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"barn/horse safe" ideas for person post stroke and with other strength/balance issues

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  • "barn/horse safe" ideas for person post stroke and with other strength/balance issues

    My mom is relatively young, just 61. She has a-fib and has been hospitalized for complications with CHF as a result this summer. She's also had several TIAs. The latest has left her with some weakness in one of her legs after very moderate exertion. She has difficulty picking up her toes/foot on that side.

    She is going to have cardioversion done after the holidays so that should help with her stamina. But they really don't think that the stroke related weakness in her leg is going to improve. It's been 2 mos since the last stroke and there's been no change. I would call my mother's gait a "shuffle"--not as bad as a Parkinson's shuffle, but she definitely shuffles. She's also fairly heavy right now--though that is getting much better since the CHF symptoms have been better managed. (she lost 70 lbs of FLUID during her 5 day hospitalization. Can you imagine????)

    Anyway....My mom has two horses. She is currently boarding them at a facility where her horses are in a paddock together. No other horses in with them. So she can fairly safely get in and mess around with them which is GREAT for her mental well being and for exercising a bit.

    But I'm concerned about her leg issues when it comes to walking and riding. More specifically, being able to get on/off the horse and making the walk back from the paddock to her car if she's become tired. She still has challenges with her balance and with the combined leg weakness, I worry about her falling.

    I'm wondering if anyone has recommendations for tools like some kind of nifty cane that periscopes so she can carry it with her until she needs it, have it while riding. Or some kind of portable small chair so she can at least take a break if she needs to without having to sit on the ground.

    Basically, ANY kind of tips or tricks would be much appreciated. She really wants to be out and about and independent but it makes her nervous to push very hard because she's afraid she'll get too weak or fall.

    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...

  • #2
    Hi, I don't really have any ideas, but want to wish your mother well. I had a stroke in 2007 - I was 53. I was able, but barely, to get up on my horse. the good news for me was that I had taught him to tolerate being kicked as he got mounted. I had prepared him for a downs man to ride him.
    So I would put my left foot in stirrup standing on mounting block, and then drag my right foot over his hip.
    as I got stronger, I just needed to rest my right foot on his butt getting down.

    I think riding made my walking better. My neurologist, who saw me right after the stroke, suggested I ride as soon as I could. Either my horse or a therapy horse.

    Can there be a few plastic chairs set up so she can sit on her way back to the car? and maybe a good sturdy mounting block high enough up to sit on in the paddock?

    I wish your mom the best.


    • #3
      I've seen folding canes in the pharmacy before --- they're a little more than a foot long when folded. A good tall mounting block, and possibly mounting from the off side if that's easier for her.


      • #4
        Well bless both your hearts. There are these canes I see stroke victims use in pulbic sometimes. They look very much like the hurry cane ads on tv. But I swear one looked like it telescoped. I fancy nifty engineered items, but it would been strange of me to want to inspect a strangers cane up close and personal. Maybe if you google it tho you will find something similar and useful.

        Also something like a rolling walker with a seat might be something to consider. Best of both worlds as the seat is on wheels and good to go, but the walker there too if riding or other activities cause fatigue.

        Something else to think about if riding does prove too much. Driving. Send horsie 1 or 2 or both off for driving training if riding is too much. You can learn to drive too and sit in the seat next to mom. Win, win! Quality time with the horses and together. And your are there just in case.

        Best of luck! Hope my child does offer me such kind thought if Lord forbid something like this happens to me.


        • #5
          A rail post fence from her paddock or barn to her parking area, at hand height so she can drag herself along pulling herself along by the fence. Think of a balustrade. It has to be solid and smooth on the top. How about a mounting platform with stairs and handrail on the stairs, either inside or right outside the paddock.
          Someone here has posted one her husband built for her.

          Is she going to her horses alone?


          • #6
            Something like this may come in very handy. It doesn't telescope, but if she only needs it to get to/from the barn... it may work fine. She can hang it on the paddock rail or whatever is handy nearby while riding, and then use it to get back to the car, or as a seat to rest: http://www.fashionablecanes.com/Seat_Cane.html
            We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


            • #7
              I just recently saw commercials for this on TV, it might be just the ticket for your mom! Not only does it telescope, but it has a special foot that is extra stable and it can even stand up on it's own!

              Graphic Design & Websites


              • #8
                Look for a licensed Therapeutic Riding Association in your area. They have amazing programs for people coming back from strokes, and with proper instruction through a qualified Therapeutic Riding Instructor on horses that have been specifically trained for Therapeutic Riding, she can ride again safely, and then hopefully be able ride her own horses again. I'm not sure if a Therapeutic Riding instructor would come to your farm and work with your horses and your mother there, that is something you'd have to discuss with them, but I've seen amazing progress with adults who have had strokes, brain injuries, etc. Many people only think about Therapeutic Riding programs for handicapped children, but they are equally valuable for adults.
                At its finest, rider and horse are joined not by tack, but by trust. Each is totally reliant upon the other. Each is the selfless guardian of the other's very well-being.
                (Author Unknown)


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks all!

                  I talked to Mom about having posted on COTH about this and based on this thread and the one I Xposted to OffCourse, I've got a few ideas. I am going to work with her horse when I get home on the dismounting next to a mounting block. And we're going to look at some of these chair/cane/walker combos. Her big fear is getting too far away from her car when walking that she can't make it back or falls due to instability. The good news is that even if her leg starts feeling really weak, 10-15 min of rest is enough to get going again. So if she can just sit and rest for a few, that should help.

                  Chall--yes. She goes to the barn by herself. But the owners and the trainer are usually out there and can/will help her if needed. The trainer has been really great about keeping an eye out and also about getting on her mare first just to "check things out" if it's been awhile since she last rode. He's a good egg.
                  A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                  Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                  • #10
                    I had a mini-stroke post heart=lung machine...very common. I have similar concerns about being alone at the barn and taking precautions. The main tip is for her to NEVER handle horses when she is absolutely alone. She should always check in with the owner or trainer and let them know her plans...file a flight plan. And then check back in when she's done.

                    I have worked really hard on getting my fast twitch back...I was falling down all the time because my left side could not keep up with a stumble or trip. I REALLY needed to be able to get and KEEP my feet under me. I worked on the treadmill with walking. I had to reteach my leg muscles to work, to lift my knee and then to be quick about it. I am able to slowly run now and haven't fallen down in a long time.

                    I also worked on balance...standing on one foot. There was a time when I couldn't slip on a pair of shoes without holding onto the wall or a chair; couldn't put my pants on without sitting down.

                    It took a long time but the improvement was steady. Has your mom been to PT to learn some exercises she can do for balance and gait improvement? Or even go to an aerobics class and do what she can...in the back. Even sitting down and making her feet move would help.

                    I wish her all the best in the world. I'm 65; 8 years post stroke; running, riding and still working on improving my athleticism. And trying to lose weight. No Ican't imagine 70 ppounds of water. I have enough problems with a gallon or two.

                    Bless her heart and give her a hug for me. And hug the horses who enjoy her company too!
                    Ride like you mean it.


                    • #11
                      Ask her to ask her Doctor if she'd be a candidate for a pacemaker, if the A-Fib does not respond to the cardioversion. My DH has A-fib that was not responding to cardioversion or to drugs alone. He got a pacemaker, then another cardioversion and the two together helped tremendously.
                      RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you all.

                        We haven't crossed the cardioversion bridge yet so we shall see.

                        I am hopeful.
                        A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                        Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                        • #13
                          I just saw this thread and wanted to add one or two recommendations - make sure she always has her cell phone on her and fully charged. If the area the barn is located in doesn't have coverage then check with the others who are usually there when she is to see if they would be willing to carry a two-way radio/walkie talkie with them when she is there in case she does fall and needs help or figure out some other way that she can use to alert them that she needs help if there are on the other end of the property. I would also ask her if she would be willing to wear her helmet the entire time she is by herself there (assuming she uses one). The reason I mention that is because it really doesn't take much to fall and seriously hurt yourself. My Mother fell on a well padded carpeted floor (she has a history of strokes and brain cancer, this occurred when she only had a little weakness on one side and slight balance issues) and knocked herself out cold and required 8 staples on the side of her head where she hit the floor. I would hate to think what could have happened if it wasn't a well padded floor. As others have mentioned - the folding canes and walkers with seats are definitely something to check out. I am glad your Mom is doing well enough that she can still go and enjoy her horses!