Article about a CIDP’er

    • Anonymous
      December 18, 2006 at 8:22 pm

      [B][SIZE=1](cut and past link)

      Newark woman regains use of legs through riding
      By L.B. WHYDE
      Advocate Reporter[/B]

      NEWARK — Walking with full leg braces that allow for very little knee movement, Laurietta Oakleaf makes her way around the horse barn.
      When she comes to each of the three stalls that corral her horses, she pets, cuddles and hugs each one of them. Although she lovingly cares for all of her horses, she probably owes more to them than they owe to her, because without them she might not have been able to walk.

      She was 21 years old in June 2001 when she was paralyzed from the neck down. Oakleaf regained use of her arms within six months, but it took 18 months to regain use of her legs.She was told she never would walk again, but she knew better.

      “I’d probably still be sitting on the couch, depressed, if I didn’t have horses,” Oakleaf said. “My motto is, ‘I’m going to ride, I’m going to walk and I’m going to do it.'”

      An avid horsewoman, Oakleaf was training in Florida for show jumping when the CIDP attacked. At that time, her goal was to compete in the Olympics in show jumping.

      When use of her legs didn’t come back, Oakleaf enrolled in a horse therapy program in Lima to help. Six months after starting that program, she had a leg spasm while on a horse.

      That was the first sign, but it took her another year to relearn how to walk.
      Now, the young woman is trying to start her own a para-equestrian program to help other people with disabilities learn how to ride horses. She is not sure where she will start the program — here or in Wapakoneta, where she also has ties.

      “There is so much freedom being up on a horse,” Oakleaf said. “Riding is the only time I can get out and be free without braces. I can forget my troubles, and I am not disabled anymore when I’m on a horse.”

      Now, Oakleaf also is trying to fulfill another dream. She wants to compete in the equestrian World Championships in England in July. To do that, she is going to Florida early next year to compete in two more shows to garner enough points to qualify.

      To do all that, Oakleaf needs financial help. She has applied for grants from the United States Equestrian Federation, but she will need at least $10,000 to $15,000 just to fly her horse to England. Several people and associations are trying to help her reach her goal, but she still needs more help.

      “I want people to see that it is possible (for people with disabilities to ride horses),” Oakleaf said. “Dreams are possible.”

      Few people in the U.S. compete in para-equestrian, and Oakleaf thinks she is the first and only one from Ohio. But just getting on a horse is a challenge.

      Her competition horse is a 13-year-old Andalusian stallion named Quimerico KF that she calls Mark. The horse already was trained to let riders mount him from a kneeling position.

      “My horse has been my biggest healer, both physically and emotionally,” she said. “If I fall down, Mark puts his head down so I can get up.”

      Oakleaf, a 1998 Licking Valley High School graduate, is staying with her grandparents in Jacksontown. She is able to drive to the Stadden Bridge Stables, where she keeps her horses and spends five to 15 hours a day caring for them.

      While she never will regain full control of her legs, she is hoping to accomplish her goals before the debilitating disease takes away more from her.

      “If I keep fighting, keep active physically, it might hold it (the CIDP) so it doesn’t go downhill as fast,” she said.

    • Anonymous
      December 18, 2006 at 8:32 pm

      Thank you for posting this story. I haven’t met this woman, but I am currently in Findlay, OH at the Unversity of Findlay in their Equestrian program. I am learning how to Show Jump. I also have first hand experience of how horses can help make things much better.

      God Bless,
      Tonya Correll

    • Anonymous
      December 18, 2006 at 9:42 pm


      I am glad to hear that things are going well for you. Good luck in school and with your Equestrian program.