What Horses Taught Me About My Disability


I grew up in a stable home with loving parents.

The one thing they couldn’t love away is my cerebral palsy, which mostly affects my fine motor skills, coordination, balance and movement. Failure has been a part of my life since I was a child. I had to go to therapy to learn how to skip, run and even put my hair in a ponytail. Life became about rising up from failure, adapting and getting back on the horse (no pun intended). I became resilient to obstacles in front of me even though I severely lacked the confidence that I exuded. I always needed help to do simple things that, in my mind, any “normal” person could do with ease. As I grew older and started to babysit, I came to the point of being fearful of being a mother. I can never hold a baby and feed them. What if my baby needs something and I can’t physically help them? What if I hurt or drop my baby? That fear turned into acceptance that I would never be a mother because I physically couldn’t. That was one obstacle I thought I couldn’t overcome. That fear has stayed with me until a few weeks ago.

I met Rebecca in early October 2014 when she started coming to our church’s 20’s group. She immediately introduced me to Stable Moments, a program that helps foster and adopted children heal and build dependable relationships through horses. I’d always loved horses and had done a good amount of riding and hippotherapy (therapy for special needs children on horses), so I wanted to know more. But, like most 23-year-olds, I had a nine-to-five job that didn’t allow much time for going to the barn for hours on end. I thought it would stay a distant image that would never mature into more.

My life turned upside down when I lost my job in October. Did they downsize? No. It was my fault I lost my job. I was now a failure. I was a young woman with cerebral palsy, fearful of her future, unable to adapt or “get back on the horse.”

I began to believe all the lies that I was a terrible person who wouldn’t find another job. At our 20’s Halloween party, Rebecca casually mentioned that if I had time I should come to the barn to ride and learn more about Stable Moments.

The first day I came, Rebecca had to do everything for me. I felt so unstable on Jesse (the horse) that I began to feel like a failure again. I felt like an utter fool when Rebecca trotted and I had to watch. I couldn’t trot, and that saddened me to the point where I cried all the way home. I was so frustrated that I was unemployed, that my cerebral palsy got in the way of everything, and that I needed help with everything.

I loved the barn, the horses and Rebecca, so I made Tuesday my day to go to the barn and have a small respite from life. At the barn I didn’t have to think about the next interview, or the company that had rejected me, or the other company that never responded back. All I had to focus on was riding, the smell of the horses and the feeling of purpose I had with Jesse. As I kept going, guess what happened? I got better. I remember the day when I felt like I was ready to trot. I was scared. What if I fell? That would be embarrassing, and it would hurt. I decided to try and I was able to trot and post. I was elated that day and texted Rebecca, “I feel so confident in myself!” This got me thinking, if I did more than I ever thought I could with riding, couldn’t I do the same with motherhood? What the riding had instilled in me was confidence and strength, both mentally and physically, in myself. I knew where I came from — being able to do nothing to being able to do everything. I also learned it’s OK to take it slow; the first day I wanted to do everything because I thought I was a failure if I didn’t. Now I know that it’s the journey that makes me who I am. If I never went through the journey I would never be as strong or as able. It takes time to become confident and trust my abilities and myself.

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I can now say happily that I’m employed but am building time to ride and to be a volunteer for Stable Moments. This is a time that I will always cherish, but I also look forward to my first day of work. My work is a blessing in many ways. Financially, it’s afforded me to support a Stable Moments horse for a year, so the children in the program can hopefully learn what I’ve learned about the journey. Stable Moments has truly changed my life in a way I could never imagine.

This post originally appeared on StableMoments.com.

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