By DeeDee Conrad on Jan 23, 2018 at 12:04 AM in Rider Stories

Has increased balance and leg strength

Dani Hearts Riding Santa Barbara

Dani suffered a spinal cord injury 5 years ago. As a quadriplegic, she has limited strength in her core and paralysis through much of her body. Sitting in a wheelchair all day causes severe back and spine pain, while the stagnancy can also make her tense. Riding at Hearts, she’s been able to tackle physical as well as emotional challenges. As she focuses intently on balancing while riding her horse, her back pain dissolves and she is able to overcome fears and anxieties associated with her condition.

“What I like best about Hearts is Devon, my trainer. She is willing to push me to try new things. But she can also read how I feel before I say anything so I really trust her. I love my volunteer side walkers Duane, Shannon and Yvonne, to name a few. I know they cared about me. We all looked forward to seeing each other every week. I also appreciated that so many volunteers were able to work with me and perhaps gain some insight into the life of differently abled people in general. I learned to love the horses and they definitely knew to be gentle with me. They were so sweet. Buddy is very smart and I was thrilled that he listened when I told him to ‘walk on’.”

“The highlight of my summer was trotting for the first time on Buddy and a second time on Mondo. I never thought this would be possible with my poor balance and leg spasms, but Devon and my volunteers believed in me. Trotting seems easy enough to most people, but for me it was exhilarating and empowering!”

Photography by Emily Hart-Roberts

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