Overcoming Challenges

This will inspire you!  What courage and determination!! What a great horse!!! Thank you Lynn for sharing this story with us.

The determined Bettina Eistel and her very special horse, Fabuleax 5.

Bettina Eistel and Fabuleax 5

What is even more compelling than the fact that she can brush her horse with her feet, is that she competes, very well, at the Paralympics in dressage. Bettina didn’t just overcome her disability, she walloped it!

Why no arms? Thalidomide.  Thalidomide was a drug they gave pregnant women before it was known that it caused birth defects. Hence, Bettina was born without any arms.

Bettina doesn’t let her disability stop her.  After all, this way of being is all she has ever known. As a small child, Bettina learned how to use her feet and toes as her hands and fingers.  As a youngster, she started in horseback riding lessons. She wears riding boots with cut-outs in the toes so she can have ‘hands’.  She can saddle, bridle, hose down, wrap, blanket and do just about anything else that is needed for her horse.  And, she rides by steering with her legs and holding the reins in her mouth.

Competing in dressage.

After high school in 1979, Bettina studied the History of Art, Archaeology and Ethnology in Hamburg, followed by an eight-year study of psychology. During her psychology studies, she participated in a project with Hamburg’s home for children. In 1989 she completed her studies with a diploma and has since worked as a graduate psychologist in a Hamburg counseling center for children and family therapy.

Bettina says she trained her horse via voice commands, head movement and leg aids.  Fabuleax lets Bettina ride him in the only way she can, with the reins in her teeth and the other set of reins between her toes.  And, he does his job.

Bettina also landed a gig as a Talk Show Host.  With a weekly show on German TV station ZDF, Bettina is something of a media star.  They say her popularity is because of her engaging and optimistic personality, but one cannot ignore her amazing ability to do everything, literally everything, with her feet.


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