APHA
No Fences—Every Horse and Every Horseman has a Story

The Power of Determination

One woman’s incredible journey toward healing after a devastating childhood diagnosis

By Alana Harrison

When Erin Fox first told her doctors she wanted to try equine therapy after years of unproductive physical rehabilitation efforts, they practically laughed. Four years later, however, the idea doesn’t seem so absurd.

Shortly after she was born, the now 29-year-old of York, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with Type 1 osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bone disease or OI. The condition prevents Erin’s body from producing enough collagen to keep her bones strong, leaving her susceptible to severe fractures from even seemingly harmless activities. She fractured her ribs rolling over in bed and broke her left arm in three places while stirring spaghetti—the same arm she’s broken at least 17 times since she was 16. The disease makes it difficult for Erin to increase muscle tone through traditional forms of exercise, due to the high risk of facture.

“I can’t go to the gym and exercise or lift weights like other people because my risk is so high,” Erin said. “Building muscle doesn’t fully prevent breaks, but it helps decrease their frequency.”

For a girl like Erin, horseback riding seemed a surefire disaster.

But somewhere deep inside, Erin knew horses were the key to both her physical and emotional healing. Her doctors initially refused to approve equine therapy, but Erin was resolute; she decided to try anyway.

“When I went in for a check-up after a few months of equine therapy, my doctors were shocked,” she said. “They couldn’t believe how much muscle strength I’d gained in my legs and arms and my back, as well as how much better posture had gotten. They told me this wasn’t possible for someone with OI.”

Erin beamed as her doctors’ questions came flying. As it turns out, combination of equine therapy, a talented riding instructor and a very special Paint Horse were key to Erin’s incredible progress.

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2019 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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