(First appeared in The Equiery May 2011)

Seventeen years ago, Kathy Bowie of Westminster found her life turned upside down when she fractured her ankle in seven places. After months of treatment, recovery and therapy, Kathy still found herself walking with the aid of a cane or brace. In 2006, Kathy said the pain was just too much to bear. “I had always been a people person, but this pain was life-changing. I was now confined to my recliner,” she said.

After consulting one of the top ankle and foot surgeons in the world, who happened to practice out of Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, Kathy made the somewhat radical choice to have her leg amputated below the knee. “There have been so many advancements in prosthetics that I put one plus one to equal two, and there really was no question. I know that sounds so radical but with the science of prosthesis, I would be able to do everything I did before my accident,” she said. And “everything” included getting back on a horse, which Kathy did, just ten weeks after surgery.

“I had to relearn some balance and make stirrups so that my foot couldn’t slide through,” she commented. Now, on the eve of her 60th birthday, Kathy has no regrets and is living life as if nothing ever happened. Except for one key change. Besides trail riding all over the country, participating in endurance and judged pleasure rides, and even barrel racing, Kathy finds the time and the drive to help others in similar situations.

“Any traumatic experience makes people think their entire lives have stopped. I try and convince them to just push forward and get on with their lives. Don’t waste your life sitting on your sofa!” she said. Kathy has stepped out to help various people one-on-one to get back on horses after what some would consider life-stopping injuries. Most recently, Kathy is organizing a trail ride (April 23) at Codorus State Park in Pennsylvania to benefit St. Jude’s Medical Center.

Kathy chose St. Jude’s because of its work with children. She is very impressed with how much of its funds go directly to the family members to help them with various expenses during treatments. Although she did contact several parks here in Maryland, Codorus became her top pick because of how simple the trails are and since there is plenty of room for trailer parking. “I wanted a location that was super easy. I want anyone to be able to come out and ride no matter what the skill level. My goal is to have everyone come back on their horses!” she laughed.