“Walk on,” was the command on that first day as I sat on the largest horse I had ever ridden. Rayne, my therapy horse, has become a gentle, trusted friend who each week demonstrates his gift in working with people like me. He has become a great highlight of my week.
I am Sara Ferrarone, and I am 24 years old. I have a neuro-muscular disease called Friedreich’s ataxia. This disease is degenerative and over time I have lost the ability to walk and balance myself. My speech has been affected as well as my fine motor skills. It is very limiting and there are few things can accomplish independently.
A year ago, two good friends directed me to the EquiCenter and what a find! My first day was an
evaluation of my abilities and needs. There was a very caring and understanding staff whom I met that first day. I was a little apprehensive but excited about the prospects of riding a horse. Apparently they understood my needs because my first lesson was on this gentle giant named Rayne. Given the types of limitations I have, it is hard for some people to imagine me on a horse, but I want to convey just how great an impact this horse has made on me and so many others who ride at the EquiCenter. From the first time on Rayne, I felt an instant calm. Despite my mother.’s angst about the size of the horse, I just felt relaxed and safe. I am able to feel the gentle stretch on my legs and thighs and the strengthening of my torso as I sit with a back-rider to help me balance. I started to trot this fall and that feeling was really exhilarating. It certainly isn’t a fast pace, but it is just the movement of the horse and the speed that is so fun. I appreciate the side-walkers and horse leader who have to maintain the horse’s pace as we trot; they truly are a real family of volunteers who care, who are faithful to my ride each week and who help to make the whole experience a thing I treasure. And at the end of each ride, we reward Rayne with a few treats which is the least I can do for my equine friend.
I feel a lot of pride in what I have learned this year. I don.’t have a lot of exciting hobbies that I can share with others, but many friends have come to watch me ride and they always note the large smile across my face. I love to share this with them. My appreciation for Rayne and for the EquiCenter cannot be overstated; it has been a great blessing to me. I know there are many requests to give at this time of year, and it is my hope that you will give your support to the EquiCenter so more people like me can share my experience.