A Letter from Roberta

On August 30, 2010, my life changed forever.

Before that date I was a Senior IT Architect with IBM who designed data center networks and an avid horse breeder and rider. My partner Nancy and I had raised Appaloosa horses for 30+ years. We had 23 head of Appaloosas and Thoroughbred horses. I rode our Appaloosa herd stallions in Dressage, having shown up to First Level.

On August 30th, I sustained an on-the-job head injury. For the next year after that I pretty much slept 18-20 hours per day and when I was awake I experienced double vision, vestibular symptoms, and cognitive deficits. In January of 2012 I was referred to Dr. Danielle Erb at the Brain Injury Rehab Center. I was so relieved that her diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome meant that I would qualify for rehab services there at the BIRC center. I spent 8 weeks, 5-days a week in that program. I started vision therapy which I continue to do exercises daily. While at the BIRC center, Dr. Erb recommended Forward Stride to help me with balance and strength issues. It took two more years for my Workers’ Comp carrier to approve the therapy program provided by Forward Stride. By that time, I had thought that I would never ride again.

Considering my first words were “horse” and my next ones were “I want”, the idea of not riding again was the worse fate I could imagine. I started Hippotherapy (now Rehabilitation Services) at Forward Stride. Even being on a pony (a very great pony, Otto) with volunteers holding me on and walking was joyous.

We found that the movement and interaction with the horse improved not only my balance but vision problems that two years of vision therapy had not resolved.

About 9 months later, I graduated to the riding program. Working with the staff and horses at Forward Stride helped me gain core strength that I had lost due to the balance and vestibular issues, improve my vision, and just plain brought me joy from being on a horse again. In January, I had recognized the goals I had set to ride two days a week. I thought then how wonderful it would be to show again. Soon after, Forward Stride decided to put on a show. I was able to ride Dusty in two dressage classes. In September of this year I graduated to lessons with Amber.

Recently my partner and I found and purchased Rajun Cajun Pepper aka Pepper for me to ride. Amber helps me understand and improve my position in the saddle, my confidence, and my communication with my horse.

None of my goals to ride again would have ever been possible without the dedicated staff and volunteers at Forward Stride. My new goal is to ride Pepper in Training level classes this year and continue to improve my balance, vestibular, and vision skills at Forward Stride. Forward Stride is a wonderful program with caring people who have become like family.

Thank you Forward Stride for giving me back the joy of riding and horses!


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Did you know… more than 34% of our $500,000 annual operating budget comes from community donations? Those funds are necessary to fill the gap between what families can afford for lessons and what the true costs are. If we charged enough to cover expenses many families simply could not participate. How many needs would we leave unfulfilled? How many special people would we leave behind?

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