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Published on September 26, 2016

Six-week PT challenge – Get me back on a horseSix-week PT challenge – Get me back on a horse

Leslie Pearson didn’t ride a horse until later in life, but once she started, she loved it.

“I had the opportunity when I lived in the great state of Texas for 10 years,” she said.

“My friends owned a small ranch called GM Arabians in Southlake. They needed help teaching their two horses basic manners, such as standing quietly while being groomed, or behaving when on a lead rope. I helped them train Prince Harry OGM, a Straight Egyptian Arabian.”

Once he turned three she was able to ride him.

“I rode Harry four or five times a week,” Leslie said. “Most of the time I would walk or trot, but it was quite thrilling.”

When she moved to Cape Cod in 2009, she didn’t have the opportunity to ride and as a result, her physical activity level dropped. The pain from her arthritis grew worse.

Still, she couldn’t wait to visit her friends in Texas last year and ride Prince Harry again. Unfortunately, her hopes were dashed when getting on the horse proved so painful, “it was not safe to ride,” she said.

Leslie was determined not to let her arthritis keep her from the sport she loves.

When she planned her vacation this year, she consulted her doctor, Li Li, MD, PhD, at Fontaine Outpatient Center in Harwich. Dr. Li, ordered an X-ray which showed the arthritis had progressed. She advised Leslie that physical therapy was her best bet for overcoming her pain and referred her to Cape Cod Healthcare Rehabilitation Services in Orleans.

Getting Her Back in the Saddle

Leslie gave the physical therapists a challenge: Get her flexible enough in six weeks to mount a horse and ride safely.

When a new patient arrives for the first time, the therapists look over his or her complete medical records – which may include X-rays and other imaging, and any documented changes in health. They then discuss what’s going on with the patient to provide a complete picture, and explain what to expect with physical therapy, to ease the patient’s mind.

“In Leslie’s case, it was degenerative arthritis,” her primary physical therapist, Devin Peck, PT, said. “We utilized a mix of manual techniques as well as stabilization and strengthening exercises to help her balance out and restore her range of motion.”

“We worked together,” Leslie said. “Mounting a horse requires rotating the hip into several positions (up, sideways, down, etc.). Then there is also flexibility needed to maintain one’s balance on a horse. Devin and the team were very encouraging and worked hard to help me meet my goal.”

At home, Leslie practiced the stretches they gave her and she went in to the center a couple times a week to make sure she was doing them correctly. They tweaked the program and added exercises as she progressed.

The hard work paid off. At her last session, her therapist showed her how her range of motion had improved to the level she needed to reach her goal of riding during her trip to Texas.

Patient’s Commitment is Key

Leslie credits her physical therapy team for the achievement, but Peck is quick to point out that Leslie deserves credit for her commitment to meet the challenge.

“Leslie was a highly motivated individual when she came to PT. She was very passionate about getting back to horseback riding. She always did her homework in the program and did everything her team of physical therapists asked of her here.

“She was a great patient. Some people are skeptical about PT. When they come in, they are anxious and don’t know what to expect. It’s great to have those success stories to share.”

In June, Leslie fulfilled her dream of riding again. She returned to Southlake, climbed on Prince Harry OGM and went for a short ride. She continues the exercises at home even now and hopes to return to Texas again soon.