Dancing Through Adversity: Woman’s Journey with Horses from Tragedy to Triumph


Dancing in the Rain with Horses

She Discovered a Whole New World When She Learned to Dance in the Rain with Horses. She now wants to give back to her neighbourhood.

From the age of 4, I have spent my whole life seated. I was paralysed from the chest down in a vehicle accident. Back in 1979, the idea of nationally required automotive safety seats was still a long way off. I have to live my life differently because of my disability. I was taught at a young age that I had to discover my strengths and act fearlessly on them.

I had a long-standing ambition of riding a horse. But there were several physical obstacles along the road. My family was my support system; in the end, we got together in a nearby stable. Using components from an old wheelchair, my husband altered a Western saddle for me.

I felt a newfound feeling of freedom the first time I got behind the reins of a gentle Tennessee Walking Horse mare. My body was stirred by the mare’s soft, rhythmic walking motion, which is comparable to a human’s. It was the closest I had gotten to walking as an adult, physically speaking. Riding a horse also opened my eyes to fresh perspectives. I was feeling the world at a deeper level than I had ever experienced before. I was perfectly aligned with my spouse!

It only took me one ride to become hooked. I started to have more balance and flexibility after a few rides. My family and friends made it possible for me to have a genuine trail ride rather than just riding a horse across an arena. Additionally, I learned how to properly saddle and bridle a horse, mount and dismount, and other fundamental horse care techniques. And like every other rider, I had to take care of my equipment.

To put it another way, I developed my bond with horses naturally via actual ranch labour. Actually, working with horses has become such a fulfilling experience for me that I now want to assist others in gaining the same benefits from equine-assisted therapy.

Research has shown that anybody dealing with a physical, emotional, or behavioural handicap may benefit particularly from horseback riding. Strangely enough, it all stems from those beautiful horse motions. They let riders to feel movement in three dimensions: side to side, up and down, and forward and backward. This intricate movement simultaneously activates the rider’s muscles, brain, and nerves, producing amazing effects.

Additionally, engaging in equestrian activities both within and outside of a therapeutic context enhances social well-being (confidence, mobility, independence), emotional functioning (concentration, self-awareness, empathy), and physical functionality (balance, strength, coordination).

An absolute wealth of advantages! And for that reason, I’m determined to create my own 501(3)c—a therapeutic riding center—here in my hometown in eastern Georgia.

“Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain” is one of my favourite sayings by Vivian Green. Putting disabled persons in saddles gives them a renewed feeling of independence and inspires them to take charge of their lives and succeed.

Leslie Ostrander, her husband, their two teenage boys, and two horses who were saved all reside in Fortson, Georgia. With her intentions to create an adapted riding centre in her community, she has also discovered a new passion and purpose. To learn more or to support her efforts, drop an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Therapeutic Riding.”



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