Deborah F. Stanitski, M.D.
I initially began riding horses at summer camp when I was 12 years old. In high school this morphed into exercising race horses that belonged to my father's friend at Arlington Park. I subsequently took lessons, on a college-owned horse, while at Smith College and became a member of their equestrian drill team. I also participated in intercollegiate horse shows, again on a Smith College mount.
One of my collegiate instructors was then solely a dressage rider. Together we explored eventing, which I discovered was my passion. Following graduation, I worked in a lab, and was given the summer use of an off-the-track thoroughbred gelding. My "job" was to make him rideable which, fortunately, I achieved.
I then went on to postgraduate studies at Rockefeller University in New York City and then the University of Cincinnati, where I obtained an M.D. degree in 1980. During my orthopedic surgery residency at Harvard I spent my yearly vacations training in eventing in Unionville, Pennsylvania. There I was again learning on others' horses. Subsequent marriage and two children led to a temporary riding hiatus. This "break" ended in 1989. However, I did not own my own horse until 1995, an off-the-track thoroughbred gelding. I resumed eventing as well as dressage shows and escalated my ability to the point of considering my first CIC*.
My career as an academic pediatric orthopedic surgeon took me to Charleston, South Carolina where I became a full professor at The Medical University of South Carolina. I had temporarily left my horse in Michigan and was riding others' "problem" horses in the Middleton Hunt. In March, 1999 I sustained a closed head injury which changed my life. I spent 2 1/2 months in the hospital, initially in the Intensive Care Unit, then step-down unit and then on to the rehabilitation service.
Initially I was unable to stand, walk, talk, or swallow. Gradually I regained these functions, but was left with major balance, speed, and coordination deficits. I was discharged from the hospital to resume outpatient rehabilitation, and was able to return to part-time, non-operative orthopedic practice in January, 2000 which I continued until I retired from clinical practice in December, 2005.
Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding (CATR) and their director, Murray Neale, resurrected my riding. In the beginning I required two side walkers just to be able to sit on the horse at the walk. My own horse, an OTTB gelding, was shipped to a friend in Aiken, South Carolina to ride as he was unsuitable for me at the time. Eventually, at CATR, I relearned how to tack-up the horse, walk, trot, and canter.
I was discharged from CATR and bought a safe, quiet Quarter Horse. It became apparent to me that continuous prodding to produce results was too exhausting for my "new" self. I had a series of my own horses and returned to eventing, at the Beginner Novice level. I also realized that upper level eventing would be impossible for the changed me. My prior lessons with David O'Connor, with his emphasis on dressage, and experience led me to dressage.
My trainer, C. Michelle Folden, helped me to find my current beautiful 15.2H Holsteiner x QH mare, Tiramisu. In late 2012 and early 2013 I had the good fortune to train with US Para Equestrian Team Chef d’Equipe Missy Ransehousen, learning much about para dressage and the allowable aids. I was classified internationally at Wellington, Florida in March, 2013 as a Grade II para equestrian. I have since become well-acquainted with both Laureen Johnson (the USEF para-dressage afficionado) and Hope Hand of the USPEA (US Para Equestrian Association).
I have worked on both the Team and Individual tests as well as creating a musical freestyle with the professional assistance of Beth Hall. Thus far, we have completed two CPEDIs (Wellington, Florida-March, 2014 and Rancho Murieta, California-April, 2014). Tiramisu and I are now qualified for the USEF Para Equestrian Dressage National Championship in Gladstone, New Jersey (June 2-5, 2014), where we finished fourth overall in the Grade II Championship.
We also have aspirations for the 2015 Pan Am Games (Toronto) and/or the 2016 Paralympics (Rio de Janeiro).