Eleven months after suffering a stroke, Canadian Olympic eventer Peter Barry placed his feet in the irons for the first time, thanks to the help and initiative of close friend Phillip Dutton. With Dutton and Richard Picken on each side, and Emma Ford leading, Barry hopped on Herringswell Stables Ltd’s Icabad Crane, made famous by finishing third in the 2008 Preakness Stakes (Maryland) before starting his eventing career, and took him for a short ride.
“It’s a day I will not forget for the rest of my life,” said Barry. “I was so grateful. It was a big part of my daily life, and I had a hard time filling the void. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to sit on a horse again, and hopefully I can build on that.
“Thank you to Phillip and his team for taking time out of his very busy schedule to help me,” he continued.
Barry suffered from his stroke on March 25, 2017, which lead to initial paralysis on his left side. Through a lot of rehab, he now can walk with a cane, although he admits his left leg is still weak, and his left arm struggles to perform daily chores. Because of this, he was worried about his balance and ability to get on the horse. But Dutton trusted his daughter’s training level mount’s short stature—15 hands—and quiet temperament to get Barry back in the saddle.
“I wasn’t sure if I could even sit on it because of the balance,” said Barry. “I was lucky; my balance was OK. If you get to do something you were able to do before in your life, it’s a great, great satisfaction because you feel like you get a little bit of your old life back. You feel a little bit more normal.”
While trying to remain careful, Barry hopes to work up to riding in his indoor at Maple Hill Farm in Dunham, Quebec.
“I think the smart thing for somebody who is injured is to be careful and have realistic expectations and try to do that and not let the fear get the better of you,” said Barry. “You always have to see what you have that is good and be grateful for that and not start wanting your old life and mourning all the things you lost.
“I have to keep it safe because I don’t want to risk an injury. Now [Canadian Olympian] Colleen [Loach] will help me at home to get steadier on a horse and then ride around in the indoor. I believe it will be good rehab, sitting on a horse,” he continued. “I think at this stage, if I were to say I wanted to get back to where I once was, that would be ridiculous. I’m so far away from that. But if I can sit on a horse and ride through the pastures and enjoy the outdoors, I would be extremely happy.”