Recapturing the cowboy way
By Robin Scott
Dale Rollins, an old time cowboy from Wisconsin, never thought he would ride a horse again, after a brain tumor and several strokes left him impaired. But that all changed in June 2009 when Dale heard of Open Arms Therapy (OAT) and decided he’d like to give it a try. OAT is a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding for the disabled.
Kristen Hembree, a board director, recalled Dale’s first visit to OAT in June. She noted, “I remember his first visit. He could hardly climb the stair on the ramp we use that leads up to the horse. We had such trouble getting his leg to bend and swing over the back of the horse.” During that first visit, Dale was unable to sit up straight in the saddle, and he required two side-walkers and someone to lead the horse. After that first day, Dale commented, “It was not what I envisioned it would be.”
Life has changed greatly for Dale Rollins since then. He now rides three times each week. He is able to climb the stair and mount the horse with much improved ability. He no longer requires assistance to ride, and rides independently with growing confidence and with pride. Hembree noted, “I can’t imagine riding all my life and then all of a sudden not being able to ride at all. I would feel like a part of me had died. I am so glad OAT has been able to give that part of Dale’s life back to him.”
Dale now enjoys riding and plans to continue several times a week. He stated, “I would like to recognize the people that are involved for giving me the chance to do it and God for what he has done for me. I’ve had a long life and a happy one.”
It was while working at Caprock Feeders in 1999 that Dale learned he had a brain tumor. Within days, his career as a cowboy came to an end. He noted, “It’s an awful feeling, lying so close and hearing people talk about you dying.” Dale made it through, thanks to all the love and support of family, friends and skilled doctors. Although he steadily improved, he has never been able to “cowboy” again. He resides at Coon Memorial Nursing Home. Lucy has remained by his side for the last 15 years, through both good and bad times, always helping him with every need.
Dale is just one of the many people helped through the OAT program. His success and improvement has not only helped him physically, but has helped him emotionally, as he has been able to participate in his one true passion, riding horses and just being a cowboy.