Friday, October 14, 2016

A Stroke Survivor’s Story

By Marian Osborne

As a very physically active and strong fifty year old, I suffered a deep brain hemorrhage in 2007. Fortunately, I survived. However, it left me unable to walk. My left leg and arm were paralyzed. I was devastated as I ruminated about all the activities I loved doing that I now was unable to do: cross country skiing, biking, running and hiking.  One of my therapists suggested that I try to find an outdoor activity that would accommodate my disability rather than focus on the activities I used to enjoy prior to my stroke.  I didn’t know what those activities would be until I heard about Methow Valley Riding Unlimited.  This riding center trains able-bodied riders of all ages but also works with people who have some kind of disability be it physical, emotional or cognitive.

Mo finding her balance on Ginger
The first summer after my stroke, I signed up for a lesson.  I was paired with a very gentle, calm horse named Ginger. I was skeptical about this all working out, but went for it anyway.  To get on Ginger I walked up a ramp to which Ginger was standing parallel.  I sat down, swung my right leg over Ginger’s neck and sat straddled on her. My instructor, Annie, guided Ginger and me into the riding arena.  When I look at a picture taken of me on Ginger that day I was slumped over towards my right as my left side had no feeling. I often felt like I would fall over toward my left.  I was sitting totally off balance and crooked. The next few lessons, Annie focused on trying to get me to sit in the middle of the saddle.  The next step in my progression was to go on a short trail ride.  Going up and down hills required me to use not only my right leg but my left as well so I would not fall off!

Every summer, I rode as often as possible. I moved from walking to trotting on Ginger and then walking and trotting in figures like circles and serpentines. 

Mo and Homer on a trail ride
Now, ten years later, I have advanced to riding Homer, a horse that presents me with different challenges. Homer is more narrow than Ginger and his trot is bouncier, requiring more core strength to stay on!  All of this riding has strengthened my left leg, my back and my core muscles all of which has helped me walk better - despite the warnings from my doctor that I may never walk again. Just as importantly, it has also provided me with an outdoor activity that I love. 

I hope I can continue riding for many more years to come. Thank you to the horses and instructors at Methow Valley Riding Unlimited for being such an important part of my recovery.