Herd Member | Alex Braendle

Hi Herd! My name is Alex(@liberty_equestrian)! I am so excited to be a part of this herd! I am 25 years old and I am from Virginia. I have been riding in total for about 10 years but unfortunately my riding story isn’t linear. In high school, after a long fight with getting doctors to listen, I found out I had a chronic illness called Ehlers Danlos. I fought hard to continue riding but my pain kept increasing and it became too much to manage. This ultimately halted my riding career for a couple of years. Now, with treatments and tricks to help my EDS, I have been back riding for about three years now, alongside my heart horse, Libby. 

Libby couldn’t have come into my life at a more perfect time. I had just decided to start riding again when I received a text from her owner asking if I wanted to come try her. I was so nervous; I was terrified that my Ehlers Danlos wouldn’t allow it. I remember getting on Libby for the first time, my hips hurt immediately and my back started slipping. All I could think was “maybe riding just isn’t for me anymore.” Yet the longer I sat there the freer I felt. I had ridden plenty of horses before but this one felt different. Libby gave her all to me that day even though I could only give such a small portion back. That day was the start of a bond I had never imagined having with a horse. Now three years later, we are a pair that is simply unbreakable. Libby gave me the wings I was lacking. 

One of the hardest parts about getting back into riding was accepting that just because someone else can do it doesn’t mean I can. I wanted to fit in and do everything all my peers were doing. No stirrups couldn’t happen because my hips would dislocate. Sitting deep would cause my back to shift. The list goes on. I became very frustrated and felt as if I would never “be” something. I remember being so frustrated that I had a horse that gave me her all, yet I felt I couldn’t do the same for her. Very quickly I decided I needed to shift my mindset. 

Instead of giving up, I decided to channel my feelings into creating content that would spread awareness. I started a TikToK and Instagram account about my journey with Libby and my chronic illness. The equestrian world is hard. I think the vast majority of us have a hard time feeling as if we don’t have a place in the community. Adding a chronic illness just makes all of it a tad bit harder. I wanted to create a place where I could be transparent about my riding and my chronic illness.

When I came across Herd of Zebra’s, I automatically felt like it was a community that I had to be a part of. The Herd of Zebra’s community is exactly what I was looking for all along, a place where everyone is welcome. Along with their message, the Ehlers Danlos awareness symbol is a zebra. How perfect, right? I automatically felt like I belonged in this family. 

No one's story is the same, just as no one's stripes are the same and that is perfectly okay!