Biography

Born in Los Angeles, CA, Alanna grew up as a healthy child until she was 13 years old and woke up unable to move or walk on her right foot. Symptoms progressed quickly throughout her entire body so she was bedridden in excruciating pain with contracted, swollen, discolored limbs.  Diagnosed with a neurological disease associated with dysregulation of the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system that affects the bones, muscles, nerves, skin, and blood vessels, Alanna spent the next few years in the hospital undergoing daily therapies, invasive treatments, and surgeries. 

 

Despite the challenges she faced, Alanna graduated high school on time with her class from Chaminade College Preparatory. She moved to Memphis, TN where she attended Rhodes College and double majored in Biology and Psychology. After graduating, Alanna moved to Boston to pursue her graduate studies where she obtained her M.S.Ed., specializing in severe special needs and her teaching credential from Simmons College. 

However, while in Boston teaching, her health started to decline when she contracted a virus that attacked her nerves, spreading quickly so she was exhibiting signs of quadriplegia.  

 

​After years of working so hard with her recovery in her teens and resuming a more “normal’ life, Alanna was once more struggling and in a place of much frustration. Moving from Boston back home to Los Angeles for family to care for her, it physically seemed like she would never gain back any independence.  She was not progressing with her rehab and was only getting more fragile. She wanted the life that all her friends had in their 20’s. She knew something had to change. 

 

Alanna did not grow up with horses, but her time in special education had introduced her to Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT). The horses came into her life at a time when she needed them the most. From the first day that she was paired up with Lusco, something changed with her. Interestingly, the movement and sensory input from the horse can be used to address things such as posture, balance, sensory integration, coordination, and mobility in people with disabilities. Once she started physical therapy in this new way, she wanted to be challenged every single day. 

Alanna is now a Grade 2 ParaEquestrian who trains with Sara Schmitt Dressage. She’s gone from needing multiple people to hold her on the horse, to multiple wins in the international ring, representing Team USA, Grade 2 National Champion in 2020, and there’s much more to come! 

You never know what can happen in life, how quickly things can change. The sport has given Alanna back her life, her spirit. Her journey is still unfolding as it should be. Alanna knows she is strong enough to handle anything and is grateful for all her family and friends who have supported her along the way.

 

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© 2016 by Alanna Flax-Clark 

Califon, NJ, USA

Contact: aflaxclark@gmail.com 

U.S. ParaEquestrian