Community Voice: Horse Therapy Renews a Life
Ten years ago, Lea Anthony worked part-time as a Speech Pathologist, and was active in raising her three kids with her husband. Multiple duties of motherhood left little time for herself.
Yet this lifestyle changed precipitously when she contracted multiple sclerosis, which required the use of a wheelchair. The next two years transpired as a surreal experience to her, as she hung on for the ride. She remembers asking her husband to wheel her outside so that she could "feel the wind on her face."
Before experiencing multiple sclerosis, Lea was very physical. For example, from the age of 7 she rode horses and dressage. She also snow skied with her family and ran a busy household.
As an individual with multiple sclerosis, she tried to return to work twice but landed in the hospital each time. After these experiences, she chose to go on disability, stop her work of 20 years, and reduce her stress level. Initially, Lea admits that she spent too much time sitting around at home, lost a huge amount of strength and balance, and also gained weight. She felt that she was slowly disappearing.
With time, however, she enrolled in physical therapy, and learned how to walk and function again. Then, a friend informed her of a nearby horse therapy program, Ride to Fly, in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. After months of being involved in the program, she could ride better than she could walk, which was a gift from heaven, as she had never stopped loving horses. Her "sense memory" helped put her body into position after so many years riding in her past.
Her trunk stability, balance and leg muscles strengthened, and after some time Lea was exercising the therapy horses for other students with disabilities. She even competed in a local horse show for people with disabilities and won a blue ribbon and a feature in the paper.
Additionally, with the help of a wonderful outdoor activities program, Lea snow skied again with her family. She began volunteering at a local hospital, where she enjoyed using her skills. Lea felt that her life had been resurrected through the horse therapy.
"I can never express my gratitude to all who knew I had more to live for than sitting and watching TV. Now I lift free weights when I watch TV, and think of how lost I would be had I not taken the opportunity to exercise my body. I still have multiple sclerosis, but it does not have me."
After ten years, Lea is still in remission and remains active. She feels very, very lucky and in a strange way very grateful that multiple sclerosis helped her find a new life.
"Never give up . . . Never let people tell you that you are physically finished. Go for it."