My name is Darlene, I am 58 years old and have Cerebral Palsy. I started riding with the PR Therapeutic Riding Association in October of 2010. When I had my first ride my body was a very willing but stiff passenger on my horse Sitka. I say passenger because my muscles were more just there and letting the horse do all the work. I would bounce along with a smile so wide that you could not help but notice my joy. We have one place on our trail ride where we have the option to do the “dip” or not. The first time I thought that I would never be able to get the leaning right, to lean back on the horses’ rear when you are going down into the hole and then leaning forward when you are going up the other side.
I have met and worked with the most fantastic volunteers. I have a leader who guided the horse through the trail. I have two side walkers that kept my feet in position walking alongside my horse each step of the way.
Ride by ride every muscle in my body, from my neck to my feet, were being gently manipulated by the natural movement of my horse. Without really noticing at first when I got on my horse my muscles sort of knew what I was expecting them to do. It was by no means easy but I could see improvement in my posture, my hand coordination and my movement of my hips.
My session is ending for the summer. When I got on Sitka this last week I noticed quite a few things that startled me. First off I realized that for the first time (that I really noticed) I was no longer just a passenger along for the ride.
Through patience and guidance by my side walkers and my instructor I was controlling my horse and making her do what I wanted. I used the reigns and made her walk where I wanted her to go. My body did not bounce, it moved with the horse. My hips would move with the rhythm of the horse’s movement, one hip rising when the horse took a step, and the other hip falling in natural progression.
When it came time to do the “dip” I didn’t even give it a second thought. My posture and leaning at the appropriate time was “graceful” so I was told. Not a phrase that I have heard about myself. It is such a special gift that was given me. Through all you care and encouragement you have given me a new self worth that will last a lifetime.
I started out to tell you what has happened to my body in the last year but at the end of it all I think what I am really trying to say is Thank You. All of the participants cannot tell you how much it means but I hope in some way I could put into words, for them and myself, how much all your hard work and dedication means to us.