My name is Alex Viner. I am 32 years old and have cerebral palsy, as well as an acute anxiety disorder.
I have been riding with the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Centre for 28 years. When I was four, I started riding for therapy reasons. A scared little kid with no confidence, I rode with the help of a back rider, two side walkers and a leader.
Physically, riding horses through the years has helped with my balance and my hand-eye co-ordination and has decreased spasticity in my legs. I have been told by my mom that, physically, I am more balanced when riding than I am on my own two feet. Four feet are always better than two!
Emotionally, horses have helped me through some very difficult times in my life. I would often go to the barn as a teen and sit in a stall with my gelding, Leroy, and pour out my feelings. He was a very good listener.
Mentally, horses and riding have pushed me to work on my anxiety issues and information processing. Competing as a para equestrian dressage athlete, I have had to work on these skills during my training with my coach and competition partner, Smokey.
Smokey and I have been working together all spring and fall of this year. We do para equestrian national video competitions through Equestrian Canada. We did our first Equestrian Canada introduction to para dressage video competition level 1 and placed second with a test score of 61.154 per cent. The video competitions are open to bronze level para dressage riders and therapeutic riding centres across Canada, so having the chance to compete in these competitions with Smokey this year has been an amazing experience.
Horses are amazing therapy animals and have helped me in all areas of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Without therapeutic riding and horses, I would not be who I am today or be able to achieve my dreams. The horses in my life have given me so much.
As a para equestrian dressage rider I can honestly say that horses are the best therapists!