EXCLUSIVE by Eloise Horsfield
EACH morning on a farm in Mojacar, Barbara Napier rides bareback on her horse Frisona, a tall Friesian mare.
It is anything but unusual, but it actually tells a story of tremendous courage.
For the 58-year-old American riding the horse was given just months to live after contracting a rare disease that causes inflammation of blood vessels, affecting the nose and sinuses as well as the body’s organs.
“It was a death sentence,” she remembers. “They basically told me to go to bed and write my will.”
That was eight years ago, but miraculously Barbara has been able to slow down the effects of a rare disease known as Wegener’s almost entirely thanks to horse riding.
In a story that is poignant proof that riding can be as therapeutic as it is recreational, she eschewed conventional medicines – including steroids – to rely entirely on her trusty mare.
The Californian is now looking for a ghostwriter to help her tell her moving tale.
“It’s all drafted, with all the facts and dates – I just need a good writer to make it an interesting read,” she said.
Certainly it is an inspirational story.
After a total of 30 operations Barbara was left so physically disfigured that she suffered severe depression, and felt unable to socialise for over three years.
She even went blind for a year – but was thankfully able to see again after receiving a double eye implant.
Then, during a trip to see relatives in Oklahoma Barbara somehow found the motivation to ride again after eight years out of the saddle.
“It was incredible,” she said. “I found that not only did riding make me feel more energetic and happier, but I somehow found a hidden strength inside me.”
For Barbara the effects of riding were so great, she eventually stopped taking the steroids she had been prescribed for Wegener’s.
“They were making me feel so sick,” she said. “I just thought ‘why don’t I stop?’”
She has since found her symptoms have improved drastically. Ironically, Barbara is no stranger to the healing powers of animals.
For 20 years she ran Animo, the first animal-assisted therapy charity in Spain, using horses and donkeys to improve the lives of disabled children.
And now, thanks to her newfound strength, Barbara has revived Animo – which collapsed due to her ill health – at the Albero Equestrian Centre, in Almeria.
Contact Barbara at [email protected]