My parents owned a riding school called
Sweetbrier. They moved there when I was a
baby so as long as I can remember, I wanted to ride well and compete in horse shows. I started riding at about four years old before I could walk very well.
I was born prematurely. At first, doctors said I would be slow at meeting certain milestones. I talked in complete sentences at one-year-old, but when I wasn’t walking at nearly four, my dad took me to a specialist. The doctor said I’d never walk. As you can imagine, my dad was not pleased. He was a determined person who never accepted something he thought he could change.
Therefore, my dad picked me up and stormed out of the office. My dad told me not to worry about what the doctor said because it was wrong. Daddy said he’d teach me to ride and I’d be fine. It was the decision that changed my life because I learned to walk and began working toward my dream of becoming an equestrian champion. Incidentally, I always referred to my dad, as “Daddy” because nothing else fit. We had a special bond.
What is your handicap? What specific struggles did you have early on that made it difficult to fulfill your dream?
I was born with cerebral palsy. It means part of my brain was damaged when I was born. In my case, it only affects my legs, not my arms or speech. At first, it was a struggle to take one step without falling. I don’t believe most parents would have considered riding horses when walking was a considerable challenge in the beginning. When I started learning to walk, I could only walk a step without falling, but gradually, my balance improved.
I loved being with the horses so I used to navigate the stairs by sitting down. Then I crawled to the barn, which was probably 500 feet away.
When I started to ride, I fell off many times because the muscles in my legs got tired and I’d slide off. But over time, things improved.
How did others support you (or not) in your dream? Besides your family, did you have friends who encouraged you to continue?
I was bullied at school often. Only one girl in my class even spoke to me. She is the little girl Mary, I mention early in the book, My Life at Sweetbrier. When I was a teenager, I taught horseback riding at Sweetbrier. Many of our students encouraged me and cheered for me whenever I competed in shows.
|Peach and Deanie at Mrs. Foster's farm|
Photo by Bob Moseder
Was there ever a moment when you thought, "I just can't do it anymore"? And if so, what or who encouraged you to continue?
There were times when I felt discouraged and frustrated. But the family motto was “The Humphrys don’t give up” so surrendering my dream was never an option. My parents always said certain things would take longer, but I could do anything if I persevered. I had faith that someday I’d reach my goal if I kept working on it.
My Life at Sweetbrier is written in a conversational style so although it’s my story, the objective is to show other children may also beat the odds through perseverance.
Thank you so much for interviewing me today, Kathryn.
You're welcome. Where can readers find your book?