Two years after a horseback riding accident left her paralyzed from the chest down, a Manitoba jockey is back in the saddle.
Alyssa Selman was thrown from a horse during a race at Winnipeg's Assiniboia Downs in 2015, hitting the ground with enough force to fracture her vertebrae and badly damage her spinal cord.
Last week she rode her new horse Duke on a brand new, customized saddle for the first time since the accident.
"I thought I might have forgotten something but I haven't. It came right back when I was up there. He was a little lazy and hard to get going at first and I can't use my legs so I had to just use my hands and voice a little more," she said.
Selman and her grandmother drove all the way to Arkansas for the saddle, which was made for $4,000 by an 80-year-old man who designs saddles for people in wheelchairs.
It has extra padding in the seat, a back rest, straps, hinges and velcro to keep her secure. Her sister, Amy Scott, scoops her out of her wheelchair and sets her onto the saddle before she takes off.
"I said I'd take it easy and I'd walk. I'd walk for a couple of weeks. But the second time I got on him I was trotting. That's how easy I took it. I would like to go faster but I'm not quite ready. I say that now but maybe the next time on him I'll be galloping, who knows," she said.
The 13-year-old Belgian Paint came from a woman from Beausejour who advertised him on Kijiji for $500. He gave rides to people with special needs and children and had also been involved in 4H.
Selman said a list of about 30 people had expressed interest in Duke, but she private messaged the seller and told her her story.
"I met Duke and I met her and she thought we were a perfect fit. And we are. We are a perfect fit," she said.
"A little bigger than maybe you'd want to start with but I think perfect size for me," she said.
"I don't want to start small."
It's been a challenge to adjust to giving commands and mastering her balance without her legs, but she's making progress with the reins and 'smooches' to get him to pick up the pace.
"I'm slowly figuring this out and it will work and it is working," she said.
She's looking forward to a trail ride with her two children in the fall.
"Accidents, car accidents, any kind of accident — it could have happened anywhere. I don't relate it to horseback riding at all … and I don't want my kids to either, and they don't, probably because I don't," she said.
"It's one more piece of normalcy back. It's a little bit of normalcy from before."