Right now I am fighting a Multiple sclerosis exacerbation (attack).  It started Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 around 6 or 7:00 PM.  Luckily years ago I figured out a homeopathic remedy that works with this particular type of exacerbation and after around three hours, when I was sure I was having an MS attack, I took it.

But once an attack starts it is hard to stop.  The neurologists can do it with a GRAM of corticosteroids a day for 5 days, but since I am developing a cataract and I have sort of low bone density I dare not go this route if I have an alternative.  Besides, that much corticosteroid a day drives one crazy, causes severe insomnia and “roid rages”, not my idea of fun.

Monday evening in a half hour I went from being able to walk pretty well to suddenly walking like I was in my 80’s, a big hand tremor started (around 3/8” up and that much down) and I became very weak, too weak to do the only housework I can manage, washing dishes.  By the next morning I got totally exhausted whenever I had to move around.  I took more of the homeopathic remedy and my hand tremor improved some and I made it through the day.

On Tuesday night I called Debbie to see if I could get my regular lesson on Wednesday, but she had house guests and could not give it to me.  She told me to come out and ride anyway.  Ever since my attack started I realized that I HAD TO get on a horse soon if I wanted to keep walking, so I said I would come out and ride Mia.

My son, who usually helps me with Mia had a previous commitment so my husband took me out to the barn and helped me groom Mia.  Since I was feeling a little stronger I trimmed Mia’s front hooves but there was no way I could trim her hind feet, I was not steady enough on my feet.  After I finished her right fore I looked at my husband, told him I wanted to ride but that I was very, very tired already and I wondered if he thought it was a good idea for me to spend the energy since I was staggering around.  My wonderful husband told me that I better ride since I was having an attack, so we tacked Mia up, put on the two exercise sheets, and put my new bit, the Korsteel JP copper ball full cheek snaffle in her mouth.  I even managed to walk out to the ring, but by the time I got there I was barely strong enough to get up on Mia.

I put the top exercise sheet over my thighs, this really seems to help how my muscles work in the cold.  I walked Mia around, stopping often to rest for a minute or two, and gradually picked up contact.  It was a beautiful day, sunny, just above freezing, with a gentle South breeze.  They were turning horses out and we stood and watched the horses roll, rear, buck and gallop around.  It was beautiful, the horses were SO HAPPY to get out of their stalls!  Luckily the homeopathic remedy was working and most of my hand tremor had temporarily gone away, so Mia was willing to pick up contact with her new bit as I gradually introduced her to it.  Her tongue kept nice and relaxed, not moving any more than normal with the JP Dr. Bristol and the new bit seemed to be a total (and I mean total) non-event to Mia which was a relief after last week when she was ticked off that I had not changed her bit!

After around 15 minutes of walking and just sitting on Mia I finally felt coordinated enough to try a turn on the hindquarters (at a walk and from a walk.)  It was during the turn that I finally felt Mia’s tongue moving two or three times during the turn, just gently rolling the copper ball.  I tried another turn a few minutes later and I got the same result.  At no time during my ride did Mia do any of her bit evasions (head tossing, going behind vertical or plunging her head down.)  She seemed quite content.

I rode for around 25 minutes before I got too tired to go on, and when I got off I was walking much, much better.  Even though I was a lot more tired I had no trouble walking back to the barn at my normal walking speed, though I did collapse in a chair for a few minutes as my husband took care of Mia.  Then I got back out, puttered around with Mia a few minutes, collapsed in the chair again and let my husband feed Mia her grain reward. 

I do not think I would still be walking if I had not ridden Mia. 

Before I got up on her I was staggering, walking veeeery slowly and having to hold onto something to keep my balance when I was standing since my whole body would start to tremble, and each day I got worse.  After I got off Mia I could walk so much better, I could stand briefly without having to hold onto something, and I had no problem keeping my balance when Mia briefly (and accidentally) brushed me with her hindquarters, even though I was pretty exhausted.  When I rode Mia it was like my nervous system was reminded how to stand and walk properly.  The MS attacks disorganize my nervous system and I lose physical abilities, riding Mia for 25 minutes gave me back enough mobility so I can still walk and take care of myself.  I still have to be careful when I walk but I can walk around 6 strides without a cane before I have to lean on something.  MUCH better than where I was on Tuesday!  I have brief periods when my hand tremor starts getting worse, but then it settles down to just a tiny hand tremor.  I am still very, very weak and not quite up to washing dishes.

I could not ride Mia this morning like I wanted to, it got down to 21° F with a wind chill of 10° F, just too cold for me to handle during a MS attack.  Sunday it is supposed to get above freezing, hopefully Shannon will be able to let me ride Cider, but if she can’t I think I’ll go ride Mia again since I NEED to get up on a horse again!  I won’t be able to get my lesson next Wednesday as it will be 17° F with wind.  I’ll just have to ride as much as I can, but next week will be brutal as far as temperatures go.  The sunny South is not always warm in the winter, and the next few weeks look to be pretty bad.  At least they are not predicting any precipitation during the really cold days so I luck out there.

Hopefully I have the MS attack under control.  It will still take me a while to recover from it, probably a few months until I get back to where I was before my attack.

Mia saved me.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran         

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Comment by Cathy McK on January 10, 2014 at 5:05pm

I'm so glad you didn't give up and went for a ride Jackie. I think the horses love you cause you are so knowledgeable to their emotions too. Love your story and hope you feel better. My horse helped me through my cancer bout and don't know where I would be without him. Just knowing how much they can heal is a gift in itself. Take care Jackie and I love your writings.

Comment by Coopersmom_1958 on January 7, 2014 at 12:02pm

I'm so sorry this happened, the weather has been really cold this winter so far and it's just starting. Horses are the best therapy, I believe that also. Hope you can get out more and get in some riding. 

Comment by Jackie Cochran on January 3, 2014 at 6:30pm

Let me start off saying that I think my first MS attack was when I was six.  It has ALWAYS affected me even though I did not get diagnosed until I was 42 (I am 62 now).

Before this attack I had not had an attack for years, maybe a decade?  This one was caused by sudden great stress.

I have read many things where riding helps MS people walk, and my neurologist who readily approved of me riding in a handicapped program.  I am no longer in the handicapped program, I ride (with help grooming & tacking up) independently in the ring, though I prefer to have someone walking nearby when I ride out of the ring.

Riding horses is the only reason I am still able to walk.  I restarted riding around a decade ago, and I did not replace my electric wheelchair when I wore it out. 

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