I spent a grand week in Aiken, South Carolina recently. It was business first, with three book signings scheduled: one at the beautiful Willcox Hotel on Tuesday (Horsemen’s Night); Wednesday at Equine Divine, a lovely gift shop for all things equine; and Thursday in Camden at the Tack Room. It was a week to see old friends and make new friends. After three days of business, there was a day’s hunting with George and Jeannie Thomas, MFHs of the Why Worry Hounds. A Hunt Report of that day is in the works to be posted shortly.
I stayed with my friend Art Richardson, ex-MFH of the Wayne-Du Page Hunt in Illinois. Art and wife Judy leave the cold weather behind every year and spend the winter months in Aiken. Art hunts with the Aiken packs and brings his two grand-daughters, Mackenzie and Virginia, to visit and hunt with him as often as possible. Life is good for us.
Well...most of us. For Art’s son Michael, life could be better. Michael is a horseman and was a foxhunter in his younger years. At the age of twenty, Michael was involved in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. That’s not the current problem, though.
Michael overcame that life-changer by choosing to turn his adversity into a positive force. He has made a name for himself training horses, giving clinics, teaching the methods of horsemanship, and inspiring people from his wheelchair. Michael and his wife Tiffany have trained and taught people and horses all over the country. And, yes, with his special saddle and mounting platform, he rides and trains from the horse’s backs as well as from the ground.
"We are confronted every day with choices—small choices and big choices," Michael says in a taped inspirational presentation that can be viewed on his website. "It’s what you do with your situation that is going to help you get to where you ultimately want to go—the goals that you have set for yourself."
Referring to his accident, Michael continues, "We have all been there to one degree or another. It doesn’t take an accident like that to have a life change. It’s what you do with it. That is your choice."
Michael’s mission has been to help others achieve their dreams and goals with their own horses. He has amazing rapport with horses, and he has won the respect and admiration of his professional peers. Then, ten years ago, as if he didn’t have enough to overcome, Michael was bitten by a recluse spider, the venom of which is more potent than that of a rattlesnake.
When that happens to a healthy individual with normal circulation, a small crater of infected and diseased tissue (necrosis) soon appears in the flesh at the site of the bite. It can cause fever and chills, nausea and vomiting, and joint pain. Red blood cells are rapidly destroyed, and anemia ensues. Skin grafts may be necessary to replace the dead flesh.
When a recluse spider bites an individual like Michael, who doesn’t have robust circulation in the lower part of his body, the destruction of the flesh is exacerbated. Michael has undergone large grafts of healthy flesh to replace an extraordinary amount of diseased and lost tissue. You don’t even want to think about the pain. Yet when Art calls Michael to ask how he’s doing, the answer is, "I’m great, Dad!" Michael is just an upbeat kind of guy, but it’s been three years since he has been able to work.
On January 9, 2011, the Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas is opening it’s doors to the Michael Richardson Benefit. Clinics will be given all day from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm by a lineup of who’s who in natural horse training: Curt and Tammy Pate, Pat and Linda Parelli, Craig Cameron, Chris Cox, Tom Curtin, Buster McLaury, Lee Smith, Rick Lamb, and Peter Campbell. They are all coming because they want to help Michael Richardson get back in the saddle. This has to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see this caliber of clinicians all in one place in one day. The ticket cost for the entire day is $25.00. PayPal users can log into their account, select Send Money, type in [email protected], and enter the amount. Alternatively, call Bill Muncaster at 940-768-2272 or (cell) 214-549-3838 for a mailing address. For more information and photos, search Michael Richardson Benefit on FaceBook or go to Michael’s website, www.BrokenRRanch.com.