Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Cervical spondylosis and an indefinite hiatus

I really, really thought I was getting back in the saddle.  But a long delayed neurology consultation has brought that process to a screeching halt.

 My horses have always brought me so much joy

Way back in the winter I went to my PCP because I was concerned about some pins and needles problems in my hands and feet.  Fleeting, not impacting my life, but it was unnerving.  While I was there, he observed a twitch that I'd developed but had been attributed to my anxiety by my previous doctor.  It was the first time a medical professional actually saw the way my head will occasionally tic the the side all on it's own.  My little 'tic' went from anxiety quirk to real problem very suddenly.  I wasn't concerned, surely it was anxiety.  Wouldn't there be something other than a tic if I had a real problem?

Best picture of me on a horse ever taken, of course it was with my princess

I went to my consultation and got a pretty thorough examination.  My balance and coordination were overall given an A.  I had a bit of trouble with the 'touch my finger touch your nose' test but I could do it.  Just took me a second to convince my hand to hit the small target.  And he noted my range of motion in my neck is limited.  I shrugged.  No pain, my chiro has taken care of any pain and already told me that I have some bony changes.

He immediately said I was going to go get an MRI of my neck.  Apparently my little 'tic' is actually neurological.  My many years of being lawn darted by naughty ponies is coming home to roost.  My chiro mentioned that my neck was pretty screwy after she took an x-ray but I wasn't actually concerned because I had no pain.  I went to her for my SI pain (which she got completely under control) and I only noticed a difference in my neck when my sleep improved.  Apparently my neck is a bit of a big deal.  A very big deal.

The meathead taking me around my Training level eventing debut

Here's where it gets hard.  I need to avoid irritating my neck while my chiro gets things under control.  She's made a lot of progress while I've been on my riding vacation.  She's not exactly eager for me to go back to beating my spine up by sitting trot.  My neurologist is throwing a flag on the play because I really shouldn't be taking a blow to the head and neck.  Theo is wonderful but he's got a mother of a spin.  It would be very easy for me to have a violent interaction with the ground.  The word 'paralysis' was brought up.  I really, really don't want to be paralyzed.

Mi papi has always been a handsome dude

Theo is going to be heading to a new barn near Trainer D.  She will be keeping him happy and in work.  He's really bonded with her and she loves him.  He will, frankly, not miss me a bit.  He's got a very nice lady that sees him five times a week and thinks he hung the moon.  He'll teach some kids to jump and some nervous ladies to canter.  Trainer D wants to take him to some shows and I can play the part of supportive owner.  I'll wear a sun dress and a big hat.

Best dressage pony

As for me?  I'll keep running (approved activity) and road cycling (approved activity).  I'm allowed to do some mountain biking but I need to buy a neck brace in case of unplanned dismounts.  Full suspension bike is actually pretty easy on the neck and the chiro would rather have me on the mountain bike where I'm more upright.  Neurologist is a mountain bike rider himself and thinks the road is better for avoiding dumb crashes but the neck brace is a solid compromise.  It's almost like he knows what I'm going to do while I'm goofing around on trails . . .

Regional championships

I'm heart broken, no lie.  It's been very difficult for me to accept this.  Will I get back in the saddle in the future?  I don't know.  Posting trot and cantering out of the saddle are not a problem and Theo is settling with age.  It's quite possible you'll see us in the future doing 2' hunter courses with my fanny never really touching the saddle.  My chiro is feeling good about my progress and doesn't think I'll be so limited in the future.  If he completes his transition to perfect school master, he'll be perfect for letting me put my foot in the stirrup again.  But that's not today.  Today, I am starting to pack up his gear and bringing my dressage gear home.

Reviewing our tests at a show

This wasn't the ending I'd planned for my dressage career but we achieved so much, I can't be too disappointed.  I certainly won't throw myself into a desperate attempt at getting those last scores at the risk of more neurological damage.  I'm only 41.  I have a lot of years to plan for and if I play my cards right now, those years will be pain-free and active. 

Champion at New England Western Dressage Championships

So the blog will probably be on indefinite hiatus as it's a horse blog and I won't be in the saddle.  I expect to post the occasional update and if Theo goes to a show, I will definitely post pictures.  Maybe, one day, I'll get the green light and you'll see pictures of me in the saddle again.

Second level super star

Until then, give your ponies a hug and enjoy any chance to get in the saddle.


  1. What horrible news. Glad you are taking care of yourself & have people looking after you.

    I will miss reading about your adventures. Your writing & drawing are so amusing. Perhaps, in the future, consider a new blog with a different focus? The Internet can always use entertaining voices.

  2. Ugh what a tough hand to be dealt right now. But you're so right. You're 41. You have a TON of riding years left, just look at Queen Elizabeth! Take care of yourself now and know you have a wonderful partner up for whatever you can do in the future.

  3. Well that's not a good outcome :( I'm glad you got answers and that you caught this problem before you were paralyzed, but that's still tough and especially at such a young age. My heart breaks for you. For whatever it's worth, I would be very interested in seeing biking (and running) updates if you wanted to keep the blog going.

  4. I am so sorry for the diagnoses but I'm glad you actually had some doctors who were looking to dig further rather than having you find out the hard way.

  5. I'm so sorry to hear what your doctors have said :( I'm glad you're listening to them though and that you were able to catch this before it's too late. Horse people have such a bad habit of not fully taking care of ourselves. If it gives you any solace, there is a woman at my barn who sustained a back injury a while ago. She was out of the saddle for an extended period of time, and when she came back, she had to retrain her young horse to not rely so much on seat cues. It hasn't been easy, but she's going around 3'0" courses all while not being able to truly sit down in the saddle. If there's a will, there's a way.

  6. what a blow, i'm so sorry to read this but really commend your attitude and decision making here. hang in there and heal! and in the meantime, my fingers are crossed that you see best case results!!

  7. Deepest sympathy to you, kudos to your doctors, and thank you for your blogging. I always loved reading about your adventures. I hope you and Theo are a team again.