Jousting & Horses with MS?

Jousting PassWow, how time flies sometimes. I had been putting off writing this blog entry for a bit because I was not really sure I wanted to write it. Fundamentally, I suppose, by it to words it confirms what I likely already know in my head, if that makes sense to anyone. To explain, I guess I have to back up a little bit for those folks that do not already know me. One of my big hobbies over the last ten or more years has been doing things with horses. That includes anything from light trail riding, breeding some when I had the full farm, lots of training (both them and myself), and of course doing medieval things for show and pleasure. By medieval things I mean anything from a light demo in costume of what squires did to train up to full tilt jousting. The question I have now is can I still do any of this and if so, what parts?

My seeming in ability to stay balanced on a horse, especially at speed, was my first clue that there was something up with me. Now granted, going down a list at a full gallop in roughly eighty pounds of armor and getting with a piece of wood coming at you for a combined speed of about sixty miles per hour is apt to make anyone off-balance, but I have done that many times before without problem and I was sometimes having an issue when the lance was not involved. From there, it got worse, not better.

Even in those same days I would sometimes feel off-balance (or more like I was going always slightly to one direction), but I was attributing it to not eating healthy. After all, I am away from home for over week. I have no one around that nags me and so I tend to eat when hungry but I admit, with the heat (this was in Mississippi) combined with the armor, often the idea of eating food is a sickening thought of its own. I also know, from past experience of going to far, that I have pushed it to being light-headed. Then I got home, and despite a clear return to better food choices the off-balance issues got worse. I ended up not practicing the riding that needed to be done for a big jousting event I scheduled to attend. As it got worse and I started seeing Doctor after Doctor (so it seemed at first) I bowed out of a that competition and several other commitments I had for the late spring/early summer.

Now I find myself knowing what the issue is (MS, the very reason for this blog). I also find myself getting along pretty good most of the time. Shortly after the diagnosis I got a round a steroids, as that is supposed to help relieve the pressure on the nerves that have lost the protective covering (as I understand it, that is what the big problem is, after whatever causes the immune system to attach the nervous system, nerve fibers in the body have the protective coating if you will stripped or at least damaged). At first, I really didn’t see much difference in the off-balance issues and certainly there was no change if I was either in the heat or doing something to get hot. About two weeks later, when I got started on my actual MS meds it seemed like the balance issues really got under control and almost went away.

Almost I say, because every time I started to think I have not really felt off-balance or anything for the last couple of days… Of course it was about that time of not being off-balance for a couple of days I am also starting to thing with the job the steroids are doing and maybe being past a big flare up I can go give a test ride to one of the horses and maybe figure out a way to make this all work… That of course would be when I would get a reality check in the balance stuff. One of the first one of those, several days after no issues occurred after coming home from a fishing trip. I was unloaded the car, starting laundry, putting away laundry, moving fishing gear up to the deck to hose it all off, and some general cleaning/organizing in the garage. A lot of work, a very warm day, very rapidly up and down stairs, and just when I was going to pause for a cold drink out of the fridge – BAM!

I was walking to the kitchen from the stairs coming up from the basement when I started feeling off-balance just a little. By the time I got to the kitchen I was afraid I was going to fall through the front window instead of end up facing the fridge. I steadied myself for a while there and then eventually sat down for a long break. After a while it passed.

The thing my mind though, is if this is from some mild activity on a hot day in a pair of shorts what is it going to be like on a really warm day, typically out in the sun for doing jousting? Jousting is almost in sunny weather it seems and always generally warm. Armour is hot, both wearing it and especially putting it on. I probably sweat out half a gallon or more just getting harnessed on a warm day. Grooming and tacking the horse can be warm, but part of that is done in armor. Warm ups, and then the adrenaline (part of my attraction to the sport) kicks in with the beginning of first passes. Generally I am not a complainer and I do not think the heat of the padding and armor is really all that bad of thing, but the same time, I do recognize that it exist and even builds up in there. I have great concerns about how that would play out given that I know heat tends to trigger the balance episodes.

Take it back a step, and consider why I have not been on a horse since March of this year at this point at all. Just going out and getting a horse ready this summer would have me generally getting very warm. After all, when it has not rained several days in a row we have had several days of above normal temperatures. I admit it, I am slightly concerned that I would end up being warm enough that in the end I would up being off-balance or worse having one of those cases like the kitchen window/fridge that comes on super quick. I am not so afraid of actually coming off a horse, that has happened more than once with green horses or way back when I was still learning to ride, especially when you mix in my share of stupid at various times. But trying to not be stupid and realize there is also no reason to add an additional level of coming off on a regular basis into the mix.

At this point, I am still just not sure where and how this is going to come out. I am not sure if this means my medieval spurs just need to be hung up or not. Clearly it is not something I really want to do. I have not really even considered the aspect of the ground fighting with the SCA, which I was really just getting going with that last year or so prior to all this. Maybe this is the nudge to get more involved in the arts and sciences aspect of the SCA – which I have always tried to make kits and accessories more correct to period, but have often accepted a certain level to go play in the tiltyard. And what focus? Doing up an awesome jousting kit set of pieces would make me sad if I could never get to use it.

*** – Originally published on MyLifeMS.com, July 27, 2011.