BENEATH THE HUNT COAT
In this series, four young equestrians share their experience excelling in and out of the ring with Type 1 diabetes.
Charitable giving is at the heart of Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby, set for June 21-23 in the Reno, Nevada area's beautiful Washoe Valley. All profits from this exceptional equestrian event and social occasion are earmarked to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF). JDRF tirelessly pursues better treatments, preventions and ultimately, a cure for Type 1 diabetes and its complications through critical research.
A cure would mean restoring natural insulin production and normalizing blood sugar levels without imposing other risks to those who live with T1D.
The difficult thing about T1D is, in general, people do not understand the condition and what it means to both the person managing this condition, their family, and close friends.
In this series, junior members of our equestrian community share their experiences of living and riding with diabetes. It's not easy. These fantastic youngsters hope that, by sharing their stories, a greater consideration and generosity will be given to JDRF. Today, we highlight junior rider Alli Christy.
Much-appreciated donations can be made during the Derby or online anytime through www.jdrf.org.
Alli Christy: Riding is Freedom
Alli began riding at 8 and is now a 17-year old junior at Galena High School. She competes in the 15-17 Junior division in the Big Eq/medals and Junior Hunters.
This bright, positive young lady was diagnosed at 4 years old with T1D. (See story, California Riding Magazine, Nov. 2018.) "I was diagnosed before I started riding and my management of Type 1 has changed over this time. The big thing with Type 1 is that there are no breaks. You have to hold a gentle heart and keep constant composure. I will admit, Type 1 often adds extra stress in the heat of competition, but it will never hold me back from my goals. It is in this circumstance that I have learned how to dig a little deeper, focus a little harder, and achieve my goals. I may have Type 1, but Type 1 will never have me."
"Riding is not only my passion, but my outlet. When I'm riding, I get to focus on something other than the unpredictability of numbers and insulin dosages. I feel free. Unlike Type 1, riding is something in my control (well, for the most part!) I have control over knowing my course, my distances, my decisions, and my horse. Riding is freedom."
Discussing her routine for managing TID, Alli says, "I have to constantly check my blood sugar before and after each class, have juice boxes nearby at all times, and always have my insulin pump clipped to my sports bra or tucked into a pocket in my breeches. Sometimes I may have to drink a juice or eat at inconvenient times prior to entering a class to ensure I am safe to complete my course. Most of the time, my typical riding/Type 1 balance at a show is to have a protein bar 10 minutes prior to getting on which usually helps my blood sugars maintain steady glucose levels as I ride.
"A typical rider's biggest stress may be memorizing a course, or managing nerves at a big medal final. I also have to balance the stress of Type 1 on top of these little things. Although I would give anything to live Type 1-free, I do believe it has made me stronger and taught me how to focus. I think this has benefitted me in terms of balancing stress and nerves such as when I'm competing. Other than that, I am just like any other equestrian! I love my horse, I love to ride, and I love competing! Type 1 will never hold me back from what I love to do!"
Alli's mature approach and humor shine through. "I remember during a Maclay Flat round, my insulin pump started alarming during the class. We had just started to canter and I had to keep going and act like nothing was happening -- the show must go on! I remember going a little extra toward the center/quarter line of the ring when passing the judge, fearing they might think I had a phone alarming on me if I got close enough to be heard. When we lined up in the middle to wait for results, all my competitors were looking at me. I think they thought it was a phone alarm. I just smiled and turned it off once I got out of the ring."
"Before day-two of my Cloverleaf Medal Final in 2017, my blood sugar crashed out of nowhere. It was my first big medal final, and I had to run and grab a juice before I entered the ring. Because I was dealing with my blood sugars, by the time I warmed up and got to the in-gate, they were calling my name to go in before I had even learned the course! I had to learn it as quick as I could, before wiping away a couple tears and entering the class with a smile. Right as I exited from round two, they announced standby and called the top 10 back to work off in the ring. At this point, I ripped off my pump, which started alarming (as if things couldn't get crazier!) and tossed it to my mom as I walked in for the last round. By then, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I remember saying aloud, 'This is my day, and this cannot stop me.' I left that round a few minutes later with my first medal final win."
"You can do anything you set your mind to, with or without T1D!", Alli concludes. "You can't control your circumstances, but you can always choose how to react to your given circumstance. It is how you behave when obstacles are set in your path and where you let your mindset go that determine your success. We all can do anything, and if we can do anything, we can cure this thing, too."
We're feeling inspired by Alli for her strength, determination and winning attitude. This also serves as a fantastic reminder that each person has their own battles happening beneath the surface, so remember to treat each other with kindness and respect. Great work, Alli, and best of luck for the future!