More MS news articles for April 2002

Keep the Change: Readers' Accounts of Efforts to Improve Their Lives

Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Judy Silverman, Chevy Chase

The Change Cope better with multiple sclerosis

The Trick Weekly therapeutic horseback riding

The Story I've had MS for 20 years, and sometimes the disease threatens to overwhelm me. Riding a horse once a week has made a huge difference in my life.

Lesley Shear runs the Circle of Hope Therapeutic Riding Center in Barnesville. Zoe, a white Percheron mare, is her main therapy horse. It's an adventure just mounting and sitting astride. While Zoe stands still, I exercise. I put plastic rings over posts set into the ground. I twirl a small baton or throw Frisbees. I twist from side to side. I stretch my arms up and out.

Then, with a volunteer walking on each side of me, Lesley leads Zoe around the ring. As Zoe moves, the muscles in my back move in tandem with hers. At first I feel strange being five feet off the ground. Then I begin to feel balanced for the first time in years. After two seasons of riding every week, I'm ready to trot.

Riding makes me feel normal. I'm doing something that many able-bodied people can't do. So even though I still can't walk, or use my hands much, I feel better, happier, more content. Now I feel there's hope. Now there's Zoe.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company