Washington, D.CNovember 29, 2001U.S. Driving for the Disabled (USDFD) president Michael Muir led a triumphant parade of six horse-drawn carriages through Washington D.C. November 1 to mark the completion of his ten-month Horsedrawn Journey Across America.
The parade, planned for months but made more challenging by recent security issues, featured three pairs, three singles and a highly charged international cast of characters said Muir. We were flying Old Glory, several state flags and the banners of Germany, Sweden, Mexico and Great Britain, representing everyone who took part in this amazing adventure.
A delegation from the Swedish embassy joined Maryland Congressman Bob Erlich to see off the parade which lined up in front of the reflecting pool, with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop.
The flag bedecked carriages paraded down Independence Avenue guided by a DC motorcycle escort. The parade made a loop that seemed to end too soon, Muir added. We couldn't resist galloping around the trees beside the reflecting pool. And then, it was over.
Muir and a devoted crew of supporters drove from California to Washington, D.C, a 3000-mile trek. Their carriages were drawn by teams of Stonewall Sporthorses, big, beautiful Warmbloods that are remarkable for their leopard-spotted coats.
Through their Horsedrawn Journey Across America, which began on January 28, 2001 in Mission San Deigo, CA, they sought to bring their message of hope and inspiration to everyone who is challenged by disability. They know that many disabled people continue to enjoy horses through carriage driving. The carriage levels the playing field. They hope to raise support for and encourage membership in USDFD nationwide.
Along the Journey, the team visited schools and rehabilitation hospitals, demonstrating the value and joy of carriage driving for the disabled.
The 49-year-old Muir, from Woodland, CA, has been living with multiple sclerosis since age 15. Initially paralyzed from the neck down, he has been in and out of bed or in wheelchairs, but he "just keeps on going". Through aggressive therapy, which has included an active lifestyle with horses, Muir, great-grandson of famed naturalist John Muir, has been able to manage his disease. "My passion for the horses has kept me strong."
Muir, who won a team Bronze medal at the World Championship for Drivers with Disabilities held in Wolfsburg, Germany in 1998, was accompanied in Washington by Kate Rivers, the 1998 Bronze and 2000 World Gold medalist.
They were joined by Tom Turner, a veteran of the 1994 Team USA to Hartpury, England; Mary Gray of Maine, who won the individual Gold Medal at Hartpury and was a member of the Bronze Medal team in 1998; Carol Wilkinson, a member of Team USA 2000; and Ellen Kay Rees, who brought her AHSA Horse of the Year from Michigan to join the festivities. Lindsey Tyas, the 2000 British Driving Team World Silver Medalist, and her sister Alison, both from Surrey, England, drove with the Journey Across America for its last few weeks.
Ingvar Agermo and Stig Larsson returned from Sweden for the festivities after traveling with the Journey through Arizona. Dave McWethy, brought his pair of Fjords. He is a veteran of a 2000 mile trek from New Hampshire to Montana. Other supporters included Betsy Smith of Virginia, Joanna Crell of Maine and Bob Douglas of Washington DC.
Joining Muir throughout the Horsedrawn Journey Across America was Gerry Teasley, who served as advance man and drove a support vehicle. He dedicated a year to this venture in honor of his sister and two friends who have MS. José Hernandez Legoretta also completed the Journey from coast to coast. Originally from Jocotitlån, Mexico, Jose helps train the Stonewall Sporthorses. He competed across the United States in Combined Driving and was named to the 2000 Mexican Equestrian Team for the World Championship. José has been legally blind since birth. Ann Hamilton, a school teacher from California, also provided support to the Journey by driving her truck from San Diego to Memphis. She left the Journey in August for the start of the new school year.
A milestone had been reached. Three thousand miles. While this is certainly a remarkable achievement, we are reminded that the important thing is the journey itself, not the destination. This journey continues, Muir promised.
Volunteers have come forward to work on the design of a Journey Across America postage stamp. A proposal has been submitted to Breyer to feature two of the Stonewall Sporthorses as Journey Across America model horses in harness, complete with a wheelchair accessible carriage. Proceeds from the sale of these models would benefit United States Driving for the Disabled.
Alison and Lindsey Tyas in England are putting together a proposed route for the next leg of the Horsedrawn Journey. They will lead a trek though Britain from the Southern coast of England through Scotland to the North Sea. People are invited to join segments of this Journey. Proceeds will benefit Team USA and the British Driving Team.
United States Driving for the Disabled Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization which introduces people with disabilities to the sport of driving. USDFD provides training, equipment and horses for disabled people to experience this exciting and challenging sport. USDFD exists to serve people like Kate Rivers, of Indiantown, Florida, one of the pioneering woman racehorse riders in America. Kate was devastated when left paraplegic by a catastrophic accident in 1987. Bereft of hope, she could not imagine what her future would be. United States Driving for the Disabled provided training, horses, and equipment to introduce Kate to the sport of Combined Driving. Kate Rivers is the reigning World Champion and Gold Medalist.
USDFD seeks donations of carriages that can be modified to accommodate a wheelchair, both for pleasure driving and competition. USDFD has received the donation of three Kuhnle carriages, but dozens more are needed. USDFDs goal is to see that every state in America has an accessible carriage, as well as a program to teach driving to the disabled. Donations of money are needed to carry on their work. Carriages and equipment are welcome, as well as suitable, sound driving horses and ponies, who will get loving homes and a lifetime of useful work.
Please send donations to USDFD, 8110 Elk Lick Falls Road, Lexington KY 40515-9322. For more information, visit www.horsejourney.com . This site is frequently updated. Check in for the latest news of USDFD and the continuing adventures of the Horse Journey.