Anne Von Rosen has a new ride, but she'd rather it be on a horse.
Her legs paralyzed in a March 11, 2014, spill at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Ariz., Von Rosen was in Del Mar, Calif., last week to receive a retrofitted Segway personal transporter from the parent company of Segs4Vets, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that has provided more than 1,600 Segways to assist men and women in the U.S. military who returned home with severe wounds suffered during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It's pretty cool because you have your hands free,” Von Rosen said of the ALLY chair, which is built on a Segway frame and allows the user to go forward or backwards by using their core – leaning in the direction they want to go. A stick serves as a steering device.
“But I'm not going to sit in a wheelchair the rest of my life,” Rosen said with conviction. “I'm going to walk again.”
Von Rosen was accompanied to Del Mar by her friend, trainer Stacy Campo, and her faithful canine companion, Lily, who seemed to enjoy riding on Von Rosen's lap as she moved around on the ALLY chair during a training session given by Segs4Vets volunteers.
A native of Germany, Von Rosen was chosen to be the first disabled jockey recipient of an ALLY chair through discussions with the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and Jockeys' Guild. The chair was purchased thanks to donations of horsemen at Del Mar racetrack.
Segway ALLY chairs are not cheap, costing approximately $15,000 each. Segs4Vets is part of DRAFT (Disability Rights Advocates for Technology) and began in 2005 as a grassroots effort to provide seriously wounded service men and women every resource available to become as independent as possible. Every dollar donated to Segs4Vets goes toward getting a disabled veteran into a Segway or ALLY chair, the latter of which was developed in 2014 for those veterans who could not use a standing Segway.
At Del Mar on Saturday, two wounded veterans were given ALLY chairs in a winner's circle ceremony that also included Von Rosen receiving her chair. A $50,000 challenge grant was received at the Del Mar event, that attracted many previous ALLY chair recipients and former service men and women from the San Diego area, including retired Marine Col. Harvey C. Barnum Jr., recipient of the Medal of Honor for valor during the Vietnam War. Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents California's 69th district, also attended the event. Among the horse racing participants who spent time with Rosen and the military veterans were Hall of Fame jockeys Mike Smith and Gary Stevens and Kentucky Derby-winning trainers Bob Baffert and Doug O'Neill.
Segs4Vet, based in St. Louis, Mo., is looking to strengthen its ties to the horse racing industry.
Anne Von Rosen, with Stacy Campo, Zach Reeves of Segs4Vets and her dog Lily
Von Rosen, who lives in Phoenix, has undergone different traditional and non-traditional medical procedures to try and heal her T5 vertebra, which was severed in the accident. She undergoes physical therapy five days a week and goes to the gym on weekends.
She drives a car, using hand controls, but Von Rosen will need a new lift to hold her Segway ALLY chair, which weighs 170 pounds. She's been using a manual wheelchair, which puts enormous stress on her shoulders and prevents her from using her hands while in motion.
The battery-operated Segway ALLY chair needs recharging after eight hours of operation and goes as far as 21 miles on a single charge. Its top speed is 12 ½ miles per hour.
All things considered, however, Von Rosen would rather be on a horse. “I trust the horses more than the machines,” she said with a smile.
Click here for more information or to make a donation to Segs4Vets (@Segs4Vets on Twitter).
Click here for more information or to make a donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (@PDJFund on Twitter)