Why We Love Spirit!

Francine Catterton - Rider

Let me introduce myself, my name is Francine Catterton. I was born three months premature and diagnosed with the birth defeat: Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral palsy. I had eight operations on my legs prior to the age of ten and years of physical therapy in order to walk and become independent. After an injury in college that put me in a wheelchair, I was told by doctors that I would not be able to walk past the age of thirty due to the pain and daily maintenance required for such a physically emending task. I was devastated.

Then I found therapeutic horseback riding and it has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. Since I began riding approximately seven years ago, I no longer use a power wheelchair for mobility and have gone from taking 25 doses of assorted medications on a daily basis for various reasons to only 2 medications.

When participating in therapeutic horseback riding through Spirit Therapies, I can go three days without any medications. The physical results of my horseback riding lasts 3 days and I do not need medicine to minimize the spasticity in my legs. After riding at Spirit Therapies, I benefit from my "new legs" by standing, moving without pain, and walking taller. The effects of riding are immediate and totally amazing. Therapeutic riding is physical therapy for my entire body. As I sit on the horse, the horses' motion requires me to use muscles in my body that I wouldn't ordinarily use. With Cerebral Palsy, I have learned to strengthen the larger muscles in my legs. Riding horses requires the use of all my muscles. In turn, I have better balance sitting on a horse than standing up. Through the years I gained better control of my trunk muscles and strengthened muscles all over. My posture has improved and I am learning to move the lower part of my legs in order to motion the horse to "walk on." I hope to eventually improve my leg strength to walk longer distances on a regular basis. Horseback riding has many other benefits as well. Psychologically and emotionally I have benefitted from greater self confidence. I continue to be an independent adult, live on my own and continue to contribute to society. I am fortunate to be a role model for students with disabilities as a special education teacher. I am an adult with a disability and still a successful member of society. by the way, I turn 39 years of age this month and thanks to therapeutic riding, I am still walking!

My next challenge is to help find adequate funding for Spirit Therapies to continue. Personally, I would benefit from donations and grants because if more funds were available, I could benefit tremendously from riding twice per week. If this happens, I hope to eventually be medication and pain free. Others with disabilities will also benefit from additional funding by gaining access to therapeutic riding at Spirit Therapies. With the technological and medical advancements being made everyday, more individuals are surviving birth defects and traumas they would not have survived many years ago. Therefore, it is vitally important to make programs available to ensure a quality of life that is better for everyone.

Francine Catterton