Competing with an invisible illness!- “Showing care and understanding to others can make a massive difference to individuals, and enable them to enjoy their horses as much as possible”- Amy Battle
We all know that competing at any level is challenging at the best of times, let alone doing it alongside being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We recently caught up with our SPILLERS™ Brand Ambassador to find out more.
Q- Tell us about yourself?
“I am a mum to two stepchildren (13 and 15) and one daughter (4). I work as a full-time police officer and am the proud owner of Samsara who is my pride and joy. My world took a turn in 2014 when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.”
Q- How did you get into horses?
“When I was younger my parents used to take me to dance classes, but unfortunately it wasn’t something I wanted to continue. I remember coming out of a lesson and telling my parents that I no longer wanted to pursue dancing, to which they said, ‘Well, what is it you would like to do?’ I was unsure at the time, but a family friend mentioned a nice riding school in the local area to which I thought, yes that sounds more like it! The lesson was booked, and I remember turning up feeling so excited. The lesson was a huge success, and I loved every second and knew that this was the hobby I wanted to continue.”
Q- When did you purchase your first horse?
“I was lucky enough at the age of 10 to loan my first pony called Steel who I had until he was 25 and sadly passed away. I then went onto owning a couple more along the years before I found Lucky who I had years of fun on. We enjoyed the thrill and speed of team chasing and started show jumping together. After Lucky, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and not long after purchased Evie (she was quirky to say the least). Unfortunately, after a bad fall and breaking my pelvis, I knew we were not the perfect match. I understandably lost my confidence and was then loaned the wonderful Samsara (named after a perfume) to help me gain my confidence- and that is just what she did. J“
Q- Tell me about the wonderful Samsara?
“Samsara is 16.1hh British sports horse who is 18 years young and has been with me for the last 5 ½ years. She has the most kind and calming nature and just understands me. When I purchased her, she hadn’t done a lot but we grew together and become the great partnership we are today. Competing with Multiple Sclerosis bring its own challenges, but she knows me so well and adapts when needed; it’s as if she knows what I’m thinking and feeling. I suffer from a left side weakness and at times can’t feel my left foot, but Samsara never cares and cracks on with the job in hand”.
Q-What discipline as a partnership do you do?
“We usually compete in show jumping at 90-95cm but have recently completed our first 1.10m class, which was a blast. 2021 was all about giving everything ago, which is exactly what we did. We competed in our first cross- country competition and were lucky enough to have qualified for the county championships at Eland Lodge, whilst also completing our first one day event”.
Q- Talk to me about how you deal with Multiple Sclerosis on a day-to-day basis?
“I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2014 and have some days that are tough and others not so much. I have a busy lifestyle from working, being a mum and looking after Samsara but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Samsara is on DIY livery (assisted in the winter) so it is my responsibility to care for her day in day out no matter how tough it can be on my body. There are days that my body tells me no, but Samsara keeps me going and for that I will always be grateful”.
Q- What’s it like competing with an invisible illness?
“It can be tough but also very rewarding. Having an illness that is invisible comes with challenges and it is so important to raise awareness. People unfortunately don’t know what I am going through, and therefore can’t understand why sometimes when walking a course I collapse to the floor. All I can do is pick myself back up, educate them and explain my situation. I have found most competitors to be so supportive and are more than happy to help me when needed which means so much to me. I am a very determined person in every aspect of my life and I won’t let Multiple Sclerosis beat me. I love to plan lots of competitions in, so as a partnership we have something to work towards and it keeps me going”.
Q- Why is it so important to raise awareness of riding with an invisible illness?
“It is so important to raise awareness and for people to understand that not everyone is as fit and healthy as they might seem. No matter what level you compete at you are doing it because you love it. People shouldn’t feel judged and everyone should be supportive of each other goals and achievements. You could enter a 40cm class but to that rider it could mean the world and if people aren’t understanding of other riders’ situations/circumstances then you could end up knocking someone’s confidence, which could result in them not going out to compete and do what they love”.
Q- What upcoming plans do you and Samsara have?
“Our next outing is the Forces Equine Championships which we qualified for in the 90cm and 1m section”.
Q- It is clear to see how well Samsara is looking, what do you feed her and why?
Thank you so much Amy for taking the time to share your story with us. It’s so inspiring to hear how much you have overcome and how Samsara is always there for you. Best of luck at the Forces Equine Championships!