Horseback Riding in Poland with T1D

WRITTEN BY: Lisa Chrzanowski

I was born in 1996 in Paterson, New Jersey, and my home is in Kinnelon, New Jersey. I currently live and train in Warsaw, Poland though. I graduated high school at the American International School of Warsaw, which makes me what we call a “third culture child” — I was born in one place, live in another and study in a multicultural environment. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in August 2007 at age 11. I started riding when I was 8 years old and haven’t stopped, even after my diagnosis with diabetes.

After diagnosis, it was decided not to let me stop being active and it soon proved the right thing to do, even though horseback riding and jumping in particular is a dangerous sport since you are prone to falls and injury. The health benefits, however, outweigh the risks. I maintain virtually the same insulin to carb ratio and insulin tolerance since my diagnosis nine years ago, and my sensitivity to the hormone didn’t decrease. All that happened was the increase of my daily insulin requirement, based upon my weight as I grew and developed.

My sensitivity to the hormone goes up by 75% post riding and this means that in case of a correction, I require 75% less insulin versus at resting metabolic rate or when I am home on my day off. I ride five days a week and 3-4 horses per day, and when I compete, it is a full seven-days-a-week gig. I compete internationally and travel to competitions at least two weeks a month. I also have a young student and take care of his horse on daily basis. Show jumping is really a lifestyle; we do live for the animals and manage our time around their needs. Horses are athletes just like humans and must be treated and cared for as such.

I manage my condition with the help of an insulin pump and CGM; this is easier especially when on competition. I love what I do and can’t imagine my life without horses. I am also a full-time student at Kozminski University doing my bachelors in science in business management with marketing. KU is very supportive to my needs, especially with days off due to travel. I also represent them during University Championships.

In addition to this, I am the face and co-funder of an awareness and sports campaign called “Together We Conquer Obstacles.” The idea is to use this slogan for education and use this international program to engage diabetic youth in horseback riding and make this form of activity a part of daily diabetes management. We raise funds to offset costs of riding lessons for less fortunate kids and teens. The program is not yet in operation but we hope with the right sponsorship we can launch soon.

My lifetime goal is to one day make it to the U 25 finals, European Championships, World Cup and perhaps even Olympic Games. This year I qualified with two of my youngsters for Polish Young Horse Championships and might even qualify for FEI Young Horse World Championships in Lanaken, Belgium, which is exciting!

As always the issue is funding, as the higher you jump, the more horses cost. Right now I have four promising mounts: a 7-year-old Belgian warm blood mare, two Zangersheide stallions and a 3-year-old son of the famous Cornet Obolensky, (but he’s still a baby). I still search for that “soul mate,” the horse of my lifetime, the partner who’s going to take me to the top. I am young though, and I know he or she will be there waiting for me when my time comes. In the meantime, I want to show others that diabetes didn’t disqualify me from riding, but instead made me healthier, stronger and even more capable than before. I think that show jumping is a lot like daily life with Type 1 diabetes — the disease presents many obstacles in front of us, but with proper management, support and education, those obstacles can be conquered without a fault. I believe that the worst fear is not what will happen if I fail, but what will happen if I quit.

Read Start Working Out with T1D by professional trainer Christel Oerum.


Lisa Chrzanowski

Lisa Chrzanowski is 20 years old and is currently a student as well as competitive horseback rider in Warsaw, Poland. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11 and has continued to ride ever since. She is the founder of a campaign entitled "Together We Conquer Obstacles," which encourages youth with diabetes to increase their mental and physical strength by participating in competitive sports such as riding.