Dan Millman presents The Peaceful Warrior's Way

The Peaceful Warrior by Valerie Ryan

On August 6, 2003, at 5:45 p.m., I broke my neck in a horseback-riding accident.  I had a premonition that day, just like Christoper Reeve reported having:  "Things were not in the groove."  I should have listened to my inner voice and I should have listen to my beloved mare, a beautiful bay Arab named Almas Banoo (translated from the Persian, that means Lady Diamond).  Well, she bolted, and I went sailing through the air teacup over tea kettle, landing with my head bent under my torso.  I remember it perfectly clearly:  I was fully conscious after the fall and had heard my neck break.  The trauma was catastrophic:  three vertebrae shattered (C5-7) and my spinal cord crushed and extruded.  I was instantly paralyzed from the mid-sternum down.  They didn't expect me to live; and if I did pull through, the trauma surgeon in the ER told my husband that we would be lucky if I could move a finger enough to push a button on a wheelchair.

I was fortunate that Dr. William Caton, a well-known and highly-regarded neurosurgeon, was in the hospital that day.  He took my case because our family was known to him.  After three surgeries, I began the grueling process of rehabilitation therapy.  Initially, my therapists approached me as someone who was going to be a quadriplegic the rest of her life.  As for me, I never believed anything but that I would walk again, and I would not allow them to utter the word "quad."  I was in the hospital for three months, eventually being transferred to a dedicated rehab hospital.  

I wore a halo brace for six months (that is a steel band that is screwed right to your skull, with bars that extend outward and down, bolted to a heavy and very tight breastplate).  It took me two years of fighting to regain my ability to walk and to use my arms.  I am now a quadriparetic, that is, someone who has weakness in all four limbs.  My hands have no sensation of touch, and I cannot make fine motor movements.  I live with constant pain, but fatigue is really my greatest enemy.
When it became clear that I was going to be unable to work, I had to sell my Lady Di, because I could no longer afford to support her.  It wouldn't have been fair to my family.  It broke my heart, and there was no one I could share that heartache with.  I bore it alone.  However, I have kept track of her.  I know who her people are, and I know that she is happy, beloved, healthy, and has a good job to do.  That has been a great consolation to me.  She has a forever home with a very special family who just adore her, and that's what matters. 
ImageLast fall, I was moved by the movie The Peaceful Warrior, to undertake plans to have horses in my life again.  I immediately began shopping for country property, so that I could adopt horses that nobody else wants and give them a loving retirement.  These adoptions were made possible through BEHS — Bluebonnet Equine Human Society, devoted to the welfare of horses for their lifetime.
I have Honey the Mustang, and we are forming a very special relationship.  I am the human human being she has been searching for for 18 years.  While I am healing her, she is doing just as much for me.  The joy she brings into my life is boundless.  I am soon to adopt Winkie through BEHS as well.  I wrote to Dan Millman, whose story is told in the film and in his book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and I have his reply framed and up in my home.  He wrote "I am thrilled and delighted that the movie served as such a positive catalyst in your coming up with such an expansive, creative, and constructive vision, enabling you to bring your love of horses into the world in this way."  
Well, I owe all that to BEHS!  Thank you for a thoroughly rewarding relationship.
Valerie Ryan
Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society
For the love of horses.
In the quiet light of the stable, you hear a muffled snort . . . the stamp of a hoof, a friendly nicker. Gentle eyes inquire, "How was your day, old friend?" and suddenly all your troubles fade away . . .