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  • Courageous Connections

Making It Work

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

The gravel outside the barn crunches under the wheels of Sue’s motorized wheelchair. The wheels slip a little, but she adjusts the seat height to redistribute her weight, turns the direction slightly, and tries again. The horses are waiting and she is determined to reach them.

Tres sticks his head outside the barn door and watches with interest, his chestnut-red coat gleaming in the unexpected sunlight. For a few minutes, Kathy and Leah, president and instructor at Courageous Connections work with Sue and her husband, Guy, to figure out the safest way for the wheelchair to navigate a one-inch lip on the barn’s concrete floor. Sue decides that a thick rubber mat will give enough traction and incline for the chair to move safely. We hold our breath. Sue looks determined and drives the chair forward. Success! With only a small bump she navigates the obstacle. She grins; we laugh in delight.

“I knew we could make it work,” she says.

Surmounting this seemingly small hurdle opens the gateway for her to work with the horses no matter the weather.

Sue may be in a wheelchair, but she is a model of determination and, when she reaches the horses, a study in elemental joy. She loves horses, has even written a children’s book about them. When the therapeutic equine program near her closed, she contacted Courageous Connections to find out if she could fit into the program. Today is her first official day.

Leah leads Tres out to the rain-soaked field and Kathy holds his halter while Sue maneuvers her chair beside the big animal. He turns his head and blinks a little at the sound of the motor, but other than curiosity, doesn’t seem too worried. Guy brings Sue’s hard hat and curry brushes and smiles as she lifts her arms to slide the brush over Tres’s coat.

“This is so good for me,” she murmurs. The movement is great therapy for weakened arm muscles and improving core strength. The contact with the horse is clearly pure pleasure.

For half an hour, Sue chats with Kathy and Leah, but mostly focuses on Tres, gently running the brush over his flank and down his legs. His eyes half-close in bliss.

“I won’t touch the tickle spot,” she says as the brush slides down his back leg. “I’m trying to get your muddy legs, Tres. Champion that you are.”

Kathy and Leah move Tres around so Sue can reach his neck and shoulders sides, being careful to ensure her wheelchair-bound legs are not under the horse where a surprised kick could cause injury.

But there are no kicks, only a relaxed horse and a happy client.

The session is a success. Sue will be back to Courageous Connections – ready to exercise her body in an activity that enriches her heart and brings her close to the horses she loves.

The horses at Courageous Connections and Sue’s determination have made it work.

Contributing Author: Susan Brown

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