Roberta's story – juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)
Despite experiencing pain, stiffness and swelling in nearly all of her joints most days, Roberta, known to her friends as Bert, doesn’t let anything get in the way of her love of horse riding.
After riding for Great Britain in 2011, her ambition now is to ride for her other nationality, Canada, in the Rio Paralympics in 2016.
Diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when she was 15, doctors first put the pain and stiffness she felt in her fingers as common teenage ‘growing pains’ and prescribed her paracetamol.
Bert’s arthritis has worsened over the years, with her hands, ankles, ribs, neck and shoulder now particularly affected. The type of arthritis she has is systemic, which means that it affects all the tissues in her body, as well as her joints.
Having tried several different types of medication, Bert now takes anti-TNF drugs, which enable her to cope with the pain, stiffness and swelling her joints. Most importantly, the medication means she can continue to ride her horse, Wonderboy.
'Arthritis can certainly make riding my horses challenging, but I’ve learnt to adapt to the problems I’m faced with.'
Bert, who is 32 and lives in Lincolnshire, first started riding when she was four years old and last year won a place on the British Equestrian Federation’s Excel Talent Scheme.
Bert says 'I wouldn't have it any other way. I’ve ridden horses nearly all my life and my arthritis makes me even more determined to carry on and enjoy life.’