Health Topics: My Asthma Wake Up Call

What one asthmatic decides and how she copes when discovering her exercise-induced asthma may keep her from enjoying what she loves most, riding her horse.

My relationship with asthma hit me quite abruptly on a trail ride. It wasn’t until this incident that I realized asthma could take my life. But I did get control of the asthma and the attacks with the help of a doctor and my friends.

As you know asthma can be brought on as the result of an allergy. So I went through the allergy testing and found out that I am allergic to cats and horses, the two greatest treasures in my life. I was devastated. I had exercise-induced asthma. When I came to terms with the news and decided that the pets would stay was when I took control of my demon, asthma.

Health Topics: My Asthma Wake Up Call

On certain days at the barn, (hot, over 90, and humid) I had attacks. Other days I had no trouble riding or brushing my horse. I tried several lessons but I could only ride for the first 10 minutes because as the lesson would progress my lack of air was more severe and I lost muscle strength to keep me in the saddle. My emergency inhaler was always close at hand in case of an attack.

Several times my instructor had to help me walk to the cool barn and then she would remove the tack from my horse since I couldn’t lift my arms to do it. As the attack subsided I was still weak but able to move about without assistance. My breathing would recover quickly but the rest of my body took much longer. It was difficult and exhausting to walk to the barn leading my horse.

I was mad. Mad at my body for taking away the things I like most in my life. I was angry that I couldn’t seem to get this demon under control. Watching everyone else out having a wonderful day with their horses upset me because I couldn’t get near mine.

I found out what and why some days were worse than others and took steps to prevent an attack. I carried my inhaler and cell phone with me in a fanny pack around my waste. I also carried a bottle of water fastened to the saddle. During the drive to the barn, I took my inhalers. At the first sign of any effort to breathe, I used the inhaler. Sometimes I only needed the inhaler once. Other times I used it about every 10 minutes.

With the understanding of everyone I work with, my family, and barn friends, I can now participate in everything I did before. I am no longer embarrassed to use my inhalers around people. The kids ask me what I’m doing with the inhaler and why. I couldn’t be happier telling them what asthma is and what’s happening.

On a trail ride the other day, the girl I rode with asked me if I wanted to stop walking the horses so I could take my inhaler. I told her I think I would and we did. We now have nothing but happy trails.

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