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Riding and Heart Conditions

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  • Riding and Heart Conditions

    Yes, I know. Another weird health thread.

    Friday I found out I have a heart condition that is a "symptom" of another health issue. I'm slated for additional tests this week. Of course what have I been worrying about this weekend... Will I still be able to ride?

    I suspect the issue would not necessarily be exertion, but potential for danger upon impact should I fall or something. I could be wrong though, I don't know a whole lot about the diagnosis at this point.

    Right now I am too sick to be riding anyway, but I cannot imagine having to give it up completely, as in Never Again... and I am worried my doctors will advise me to.

    Just wondered how others out there managed with various heart conditions. I suppose every situation is very unique and it is hard to guess what lies ahead for myself. But I've put so much aside already, I just want to know I will have the horses to come back to.

    Maybe I could take up driving??

  • #2
    There are so many different kinds of heart conditions, you should really consult your doctor. If you could be more specific though, about what exactly your heart condition is, some of us may be able to give you some info.


    • #3
      I have atrial fibrillation, which comes on with stress--usually situations I can't "control", like flying, spending money beyond my comfort level, etc. I take a beta blocker when an episode occurs, and aspirin. I can go months between episodes. My cardiologist tells me it won't kill me (but a clot could, hence the aspirin), and to just ease up on exercise when I'm fibrillating. I don't ride when I am in an episode, it just isn't comfortable.

      Heart problems are scary, aren't they? Get a good cardiologist, one who understands that you want to stay active. Let us know what you've got, and I'm sure there are others who will share your problem.
      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


      • #4
        No way to tell, unless you tell us what the condition is.

        I think that Deltawave is a cardiologist, although she probably won't want to diagnose you over the internet.
        Still, she can give you general ideas to make you feel better, try to PM her.

        I had a heart attack five years next March and they went nuts trying to figure why, since I never had any risk factors.
        No family history or extra weight, my blood lipid numbers good, blood pressure was if anything too low and my arteries squeaky clean.
        Then they found I was born with a heart defect. Now they tell me, already a senior citizen.

        From the heart attack, I now have an arrythmia and with the heart defect, I am supposed to cut back on activities, as my heart is not as strong as it should be.
        Then, it evidently has never been fully functioning, so I really can't tell that much of a difference, except I never could run races with the other kids.
        The only medication I have to take is a beta blocker, in half the lowest dose, so it is minimal, but I can feel it if I forget to take it.
        Now, I can ride, just not go on forever, I get tired, but resting for a little gets me going again just fine.
        Depending on what your heart problems may be, you may get to feel well with some medication and be able to do all you want.

        If falls are what may kill you and now you ride horses or in a discipline that such is possible, how about changing to someting else that is not dangerous for you?
        I am now learning to train reining horses the newer ways, which is easy riding, mostly exercises at the walk and a little slow, easy "lopin" around on very short, smooth, gentle horses.
        Very different then jumping, starting and galloping race horses or chasing cows all up and down the canyons.

        I say, best not to dwell on the limits life may put on you, but enjoy what you still may have.

        For most people with many kinds of heart problems, today's protocol adds an anti depressant, because many people feel down with those kinds of problems.
        My Dr said I could skip it, as I have always been a glass half full type person, to the annoyance of my friends when they are feeling low, come looking for sympathy and I just won't cooperate.

        Kidding aside, you ought to bring how you are feeling about being sick and other concerns to your Dr, as they are used to looking at the whole person and that includes your mental health thru physical problems that can tax it, as heart problems tend to do.


        • #5
          Thanks so very much guys.

          Right now I have a clot in my leg, and now pericardial effusion also. I'm missing my horse, and now the thought of not being able to ride is making me crazy! It has been a hard year, having gone from being a VERY active person to somewhat of an invalid at times.

          I will most definitely discuss it with my doctors this week. I guess I am afraid they will say a big fat NO. I realize I will not be riding anytime soon, but the idea of riding eventually gives me a goal and a bit of hope...


          • #6
            The only way you will know is to ask when you go to the hospital and once you've had a proper diagnosis.

            Heart problems per se don't preclude you from riding though.

            One of my staff has a congenital heart defect and which gave rise to her having a stroke when she was only 17 years old.

            She's had heart surgery since she started working for me and she's had more than her share of health problems but she's managed to stay working with horses and riding.

            However at the end of the day your doctor will advise you.

            I will just tell you a funny story though about when I was very ill. There was a time when I had absolutely no platelets (blood clotting factor) and so my Consultant said "Whatever you do, don't go riding or training horses. Driving them though will be perfectly safe"

            Since then I've got to know him much better and he's been to my house and I've taken him driving and scared the sh** out of him. He's totally changed his mind and now sees the hilarious side of that advice!

            Or to put it another way driving is slightly higher risk than riding.

            Edited as I read the OP's most recent posting.

            It's VERY hard to be ill when you've been an active person. I can't be doing with illness. I've no time for it. However whilst I might have had a serious illness, I won't let it have me. So I won't let it rule my life.

            There's been times when I can't do anything with the horses at all and trust me, they're a huge part of my life. I even had to sell my stud farm and all my stallions and for 3 years had every horse I had with my friends when I was at my worst. Trust me though there's much more important things to life than being able to ride and rather than dwelling about what you can't and might not be able to do, concentrate and focus on what you can do and what you've got going for you. Try to take each day as it comes.


            • #7
              I was going to ask this very question. Last month I was hospitalized with palpitations. They lasted for 24 hrs. I've been to a cardiologist and now have to wear a loop monitor for 30 days. I've been riding in it with no ill effects but I hope I don't have to stop riding. I had a stress test on Fri and should know the results by next Fri. With luck they will have some answers and I can get off the monitor.
              My cardiologist recommended cutting back, but not eliminating exercise until all tests were done. I used to be a fanatic at the gym and now only do light weights and a more moderate pace on the cardio machines. I've kept up to speed with riding but my riding is once or twice a week usually and is not all that strenuous.
              F O.B
              Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
              Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


              • #8
                I have a good surfer friend with serious heart problems, and he manages just fine. He has a pacemaker (got it when he was 21) and once was hit by a surfboard which displaced the stupid thing and required surgery.

                But he's still plugging on - with many heart conditions there's not much you can't do, and my daughter also has heart problems (atrial fib, PVC's, heart valve incompetence, mitral valve prolapse) and manages just fine - she sometimes has to slow down when she's cleaning stalls, but never when she's riding . We have this huge fear of anything heart related (tell me about it, after she passed out in class I thought my life was OVER) but you do eventually get used to having it.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                  Since then I've got to know him much better and he's been to my house and I've taken him driving and scared the sh** out of him. He's totally changed his mind and now sees the hilarious side of that advice!

                  Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                  It's VERY hard to be ill when you've been an active person. I can't be doing with illness. I've no time for it. However whilst I might have had a serious illness, I won't let it have me. So I won't let it rule my life.

                  There's been times when I can't do anything with the horses at all and trust me, they're a huge part of my life. I even had to sell my stud farm and all my stallions and for 3 years had every horse I had with my friends when I was at my worst. Trust me though there's much more important things to life than being able to ride and rather than dwelling about what you can't and might not be able to do, concentrate and focus on what you can do and what you've got going for you. Try to take each day as it comes.
                  Thank you for the wise advice, it is much appreciated. I know from your posts you've had your challenges and have clearly risen above, and that is truly encouraging. I am glad you've made it back to the horses, full time, and that you've not let your issues get the best of you!

                  I suppose to some degree, the horses are a silly thing to worry about right now... but easier right now for my brain to focus on that, than bigger, scarier things!

                  My mom advised me to let go of the horse. Right now my husband and a few friends are caring for him. He was semi-retired anyway, and he is perfectly happy. I know he will be there for me when I'm ready to groom/ride/hang out once again.
                  Last edited by AlteredHeart; Dec. 28, 2008, 09:04 PM. Reason: spelling


                  • #10
                    You know...when a car accident left me being told I'd never ride again, I thought of getting rid of my horse. But my wonderful, amazing husband - who's NOT horsey - said "if you think you might ever ride again, don't sell your horse. Lease him or do something, but we'll manage. But I think you should try to keep him and not decide now - worry about getting the right treatment now, and your horse will be there."

                    He literally gave me a reason to go through treatment and rehab, and he was right. I did lease my horse out, but just being able to go see him and pat his nose for that almost one year was so important.

                    So, I'd say if you can, don't decide on riding right now. Focus on your health. Get the diagnoses and treatment you need. Then, while you're recovering, find a health care professional who UNDERSTANDS horses and riding. That can be key -- my PT was a dressage rider, and she was key to helping me rehab to ride, even though my surgeon wasn't keen on the idea.

                    You'll know your own body. Just remember, it IS your body, and your life. Make informed choices, but don't be afraid to make the right choices for you, whatever they may be. Best of luck!


                    • #11
                      Hopeful Hunter gave fabulous advice - well, everyone did!

                      You need a physician who will work with you, who understands what is important to YOU.

                      And best of luck.
                      a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


                      • #12
                        Make sure both your Cardiologist and your GP are either physically active or understand patients who are. Both of mine encourage riding, as long as I stay off of crazy horses and don't overdo it.

                        Some meds can lower endurance and energy levels, so ask them to take that into consideration when writing the Rx. I'm able to reduce these effects by carefully monitoring BP and titrating doses as necessary. Both my Doctors are very supportive of this. They set the parameters within which I can operate.

                        Physicians will probably be adverse to the idea (mostly because of trial-lawyer ramifications), but just might come around if you convince them you're capable of it. Keeping a detailed notebook with dates, med adjustments, and resulting measurements won mine over. A pimped-up Power Point spreadsheet might work even better.
                        The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
                        Winston Churchill


                        • #13
                          Think Driving....you can bring a friend along in case anything "dramatic" happens.

                          Once things settle down to a medical dull roar...then see what level you'll be able to enjoy the horses...still too early...but consider driving.
                          "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


                          • #14
                            I agree that it is important to have a doctor who understands what you mean by "riding my horse". If they are not horsey they seem to envision you riding the Grand National Steeplechase and say NO to such a stressful, dangerous past-time. Also make sure the doctor knows that your horse-time is important to your overall well-being. Once they understand that you are not an adreniline junkie wanting to take ridiculous risks (You're not, are you? ) and that you want to preserve something of your horsey life, they are more likely to work with you. Best of luck to you!


                            • #15
                              I know a woman who credits her sweet and wonderful horse with saving her life. She had a serious heart condition and once she got back on her feet, she found Bailey the Wonder Horse. Now she does endurance riding.

                              Wait until you know more about your condition. As another friend would say, "don't build a bridge over a creek that ain't there."

                              Good luck.


                              • #16
                                One risk is bleeding, if you need to take anticoagulants (e.g., Coumadin). You can bleed easily if you fall, particularly if your coumadin levels are too high. It is hard to regulate the coumadin, so many people are often too high or too low. If you decide to ride, be sure to talk with your cardiologist and ask to test the coumadin levels often enough so you are sure you are not getting too much. Many cardiologists understand that you want to have an active life, and are willing to help you minimize risks.


                                • #17
                                  I was born with tachy-brady syndrome and during a trip to the doctor because I wasn't feeling QR, we found my heart was beating a whopping 38 times a minute. It will also go tachy and beat around 140 beats per minute, which makes it hard for me to breathe. I was put on a beta-blocker, which dropped my blood pressure to the point of passing out. My cardiologist said if I didn't grow out of it, we were going to look into a pacemaker. That was a lot to handle for a 16yo.

                                  Fast forward 10 years. I occasionally go into a heart block (second degree type I), but I'm no worse for wear. The only times I get palpitations is when I don't get sleep and down tons of caffeine. I am able to ride as much as I want and work in the ER as an RN without problems.

                                  However, there are so many things that can go wrong with the heart. You need to be asking your cardiologist about this and not coming to a BB for your information. There are a lot of nuts on these boards, so don’t listen to anyone other than your health care team!


                                  • #18
                                    My cardiologist used to volunteer with the local horse theraphy group, so he was very aware how much being around horses can help people of all kinds.
                                    He would never have said to stay away from horses or riding, although he told me to quit starting colts for now.

                                    I think you need to talk about this with your doctor and if he is not knowledgeable about horses, don't even let him doubt that they can help the people that like them, just start the conversation by stating that fact, then ask what you should look for as far as that riding is a physical activity.


                                    • #19
                                      Just another encouraging post. My coworker had open heart surgery about 2 years ago and was out for about half a year with recovery. She's been back riding dressage over a year now and back showing again this past year. I've just an MVP, and other then antibiotics for dental and certain proceedures, I'm fine. My heart is about 70% efficent, so I rest now and then doing stalls but riding's fine. Hope your health improves with great care in the new year.


                                      • #20
                                        Yep. I too was born with a heart condition. I've got a bicuspid aortic valve. Found when I was 17 going under anesthesia for the first time. Lovely.

                                        Anyways, the only restriction I have is no weight lifting... like nada. That's not going to happen. So, I no longer do the strength training I did when in high school. I try not to lift large things, especially over my head. Works great. Gets me out of moving heavy stuff (i.e. when I moved.... ).

                                        I do occassionally have weird flutterings. I do have a constant murmur, but seems like no one ever notices it. Heck, even my primary doctor(s) failed to find it. It was actually the anesthesiologist (sp?) who told my mom that I had a murmur.

                                        I do have echocardiograms done ever two years, just to monitor things. Everything seems to be fine and no changes. It is genetic though. My maternal grandmother also has one, was diagnosed at the ripe young age of like 60 something . She's had multiple surgeries (has a bionic valve now ) and now has a pacemaker. I'm determined to not have the same issues and I'm taking better care of myself.

                                        Doctors never said I couldn't ride. But, then, I didn't offer up that information. The only times I have major issues is when we're doing really aerobic exercises... like lots of canter work, or trotting for extended periods of time. I can't breathe... that's my only symptom of my bicuspid aortic valve, breathing problems.

                                        ETA: I, too, have to take antiboditics when having dental procedures and other "stressful" things. Otherwise, good to go, for the most part.
                                        Proud owner of Gus & Gringo.
                                        See G2's blog