By Nancy Patterson, Assistant Director of Public Relations
When Kim Barnes of Oxford woke up at the age of 28 and was unable to move her legs, her life took a dramatic turn for the worse. Now at the age of 37, things are looking up thanks to new drugs, a determined outlook, and a 22-year-old palamino Appaloosa horse named Molly.
Molly is only one of the mounts used for physical therapy each week when Heart's Desire Therapeutic Riding Center occupies the Multipurpose Livestock Arena located on Northwest Mississippi Community College's farm just outside of Senatobia.
"My therapist recommended Heart's Desire", said Barnes, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. "By 1995 I couldn't move from the waist down. Now I have movement in my legs and can walk with a walker."
Barnes' therapist at Cornerstone Rehabilitation in Oxford recommended that she skip one of her traditional therapy sessions with them each week in order to take advantage of the hippotherapy. Now she is coming to the Northwest Farm twice a week.
Heart's Desire Therapeutic Riding Center is one of four operating North American Riders for the Handicaped Association (NARHA) centers in Mississippi. It is the only center of its kind in Northwest Mississippi.
"Kim is wonderful," said Margie Tamke of Senatobia, one of the certified instructors in the Heart's Desire program. "She is motivated and determined. I asked to always be the one to teach her. She has improved so much. Sometimes I have to be careful not to let her overdo it in her sessions. But, I'm going to help her walk again," said Tamke.
Involved with horses all her life, Tamke, along with fellow instructor Dawn Likens, also of Senatobia, and Heart's Desire Director Karen Cates of Sarah, went for an intensive four-day certification process in Taladega, Ala., in October.
"Kim has such a positive attitude," said Don Clanton, manager of the Northwest arena. "When you look at her, you are reminded that life for all of us can change in a moment. She's making the best of it," he said.
Barnes is looking forward to bringing her 7-year-old son Blake with her for lessons soon. "MS is 99 percent determination. It's mind over matter. You have to know your limitations," she said.
The goal for Barnes is no small one. "I plan to walk," she said, smiling. 'Whether with a walker or without, I will walk again, and I hope be able to ride these horses without help."
According to the staff at Heart's Desire, she is on her way.