Carmalee says she’s living proof that miracles happen. In 2003, a life-altering crash caused by a drunk driver left her in a wheelchair. Seven years later, she could still only walk about 100 feet using two crutches. Then Horses for Hope called with an opening in its therapeutic riding program.
“Within a few weeks, people noticed a difference in my posture and balance,” Carmalee recalls. By the end of the first semester, she could walk around the block with crutches. A year later, she was down to a single crutch, leading horses for therapeutic riding. And today, she’s the proud owner of two beautiful Paso Fino horses, walks short distances without crutches, and when she uses crutches, can go as far as she wants.
Carmalee credits Diablo, a Quarter Pony with deep blue eyes, and the patient instructors at Horses for Hope with the dramatic improvements. For program founders Gwen Roberts and Dawn Guenot, Carmalee’s story is further affirmation of the program they started 17 years ago.
Therapeutic horseback riding offers many benefits, from physical improvements in balance and strength to cognitive and emotional benefits, ranging from enhanced problem solving to higher self-esteem. Says Carmalee, who has since earned credentials as a certified riding instructor, “I know firsthand how therapeutic riding changes lives.”