I had a pretty great early childhood, really. Even though my later childhood and early adulthood were filled with medical struggle.
I have a great family that are always supportive, happy, and laughing. My parents are supportive in everything that I try and always expect me to do my absolute best. Even when I went to art school my parents were supportive and proud of me. I was the only one I knew in art school whose parents were actually excited about it. Most parents were disappointed or viewed it as a dead end street. Both of my parents are incredibly intelligent and creative people. This trait in my parents became crucial when my health began to deteriorate.
When I was about 14 years old my legs slowly began to lose function and hurt all the time. The pain increased and the functionality decreased over a course of months and I ended up on crutches because I could not support my own weight. My parents took me to any specialist they could find including flying me to the Texas Children's Hospital on two occasions. Eventually I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder.
I started attending physical therapy, but had little improvement. My parents did not give up though, they read medical journal after medical journal. New research, new therapies, they looked for anything. They finally came upon some information that some therapists were having luck with a type of therapy called "Hippotherapy". Hippotherapy is a type of therapy that uses horses. It is a combo of physical and animal therapy. The horse's skin releases hormones that relieve stress while the horse's movement indirectly works muscles. This causes muscle memory to engage and aides in relearning movement while not experiencing pain. In my case my brain needed to be retrained and hippotherapy looked promising.
At the time there was no clinic near us that offered this kind of therapy so my parents enrolled me in riding lessons. I took to it instantly and started showing improvement. My parents decided to purchase a horse for me so I could practice every day. We couldn't afford much, but thanks to the internet we found a little half-Arabian, half-Saddlebred named Buddy that was affordable. We went to look at him and the instant he and I locked eyes I fell in love with him. He had a huge scar on one hip where he carved out muscle in an accident as a foal. He was sway backed and clubfooted. I felt connected to him because he was messed up too, just like me. We bought that little horse and brought him home.
He has an amazing personality. He is very alert and always full of mischief. He is an exceedingly hard working and willing horse, he always tries to do what you want. As I worked with him my legs improved daily and I was soon able to walk again. We found out through training that Buddy was incredibly intelligent, he learned things very rapidly and maintained them. I soon began showing the little horse and he started winning. He was small and "funny-looking", but the ribbons started piling in. He took me to nationals twice. He once impressed a judge so much that during her break she untied him and started walking him around and told me she couldn't believe that a horse with that big scar and missing muscle could move that well.
Buddy had to be retired this year despite his young age of 14. He suffers from arthritis in his neck that is pinching a nerve and causing neurological symptoms. He started tripping and was diagnosed after a series of x-rays. It was heartbreaking to retire him, I had hoped to take him further and to higher and higher levels. He did so much for me, I am able to walk because of him. I will keep him until the day he dies. I still struggle with the pain and my legs don't always work right, but my life is mostly normal. I ride other horses as therapy now, but none will ever be as close to my heart as the little horse that brought us both beyond the odds. He is truly special.
Now I want to encourage other women. Everyone has pain, it may be physical or it may be mental. Self confidence is easily lost and often hard to regain, especially when you feel that you are inferior because of deficiency. All women deserve self-confidence. All women deserve to feel they are beautiful, intelligent, and worthwhile. At times it was hard for me to feel confident or attractive. Now that I have come to terms with myself and discovered my worth I want to help other women as well. Every life is worth living fully.