I was born with a deformed left hip joint. My parents, ranchers in North Central Texas, discovered the problem when I failed to walk around age one in the mid-1950s.
My life journey since then has included a number of challenges. Starting at age one, I spent six months in a “frog cast” from my armpits to my ankles to force the deformed hip socket to change from a plate shape to a more normal cup shape. Then when I was 28 years old an orthopedic surgeon told me that it would be a bad idea for me to go through a full-term pregnancy because my left hip joint was still fairly deformed. Finally, at age 52, I had successful total hip replacement performed by a talented Dallas surgeon (a grateful shout-out to Dr. Michael Champine!). Recently, I found out that my birth defect was caused by a rare connective tissue defect called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
Now as a bionic babe, I am trying to live my life as normally as possible. For several years I assumed that I could never ride a horse again since tradition dictates that riders have to use their left legs to pull themselves up on horses’ left sides. Many horses would spook if riders tried to mount them from the right side.
This was a tough blow for a kid who got her first horse — a sweet paint horse named “Pronto, the Pinto” — in second grade. I was one of those horse crazy little girls who had horse figurines on a display shelf in her bedroom and adored books by Walter Farley, the author of The Black Stallion. Farley helped me to fall in love with reading.
Two years ago one of my friends who is a fellow horse addict suggested that I check out therapeutic riding places in the Dallas area. Known as hippotherapy (“Hippos” is Greek for horse), this type of therapy uses specially trained horses to help people with all types of disabilities. A recent magazine article in Experience Life magazine titled “Horse Power”
explains how hippotherapy helps riders boost their self-confidence through interaction with horses.
Starting in January 2014, I began taking riding lessons and volunteering at SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center in Corinth, Texas, which is north of Dallas. The facility serves adults with various health challenges and disabled children with conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy. Providing free services to financially disadvantaged children, the facility uses specially trained horses and staff to ensure the safety of the riders. They also have adaptive aids such as a wooden mounting platform with steps to help riders easily mount the horses.
The wonderful horses and staff at SpiritHorse have greatly enriched my life by letting me get back in touch with my inner cowgirl.