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Cerebral Palsy Disabled Woman Seeks Grants For Training As Riding Instructor

by Teresa Gaskill
(Nashville, MI, USA)

My name is Teresa Gaskill. I am 25-year-old cerebral palsy disabled single woman looking for grants for training.

I graduated with honors in 2004 from Charlotte High School. As many people do, I took a year off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

I had had my heart set on becoming a professional writer, but felt burnt out from high school. I needed time to think about my future.

I had owned horses throughout my teen years and one horse that I was really trying to make my partner was a standardbred gelding named Jazz that I was failing with.

I had ridden horses throughout my school years as therapy for my muscles. It gave me confidence and made me feel that I could actually do something worthwhile with my life.

I decided that I wanted to be a professional horse trainer, but what I didn't know was how difficult that would actually be for someone that was living with cerebral palsy.

My relationship with my horse was getting increasingly worse as I realized that I had no idea on how to ride him.

I live with my parents in the same house, as I have no means of supporting myself except for SSI.

With few resources and no idea how to train a problematic horse I was watching T.V. one winter day when I had tuned into a horse training show called Parelli Natural Horsemanship.

While watching I noticed that a student far worse off than I was riding a horse bareback and with no bridle.

After the show I wrote the number down and my dad called asking for Parelli's Level 1 home study course. As soon as I got the program I started watching the DVDs, sometimes several times a day.

I kept a training diary listing all the events that had happened, both the positive and negative reactions.

Jazz caught on immediately. He started to change from the moment I began with him. Although it took a while, I was on the right track to what I really felt that I needed to do.

I was emailing my grandmother who had moved to Arkansas telling her all about Parelli Natural horsemanship.

She wrote in to the CBS early show for their Week Of Wishes and on February 20, 2005 I was flown to New York City with my parents.

I appeared on an episode of the 2005 Week Of Wishes where I saw my grandmother who had written the letter to help me further my education in Parelli.

But also I met the rock star of the horse-training world -- Pat Parelli.

As part of the Week Of Wishes, I was invited to spend a week at Parelli's International Study Center based in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

In the last week of July of 2005 my parents had hauled my horse Jazz all the way down to Pagosa Springs, Colorado to the school. I was so happy to finally get out of the truck and stretch my legs.

When we parked the truck I got Jazz out of the horse trailer, and lead him to a vacant pasture where he would be staying for the duration of our time in Colorado.

During that week I had learned where my mistakes were made with Jazz. The instructors helped me to become a very good leader with Jazz.

I had learned more about Jazz in that week than I could have learned about writing if I had pursued my original plan of becoming a writer.

I also had to relearn how to ride a horse all over again. My teachers taught me how to get a horse to park itself next to the mounting block, and stand there to wait for the rider get on.

If a horse moves, a rider has to jump off and mount the horse again and again until the horse stands completely still.

I had my Level 1 test given to me by Pat Parelli himself. By the end of the week, I also was awarded my Red String and Level 1 certificate.

When I returned home I continued on into the Level 2 home study course of Parelli. It took me two and a half years to complete.

I had to relearn how to ride at a walk, trot and canter. As well, I learned how to side pass a horse, which is not an easy task for someone living with cerebral palsy.

When I was 14 years old, I had had surgery to correct my legs and then again when I was 16 to remove the metal from my hips. This was all in an effort to make me walk more flatfooted like everybody else.

By the time I was learning to side pass I faced a great roadblock in my path. I could no longer feel anything in the back of my legs or on the side of my thighs. I couldn't stop my feet from turning in while riding.

Instead of quitting I learned to cue Jazz to go sideways by using the toe of my riding boot and the leather popper attached to his lead rope and bridle.

I faced many other challenging exercises such as opening a gate while riding and learning how to do leads and lead changes.

This year I passed my Level 2 test with flying colors and am currently studying my Level 3 course at home.

I want to be a licensed horse instructor. I have trained many other horses that have had challenges and psychological problems.

Some of these horses have been sold to other families and have been rehabilitated to go on into a different job.

I can't ride these crazy horses myself, I have either taught the person how to ride or I have asked my father to ride the horse while I talk him through it.

While watching the riders, I read the horse's body language the entire time to make sure that the horse doesn't go crazy at any given moment.

Though I am not a professional yet I have taught a few students how to ride by observing them and helping them when they need help. My parents were my first students and I am helping them to achieve success with their horses.

I knew I could have gone into anything else and even though this field is a very difficult one I have been able to rehabilitate many different horses using the Parelli training method.

There is a reason why I do this. I feel that I'm needed, because I can offer a glimmer of light in an industry darkened by dishonest practices.

I would like to be able to help people who have fallen off learn how to ride horses using the Parelli training method.

The one thing that is standing in my path of completing my schooling in Parelli is a lack of funds.

I do not have the money to pay for the tuition to go back down to Pagosa, Springs, Colorado nor the money to pay for the classes that I need to take in order to finish up my schooling with Parelli.

About my disability... There is no cure for cerebral palsy. It is a condition, not a disease. I have muscle spasms that affect my legs and sometimes my arms, back and hands. The spasms are worse in the winter than in the summer.

Because I'm not working and have no income except for SSI, I don't have the means to support myself and live on my own. So I live with my parents while I dream of pursuing a career in horses.

I can't drive yet because I am busy with school. I can't work right now at least in something that I would actually want to do. I have to go with my parents when I want to go somewhere.

I do receive SSI for my disability and food stamps as well. This helps out my parents out financially.

I am not on any medications and I do just fine without any medications for pain for my muscle spasms. I don't use any medical equipment. I walk under my own power without any walking aids.

I have taken on some horse-training jobs, although very few because people don't take me seriously. They see me as a student myself, still learning about horses.

I try to work part time but it becomes too much with me still going through the program with my own horse. If I do help someone else it means my own horse idles and I don't train myself.

I am looking for grants for training as a horse-riding instructor. It would help me return to Pagosa Springs, Colorado to finish up my schooling with my horse.

It's important for me to do this because I believe that I could make a difference for both people and horses alike. I know how to train horses and teach people to be safe.

I'd like to finish up my schooling first of all with becoming a licensed instructor. Then I would like to go into business for myself.

As an instructor in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship method, I would be doing what I love to do -- teaching people how to deal with their own horses so that they can be safe and not end up in the ER or worse.

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