Jeff is one of the riders in our HOOVES program. He has been riding at Kopper Top
for about five years, and has made a lot of progress from day one until now. Here
is his story.
Jeff is a 27-year-old young man who was hit by a drunk driver when he was sixteen.
That night, as he loaded his siblings up in the car to take them to church, he had
no idea that his life would be forever changed by a tragic encounter on the road.
He survived the accident, but was left with traumatic brain injuries that would render
him a quadriplegic for life. Jeff has been through a great deal of physical therapy,
but the therapists gave up on him, and the doctors said he would never walk again.
When Jeff first came to us in 2005, he had little control over his limbs and his
body due to the nerve damage that he experienced in the accident. His speech was
slow and difficult to understand. He began riding lessons on our palomino mare, Angel.
Deborah had to ride behind him on the horse to help hold him up, because he could
not sit up by himself. Once a week, Deborah, Angel, and five other volunteers gathered
at the ramp to help Jeff get on his horse, then walk beside him to keep him safe
as Angel carried him around the ring on her four good legs. We worked with Jeff on
things such as the "heels down, toes up" position of his feet to strengthen his leg
muscles. He held the reins clenched in his fist, and we encouraged him to sit up
straight and do stretches on the horse to strengthen his muscles, including "stand
ups" in the stirrups.
Along the way, Jeff went from Angel to Dusty (a bigger horse with more draft horse
in him that could handle the weight of Deborah and Jeff), and from Dusty to Sunny,
a big, Belgian draft cross with strong legs and a broad back. Now, two and a half
years later, Jeff rides Billy. Jeff has reached his goal: to ride solo without Deborah
on the horse behind him. Riding on his own in the saddle has helped tremendously
with his posture and balance. But Jeff is only able to ride alone with the help and
support of "his" saddle...a very special therapeutic riding saddle designed specifically
This saddle is like any other saddle in that it has a horn, stirrups, a seat, a pommel,
and a skirt. But this saddle also has a back--a very strong back that helps hold
the rider up on the horse, enabling Jeff to learn for himself how to balance and
move with the horse. These saddles are very special in that they must be specially
made--a process that can take from six months to a year to complete. A process that
costs about $5,000.
The saddle that Jeff is using right now is one we are borrowing from a generous man
who has graciously allowed us to use it. We have seen great improvement in Jeff's
physical abilities since he has been riding with this saddle. Because of horseback
riding therapy, Jeff is now learning how to walk again--something the doctors said
he'd never be able to do.
But Jeff needs some help. In order to be able to keep riding solo and progressing
with his riding, he needs a special saddle. He needs some generous hearts that believe
in him to help Kopper Top raise enough money for his saddle, so that he can keep
riding his beloved Billy. If you would like to help Jeff get his saddle and continue
to meet his goal that he has set for himself of riding alone, he would be very grateful
Jeff loves coming out to the farm to ride. He likes riding Billy, and enjoys seeing
the other animals and hanging out with the volunteers. He has a great sense of humor,
and keeps us all in stitches laughing! Jeff's life has been changed for the good
out here, and he has changed all of our lives for the good, too. His story is a constant
inspiration to others who face challenges; it is a reminder to the young about the
dangers of drinking and driving; and it reminds us all not to take a single day of
life for granted.
Jeff is an amazing young man who is so grateful for what has been done for him. The
other day, as we rounded the corner of the ring in the golden afternoon sunset, the
volunteers walking alongside Billy to help Jeff out, he turned to Deborah and said,
"Deborah?" "Yeah?" she responded. "I appreciate you a lot...you are pretty in your
It is because of riders like Jeff that we exist...to improve, enhance, and bring
meaning to lives that face difficulties and limitations.
As we help Jeff overcome his physical limitations as he rides, will you help us overcome
our financial limitations, and support us in buying Jeff's saddle?
Placing one foot
in front of the other,
I've climbed to higher lengths. Reaching beyond
my own limitations,
to show my inner strength.
No obstacle too hard,
for this warrior to overcome. I'm just a man on a mission,
to prove my disability hasn't won. ~~Robert M. Hensel