From Mucker to Mender
By Patricia Smith
Many people in the Sandhills are familiar with Terry Young, physical therapist, but unless you are a horse person, you may not know that Terry started out as a "stall mucker."
Young, a partner in Southern Pines Physical Therapy on Bennett Street, often regales her horsey customers with tales from her past life.
Young's journey from "mucker to mender" was fraught with challenges.
She was able to pursue an education due in large part to the support and friendship she received in her early career from horse people willing to give her a job.
Young says, "Horse people gave me my wings. If it hadn't been for them providing me with jobs, I wouldn't be where I am today."
Young's love affair with horses began early. She got a pony when she was 9 years old. She grew into a horse-crazy teenager who always wanted to work with horses and "drew horses in the margins of every note I ever wrote in school." At 18, she began swimming Standardbreds for rehabilitation in her home state of Pennsylvania.
When Young moved to Fayetteville (where her first husband was stationed at Fort Bragg), she looked for horse-related work in Southern Pines.
In 1979, Shirley (Cosy) Lathrop hired Young as assistant manager for Lathrop's Longleaf Farm. There were over 30 horses on the farm at the time. Young worked for Lathrop on and off for 10 years, doing everything from mucking stalls to exercising horses, to preparing young horses for sales and shipping them to the sales in Kentucky and Florida.
"I never imagined anyone would pay me to ride a horse," Young says. "I thought I had died and gone to heaven."
Young was the major bread-winner for her family at the time. She took on several part-time jobs in addition to her full-time position at Lathrop's to keep her family in groceries. During this time, she worked for people up and down Youngs Road including Raymond Firestone, Fred McCashin, Dan Butler, Sue Buckley, Leonard Short, Nancy Lindroth, Randy McCall, Anne Huberth, Kay Whitlock, Carolyn Ross and Ann Compton.
"Working with horses teaches you how to be self-reliant, how to rise to a challenge and how to trouble-shoot problems," Young says. "Doing things like shipping horses by yourself and being solely responsible for a horse's care gives you a lot of self-confidence. It was empowering. Anything is attainable with effort and hard work. I tell people I have a degree in physical therapy but I have a doctorate of hard knocks in horses."
Young began taking classes at Sandhills Community College while she was working in horse country.
Ann Compton was working for Cosy Lathrop at the same time as Young and they forged a close friendship. Young recalls the time she took Ann's horse, Dan, to school for a speech class assignment. Young demonstrated "how to tack up a horse." She loaded Dan on a trailer, brought him up to SCC, unloaded him in the parking lot and proceeded to show her classmates how to put a bridle and saddle on a horse. She earned an A on the assignment.
While at SCC, Young considered majoring in art and psychology. Her adviser suggested she look into physical therapy and introduced her to Sue Stovall. Stovall had a private practice in Pinehurst at the time.
Young was taking 19 hours at Sandhills Community College and doing horse work part-time. In addition, she volunteered at Stovall's practice as a physical therapy aide for six months after which Stovall hired her full time. During one particularly arduous stretch, Young worked 28 weeks straight without a day off in order to meet all her commitments.
Young graduated from Sandhills Community College in 1988. She says, "I couldn't have done it without the horse people."
Stovall recalls that when Young started as a physical therapy volunteer, "she took to it (physical therapy) like a fish to water." Stovall encouraged her to apply to Temple University in Philadelphia to obtain a bachelor's degree in physical therapy.
"It's a very arduous process to become a physical therapist," Stovall says. "I helped support Terry while she was in school with money, moral support and chocolate."
Stovall still has a thank-you note from Young made with wrappers cut out from chocolate candy bars pasted on a sheet of paper.
Young graduated from Temple University in 1990 and returned to Southern Pines to work for Stovall. They became partners in Southern Pines Physical Therapy in 2001.
Young applies the experience she had with horses to her profession as physical therapist on a daily basis.
"Working with young horses and keeping them happy is like working with people," Young says. "All horses are different and all people are different. Every horse and every person presents a puzzle. My job as a horse trainer was to find out what each horse needed to keep them sound and happy. The same thing applies directly to what I do now.
"Each patient presents a new challenge. My job in physical therapy is not to make somebody better myself. My goal is to figure out what someone needs in order to remove any block so they can heal themselves and regain better function."
Young's former co-worker, Ann Compton, became Young's patient when Compton underwent rotator-cuff surgery and needed physical therapy on her arm.
"Although she is one of my best friends, Terry pushed me to the limit." Compton says. "Terry made me take my shoulder all the way back and it hurt so much, I punched her. It's difficult to push friends to the limit but Terry knew it had to be done."
Sensitive hands are as important when working with horses as when providing physical therapy. Young's hands were honed caring for her equine charges and now they are helping to mend her human patients.
"In 17 years, I've never gotten tired of physical therapy," Young says. "I love my patients."
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