Dallas Furseth; Making A Difference.
By: Kelley Byrne
When asked what being a cowboy means, Cody Lambert said, “being a cowboy means something different in 2012 than it did in 1912, and it’s probably related more these days to an attitude and a frame of mind, although there still is an occupation and a lifestyle. You just don’t see them as often, and they don’t get as much attention, but still there are a few real cowboys out there.”
I agree, the definition of a cowboy fits more these days to a person that’s living by the code. You can be a great rider or roper, but if you don’t live by that code of honor and integrity, you’re not a really a cowboy. Being a cowboy today, or any time, is not totally about how a person rode a bull or a bronc, roped a calf or threw a steer, but being the guy who has the cowboy mentality, those are the cowboys who really have an advantage when it comes to doing their job well, because a cowboy gets the job done no matter what it takes.
Dallas Furseth is finding this out first hand. He now realizes rodeo is less of a sport and more of a lifestyle for those with determination and passion for adventure. This 39 year old was forced into retirement from his sport of riding bareback horses in 2005. He competed at the Canadian Cowboys’ Association Finals in 2003 when it celebrated it’s 40th Anniversary and dreamed of making the finals again when the association he loved would turn 50. His dream ended when he started experiencing numbness in his hands and feet. Furseth says, “I would be walking along fine and then just fall down for no reason.” It was not long before Dallas Furseth was diagnosed with Distal Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
Distal muscular atrophy is a progressive disorder that affects nerve cells in the spinal cord. It results in muscle weakness and affects movement of the hands and feet. He is confined to a wheel chair or walking canes. Furseth says, “This progressive disorder is the same family as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement but in most of those cases you are only given three to five years of life. Similar as well to Multiple sclerosis, where usually one side or the other is affected, with distal muscular atrophy, it strictly affects me from the waist down.”
Like everyone forced into early retirement from a lifestyle they love, Furseth had a hard time accepting his new future. Furseth tried to remain positive, Being very active, it was hard to keep him down, he kept himself busy on the ranch in Abbey, Saskatchewan where he and his fiance’ Alanna Bell make their home. Together they started a business called D & A Quarter Horses where they stand a stallion, Skipos Oak Bar who is a cutting bred stallion that is a black dunn (Grulla). This spring, Alanna got a new horse, started barrel racing and wanted Dallas to join her on the road. This was not easy for either Alanna or Dallas.
Furseth says, “It was hard at first, just to see everyone. I had pretty much secluded myself from all my old friends and travel buddies.Depression set in and just getting used to a body that didn’t work properly was a challenge. If I happened to fall outdoors, I had no way of getting help or getting up. I was mad at the world one day, went to kick at a rock on the ground and with no proper control of my legs I landed on my back in the yard with the dog on top of me licking my face.”
He says, “My first rodeo back in my electric chair was North Battleford Rodeo in the Spring.” He continues, “It did not take long for me to realize that I was accepted as the same person I was when I left.” He was not treated any differently, he is still one of the guys, a cowboy and part of the “family” that embodies the sport. “I enjoy helping Alanna, learning with her and just being there to support her with her sport.”
Furseth credits Alanna, whom he will be married to in January 2013 for making him move forward. Furseth says, “Alanna really wanted to rodeo and the fact that she made me do things that I normally would not have helped me in my healing process.” He continues, “My electric chair enables me to work on the farm and the “First Call” medical tower in the yard allows me piece of mind in case of an emergency where we would normally not have cell service.” He continues, “I can catch the horses and have them tied to the trailer and ready to go. We used to hate getting home late as it was a hassle just to get me into the house, but now with the aid of ramps and accessibility I can get to the barn, let out the dogs while Alanna tends to the horses and we can go to the house together.”
Furseth is doing well. His neurologist whom he visits every three months is happy with his progress. He is not a guy who will give up and he is the iconic image of a cowboy who stands as a symbol of pride. He is an example for everyone to live by.
There is no known cure for distal spinal muscular atrophy.
Update: “Alanna and I are married now. She was a beautiful bride! Alanna and I traveled to Punta Cana, me, her and my wheelchair. We went on many excursions, it was so much fun. Enjoyed swimming in the ocean! We did not let anything stop us.”
– Dallas Furseth
Kelley Byrne is the mother of Bo, Jesse and Tanner Byrne of Prince Albert, SK. Married to Ryan Byrne, Kelley is the creator of www.BuyABarrelHorse.com as well!