Equine Therapy with Nevada Joe
by Madeline Cline

Desi, my Peruvian Paso and I enjoyed California mountain trail horseback riding in the late 1990’s as my MS was in remission. During this time I learned of Therapeutic Riding from a co-worker. As a Special Education Teacher I was able to enroll my multi-handicapped pre-schoolers, in a therapeutic riding program which was affiliated with NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped). I was in awe of the progress as two of my students continued with the program outside the school setting. After seeing my students results I contacted a NARHA Center and began riding three times a week myself.

A leader and sidewalkers were needed as self-confidence and fear were a reality for me. The rhythmic movement of the horse engages muscles in my body which have not been reached with any other therapy. The instructor assisted in upper body and leg stretching exercises resulting in the elimination of the stiffness and leg spasms, as well as increased muscle strength. The combination of head and neck range of motion exercises, which stimulate the balance centers in the brain, has eliminated all dizziness and vertigo.

During the past five years I took a fall and broke my left femur…lack of self-confidence and fear took hold as my MS symptoms re-appeared! While progressing from wheelchair, walker and cane, I continued to experience poor balance, dizziness, vertigo, fatigue, muscle weakness, stiffness, numbness and leg spasms. Then as I began to grow stronger I was diagnosed with breast cancer resulting in a mastectomy.

Now, here I am living in Montana, riding Nevada Joe for my own “Therapy” at Shooting Star Ranch Therapeutic Riding Program. Fetching Nevada Joe from pasture, grooming and loving on him has given back my sense of independence and self confidence. Joe quietly stands as I mount and then moves along at a steady walk as I raise my arms in the air pretending to climb a ladder, reach backwards to touch his tail and then, turn around and ride backwards; bent over hugging his “rump”! Because of all of this I am reaching near to my goal of being able to trail ride, which is my greatest joy.

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