How a Therapy Horse Helped a Stroke Survivor Heal

In May 2015, I had a huge stroke that left me with impairments on my left side and personality changes. Doctors told me I had to mourn who I was, as who I used to be died during the stroke. That left me with much anxiety; I could remember who I was but couldn’t get her back, no matter how hard I tried.

I had to take early retirement due to the damage to my brain. It left me in tears trying to figure out where and what happens now. I was left with no self-esteem, extremely insecure and anxious, and with slurred speech, and a limp.

Then I found Shiloh, a Gypsy Vanner therapy horse at Rising Hope Therapeutic Riding Center. Shiloh had just recently come to Rising Hope and was not used to a lot of human interaction. He also had anxiety. When we met that day, I told Shiloh, “Hey buddy, we will help each other and heal.”

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From that day on, I worked with Shiloh, walking, talking to him, and gaining balance, stamina, and confidence. My gait improved to the point I no longer walk with a limp. In fact, while walking Shiloh, he would always have his shoulder touch my hip as if to say ‘I got you, no worries.’ And in turn, I always make sure Shiloh is safe with me and tell him that I will not let anything happen to him. I tell Shiloh all the time I love him, and how proud I am of him, and I know he understands. When he sees me, he takes his head over my shoulder and pulls me into his neck; I wrap my arms around his neck and that is our hug every time.

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer this year, Shiloh definitely sensed my heartache and laid his head on my chest, comforting me while I rubbed his neck. It was hot that day and we were both sweating. Shiloh switched sides and did the same thing again! I swear he was listening to my heartbeat!

Shiloh and I continue to work together every week and he never disappoints! He is always so loving, hugging and kissing me. I leave the barn feeling loved, overjoyed, confident, and restored enough to face whatever challenges come my way. —Lisa D.

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