Meriden woman with MS finds getting back on the horse therapeutic

MIDDLETOWN — As Lynda Roberts gets ready to mount her horse, Ransom, a funny thing happens: She backs up to the horse, swinging her right leg forward, around Ransom’s head to his other side instead of swinging it behind her.

With help, she does the same thing getting off, except in reverse. It’s called a crest mount and a crest dismount, and Roberts uses the style because, since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 28 years ago, it makes getting on and off the horse easier.

Roberts, 69, a lifelong Meriden resident, has run the gamut of therapies, said her husband, Basil Roberts. Horseback riding appears to come the most naturally.

Growing up on a poultry farm in the north end of the city, Lynda Roberts recalled when she first “fell in love with horses.”

“My sister Sandy (Frederick) always loved horses, and eventually, she convinced my dad to buy one,” she said Thursday. “That’s when I fell in love with horses.”

It was a natural fit for Lynda Roberts to continue her therapy at Manes and Motions, the Middletown-based therapeutic riding center. The center began in 1999 in Kensington, soon moving to its current location in Middletown and becoming a subsidiary of the New Britain-based Hospital for Special Care.

Janice Anderson, the center’s program coordinator, has been on board since Manes and Motions’ inception in 1999.

“I have a lot of horse experience, and a background in early education and psychology, so when I saw the chance to combine those two loves here, it really was the perfect job for me,” she said.

Manes and Motions sits on 10 acres at Daniels Farm. It uses 10 horses for therapeutic riding, Anderson said. She estimated that more than 1,400 people have taken part in the program.

For people with physical handicaps, horseback riding can have many benefits.

“The actual motion of the horse walking simulates a person’s hips in a similar fashion that walking themselves would,” Anderson said. “For somebody who sits in a wheelchair, who relies on that stability, sitting up on a horse forces them to use their whole core, and we generally see people sitting up straighter, stretching the muscles in their calves — it is very therapeutic.”

Lynda Roberts has been participating for four years.

“I think Lynda was an equestrian in her younger years, so it only makes sense that she would continue now, too,” Anderson said.

Getting back on the horse is no easy task, however. Lynda Roberts uses a walker when she’s home, and a wheelchair when she’s out and about, to conserve her energy. Her time with “Handsome Ransom,” as she calls the horse, strengthens her core and leg muscles.

“My goals are to sit up straight, hold my head up, and eventually stand up straight,” Lynda Roberts said. “Since I started here, I’ve noticed my posture’s improved, my balance has improved — everything, really. And it’s a bit of a social thing, too.”

Watching his wife ride around the course, two Manes and Motions staff members serving as guides, Basil Roberts said Thursday, “It takes a lot of strength to get up there. I’m not just talking physical strength, but I mean courage.”

For her part, Lynda Roberts said, grinning, “I feel like queen of the mount up there.”

mcallahan@record-journal.com (203) 317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal



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