An old Chinese proverb admonishes that a gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a person perfected without trials. Ramona Grigg Rathjen of Huntsville, Ark., is a walking, horseback riding and sometimes cane using testament to those words. Diagnosed three years ago with Multiple Sclerosis, Ramona’s attitude shines through in even the simplest communication. “Every e-mail she sends has a tag line that says “MS doesn’t define who I am.” Her quick wit and sense of humor are still intact, as she jokes about a shirt she’d love to have that says, “I’m not drunk, I just have MS.” Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that effects the central nervous system. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity and symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.
Ramona beams with pride when she relays how her sons Devon, at 3 years old, and Ryder, at 2 years old, help her out. “Anytime I misplace my cane, I just have to ask the boys, and they’ll search the house till they find it,” she laughed.
Ramona credits having grown up on a farm as part of the reason she’s able to handle this challenge with such confidence. “I was probably about eight or nine years old when I started in 4-H, and the first show heifer I ever had was a half Brahman and half Limousin. I was completely hooked from the get-go. After the first year, I showed a steer and took the money from my premium sale and decided to turn around and invest it in some Charolais show heifers. I had always liked Charolais because they were white, and I thought they were pretty. Little did I know I would end up making a lifetime commitment with them,” Ramona shared.
“I showed until I was 19 or 20. The thing I liked most about showing was the thrill of competition. My mom and dad always instilled in me that the cows get fed before I ate supper. We never even had to question anything about it, hard work was second nature.”  
Dealing with MS and raising the boys has caused Ramona, her parents, and her husband, David, to get out of the showing life. However, she looks forward to the years ahead when Devon and Ryder will be able to pick up the show halter.  
For now, she stays involved in the agriculture community of Madison County, where she grew up and still lives, through horses. Ramona used to be very involved in team penning, sorting, barrel racing and play days.  “Once I had the kids, it has become more of a focus on the family oriented stuff. It’s more for the kids now. We focus on the play days with the Huntsville riding club and trail riding.  Riding is very therapeutic for me.  Devon has been riding horses since he was about eight weeks old.”  
Balancing a full time job with the Arkansas Department of Health, two young boys, horses and a new home has been a challenge, one that she credits her mother, Rowena, and husband, David, with helping achieve.
“David’s been my rock through this whole thing.” With new drug treatments and therapies on the horizon, Ramona looks forward to the day that she’s back to being able to ride more and teach her boys the showing ropes. With her positive outlook, supportive family, and never-quit attitude learned from her childhood on the farm, that day will surely soon be here.


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