Barbara (wearing her prosthetics)
with Nick and Shelley (on left)
Barbara Adside is a disabled rider whose story was first introduced to California Riding Magazine readers in August of 2009. In that article she was described as an "able-minded" rider and she certainly is. Last spring she received her Para-Equestrian classification as International Grade 2; Grade 1 being the most disabled. Barbara, a congenital amputee whose legs end well above the knee, was born with dyslexia, spina bifida, and a number of other potentially disabling conditions. She spent the early years of her life in a series of foster homes in the inner cities of the Northeast.
I recently visited Barbara at Heartland Stables in Redlands where she is currently in training with Shelley Mulica and working diligently to make the US Para-Equestrian Team. She has made some significant advances since starting down that path in the spring of '09. Her most recent competition at the Cal Net show this past May resulted in two first place positions as well as a 70% score on the Introductory Dressage Test B, to name just a few of her accomplishments this past year. The US Dressage Federation Introductory tests are slightly more demanding than the Para-Equestrian tests for Grade 2.
Barbara's first show, at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, Redmond, OR, in June 2009, set her doubts in motion. Seeing, now firsthand, what competitive life is like, she felt that she was financially disadvantaged for success in competitive dressage. Sensitive to her lack of standard attire, and battling those demons that plague any of us when embarking on new endeavors, Barbara left the show immediately upon completing her classes. She retreated to her nearby campsite, planning to depart for California early the following morning and resigned to leaving this equestrian venture behind. Fortunately the show organizers were able to find her before she left the next day and invite her back to pick up her winnings. All the first place trophies and ribbons, and receiving the best overall score, gave her the confidence to move forward toward her competitive goals.
Barbara currently rides a dressage saddle which has
been modified with two of the compensating aids
available to her. As she progresses she will need a saddle designed for and customized to her specific needs.
The show at Little Bit brought Barbara to the attention of Cauleen Glass, a USEF "R" rated dressage judge, who was officiating there and was impressed with Barbara's very relaxed, secure and supple seat. Cauleen linked Barbara up with Shelley Mulica (HCR Performance Horses). Under Shelley's capable tutelage Barbara began training on her own Quarter Horse, Black Beauty. When a swollen hind leg kept him from showing, Shelley offered the use of her own Half Arab/Pinto, Black Cognac—otherwise known as Nick—to continue Barbara's training and showing. Barbara and Nick really hit it off and started accumulating points in a strategy focused on getting them to next year's Team USA Para-Equestrian try-outs.
Unfortunately, they recently discovered that the horse on which the points are accumulated must be the horse which is ridden in the Para-Equestrian try-outs, which are normally held on the East Coast. More unfortunately, Nick battles claustrophobia and air travel is not in his cards. Barbara and Shelley are now trying to find a horse suitable for dressage on which Barbara can qualify for the next year's try-outs.
Knowing Barbara had experienced her own difficulties growing up prompted me to ask how she maintained such a positive attitude. She replied perkily, "Oh, I'm not always this upbeat. I get down sometimes."
When I asked her about the last time she was down, she thought for a minute and said, "I guess it would have to be about two years ago when my boyfriend died." (I had been waiting to hear something like, 'Oh, last week I was kind of low when the weather got so hot.') Barbara is obviously not a person swayed off her foundation by the everyday issues of life. In explaining how she dealt with her grief over her boyfriend's death, she said that Black Beauty was her therapy. Working with him comforted her and facilitated her to healing.
Barbara putting Nick through his paces,
riding in her specially constructed saddle.
Barbara told me at the start of our interview that she now takes care of six horses. Except for Black Beauty, all are rescues and each has a touching and unique story. Fortunately the property in the high desert beyond Acton, where she keeps her trailer, and which is rented by her foster brother, can accommodate the horses. Barbara credits helping her care for the horses with providing her brother a purpose in life after a severe accident put him in the hospital where he contracted a nearly fatal MRSA infection.
I wondered how Barbara manages all these expenses. She has been a member of the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) since the age of 13. Someone from Paramount saw her performing in a jazz combo at a club with her foster father back in Florida. She was invited to meet with the people at Paramount and within two weeks she had her first job in a McDonald's commercial. Barbara has an extensive resume of experience in that arena and even told me about the mind games that come with acting work which got her used to dealing with other hardships. Unfortunately, the work has now slowed to a trickle. More and more filmmakers are opting to use non-union actors. If she can work 10 days within a three-month period she receives excellent health benefits, but she hasn't worked a SAG job in six months.
It was suggested to me, and I validated it after meeting Barbara, that she would be an excellent advocate for hippo-therapy for many of the recently disabled young military personnel. There are some promising prospects in this area, but nothing in place yet.
I hope you come away from this story with the perception of Barbara as the can-do, capable gal that she truly is. One can't help but wonder what will cross her path as she pursues her journey toward a spot on the U.S. Para-Equestrian Team.
If you have ideas to suggest or opportunities you would like to make Barbara aware of, please contact her at bcaUSA2012@hotmail.com. The slightest input just might be the one that helps make her dream come true.