Putting my back into it

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2022

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After ducking and dodging Covid 19 for over two years with double vaccinations and boosters, the virus found a furtive opportunity through our church’s congregation and followed us home.


For us, a relatively light case: two days of feeling pretty punky and, as so many experience, fatigue that was more irritating than anything else. Despite this, barn chores were executed and completed and no critter missed their meal. The worst part of it, for me, was what I assumed was a backache—anyone who has had the virus will tell you body aches are common and crippling—and by the third day, with no relief, things were getting difficult. There was too much discomfort to sleep and every movement had to be slowly executed to avoid a flash of pain to the right lower side of my back.

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“That’s nerve pain,” said my bear-fighting friend, Ruby, who happens to also be an M.D. “The spasms you’re feeling are from a trapped nerve, but the fact that you’re so fit means you’re not suffering the sciatica pain most do when it shoots down your leg. Athletes never have leg pain, just what you have: localized.”


If I could have stood up straight and puffed out my chest with pride, I would have done so. To be perilously close to becoming a senior citizen and yet be called an athlete is heady stuff. As it was I returned to adopting the posture of a speed skater to get through my day. And then it hit me: in my illness, I had been forced not to ride for three days—a rarity in my life. I was convinced that all would be well as soon as I got my butt back in the saddle.


Don’t laugh: the use of horseback riding for therapeutic rehabilitation is common because the swing of a horse’s gait, at the walk, closely mimics the swing of a human’s walk. On the fourth day of my infection, when symptoms had abated, I tacked up one of the horses and, although I thought I’d just walk that day and take it easy, within 15 minutes I felt well enough for a light workout and the riding worked its magic: within minutes, everything loosened in my lower body and all pain vanished.


“So it appears the back pain had nothing to do with Covid,” I said to Paul, “But rather, the inactivity of lying around, not moving.”


“That’s good,” he replied. “But what happens when you get to the point when you can’t ride?”


“I don’t see that happening,” I said.


“I’d buy tickets to see you try to haul yourself up on your horse’s back when you’re 90.”


“Then you’d better buy a lot of tickets,” I remarked. “The Queen rode three months before her death. And she was 96!”


Game, set, match.