Back on Track ‘Horse Therapy’: The Head and the Heart

When a traumatic brain injury made Megan Rust feel disconnected from the rest of her life, horses remained her home.

Top: Megan and her horse Athene during a dressage lesson with Carol McArdle.

From Megan:

I returned to the horse world as an adult, after suffering a severe head injury. The injury took many things from me and changed many parts of my life. I was unable to continue my career as a commercial pilot in Alaska, and I was dealing with a body that didn’t work as it did before. A month in a coma and a year spent re-learning to walk and talk left me weak, unable to balance well, and with speech that was at best hard to follow and at worst disconcerting to those who didn’t know my back story.

But that didn’t matter to the horses. If I spoke to them in the body language they understood, softly and consistently, they understood me and were willing to work with me. My weakness didn’t matter: If horses could feel a fly land on their skin, they could feel my feeble aids directing their movements. My poor balance improved as I rode them, and they were kind enough not to blow up because of my initial fumbling in the saddle.

And the best part of my return to horses was new knowledge: If a 1,000 pound animal with a mind of her own chose to listen to ME–a puny human animal one tenth of her size and strength–then I was actually as capable and strong as I ever had been, regardless of any trauma. The horses offered unconditional affection and respect if I earned it, and their presence made up for everything I thought I’d lost due to my injury.

For that I’m eternally grateful.

Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!


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