When you’re doing what you love, the last thing that’s supposed to happen is something very, very wrong. But that’s exactly what transpired when Stephanie Moran got on the saddle of a horse and went on a ride. She’d been on many rides before. Horses are her life, but one fateful day a horse she was riding did the unthinkable. “He lost his mind and rodeo-ed me off.” She fell hard in an arena with cement-like compacted dirt, resulting in an accident that would change her life forever.
Moran’s pelvis broke in three places, and she sustained permanent nerve damage. After time in the hospital, she was wheelchair-bound for three months. Eventually she learned to walk again and graduated to a walker. But even though she was recovering pretty well physically, emotionally the life change took its toll. “For weeks I couldn’t do what I wanted,” Moran said. For an independent person, having to rely on others was humbling. Her husband stayed by her side and helped her every step of the way. “He took care of me. He was my legs,” she recalled.
Though life had been good before the accident, Moran realized that a mighty change was taking place inside of her. During the humbling days and weeks following the accident, she wondered why it happened the way it did. Why did this happen to her? And during a horse ride, of all things? Moran admitted that she fell deep into self-pity. “I was mad at God,” she said. “People told me I was inspiring, but I didn’t feel that way.” As hard as healing was, changing was harder. Until one day she saw how different she was becoming. Before the accident, she had taken life for granted. “My pride held me back,” she said. Her heart changed. What was really important in life became clearer. She prayed differently. In the end, her relationships got better: with God, with her husband, with her kids, with herself.
The next step in her recovery would be revisiting what she loved, but also what caused her so much pain—horse riding. There was never a question that she would ride again, but that first ride after the accident filled Moran with anxiety. Would she get kicked off again? Moran was an experienced rider, and now she was riding a different horse than the day of the accident. Still, the ordeal was fresh in her mind, not to mention the pain. “It never doesn’t hurt, it’s just at different levels,” she said. “I’ve had to learn to live with it.” Injections help. Resting helps. But horses are her passion and she can’t NOT ride. “Horses are so healing,” she said.
Despite everything, she found the courage to get back in the saddle. And thankfully, her rides have been everything she has hoped for. Moran frequents the trails of the White Tank Mountains, and the combination of being on her horse and being in nature brings her a lot of peace. “I love the Arizona wilderness. Trail riding is like therapy for me. I’ve always loved the White Tank Mountains. There is something healing about being there.” Those rides are worth what she has to endure afterwards. “Usually after a long ride I end up in bed for two days,” she explained. “My doctor doesn’t understand why I do it.” Because of the accident, Moran still feels physical pain—and probably always will—but the change that has taken place inside of her has made it worthwhile. And if riding her horse past the cacti, trees, desert flowers and wildlife at the White Tanks helps her keep that peace of mind, then she’ll keep on getting back in the saddle.