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 Confessions of a Recovering Equiholic

Layla Watkins

Let me begin by saying that this is very difficult to write. Partially due to the content and partially because I am writing it with a broken arm and shoulder. So if you'll forgive the occasional typo, I promise to be open and honest about the monkey I call Equiholism.

It has been said that addicts must hit rock bottom before they find the strength to pull themselves up. I can think of no addiction where this is more literally true than with Equiholism. I say "literally true" because I literally did hit the bottom, kissed the dirtůsplat. Actually, my arm and shoulder hit first, but my heart soon followed. The accompanying tears were as much from pain as they were from sadness, frustration, and unbelievable disappointment.

Trip and I had come so far, why did this have to happen NOW, just two days before our first event together? He was jumping beautifully, I was riding better, and everything just seemed to be clicking. Then with one thud, two pops, and several choice words I found myself in the middle of an intervention. It was time to face the facts and seek treatment for my Equiholism. First stop - the ER.

As the doctor reviewed my x-rays and history of prior equine induced visits, he said, "I hate horses. They are big, dumb animals." To which the nurse replied, "Don't say that. She obviously loves them, or she wouldn't keep doing it." Me and my morphine just stared blankly through the tears. But the nurse was right, I do love them - they are a part of who I am. How can I possibly give that up? But, I can no longer ignore the facts - something has to change. I can't afford to keep getting hurt and I just don't bounce as well as I used to. So with that, I made my decision. I know it will be hard but my mind is made up - I hereby renounce the Emergency Room. The pivotal question is "How?"

Since giving up riding altogether is simply not an option, I must give up the aspect that sends me to the ER. Namely, getting thrown. Easier said than done? Of course. But, I CAN take steps to minimize the likelihood of it happening. And no, I'm not going to quit eventing, I'm going to make myself better at it. Again the question is "How?"

Continuing lessons and consistent work in between are definitely important. But what I have come to accept is that in order to get better at what I love, I have to do some things that I don't - diet and exercise. I need to get fit, get strong, and get healthy. To be honest, my motivation is not so that I can live a longer life (although that is a nice side effect) - my motivation is so that I can ride better. That is a powerful motivator for me, and thank God it is, because I know from past experience that it is not easy. In fact, I have battled with my weight all my life. I've had ups and downs but have never been truly fit. But at this point, if I want to continue doing what I love, I've got to give my body a fighting chance. Because of Equiholism, I did hit the bottom. But, I am pulling myself back up and am more determined than ever. I'm going to ride, I'm going to event, and I'm going to be good at it. I know that I will have some fear when the time comes for me to get back on - my confidence is going to need some rebuilding. But the me getting back on is going to be a lot stronger, physically and emotionally, than the me that came off.

So for now, my husband watches with amusement as I do my exercise videos with discombobulated arm movements. My doctor shakes his head in disbelief as I ask him when I can start riding again. My coach reminds me to be patient as he schools my horse for me. As for me, I thank God that it wasn't worse and for the family and friends that are helping me through my recovery.

My name is Layla, and I'm an Equiholic.

Read other articles by Lalya Watkins