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Chronic migraines with dizziness and fainting spells

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  • Chronic migraines with dizziness and fainting spells

    Anyone have any tips on working with horses with chronic migraines that leave me dizzy and prone to fainting at random unpredictable times? I'm a life-long equestrian, but I've given up riding because of this issue. I'm hoping to get back into driving, but I'm feeling hesitant.

  • #2
    Assuming your doc gives the all clear, I'd establish a safety protocol you follow without fail

    -wear a helmet - kind of the obvious one.
    -don't work with the horse(s) alone
    -wear a medical ID bracelet with emergency contact info
    -make sure you always have a cell phone with you
    -always know where you are (this is the 911 operator in me)
    -always make sure at least one other person knows where you will be and when you will be back.
    -put contact info on your horse/tack in case you get separated. I have seen some people use dog tags attached to bridles and saddles.

    There is a cell phone ap for horse riders that alerts an emergency contact if you stop moving for a period of time. It sends an audible signal to you before it sends an alert which helps limit those false alarms. When it sends the emergency alert to your predetermined contacts, it includes some location info. I don't remember what it is called, I haven't had a chance to check it out.

    I also found this online when I was looking for the name of that ap...


    I have no clue how reliable it is, but it looks pretty neat.

    Don't give up on your dream. If you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to make it work. Just make your safety a priority and don't take shortcuts.


    • #3
      Please don't put yourself in a position in which you might be driving your pony alone or with children and have an unexpected episode. The reason most equestrians feel driving is more dangerous than riding is because an out of control equine attached to a vehicle is a very scary proposition, much worse than a loose riding horse, which is bad enough. The one time one of my ponies bolted on his own (because I got blown clean out of the cart from being hit by a car), I was very lucky that he headed into my back yard and started grazing. He still did a pretty good job of adding to the damage to the cart beyond what the car did. Luckily, he wasn't hurt.

      I responded to your post on the driving thread, but didn't know about this wrinkle. As a fellow driver with disabilities, I feel for you and hope you can figure out a safe way to enjoy your pony.



      • Original Poster

        Thanks for the suggestions! I'm not at the point where I can drive Thunderpants yet. I'm still trying to work out medication protocol to minimize or eliminate the worst migraines. So hopefully I won't be as much of a hazard.

        In any event I'm hoping to have my kiddos responsible enough to drive as well, so they could take over for me if something happens. They have both already driven minis to easy entry carts. That's another reason I'm sending him out for training--to make sure he's as reliable as possible. That's also why I'm looking at a 4-wheeled vehicle to be sure I always have passengers.

        Today i I was able to long-line the big pony. Everything I do is slow and a work in progress.


        • #5
          I'm not sure how this relates to your migraines, but I had BAD migraines some years back. I'm talking daily here, after a fall. I didn't feel dizzy or like fainting, though. But my neurologist put me on Topamax for half a year and it did wonders for me. Maybe it's something you can talk to your doctor about? Now I have a migraine maybe once a month, tops. Sometimes I go months without one.


          • #6
            My fear would be if you fainted and dropped the lines, and the closest kid couldn't pick them up. My last driving pony (currently living in happy retirement here in South Carolina) was unflappable, and would stop like a statue if I said "whoa." But I'm not sure what he might do if my weight shifted suddenly, or I fell out of the cart. I'm glad we never had to test that possibility.

            Maybe have one of the kids do the driving, and you be a passenger?



            • Original Poster

              Once the pony is up to pulling the weight I'll likely let my son do the driving. Although I'm really hoping/praying that this new migraine shot (Amovig) lives up to it's positive press. So maybe in the near future migraines won't ruin my life so much. I've tried so many different things that haven't worked (years and years of different drugs, doctors, remedies for, etc), that I'm trying not to get too excited about this new drug. However, looking forward to driving Thunderpants is keeping me going. So I'm going to hope for the best & take it one day at a time.



              • #8
                I have chronic migraines also and my neurologist also prescribed me Topamax and it’s made a world of difference. I’ve had a dizzy spell just once mounted a few weeks ago, so I let my friend know and we stopped immediately (we were on a traill) and waited until it subsided.

                I have dizzy spells too. I found out why these happen through a VNG test. I think that was what it was called. I have vestibular weakness on my left side. It’s residual from a concussion I sustained in 2012 from a mount I had in Germany. A new horse my trainer purchased that was untested and he’d asked me to ride. Lovely horse, no one realized she’d never been cantered and she didn’t appreciate the spurs I had on. Yep I was thrown. I had weeks of TBI therapy but I still have weakness. (Yes I was wearing a helmet - imagine my brain without!!!).

                Be safe!
                Last edited by CBurkott; Aug. 14, 2018, 08:14 PM. Reason: Edited for horrendous spelling errors.


                • #9
                  I also suffer near daily chronic migraines with quite a bit of dizziness (though it sounds like not quite to the degree of yours).

                  I am still riding when my dear horse manages to stay uninjured. I have failed or am allergic to most medications (still take Topamax and am waiting on insurance approval for Aimovig as we speak. Though I agree - am only cautiously optimistic). I have a RideSafe bracelet with all my medical info and emergency contacts.

                  Best of luck to you!


                  • #10
                    Well, here's what I've done as someone with suspected POTS and chronic migraines:

                    - LOTS of salts, usually powerade or gatorade, salty snacks, etc. Water rarely helped me with feeling dizzy or faint, but gatorade as been the difference between me being able to muck 27 stalls and me being in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital before, no lie.

                    - My doc has something prescribed for migraines, namely muscle relaxers. But I have extremely hypermobile joints and possibly EDS with all the wonderful symptoms accompanying it, which includes chronically spastic muscles trying to compensate for the laxity of the joints. Specific meds for specific causes, yes? I also love love love voltaren gel for this reason, as well. That stuff is absolutely MAGIC for tight neck and shoulder muscles, which causes prob like 95% of my migraines.

                    - A huge amount of training for my horse on the ground. Lots of strong reinforcers and a really solid reinforcement history for certain behaviors (ie, woah), as well as tons of desensitization. My mare's an Arabian, but she's probably one of the sanest hoses I've ever worked with, and I've definitely used her to brace myself when I get too dizzy. What might be a good idea is to prep your horse for possible situations where you might faint or pass out: falling out of the carriage, falling to the ground, etc. Obviously you can't prepare for EVERY situation, but you can reinforce calm behaviors and promote a generally calm animal.

                    - Bodywork: a combination of Physical Therapy to strengthen weak parts of my body, chiropractic work to realign naughty parts of my skeletal system (bulging discs and subluxed TMJ are the worst), and massage therapy with someone that understands anatomy and PT concepts and tailors my massage to my specific body issues.

                    I don't know what causes your migraines and dizziness/fainting spells, but without knowing, it might be worth it to get some sort of app or machine that monitors things like TPR, and see if there's a correlation between blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, etc, and these spells.


                    • #11
                      Salt stick electrolyte capusules have really helped my daughter and I.


                      • Original Poster

                        Good news and bad news. I am on my 2 month of Aimovig shots. They seem to be helping with the pain of my migraines, but my dizziness/fainting seems to have gotten worse.

                        Ive tried countless preventatives for my migraines but they've all failed in one way or another. I currently take muscle relaxers at night and when I have a bad migraine, but I do not take any other medications on a regular basis as a preventative. I'm very hesitant about chiropractic because the last adjustment I had (after a month of adjustments) gave me an instant and very severe migraine that's lasted for 3 days. I did physical therapy on & off for 3 years ago several years ago with no difference. I should mention that in addition to the migraines I have nerve damage in my arms, hands, and chest as well as Thoracic Outlet syndrome due to my numerous surgeries for breast cancer. So the situation is more difficult than simple migraines.

                        Im hoping and praying that continued Aimovig injections will help me overcome the most severe of my symptoms. Until then I have to be very cautious with my horse time and spend most of it on the ground In controlled situations with someone else present at all times.


                        • #13
                          God Bless you, I feel selfish when I read threads like yours, Everyone has something they are dealing with.
                          I cannot say I have anything that severe. I have never been good with headaches.
                          Do the docs know what is causing your severe headaches? I assume you see a neurologist?
                          The fainting part would freak me out.
                          On an up note, Driving is my secret passion. I keep telling myself I am going to get a mini and drive.
                          Good luck hope you get some permanent relief soon.


                          • #14
                            I've had severe migranes since I was about 10. I tried multiple daily and "rescue" migraine medications, but would often have headaches that lasted 3-5 days and occasionally longer. Sometimes I would get so nauseous I would throw up any time I attempted to sit or stand, and had to take prescribed anti-nausea medications. A few times I even had to go to the ER or urgent care to deal with my migraines, and I tended to get "auras"/go blind in my left eye.

                            I finally found a holistic specialist who got me started on the Ketogenic diet - it was developed for people with seizures and other neurological conditions. Since starting Keto, I have reduced my migraine days from about 10-14 a month, to 1 or 2 days per month. For the days that I do get migraines, I've started taking sub-lingual CBD oil. It doesn't completely eliminated my nausea, but it does reduce my pain significantly and reduces the brain swelling that causes the auras/temporary blindness.

                            Maybe see if you can find someone who can explore alternative options in your area?


                            • Original Poster

                              Avishay--thanks for the suggestion. My parents do one of the ketogenic diets & my mom keeps houndinggg me to try it. The hardest part for me about that diet (besides my overwhelming sweet tooth) is that my husband has alpha-gal allergy--he can't have any product from warm blooded animals...not dairy, not gelatin, no meat unless the animal comes from an egg. So with that limiting my options so much, severely restricting my diet further seems awfully complicated and tasteless (as in I wouldn't get to eat all the tasty foods like cream, cheese, steak, and such that make up a huge portion of the Keto diet.

                              Sannois--writing it all out makes me so depressed, but I know plenty of other people that have their own crosses to bear. Thanks for the encouragement! You should SO get a mini or a pony or even cross train your horse to drive! It's so much fun and easily lets you take non-Horsepeople along!