Archive for April 17th, 2011

The Power of Hippotherapy

My very part-time second job pretty much rocks.  I am a Testing Technician for the USEF’s Equine Drugs & Medications Program.  In a nutshell, I am part of a 4-person team comprised of 3 Testing Technicians and 1 Veterinarian which is sent to USEF- and AQHA-sanctioned horse shows to perform random drug testing of the contestants.  (The horses, not the people!)  Basically, I get paid to hang out at a horse show (with horses and horse people) for a day.

Today we were sent by the AQHA to test at a Quarter Horse show about 45 minutes from my house.  While there, I saw a miracle.  I kid you not, this was a bona-fide miracle.  Hippotherapy in action and at its very best.


The gist of the back-story goes like this:

Once upon a time, a family was very involved in AQHA Barrel Racing.  The son was very talented and had won several national titles.  Life was bright for him.  Then, one day, he was severely injured in a car accident.  He suffered brain damage and was confined to a wheelchair.


I’m a little shady on some of the finer details, like how much time passed between the accident and present day.  But–about a month ago–this kid got back in the saddle.  A remarkable achievement in and of itself, in the past 30 days he has progressed to the point of being able to compete in today’s show.  Granted, he walked and trotted his barrel patterns, which competitors typically gallop (it’s a timed event in which the fastest fault-free run wins).

Typical barrel racing.

Barrel racing modified for riders with disabilities (walk/trot).

 This kid rode his own horse (a trustworthy old soul worth his/her weight in gold) without assistance.  He was in the saddle for at least an hour (that I saw), which is an impressive amount of time for anyone challenged with (I’m assuming) muscle strength and balance issues.  His mom mentioned that since he’s been riding his physical therapist has been amazed by his progress in other areas, including his ability to walk (with support)–something he wasn’t able to do before he got back in the saddle.  Most of all, he seemed truly happy and outgoing.

And so I was reminded yet again of the amazing healing power of the horse.

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