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A healing ride: Veteran finds purpose and progress with horses

Alex Hussey uses a hydraulic lift to mount a horse. Hussey lost both of his legs and his left hand when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan. (KATU Photo)

At first glance it looks like a typical horseback riding lesson.

Look a little closer and you see Sycamore Lane Therapeutic Riding Center is anything but typical.

Alex Hussey mounts a horse using a hydraulic lift.

Nearly 5 years ago, Alex was serving in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Afghanistan.

While there Alex stepped on an improvised explosive device. The blast left him with a traumatic brain injury, severed both legs and his left hand.

Three years later, Alex started riding.

“Good. Very fun. It was scary the first time,” he said.

Alex was the first amputee to visit Sycamore Lane.

“What we knew about Alex before the first time is that he had been in some kind of explosion and he had amputations,” therapeutic riding instructor Amy Hartquist said.

Hartquist was determined to get Alex on a horse.

“When he got here we kind of went, Yeah, we can figure this out and get this guy on a horse,” Hartquist said.

A prospect Alex was thrilled about.

“The last place I went to in California, all I was doing was feeding and grooming,” Alex said.

At first, Alex couldn’t ride for more than a few minutes, and couldn’t lift his arms above his waist.

But now, with a little help, he rides.

“Let’s stretch up, up, up, up,” Hartquist said as Alex rides.

The goal is for Alex to have a good time and also, get stronger.

“Basically, anything we can do that can engage his core muscles when they are not getting engaged in his chair,” Hartquist said.

After riding once a week for six months, you can see the progress.

“The fact that he can pull himself up, stretch and sit with his arms above his head its astronomically different from when he started here,” Hartquist said.

Alex, constantly challenging himself has one goal, one he says he knows he can achieve with the help of Sycamore lane.

“I’m hoping eventually to get a horse and ride it independently,” Alex said.

Sycamore Lane is a nonprofit that relies on donations to continue helping people like Alex. If you would like to help or learn more about Sycamore lane, visit its website.

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