MND Warrior – Bree’s goal to ride a horse

Meet Bree

I wanted to bring forth a story of tremendous significance and hardship involving a beautiful client of ours at Vector Health and Performance. The woman at the centre of the story is Bree; who has been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease [MND]. 
For context, Motor Neuron Disease is a rare neurodegenerative disease which harmfully affects the motor neurones within the body consequently resulting in damaged nerves. With damaged motor neurones, the body is unable to successfully and efficiently transmit or receive messages between the muscles and brain via the spinal cord. Symptoms of MND include, but are not limited to: muscle weakness, eventual paralysis, chronic pain and fatigue, emotional distress, difficulty swallowing and talking, dementia and muscle stiffness.
Bree commenced services with one of Vector Health’s Exercise Physiologists, Maddi Law, in February 2022. Initially the Bree and Maddi worked together for twice a week, working on developing global strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle lengthening, joint mobility and building a friendship together.  During the warmer months, Maddi and Bree would complete 60-minutes of hydrotherapy and 60-minutes of land-based physical activity. 

With 2022 coming to a close, Maddi asked Bree what her goal for 2023 was. After a moment of reflection, Bree stated she wished to ride a horse again. On January 11th of 2023, the dream of returning to horse riding was born. It is safe to say, not a single eye was dry in the room when we realised how much this meant to Bree. For Bree, horse riding is a passion and a large portion of her childhood. Over the last 6-months Bree would go on to share endless stories with Maddi about horses and the enjoyment it gives her. 
Initially both Bree and Maddi were unsure if it was physically possible to achieve this dream. However, where there is a will, there is a way. To describe Bree the following words come to mind according to Maddi: hard-working, determined, motivated, an inspiration. If anyone was going to make this dream come true, it was Bree. 
There is no textbook to guide for clinicians on how to prescribe exercise for individuals with MND to ride a horse. Maddi sure had her work set out for her. After hearing Bree’s goal, that same night Maddi brainstormed on a butchers paper the width of her dining room table all the requirements and exercises required to make this dream possible. 

Within Bree’s Exercise Physiology sessions, she worked specifically on developing her postural control, sitting endurance, muscle strength and flexibility. As time progressed on, Bree’s dedication and motivation to return to horse-riding proved strong as she continuously improved. 

By March 2023, Bree was able to sit on the edge of the physio plinth for 3.5 minutes unsupported. 3 months later in June, Bree is able to sit for 10 minutes with very few aids required. Thanks to the Rockhampton Riding for the Disabled [RDA], they have lent Bree a wooden barrel which replicates the width of a standard horse for sitting practice. 
  In March 2023, Bree began attending sessions at the Rockhampton RDA under the guidance of experienced volunteers who also share the same passion with horses. Bree was lucky enough to work alongside a volunteer who was also an occupational therapist at a local Rockhampton clinic.  Since March, Bree has been attending horse-riding lessons every Saturday morning; impressing everyone with her strength and ability to lead transfers. 
On the 10th of June, Bree accomplished her goal for 2023. With her strong support network, Bree mounted a beautifully natured horse called Jasper and went for a ride. With Maddi in tears of joy and Bree’s smile the width of her face, the two women knew they had achieved the near-impossible. 
It is undoubtably an incredible achievement Bree has achieved. As well as a testament to everyone that sometimes the thought to be impossible is possible.  Bree is truly an inspiration to all. 
Stay tuned to see what Bree’s goal for 2024 is! Safe to say both Maddi and Bree are ready for their next challenge. 

– Maddison Law, Exercise Physiologist

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