Testimonial by Sue (Andrea’s mom):
“I do it myself". That was one of the first full sentences that Andrea spoke at age 2. She was a bright, active and very determined child. She loved horses from the first time she saw some at the country fair. Every birthday we heard “can I get a horse”? She did get her horses and trained them herself. High school was demanding, as well as gymnastics and dance. “I do it myself” was what she did. Off to college meant having to sell her beloved horses. Andrea went to SUNY Binghamton on a NYS Regents scholarship. She graduated in 1985 with a degree in psychology. She had various jobs for the next 5 years, while trying to decide what she really wanted to do. Finally settling on law school, Andrea went to NYC to visit friends and explore possibilities at NYU and Columbia. While crossing Amsterdam Ave on a cold and snowy night, she was hit by a taxi. She was rushed to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital and was diagnosed with a severe head injury. We got the call early Saturday morning that she was on life support. She pulled through, and after a year and a half at the hospital (in a rehab unit), it was recommended that we place her in a nursing home. We opted to take her home instead. Shortly after returning home with Andrea, I saw an article in the local newspaper about a therapeutic riding center scheduled to open soon. That was in June of 1993. I called immediately and explained our situation to Claudia, who was the Physical Therapist (and Founder, along with her husband, Harry). Andrea had been discharged to home with a feeding tube, didn’t speak, was right hemiplegic and couldn’t sit by herself. She also did not even attempt to communicate. If there was someone still in there, she gave little indication. It was a daunting undertaking, for sure. Claudia couldn’t make any promises. We visited. Harry brought out a horse and asked Andrea if she wanted to pet it. She reached out to the horse! It was the first time that she showed a reaction to anything. Thus her recovery began.
Andrea’s recovery had everyone at Centaur Stride “addicted” to see what she would do next. Since this was a start up program, even Claudia didn’t know what to “expect” with the programs. The changes were truly miraculous! After 1 ½ years in a rehab hospital, Andrea showed very little progress and the prognosis was very poor for any further recovery. Initially, a back rider had to hold Andrea in a sitting position on the horse. We attended “lessons” twice a week for PT with Claudia, to be followed by a riding lesson on the horse. Slowly but surely, Andrea began to improve. Her love of horses gave her hope and determination to get better. “I do it myself” had returned. Over time, the feeding tube was removed, she gained strength, started speaking and after 8 years, could ride a horse totally unaided! Whiskey was her favorite horse. He had incredible natural instinct to protect his rider. Horses seem to know!
Riding is so important to physical and emotional recovery of the disabled- and the folks at Centaur Stride are skilled in helping everyone get better. I can’t say enough about what a wonderful place it is. Fundraising is ongoing and gets discouraging, but when you see the smiles and benefits, it is so worthwhile. Andrea’s eyes light up every time we head out on the familiar road to Centaur Stride. It is a special, life changing place, and worth every bit of time and effort that we put in to it! Please sponsor Andrea and help to keep this wonderful place open for Andrea, all the other riders, and all those who will come after us! Thank you!