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horses could easily contract. Humans, as well, are equally at risk to West Nile from a mosquito bite. In fact, many people are bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus and never know it since their immune systems generally can fight it. Weakened immune systems are susceptible to more severe reactions, which can lead to complications such as brain damage, muscle damage, and sometimes even death. Deep inside Orlando knew his inner strength

would pull him through, but as he lay there, he had no way to communicate this with others. Surviving the crisis, he could not speak, and his limbs had failed him too. He remained in the hospital for approximately a week, and after being examined by seventeen doctors and specialists, he was diagnosed with neuropathy in all four extremities. The long term prognosis was bleak. Unable to walk, he was eventually released from the hospital, but he was dramatically changed. Some said it would be forever. “I looked and sounded like a stroke victim. I could barely make noises,” he says.

Slow Recovery

But Orlando and his partner Jeff were determined to overcome all pessimistic predictions. “Jeff did everything. He kept up the stables. He took care of me, the home and the horses,” he recounts. Orlando’s bed was arranged so that he could look out the window at his horses. It was his daily vision. Watching his horses kept him connected to the world that he might join again, free from pain and depression. He could visualize his legs and arms moving with precision as he mentally went through the motions of dressage. “Watching my horses brought me strength. I was healing through them.” Gradually, and painfully, Orlando began his recovery.

It took years of patience, nutrition, therapy, and love, but he began to return to health. “Even during the recovery period, they had to get me strong enough for back surgery, so it was a long and draining process,” Orlando explains. Jeff describes it now as just a blur. “It was 24/7. I just did whatever needed to be done. It was so overwhelming. I think that’s why I have no individual memories. I don’t want to try to remember.” There have been many changes because it has been

such a life-altering experience. Orlando is matter of fact about it. “I had to give up the stables about a year later, but I still have Indy, and I ride whenever I can.” Sadly and coincidentally, Indy fell ill shortly after Orlando’s crisis. “Just as I was sick, Indy began to show some of the same type of symptoms.” The diagnosis was that his stallion was gravely ill with EPM, Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. As EPM is commonly contracted through opossum feces in hay, Indy suffered neurological damage as the sporocysts—cysts

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containing spores that can reproduce asexually— left lesions on Indy’s spinal cord. But Orlando and Indiana Jones were both made

from the same mold. There would be no listening to the pessimistic prognosticators. They would survive together. “Indy lists to the side now when he’s standing,” Orlando laughs good-naturedly. “He has a neurological lean, and I have neuropathy from the knees down. We match perfectly. We’ve healed together.”

Aid to Equestrians

There are some residual effects that remain from such devastating illnesses, but overall, life has returned to normalcy and abundance. Orlando credits the amazing good work of the Equestrian Aid Foundation for actually keeping him alive. “Seriously, I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for them. I can’t say enough good things about them.” Faced with skyrocketing medical bills and many more to come with specialists and high insurance costs, the Equestrian Aid Foundation came to Orlando’s rescue. “All I could do was watch my horses and read mountains of horse magazines,” recounts Orlando. “I happened to see a small advertisement about

this organization, the Equestrian Aid Foundation,” he continues. “The ad mentioned that they could help people in the horse community who had suffered from some catastrophic injury or illness.” He immediately called them with his inquiry and personal story. The organization listened and decided to help. “They took care of all those worries.” Orlando is very serious now. “It’s why I have a life like this now. Because of the good work they do, riders like me can heal and mend the emotional wounds as well as the physical ones.” From their website at equestrianaidfoundation.org, the foundation assists Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60
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