I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. MS had done damage to my brain and spinal cord affecting the left side of my body. My left leg couldn’t get me traveling very far or for very long. I developed an action tremor in my left arm and could not hold my bladder well when the urge came to use the bathroom fast. I was told to not drive long-distances or in poor conditions because my brain was a poor multitasker.
I fell in love with horses as soon as I could sit on one, which was when I was about three years old. I volunteered as a teen with a therapeutic riding program in North County San Diego and spent all my free time at the barn. I became a riding instructor and believed horses would always be my job. But, life had other plans and led me away from the arena and into sales for equestrian clothing and equipment.
After my diagnosis and not riding for about three years due to my MS symptoms, I realized I missed horses with a passion! It was time to figure out if I could still manage to ride. But I was so full of questions. Could I still ride? Would I fall? Would the horse understand my challenges? I had been an instructor, I knew these answers! Of course I could ride. Of course the horse would adjust to me. Yes, I knew it would be okay. Still, my insecurities held me back for another year, until I decided to seek answers from the people I used to work with in the Los Angeles area.
I knew I could trust them, but I didn’t see myself as the same person and definitely not as the same rider. It had been over two years since I last rode a horse and over four years since I had ridden on a regular basis. I wondered if I would be able to face and conquer the changes in my body. I finally got back on a horse—although now as a student, which in my mind was experimental at best!
Even though I had plenty of experience riding in my youth and as an instructor, I still didn’t know what to expect of this turn as a student. I was faced with many doubts, and the control I used to have was now a thing of the past. At first the horse only walked and I had my movements analyzed. I was analyzing my body as well. My control was gone. I felt vulnerable. And others could see my limitations and struggles. I cried in the car for twenty minutes after I finished my first lesson.
I have gone from a basic walk lesson where I didn’t touch the reins, to more advanced independent walk, trot and canter lessons. Dressage lessons are tough, but they challenge both sides of my brain and body and have long lasting effects which are helping to improve my everyday functions. I may have a bad limp after I dismount, constantly lose my left stirrup, and the reins slip through my fingers all the time, but those problems continue to improve little by little with all the help of my lifestyle changes and my positive attitude.
Today horses are my therapy. In the past horses were a recreational activity and a job that I could do in any weather, all day, five days a week. Although my therapeutic riding instructor and frequent recreational riding days are over, my story in the saddle continues. Ride On L.A., a Therapeutic Riding Program in Chatsworth CA, really takes special care of me and all their many students. Thank you Ride On and all the horses that make such a difference!
Me in my perfectly imperfect tank from Trend-ABLE
Bio: Angela Landeros is the author of ‘The FLog Journal, A Six Month Food Journey For Those Who Want To Feel Amazing Every Day.’ The book is based on her journey healing MS and other autoimmune symptoms through diet and lifestyle. She is determined that MS will not keep her from enjoying life and her love of riding horses. She believes everyday is an opportunity to feel amazing! At thirty-eight years old she currently lives in Woodland Hills, California with her husband and two well loved cats!