Ohio U Southern student’s selfless act
Jamie Nelson smiled and listened in the muggy, dusty horse barn as instructors were giving volunteers a lesson.
Cash, a stallion in the Ohio University Southern therapeutic riding program, is getting brushed while looking at the people gathering around him. The pupils of his one blue eye and one brown eye were fluctuating in size.
“I am going to show you how to handle a horse that isn’t yours,” Bradie Chapman, an instructor at the park, said.
Jamie Nelson, a 20-year-old from Salt Rock, W.Va., was still listening, and still smiling. She is in enrolled in the Equine Studies program at Ohio University Southern.
At the Ohio Horse Park Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship, individuals with disabilities are offered unique, planned equine-assisted opportunities to increase their quality of life.
Volunteerism is very important at the park, and in Jamie’s case, it’s just as important to her as it is to the program.
“It’s a lifelong dream of mine to work with kids and horses,” Jaime said. “I really want to work with people who have balance issues.”
In 2005, at the age of 12, Jamie suffered a stroke in her left eye. It was the Monday following her first horse show.
“She had some blood clots nobody knew about,” James, Jamie’s father, said. “She lost all sight in her left eye as a result.”
The day after the stroke, Jamie’s doctor was explaining to the family what happened and what they could expect in the future. James recalls watching Jamie’s eyes fill with tears as he spoke.
When the doctor asked the family if they had any questions, Jamie spoke up.
“Am I going to be able to ride my horse again?” she asked.
“Yes,” the doctor replied definitively.
A year prior to her stroke, Jamie’s mom and dad bought her Roseanna, a Tennessee Walking Horse. It was love at first sight for Jamie.
“I’ve had her since she was 2,” Jaime said. “Her name is Roseanna but she answers to Roseanne.”
Although some may consider being blind in your left eye a disability, Jamie wasn’t at the horse park for her benefit, she was volunteering to be a guide.
Therapeutic riding horses at the park are lead by instructors and volunteers. The volunteers undergo a crash-course on handling the horse, riding attire and adding tack. It is preventative measures to ensure the utmost safety of the riders.
Volunteering for Jamie is twofold. Her mother, Bertha, has multiple sclerosis, a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision and severe fatigue.
Research has shown people with multiple sclerosis can have their symptoms drastically reduced by therapeutic horseback riding, which is the main reason Jamie is volunteering.
“I want to be able to help my mom who has very bad balance issues,” Jaime said. “I want to be able to use Roseanna to help her.”
Nelson finished second behind the world grand champion at the West Virginia State Horse Show in Danville this year.
“We do everything we can to help her realize her dream,” James said. “And her dream is to work with horses. But, she’s doing this for her mother.”