Risk and re­ward

Like any par­ent, I try to do what’s best for my kids and that means tak­ing a chance on horses.

EQUUS - - Eq Backpage - By Joanne Mes­zoly

Even the most pa­tient and will­ing pony has his break­ing point, which is why Rocky is can­ter­ing unchecked along the rail with my youngest child cling­ing to his neck.

At just 5 years of age, Brynn has de­vel­oped a rid­ing tech­nique that con­sists mainly of do­ing what­ever it takes to stay on. Her legs barely pass the sad­dle flaps and she some­times has trou­ble han­dling the reins, but she is un­daunted. Plod­ding around the ring isn’t suf­fi­cient; she wants to can­ter. And on this par­tic­u­lar day, she’s been nag­ging Rocky by flap­ping her arms and kick­ing him in­ces­santly with her heels. He trots placidly for a while be­fore re­spond­ing to the goad­ing with a can­ter. Then he starts length­en­ing his stride.

From across the ring, I see the prob­lem: Brynn wants to pull back on the reins, but she’s re­luc­tant to let go of the mane. Even­tu­ally, she lifts one hand, but the reins are too long to slow the pony.

I run across the ring to in­ter­sect Rocky’s path. He spies me and slows down.

“I was OK with go­ing that fast,” Brynn says breath­lessly when she fi­nally stops.

“Well, I want that to be your choice, not the pony’s,” I re­ply.

Most par­ents worry about their kids fall­ing off and get­ting hurt. Or get­ting kicked in the barn, or stepped on while groom­ing a horse.

Rarely do I think about the risk of horse-re­lated mishaps. But I do worry about barn dirt and dust. I fret about the par­ti­cles stirred up in the air and the bac­te­ria they might con­tain---and what they could do to Brynn.

My daugh­ter has cys­tic fi­bro­sis (CF), a ge­netic, chronic dis­ease that causes the body to pro­duce thick mu­cus, which leads to di­ges­tive com­pli­ca­tions and com­pro­mised lung func­tion. Like oth­ers with CF, Brynn re­ceives daily med­i­ca­tion and air­way clear­ance ther­apy. Twice a day, she is teth­ered to a vest and a ma­chine that “thumps” her chest to loosen the mu­cus in her air­ways. We also visit the hos­pi­tal fre­quently to un­dergo tests and dis­cuss ways to op­ti­mize her lung health.

On one of our many hos­pi­tal vis­its, I men­tioned that Brynn rides horses, and the phys­i­cal ther­a­pist’s face lit up. She ex­plained that rid­ing and other “bouncy” ac­tiv­i­ties can help with air­way clear­ance.

It was nice to hear that some­thing we were al­ready do­ing might help. Some peo­ple with CF start rid­ing be­cause of the pos­si­ble ben­e­fits. But Brynn hap­pened to be born into a horsey fam­ily. Rid­ing has al­ways been an op­tion.

The doc­tors, how­ever, are more guarded about Brynn’s eques­trian pur­suits. They talk about the risks of ex­po­sure to dust and par­ti­cle mat­ter, and the po­ten­tial in­tro­duc­tion of new in­fec­tious agents into her lungs. What they do not say, be­cause of course I al­ready know, is that in some­one with CF, lung in­fec­tions can be dev­as­tat­ing.

Like other CF par­ents, I con­stantly pon­der germ risk. I think twice about tak­ing Brynn on an air­plane, or ex­pos­ing her to other crowded, con­fined spa­ces. It’s easy to be­come pre­oc­cu­pied with un­known, invisible risks.

But my hus­band and I al­low Brynn to par­tic­i­pate in ac­tiv­i­ties like any other kid. And rid­ing is a no-brainer. We live in a ru­ral area and we have horses. They’re a part of our lives.

More im­por­tant, Brynn is horse crazy. She loves put­ter­ing around the barn and duck­ing un­der the stall guards to pick hooves or dole out hay. She loves rid­ing and re­cently be­gan fox hunt­ing with me.

At times, Brynn is a stub­born, dif­fi­cult kid, and get­ting her to do her daily CF ther­apy is an on­go­ing chal­lenge. But I see that same de­ter­mi­na­tion when she tries to hal­ter her pony or can­ter unas­sisted in the ring. And I wouldn’t want to tem­per that pas­sion or re­strict her op­por­tu­ni­ties to ride or han­dle horses. The re­ward is too great. BAL­ANC­ING ACT:

Be­cause Brynn has cys­tic fi­bro­sis, rid­ing has the po­ten­tial to both ben­e­fit and harm her health.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.