"Horses have been therapeutic long before any head injuries," Roth states. Photo © Cindi Roth

Cindi Roth Overcomes Traumatic Brain Injury to Show Again

Amateur exhibitor Cindi Roth of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida may not have won an NSBA World Championship at this year’s show, but she is a winner in many people’s books. Under the supervision of Highpoint Performance Horses, Roth and her horse, Natural Loper (Wings), were tenth in the BCF 4 to 6 Intermediate Non-Pro Western Pleasure, sixth in the BCF 4 to 6 Limited Non-Pro Western Pleasure and ninth in the Novice Amateur Western Pleasure. Despite these great placings, the fact that Cindi was even in the arena was somewhat of a miracle.

In November of 2013, Roth was feeding the weanlings at her farm when they got overly excited and ran her over. Cindi tells us that her husband, Colin was in the barn and came out seconds later. “His medical knowledge and quick action certainly saved me,” Cindi shares. “I was life-flighted to Shands Trauma Center and in an OR within 45 minutes. My skull was caved in in the shape of a hoof. The surgeon said he had to pull all the pieces out, glue them together, put the bone back in and cover it with titanium.”

Roth continues, ”When I woke up a couple of days later, the nurse told me that a horse kicked me in the head. I said, ‘I was not kicked, I was stepped on.’ True, but amazing that I could remember because it was the right side of my brain that is responsible for memory. My motor skills did not fare as well,” Roth recalls.  “One day a young doctor came into my room and said he heard that I was talking and he had to see it for himself. He said he was the ER doctor that admitted me and gave me a five percent chance of survival and zero chance of being able to speak.”

Of course, Cindi proved them wrong. Roth talks about the intensive rehabilitation she went through after her injury.

“I had to learn to walk,” Cindi recalls. “It’s not like you forget, but the brain has to learn balance to tell the body what to do. Lots of memory stuff. I used to have a photographic memory, but I lost part of that years ago in an earlier injury. Now, I have Swiss Cheese memory, Baby Swiss, lots of little holes.”

Roth explains that intensive rehab was supposed to be six months but “you know horse people; I lasted a month then went to Fiji and New Zealand to ride in the mountains. Trail riding horses are used to all kinds of people. My show horses didn’t like my balance problems on their backs. It’s taken years of different therapies to stabilize, and I still have a way to go. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pass a sobriety test.”

While Cindi did start showing again, it was not without a struggle. “I tried showing a year later with very little success,” Cindi remembers. “I even showed Wings in 2016 and still did poorly. I’m dizzy most of the time but never on a horse. It was this year that I realized that she was reacting the way some horses did in a therapeutic riding program I had at my farm years ago. The sensitive horses became very distressed when the children were not steady. My neurologist confirmed it so I started more rehab taking yoga and pilates for strength and balance and Wings gave me her best ride yet at the NSBA World Show.”

Cindi shares that she still has a lot of work to do in order to get back in the winner’s circle, so she and her husband sold their farm and moved all their horses to Show Stop Farm with her closest confidant, Nancy Sue Ryan. Roth tells us that she and her husband bought an RV and are going to ride every day at Highpoint and go from horse show to horse show.

Natural Loper was the second show horse that she bred – the first was the highly successful, Natural Mead. Roth talks to us about how she came about showing Wings.

“My husband and I booked a trip to New Zealand to fly gliders and I planned to get my pilots license, but when I got the first look at this filly, I said “this is my ‘wings.’ I sent her late to Colt Andrews to train as a three-year-old. That was a spectacular year; they won circuits and championships at every show culminating in an AQHA Reserve World Championship in Level 1 Western Pleasure and Bronze in Level 2.”

Her close friend, Nancy Sue Ryan speaks highly of the couple, Cindi and Colin. “Cindi is a survivor and this was just one small roadblock and bump in her life that she has had to overcome,” Ryan shares. “I’m sure she appreciates life more now, but I always knew without question that she would bounce back from her injury and continue her success in the business world as well as in the show arena.”

With a great support team behind her, Roth shared what she loves most about horses and showing. “The friendships and a shared love of horses. I’m a goal driven person, so I thrive when I have a purpose. Horses have been therapeutic long before any head injuries.”