Road to Independence: Victoria & Deonne

    Many participants at Mane Stream have suffered life-altering events that led them to the organization. Learning to manage these changes can be quite challenging, however, the positive impact from programs at Mane Stream can be profound, as they empower participants to manage these difficulties successfully- such is the case with Victoria Leone.

    At one time, Victoria was an energetic and outgoing individual who enjoyed high impact activities, until she suffered a severe stroke. In that moment, her life was drastically altered. She was 6 months pregnant, paralyzed and could not participate in any of the activities she loved. As with many who experience a sudden life change, Victoria became severely depressed and decided to see a psychiatrist. While speaking with her doctor, she compiled a list of all the activities she could no longer participate in and discussed the onset of depression from not being able to live as she had previously. It was here that she was introduced to the idea of Adaptive Riding. She was intimidated by the concept, yet intrigued, as it seemed exciting as well; this is how she discovered Mane Stream. 

   Victoria began at Mane Stream in 1999, however, the road to independence has been a long one. Victoria has gone from being terrified of trotting, to winning at her first horse show in 2014, where she won the highest scoring individual rider award and placed 1st in both classes. Naturally, becoming an independent rider was a gradual process; she had two side walkers and a leader for two years, but they were gradually weaned off as she gained confidence and balance. About five years ago however, Victoria met Deonne. Victoria had side walkers and leaders in the past, but Deonne was different. 

   When met with challenges while riding, Deonne was at Victoria’s side encouraging her and giving positive reinforcement. Victoria says, “Deonne was like having an instructor right next to me during the lesson, providing comfort and instilling confidence.” The bond they have formed has made for a better riding experience. This connection has influenced Victoria to ride better; Deonne would give suggestions and could anticipate Victoria’s needs before she asked for help. 
    
   Victoria is now an independent rider, with Deonne on the sidelines in case she is needed. This journey has been a long road for Victoria, yet she has gained strength, friendships and a positive mental outlook. When Victoria began riding, she was depressed and completely paralyzed on the left side, yet since that time has learned to walk again; riding at Mane Stream has provided the mental mindset to succeed. The mental benefit from her accomplishments and participating in an exciting activity have made Mane Stream, in her own words, “…the best thing I have experienced since my stroke. The mental benefit has impacted my life dramatically and the past five years have been outstanding. This experience has been nothing short of a miracle for me.”

Written by: Jessica Hulen