Brad Arnold

by Abby from Victoria

Brad Arnold competing in show jumping ( (unknown))
Brad Arnold competing in show jumping ( (unknown))

Brad Arnold has loved horses since he could walk. They continue to be his life, his love and his passion. He is a truly remarkable man for his talents and skill in the horse world, but even more so for his drive, optimism and strength when life tried its very best to get him down.

Brad was born in Vancouver, BC in 1959. Not long after, the family moved to Okotoks, Alberta and then to Calgary for Brad to start school. Having a horsewoman for a mother, he was introduced to riding at a very young age. He got his first pony at just four years old, Little Red. Every weekend there was either a horseshow, riding (training) or skiing in the winter. By age 14, Brad was a very accomplished rider, competing at high level horse shows. The family had founded and built a horse farm in Okotoks called Meadowlands where Brad and his two younger siblings, along with a number of cousins, spent their afternoons mucking out stalls and riding their ponies. When Brad was in grade 12, it was certain he had the skill and potential to go all the way to the top with his riding. He was Olympic material. He decided, however to attend the University of Calgary. He managed to go one year without his beloved horses before leaving the U of C and heading off to train in three day eventing in Virginia. He was just 19 and was riding with the American Olympic team, training in three-day, a very difficult event consisting of three disciplines: dressage, cross country and show jumping. After a period of about 3 years of intense training and riding with some of the best riders in North America, Brad returned home to Meadowlands bringing with him a new knowledge and experience in riding and coaching. He soon put those skills to work in creating the Brad Arnold Training Center at Meadowlands, teaching young riders, some of whom grew up to be champion riders and even Olympians. Brad was a fabulous coach; anyone who knew him or worked with him would tell you so. Brad retained his brilliance as a rider, but coaching was his true calling. He was offered a coaching job (which he accepted) for Nancy Southern at Spruce Meadows Stables just south of Calgary, an equestrian facility founded by Ron Southern in 1976 which has now grown to be a facility home to world class horses, riders and show jumping.

Brad was in the middle of his new career when his life took a drastic turn. One day, out of the blue, he went "status epileptic." When Brad was a young child, there were pre-epileptic symptoms (they are called "absences" when a person zones out briefly, then blinks and comes back to normal again). Epilepsy is a brain dysfunction resulting in a person having repetitive seizures. It is a very tricky disorder to deal with; no two cases are the same. Brad's unfortunately seemed to be quite severe. That initial attack was so serious, he had seizure after seizure for days, non stop. His family thought he was going to die. When the attacks finally ceased, the affect they had had on Brad was profound. He had forgotten so much, even just basic things that you learn when you're young. Even more unbelievable than that, he had forgotten how to ride, how to hold the reins, how to put his heels down in the stirrups, he had forgotten he had ever sat on a horse. It was a very slow and traumatic experience, having to relearn so much, but steadily Brad began to recall what he had forgotten. He had even started riding again. Unfortunately his recovery did not last long and epilepsy soon took over a large part of his life. Things like driving a car and horseback riding became too dangerous. His case was so serious that in 2005, Brad underwent neurological surgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute. He had surgery again in 2008, and a third time in 2012. Only in extreme cases of epilepsy is surgery considered a treatment option. Brad has undergone three.

With everything that has happened to him, it is amazing that Brad manages to find beauty in life anymore, but he does. He still loves his animals and takes every opportunity he gets to spend time with "the ponies". Brad Arnold is and continues to be a hero to everyone around him. He will always be well respected in the horse world. He has overcome so many struggles in his life and has stayed positive and optimistic through it all. Until his latest surgery (November, 2012) he had been singing in the St George's Anglican church choir, volunteering at soup kitchens and staying in touch with old students and encouraging young riders. He did not give up when life took from him what he truly loved and he inspires everyone he meets to never give up on their passions and to stay positive even when walls are put in their way.

Page created on 12/13/2012 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 12/13/2012 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Extra Info

All other information is credited to Joan Lawrence, mother of Brad Arnold, and from my own memories from my times spent with Brad and hearing his stories.