My parents owned a riding school called
Sweetbrier. They moved there when I was a
baby so as long as I can remember, I wanted to ride well and compete in horse shows. I started riding at about four years old before I could walk very well.
I was born prematurely. At first, doctors said I would be slow at meeting certain milestones. I talked in complete sentences at one-year-old, but when I wasn’t walking at nearly four, my dad took me to a specialist. The doctor said I’d never walk. As you can imagine, my dad was not pleased. He was a determined person who never accepted something he thought he could change.
Therefore, my dad picked me up and stormed out of the office. My dad told me not to worry about what the doctor said because it was wrong. Daddy said he’d teach me to ride and I’d be fine. It was the decision that changed my life because I learned to walk and began working toward my dream of becoming an equestrian champion. Incidentally, I always referred to my dad, as “Daddy” because nothing else fit. We had a special bond.
What is your handicap? What specific struggles did you have early on that made it difficult to fulfill your dream?
I was born with cerebral palsy. It means part of my brain was damaged when I was born. In my case, it only affects my legs, not my arms or speech. At first, it was a struggle to take one step without falling. I don’t believe most parents would have considered riding horses when walking was a considerable challenge in the beginning. When I started learning to walk, I could only walk a step without falling, but gradually, my balance improved.
I loved being with the horses so I used to navigate the stairs by sitting down. Then I crawled to the barn, which was probably 500 feet away.
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