just general life things:

            1. If it hurts persistently to do X, see if there's a different way to do X. (A riding example would be that fenders on Western saddles often end up making my knees or ankles hurt from the way the fender wants to straighten out. So if I rode Western regularly I'd replace the fenders or the stirrups so I didn't have to deal with the twisting issue, rather than just trying to ignore it.)

            2. Pay attention to diet. There are definitely certain things that make my arthritis crankier, and I try to avoid them. (I don't do any of the full on crazy 'cure' diets because, well, they are crazy. But for example I noticed that when I have something with high fructose corn syrup in it, my joints always hurt worse the next day or two. So I try to avoid HFCS, that sort of thing.)

            Obviously, at the end of the day you have to listen to your doctor if you have specific damage somewhere from the RA that's going to be a problem with riding, and deal with that somehow, but in general I don't think it means you have to stop aiming for your goals. Develop a good treatment plan with your doctors and go.

            (I agree totally about the good mattress thing though. And the driving. Car rides can be awful. Too much sitting still for ages, everything gets stiff and cranky. ETA: And the shoes. Omg, good foot support makes so much difference for my back/hips/knees/ankles.)
            Last edited by kdow; Aug. 30, 2012, 02:16 PM. Reason: Shoes!


            • #7
              [QUOTE=eventer@heart;6526829 most important is a Dr. who says "we'll figure out how to keep yo doing what you love to do".

              Best of luck![/QUOTE]

              YES I had a Dr that told me I needed to give up horses. Dumped that Dr and found ones that worked with me. If they take away what makes you happy, chances are disease will get worse not better.
              Epona Farm
              Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport horses

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              • #8
                Originally posted by horsetales View Post
                YES I had a Dr that told me I needed to give up horses. Dumped that Dr and found ones that worked with me. If they take away what makes you happy, chances are disease will get worse not better.
                So far my experience has generally been that most doctors who just say 'no horses!' have very little idea what's involved and rule it out - well, I'm not entirely sure why they rule it out. They don't know what's involved, so they generally can't give their reasoning for saying no.

                So I wouldn't take any major restriction on life activities (including horses) without the doctor being willing to talk to me about it and why they're advising against it, etc. I mean, there likely are some conditions where you really do have to be quite careful around horses and it might not be worth the risk - but they should be able to talk to you about that and those risks, you know?

                (With any kind of major or on-going issue, like arthritis, finding a doctor or doctors to be involved with your care who will actually talk to you and communicate with you is essential. I currently don't have an arthritis doctor because I got tired of mine not listening to me about things. Luckily my GP can keep me on the medication while I try to find someone I can work with better.)


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks everyone...

                  The Dr. I was referred to has a good reputation and his partner at the practice is an equestrian, so I feel a bit lucky there.

                  Hands are feeling better today. I don't have my appt with the specialist until early December but meeting with my general MD next week again...

                  Thanks again, glad to know there are people out there still riding and doing what they love.
                  2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com


                  • #10
                    I'm only 35 and have RA in my left ankle, right knee and my fingers. I've been on Advil, Meloxicam, Tramadol, you name it . . . nothing takes the pain away, just eases it for me. MSM acually has been the best help for me. I put a 1/2 teaspoon in my coffee morning and night and I definitely do feel a difference.

                    Limiting your activity actually makes things worse. I worked at a horse barn and felt great! Went to less physical job and can feel the pain now more than ever. When i head to the barn I feel great after awile again. Physical activity is good for you! The only problem I have is limited range of motion in my ankle due to calcification so I do use angled stirrup pads to help. I tend to forget that I even have RA while I'm riding until I go to get off. Can't put my weight on my ankle and my body gets stiff.

                    Ride away . . . don't give up anything you love!
                    '10 Dolce Latte G - Thoroughbred Mare


                    • #11
                      Like others have said, keep moving, good shoes, diet and yes a very good mattress.

                      I'd be more concerned about the disks in your back than the RA.

                      The meds that the doctor will give you will manage the damage to your joints. RA is managable when you stay on the meds. You can't stop it but you can slow the damage to the joints.

                      The hardest part I find with having RA in my hands & wrists is getting that first hole on the girth. I have ice packs that I wrap my wrists in on the way to the barn. I'll toss them in the freezer (thank goodness there's a frig @ the barn)while I'm horsin' around. Then I'll ice again on the way home. I have it in my back also, I invested in the BC Wexford this spring and it's like I have a new back. (and horse)

                      "Kick On"
                      "Looked bigger when I couldn't see him."~ Jayne Cobb


                      • #12
                        I don't have RA, but I do have arthritis in my lower back and right hip that give me trouble. Everyone here is mentioning a good mattress- what qualities do you look for in a mattress?