Horse Lover's Dream Come True

Week of Wishes slate
CBS/The Early Show
Horseback riding is more than a hobby for Teresa, in fact, it has taken her farther than anyone thought she'd go.

Teresa Gaskill begins each day with her pride and joy: an 11-hundred pound gelding named Jazz.

"He's really easygoing," Gaskill says. "A very mellow fellow, just real easy to please."

This love affair that began with one horse led to another, and another. And now, Teresa Gaskill's family owns eight. She handles the care and feeding, everything from the dirty-work to the finishing touches.

Gaskill has been riding horses for 12 years now, and has plenty to show for it.

"When you win that ribbon," she says pointing at her collection of blue ribbons, "You feel like you're doing something right for yourself."

That's a fantastic feeling for a girl who struggled to walk.

America's first glimpse of Teresa Gaskill is as a United Way poster child. Like one of her older brothers, she was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that weakens her leg muscles, and her parents knew she would face a long, hard road.

Her motehr, Maggie Gaskill says, "She's had to have her hips cut, the bone cut and rotated."

Because Teresa Gaskill walked only on tip-toe, doctors injected Botox deep into her calf muscles to bring down her heels and improve her balance.

Now, at age 18, not even a cold winter drizzle and an inch of Michigan mud can keep Teresa Gaskill from the stables.

Mounting her horse is no easy task. Teresa Gaskill wills herself into the saddle. As for staying put, once she's up there, well, that's a whole other matter.

Maggie Gaskill notes, "Oh my gosh, I wouldn't have gotten back up on the horse, but she does it every time. She's fallen off every horse we have."

Teresa Gaskill says, "When you love something as dearly as I do, you have got to get back on; you'd be crazy to give it up."

Teresa Gaskill says, "I'm pushing on his side, and he should turn pretty much the way I want him to go. It's really exciting because no one can be in control of this animal except you."

Teresa Gaskill knows firsthand how cruel the world can be toward people with disabilities.

She says, "It's very difficult to handle being looked at in certain ways, viewed as certain things.

But if humans sometimes let her down, horses lift her up.

"The horses make you feel special," Teresa Gaskill says. "That's the best thing."

The Early Show learned about Teresa Gaskill through a Week of Wishes letter from her grandmother, Sharon Scutt of Russellville, Ark.

And on Monday morning Teresa and her parents, Jack and Maggie Gaskill were surprised to see Scutt on the set, they had thought they were invited to the show to talk about horseback riding and therapy.

Instead, here is the letter Scutt wrote:

"I have never heard Teresa complain about her disease. I used to pick her up from school and take her horseback riding for therapy. It would break my heart to watch her try to keep up with the other children. Teresa is an avid horse rider. My wish is to send my very special granddaughter to Parelli's in Colorado. It is a school to learn to be a horse trainer."

And so Pat Parelli, a renowned horseman and entertainer who has performed at the Olympics and for Britain's Queen Elizabeth, surprised everybody with his gift.

"First of all, we have a school for horse lovers and we teach people how to use love language and leadership in equal doses," Parelli says, "We'll teach you to be a leader for horses."

With tears in her eyes, Teresa Gaskill was in shock, "I am, I am, like, not even - I can't even express this."

It is an opportunity she always dreamed about. In fact, she is currently taking the home program. At level one, she says she has been watching videos at home from the Parelli Natural Horsemanship school.

Teresa Gaskill was not the only one surprised. For writing such a wonderfull letter, The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler says she deserves something too.

While Teresa Gaskill is in the ranch in Colorado, grandma is going to Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson, Ariz.

Canyon Ranch has graciously invited her and a guest to spend five days at the famous spa. She will have her choice of more than 50 fitness classes and outdoor sports. She can treat herself to spa treatments and learn how to cook healthy meals, lower her cholesterol or improve her golf scores. And learn to make healthy living a way of life. And to put her in the mood, Canyon Ranch sent her a basket of spa products that she can enjoy at home in Arkansas.

The Early Show will be making wishes come true all week long, so be sure to tune in.