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How Horseback Riding Helps Me as a Teen With Cerebral Palsy

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I started horseback riding lessons when I was 4 years old as a form of therapy. As I got older it became my passion.

For about 7 years I was riding with two side-walkers and a leader all the time. I wanted to try going without side walkers because there was a part of me that knew I didn’t need them, but I didn’t have the confidence to ride independently and neither did my instructor. Riding completely changed for me when I got a new instructor who really pushed me outside my comfort zone and said “you don’t need side walkers.” From that point on I continued to grow as a rider.

Riding became a escape from everything because I was riding completely independently with no side walkers or a leader. It was just me and the horse. I would get this special feeling when I was riding that’s hard to explain, but it felt like I could be who I am inside — just a regular teenage girl. No matter how bad or good my week was, whenever I went riding it made me happy. Until one day when I couldn’t get on the horse.

It was my first week back to riding after being off for the winter, and I was really excited until I went to get on the barrel to stretch and couldn’t. My right hip was hurting when I tried to spread my legs around the barrel. I was devastated! It’s like there was a part of me that knew something was wrong before anyone else did.

In the first year of not being able to ride, I had a really hard time emotionally because I not only lost a part of me, I also lost the one thing that made me happy no matter what was going on in my life. It got easier to deal with when I was dealing with my surgeries and rehab, because I was preoccupied and I was unable to do everyday things independently like use the bathroom. The thought of riding was always in the back of my mind, so whenever we saw the surgeon we brought up the point that I am a horseback rider so we could make the best decision to let me get back to riding.

Once I finally got my hip replacement I started to get back to being the independent girl I always was, but I can’t say I was back to my old self completely. For about a year I was struggling with my mental health, because even though my body was healthy and I was physically able to ride again, I had nowhere to ride. I got a point where I didn’t think  horseback riding would fix everything because I just felt down and depressed. It turned out I was wrong; riding was the answer!

For my 18th birthday, my mom gave me the best gift I could ever ask for… horseback riding lessons! I have finally found myself back in the saddle where I belong! There are not enough words to explain how happy I am to again be doing what I love. Never give up on what you really want!

Originally published: October 8, 2018
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