No fall will stop her

Friday, March 29, 2019

After a devastating accident, one woman proved it wasn’t going to dictate her life. Kathy Wolaver Anderson, a 48-year-old Cornersville resident, has always has a love for horses.

As a child, Anderson developed a strong connection with horses after living on a farm and riding before she entered grade school. For a kindergarten show-and-tell project, she brought a spotted saddle horse to class. Anderson lobbied for recognition of the spotted saddle horse to be accepted as a separate breed in the state’s 4-H program during her teen years. The breed was finally accepted, and it became a major milestone in her life and for saddle horses. Eventually, she competed for the title of Miss Rodeo in ‘91 where she showed her spotted saddle horse. It goes without saying Anderson fell in love with a specific breed: the spotted saddle horse.

Anderson then moved away where she built a barn to raise horses shortly after winning the title of Miss Rodeo Tennessee. She became the medical records director at a nursing home where she brought her horse to visit countless residents. Anderson also partnered with the local 4-H program and Girl Scouts to help share her love and knowledge of horses. Scouts could groom the horses and earn their merit badges.

In 1999, Anderson suffered from a severe brain injury while breaking a colt. No one saw what happened and Anderson has no memory of the event, but the outlook was grim.

This left her in a vegetative state for five months. Doctors told her family there was no chance for recovery as she continued to be in an unresponsive state, The first weeks of recovery suggested it was impossible to recover until a family member played an audio tape of the Amateur World Grand Championship. There were no visible signs of response at first, but her heart rate and blood pressure showed otherwise.

Her family always knew that she was “in there.” Her response to the tape was the first in months. After this incident, doctors moved Anderson to a brain rehabilitation center for the next year. Her family helped surround her with her horses by hanging pictures all over the room. By this time, she could point, open, and even move her eyes.

According to family members, someone would say where is Doc (the name of her horse) and her eyes would go to the correct horse each time. Her family didn’t give up hope.

They knew she was there, and she just couldn’t verbally respond yet.

Anderson was released for a weekend visit home. Her family soon figured out she wanted to ride again despite her limited physical and speech abilities. Anderson managed to get back on her horse with the help of friends, her mother, and stepfather.

“Horses will always be a part of who I am,” Anderson said. “I may not remember my accident, but I just knew I had to keep going.”

After years of physical therapy, Anderson could finally live on her own. She now lives next to her mother, who is essentially her best friend.

“Without her, I couldn’t imagine being where I am right now,” Anderson said. “My mom, her best friend, and my stepfather have helped me so much.”

Anderson spends her free time baking and taking care of her horses. She was the final inductee into the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association Hall of Fame earlier this year. Her love for the spotted saddle horse continues to live on through her competing in local horse shows.

Photos submitted

Getting back in the saddle after falling from a horse is an old expression, but Cornersville’s Kathy Anderson is living, literal proof of the wisdom of it. Anderson, a former Miss Rodeo Tennessee, has fashioned a Hall of Fame career in the spotted horse community, despite a traumatic brain injury suffered years ago while working with a horse.

From years ago in the ring to this photo the Tribune ran of Anderson last November after the two Got Rox Farm horses won Grand Champion awards in their classes at the Spotted Saddle Horse World Championship, horses have always been at the center of her life.