BRILLION, Wis (SPECTRUM NEWS) - Fifteen years ago, Jeanna Geise of Wisconsin, became the first person ever to survive rabies without a vaccination. After she was bitten by a rabid bat, doctors induced her into a fourteen day coma to let her body fight the disease. She survived the ordeal but was left with some neurological issues. She recently took up horseback riding to help improve her balance and coordination. Her training partner is Maximus, a two thousand pound Percheron horse. The two work together as Jeanna continues to cope with the effects of her ordeal.
“It’s a lot of coordination and balance. I’ll be walking, if I go to turn a corner I might cut it short and run into the wall. Balancing things in my hands and just a little bit tippiness. Right now it’s just coordinating everything. Getting my legs to work with my hands to work with my core, everything together, Giese said.”
Jeanna is now married with three children. Five years ago, she took up dog sled racing.
“Because of rabies, I can’t really do sports anymore. I was basketball, volleyball, softball but because of my nerve issues, I can’t do that anymore. So in the fall and winter I do that and then I come out here for horses and I’m just kind of around animals all the time,” Giese said.
Jeanna rides Maximus at Meadowood Farm near Brillion. Owner Marc Holm overseas fourteen horses, nine of which are rescues.
“We’ve got what we call an equine assisted therapeutic riding and activities program. We work with kids and adults with all kinds of different special needs and we primarily utilize rescue horses that were in actual kill pens. We bring them here, adopt them, rehab them and put them into our program,” Holm said.
Marc Holm sees the benefits of his program for Jeanna and others.
“We’ve got every different range of special needs, pretty much, that there is. Some of these kids and adults who will never do anything but look down at their feet will engage with a horse much better than with a human being. But over time, they carry that behavior back into their social lives, Holm said.”
Working with Maximus has helped Jeanna so she decided to help Max and the rest of the horses at Meadowood. She started a fundraiser to help train and care for the horses that have helped so many people.
“We are having the first annual Help Horses Help People Walk-A-Thon. We’re just trying to raise some money to help feed and care for these horses, so they can keep helping people, Giese said.”
Raising money through pledges earns you a walk with a horse. The biggest prize of the day is an autograph from Max himself. The gentle giant gets his hoof painted and he then stamps a piece of paper for lucky winners.
The Help Horses Help People Walk-A-Thon takes place on Saturday from 11am – 2pm. If you want to help out, click here.